A City of Oakland, California ordinance that would set-aside public campaign money and transfer it to what is called voter education about the new ranked choice voting system was delayed by the Oakland City Council last week. That's excellent. Really, there's no need for an ordinance that is really just a power-grab on the part of incumbent Oakland politicians.
The proposal, if it were implemented, would eliminate public financing for Oakland City Council elections. Think about that. The idea launched by Oakland Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) and by Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (At-Large) would take election assistance money away from potential new political threats running for office - like Libby Schaaf who's running for Oakland Councilmember Jean Quan's seat in District 4 - and give it to a program that can be done for less than $225,000: educating voters about ranked-choice voting.
It does not take a quarter of a million dollars to do that and proves the people writing the ordinance didn't think in terms of using New Media, just creating a justification for starting a process that benefits their desires. Its not that educating voters about ranked-choice voting isn't important, it its. But the transfer of money from a program that helps create new political candidates to challenge the current ones is really just a power grab.
The last time Oakland's "Limited Public Financing" program was used was in the District Two special election in 2005. In that case, six candidates got a total of $28,347 in matching funds.
The program calls for candidates to get mandatory campaign training. That's perfect for any first-time candidate running for office. But it's also terrible for any incumbent who doesn't want the candidate to have a fighting chance. The ordinance doens't just harm Libby Schaaf - I use my friend as one example - but anyone running for office in any election in the City of Oakland.
Let's take first time mayoral candidate and Green Party member Don Macleay. The Oakland Limited Public Financing program would certainly help Don Macleay's election efforts and give him more of a chance against more seasoned politicians like Don Perata, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
Moreover, the Oakland "Limited Public Financing" program would help any Oaklander who's interested in running for office. In fact, it's a good system to maintain as incentive for those who think they can't afford to run for elected office, but want to do so.
Leave the Oakland "Limited Public Financing" program alone. Let the new political candidates have a fair shot at change.
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