By Ed Suslovic of Portland, Maine. Ed is a former state legislator from Portland, Maine.
From the "other" Portland in Maine, I offer Portland my congratulations for the historic action that the City Council took last week when they voted to adopt Voter Owned Elections. Voter Owned Elections is a proven reform that levels the playing field and opens up the political process - and I am honored to have played a small part in it when I testified in support of the system before the Council last month.
I speak from first-hand experience:
Voter Owned Elections is working great in my home state of Maine. I've run for office both under Voter Owned Elections and as a traditional candidate, and I'm sold on this new system that returns the political process to the voters and allows candidates to focus on people, not chasing dollars.
Over the last three elections incumbents and challengers alike have effectively used this option to change "business as usual" in Maine politics. New folks are running for office; there is more competition and choices for voters; and campaigns actually focus on voters and ideas instead of on money. Business people and other typical campaign donors can participate in election discussions rather than just being viewed as deep pockets for campaign coffers.
As a former legislator I also have first hand experience in how Voter Owned Elections is cost effective and improves decision making by elected officials.
Only because of Voter Owned Elections were we able to pass Maine's Dirigo Health Program, the closest any state has come to universal health care. There is just no way this bill would ever have seen the light of day under business as usual politics dominated by private campaign contributions. Instead, we took on the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies and adopted a health care plan that serves the people rather than special interests. Because of Voter Owned Elections, Maine's elected officials could do the right thing for our constituents and save taxpayer dollars.
I consider it a blot on the record of the Maine legislature that despite having had several chances to do so, lacked the political courage demonstrated by your City Council to enact Voter Owned Elections. Instead, people had to turn to the initiative process to get this new system. Perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise, since Maine was the first state to adopt public funding campaign finance reform.
Now elected officials are stepping up to the plate. The North Carolina legislature adopted public funding reform for state judicial elections. New Mexico is gearing up this reform system for its Public Regulatory Commission, an option passed by that state's legislature. Portland's leadership in moving this vital reform to the city level is to be commended.
And now I want to follow your lead myself and bring your city level Voter Owned Elections ordinance back to "my Portland." Congratulations to your City Council and all Portlanders for developing a model system â in fact, the first in the entire United States to provide full public funding campaign finance reform. Voter Owned Elections will be a wise investment for Portland's future.