Amanda Fritz on Voter-Owned Elections

By Amanda Fritz of Portland, Oregon. Amanda Fritz is running for Portland City Council for the seat currently held by Dan Saltzman, and is a voter-owned candidate.

Author's note: I wrote an Op-Ed column and sent it to The Oregonian on 4/21/06. Even though I was the first candidate ever to qualify, and I'm currently the only non-incumbent using the program, Portland's daily newspaper decided its readers wouldn't want to read it. So here's what I sent:

I am running for Portland City Council, using the Voter Owned Elections (VOE) fund. VOE is a publicly financed campaign fund available to candidates who collect $5 (exactly $5, no more, no less) from 1,000 Portland residents. When registering to participate, I signed to say I understood I am personally responsible for following all the regulations. I read City Code Chapter 2.10 and its administrative rules, and added additional safeguards including not accepting donations from anyone under 18.

Everyone who helped me gather signatures with $5 contributions was a volunteer. No signature-gatherers have been paid to work on my campaign, nor has any member of my family. Links to my campaign finance reports are posted at AmandaFritz.com. I'm proud of the frugal expenses of my campaign, and of the hundreds of grassroots volunteers who are giving their time to help elect me as their voice in City Hall. I intend to demonstrate that public-financed campaigns, completed with honor and integrity, return power to the people of Portland.

I want to be elected to represent the neighbors of Portland, not large corporations or outsider interests. Because I qualified with 1045 five-dollar donations, gathered in 90 of Portland's 95 neighborhoods, I am responsible to individual citizens. And because my campaign is funded by all citizens (about 30 cents each), when elected I will be beholden to all citizens, and owned by the voters. Without VOE, I could not match the fundraising capacity of the incumbent.

Voter Owned Elections will transform government in Portland. For too long, there has been at least a suspected connection between money received and votes cast. Recently, several Oregon legislators wrote letters to the Oregon Public Utility Commission on behalf of electric utilities and then received campaign contributions from those utilities. Portland neighbors wonder about the effect of campaign contributions on votes such as funding the tram, or building parking garages in the historic district in NW. Whether real or unfounded, VOE eliminates this worry. Without trust, we cannot successfully engage citizens in discussions of problems and how to fix them.

Questions have been raised about the value of VOE, due to one candidate's failure to follow the rules. With all laws, there will always be someone who doesn't comply. VOE is a transparent system that allowed potential abuses to be spotted and dealt with. The regulations will be improved from this experience. The Citizen Commission will recommend changes needed to make it even more difficult to cheat, to protect citizens and our tax dollars. I support allowing donations only from registered voters, and prohibiting the hiring of family members using public funds. Other suggestions should be considered.

I'm glad we're not voting on public campaign financing on May 16, because the public deserves to vote on a refined system versus the Big Money system, not on flawed VOE versus flawed traditional financing.

My campaign is about restoring trust and listening to the people. Voter Owned Elections will help me change the culture of City Hall.

As a Certified Campaign Finance Fund Candidate, I take personal responsibility for the content of this Op-Ed. Amanda Fritz, RN, MA.

Comments

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    No surprise they didn't print it. Until after revelations surfaced about the paper's publisher having, shall we say, certain "quaint" opinions regarding the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2, the paper refused to print anything of substance which supported the idea of local oversight over localc ops on the JTTF.

    Theo abuses its op-ed pages as a matter of routine.

  • NNW (unverified)
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    From AUPHR over at Portland IMC, "As the only daily newspaper in the State of Oregon with state-wide circulation and the largest newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, the Opinion Page editors of The Oregonian carry the burden of a public trust to provide a wide-open forum for debate on the pressing issues of our day. With respect to the debate on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, however, the editors of the Opinion Pages have failed to meet their obligations to the public.

    This report documents the findings of a one-year study of the Opinion Pages of The Oregonian conducted by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and Palestine Media Watch. Specifically, this report is concerned with the content presented in The Oregonian's Editorial Section and the newspaper's selection of commentaries, cartoons, and letters to the editor dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the period beginning on June 1, 2004 and ending on May 31, 2005."

    IMC story

    results of report

    And, Amanda, thanks for posting at Blue Oregon. We appreciate your piece, and what you are doing.

  • C (unverified)
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    I know I'd trust City Hall more if they didn't think I was too stupid to vote on voter owned elections. It's laughable to me that Amanda calls it VOE [rim shot], or that anyone calls it VOE, when no voters ever voted on it.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    "Questions have been raised about the value of VOE, due to one candidate's failure to follow the rules."

    Actually Amanda, I believe two candidates were disqualified which makes 50% of the people who tried to use it.

    Money gets into the process and VoE will not fix it. Erik can have his friend set up an "independent" group and spend a bunch of money electing Erik. Erik can then claim innocence when said contributor reminds him at lunch. VoE does not affect people on the city council who get their votes swung by large contributors.

  • Amanda Fritz (unverified)
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    I still call it Voter Owned Elections because the voters are the ones who elect. With funding from all citizens, every candidate has a chance to be able to convince those voters. The important part is knowing those elected are independent of big campaign contributions.

    I'm not sure why the OpEd I posted on my web site showed up here. I was planning to send a different guest column to Blue Oregon.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    Amanda, call it what it is, Taxpayer Funded Campaigns. Voters already own the elections so it is quite disingenuous of you and the measure’s supporters to spin it any other way. The right thing would have been for the city council to put the measure to a vote of the people.

    You and those supporting TFC should have made your case to the public and lived with the results.

    For a candidate who has often paid lip service to “voter participation” and “citizen involvement” you show a woeful lack of belief in the citizen’s ability to make an informed choice concerning how their tax dollars are spent in funding political campaigns.

    Sounds like business as usual if you should get elected to the city council.

  • (Show?)

    Voters already own the elections

    And that's the rub Buckman Res, the voters don't own the elections, for the most part the big donors do.

    I've seen first hand how even very progressive candidates, elected officials, and their paid staff modify their rhetoric and behavior when a big donor is in the room. The same is at least equally true for conservatives.

    A lot of public policy get made that makes little sense until you factor in the need to keep on the good side of the guys with the $5,000 checks.

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    When you ask legislator X why they continue to vote to let PGE collect money for taxes and then not pay taxes, the answer won't have anything to do with common sense, unless you factor in PGE donations to campaigns.

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    When the governor settles on a necessary compromise solution to Casino siting, he can pretty much count on hundreds of thousands of dollars being unleashed against him by people with money to lose if the casino is sited besed on the most rational arguments.

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    And so on.

    The fact is that the people who stand to lose the most from VOE are not the poor voters that didn't get to decide by popular vote, and the people who pay the big money to torpedo VOE are fighting tooth and nail to retain the ADVANTAGE that they have had before VOE and continue to enjoy in most of the rest of the state.

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    Where does this presumption that everything should go to the voters come from? Referred measures to the voters in Oregon indicate (to me) a lack of political courage in Salem. If every million dollar item was sent to the voters, nothing would get done. Courageous politicians vote for what they think is right, and that's what this City Council did. I applaud them for it (and hope for heaps of scorn on those who have abused it).

  • (Show?)

    [Editor's note: This column, while good, shouldn't have been posted. It came to us via email - and was posted through a misunderstanding. We've checked in with Amanda Fritz, and we're going to keep it up. She's working on another guest column for next week.]

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)
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    So Amanda.

    Can you tell us whether (if you are elected) you'll vote to put VOE up for a vote at the next citywide election?

    If not. How many years of experimenting with this program do you foresee putting the taxpayers through before they get to vote on this?

  • (Show?)

    Amanda,

    Can I ask you this: you say you want to represent the "neighbors of Portland, not large corporations or outsider interests."

    This is appealing populist rhetoric, but I wonder what it really means. Do corporations not deserve representation? What is your plan for attracting large corporations--and the excellent jobs (pay, benefits, upward mobility) that they provide?

    I would hope you'd pledge to represent all of Portland, including those who are in dire need of good jobs, viable transportation, and vital public schools, even if that means they are corporate citizens or who work for an "outsider" interest.

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    Buckman Res says: "The right thing would have been for the city council to put the measure to a vote of the people.

    You and those supporting TFC should have made your case to the public and lived with the results."

    What would they have voted on? They've never seen the program in action.

  • Garlynn (unverified)
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    So Amanda,

    The word on the street is that you're somebody who leaves REALLY CLOSE to the path of the new Tram to OHSU, and the whole reason that you're running for office is because you, personally, just don't like the tram, are afraid that it will negatively affect your property values, and would prefer that your interests be placed above those of the thousands of people who stand to benefit from the tram once it opens. How would you respond to these allegations?

  • NNW (unverified)
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    I think more people post to the site lately that are attacking progressive people than representing them... just an observation. Everytime I visit the site - it's like an Erik bash-a-thon, and these comments run in the same vein...

  • Amanda Fritz (unverified)
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    One of the reasons I didn't post the OpEd on Blue Oregon yesterday is that I don't have much time for responding to comments, since the ballots are being mailed today. So please forgive me if I can't post replies to all questions. But:

    Paul, yes, I pledge to represent all of Portland. My campaign literature says I will represent all Portlanders, "not wealthy contributors" because there ARE no wealthy contributors to my campaign - even the most affluent gave only five bucks, plus their 30 cents in taxes. I am much more concerned about prioritizing funding for neighborhood businesses than I am about giving tax breaks to out-of-state corporations, though.

    PanchoPDX, the proposed timing of a referral to the voters after three cycles seems about right to me. We need to assess whether it's too easy or too difficult for worthy community candidates to qualify, after citizens become familiar with the system. I spent a lot of time and energy explaining it, and all other non-incumbent candidates found it impossible to collect 1000 valid donations while following all the rules, this first time through. We need to see how many qualify next time, so it's hard but not impossible to reach the bar. Modifying the system to allow only registered voters to give, and possibly requiring checks, would add new variables that would need to be tested.

    Garlynn, thanks for asking your question to clear up misconceptions (and making me smile). I live close to PCC Sylvania and Jackson Middle School, near the city borders with Lake Oswego and Tigard. And I'm afraid of heights and don't ride gondolas even in exotic places on vacation. The tram will have no impact on me personally.

  • (Show?)

    The word on the street is that you're somebody who leaves REALLY CLOSE to the path of the new Tram to OHSU, and the whole reason that you're running for office is because you, personally, just don't like the tram...

    The "word on the street?" What kind of bizarre statememt is that coming from someone living in San Francisco, posting to Blue Oregon?

    Either this is someone completely clueless...or someone is hijacking people's identities and posting nonsense here.

    I'll repeat the question to Kari, unanswered, that I posed at Jack Bog's Blog...

    Since Commissioner Saltzman gets to decide how the Children's Initiative funds are spent...should spending something like $70,000 --according to Willamette Week-- to put his name on the "Report Card" sent to every mailbox in Portland be considered a "campaign expenditure?"

  • Ginski (unverified)
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    Amanda I think that we would like to hear the reason that you and Leonard Gard, and Mari Johnson fron Planning decided to take over 14,000 acres (Marie Johnson personally gave me this figure last year) out of Metros goals and out of Portland's Comprehensive Plan. You were also involved in changing St Johns Comprehensive Plan too. From my understandings is that Merto and Portland's Comprehensive Plan took years to put together involving hundreds of people from various aspects of our community along with goals and needs of our state and city. But you and a few gifted people decided what was best for Portland. Tell me do you think that making S.W. Portland a "NO GROWTH/NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD" do you think that Portland is a better place? Why are you trying to close more schools? What do you have against controlled infill? why do you want to expand the UGB,why do you want sprawl/more traffic? Why did you turn in my neighbor for removing blackberries and ivy from their yard? And I know that you exercised your right of being a good citizen when you took the time to attend the hearing to testify that the fines totaling $18,000 needed to be enforced!, they were and the last I heard were reduced to $10,000. I also like the letter to the editor in the Multnomah post about the "Holly Farm" You got someone upset because the paper quote you about the meeting when the only problem was "SHE WASN'T AT THE MEETING"

  • (Show?)

    Amanda,

    I also support neighborhood businesses, but Portland has not seen a major new corporate citizen in the time I've lived here. We need both in order to maintain a viable mixed economy.

    Large corporations provide good, solid jobs with benefits and upward mobility. We are in a fierce competition with other cities and regions, and in my opinion, we're losing on many fronts.

    I'd like to hear how you are going to address this problem.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)
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    Amanda,

    "Three cycles"?

    Was it just too tough to type the words "after the 2010 election cycle""

    Your critics have suggested that your Tram position wasn't due to any particular foresight or philosophy, but was rather an opportunistic position (at the time) that paid off in spades later.

    I don't whether there is merit to that argument, but your VOE position seems to square with it.

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