City Council Candidates Work for Public Funds

Portland City Council candidates are hard at work attempting to raise enough money to qualify for public funds in Portland's Voter-Owned Elections system, and the Oregonian details their efforts:

It's classic retail politics. Knocking on doors, talking to people, enlisting an army of friends and family to help pound the pavement. But the six candidates for Portland City Council aren't trolling for votes, at least not yet.

They need $5 from 1,000 Portland voters to qualify for $145,000 in public money.

It's harder than it looks, and chances are good that not everyone will make it by the Jan. 31 deadline.

Amanda Fritz leads the pack with more than 800 contributors and Charles Lewis is next with nearly 700. But none of the other candidates has reached the halfway mark, and time is running out.

And one potential candidate, Multnomah County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey, hasn't decided whether to take advantage of public financing.

Still, all exude confidence, even skateboard shop owner Howard Weiner, who has reported only 19 contributions since jumping in the race three weeks ago.

Many of the candidates still have a ways to go:

Most candidates got a late start, adding to the current time squeeze. Lewis, co-owner of Portland Duck Tours and executive director of the nonprofit Ethos Music Center, began collecting donations on the first day he legally could, July 13.

Fritz, a registered nurse and former city planning commissioner, said she hopes to reach the threshold by the first of the year, giving her time to deal with any problems. Another bonus: "I'd be able to stop asking people for money, which would be nice."

John Branam, development director for Portland Public Schools, has gathered about 420 contributions and expects to make the deadline.

Public utility advocate Jeff Bissonnette has reported 233 donations, and he hopes to hit the 300 mark this week. "I'm going to push pretty hard to get the rest in," he said.

Chris Smith, an Internet techie for Xerox and a well-known transportation advocate, is at 375 contributions. He thinks the pace will accelerate as the deadline looms and his supporters overcome procrastination.

This election cycle is a critical one for the entire Voter-Owned system:

This is a critical test for the campaign finance system since its scandal-ridden inauguration in 2006. This time around, it's been mostly smooth and squeaky clean so far.

But reforms may have set the bar too high. Auditor Gary Blackmar said it would be "a little worrisome" if only one or two candidates qualified. "We want to make it reachable for anyone who is organized and works hard at it," he said.

After next year's election, the city's citizen campaign commission will analyze what worked and what didn't.

Read the rest. Will this be a successful year for Voter-Owned Elections?


  • rose city man (unverified)

    Good article. Only item I have a problem with is the part that says,

    "But reforms may have set the bar too high. Auditor Gary Blackmar said it would be "a little worrisome" if only one or two candidates qualified. "We want to make it reachable for anyone who is organized and works hard at it," he said."

    I disagree for two reasons. After the Emilie Boyles fiasco it was important to bring back some measure of responsibility to the whole process.

    Second, it sounds like two candidates will qualify. I'd agree with the auditor's assessment if no one was going to qualify. But, for the voting public qualifying for public funds should be the first step in being seen as a legitimate candidate for city council. If someone does not have either the organization or the tenacity to pass this hurdle, I'm not sure how prepared they are to tackle the tough problems that they will inherit if they win.

    Collecting 1,000 signatures and donations when compared to some of the mounting problems we are facing in Portland will be the easiest thing these folks are ever asked to do in their quest to be a part of Portland's future. If they can't do this, should they really be running?

  • (Show?)

    It should be hard. Not impossible, but hard.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Yeah, Blackmer's comment is odd. We're handing out $150,000 in public funds to anyone who qualifies. It should take dedication, organization, and tenacity to get your hands on that money. Fritz has shown (last time and this time) that it's doable, and I suspect one or two others will also qualify. Why is Blackmer talking about lowering the bar already?

  • PeteJacobsen (unverified)

    I agree that it should be "hard, but not impossible". I'm gladly helping Amanda Fritz, and I'm sure all the serious candidates are working diligently as well. The deadline still leaves plenty of time before the election for the candidates to use the funds to convey why they should get the job. That, to me, is the good thing about voter owned elections: work hard to get the money, and have time (and funds) to tell your story.

    After watching millions spent by the tobacco companies to defeat the initiative that would provide insurance for kids, I've got to think this is a heck of a lot better way to do things!

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for posting this. It prompted me to get in touch with the Fritz campaign to sign on. Interestingly she won't just mail you the forms as some people apparently have requested, but wants to have a volunteer bring it by. Presumably this avoids any sort of fraud issues & also ensures that a well-meaning supporter doesn't donate more than five dollars (larger donations don't count toward the signature total.

    <h2>Personally I think Amanda Fritz exemplifies why this kind of public financing is a good idea. As of Thurs. afternoon she says on her website that she has 893 signatures.</h2>
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