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SLO City Council kills election ordinance 

After a rough ride, a proposed elections ordinance for the city of San Luis Obispo was sent down river.

The “Integrity in our Elections Ordinance,” which the SLO City Council swiftly killed with a 3-2 vote on April 19, would have created a public financing program for City Council and mayoral candidates to opt into, created an independent ethics commission, and required that funding sources for all independent expenditures—money from groups like political action committees to lobby for or against particular candidates, but isn’t directly associated with their campaign—more than $500 be disclosed. Proponents said it would encourage participating candidates to spend more time attracting small donations from several voters, rather than pandering to a small group of large donors.

The ordinance, proposed last year by the campaign finance reform group Citizens’ Congress, had survuved a March 15 vote where a tight 3-2 majority directed staff to begin drafting a more detailed proposal.

On March 24, though, Councilmember Dan Carpenter announced he was pulling support for the ordinance. He said that in the days following his March 15 vote in support of the ordinance, he heard from a long list of people who expressed concern with the use of taxpayer funds to finance candidates that they may not necessarily agree with. Carpenter joined Councilmember Carlyn Christianson and Mayor Jan Marx, who had opposed the ordinance.

Before the council’s final 3-2 vote to kill the ordinance on April 19, the ordinance’s main proponent, Bill Ostrander, director of Citizens’ Congress and a 24th Congressional District candidate, pointed to the present national upswell of activism calling for campaign finance reform and an end to big money in politics, and ask the council to take a leadership role and keep pursuing the ordinance.

“It is the civil rights issue of our generation, and with respect, I think three of you are failing us on this,” Ostrander said. “It is disingenuous to say that you believe in the spirit of our elections ordinance, while you try to kill it.” 

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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