Public Campaign Finance Statement

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CoinsConsistent with my earlier blog post on this topic, I shared the following statement at the Full Council meeting this afternoon explaining my vote to not move forward a public campaign finance system this year:

We face a tough choice today as we consider this motion, but that’s what we are called to do.

We gather facts. We listen to various perspectives. We weigh the pros and cons of various arguments and then we decide. Sometimes our decisions are simple. Other times, like today, they are not easy; they’re complicated and require a balancing of various interests.

In the end, we make our decisions based on what’s best for the common good; what will benefit our city and region; and, in Seattle, with a special emphasis on what’s best for the most vulnerable among us.

Seattle has a strong and well-regulated campaign finance system, with individual contribution limits less than half those for King County and the State of Washington. Public financing of elections is a solid, progressive and important policy to pursue. We studied this issue extensively last year and asked the voters of Seattle to approve public financing of City Council campaigns. The voters said “no.”

Now we’re being asked to do a repeat this year. The easiest decision would be to put it back on the ballot and say, “let the voters decide again.” But, at what cost and at what risk? That’s where the decision gets difficult.

This August and November, Seattle voters will be asked to decide four tax measures...five if we add public financing to the ballot. There are different theories out there about how these measures affect each other’s chances, but we simply won’t know for sure until the results are in.

The stakes are high and the risks of adding a fifth tax measure are just too great, in my opinion.

Voters expect their elected officials to prioritize. Providing high quality preschool to families that can’t afford it and changing those kids' lives forever is a higher priority for me.  That’s especially true because we know that preschool can reverse decades of injustice. If our preschool initiative is not approved this fall, what we will tell the several thousand children who could have enrolled in high-quality preschool? What will we tell them when we know for certain that preschool could change their lives forever?

And, what about Metro transit funding? We know that preserving service and expanding those services is essential for the economic stability of our region and as we have discussed many times public transit is especially vital to those on the lower end of the economic ladder. Shouldn’t we prioritize in favor of these members of our community? I think we should.

For these reasons, I do not favor placing public campaign financing on this year’s ballot again and will vote against this motion.