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Voter-owned elections have shown their value

My View • Voters should retain Portland's system of financing candidates
by: L.E. BASKOW, Former City Council candidate Mary Volm (center) chats with Susan Levine (left) and Bill Murray at their MetalUrges Art Gallery as she raced in January to gather the 1,000 donations of $5 needed to qualify for public election financing. Volm was unable to get enough donations to obtain funding under Portland’s system of voter-owned elections – a system that’s up for voter review in the Nov. 2 election.

The voter-owned elections system is a powerful tool for keeping our elections fair, open and accountable.

Regarding the Tribune editorial 'Put voter-owned elections to rest' (Sept. 16) denouncing Measure 26-108: More than 30 community organizations, including the VOIS Business Alliance, League of Women Voters, Community Alliance of Tenants and the Urban League of Portland, have joined with business owners, community leaders and everyday Portlanders to support Measure 26-108, voter-owned elections.

Here's why: It's the right thing to do, it's cost-effective and it's working.

Wealthy special interests have historically dominated our political and electoral system. Because candidates had to focus on raising money to fund their campaigns, many became vulnerable to these wealthy special interests, and many potential candidates didn't run because they didn't know people with deep pockets.

Things are different in Portland. For the past five years, we've had the voter-owned elections reform program. We were one of the first cities to adopt this sort of system, and it has served us well so far. Not only have we elected two voter-owned candidates in only three cycles using it, but we have also substantially reduced campaign spending and big campaign contributions. That means candidates can spend their time talking to the voters and less time competing in the ever-escalating race to see who can raise the most money.

Voter-owned elections have given elections back to the voters and required even incumbent candidates to work harder. A Citizens' Campaign Commission constantly monitors and improves the program, deepening the level of accountability by requiring candidates to follow stricter rules than privately financed candidates.

All these benefits cost taxpayers very little. Investment in voter-owned candidates is capped at 0.2 percent of the city's budget and thus far has only cost 68 cents per resident each year.

Voter-owned elections will not require any new fees or taxes.

Qualifying for the program serves as a great training for our public servants, because candidates who choose to run under the program must show community support by collecting $5 contributions from at least 1,000 Portland voters.That is not an easy goal to meet. In fact, only about one-third of candidates who apply become eligible for the program.

Most importantly, it brings people back to the center of politics where they belong. Voters benefit from the program because candidates are no longer forced to spend their time raising money from a small group of people who can write big checks. Instead, to win they have to spend their time talking and listening to voters. This means that candidates are accessible to voters, not special interests. Vote yes on Measure 26-108.

Sattie Clark is co-owner of Eleek Inc. and Mike Roach is co-owner of Paloma Clothing.