SEATTLE (AP) - The Seattle City Council has approved a measure that would allow voters to decide whether a property-tax levy should be used to publicly fund council campaigns.
Council members said they hoped the proposal approved by an 8-0 vote Monday would attract more candidates to run for the City Council and engage more people in the election process. The measure would provide a match of $6 in public funds for every $1 raised privately, up to a total of $210,000 in public funds.
If approved by voters in November, the six-year, $9-million levy would cost an estimated $2 million per year to fund council races. Once a fund was established, the council could set lower rates in subsequent years. The levy would cost the owner of a $400,000 home about $6.60 per year.
"This will not get money out of politics," Councilmember Nick Licata said before Monday's vote. But he said the proposal's requirement to get $10 donations or more from a minimum of 600 people would engage more of the public in campaigns and lead to discussion of a broader array of issues.
But there are skeptics of publicly financed campaigns, including a group that supports electing a majority of council members by district. Seattle Districts Now turned in about 47,000 signatures earlier this month to place a measure on the ballot to elect seven council members by geographic district and two at-large.
That measure also promises to reduce the influence of money on politics by reducing the number of voters a City Council candidate has to reach to gain exposure, get out their ideas and get elected. Each district would have about 88,000 residents.
The Seattle city clerk is expected to announce soon whether there are enough valid voter signatures to qualify the proposed charter amendment for the November ballot.
That raises the possibility that two elections measures will be before voters
"There's concern in the district-elections camp that a public-financing measure on the same ballot could undercut voter support or confuse voters. Voters turned off by the idea of having to pay extra taxes for public financing may just vote no on both," said John Fox, an advocate for low-income housing and one of the Seattle Districts Now campaign coordinators
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