by Nick Welsh
Still hurting from the high cost of running for office, members
of the Santa Barbara City Council took a few baby steps toward
campaign finance reform Tuesday afternoon. By a unanimous vote, the
council approved the formation of a new committee to study how
other cities have dealt with the issue and to what effect.
Councilmember Iya Falcone noted that when former city councilmember
Tom Roberts first ran for office in the early ’90s, he spent only
$15,000. By contrast, Falcone spent $82,000 on her hard-fought ’05
reelection effort, up from the $65,000 she spent four years
earlier; Roger Horton, meanwhile, spent $73,000 in a cakewalk.
Little discussion was devoted to the growing influence of
deep-pocket donors and powerful unions; more attention went to
ensuring that any reform effort not give incumbents and independent
expenditure committees even more advantage than they currently
enjoy. Falcone cautioned that past efforts to reform statewide
campaign financing failed to pass constitutional muster.
Councilmember Das Williams — now campaigning hard for a
supervisorial seat — argued that without publicly bankrolled
campaigns, he warned, candidates will have no recourse but to seek
money from special interests. Councilmember Helene Schneider voiced
concern regarding the source of such public money. The new
committee is made up of Mayor Marty Blum and Councilmembers Horton
and Brian Barnwell.