Monday, September 27, 2010
As long as city candidates have to raise money from private interests to run for office, we will always have politicians who are more responsive to special interests than constituents. It’s time to open the door to Voter‐Owned Elections. Without taking one extra dime from the General Fund beyond those already dedicated, we call on L.A. to remove the cap and grow the Trust Fund to allow us to adopt a more robust campaign finance system in the future.
2. Voters should have the right to convenient voting through their choice of Neighborhood Vote Centers or ballots mailed directly to their residences.
Voter participation in Los Angeles city elections is appallingly low. It’s time to remove the barriers to convenient voting by giving people broader access to the ballot. Starting with special elections, we call on Los Angeles to set up Neighborhood Vote Centers and automatically mail ballots to voters, thus giving Angelenos a choice of when and how we cast our ballot. The added convenience will also save tax dollars spent on administering elections.
3. Voters should have the right to a quick and efficient election through Ranked Choice Voting.
4. Voters should have the right to register and vote on Election Day.
We, the undersigned, hereby endorse this L.A. Voters’ Bill of Rights.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
My office also brought in author Reyna Grande, who is program coordinator for the Latino Book and Family Festival (LBFF), which is the largest festival of Latino writers ever (Oct. 9-10 at Cal State L.A.). The LBFF has graciously offered to donate books to the Wilson library from this year's festival, as well as create a place where patrons can buy books and donate them to the Wilson library.
As a child, libraries were my sanctuary and the foundation for my education. I voted against budget cuts to our City libraries because I know they can transform lives, especially for our youth.
Please support both these very important and deserving efforts here in our community. For more information on the Wilson book drive go to wilsonmulesbookdrive.org. For more information on the Latino Book and Family Festival, go to lbff.us/losangeles.
Friday, September 24, 2010
WHY IMPROVE OUR CAMPAIGN SYSTEM?
- We need to restore trust and integrity to our City government. City officials should be accountable to voters, not special interests. We need to create a more robust campaign finance system that allows candidates to run without having to chase special interest money.
- Politicians spend a significant amount of their time in office fundraising, time that could be spent working on issues of importance to the City.
- Voters passed a public matching funds system by approving and funding Proposition H in 1990 to help restore public trust in governmental and electoral institutions. Updates are needed to increase the number of candidates who participate and make them more accountable to the voters.
- LA City has a Trust Fund set up by the voters to support a public matching funds system. By removing the cap on the Matching Funds Program Trust Fund, which is currently set at $12 million, we will be able to make sure that all already-allocated funds are available and to expand the system when more funds become available.
- Modify the charter to allow candidates to receive immediate public grants once they've qualified rather than have to raise big money to get matching funds.
- Increase maximum penalties for any person who makes illegal contributions or expenditures to five times the amount of the unlawful contributions or expenditures (the current maximum is three times).
- Removing the Trust Fund cap will not increase the funds allocated from the overall City budget, as the annual appropriation is already defined by the City Charter in Article IV, Sec. 471, c, 1.
- More candidates will use the system, rather than raising unlimited funds from special interests, if they know that the Trust Fund has enough funds and they can get immediate grants to run serious campaigns.
- Increasing the penalties for all candidates and contributors who break the law will encourage compliance.
- LA City could gradually move to a full Voter-Owned Elections system over time to end the dominance of special interest money in city politics.
WHY RANKED CHOICE VOTING?
- Many Los Angeles voters are suffering from fatigue, with multiple elections over the past few years for local officials (twice in odd years), County, State and federal officials (twice in even years) and more and more special elections (varies) thanks to term limits.
- Ranked Choice Voting will produce significant financial savings for the City in the long run, with initial savings targeted at outreach and voter education, especially for limited English speakers, using community nonprofits. Once this change set in, savings could be used to increase matching funds.
- There also is the likely potential for reduced matching campaign fund payouts with one election instead of two, which would allow an increase in the funds available and might help increase program participation.
- Ranked Choice Voting works well with
and vote by mail-based elections. If the City adopts both, it would become the first in the nation to offer these two progressive reforms as well as to feature a matching funds program. Neighborhood Vote Center
- The use of negative campaigning or attack ads may be lessened because candidates will be wary of alienating their opponents’ supporters, whose votes they may need to reach 50%.
- The County Registrar-Recorder is currently developing a new voting system that will be RCV compatible, meaning that there will be no cost for the City, LAUSD to Community College District to adopt such a system.
- Savings to the LAUSD and LACCD could go to support their educational priorities, reducing budget pressures.
WHY USE NEIGHBORHOOD VOTE CENTERS?
- As more and more voters cast ballots by mail, we need to develop a voting system that gives people easier choices about how to cast their ballots.
- The City should set up Neighborhood Vote Centers that are convenient, accessible, and secure, with trained staff to assist voters in a service-friendly and respectful manner.
- In addition, we can remove hurdles by mailing every voter a ballot that can be returned by mail or dropped off in person at a Neighborhood Vote Center. In the 2009 municipal primary election 37% of all voters did so by mail, a significant increase from past contests.
- The City would locate Vote Centers in strategic locations to allow all voters to vote in person and receive assistance if they need it. Initially, we should try to maintain at least half our polling sites.
- In addition to having the option to vote at Neighborhood Vote Centers, all registered voters would also be automatically mailed an actual ballot and multi-lingual materials, if needed.
- Neighborhood Vote Centers could be set up in large, well-equipped facilities that are fully staffed, with easy access to public transit and parking.
- This could save up to an estimated $600-700,000 (35-40%) per election, according to the City Clerk.
- Giving people the options of either voting in person or by mail increases voter convenience significantly.
- Voting integrity would be increased because every signature would be checked before counting ballots.
- A 2009 PEW Research Center study found that voter participation can be increased by mailing a ballot to all voters, particularly in low turnout elections. Participation is also strong across income or education groups.
- Cities like Burbank and Denver, and the states of Washington and Oregon use similar voting systems.
- This approach would be tested first with special elections for vacant Council districts and only rolled out citywide once the Clerk had perfected the process and sufficient staffing was identified to process all the ballots.
Reform Proposals For Charter Amendment
1. Voters should have the right to elect a government of, by, and for the people, not special interests, by moving to Voter-Owned Elections.
As long as City candidates have to raise money from private interests to run for office, they will always have a tension (whether real or perceived) between being fully responsive to constituents and the pull of various special interests. It’s time to open the door to Voter-Owned Elections. Without taking one extra dime from the General Fund (beyond those already dedicated), we call on LA City to remove the cap and grow the Trust Fund to allow the City to adopt a more robust campaign finance system in the near future.
- Target date: 2011-12.
- Lead agency: City Ethics Commission.
2. Voters should have the right to convenient voting through their choice of either
Voter participation in
- Target date: 2012 for special elections as a pilot, 2015 for citywide elections (or whenever the City Clerk deems it feasible and has an implementation plan prepared and adequate staffing).
- Lead agency: City Clerk Election Division.
3. Voters should have the right to a quick and efficient election through Ranked Choice Voting.
Voters are tired and confused by the number of elections the City and other levels of government hold. To save the City money and save voters time, voters should have only one regular city election per year.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) creates a plurality polling winner without requiring the two separate City elections we often have now -- a primary and a general race. Voters will have their voices heard and
- Target date: 2015 or whenever the County can provide the new voting system and the City Clerk and City Ethics Commission have an implementation plan.
- Lead agency: City Clerk Election Division and County Registrar-Recorder
4. Voters should have the right to register and vote on Election Day and have their votes counted.
If a citizen is eligible to vote, and this can be securely verified, he/she should be able to register and cast a ballot on Election Day at a pre-designated
Target date: 2012 or whenever the State passes implementing legislation and the Secretary of State implements a statewide voter registration database, or 2014 if
- Lead agency:
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Historic preservation is not about pressing the pause button, but about finding ways to honor the wonderful history that makes Broadway so special, while utilizing our historic buildings and historic businesses in ways that allow them to be successful and vital into the next generation.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I am concerned that nearly $5.6 million in City Senior Food program and other services could run out under the state budget stalemate. Many of the City programs, which rely on federal funds passed through the state, are in jeopardy of discontinuing services until the state passes a budget and frees up the funds.
Hoping to ensure that Senior meal programs in the City of Los Angeles see no disruption in services, the City Council approved my motion today asking City staff to report back in one week on possible bridge funding measures to keep the vital services going. The meal services often represent the only hot meal Seniors receive.
While all of us hope that the governor and the state legislature act quickly, today the City of Los Angeles said we are not going to wait. Seniors should not have to be anxiety ridden wondering where their next meal is coming from. We’re talking about a basic human need for people. City staff will report back to Council next Tuesday on possible bridge-funding options.
Councilmember José Huizar will moderate a Reforming Los Angeles panel discussion on October 7th in City Council Chambers featuring some of the region's top experts on Charter Reform and City Governance. Full panel TBA.
Ten years ago, Los Angeles voters approved a set of sweeping changes to promote civic engagement and rethink its government structure. It is time to review Charter Reform to see if it is working and decide where we need to go.
The forum will address hot topics such as the LADWP/Ratepayer Advocate, status of Neighborhood Councils, and the power dynamic between the Mayor, City Attorney, City Controller and the City Council.
This is a follow-up to the successful March forum on Campaign Finance Reform and the June forum on Election Reform. In addition to moderating, Councilmember Huizar will also provide an update on both of the previous forums and make an announcement for the fourth in the series--set for November.
· Forum hosted and moderated by Councilmember José Huizar
· Thursday, October 7, 2010
· 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in Los Angeles City Hall Council Chambers
· Free and open to the public
· Hosted parking
The Government Reform Forum Series are free and open to the public. There is no cost to attend and free parking can be arranged by contacting the Office of Councilmember Huizar at (213) 473-7014. Light refreshments will be served.