Money talks, and right now it is drowning out our voices in the political process.
I believe that most of us feel like we don’t have a voice in our political system and that this feeling is largely correct. We have a voice on election day, but the rest of the time political voice is exercised through money donated to politicians and their campaigns. The vast majority of us can’t afford to do this and so our voices are drowned out by the businesses and handful of individuals who can.
If we are going to see any real change in our politics then this is the issue that has to be tackled first. The corrupting influence of money in politics affects every issue and there is no true way forward without dealing with it. This is why campaign finance reform will be my number one issue when elected to the County Council.
It is currently way too hard to have your voice heard in our county's political process.
To really voice your opinion on a piece of legislation before the County Council you have to drive to Annapolis on a Monday night and then you will be given two minutes of public comment. That's it. Depending on where you live in District 7, you will drive 30 minutes to an hour, speak for two minutes and then it's over. There is no discussion, the Council doesn't necessarily respond to your concerns (although sometimes an individual Councilman will), and you don't get to ask any follow-up questions or clarify your point if it was misunderstood. You put in a lot of effort to get there and get very little in return.
Individual Councilmen do a good job of being present at community events and hosting forums on contentious issues. I applaud them for this and I don't want to in any way discredit the efforts that they are currently making. But there has to be a better, more consistent way to have your voice heard on issues of routine policy.
Getting your voice to be heard should be much easier than it currently is!
The political system, for a long time, has actively worked to reelect those in power by allowing them to choose their voters.
Gerrymandering creates uncompetitive districts in which the real decision about who is elected happen in the primaries instead of the general elections. If you are a Republican living in a district designed for the Democrats your voice is paid much attention to. If you are a Democrat living in a district designed for a Republican then you probably don't feel listened to either. Gerrymandering makes elections less competitive, entrenches the status quo, and keeps an out-of-touch political class in power.
Closed primaries systematically exclude the voices of all unaffiliated voters from participating in primaries. Due to gerrymandering, this is the level where most real decisions are made. If you are not registered with a political party then you have a significantly smaller voice in our election process. We exclude the moderating influence of independents from the primary election process, which creates a more extreme and divisive political discourse.
My main goal will be to create a unique system of publicly financed campaigns based on small-dollar contributions controlled by the everyday voter. This will allow the voice of the average person to always be heard in our county politics.
I will introduce legislation directing the county to create a fund equal to $50 dollars for each registered voter over the four-year campaign cycle. Based on the number of registered voters in Dec. 2016 (387,369) the county will contribute $4.8 million dollars to the fund each year. This comes out to 0.3% of our County’s budget and I believe that we can prioritize less than half of a percent of our budget to make our democracy work for us.
Once the fund is established, each registered voter gets to direct $50 dollars to the County Council candidate of their choice.
If candidates accept money from this fund, then they can’t take individual contributions of more than $50 dollars (the appropriate cap can be debated) from any other entity. This is only legal if the candidates choose to participate, but the size of the fund will motivate them to opt in.
Currently, the Council candidates raise about $1.3 million dollars combined during a four-year election cycle, which is roughly $3.35 dollars per registered voter. My plan provides a fund 15 times larger than this for candidates to tap into.
We would only need about 6.7% of registered voters to participate to match last cycle’s contributions for the County Council races, and that percentage doesn’t include the additional $50 dollars in private donations that the candidates can still receive from individuals. I think we can get at least 6.7% of registered voters to take part.
If people don’t direct their $50.00 to a candidate then it (a) goes to cover the administrative costs of making this program work, and (b) goes into strengthening our election infrastructure with the aim of cutting down the amount of time people must wait in line to vote on election day and increasing the security of our votes.
This plan does not take money out of politics, in fact, it potentially puts more in. What it does is control who that money comes from. Instead of being motivated to hold lots of fundraisers and talk to a small number of donors, candidates and office holders will be motivated to hold town halls and listen to the voters at large. They will become responsive to us, not only to the businesses and elites that make up the donor class.
I will hold two town halls per month, rotating between locations throughout the district, to engage in open discussion with voters on all issues coming before the council.
If you want to make a comment, but can't come to the Council meetings, then I'll listen to them at these town halls. I will ask you clarifying questions, give you my thoughts, I'll respond to your questions, and we'll engage in productive discussion. I will then take all of the views expressed at these town halls and represent them the best that I can at the Council meetings.
As a candidate, I have officially endorsed the American Anti-Corruption Act.
All parts of the Anti-Corruption Act that can be implemented by the county I will introduce as an ordinance.
I will introduce a resolution supporting the parts that cannot be enacted by the county.
The Anti-Corruption Act fights corruption in America by (1) stopping political bribery, ending secret money, and fixing our broken elections.
Read more about the American Anti-Corruption Act