Political Voice

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The Problems

Money in Politics

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. To have a government that works in our favor on every issue – from development, to the environment, to education, and public safety – we need a government that is not dependent on corporations and the wealthy individuals that can write large campaign checks.

If we are going to see any real change in our politics, 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.

Lack of Agency

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!

Systematic Exclusion

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.

The Solutions

Campaign Finance Reform

My main goals will be to create a system of publicly funded elections that allows the voice of the average person to always be heard and prioritized in our county politics.

There are different models that can be used to accomplish this. One is a system based on the county government providing matching contributions for small-dollar donations made by individuals; this model was just adopted in Montgomery and Howard Counties. The other is a system based on democracy credits in which the public creates a pool of money and each voter gets the right to direct a portion of that money to the candidate of her/his choice; this model was recently adopted in Seattle, Washington.

Any model we adopt should include the following principles: (1) the system is publicly financed and shifts power from corporations and elite donors to the average voter, (2) prohibits candidates receiving public funds from accepting contributions from any entity other than an individual person (this includes bans on money from corporations, PACS, or political parties), (3) places a strict cap on the amount a candidate can receive from any one individual in each campaign cycle, and (4) includes a set of qualifying conditions that must be met before a candidate can access the public funds.

A system based on these principles does not take money out of politics entirely, but what it does is control who that money comes from. Instead of being incentivized to hold lots of fundraisers and talk to a small number of donors, candidates and officeholders will be incentivized 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.

Town Halls

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.

The Anti-Corruption Act

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, (2) ending secret money, and (3) fixing our broken elections.

Read more about the American Anti-Corruption Act

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