Sac City Council Candidate Proposes Clean Vote Ordinance; Time For 'Tin Cup' in Elk Grove?

April 8, 2014 | Faced with an uphill battle to gain traction against a well-entrenched incumbent, Sacramento City Council candidate E...

April 8, 2014 |

Faced with an uphill battle to gain traction against a well-entrenched incumbent, Sacramento City Council candidate Ellen Cochrane has proposed an ordinance particularity appropriate given the on-going scandals embroiling the capitol.

Cochrane, who is running against four-term incumbent Steve Cohn for Sacramento's District 3 seat, has proposed a so-called clean vote ordinance as one of her campaign's main planks. 

“The idea is simple,” Cochrane said. “It requires council members to refrain from voting on any matter that directly benefits a donor who has given more than $1,000 to that council person. It would apply for the whole four-year term. No exceptions.”  

Cochrane said she’d been contemplating the ordinance for some time. The Supreme Court decision to allow seemingly limitless corporate and personal spending on political candidates also figured in her decision.

“This is a small but clear and firm step for good city politics,” she said. “The ordinance I envision will raise the ethics bar for office-holders.”

Noting that similar municipal legislation had been passed in Modesto, Cochrane said former Modesto Mayor Carol Whiteside told her that the plan, known there as the “Tin Cup Ordinance,” has generally succeeded.

That plan was called the Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics, or tin cup, because it compelled politicians to turn to ordinary citizens for small donations. 

Like other jurisdictions, Elk Grove City Council members have received large campaign contributions from donors that have matters that would benefit them directly heard by the council. A prime example of this was the recent Gil Moore fast food-gas station project approved by the city council.

A wealthy gasoline distributor, Moore and his wife Marites lavished four of the five current city council members with large donations. Subsequent to his and wife's donations, and in spite of significant negative comments from the public-at-large regarding several aspects of the project, Moore's controversial project was nonetheless unanimously approved. 

Moore is just the most recent and visible in a long line of the pay-for-play donors to the Elk Grove City Council. 

So is it possible for a candidate to run on a tin cup strategy platform or is the influence of big money so overwhelming for a jurisdiction even as insignificant as Elk Grove, in the grand scheme of things, that it is just too much to overcome? 

Althoughsimilar measure was recently defeated by the Turlock City Council, a modified proposal is coming back for further consideration

Unless it is discussed here in Elk Grove, the matter will never get off the ground. If you think a tin cup proposal for our city is needed, let your voice be heard.


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Gweneth said...

What a wonderful idea, but here in Elk Grove, should this policy be put in place, only Councilman Trigg would be able to vote on just about all new projects coming before the council.

The developers have all given each councilman (except Trigg) thousands for their campaign bank rolls. That's how projects get pushed through, it's the cost of doing business here.

Why would our city council bite the hand that feeds them?

Like I said, a wonderful idea, I just don't see it happening. there's not one ounce of integrity on our council.

Anonymous said...

Gweneth said it all and rather will never work in EG as each council member is beholden to the almighty dollar and the developer who placed it in their pockets. She is also correct...we have little to no integrity on our current council.

Anonymous said...

1) You'd have to do it by a ballot measure. None of the existing council members would sign up to it.
2) I wouldn't worry about the issue of not being able to vote because donors would need to be smart enough to know that they couldn't get anything passed if they couldn't achieve a majority. If they buy the majority they get nothing.
Interesting idea.

Cisco said...

To Anon@ 8:22 and others;

The developers would still be able to skirt the process by donating under non-corporate names, wife's names, son-in-law's names, secretary's names, etc...
but I like the idea. It's certainly a step in the right direction.

Unscrupulous developers and councilmen will unfortunately always be a step ahead.

Anonymous said...

Jimenez and Owen (if he decides to run) should make this a major topic in their campaign. One quick way to shut the incumbent up and get your word out.

Look horsey, there's the water!

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

There will be several ways for the big-money donors to skirt the finance issue. The easiest way is for them is to form their own committees and do advocacy ads not for their candidate per se, but rather against their opponents.

Then again, a cynic might say it would be in the city council's own best interest to pass a tin cup regulation. Council members can simply let developers do all the dirty work and mudslinging for them through advocacy ads while while they sit back and offer platitudes and glad hand unknowing voters.

Connie said...

The good Captain is correct once again. What he suggested is being done now and was done very successfully back in 2006.

One Elk Grove firefighter opened up an Independent Expenditure Committee (IE) that was solely financed by Renyen & Bardis to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Supposedly the two candidates who benefited the most did not know about it, and by law they cannot have any say so regarding the IE; but in reality they did they did know about it. IE's are one of the worst parts of politics.

But the fact remains the IE worked. Fast forward eight years and now Renyen & Bardis is suing the city of Elk Grove for millions.

As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

Jerry Maguire said...

I don't know if this would work if this is indeed the "City that Money can Buy".

Campaign contributions are why the city is what it is.

A boring bedroom community with no culture, no real reason to visit, very few if no well-paying businesses, miles and miles boring subdivisions, the skeleton of a regional mall where the local boosters envisioned Nordstrom, Tiffany and Coach moving in (what type of 420 were they smoking?), dated strip centers, huge high density low income housing projects, nail salons, dollar stores, cigarette / tobacco stores, check cashing places fast food joints, etc.


Steve L said...

I personally ask each and every councilman; Place this item on the council agenda, discuss the merits of it and vote on it.

Please show the citizens of this city where you stand on this issue. Show them that you're willing to put the best interests of this city above your own war chests. Show them that you have integrity.

Mr. Trigg; please step up and show these youngsters what integrity is all about. You make the motion, you lead the way.

Jeff O. said...

I like this idea, can there still be ways to manipulate it sure but as a council candidate you should with or without a regulation commit to not taking special interest money. I know it makes it a much harder road to hoe but it's what's right.

If I were to run, I in good concience would not be willing to take donations from individuals or groups that potentially may influence a future vote. Even if you think you can vote unbiased based on the merits of the issues, if the party involved helped plunked a few bucks in to your campaign fund, I don't think it would be that easy.

The other issue I have, is that as a council member you are to be nonpartisan. I also don't think that candidates should seek out party endorsements. It is already recognized that this causes a rift in our current council. Much like the special interest money, politics and party lines tends to trump what's in the best interest of the city.

Flat out, hold your candidates accountable, press them to pledge not to take special interest money and to stay true to the nonpartisan stance.

Elk Grove and its citizens first.

lynn said...

Jeff O, thank you for your comments. It is time to change the trend of voting party line, this however takes the responsibility of each elk grove voter to educate themselves by participating in the process. Whether people agree or disagree with me, I just have been wanting dialog and discussion on issues that impact us all. I have said it for awhile now elk grove; corrupt as Bell, Bankrupt as Vallejo...people laugh when I say it. I hope in 5 years we all will laugh at my complaints.

Steve L said...

Hooray for Jeff Owen! What a breath of fresh air in the stale dingy world of Elk Grove politics.

Thanks, Jeff. - Now get your paperwork in and get on that ballot!

Anonymous said...

I'll Second that......

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Mr. Owen, if you were to run either for the Fourth District seat or against the mayor, I am sure you will be a force to be reckoned with.

In lieu of raising big bucks from the developers, focus on the small donors. You could raise enough from small donors to mount a respectable amount of cash. Force the issue of the clean vote suggested by Ms. Cochrane on Mayor Davis or Mr. Ly and Ms. Chaires. Put them on the defensive.

Why not make the tin cup a part of your campaign? I suspect with some money, your grasp of the issues and to be honest, a little measure of luck, you could win either of those seats.

Anonymous said...

Time to clean house.

From all that I read it becomes apparent that the city needs campaign financing reform that hopefully will result in council members that are not beholden to the developers and other monied interests.

Change this city from "Build it and They will Come" to a "City that is moving forward rather than backward".

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