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Council to Consider Charging for Candidate Statements
 

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By Jorge Casuso

June 9, 2020 -- Local candidates will have to pay $1,700 if they want the City Clerk to distribute their candidate statements to voters, according to a proposed resolution the City Council will take up today.

In the past, the City has paid the cost of printing, handling, translating and mailing candidate statements that appear in the Supplemental Sample Ballot that Santa Monica voters receive.

In their report to the Council staff also noted that due to budgetary restraints, the City will no longer produce or post free video-recorded candidate statements.

"As a cost savings to the City, staff proposes that if a City candidate chooses to have a statement printed in the County’s Sample Ballot, the candidate would be responsible for the full cost," staff wrote.

The $1,700 cost per candidate estimated by the County Registrar could change, requiring the City to charge candidates for additional costs or to refund the difference, staff said.

Local political activists quickly denounced the change as a move by the Council to stifle political opposition at the polls.

"How does this promote democracy or social justice?" asked School Board member Oscar de la Torre.

"What it does do is make it harder for residents to participate in elections as candidates," he said.

De la Torre is a leader of the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) which is embroiled in a legal battle to force Santa Monica to hold district elections.

The City has appealed a Superior Court decision that found Santa Monica's at-large election system intentionally discriminates against Latino voters.

The California Court of Appeals is expected to render a decision next month.

Tricia Crane, a leader of Northeast Neighbors, said the City's move to charge candidates is meant to "sandbag residents" who might consider running in less expensive district elections.

"After spending millions of public dollars to fight district elections, the City Council is afraid that they are going to lose their appeal, so they are sandbagging residents who do not have big bucks behind them," Crane said.

"Shame on them!" Crane wrote in an email to The Lookout. "Phony Progressives, pretending to care about the poor and then locking the doors to elected office."

In its report, staff offered several alternatives: The candidates could pay half of the full cost, or the Council could use discretionary funds to pay for all or part of the cost.

"In deciding among these alternatives, Council should be aware that as part of the City’s budget restructuring due to COVID-19, the City can no longer offer candidates free production and posting of video recorded candidate statements," staff wrote.

The proposed resolution comes as the Council on Tuesday prepares to cut $192 million from the upcoming fiscal budget to make up for the economic blow dealt by the coronavirus shutdown.


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