Sunday, February 27, 2005

Campaign cash, a cause of concern. You betcha!

Andy C did a nice job with the article and I'd love to build upon its conent. Here is the story behind the story.
Campaign cash rolls in from outside city - 'It's a cause for concern,' said Bill Godshall, chairman of the Pittsburgh Campaign Finance Task Force. 'Mayors are elected by the city residents to serve the residents of the city. If outside money is coming in, I question whose interests the next mayor is representing.'

I'm on the same campaign finance task force that Bill chiars. Our work is not yet complete, but it has been interesting. We'll see if the outcome is worthy of a mention or not. I am certain that the task force was necessary -- and it gave cover to the sponsor of the legislation, Bill Peduto of City Council.

The original legislation called for a $2,000 limit to donors and any donor who gave the limit was not eligible for no-bid contract. Godshall, the chairman, rightly points out that $1,999 donations would skirt the restriction that applies to $2,000 donors. A $1,999 donation would allow for the letting of no-bid contacts.

The no-bid contracts are a big problem within city business operations. This is often called, "pay to play." If you want a contract, or if you get a contract, you have to give back to the ones who gave the contract to the firm.

The way to fix no-bid contracts isn't with campaign finance reform, however. Don't do no bid contracts. End that habit. Bid everything.

Sure, putting all the work of the city out in a bid process is more work. But, that is why these folks get the jobs they have. They need to work hard. They need to be "fair."

If only one firm is capable of doing the work described in the bid, then only one firm will make a bid. Still, it is okay to bid the work. Unless, the office holders are beholden to the firms.

Two important elements of this story are not being linked to the overall saga in our election process. I stand for elements that are not easily rewarded. For example, I'm against the same-old style of leadership and their donors who crave eminent domain. For me, its no TIFs; no contract give-a-ways without a bid process; no gambling casinos; no Mon Valley toll road; no debt and the need for heavy bonds to be floated. Certain project generate the campaign donations.

Meanwhile, good governement, transparent operations, higher levels of democracy and prudent fiscal policies that invest in humans, not bricks and mortar, are not going to generate money. Kids that swim in the city's pools had a hard time paying for their summer passes, yet alone giving money to campiagns. Same too for parents who are taking their kids to the rec centers.

Face it, those in the city that have the financial means to leave the city have gone elsewhere, by and large. A crew of us die-hards remain, hunkered down. Resistance in an occupied land is best done by those who survive and don't peg themselves as part of the opposition.
In the 2001 race, Mayor Tom Murphy and O'Connor combined to raise a record $2.3 million. Without a sitting mayor, this year's race might not top that amount, but it should come close, analysts said.

I don't think the un-named analysis is "on the money" with this hunch. In 2001, Bob O'Connor and Tom Murphy each spent more than $1-million. They earned votes for $30 each. My votes were earned at a rate of $.30. Yes, that's 30-cents vs. 30-dollars.
The next mayor faces a city without any money. The public kitty is bare. There won't be extras for pay-backs. The donors know this. And, they won't be giving like in the past.

Peduto was looking to raise $200k, not $1-million. The lesser amount is more on target for what it is going to take to win.

In the fall, I talked quickly with Michael Lamb. He had the goal and aspirations of raising $1-million for his campaign for mayor. He's nuts and wrong.

Why should anyone spend $1-million to get a chance in a crap-shoot for a job that pays $90k a year?

Furthermore, why should the voters select a candidate that runs a high-stakes, high-spending, high-debt campaign to run Pittsburgh? We've been crushed by high-flying, over-spending, debt-ridden public officials on Grant Street.

Up until six months ago, Bob O'Connor, the 2nd place vote getter in 2001's Dem Primary, again, was $30,000 in debt. Debt is killing this city.

Pittsburgh has to get itself out of debt.

Michael Diven went into big debt in 2004 as he had to keep his state house seat. Some said that was the reason for his party switch from D to R. Diven took his re-election tab to the House Ds to settle as he beat the candidate funded by the House Ds. But the debt was not forgiven there and would be settled by the Senate Rs. He switched because of debt. Diven has been bought and paid for by others.

It is fun to be free. I can say and do as I please. Imagine this, I can choose to do what's right without worries of my gravy-train going away.

To vote for me cost nothing.

Finally, the money needed to prop up these candidates is to make sure that their message gets out. They have to craft a message. They need to have consultants and specialist fundraisers to cover the cost of the consultants, printers and tv ads.

My message gets to you from my head -- with my friends -- to my keyboard -- to this blog and elsewhere on the internet -- at bargain prices with depth and scope.

Some of us have messages to share, plus the necessary creativity to craft and deliver those message and a desire to run without debt in a prudent lifestyle.

In closing: All the king's men and all the king's horses couldn't put Humpty together again. We've had a great fall. And the fix for our future is not with the royalty and the few with self-interest money concerns. The future of our region can be that of prosperity as soon as we rely upon the self-reliance of the people. We need creative, new leadership for the region that can grip the problems, attack at their roots and lead a diverse commuity where interaction among people is valued and trusted.

As for campaign finance reform legislation, stay tuned. Much more is in the pipeline.

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