Howard should nix Ques­tion A

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Gene Har­ring­ton, El­li­cott City

Asking the pub­lic to sup­port di­vert­ing tax­payer monies be­ing used to fund schools, road con­struc­tion and other vi­tal gov­ern­ment ser­vices to sub­si­dize po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns in­stead seems like a bad joke. Yet res­i­dents of Howard County will be faced with that very ques­tion on Nov. 8. Specif­i­cally, Ques­tion A on the Howard County bal­lot lays the ground­work to pub­licly fi­nance cam­paigns for County Coun­cil and county ex­ec­u­tive start­ing in 2022 (“Grass roots group eyes launch of ‘cit­i­zen-funded’ cam­paign system,” Aug. 17).

Pro­po­nents of Ques­tion A claim that the mea­sure will re­duce the in­flu­ence of big-mon­eyed in­ter­ests from the county’s pol­i­tics, giv­ing a greater or more pro­por­tional voice to av­er­age ci­ti­zens. They also say that it will give new­com­ers and out­siders a bet­ter chance to win elec­tions. How­ever, the track record of var­i­ous state and lo­cal laws au­tho­riz­ing the pub­lic fi­nanc­ing of po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns re­veals those to be false, hol­low prom­ises. Ques­tion Asup­port­ers like to point to NewYork City’s cam­paign fi­nance system as a model, but the only “out­sider” who has been elected mayor of the Big Ap­ple since the city started pub­licly fund­ing cam­paigns in the late 1980s is Michael Bloomberg, a me­dia mag­nate who es­chewed the pub­lic monies and in­stead used his for­tune to win three elec­tions. More­over, in 2010, Port­land, Ore., vot­ers dis­banded their city’s pub­lic fi­nanc­ing of cam­paigns af­ter just a few years be­cause it wasn’t re­mov­ing big money from the process or giv­ing new voices a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to win elec­tions. More re­cently, Seat­tle vot­ers in 2013 de­feated a bal­lot ini­tia­tive sim­i­lar to Ques­tion A, al­though a much more mod­est pro­posal was adopted in 2015.

While we all de­sire “good gov­ern­ment,” there are many bet­ter ways to achieve that goal than us­ing pub­lic dol­lars to fund po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns. And I’m sure we can all agree that fund­ing ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic safety are a much bet­ter use of such monies. For these and many other rea­sons, Howard County vot­ers should re­ject Ques­tion A.

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