Howard should nix Question A
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.