Five Santa Monica neighborhood groups have joined several community organizations to push for more integrity in the election process.

They have combined with California Common Cause, the California Clean Money Campaign, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action and the Santa Monica Democratic Club to form Voter-Owned Transparent Elections for Santa Monica.

The coalition is scheduled to hold its first city-sponsored workshop Monday, May 14th, at 7 p.m. at the Ken Edwards Center, 1527 Fourth St. in Santa Monica.

The groups said they believe that money is having a ‘destructive effect’ on public policy at every level of government and hope to raise awareness of some of the key questions regarding Santa Monica elections. For example:

Why have City Council elections become so pricey? Has this impacted the quality of life of the voter and resident of Santa Monica? How can we make our elections more transparent, and elected officials more accountable?

‘We need to take money out of the equation. Our election system is too important to be left to the highest bidder,’ noted Santa Monica resident Monica Brennan, who works with the California Clean Money Campaign.

‘We want the best, not the best-funded.’

The public meeting on May 14th was scheduled by the Santa Monica City Council in response to these kinds of public concerns, and the coalition urges the City Council to take a strong leadership role in mitigating special-interest influence in city elections by providing public funding.

‘Santa Monica is known for its effective innovations, and the adoption of publicly funded election campaigns is keeping with that tradition,’ said Brandon Marlow, a Santa Monica resident.

Earlier this year, the city clerk issued a report outlining a proposed model for a voluntary system of full public financing of campaigns in Santa Monica.

Under such a ‘Clean Money’ system, candidates who demonstrate strong community support qualify for public funding of their campaigns.

‘This kind of system,’ says Marcy Koukhab, Los Angeles organizer for California Common Cause, ‘promotes competition by

enabling more candidates ‘ and from more diverse backgrounds ‘ to seek office, and reduces their dependence on special interest contributions.’

‘In Arizona and Maine, where clean elections have been in place since 2000, the programs are popular with voters and candidates alike, and more women are running,’ Tia Skulski, a member of the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women, pointed out.

The May 14th workshop on transparency in elections will include further discussion of campaign finance reform, and the coalition encourages all Santa Monicans to attend.

An online survey for those unable attend the workshop can be accessed at: www.smgov.net/communication/cityforms/electoralsurvey.htm/.

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