“Santa Monica: For Sale By City Council.” That’s what the 12-by-24-foot billboard on Olympic Boulevard between Cloverfield Boulevard and 26th Street in Santa Monica says.
The billboard — put up by Election Watchdog, a political action committee sponsored by the Campaign for Consumer Rights — resembles the famous Santa Monica pier sign and is part of Election Watchdog’s campaign efforts against Proposition W, also known as the Good Government Act of 2006. The billboard also directs voters to visit Election Watchdog’s www.NoOn PropW.com Web site.
If passed, Proposition W would change Santa Monica’s current anticorruption law — known as the Taxpayer Protection Amendment of 2000, the Oaks Initiative, and Article XXII of the City Charter — which was approved by 59 percent of Santa Monica voters in 2000.
The current anticorruption law bars politicians from taking campaign contributions, gifts over $50 or employment from any person or company that the city awards a contract, a special tax break or other public benefit to, says Carmen Balber of Election Watchdog.
However, if passed by voters in November, Proposition W will allow Santa Monica City Council members and other public officials to take campaign contributions from people who do business with the city.
“Proposition W will lead to increased political corruption in Santa Monica,” said Balber. “Our billboard campaign will warn reform-minded voters not to be fooled by the City Council’s Proposition W.”
Still, there is one Santa Monica councilmember opposed to Proposition W — Kevin McKeown.
“I wish the billboard and the opponents of Proposition W had been more clear that Prop. W is not supported by the entire council,” McKeown said.
“I voted against Prop W. I proposed that Santa Monica voters be allowed to vote for a local clean money plan on this November’s ballot, but the rest of the council demurred and instead offered Prop. W.”
McKeown, a strong supporter of the concept called “clean money,” says he voluntarily declines to take any corporate donations.
“Our electoral system is broken, not just in Santa Monica but in California and the nation,” McKeown said.
“Prop. W is a step backwards for true electoral reform. We should instead pursue a coordinated and comprehensive rethinking of how political campaigns are financed.”
City attorney Marsha Moutrie said the changes to the current anti-corruption law would “effectuate the ‘clean government’ goals of the Oaks Initiative, while protecting individual rights and opportunities.”
Proposition W would eliminate current protections against corruption through campaign contributions and replace those, instead, with protections against the corruptive influence of gifts and employment opportunities, Moutrie said.
Moutrie also noted that the adoption of Proposition W would “eliminate the risk of a constitutional challenge to Article XXII [Taxpayer Protection Amendment] based on, for example, its prohibition against campaign contributions.”
Councilmember Richard Bloom, Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Shriver and Mayor Bob Holbrook, who wrote the arguments in favor of Proposition W, say the proposition “creates strict new ethics standards” for our elected officials.
“Proposition W will make our elected officials more responsive, transparent and accessible,” the councilmen wrote.
Still, many believe that Proposition W will not strengthen current anticorruption laws, but rather weaken them.
“Proposition W is wrong for Santa Monica,” Balber said. “We hope the billboard drives voters to our Web site, where they will learn how Proposition W is the culmination of a six-year effort by the City Council to eliminate strong protections against political kickbacks.”
The “Santa Monica: For Sale By City Council” billboard was installed Wednesday, October 4th, and cost Election Watchdog $2,100. It will remain up until the election Tuesday, November 7th.