Spare us from the reformers. Give me a cynical old pol who at least keeps his or her word. Our ethics commission meeting Tuesday convinced me of that--if I didn't know it already.
We voted 4-1 to send a public campaign finance measure to the City Council. It's good but not perfect. Candidates need to raise a certain amount of money to be eligible for public financing. This measure allows them to raise it in $250 chunks for council and $500 for citywide races. Candidates should probably be allowed to raise the money in $5 chunks, promoting grassroots democracy. Also, the measure will be considered by the council rules committee, the graveyard for most of our proposals. We want the committee to turn the proposal over to the neighborhood councils, which will weigh in with their grassroots ideas.
Our enemies, as it turned out, were the reformers who once had been on our side. The reform organizations adopted a favorite lobbyist tactic, loving a bill to death. You start out by praising it, then poking holes in it and ending by saying it needs more work. In other words consigning it to oblivion.
Susan Lerner, who heads the Clean Money organization and was a campaigner for the recently defeated state public finance measure, was the most vocal of the loving it to death crowd. She didn't like the $250-$500 provision but that didn't seem much of a reason to bury our plan. She thought our staff did a great job. Of course. They were to be praised. Of course. But, she said, the proposal needs more study by grassroots groups. Much more study. Why hurry? The century is still young.
As she described these proposed grassroots gatherings, they sounded like a combination of a West Side encounter group and the Paris Commune. We'll take our chances with the City Council.