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Portland councilors approve rules for new clean election program

Portland City Hall
Wally Gobetz via Flickr
Portland City Hall

City councilors in Portland have agreed on the rules for a municipal clean elections program that was approved by a local charter commission last year.

Qualifying candidates for mayor, city council and school board may opt in to the program. Candidates would first need to gather enough qualifying contributions, depending on the position, and get varying amounts of public campaign funding.

Mayoral candidates with enough qualifying contributions could receive up to $100,000. At-large city council candidates could receive up to $30,000.

While some disagreed about how much each candidate should receive, Councilor Anna Trevorrow says that the city needs to make the funding levels appealing enough for candidates to opt in.

"If we set the mayoral max distribution, for instance, at $85- or $75,000, there are going to be plenty of candidates who will look at that and say, I can raise that privately. And I don't have to deal with all the red tape of Clean Elections. And I don't have to wait until July 15 to get a distribution. I can start my campaign right away," Trevorrow said.

The city will initially appropriate about $465,000 for the program this year, and $290,000 a year going forward.

While the program was approved by a five-to-three vote, councilors disagreed on several details, as well as the total cost. Councilor Mark Dion worried that the program's annual budget would increase residents' taxes, and that red tape could overwhelm candidates and city staff.

"If I'm going to support it, it's got to be really simple, very clear, with few decision points attached to it," Dion said.