Santa Monica City Council members approved an ordinance
Tuesday requiring potential candidates for City office to pay a $25 filing fee.
The proposed ordinance, which also proposed a $300 charge
for material preparations, was split into two portions, allowing Council
members to vote separately on the $25 fee. No action was taken on the $300
preparation fee, meaning no such payment would be required for now.
Council member Kevin McKeown was the sole vote against
During the council discussion, McKeown hoped to put off a
decision on the proposed fees and instead work on creating an efficient system
to determine whether candidates have actual grassroots support.
“We should have some sort of a qualification for
candidates. We’ve had some situations … where people run just for the sake of
running and really don’t intend to win or, more importantly, (have) any intent
to serve the people of this community,” McKeown said.
McKeown suggested perhaps having candidates collect a
nominal donation, perhaps $5, from a certain number of constituents as opposed
to having a candidate merely write a check to pay an administrative fee.
The originally proposed ordinance sought to require those
seeking to be a candidate in one of the City’s local races to pay $325 for
nomination papers and the handling of candidate statements. All candidates
running for City Council, Rent Control Board, Santa Monica Malibu Unified
School District, and Santa Monica College Board would be subject to the $325
fee, if approved.
However, the sentiment on the dais was $300, which would
be assessed for printing and handling of candidate statements, would be too cost
prohibitive for some low-income candidates.
“If one person can pay, all that tells you is that person
has money or that person is backed by somebody who has money,” McKeown stated.
“It doesn’t tell you that candidate has any support, and it means the truly
low-income people in this community will be unable to participate in our
elections. That feels very wrong to me. To charge cash money just feels like
the wrong thing for Santa Monica.”
Previously, anyone seeking to run for a city office did
not have to pay a filing fee.
State law sets the filing fee at $25 for all
municipalities; Council members voted 6 to 1 in favor of the $25 filing fee for
future Santa Monica candidates.
The ordinance will return to the council for a second
reading at its next meeting in July. If the ordinance survives the second
reading, it will become law.
Also approved on first reading: an ordinance assessing a
$27 burglary registration fee for owners of security alarm systems. Under the
ordinance, a security system owner would be assessed a fine of $164.86 if an
SMPD officer responds to a false alarm for a second time within a fiscal year
(July 1 to June 30). The fee and fine would take effect July 1.
Previously, a fine was assessed on the third occurrence
of a false alarm.
Both fees would be subject to an annual automatic
Consumer Price Index, or CPI, increase.
City staff estimates the fine for second false alarms
would generate $175,246 in annual revenue for Santa Monica, while the burglary
alarm registration fee could result in a positive cash flow of $151,200 each
year directed toward City Hall’s coffers.
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