Elections Commission Needs New Members

A city commission that handles election and ethics complaints needs two new members.

Based on some of the biggest issues the arose last year, San Jose’s Elections Commission created recommendations to update the city’s municipal code this year. The recommendations focus on how campaign expenses get reported and rules about how candidates can ethically collect signatures for their nomination forms. Some of the proposed changes include:

• Creating a supplemental disclosure form for candidates to clarify which funds they spent during primary and general elections. Right now, it’s unclear in some cases if a candidate mixed funds from one election to another.
• Rules to prevent candidates from bribing residents to sign a nomination petition. A complaint was logged last year that accused a candidate of offering coffee and pastry to coffee shop customers if they signed a nomination petition.
• Doing away with voluntary expenditure limits because independent expenditure committees already don’t have them. This idea has been floated by Mayor Chuck Reed, and it has its opponents. At Wednesday’s Rules and Open Govt. Committee, a memo from Councilmember Don Rocha challenges the notion that more money in campaigns would be a good thing: “I want to take this opportunity to emphasize how valuable I think it is to have an independent, unbiased body review elections issues in San Jose,” Rocha writes. “I look forward to hearing their thoughts on all of the issues that have been referred to them, including the Rules Committee’s referral on August 8th of the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate contribution limits for Council candidates, which I mention above. In his memo to Rules, the Mayor argues that because independent expenditures in the District 8 primary outpaced candidate spending, candidates in all council races should be free of contribution limits. I would be concerned if our response to lax campaign finance laws was to make our laws even more lax. I’m not sure I understand how opening up an additional path for money and influence into all council races, even those with low levels of independent expenditure, would have a positive effect on democracy in San Jose. Fortunately, the Elections Commission can work through these issues and provide advice to the Council”
• A new sign ordinance. If you need a reminder, see the hullabaloo between Rose Herrera’s husband and Dustin DeRollo in the aforementioned District 8 City Council race.

“Anybody who has an interest in elections could apply,” says Deputy City Clerk Cecilia McDaniel. “They handle more than just ethics cases; they make sure that campaigns are done fairly, that people file the right paperwork and manage violations to the municipal ethics code.”

Friday is the deadline to apply to the five-member board, as two terms end March 1. Current commissioners include Leon Louie, Linda Edgeworth, Rolanda Dixon-Pierre, Erica Cosgrove and Michael Smith, the latter two of which will each term out in a month.

Candidates must be registered voters in San Jose, get appointed by no less than a two-thirds vote from the City Council and remain uninvolved in politics during their tenure, as well as a year before and after joining the board. At least one board member must be an attorney licensed to practice law in California.

The group meets at 5:30pm every second Wednesday of the month in Room W262 at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose.

WHAT: Two vacancies on the San Jose Elections Commission
WHEN: Deadline to apply is Friday
WHERE: Download applications here.
INFO: Acting City Clerk Toni Taber, 408.535.1275

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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