As Turlock gears up for its first-ever by-district City Council election in November, the current City Council will address the issue of campaign finance regulations through a series of special meetings in June.
Campaign finance was one of the issues brought forth during the Council meetings held from December 2015 through March that resulted in the change in process of selecting an operator for the downtown farmers market. Mayor Gary Soiseth said during the March 1 Council meeting that the City would address the issue of campaign finance regulations and on Tuesday, City Manager Gary Hampton reported that a series of four public meetings were being set up, one in each electoral district.
"I’ve called for a special meeting in each district so that we can have a productive dialogue in all four corners of the city. I’m always open to new ideas that could strengthen our Council's commitment to the residents of Turlock," said Soiseth.
Currently, the City does not have campaign contribution limits and council members can receive unlimited contributions from donors without creating a conflict of interest.
For Councilmember Steven Nascimento, this public discussion of campaign finance has not come soon enough. Nascimento has been an advocate for campaign finance reform since being elected to the Council in 2012. Along with introducing a "Tin Cup" ordinance in 2014 that would have prohibited members of the City Council from voting on issues that could financially benefit large campaign contributors — a motion that failed on a 3-2 vote —he was the only Council member to oppose the adoption of a Request for Proposals process for a downtown farmers market operator, a vote he felt was overshadowed by a large contributor to Soiseth's mayoral campaign.
While Nascimento had originally hoped the City Council would form an ad hoc committee to create a campaign finance reform ordinance for Council consideration, he said the special meetings are a step in the right direction.
"Frankly I'm just happy the issue is moving forward... I think the community has been very vocal for some kind of campaign finance reform," said Nascimento. "During the famers market ordeal a lot of community members brought up the Tin Cup ordinance. I'm hopeful that as we go through this process, a document will form as we get input from the community."
The public meetings have tentatively been scheduled for June 8 at Turlock High School, June 9 at Cunningham Elementary School, June 15 at Dennis Earl Elementary and June 16 at either Turlock Junior High School or Pitman High School. Details on the meetings, including time and verified locations will be forthcoming, according to City staff.