By Dawayne Hill
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett of the 8th District introduced a Fair Election Fund resolution Monday at the Baltimore City Council, explaining that political candidates need to spend more time talking with voters and getting ideas from community groups.
The Fair Election Fund, according to Burnett, is a “public election fund that creates public matches for candidates.” In other words, people running for office in Baltimore would be able to receive small public donations to help fund their campaign.
Only candidates who agree to accept individual donations of less than $150 would be eligible for matching funds from the city, under Burnett’s charter amendment bill. Currently, individuals can contribute up to $6,000 to a local political campaign.
Approval of this resolution would allow the public to fund the campaign, which in Burnett’s words, would “create more interaction with officials and the people.” He stressed that this approach would guarantee that the candidates would have the local resident’s best interest in mind and would address, as well as promise, a change to the issues that bother the residents of the Baltimore area.
“There has been research that shows this method works and gives all candidates an equal chance of election,” said Burnett. “This type of system is already adopted in other areas, such as Montgomery County.”
Burnett said research shows that this method provides an increase in grass roots elections and boosts the likeability of less known candidates who may find their chances of being elected increasing.
First District Councilman Zeke Cohen was one of the many council members in favor of the Fair Election Fund.
“Money has a perverse impact on politics,” said Cohen, “and this bill will support an equal election all around.”
Cohen said that democracy includes all men and all women, and to ensure fairness and equality within voting, all candidates need to have an equal playing field to receive funding.
If the council approves Burnett’s bill, voters in November would have to decide to change the city charter to allow for public financing. The bill also creates an 11-member commission to oversee the public money available for candidates.
Cohen said the changes would improve citizen’s relationships with the people they vote for and will allow for a closer knit community that addresses and handles the real issues.