The history of campaign finance reform for San Diego has been a long and tortuous one. The initial interest in the use of public funding for San Diego city elections by the use of Clean Elections, was initiated in 2000 when a local activist from La Jolla, Francoise Farron called a group together to work on Clean Elections for San Diego.
Francoise Farron subscribed to the liberal Nation magazine and she got a list of her local subscribers for this meeting. Interesting, one of the original attendees was Derek Casady who is still highly active in the La Jolla community today and he is still a friend of clean elections for San Diego.
Under Francoise’s leadership, the Alliance for Clean Elections was formed and the Alliance attempted to get a Clean Elections citizen initiative on the ballot in 2002 and 2003. Neither campaign was successful due to the high number of signatures needed to get a citizen initiative on the ballot. In the city of San Diego, any citizen initiative needs 10% of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. These dedicated volunteers were motivated but they just did not have the resources, a sufficient number of volunteers and funding, to achieve their goal.
In 2005, a new group called Neighborhoods for Clean Elections initiated a long term effort to build awareness and support for clean elections. In 2016, they again attempted to get a clean elections initiative on the ballot through the petition process. But even with more group and neighborhood endorsements and many more supporters, this attempt to get a clean elections measure on the ballot was also deemed to fail due to the high amount of signatures needed to get on the ballot. The campaign still did not have sufficient resources, volunteers and funding, to be successful. By this time, the number of registered voters in the city of San Diego was over 800,000 and 10% of that, 80,000 signatures was just too high a bar to achieve.
After a year of disappointment, the campaign for clean elections started anew. It was deemed too important to put aside and the campaign was restarted with a goal to see if the San Diego City Council might put clean elections on the ballot instead of trying to go the citizen initiative route.
The campaign started meeting with San Diego city council members and their staff. The meetings went well and it looked like we had sufficient support of the city council to put clean elections on the ballot. In 2019, we went before the full city council and to our surprise, two council members changed their minds at the last moment and while we got the support of four council members, we needed five votes to be successful.
Obviously, we were disappointed, but after another year of reflection, we again realized that clean elections was too important in reforming local politics and with the amount of support that we had built for clean elections, we had to continue to fight for clean elections by targeting the 2024 presidential year election. We again began a new series of meeting with both old supporters on the city council and the new council members as well as reaching out to more neighborhoods and groups for support for clean elections.
This is where we are today. After a series of positive meetings with San Diego’s city council members and their staff, we feel that we have their support to put a city-sponsored Clean Elections measure on the ballot in 2024.