SLO won’t give voters $20 to spend on candidates

April 20, 2016
SLO Councilman Dan Carpenter

SLO Councilman Dan Carpenter

After Councilman Dan Carpenter changed his position, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to put a halt to a plan to create a democracy voucher system. The council previously endorsed the proposed scheme in which the city would distribute $20 vouchers to voters who could then donate the money to council candidates who refuse to accept conventional contributions.

On March 15, Carpenter joined councilmen John Ashbaugh and Dan Rivoire in voting to direct city staff to prepare policy, legal and operational plans for a democracy voucher system. Carpenter said the proposal would level the playing field and lead to more candidates running for city office.

But Carpenter, who is currently running for a county supervisor seat, released a statement the following week saying he was wrong to think the democracy voucher system was the answer to achieving that goal.

“In the hours and days following the decision, I heard from many citizens throughout the community with a primary concern about the inappropriate use of taxpayer resources for candidates,” Carpenter stated.

After Carpenter changed his mind, the council placed the democracy voucher item back on the agenda. Carpenter then voted with Mayor Jan Marx and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson to scrap the idea. Ashbaugh and Rivoire cast the dissenting votes on Tuesday.

The democracy voucher idea was first brought to the city by San Luis Obispo farmer William Ostrander, who is currently a candidate for Congress. Supporters of the proposal say it would increase voter participation in city elections and would prevent outside money from swaying local voting.

City staff estimated the voucher program would cost $636,754 to $650,254 in the first year and $240,500 to $377,440 annually thereafter. Funding for the program likely would have come from the city’s general fund.

If San Luis Obispo were to adopt the program, it would be the first of its kind in California.



  1. mikeGB says:

    Government, particularly federal, but also large local, has grown so powerful from a money perspective, that fraud, bribes, pay to play, special interest groups, wealthy people and corporations have a massively disproportional influence on politics to push for their benefit.

    At least this presidential election, its being brought into the spotlight that the 2 major parties, with their insiders, control elections. Whether it’s Superdelegates, or states without primaries or direct voting caucuses, people not represented by the parties. Grassroots is now codeword for gaming the system with insiders and small active groups of party or philosophical loyalists that disproportionately wield power.

    We are presented with false choices and stacked decks. If voting really made a difference, it would be illegal or more “regulated”.

    That’s on the national level. Local government has it own levers to be manipulated. Its just not as corrupt because it claims less of the value of our labor – our money via taxes, fees, and fines – to attract as many sharks to the pond.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but feeding more money in that must first be taken from the productive is not the answer. Unless people are willing to demand smaller, less cradle to grave government and over the top regulations, things will only get worse.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  2. Perspicacious says:

    Ostrander is a mean-tempered, arrogant, jerk. His behavior during a recent election was pathetic. “Citizen’s Congress” is nothing more than an attempt to ensure that conservatives NEVER see the light of day. It is blatant attack on free speech. ANY idea he comes up with is a bad one. He doesn’t even own the farm he lives on, although he tells people he does.

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  3. hijinks says:

    Since Ostrander doesn’t live in the city of SLO, one has to speculate whether this is anything more than an effort to get some momentum behind his failed congressional campaign. Why should somebody who doesn’t live in the city cook up something like this for the city to do?

    (13) 19 Total Votes - 16 up - 3 down
  4. achillesheal says:

    If you have too much money and wish to give it back, give it directly to the taxpayer from whom you initially confiscated it.

    Giving it to the taxpayer to donate to politicians is disgusting.

    (20) 24 Total Votes - 22 up - 2 down
  5. demiseofslo says:

    Thank you Dan!! That voucher system was the biggest waste of tax payer money I have ever heard of! Finally one thing gets turned around in this ass backwards town!

    (32) 40 Total Votes - 36 up - 4 down
  6. Rich in MB says:

    The Voters have something more valuable than $20….Their VOTE!

    The “Money buys elections” myth is bogus.

    So stop the whining…and convince the voters to vote for you or you lose.

    (15) 29 Total Votes - 22 up - 7 down

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