Even at a local level, it takes money to run a campaign. To win a seat on City Council or to become Mayor, one needs significant financial backing. The need for money contributes to a variety of problems: otherwise qualified citizens don't run for office, candidates must spend an inordinate amount of time and energy fundraising, and there's a public perception that candidates are tied to the special interests who donate to their campaigns
The price tag to compete often exceeds $25,000. For many citizens, especially those with few connections to wealth, the idea of the money chase is too daunting. In particular, younger people and minorities are disadvantaged.
Once a citizen does decide to seek office, he or she must dedicate significant time to fundraising. The focus on money distracts from a healthy debate on issues. Hours that could be spent talking to community groups and going door to door are instead spent networking with potential donors.
Donations to campaigns come from personal wealth, friends, networks and, too often, special interests. In particular, the development industry plays a large role. There's a perception that local officials are beholden to their donors. This leads to apathy, cynicism, and low voter turn-out.
Clearly, there's a problem with our system. We want to stress that it's the system, not the people involved in local government. We commend those who make the commitment to public service. A large majority of City Councilors and Mayors are truly interested in improving their communities and, while they may accept special interest money, are not beholden to it. In fact, many elected officials are excited for campaign finance alternatives.