|Would this have been possible without developer campaign contributions?|
Ban developer contributions to City Hall (Los Angeles Times link): Faced with a growing distrust of the process by which the city approves new development — including widespread concern that political contributions drive land-use decisions — several Los Angeles City Council members have proposed what once seemed unthinkable: They want to ban campaign contributions from developers.
The proposal was introduced last week by Council members Paul Krekorian, Joe Buscaino, Paul Koretz, Mike Bonin and by David Ryu, who already rejects developer contributions voluntarily. It calls for the city Ethics Commission to devise an ordinance that would prohibit contributions from developers with projects currently or recently before city decision makers. The ban would apply to elected officials and candidates for city office. Or if it is determined to be illegal to ban contributions from developers (courts have equated money with speech, and have struck down broad efforts to limit contributions), the motion asks the Ethics Commission to look at other ways to limit the possibility of a quid pro quo, such as requiring elected officials to recuse themselves from a land-use decision if they have accepted donations from the developer.
Why was this once unthinkable? After all, individuals bidding on city contracts are already barred from making political contributions. But developers are different. There is a deeply embedded culture in Los Angeles City Hall in which real estate interests give heavily to local officials, presumably because they believe political contributions will buy them the zoning exemptions and other land-use decisions they want, or at least provide them with the access they need to make their best cases. Elected officials, in turn, rely on developer money for their reelection campaigns and to pay for office expenses and trips. So there’s never been the political will to turn off the contribution spigot even though it creates the appearance of pay-to-play and undermines public trust in the City Hall.
Mod: The rest of this editorial is available by clicking on the link provided above. Think of how different the recent history of cities like Sierra Madre and Arcadia would have been had developer cash contributions been banned here by city law.