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February 25, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 25, 2005

More help for candidates in store More help for candidates in store (February 25, 2005)

Council also considers showers, park projects

By Jon Wiener

Potential changes to campaign-finance rules, designed to make the electoral process both easier and cheaper for future candidates, were considered by a city council committee on Tuesday.

On the heels of a campaign in which council candidates paid thousands of dollars each to have their ballot statements printed in five languages, the council procedures committee recommended the city subsidize the costs of those statements. Last June, the county Registrar of Voters announced that candidate statements would cost $2,140, up from $581 in the 2002 election.

"You shouldn't have to have money to run for office," said Council member Mike Kasperzak, who serves on the committee along with Council member Greg Perry and Mayor Matt Neely, none of whom ran for office in 2004.

Perry suggested the city pay for all but $500 of the ballot statement fee for candidates who abide by the voluntary spending limit, which was $16,882 in 2004.

The committee also discussed banning post-election contributions, which would add to a growing list of rules aimed at preventing donors from influencing future officeholders.

The committee asked city staff to analyze the past three council elections to see how prevalent the problem is. Committee members pointed out that, following the 1996 election, the Tri-County Apartment Association offered Council member-elect Nancy Noe $500 despite endorsing her opponents during the race.

"They were trying to make sure that when they called she answered the phone," said Perry.

Noe refused the contribution. The committee plans to prepare an omnibus campaign-finance bill incorporating these and other recommendations at its next meeting, which is yet to be scheduled.
More showers at work?

Mountain View's requirements for large commercial developments to include showers for employees, particularly those who bike to work, may soon extend to smaller businesses.

The city council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to spend up to $40,000 on a feasibility study to explore a tougher law, overriding concerns that the city already has too many regulations on businesses.

The current rule applies only to businesses that are so big, the city requires them to have at least 200 parking spaces. Palo Alto, where biking is three times more popular among commuters, enacted a stricter law than Mountain View's more than 20 years ago.

The discussion quickly turned into a debate about the economics of driving and biking.

"The public has a benefit every time someone decides to bike to work instead of drive," said Perry, who first proposed the idea last August.

Council members Matt Pear and Tom Means said that if people wanted showers in their offices, more companies would have already installed them.

"That's something that should be decided by a tenant, not mandated by a legislative body," said Pear.

Perry, who originally decided to run for office after a severe asthma attack during Spare the Air Days in 2000, took exception to a comment by Means that gas taxes and other fees help cover the social costs associated with driving.

"I know of no mother of an asthmatic child getting her pollution compensation check for the burden imposed on her," said Perry.

The proposal appeared doomed as it was headed to a vote. But Nick Galiotto, who had earlier cautioned against burdensome regulations, voted with Perry, Kasperzak and Neely. Laura Macias joined Pear and Means in dissenting.
Trail gets a big boost

The Stevens Creek Trail is one step closer to crossing El Camino Real after the council dedicated $493,741 in park funds to the project. The council also allocated $700,000 for playground renovation, restroom construction and land acquisition for neighborhood parks throughout the city.

Acquired through fees paid by developers who chose not to build the required amount of park space, the funds are required to be spent within one mile of the project that generated them.

The planned extension of the trail from Yuba Drive to Mountain View High School will take many years and at least $10 million more than the city has in the project's budget.

The section across El Camino will cost an estimated $4 million, of which $3.5 million has been set aside for it.

E-mail Jon Wiener at jwiener@mv-voice.com


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