|Candidates in this year's City Council election be warned: Go above the voluntary spending limit of $19,000 and many in Mountain View won't like you for it.
While candidates in cities like Fremont and Milpitas are spending nearly $100,000 to run a city council campaign, Mountain View has averaged far less, and on Tuesday the City Council said it wants to keep it that way. During their meeting, members unanimously rejected proposals to raise the voluntary spending cap as high as $26,000.
Mayor Tom Means, who will run for re-election this fall, said he was elected in 2004 after spending only $5,000, and added he could probably win this time for less than $4,000.
"If I had to raise $30,000 there is no way I would get involved in this," said council member Ronit Bryant, who plans to use her old lawn signs when she runs for re-election in 2010. "It's difficult enough to encourage people to run given the $3 an hour we get paid."
Council member Matt Pear suggested that people not be allowed to be vice mayor or mayor if they go over the limit. Social pressures are currently the biggest deterrent, bolstered by the fact that violators "get written up in the Voice," Pear said. Violators also forfeit more than $2,000 from the city to pay for ballot candidate statements.
"It's just like an arms race to some extent," Means said about uncontrolled spending limits. "When you see people spend more than the salary they will be getting, it makes you wonder what else they are getting."
For those in the past who didn't abide by the limit or who broke their promises, there was some "shunning that went on," said council member Nick Galiotto.
"A reasonably savvy person can do a lot of e-mail marketing," noted member Laura Macias. "That doesn't cause as much paper waste as mailing. I just really like the idea of keeping it small."
Also rejected was a proposal for a 3 to 5 percent annual increase in the voluntary limit to compensate for growing costs of postage, materials and services. One mailing alone can now cost $9,000, Galiotto said, and lawn signs have doubled in cost in recent years.
Means said he was able to buy ads every week in local papers and still stay within budget. And he noted that the Internet provides a free medium for reaching the public, which members aren't taking advantage of.
"I don't think any of us put videos on YouTube," he said.
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