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June 18, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, June 18, 2004

City candidates face fee hike City candidates face fee hike (June 18, 2004)

Costs of printing in five languages may narrow field

By Jon Wiener

Mountain View City Council hopefuls may need to reconsider running for office because of a new fee increase.

City Clerk Angee Salvador told city council members at the June 8 meeting that it will cost an estimated $2,140 to print each ballot statement for the Nov. 2 election. That amount is more than a $1,500 increase over the $581 the city charged candidates in 2002, for including a short biography in the pre-election pamphlet that is mailed to all registered voters.

The increased costs are due to a new federal law that requires Santa Clara County to print all ballots in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Tagalog. Forty percent of Mountain View residents reporting in the 2000 census speak a language other than English at home, and nearly half of those said they speak English less than "very well."

Some prospective candidates are worried that the higher campaign costs will keep people out of the race.

"In essence, it means that I have to find $2,000," said Stephanie Schaaf, who kicked off her candidacy with a fund-raising party on April 23.

Schaaf said she hopes the higher ballot fees do not narrow the field of candidates but believes they may have that effect. "The last thing I want to see is a city council that represents only the wealthy individuals," she said.

The county bills the cities for their full share of the costs of translating, printing and distributing the ballots. While Mountain View passes those costs on to the candidates themselves, other cities, such as Palo Alto, cover the entire cost.

"It has been the city's policy to charge candidates for the costs of the printing of candidates' statements, and the policy hasn't changed," said Salvador.

Candidates are not required to buy statements, but would miss the chance to share information about themselves on the sample ballots if they don't.

The announcement of the fee increase comes on the heels of a campaign finance reform ordinance passed by the council in May, which requires candidates to disclose the name of any donor who gives $50 or more.

"If this was announced before the council did the campaign finance reform, we might have thought twice about it," said Mayor Matt Pear, who, along with Council member Nick Galiotto is running for re-election this year. Pear opposed the reform as an extra burden on candidates.

Rosalind Bivings ran unsuccessfully for city council in 1992 and 2002 and is considering running again, but said the price tag for a ballot statement "certainly gives you pause. I think it will make a difference in how many people run."

E-mail Jon Wiener at [email protected]

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