Unprecedented All-Volunteer Drive Simultaneously Completes Signature Drives in Five Other California Cities to Clean-Up Politics
Demonstrating the power of a new citizen force in California to protect democracy, volunteer members of the Oaks Project today delivered petitions with over 15,000 signatures to the San Francisco Elections Director to place before voters a November ballot measure that would stop politicians from accepting money, gifts and jobs from contractors they deal with while in office.
More than 50,000 additional signatures are being submitted to place identical conflict-of-interest measures on the ballot in Santa Monica, Pasadena, Irvine, Claremont and Vista, completing a multi-city volunteer-based campaign — the first of its kind in modern California history.
“The Taxpayer Protection Amendment of 2000” will prohibit a city official from accepting campaign contributions, future employment or gifts from interest groups who have “benefited” as a result of the official’s actions. Examples of “benefits” include city contract awards, land deals and tax abatements. This groundbreaking reform will end the practice of elected officials and city bureaucrats trading votes for contributions and job offers.
“Our initiative will change the rules of the game at City Hall to benefit the taxpayers and voters,” said Julia Brashares, a proponent of the measure and one of the Oaks Project volunteers. “But the fact that regular citizens volunteered to gather the signatures without bringing in the hired guns shows just how powerful people can be when they join together. Our success sends a message that democracy doesn’t always have to be purchased.”
“Finally, the average taxpayer and voter will have confidence that city hall decisions are made based on the merit of a project, not the size of a campaign donation,” said San Francisco initiative co-proponent Ben Gertner.
The six targeted cities were chosen because they represent a geographical and political cross-section of California. The signature-gathering effort was completed two weeks early.
Oaks Project: Unique Force in California Democracy
The non-profit, non-partisan Oaks Project was founded in 1997 by consumer advocates Ralph Nader and Harvey Rosenfield to train citizens to participate more effectively in California’s democracy. To become an Oak, volunteers agree to spend 15 hours per month working on civic issues, raise $500 per year, and collect 1000 signatures. The Oaks Project played a decisive role in passing HMO patient protections in the California legislature last year and spearheaded the 1998 drive to lower utility rates for California ratepayers by co-sponsoring Proposition 9.