Politics, at any level, is often seen as a dirty game. So anything elected officials can do to apply a little cleanser is a good thing. That’s especially true if they’re willing to do it in advance of any problems.
The Turlock City Council has such an opportunity tonight when it considers a “Tin Cup” ordinance being offered by Councilman Steven Nascimento.
Modesto passed its Tin Cup ordinance in 1987 under Mayor Peggy Mensinger. The name stands for “Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics,” and it required any council member who received a contribution of $100 or more to step away from any vote involving the interests of that contributor. There was a four-year limit of $1,000.
Those limits have long since been raised. Still, we like laws that set clear guidelines and clear limits.
Nascimento introduced an ordinance similar to Modesto’s, not because he perceived any problem but because he was surprised that such a rule didn’t already exist in Turlock. Nascimento had worked for U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza and state Sen. Anthony Cannella, whose offices have been governed by such rules for decades.
“I thought it was strange that you could take unlimited contributions and still vote on a item that would benefit that donor,” said Nascimento. “At the local level, that kind of thing is even more important.”
Nascimento wants any council member who has received $2,000 from any donor to step away from any vote that could impact that donor positively or negatively.
We’d also like to see contributions made to other campaigns or causes counted against that $2,000 limit. For instance, if a recently elected council member has decided to run for supervisor, contributions to both campaigns – for City Council and supervisor – totaling $2,000 should be counted.
Nascimento believes this is fairly basic stuff.
“I don’t know anyone who would be against additional transparency,” he said.
We’re not so certain that limits on contributions are universally popular. When Modesto revisited its Tin Cup rules in 2005, a committee of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce suggested that such rules should be eliminated altogether. So Nascimento might get more of an argument than he anticipates – though we hope not.
This is a good-government rule that should be passed. We hope the vote is unanimous. The meeting starts at 6 p.m., at council chambers, 156 S. Broadway.