Turlock council will talk about donation rules

jholland@modbee.comApril 7, 2014 

— The City Council will try a fresh approach tonight to keeping campaign donations from influencing its decisions.

The discussion comes nearly two months after the council tabled a proposal to bar members from voting on matters that could financially benefit donors of $2,000 or more over the previous 36 months.

A compromise before the council would require public disclosure within a day of contributions of $100 or more from donors with financial interests, if they had not already been reported under statewide rules for candidates. The information would be posted on the city website.

Councilman Steven Nascimento, who made the earlier proposal, worked on the compromise with Councilwoman Amy Bublak, one of the critics. He said Monday that he still likes the original idea, but the new proposal could satisfy people who said prompt disclosure is the best defense against donor influence.

“The compromise was to make campaign contributions available online in a format that’s easy to use,” he said.

Bublak said in February that the initial proposal suggested that “our morals and ethics are in question,” and that voters simply could replace council members who are influenced by donors. That proposal also drew criticism from representatives of the city firefighter union and the building industry.

Nascimento said in February that he did not see a current problem with donor influence but that Turlock should have safeguards for the future.

The original proposal was roughly similar to a Modesto ordinance in place since 1987. It is known as Tin Cup, which stands for “Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics.”

Also tonight, the council will take a second and likely routine vote on the large water-rate increases approved March 25. The average monthly residential bill, now $24.05, would rise in six steps starting July 1, reaching $47.10 in 2019. Actual bills are much higher in summer than winter.

The money would go to operation and improvement of the groundwater-supplied system. Officials said a separate rate increase would be needed if Turlock is part of a proposed treatment plant for Tuolumne River water, which also could serve Ceres and south Modesto.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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