The City Council could not agree on a rule to keep campaign donors from influencing decisions, but it did take a step toward clear disclosure of who is giving what.
The council agreed Tuesday night to have the City Clerk’s Office post state-required campaign finance forms on its website. That was the outcome of a discussion that started in February when Councilman Steven Nascimento proposed barring members from voting on matters that could financially benefit donors of $2,000 or more over the previous 36 months.
Nascimento said he did not see a current problem with donor influence, but the ordinance would be a safeguard for the future. Critics said there is no need to add to the donor reporting required by the state and that the proposal gave a false impression that officeholders are corruptible.
Candidates have to name donors of $100 or more and provide aggregate totals for smaller contributions. The reports are filed at various times around elections and also when potential candidates are taking donations for future races.
The City Council also rejected a compromise that would have required posting on the city website, within a day, any contribution of $100 or more from a financially interested donor that had not already been reported to the state.
The initial 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 Tuesday, the council took a second and final vote affirming water rate increases that will nearly double the average residential bill over five years. This figure, now $24.05 per month, will rise in six steps starting July 1, reaching $47.10 in 2019. Actual bills are much higher in summer than winter.
The first vote, on March 25, was 3-2, with council members Bill DeHart and Amy Bublak opposed. DeHart said at the time that he dissented because the city had not provided residents with enough information about the rates. On Tuesday, he said he since has learned that the publicity was more than adequate, and he made the vote 4-1.
The money will 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.