The Pleasanton City Council is expected to follow up on a discussion from last month and vote on setting voluntary campaign contribution and expenditure limits for city elective office candidates at its regular meeting on Tuesday, starting 7 p.m.
If approved, the city would establish a $1,000 per person voluntary limit for campaign contributions and reduce the existing voluntary campaign expenditure limit to $15,000 for a council member candidate and $25,000 for a mayoral candidate.
Newly enacted state campaign finance legislation restricts an individual person's donations to a candidate running for a county or city elected office at no more than $4,900, but local jurisdictions may adopt their own higher or lower contribution limits.
In the Tri-Valley, only the city of Dublin has a $500 limit per individual donor per election for a local candidate set in place since 2009.
During last year's general election, all Pleasanton City Council candidates pledged to abide by and did not exceed the city's voluntary campaign expenditure limit of $55,325. Established in 2008, that limit breaks down to $1 per registered voter, plus inflation.
Because none of the candidates received an individual contribution exceeding the state's $4,900, a higher limit has not been recommended. However, city staff previously told the council that restrictions on how much a candidate may give or loan to their own campaign have not stood up to legal challenges.
Due to the ordinance's voluntary nature, staff said in a report that "resources will not be used to track compliance." Previously, the council had looked into enforcing contribution limits through a contract with the Fair Political Practices Commission for about $55,000 a year.
Staff also recommended the voluntary expenditure limit "be applied per 'election period' -- for a general election from January 1st until December 31st of the election year -- as provided in the existing municipal code," they said. No other Tri-Valley city has a limit on campaign spending, which can only be voluntary and not apply any penalties, as courts have ruled expenditure limits unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
At their March 16 meeting, Vice Mayor Julie Testa and Councilmember Valerie Arkin voted with Mayor Karla Brown, 3-2, "to get big money out of Pleasanton's government offices," Brown stated at the time. Testa called it "unnecessary" for candidates to spend so much money on local level races," and said that setting limits would help with "sending a message."
Councilmember Jack Balch, however, had countered that setting contribution and expenditure limits during a pandemic would hinder candidates' ability to reach as many voters as possible, such as those who are not answering their door.
In other business
* The council will consider a slew of applications on Tuesday night seeking funds from the city's Housing and Human Services Grant (HHSG) and Community Grant (CG) programs. If approved as recommended by staff, the city would allocate a total $1,448,733 from both programs for a variety of local nonprofit organizations.
The HHSG program combines and distributes cash from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and HOME Investment Partnership Program, as well as the city's lower income housing funds (LIHF) and general fund.
This year the HHSG program "received 28 applications for funding from a wide range of agencies serving a variety of community needs," and the CG program received 17 applications for proposals serving the arts/culture and youth categories, according to staff.
The Tri-Valley's most recognizable nonprofit organizations were among this year's largest applicants. Open Heart has asked the city for $280,537 to continue feeding low-income seniors at the Pleasanton Senior Center and Ridge View Commons, and for building a commercial kitchen at their Vineyard 2.0 residential facility.
Tri-Valley Haven, which provides emergency shelter for domestic violence survivors as well as counseling services, a food pantry, and 24/7 crisis phone hotline, was recommended for $125,000 of grant funding, while Sunflower Hill requested $48,242 to support their residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their horticultural program. Hope Hospice also requested $20,000 for their grief support services.
CityServe of the Tri-Valley's Homeless Prevention and Family Stabilization Program, which "coordinates a wide range of community resources" including housing for individuals at risk of experiencing homelessness, has staff support for their request for $80,000. Local nonprofit Hively, which connects community members in need with basic resources like clothing, shoes, and blankets, as well as free counseling services and workshops, stands to receive $50,000 for its operations.
Staff also recommended using a combined total of $97,748 for both administering the city's CDBG program and making an annual required payment for their HUD Section 108 loan obtained in 2015 to fund the Axis Community Health medical clinic project.
The council is also expected to approve the annual action plan for fiscal year 2021 on Tuesday, and direct staff to submit it to HUD by May 14.
* As part of its 17-items consent calendar, the council is set to consider approving a resolution "in support of equal treatment of Asian American and Pacific Islanders.