Public Hearing on Public Financing in Chapel Hill


Wednesday, May 14, 2008 - 3:00pm


Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Press release:


Wednesday, May 14, 7pm, Chapel Hill Town Hall

Last year, the town of Chapel Hill became the first municipality in the state authorized to create a Voter-Owned Elections program for local races

Now, the town of Chapel Hill is introducing such a proposal. It would allow grassroots candidates to run for mayor of town council while raising only $5 and $10, and $20 contributions from local residents

The town has put together draft legislation and will solicit feedback from Chapel Hillians at a public hearing on Wednesday, May 14th at 7pm. The meeting will be held at the Chapel Hill Town Hall located 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (Note: The Voter-Owned Elections section starts right at 7pm, so try and get there by 6:45. We’ll have talking points you can use).

NC Voters for Clean Elections has been working with the town of Chapel Hill for years to make this reform possible. Now that the proposal is being considered, it’s very important that we demonstrate public support.

If you are a resident of Chapel Hill or Orange County, please come to the public hearing and speak out in support of the Voter-Owned Elections initiative.

To read the proposed ordinance click here.

More about Voter Owned Elections: The proposed Chapel Hill program would allow community-supported candidates without access to wealth to competitively run for town office. It would invigorate small dollar participation by encouraging candidates to run solely with contributions between $5 and $20. It would provide a check on the campaign money chase and the escalating cost of elections by allowing candidates to spend more time listening to voters and less time fundraising from big donors. And it would reduce the influence of money and special interest groups, by giving candidates a meaningful way to run without these groups’ support. Finally, it would allow the public to have more ownership of the process, by turning campaigns and campaign financing into a public good.

For more information about the meeting, or if you have comments or suggestions on the proposal, please call Chase Foster at (919)521-4121 or contact him by email at


Town Council agenda:



Time to serve vs. money to run is one key variable.  Another key variable is time to run!  Campaigning eats time for breakfast.  Chapel Hill has an example of least money spent (none) to serve as a model.  But that candidate spent as much time as the others both running and serving.  This plan offers a small hand-out tht looks like a lot of money to low-income leaders.   It looks like Chapel Hill is willng to pay people to run.  What kind of model is that? 

...just to steal a line from our old buddy Sen. Lauch Faircloth.

Under Chapel Hill's proposed ordinance, candidates will have to go out and show that they have public support before qualifying for public financing (75 donations equalling at least $750 for town council seats, 150  equalling at least $1500 for Mayor). Those numbers may be modified somewhat, but the point is it's a sweat equity program that is voluntary. If someone chooses not to use it or to self-finance, they have every right to do that, but if they want public money, they'll have to work for it, spend it only on campaign purposes, and report their spending even more diligently than under current rules.

As Kevin Foy mentioned last night, there wasn't an influx of $4000 contributions to council candidates before Chapel Hill enacted it's donation limit of $200 for city candidates in the 1990s. That provision was proactive and is a good one and it keeps big donors at bay and keeps campaign spending down. This new, proactive program will be another tool to improve local elections and maintain their integrity. Why must we always wait for the worst-case scenario before doing something? Do you think 10 years ago, the town of Cary envisioned hundreds of thousands of dollars to run for mayor? It's an investment in our democracy, and a worthy use of tax money. We already pay for voting machines, board of elections administration, etc. This is an extension of that investment. I applaud all the town council members that voiced their support and asked good questions last night.

They are public elections and should be publicly funded (at least as an option).  


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