GLENDALE–The City of Glendale is poised to enact election campaign finance rules that stand to change the face of Glendale politics and the huge sums of money raised and spent by candidates. The panel discussion featuring four perspectives on the matter was held on Thursday evening by the Glendale- Burbank LWV . Given the proportion of Armenian residents in the city and the number of Armenian candidates running for City Council and School Board in recent years, this is something that will have a significant impact on the community.
The first speaker, Robert Stern, serves as the president of the Center for Government Studies in Santa Monica. He was also among those who crafted the 1974 Political Reform Act of California. He described in broad strokes and with good humor the options open to the city. It could adopt a system of public financing, variable limits based on a candidate’s participation in the city’s program, an off-election year fundraising ban, and even forbidding council members’ accepting contributions of job offers from anyone on whose project they voted for. Later, he also jokingly pointed out that San Diego has long banned contributions from non-human entities, corporations, PACs, etc. Only live people can give, including some very sophisticated three-year olds;
LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director of the Los Angeles (city) Ethics Commission, spoke next, presenting a more nuts and bolts view of the implementation of campaign finance reform. She comes from an advocacy background on these issues, and has worked to implement practically what she has promoted. Los Angeles’ goals in implementing campaign finance reform have been to assure competitive campaigns, provide ample opportunity for varied candidates to participate, create a climate in which a broad range of contributors feel encouraged to give, and maximize voter participation. Success has been mixed since the first fundraising limits took effect in 1985. She also pointed out that fundraising limits should not be viewed in a vacuum, but in the context of various other electoral reforms, including term limits and providing more fora for candidates to air their views– such as via cable TV.
Garen Yegparian next presented Burbank’s experience with campaign finance reform. His presentation was based on three bases:
1. His perspective that ultimately, publicly financed campaigns are the only real solution to the problem city officials being “bought,”
2. His experience as a campaign treasurer for two city council and two school board campaigns in Burbank, campaign manager, and Burbank ANC activist
3. His upcoming candidacy for city council
As Glendale’s “sister” city, with many shared attributes except size, this information can inform the decisions to be made by Glendale. With a $250 limit and fundraising only permitted over a ten-month period spanning the primary and general elections in Burbank, the experiment has paid off in that city. The spiraling expenditures witnessed in Glendale have been preempted in Burbank, with most successful candidates spending only $15,000-$20,000, compared to the former’s $100,000 range.
The final speaker, Odalis Suarez, presented the views of a Glendale candidate. She ran unsuccessfully in 2005. Based on that experience, the foremost concern she raised, and repeatedly, is that contribution limits not be set too low. The result of that would be an inability by the candidates to get their messages out. She believes that lower limits would have a disproportionate impact on new candidates vs. incumbents who enjoy the public’s familiarity by virtue of their positions in office. She did share the other panelists’ notion that improvement in the campaign finance system are always desirable.
A thorough question and answer session followed. The LWV had solicited questions in advance. The audience submitted written questions, and Glendale City Officials were permitted to ask questions live. The City Attorney– Scott Nelson and City Clerk– Ardashes Kassakhaian asked questions and made commen’s, while Frank Quintero was also present. These questions focused on the Burbank experience. The audience’s questions ranged from requests for clarification on the Supreme Court’s ruling– money is speech, but contributions, though not expenditures can be limited, to the mechanics of getting raising money, what other forms of support cities can offer to candidates– translation, broadcasting statemen’s and forums on cable, the relative benefit to incumbents vs. challengers of money– opinion was divided, and what loopholes have been noticed– in LA, aggregation by the same person who controls many different businesses
UCI To Offer Courses On Armenian History
IRVINE–Almost five months after Garo & Sylvie Tertzakian organized and hosted a fundraising event at their home to raise funds to fund Armenian history courses at UC Irvine, Prof. Touraj Daryaee, Baskerville Professor in the history of Iran and the Persianate World, announced that Dr. Alina (Anahid?) Keshishian will teach a course in Ancient Armenian History in this coming Fall quarter, and Prof. Levon Marashlian will teach a course in Modern Armenian History during the Winter quarter.
Urged by Sylvie Tertzakian, Prof. Daryaee was instrumental in obtaining the UCI History Department’s support to offer the courses with funding from the Armenian community. Dr. Garo Tertzakian was enthusiastic about the prospects of starting Armenian History classes at UCI and read a congratulatory letter from Cong. Ed Royce. Prof. Marashlian was among the two dozen attendees, who enjoyed music played by Christina Mooradian and Areg Melkonian.
Sylvie Tertzakian was pleased to introduce Prof. Daryaee at the beginning of a lecture program on April 26 of the Orange County Armenian Professional Society, in collaboration with the Armenian Students Association of UCI. Prof. Stephan Astourian analyzed and showed footage of the presidential elections in Armenia from pre election atmosphere through post election turmoil, and how former President Levon Ter Petrossian, who wanted to take revenge against those who brought about his resignation from the presidency in 1998, took advantage of the political, social and economic situation following elections, weakening the government. Astourian noted that since the elections were deemed fair by other countries, the situation was unlike the color revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.