Santa Monica City Council members approved an ordinance Tuesday requiring potential candidates for City office to pay a $25 filing fee.
The proposed ordinance, which also proposed a $300 charge for material preparations, was split into two portions, allowing Council members to vote separately on the $25 fee. No action was taken on the $300 preparation fee, meaning no such payment would be required for now.
Council member Kevin McKeown was the sole vote against the proposal.
During the council discussion, McKeown hoped to put off a decision on the proposed fees and instead work on creating an efficient system to determine whether candidates have actual grassroots support.
“We should have some sort of a qualification for candidates. We’ve had some situations … where people run just for the sake of running and really don’t intend to win or, more importantly, (have) any intent to serve the people of this community,” McKeown said.
McKeown suggested perhaps having candidates collect a nominal donation, perhaps $5, from a certain number of constituents as opposed to having a candidate merely write a check to pay an administrative fee.
The originally proposed ordinance sought to require those seeking to be a candidate in one of the City’s local races to pay $325 for nomination papers and the handling of candidate statements. All candidates running for City Council, Rent Control Board, Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, and Santa Monica College Board would be subject to the $325 fee, if approved.
However, the sentiment on the dais was $300, which would be assessed for printing and handling of candidate statements, would be too cost prohibitive for some low-income candidates.
“If one person can pay, all that tells you is that person has money or that person is backed by somebody who has money,” McKeown stated. “It doesn’t tell you that candidate has any support, and it means the truly low-income people in this community will be unable to participate in our elections. That feels very wrong to me. To charge cash money just feels like the wrong thing for Santa Monica.”
Previously, anyone seeking to run for a city office did not have to pay a filing fee.
State law sets the filing fee at $25 for all municipalities; Council members voted 6 to 1 in favor of the $25 filing fee for future Santa Monica candidates.
The ordinance will return to the council for a second reading at its next meeting in July. If the ordinance survives the second reading, it will become law.
Also approved on first reading: an ordinance assessing a $27 burglary registration fee for owners of security alarm systems. Under the ordinance, a security system owner would be assessed a fine of $164.86 if an SMPD officer responds to a false alarm for a second time within a fiscal year (July 1 to June 30). The fee and fine would take effect July 1.
Previously, a fine was assessed on the third occurrence of a false alarm.
Both fees would be subject to an annual automatic Consumer Price Index, or CPI, increase.
City staff estimates the fine for second false alarms would generate $175,246 in annual revenue for Santa Monica, while the burglary alarm registration fee could result in a positive cash flow of $151,200 each year directed toward City Hall’s coffers.