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Eyes on Finance, Focus on Issues

October 01, 2000

Our wish for the good people of Thousand Oaks in this election season is that City Council candidates would focus on their priorities for the city and how best to accomplish them rather than devolving into the traditional name-calling and finger-pointing over campaign practices.

In previous years, that sort of background noise has all but drowned out serious discussion of legitimate differences of opinion about very real issues.

It was in this spirit that we supported the efforts of the city's Blue-Ribbon Campaign Finance Committee in 1998, which produced Ventura County's most rigorous set of rules on funding political efforts, featuring a $250-per-donor contribution cap. And it is in this spirit that we support the City Council's decision to hire an outside lawyer to investigate violations of those rules.

Incumbents Mike Markey and Linda Parks and five challengers are running for two City Council seats up for grabs in the Nov. 7 election. Markey proposed hiring what essentially is an independent counsel to ride herd on the campaigns, saying he has been accused of impropriety in past campaigns and had no way to vindicate himself.

Campaign funding is likely to be a hot issue this year because of one of the candidates is Ed Masry, the wealthy environmental and consumer attorney made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich." Masry has said he will spend whatever it takes to win a seat on the council. He and Parks are running together on a slow-growth platform.

We agree that without timely enforcement the strict campaign finance rules are worthless. And City Atty. Mark Sellers, who reports to the council, lacks both the expertise and the independence to investigate his elected bosses or their political challengers.

We hope this extra set of eyes will provide an added incentive for all candidates and their contributors to comply with the law. And we further hope it will encourage candidates to talk less about how their opponents are running their campaigns and more about how they would run the city of Thousand Oaks.

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