City Slackers

A guide toSan Francisco political corruption -past, present, and future

"These facts suggest the lack of strict contribution limits and disclosure rules in the states seems to reinforce the rule by the 'good ole boys,' and correlates with low voter turnout," he declares.

"Moreover," Hall warns, "if such regulations are not comprehensive in their design and enforcement, if they can be easily evaded, they may have no effect or a negative effect on voter confidence and turnout."

This year's mayoral campaigns in San Francisco are expected to set an all-time record for campaign spending -- likely more than $7 million. The money will be spent fast (in just five months), and, given the lax enforcement standards of previous campaigns, the money will be spent loose of ethical restraints. It will take months to sort out where the money came from, who got it, and what it bought. And what exactly the candidates bought will be guarded most closely of all.

San Franciscans will live with the results for four years; their quality of life will be shaped by the elections, as will the priorities of government. If the campaign is done dirty, and none of the scoundrels caught or punished, the city will suffer, as will democracy.

"The key to boosting voter turnout lies in creating a culture of citizenship that values public participation over private wealth," Hall asserts. "Over time, voters get the message that the government is -- or is not -- 'theirs,' and that their voices do -- or do not -- count.

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