Revisiting stories: DC Councilmember constituent service funds
This is an issue again, after disclosure that Councilmember White gave money to an event not held in the city ("Trayon White donated to event where Louis Farrakhan bashed Jews," Washington Post and the Washington City Paper has a good article ("Do Constituent Services Funds Always Serve Constituents?") on the ongoing issues and problems with these funds, in both the Legislative and Executive branches.
Also the WCP article from 2014, "Evans Constituent Service Fund Spends Another $26K on Sports Tickets," about CM Evans and his predeliction to use the funds for tickets to sports events, a kind of subsidy to the sports teams.
I've written about this over the years, and what I wrote before is equally relevant today
-- "The bane and benefit of constituent services funds: a response to the Washington Post editorial," 2015
-- "Interesting article on how constituent service provision by legislators reduces the likelihood of systemic change," 2012
In 2012, then Councilmember Tommy Wells dissolved his constituent services fund. Which I thought was a bad idea:
-- "Dumb... to fix bad practices, make them democratic instead of just eliminating them," 2012
Besides necessary tightening of what the monies can be used for, as I wrote ("Missing the point on constituent service/discretionary funds available from legislators," 2011):
The point isn't that the funds exist, but the arbitrariness and/or self-serving nature of how the funds are used/allocated.I argued that rather than eliminate the funds, how about the allocation process be changed, that instead of the Councilmembers being responsible for giving the donations, and all the unseemliness that can happen as a result, how about having the funds be allocated through a "Participatory Budgeting Process," where citizens in the Councilmember's district (or entire city for At-Large members) make the decisions.
The solution to the lack of democracy, openness, logic and transparency isn't taking the money away/eliminating the funding source--groups and projects need the opportunity to garner funds for worthy projects--it's to make the process more open, transparent, participatory, and democratic.
To use a hip term, "crowdsourcing" or some such might make the point better that the issue is to address the arbitrary and capricious nature of the allocation process, not to eradicate the funds.
Of course, the participation process in the committee would have to not be rigged -- in other words, all interested citizens ought to be able to participate, not just people appointed by Councilmembers to a committee with the expectation that they will be toadies and make allocations the way that the Councilmember wants, without question.