Council Guidelines for Hosting City Candidates
arisen about the conditions under which candidates may appear at
Council meetings. Neighborhood councils may wish to provide a forum for
provide information to voters. However, there are various laws including the
Amendments of the Constitution, California Penal Code §§ 424, 524 and court
limit or otherwise restrict the use of public resources in relation to election
Supreme Court in Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206 at 217 provided the
prohibiting the use of public funds and resources in election matters: "A
precept of this nation's democratic electoral process is that the government may
'take sides' in
electioncontests or bestow an unfair advantage on one of several competing
principal danger feared by our country's founders lay in the possibility that
authority would use official power improperly to perpetuate themselves, or their
allies, in office
[citations]; the selective use of public funds in election campaigns, of course,
the specter of
just such an improper distortion of the democratic electoral process." The court
also stated that
“judicial reluctance to sanction the use of public funds for election campaigns
on an implicit
recognition that such expenditures raise potentially serious constitutional
Because of the
risks associated with hosting candidates in City sponsored forums or other
venues, the City
has generally left this activity to private sponsors. We note that Channel 35
election information, including some candidate information, during the City
cycle. However, if
a neighborhood council has already hosted a candidate or wishes to consider
at its meetings notwithstanding the resulting legal risks associated with doing
so, both to the
City and neighborhood council boardmembers personally, we offer the following
principles that must be adhered to in providing a venue for prospective
the electionare that public resources may not be used for “campaign activity”
and may only be
used to provide neutral, balanced information, and that all candidates must be
provided with an
equal and fair opportunity. Individuals with concerns or complaints about how a
council has handled City candidate(s) should consult with their own private
Limitations on Neighborhood Councils as Candidate
A candidate may
speak to a neighborhood council in the following circumstances:
1) During the
public comment portion of a publicly noticed neighborhood council meeting.
candidates wishing to speak must be provided the same opportunity to do so.
2) On a specific
policy matter appearing on the neighborhood council agenda. All such
wishing to speak must be provided the same opportunity to do so.
3) At a
candidate forum where all candidates for a particular race are present at the
time hosted by
the neighborhood council following the guidelines set forth below.
4) At a series
of neighborhood council meetings where all candidates are not present at the
provided that the neighborhood council invites all candidates for that race
treats all candidates fairly and equally as set forth below. This would be
included on the
agenda as a Discussion with Candidate (name).
candidates may not seek any contributions at a neighborhood council
Equal Access & Format
With any format,
all candidates for that race must be invited with sufficient notice.
Please note that
the City Clerk has a list of all candidates that will appear on the ballot.
The format of
your candidate forum will play a significant role in ensuring that it
non-partisan and that candidates are treated fairly and equally. Nothing that
do can show
preference for one candidate over another. Several points are important to
candidates to your forum/meeting with sufficient advance time and provide
at the same time.
b) Give each
speaker the same amount of time to speak and/or answer questions.
Be clear about
time limits with the candidates before the event starts, and stick
strictly to the
limits so no one gets shortchanged.
candidates with the same or similar seating options in terms of type and
d) Do not
intervene, directly or indirectly, on behalf of a particular
e) Use an
unbiased means to determine speaking or appearance order (e.g.,
f) Choose a
moderator who will ask the questions and make sure that person uses
the same wording
for each candidate. Your moderator must be unbiased. If you want
questions from the audience, give people index cards to write them on. The
should be given the same number of questions.
In order to
encourage an informed electorate, it is necessary that persons who have
proficiency be offered an opportunity to obtain information regarding
and election procedures. Neighborhood councils should distribute a
copy of the
candidate contact information in all languages (attached) at
where the candidates will be participating.
councils should not depart from these guidelines, should not co-
private candidate forums, and should not permit any fundraising
neighborhood council meetings. In addition, if using public funds, a
council may not mail, including email, more than 200 invitations or
referencing any candidate. However, you may mail a Neighborhood
agenda to those
on your mailing list.