By Ashly McGlone

SAN RAMON -- The San Ramon City Council decided to buck the national trend Tuesday and voluntarily limited campaign expenses for this year's council and mayoral race to $1 per registered voter.

The nonbinding $36,024 limit comes in lower than the city's all-time high of $1.25 per-voter cap, or $42,368, approved for the last municipal election in 2011.

In 1985, the city adopted a 25-cent-per-voter campaign expense limit before increasing it to 30 cents in 1987 and 50 cents in 1989. The cap remained 50 cents for 16 years before rising to 75 cents in 2005 and to $1 in 2007. At that time, the city had 28,531 registered voters.

In council documents, city staff wrote that the limit would, "Prevent the appearance of improper influence," even though it can't be enforced.

Mayor Bill Clarkson, elected in 2011 and up for re-election this year, said this week's vote is the fulfillment of a promise he made on the campaign trail and will help level the playing field.

"I didn't want big money to influence elections unnecessarily," said Clarkson, who spent $26,786 on his mayoral campaign. "I just don't want money to speak louder than the ability of an overwhelming candidate who may not have a lot of money but has great ideas. They should be able to compete fairly with others."

Other than Clarkson, the terms for Vice Mayor Dave Hudson and Councilman Jim Livingstone will expire in November.

In 2009, Livingstone spent $11,900 and Hudson $10,111, according to a staff report. Hudson is seeking re-election, and Livingstone has yet to declare his intentions and has until Aug. 9 to do so.

Ashly McGlone covers San Ramon, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.