State gives nod to public funding

Last week, the State Elections Enforcement Commission preliminarily approved New Haven to participate in the 2007 pilot program for public financing of municipal campaigns.

The state approval is a significant accomplishment of the four-year campaign waged by The New Haven Fund Coalition, a group aiming to bring publicly financed elections to New Haven. The coalition combines the efforts of city officials with those of city and student activists, such as Yale Students for Clean Elections.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in a press release Tuesday that he is pleased the Elm City was the first in the state to apply for publicly financed elections, and he said he thinks Yale students played a significant role in the city’s campaign.

“We’re going to be the first city in the state to do this in large measure because of Yale students who … took ownership of the issue,” DeStefano said.

NHFC Director Daniel Weeks ’06 said he is “delighted” that the city has come closer to significant campaign finance reform following four years of lobbying. Weeks said he is confident the Board of Aldermen will approve the initiative and allow New Haven to become the first city in New England to hold publicly financed campaigns.

“We are very excited to be moving forward,” Weeks said. “I think we’ll see an energetic debate, and I think ultimately they will see that it’s a great investment for the city.”

Following the passage of a bill on Dec. 1 allowing up to three municipalities to apply for publicly financed municipal elections, cities in Connecticut were allowed to take part in a pilot program with $200,000 in state funding. Weeks, who helped draft the legislation, said a clause allowing for publicly financed municipal elections was inserted into the state legislation.

“We were able to get it in with the state financing bill,” NHFC member Jennifer James ’08 said.

Ward 14 Alderman Joseph Jolly, who is also a member of the NHFC, said he thinks the state legislation was the key step forward, and he is confident that the Board of Aldermen will approve the city ordinance.

“We’ve been working since 2002 to get permission to have a publicly financed campaign system in New Haven,” he said. “Every indication I have gotten from my colleagues is that they support the issue and we have the mayor’s backing.”

But Ward 4 Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks said that while she does support taxpayers choosing to give their tax money to a candidate of their liking, she is against allocating public funds to candidates in a uniform manner.

“I am not for taxpayer dollars going to some candidate just because they meet a certain criteria,” she said. “[My support] would depend on what they come up with.”

The Board of Aldermen’s legislative committee is scheduled to hear a draft ordinance for the program on May 8.

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