After a three-month hiatus due to a shortage in staff, the Democracy Fund — New Haven’s public campaign financing program — prepared to meet last night but failed to achieve a quorum and postponed for another week.
The Fund, established in 2006 to pursue fair and meaningful municipal elections, provides grants and funding to candidates who do not accept private donations. Its board can accommodate seven members and an administrator, but currently only four of the seven positions are filled. To meet, the board requires a quorum of four members. The Fund’s secretary William Wynn was not present at last night’s meeting, so the board could not formally meet.
“There’s so much we can do for the city and that we are pursuing,” Democracy Fund Administrator Alyson Heimer said last night. “But it’s really difficult to do those things when we don’t have enough board members.”
Wednesday evening’s meeting would have been Heimer’s first. She interviewed and was selected for the position of administrator at the Fund’s October meeting, the last meeting before the hiatus.
Heimer will officially assume the position after signing contracts with the city’s Department of Purchasing and Department of Finance, as well as the Office of Corporate Counsel.
“I’ve been passionate about clean elections and public financing of elections for a while,” Heimer said. “The idea that you can take money out of the political process and allow more time to be spent talking about political issues is very appealing.”
In addition to Heimer, the Democracy Fund Board’s Chair Jared Milfred ’16, Vice Chair Gerald Martin and Treasurer Tyrone McClain were present last night. Although the board could not vote on any of the items on its agenda in Wynn’s absence, the members briefly discussed their goals for the year. These include recruiting new members and seeking information about extending the Fund to other municipal races besides mayoral — namely aldermanic races and races for city clerk, voter registrar and probate judge. If these expansions are successful, the Fund may be further extended to accommodate candidates running for positions on the Board of Education, Milfred said.
The primary task of the planned meeting, Milfred said, was to draft a questionnaire for the Board of Alders to discern how the expanded Democracy Fund could benefit the alders’ campaigns. Martin said that while he was prepared to take the alders’ questions about a possible expansion, he was not ready to commit to it without examining the risks involved — notably the high costs associated with an expansion.
However, Heimer said she expected aldermanic races to cost the Fund less than mayoral races or state-level campaigns because fewer races for alder are contested. About 15 races are contested per year, which is much lower than the Democracy Fund’s original projection of 60 when they met with the Board of Alders two years ago.
The Board plans to meet next Wednesday to complete the business on this week’s agenda.