“Debate” Features Call For Democracy

Thomas Breen PhotoAt a mayoral “debate” Tuesday night where no active mayoral candidates debated each other, two policy proposals did surface: creating a hybrid elected-appointed Board of Police Commissioners and expanding public financing for city elections.

The New Haven Democracy Fund organized a mayoral debate on Tuesday night in the library of the Benjamin Jepson Magnet School on Lexington Avenue in Fair Haven Heights.

The Democracy Fund is a city program that provides public matching dollars for New Haven mayoral candidates who abide by certain fundraising restrictions, including limiting individual campaign contributions to no more than $370 each.

In order to qualify for Democracy Fund financing, interested mayoral hopefuls must participate in a candidate debate hosted by the Fund.

So far no one has qualified for financing in the general election for mayor in New Haven. But two candidates did sign up for the program. One of them, Working Families Party candidate Sarah Ganong, said she doesn’t intend to raise money but wanted to show her support for the program by signing up. She also said she doesn’t want to serve as mayor; she seeks to win 1 percent of the vote so her party, which cross-endorses progressive Democrats, can obtain a line on future municipal elections.

Marucs Paca, who did obtain public financing in last month’s Democratic mayoral primary, which he lost 3-1, did sign up for the fund for the general election campaign as well. His name will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. But he has suspended his campaign and not put in for more public cash.

The only candidate actively running for mayor, incumbent Democrat Toni Harp, is not participating in the public-financing system and did not participate in Tuesday’s debate. (Click here to read about and watch a primary debate between Harp and Paca.)

Even the moderator from the League of Women Voters did not show up when the debate started Tuesday night, because the League had not received word that Paca, after suspending his campaign, still intended to participate.

Ganong and Paca did show up for the “debate.” Ganong did not take questions, however. She merely gave an opening statement.

Nevertheless, the show went on. New Haven Votes Coalition‘s Aaron Goode stepped up to fill in as last-minute moderator before a crowd of barely a dozen attendees, half of whom were from the media. Goode asked Paca questions for 40 minutes as Ganong sat quiet beside him at a table in the front of the room.

During those 40 minutes, Paca several times proposed that the Board of Police Commissioners, like the Board of Education, should consist of a mix of elected and appointed members. Currently, all police commissioners are appointed by the mayor.

He said that the slight change in composition would be an important step in making the Board of Police Commissioners more responsive to public concerns, particularly if the Board were to be reconstituted as a Civilian Review Board.

“The reason why I support a hybrid Board of Police Commissioners,” Paca said, “is because, according to state law, only the police commission has the right to subpoena. And since they already have the right, it just kind of makes more sense to have an election to put people from the community that actually earn the support and earn the trust of real New Haveners on the board to represent those concerns.”

He also noted that the current Board of Alders has failed to present final civilian review board legislation for debate, despite a 2013 charter revision vote mandating the creation of such a board. He argued the issue simply is not a priority for local politicians who are insulated from any repercussions of police misconduct.

“If we all know that the mayor supports something,” he said, “and we know that the Board of Alders also explicitly supported it, then why hasn’t it been done? It hasn’t been done because it’s not a priority. And it’s not a priority because it doesn’t affect the people that are actually voting on it.”

Alders involved in drawing up the proposal say they’re trying to get it right, and got delayed over the issue of how to give the review board real authority when state law would bar it from having subpoena power.

In response to a series of questions about public education in New Haven and the continued infighting on the Board of Education, Paca said that the mayor needs to push for hiring a superintendent based on qualifications, not on geography.

“I think that we should hire the best qualified superintendent,” he said. “Period. I don’t care if they’re from Woodbridge or New Haven or New York or Honolulu. We need to hire the best person that’s going to fit best with our students and our core values at the Board of Education.”

He referred to the delays and disputes around the superintendent search as “another example of how the Board of Ed plays politics with our students.”

Goode’s final questions of the night pertained to good government, transparency, and public financing of elections in New Haven. He asked Paca if the Democracy Fund, which currently only covers mayoral races, should be expanded to other citywide campaigns, like City Clerk and Board of Ed, and even to aldermanic races.

“I definitely would support expanding the Democracy Fund for any citywide or Board of Ed elected position,” Paca said. “It only makes sense. There’s a lot of money sitting in the Democracy Fund that goes unused.”

According to Democracy Fund administrator Aly Heimer, the Fund currently has $250,000 available to distribute to interested and qualified candidates.

Paca said that, a few years ago, he would likely have leaned against the idea of expanding public financing to include aldermanic races. But, with the rise of the UNITE HERE unions’ political advocacy in 2011 and beyond, he said that, if elected mayor, he would certainly consider it.

“When you have big money coming into local elections,” he said, “I think we should probably consider whether or not the Democracy Fund be extended to aldermanic elections.” 

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 25, 2017  8:55am

Like I have said in the past.True Democracy is Proportional Representation in which the people have more of a voice.Not a crooked two party duopoly.The Working Families Party is nothing more the Snake-Oil and Three Card Monte Sales Man.They call themselves progressives. But they do not back true progressives.

Now this is a true progressive Party.

The Progressive Bull Moose Party Platform

Election Reform
Abolish Corporate Personhood.
End Partisan Gerrymandering
Repeal Citizens United and the McCutcheon Rulings.
Kill Super PACs & End Big Money in Politics.
Reform Campaign Finance Laws.
Allow Open Primaries.
Create a “None of the Above” Option in All Federal Elections

Feel Free to read the rest of there Platform


posted by: Patricia Kane on October 25, 2017  1:18pm

Last night what definitely a trip to a new format in which the incumbent Mayor, a candidate, didn’t show up, and the WFP candidate did not speak after opening remarks.

Why the LWV moderator assumed Paca wasn’t showing up without checking with him is a puzzle.
Aaron Goode was a first rate moderator, drafted to fill in for the missing LWV moderator, because he prefaced every question re: education, the CRB, etc. with a little background information. This was helpful because not everyone is a political junkie who knows the history of all the topics. But fortunately, he does.

It was a missed opportunity for the WFP candidate to fill us in on what the party hopes to accomplish on the local level and in what areas. After reading her introduction, Ms. Ganong got up to leave, but Democracy Fund Chair Sergio Rodriguez objected, so she remained, but said nothing. Her goal is 127 votes to get a ballot line in New Haven.  The WFP exists primarily to lobby Democrats on certain issues. Once a candidate is on board, they get a second ballot line.
Paca used his time to review his long background on local issues and his vision for eliminating cronyism and big money influence from local government, together with ideas for generating jobs locally.

He scored big points reminding us that the Civilian Review Board was not set up because it was not a “priority”.  And the same thing with the gun range that is within hearing distance of a school. The Mayor says this is the last year and a new indoor range is being built in E. Rock. In the meantime, residents suffer from this assault on their peace and quiet. Again, nothing changes for years.
I heard this criticism as a polite way of calling out this Administration for ignoring what is important to a lot of people. It made me wonder: who doesn’t want a CRB?? How long does it take to build a new gun range? Why wasn’t it indoors in its existing neighborhood? The Mayor chose not to be there to answer.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 25, 2017  2:04pm

Wow, do we have a feel-good Democracy in New Haven….  if Toni Harp can’t be bothered to engage the public process, we should not feel obligated to vote for her…

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on October 25, 2017  8:31pm

Months ago, I attended a Democratic ward committee forum for the mayoral candidates. at the beginning the moderator announced that after Toni Harp and Marcus Paca each spoke, there would be questions for the candidates from the audience.
After Harp spoke, a Democratic party leader who also served as her campaign chairwoman, blurted out from her seat in the audience, There will be no questions.
There were no questions.
New Haveners will probably never be able to ask Toni Harp unscripted questions in a public forum. the people have a right to question the actions and decisions and policies of their elected officials, but this is highly unlikely to happen. If there was true and full transparency in her administration, it would happen. Harp will not take the risk to expose herself to scrutiny or criticism in that manner. Harp exudes some uncomfortability being among the people, average people, which is not a good characteristic for a politician. One who shies away from public questioning, public debates only appears to have something they wish to keep hidden from the public.
Five words which never should be heard in a democracy: “There will be no questions.”

posted by: Doppleganger on October 25, 2017  8:49pm

As long as Paca does not need signed petitions, there will be no fraud in New Haven.

posted by: James Sunderland on October 26, 2017  11:55am

What a horrendous strategy the WFP is using to be taken more seriously! Not a fan of Harp OR Paca necessarily and was hoping for a third option to emerge in Sarah Ganong and yet, her campaign offers literally NOTHING to New Haven, only generic statements regarding the WFP stance Federal issues. This is a really bad year for Democracy in New Haven.