On Friday, the Connecticut Bond Commission abruptly delayed a vote on a $300,000 grant to the New Haven People’s Center, a project of Progressive Education and Research Associates. The decision was made, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy (D- Working Families Party), because the project was not ready to move forward. Some Republican state lawmakers, however, have a different perspective.
The New Haven Peoples Center describes itself as “a labor and community center for educational, social, and cultural activities since 1937.” The center’s website states that it is “a meeting place of labor, community, peace, and social justice groups.”
The center also hosts groups such as People’s World and Mundo Popular, both of which, according to the People’s World website, “enjoy a special relationship with the Communist Party USA.”
Joelle Fishman, who chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA, is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, is well-known to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Working Families Party) and is a writer for the People’s World website. She is a board member as well of the Progressive Education and Research Associates. Her bio boasts that Ms. Fishman “has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections.”
But, when Gov. Malloy, whose budget office sets the agenda for the Bond Commission, said the vote on the grant to the People’s Center would be delayed, state Rep. Sean Williams (R-Watertown), inquired whether the center’s relationship with the Communist Party had anything to do with the delay in the vote.
The Malloy administration responded, “Political association is not a criteria for awarding or not awarding funding under any state program…” The governor’s budget office said that Progressive Education and Research Associates requested that the project be pulled because it was not ready to move ahead. “It may be resubmitted in the future. The administration is satisfied that the project is eligible for funding once any concerns of its legislative sponsors are resolved."
The governor’s office said state Sen. Toni Harp (D-New Haven) pulled the People’s Center project from the agenda.
Sen. Harp said she was concerned the project might get caught up in politics and believed it was worthwhile enough to wait another month. She referred to those associated with the center as “pillars of our community, and to demonize them with the word ‘communism,’ I don’t think they deserve that.”
But Rep. Williams wasn’t buying that. “An organization like this,” he said, “should never have made it onto the bond commission agenda. The responsibility of the governor and his budget office is to vet this stuff.”