Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration moved forward last week with $300,000 in proposed taxpayer funding for the New Haven People’s Center, a non-profit run by officials in the Connecticut chapter of the Communist Party USA, by putting it on the agenda of the State Bond Commission, despite criticism of the proposal.

The money will go toward a new roof and other repairs at the historical building occupied by the center and owned by its parent organization, Progressive Education and Research Associates.

The Department of Social Services, the agency responsible for the grant, and the Office of Policy and Management, which oversees the bond commission, have no documentation supporting the grant to the People’s Center because it is a legislative earmark sponsored by Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven.

CTNewsJunkie has Harp’s defense of the project:

“The building is an official part of Connecticut’s African American Freedom Trail because of its contributions toward breaking down racial segregation in Connecticut in the 1940s and the 1950s. No one denies the value of preserving that link to Connecticut’s past as a reminder of the closed-minded, repressive way of thinking that perpetuated racism and segregation in our country,” she said.

The building has been home to New Haven’s first interracial theater group, first interracial basketball team, and also to the first campaign to end employment segregation, Harp said.

The structure now houses the New Haven Peoples Center, which Harp said is an all-volunteer organization that strives to improve the lives of others in the community.

“Today this building, a time-honored testament to so much rich history in our town, needs a facelift,” she said.

The Connecticut Mirror has OPM Secretary Ben Barnes’ take:

“They clearly have a community mission,” Barnes said, adding that state government routinely finances capital improvements for private, nonprofits with a community-based mission, such as Progressive Education and Research Associates, which runs the New Haven center at 37 Howe St.

Former DSS employee Mary Plaskonka first warned the administration about the inappropriateness of state funding for the center just days before the bond commission was first scheduled to vote on the proposal.

Instead of voting on it, the administration removed the item from the April 27 agenda.

“I have no doubt that the people who run it are good people, but this is not a state project,” Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, told the Mirror. “It is the epitome of earmarks, and that it’s one for a group with political ties particularly concerns me.”

Chris Powell, managing editor of the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, criticized the funding scheme in his Memorial Day column:

The political affiliations of an organization getting a state grant are “irrelevant,” state budget director Ben Barnes insists. Nonsense. The Communist Party’s purpose is to destroy the private economy and political liberty. If respect for history requires renovating the party’s building, the Communists should be happy to donate it to a less political organization, which could apply for the state grant. Let the expropriators themselves be the first to accept expropriation.

The commission’s next meeting is June 4.