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End the city’s $100,000 slush fund for the “arts”

The city announced the winners of the Stamford Community Arts Partnership Program (CAPP) a program where you, the generous taxpayers, “donated” $100,000 to various arts programs throughout the city.

I like the arts! And we should fund the arts. But “we” should not include the compulsed taxpayers of Stamford, especially in a time of rising property taxes, decreasing or stagnant home values, and flat if not diminishing city services.

The Mayor’s press release announcing the grant recipients grinds my gears for at least three reasons:

First, the press release states that “[t]he grant highlights Mayor David R. Martin’s commitment to increasing the participation and accessibility of art throughout Stamford. . . .” and that “[t]his year, the city generously committed $100,000 in grant funding for projects by Stamford-based arts organizations or individual artists backed by a Stamford-based non-profit.” It takes some chutzpah for the Mayor to highlight his commitment to the arts by spending $100,000 of your taxpayer money to do so. And “the city” did not generously commit to anything. The city is an ethereal entity. The taxpayers are the generous ones.

Second, the appearance of impropriety is enough to raise questions about funding certain projects.* To take just one example, Mayor Martin’s office gave taxpayer money to the Franklin Street Works, a non-profit founded by Stamford’s director of legal affairs, and who serves as their Board President.

I don’t think there is anything nefarious about this. The size of the grant is likely somewhere between 4-and-low-5 figures, and it appears that 14 of 15 organizations that applied received at least some funding. But still, it’s not good optics for the Mayor (and his staff) to steer taxpayer funding to an organization founded by his director of legal affairs, and for which she serves as president.

Third, at least some of these organizations don’t really need the money, at least as when compared with other needs in the city. For example, I contributed to a fundraiser to one of the CAPP-recipient organizations (on an unrelated project) whose fundraising campaign was so successful that it ended months before anticipated. I’m confident at least some of the taxpayer money contributed to these various projects could have been privately raised.

*The appearance of impropriety is an ongoing issue with this administration, as we have documented at length. To take another example, outgoing Board of Finance member Dudley Williams Jr. (D) is also the president of the Mill River Collaborative, an organization that I believe is partially funded by the city and for which Williams receives a six-figure annual sinecure.