Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Should public money go for advocacy?

The Golden LEAF Foundation, set up by the General Assembly in 1999 to channel hundreds of millions of dollars from a multi-billion-dollar national tobacco settlement to tobacco dependent and economically distressed communities, has presented some interesting questions in its relatively short life. Those questions have centered on how the money -- which comes from payments tobacco companies are making to states to compensate for the health costs that cigarettes have imposed over the years -- ought to be used. Not long ago the Easley administration recruited an aircraft components manufacturer, Spirit AeroSystems, to the Global TransPark in Kinston with the promise of, among other things, a $100 million state-owned facility the company will use to house its operations.
This week the foundation's board had a different kind of question -- whether to approve more than a quarter of a million dollars for a public education campaign about a biodefense lab that might be built in Granville County. The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility would replace an existing 50-year-old facility in Plum Island, N.Y., and the Department of Homeland Security is looking at five sites. Among other things, the facility would research large-animal diseases. A lot of opposition has cropped up from residents in the Granville County area who are concerned about the possibility of pathogens escaping the facility and causing harm. Jonathan Cox has a story about the proposal, and the Golden LEAF Foundation's decision to finance the public education campaign, in today's N&O.
As the story points out, Golden LEAF's approval of $262,248 raises a new question about the use of public funds for what amounts to advocacy. No doubt the campaign will be straight-forward and fact-based in an attempt to correct what its supporters believe to be widespread misinformation about the project. But even so, should the foundation get into the business of helping government agencies make their case about proposed projects? And using public money to do it? As Golden LEAF board member John Merritt put it in the N&O story, "Does Golden LEAF really want to get into this role? ...I think we're making a big mistake."
What do you think?


Anonymous said...

This is a disgrace and further proof golden leaf should be ended

Anonymous said...

Here's today's story about Golden Leaf. Please Read.

Anonymous said...

The decision the Golden Leaf foundation is wrong but it does highlight how the bidding proposal for the NBAF has been handled all along. A group of special interest (Stakeholders as they prefer to refer to themselves) without the communities blessing tries to force a special project that will benefit them not the community on Butner and Granville County. If this lab were such a boom for the local econmony the NCC_NBAF Consortium would not have to fund a PR campaign. What's really funny the community that is currently hosting the site in Plum Island, they don't want the lab either.
Nobio just got my donation shame on Golden Leaf, shame on the consortium.

Jeffrey Sykes said...

Mr. Betts:

I agree with the spirit of previous comments. I see a negative trend in public money being used to promote government initiatives in the name of "education."

Similar to the sales tax options most local communities defeated in May. County Commissions across the state spent public money on advoca ... I mean public education materials that were quite one sided.

Anonymous said...

The short answer is: it does all the time.

NC has full time employees in DC advocating for the State's interests.

We have a tourism bureau advocating for tourists and conventions etc to come to NC.

We have a film commission that advocates producers and directors to use NC for their productions.

We pay for attorneys to advocate for criminal defendants who can not pay for their own lawyers.

We fund the Sherriff's Association and their registered lobbyist who advocates on behalf of law enforcement.

I am sure you can identify many more areas where public money goes to advocacy. What's the big deal here?

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