Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Biotech honcho on big grant: No thanks

Remember back in mid-July when questions were raised whether the GoldenLEAF Foundation, financed with money from a national tobacco settlement, ought to grant a quarter of a million dollars for an educational campaign to help make the case for a new biotechnology lab in Granville County? The foundation approved the grant despite questions whether it met the foundation's goal of assisting tobacco-dependent communities and economically distressed areas.
The money was meant to help straighten out what proponents believe is widespread public misunderstanding about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Lab -- a controversial proposal that has a lot of organized opposition. The Department of Homeland Security is considering five sites nationally for the new facility. Here's a link to a July 16 blog about it.

Today's News & Observer has an interesting twist in this story. Jonathan Cox reports that the N.C. Biotechnology Center, which would administer the grant and which actively supports the new lab, has turned the money down. Former state Rep. Norris Tolson, who's also a former state secretary of commerce, secretary of transportation and secretary of revenue department, wrote GoldenLEAF President Valeria Lee, "Taken as a whole, the proposed agreement vests Golden LEAF with such involvement and decision-making power over the details of the project that it ceases to be a grant supporting independent, objective work and analysis," Cox reports in his story. Here's a link to the N&O.
Not many folks in government will turn down a grant like that. But Tolson is not your ordinary public official. He's a straight shooter who looks at things with a critical eye. That's why Gov. Jim Hunt put him in charge at DOT when things were coming unraveled at the end of his last administration. Tolson cleaned up some messes there -- not always appreciated by those who liked the old way of doing things.


Anonymous said...

Why did you tell half of the story?I realize it's you blog and I like your content but, You know why Tolson turned it down. Golden Leaf was going to have oversight on the material and content. Ken Tindall of NC BioTech emphasized the information would be "impartial and factual". But once Golden Leaf was going to ensure those terms were met Tolson and their lawyers felt their freespeech was subject to restrains. Read the full story at Indy Weekly

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