The Coastal Post - October, 1995

Why You Should NOT Vote For The Buck Center


The actual language of Beryl Buck's will says, "I give, devise and bequeath the entire residue of my estate to the San Francisco Foundation." (SFF)

The fact that the SFF had a prohibition for funding medical research gives you some idea of where she thought her money would go. The SFF also doesn't fund buildingss or structures, either, so the thought of a million-dollar research building, with swimming pools and houses for the staff, is the last thing Mrs. Buck had in mind.

The will clearly said that the income from the trust "...shall always be held for exclusively non-profit, charitable, religious, or educational purposes in providing for the needy in Marin County, California, and for other non-profit charitable, religious or educational purposes in that county."

There's no word in the will about astronomical salaries, such as Director and Counsel Mary McEchron's or the Special Counsel's; no word about paying four million to a world-famous architect to build it; and certainly no word about paying a half a million dollars to cinch an election.

Mrs. Buck would turn over in her grave if she thought her money was being used to buy an election. She wanted her money to go to Marin's "needy." That was her only thought.

In one of her letters, she said, "Rehabilitation problems have always concerned me, with adequate provision in facilities and professional care. I think very well of Ross General Hospital, as presently constituted and managed. [Of course, she couldn't foretell the fate of Ross General.] While it is a proprietary institution, the day might well come when charitable facilities could fit nicely into its program.

"I would like to extend help toward the problems of the aged, not only for the indigent, but for those whose resources cannot begin to provide adequate care. [Notice there is no mention of research here, but providing adequate care, which would come under the heading of charitable.]

"San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo has done much good over the years, and is well entitled to financial donations." Of all the categories Mrs. Buck listed, charitable, religious and education, "religious" seems to have come out at a low level of the totem pole.

And above all, Mrs. Buck had no thought of polluting Marin County. In the Center's own Environmental Impact Report, it says the Center will operate as a Biosafety Level 2 facility, which would allow the use of dangerous viruses. The Committee listed viruses used in aging research, including human retroviruses, herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr viruses and cytomegalo virus.

The Buck Center was recently forced (by the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell) to retract "false and misleading" statements it had placed on the ballot. The Committee to Save Mt. Burdell threatened a lawsuit if the Buck Center would not willingly change these statements on the November ballot, on which we will all get a chance to vote.

For all of these reasons, and many more which the Post has previously listed, the only way you could possibly vote "yes" to the Buck Center is to read all the self-serving articles that are coming out in HealthSpan or the Independent Journal.

When the Buck Center for Aging was proposed in 1987, Special Master Larry Sipes and Judge Homer Thompson (now deceased) asked the League of Women Voters of Marin County to assess the project. One general comment (number 4) sticks in my mind:

4) "Does its location in Marin County raise the expense of building the facility to such an extent that it is really too costly a project? A large portion of the Buck Fund is allocated for capital outlay. What happens to the buildings if the project shrinks or is relocated?"

Or dies, if it doesn't get federal funds to complete it, as is now a possibility with the Republican Congress.

Marin Democratic Club Opposes Buck Center


Following a debate co-sponsored by the Marin chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the members of the Marin Democratic Club voted by an overwhelming margin to endorse a No vote on Measures A and B to oppose the Buck Center for Research in Aging.

"We're pleased that, after hearing both sides, the Marin Democratic Club voted to oppose the Buck Center's misguided and wasteful development plans," said Susan Ristow, a member of the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell's executive committee and head of the Novato Citizens Action Group. Ristow, who was joined by Helen Brown of the Citizens Against the Buck Center in representing the opposition at last night's debate, noted that the Democratic Club joins the ranks of numerous community and environmental groups, including the Marin Audubon Society, the Environmental Forum. The Marin Mental Health Association, and the Marin United Taxpayers Association, that oppose the Buck Center proposal.

At last night's debate, Buck Center proponents Ed Ryken and Judy Arnold failed to deflect opponents' charges about the financial infeasibility of the project. While contradicting each other about whether federal funding was increasing or remaining stable, Ryken and Arnold did not address recent New York Times reports and an American Association for the Advancement of Science study which state the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is expected to decline by billions over the next few years. The Buck Center has officially stated that 75 percent of its funding will come from NIH research grants. Ryken and Arnold could not explain how the Buck Center plans to outcompete existing university research centers for shrinking federal research dollars.

"People are starting to wake up to the fact that, at best, the Buck Center will only divert diminishing federal resources away from on-going research at existing institutions," said Ristow, whose request for information about the financial feasibility of the project have been repeatedly denied by the Special Master of the Buck Trust who oversees the Buck Center project.

Buck proponents were also felled by the argument that the Buck Center, if built, will not increase aging research and that none of the $100 million charitable dollars the Center intends to spend to build an elaborate complex—complete with laboratories, condominiums, tennis courts, hillside homes, and a pool—will be spent on aging research.

Arnold and Ryken drew guffaws from the audience with their claims that the Buck Center will build affordable housing and by their request to defer questions from the audience to Mark O'Hara, the Buck Center's high-priced political consultant. O'Hara earned $50,000 from the Buck Center for just two months work, and is reported to be collecting $120,000 in Buck Trust money for his services in this election campaign.