The Coastal Post - November, 1995

Growing Number Of Civic Groups Opposing Buck Aging Center; Fear Large Debt


It is amazing how many organizations have lined up to vote "No" on the Buck Center. Groups and organizations opposing Measure A (Countywide) and B (Novato) include the Marin Audubon Society, the Environmental Forum of Marin, the Marin Democratic Club, the Marin United Taxpayers Association, the Mental Health Association of Marin, the Marin Humane Society, the Partridge Knolls Homeowner Association, the Citizens Against the Buck Center, the Novato Citizens Action Group, In Defense of Animals, Marin Watch, the Marin Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Marin Action.

Some groups issued a statement explaining their reasons for voting "No." Marin NOW's president Debra Koho said, "Marin County NOW does not object to research, but we do object to the tremendous waste of Buck Trust charitable monies by the Buck Center for Research in Aging."

Marin NOW's endorsement of a "no" vote for the Buck Center after the organization co-sponsored a debate on September 20 with the Marin Democratic Club. At that debate, Buck Center proponents Ed Ryken and Judy Arnold were unable to answer the public's questions about how the Center intended to pay for a $100.4 million research complex—complete with condominiums, hillside homes, tennis courts, a pool and shops—and fund research on the $4.4 annually it receives from the Buck Trust. Buck proponents claimed the Center would receive enough federal research funds to keep the project afloat, despite the fact that federal funding for biomedical research is projected to decline by more than $2 billion over the next several years according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"We're pleased that, after hearing both sides, Marin's NOW members have decided to join the opposition to the proposed Buck Center," said Helen Brown, a NOW member who is co-chair of the Citizens Against the Buck Center and a member of the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell." NOW has added its voice to the growing chorus of prominent Marin citizens and organizations who oppose the Center's plan to divert $100 million charitable dollars away from existing research to build an extravagant and duplicative laboratory complex."

Ben Young, acting chair of Marin Action sent a press release to this paper stating their reasons for a "No" vote of the Center. There seems to be no definitive data as to the projected income flow from outside sources available, except current annual income from the Buck Trust which is $4.5 million.

In 1994 the Center operating expenses were about $2 million. Projected annual bond servicing expenses on a currently planned $40 million bond issue (just to start the research building) is $3.5 million, leaving a one million cash flow deficit before any additional staffing, operating, mitigation, insurance, etc. costs are added in.

A current business plan was requested but none seems available.

The New England Journal of Medicine, September 21, 1995, in a special report by Harold Varmus, M.D. Director of NIH/the major government funding source for biomedical research) stated: "I have been trying to stave off cuts in the NIH budget...that would reduce our buying by about one-third early in the century. The research enterprise in undergoing a painful transition from an era of growth to an era of steady-state activity."