The Roman Catholic World
July 28, 2010
by Marielena Montesino de Stuart
THE CHRONICLES OF AVE MARIA©: The Jackson Lab Proposal Called “Misleading and Reckless”… by me, speaking as a citizen of Collier County, before the Board of Commissioners. Another speaker called it “Abuse.”
The debate over the funding of The Jackson Lab project is raging in Collier County. Hundreds of citizens attended yesterday’s public meeting at the Collier County Board of Commissioners, and I was one of them.
The public was there to express either their support or indignation over the proposal of using public funding in order to bring The Jackson Lab to Ave Maria, without allowing the citizens of Collier County to vote on the matter.
The discussion lasted approximately 6 hours. By the end of the day yesterday, the poll being conducted by the Naples Daily News showed that 83% of the public does not support ANY public funding for the Jackson Lab project in Ave Maria– a 1% increase from the day before.
By the time that the citizens opposing the Jackson Lab proposal began to arrive, around 8:00-8:15am, the board room had already been packed mostly by supporters of the Jackson Lab project, who were reported to have arrived at the building as early as 7:20am. The discussion of the Jackson Lab proposal was scheduled to begin at 10:00am.
Barron Collier Company executives attended the meeting, including Blake Gable and Brian Goguen, as well as a large contingency of supporters, wearing blue teeshirts, pins and bracelets with slogans. The Ave Maria University/Ave Maria Town /Barron Collier section included secretaries and utility employees. Some of them made no attempt to hide their hostility. One wonders how so many could spend their day there, away from their work at the Barron Collier and Ave Maria entities.
It was a scene straight out of an instruction manual for Chicago-style community organizing.
A Catholic resident of Ave Maria speaks in support of The Jackson Lab project, while another remained silent
A Catholic member of the Ave Maria University Board of Regents, Mr. Carlos A. Figueroa, spoke in support of the Jackson Lab project. But he said that he was speaking as a citizen, and also identified himself as a resident of Ave Maria. On a day ruled by people carrying signs and wearing teeshirts, buttons, stickers and bracelets with slogans– that sent out messages indicating who was for, or against, the Jackson Lab proposal, it was interesting that Mr. Figueroa chose to wear the Ave Maria University emblem, pinned to his lapel.
Another Catholic resident from my neighborhood attended the meeting, and sat quietly in the front, at the end of a row.
I continue to be the only resident from Ave Maria, who publicly opposes the Jackson Lab project.
In the context of the moral, political and economic repercussions of the Jackson Lab project, it is important for the reader to note that over 95% of residents in Ave Maria are Catholics, who for the most part also identify themselves as being politically conservative. In addition, Ave Maria is a community well-known through the media for its outspoken activism against abortion and the defense of human life, which includes protests held 40 miles away, outside of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Naples. But no protesting voices are being heard inside Ave Maria regarding the issue of The Jackson Lab.
The presence, participation, or silence, of Catholic residents of Ave Maria at this public government meeting is noteworthy– given that this involves a project that could have enormous and lasting impact on the residents of Ave Maria. A project which is under scrutiny by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida, having expressed compelling and serious concerns about The Jackson Lab’s move to Ave Maria, and whether it should be considered authentic human and economic development.
The following is an excerpt from the Bishop’s statement to the press, issued last week:
Jackson Laboratory’s purported association with and openness to human embryonic stem cell research causes the Diocese of Venice concern. Of particular note is a public statement made by the company that they are “not willing to rule out doing human embryonic stem cell research” (Naples Daily News, April 10, 2010). Read full statement HERE.
During the public forum, a supporter of the Jackson Lab proposal who identified himself as Edward A. Morton, sat close to, and had more than one tête–à-tête with Brian Goguen. Mr. Morton was the last person to speak (what a surprise!). He delivered a dramatic speech of how our government in the past has made decisions involving the use of public funds, without a public vote, because it involved matters too difficult for taxpayers to decide.
Is this man serious?
Is this an example of the socialist agenda, where the average American is portrayed as just too stupid and ignorant to decide for himself or herself how they want their money to be spent?
Much like the last paragraph tells the end of a story, the fact that this man’s courtroom-like dramatic “closing argument” came at the end of the public forum– left one with the perception that the Jackson Lab deal is not in the making– but that the deal has already been made.
But then, again, this Jackson Lab proposal is all about appearances, smoke– and mirrors.
The Barron Collier contingency applauded for Edward A. Morton with fervor. Others had a great laugh, after Morton finally concluded his dramatic presentation.
In the course of events, the issue of possible violation of Sunshine Laws by county commissioners was presented by a member of the public– who was rudely and abruptly interrupted by Chairman Fred Coyle– in an attempt to silence his questioning about possible ethical violations. The manner in which Coyle reacted to the speaker was a reminder of what it is like to attend an Ave Maria Stewardship Community District (town government) meeting. Interestingly, Brian Goguen was involved in a Sunshine Law “issue” as described by the Naples Daily News on October 3, 2008:
Governments in Florida are regulated by what’s known as the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law, which requires officials to discuss business and make decisions at public meetings.
Brian Goguen is a vice president for finance at Barron Collier Cos. Paul Roney is the chief financial officer at Ave Maria University. Both serve on the executive committee and also on the district board.
“And they don’t think that’s a problem?” asked Adria Harper, a director at the First Amendment Foundation, a Sunshine Law watchdog group financially supported by the media, including the Daily News.
“They shouldn’t be talking about issues that would foreseeably come before the public board in private,” Harper continued. “It doesn’t matter if they’re holding private meetings in Arby’s. They can’t talk about those things.”
Bob Jarvis, a law ethics professor at Nova Southeastern University, agreed.
“It should trouble your readers that this board was set up this way,” Jarvis said. “Whoever thought this was a good idea should be fired or removed from office.”
Goguen ended up stepping down.
Here are the highlights from NBC television news, where I referred to The Jackson Lab proposal as “misleading and reckless.” (I also called it an immoral and undemocratic real estate bail out of the Monaghan-Barron Collier Ave Maria experiment).
Here is a video clip from the Naples Daily News, where a citizen called the Jackson Lab’s proposal, “abuse.” CLICK on image below to watch video:
The meeting couldn’t be without its colorful cast of charming characters, typical of Southwest Florida politics– which included a Cherokee Indian who spoke in opposition to the Jackson Lab proposal.
CLICK on image below to watch video:
The numbers don’t add up… but– who cares?
The Productivity Committee, comprised of CPA’s and financial analysts presented their final report regarding the money necessary to bring The Jackson Lab to Ave Maria. The results of the report were not good– to say the least. In addition, two members of the Productivity Committee stood up and spoke as private citizens and presented compelling arguments which questioned the financial approach being suggested by the Board of Commissioners for The Jackson Lab project.
At the end of the day, Fred Coyle made statements to the press, indicating that it will take several months before a decision can be made, while private funding is pursued, and the use of taxpayer money is contemplated. No commitments were made, except to keep pushing the Jackson Lab project forward, in spite of the Productivity Committee report.
One can expect that yesterday’s display of activism by Barron Collier in support of The Jackson Lab proposal, will continue.
After all, they have everything to gain.
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You may read about Marielena Montesino de Stuart’s observations and opinions through RenewAmerica, USAToday, Poynter Online, Spero News, The New Liturgical Movement-Poland, The Naples Daily News, Les Femmes-The Truth, Culture War Notes, ProLife Blogs, The Wanderer, etc.
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION: Ave Maria University + The Jackson Laboratory + Workshops and Resources for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research + Eugenics + Margaret Sanger + Tom Monaghan + Tom Golisano + Nicholas J. Healy Jr., President of AMU + Barron Collier Companies + The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District.
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NOTICE TO READERS: Marielena Montesino de Stuart and www.TheRomanCatholicWorld.com do not disparage anyone’s motives at Ave Maria, Ave Maria University, including the administrators, faculty, staff and students, Ave Maria entities, Ave Maria Town, the residents and property owners in Ave Maria, Barron Collier Co., as well as anyone doing business in, with, and for Ave Maria and any of its entities. Nothing contained in The Chronicles of Ave Maria© or Divine Comedy©, or anywhere on this blog/website questions the commitment of all involved to what they genuinely see as the best interests of Ave Maria, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria entities, Ave Maria Town and Barron Collier Co. Marielena Montesino de Stuart and www.TheRomanCatholicWorld.com concede this.