Libby Doggett Austin’s True Seat of Government?
In my third- and fourth- most recent blog entries – posted on November 3 and 7 respectively – I made reference to a mysterious letter allegedly from the Pew trust to the Public Health and Human Services Committee in the days just prior to their notorious October 18 meeting. At the time, I had no knowledge of the authorship , though I did remark on the inappropriateness of Austin’s public servants taking, or appearing to take, direction from distant bureaucracies whether governmental or private. I rather suspected Matt Jacob, a Pew communications specialist who had boasted about it.
But now we have the missive – an email addressed to Committee chair Mike Martinez – and, to our surprise, it comes from non other than Libby Doggett, wife of powerful Austin-based Congressman Lloyd Doggett and herself an officer of the Pew organization. It appears below. Hmmmm.
The first thing to notice is that Dr. Doggett (she has a PhD in early childhood special education) is writing not in her private capacity as an Austin citizen but as an officer of the trust. Behind the easygoing language is a pointed reminder that the wife of the powerful Lloyd holds power in her own right. Her bio on the Pew Charitable Trusts website gives her title as Director, Pew Home Visiting Campaign, Pew Center on the States, and lists a Washington, D.C. contact number. ‘
The Philadelphia and Washington-based Pew Charitable Trusts is a complex collection of charitable funds separately established by heirs to the Sun Oil Company (SUNOCO) empire, having aggregated assets of nearly $5 billion. It supports multiple causes ranging from the arts to children’s programs. After the fashion of great foundations, it pursues its own agenda as a change agent through the funding of projects consistent with its goals. In the case of its Children’s Dental Campaign, it has some commendable accomplishments. It has advocated for the right of qualified dental hygenist-practitioners to provide care to children in regions where dentists are in short supply, and it has worked to enhance the reach of dental services to Medicaid recipients, who go about 85% underserved.
It also, like all other entities tied into 3-way mariage of federal bureaucracy, industry and philanthropy, endorses water fluoridation blindly and universally. Because the bad is so tightly bundled with the good, it’s difficult to criticize Pew across the board. But in the matter of water fluoridation, they are on the wrong side of both science and history. Libby Doggett’s credentials, excellent as they may be, do not qualify her in toxicology, and her words rely exclusively on the decades of CDC self-endorsement that we are challenging as illegitimate today.
Apart from this, their remains the issue of: who does the Austin City Council answer to? The people? Or distant funding agencies like the Pew? If the latter, Austinites have a right to feel concern. And local politicians up for re-election might want to give it some thought too.