It's obvious Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to insert partisan politics into the state's efforts to land the $451 million National Bio and Agro-Defense facility.
Kansas found itself among 11 states designated as possible locations for this extremely high-tech facility that will replace the storied Plum Island operation in New York. Competition for this laboratory and testing center will be intense, and it was hoped Kansas' efforts would be free of partisan politics.
Unfortunately, Sebelius apparently decided to inject politics into the state's application. Officers of the Kansas Bioscience Authority were given the assignment of putting together the Kansas effort and selecting those who should serve on the governor's task force. It was important to keep politics, at the Kansas level, out of the picture.
Sebelius first used her office to appoint Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson as co-chairman of the task force. Now, she has announced her decision to place newly elected U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda on the task force as another vice chairman.
The original task force was composed of individuals who had specific technical, scientific and business skills who could help guide the Kansas effort. Former Democratic Gov. John Carlin is a member of the task force, but he also is a member of the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Sen. Pat Roberts is chairman of the organization, but this was done, not for political reasons, but because of his knowledge of Washington and his 10 years of service with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It's likely, although unfortunate, that politics may indeed play a role in the eventual selection of a site for the federal facility, but politics will not play a role in the selection committee's investigation of each site. In fact, efforts to inject politics into the site selection committee's study of a site or state are almost sure to damage that particular bid.
Now is not the time for a governor - Sebelius or the governor of any other state - to try to use a task force or vice chairmanship appointment to promote the visibility either of the governor or someone else in elected political office.
The state deserves something better than this. Politics should not be muddying the waters at the state level, and political motives should not be on display when the site selection committee arrives to inspect the proposed Manhattan and Leavenworth sites.
Sebelius has enjoyed a good record in Kansas - with the help of the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature. According to some, Sebelius is being looked to by national Democratic leaders as a possible vice presidential candidate or perhaps a Cabinet appointee if a Democrat is elected president in 2008.
All this is fine and reflects well on Sebelius, but at this time, it is hoped she can base her actions and decisions on what is best for Kansas, not on furthering her image or her political future or trying to enhance the political visibility of fellow Democrats who seek public approval.
Granted, there is the very strong urge for anyone serving as governor to use his or her powers to hand out prized appointments as payoffs for political favors, past, present or future. Sebelius can use her power to appoint members of the Kansas Board of Regents, Kansas Hospital Authority, the Kansas Bioscience Authority or the task force for the Kansas effort to secure the NBAF.
The hard work on the state's NBAF application already has been done and, thankfully, was put together by highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals, not political appointees.
Site inspection team members will be visiting Kansas in the relatively near future, and it is hoped politics will be absent from their visit. This is no place for the governor, Parkinson or Boyda to try to gain the spotlight. They shouldn't be in the picture. If they want to host a cocktail party or luncheon, that's OK, but they shouldn't be any part of the tours and inspection of sites.
As an aside, neither should anyone from the Kansas City Area economic development community - who might like to try to horn their way in - play a role or at least be seen as part of the "official" party.
Her friends say Rep. Boyda is a nice person, and it is obvious she intends to use every means to make her presence known to the voters of her district. But at this time, she has little to offer to the state's NBAF effort.
Kansas deserves the best and most effective efforts in its attempt to advance the NBAF project. Raw partisan politics could easily handicap the Kansas effort. Let's hope in this case, the state's interests will rise above partisan political interests.
Kansans should remember the words of Sen. Roberts when he addressed a joint session of the Kansas House and Senate earlier this month. He said the Kansas effort and the state's bid can be a winner on its own merits, so why inject politics?