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Los Angeles Times Opposes $5.5 Billion Stem Cell Ballot
Measure, Says State Has Higher Priorities

California’s largest circulation newspaper, the Los Angeles
Times
,
this morning editorialized against Proposition 14,
the
$5.5 billion stem cell measure on this fall’s ballot, declaring
that the state has “other, more urgent spending priorities.”

The Times said,

“Now is not the time for a huge new investment in specialized
medical research. First, it makes sense to wait until after the
election; if Democrats do well, there should be growing support for
embryonic stem-cell research at the federal level, which is where
such funding should take place.

“The future of California’s pandemic-battered economy and
budget remains to be seen. Waiting also would give voters a chance
to find out how well the state’s stem-cell research projects
continue without state dollars, and whether some of the promising
advances lead to breakthrough therapies and a return on
California’s investment.”

The Times claims a
daily readership of 1.3 million and a combined print and online
local weekly audience of 4.6 million.

The Times is the fifth daily newspaper to oppose Proposition 14.
The initiative would save the California Institute of
Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
, as the agency is formally known,
from financial extinction. It is running out of the $3 billion it
was provided with in 2004 and will begin closing its doors this
winter without a major infusion of cash.  

The Times editorial discussed Proposition 14 and the history of
the agency in some detail and the role of its sponsor, Robert Klein,
a Palo Alto real estate developer.
 

Klein sponsored and was responsible for the drafting of
Proposition 14 and the ballot initiative that created the stem cell
agency in 2004, He ran the campaign then and is doing so again this
year. He was the first chairman of the CIRM governing board and
served for 6 1/2 years. He also contributed millions of dollars to
both ballot measure campaigns. 

The Times wrote, 

“Klein’s role and the bloated structure of CIRM’s
super-sized governing board have given rise to some serious ethical
mishaps, including a board member who improperly
intervened
 to try to get funding for his organization. (He is
no longer on the board.) After this and several other examples of
impropriety, rules were tightened. Board members must recuse
themselves from votes when there is a conflict of interest, but
with 29 members who all want certain projects to receive funding,
there is too much potential for mutual back-scratching. Instead of
repairing this problem, the new proposition would expand CIRM’s
board to 35 members and retain its troubling independence from
oversight by the governor and Legislature, leaving it open to
further conflicts of interest.

“Proposition 71 hasn’t yet yielded a significant financial
return on investment for the state — or the cures that were
ballyhooed at the time. Though no one ever promised quick medical
miracles, campaign ads strongly implied they were around the corner
if only the funding came through. Proponents oversold the
initiatives and voters can’t be blamed if they view this new
proposal with skepticism.”

The Times noted a number of lingering issues involving the
agency, including the size of its 29-member board and the fact that
members “generally have ties to the advocacy organizations and
research institutions that have received most of the money.”
(For
more on that subject, see here.
)

The Times credited CIRM with giving “rise to a burst of
scientific discovery.” It said that CIRM has supported “promising
advances in the treatment of diabetes,  ‘bubble boy’ immune
deficiency and vision-robbing retinitis pigmentosa, but other
efforts have fallen short in clinical trials.” The editorial also
said CIRM made “the state the ‘it’ place for stem-cell
research.”

Unlike other newspaper editorials, the Times suggested that
backers of the agency could come back in a couple of years with a
revised, scaled-down proposal that would address issues with the
agency.  The agency will still be operating during that period on a
minimal level, administering multi-year grants with a skeleton
staff.

The Times wrote, 

“There would be an opportunity to rethink and rewrite any future
proposals, which should include a far more modest ask of taxpayers
as well as fixes to the structure and inflated size of the CIRM
board. The institute should also be placed under the same state
oversight as other agencies reporting to the governor.

“If CIRM needs money for a basic operating budget over the next
couple of years, that could be covered by the state’s general
fund. The agency still needs to administer already-funded projects
and could use that time to discuss a more affordable path forward.
Right now, the state has other, more urgent spending
priorities.” 

For more on the life and times of the stem cell agency, Klein
and issues involving the agency, see David Jensen’s new
book, “California’s
Great Stem Cell Experiment: Inside a $3 Billion Search for Stem
Cell Cures.”
  Jensen has covered the agency since 2005 and
written more than 5,000 items on the subject plus a number of
freelance articles for Capitol Weekly, The Sacramento Bee, and
other publications.

(Editor’s note: Our count of newspaper editorials pro and con
shows six with five against and one in support. They include the
Times, Chronicle, Bakersfield Californian, San Jose Mercury, Santa
Rosa Press Democrat and the Bay Area Reporter. If you know of
others, pro and con, please email
djensen@californiastemcellreport.com.) 

California’s largest circulation newspaper, the Los Angeles
Times
,
this morning editorialized against Proposition 14,
the
$5.5 billion stem cell measure on this fall’s ballot, declaring
that the state has “other, more urgent spending priorities.”

The Times said,

“Now is not the time for a huge new investment in specialized
medical research. First, it makes sense to wait until after the
election; if Democrats do well, there should be growing support for
embryonic stem-cell research at the federal level, which is where
such funding should take place.

“The future of California’s pandemic-battered economy and
budget remains to be seen. Waiting also would give voters a chance
to find out how well the state’s stem-cell research projects
continue without state dollars, and whether some of the promising
advances lead to breakthrough therapies and a return on
California’s investment.”

The Times claims a
daily readership of 1.3 million and a combined print and online
local weekly audience of 4.6 million.

The Times is the fifth daily newspaper to oppose Proposition 14.
The initiative would save the California Institute of
Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
, as the agency is formally known,
from financial extinction. It is running out of the $3 billion it
was provided with in 2004 and will begin closing its doors this
winter without a major infusion of cash.  

The Times editorial discussed Proposition 14 and the history of
the agency in some detail and the role of its sponsor, Robert Klein,
a Palo Alto real estate developer.
 

Klein sponsored and was responsible for the drafting of
Proposition 14 and the ballot initiative that created the stem cell
agency in 2004, He ran the campaign then and is doing so again this
year. He was the first chairman of the CIRM governing board and
served for 6 1/2 years. He also contributed millions of dollars to
both ballot measure campaigns. 

The Times wrote, 

“Klein’s role and the bloated structure of CIRM’s
super-sized governing board have given rise to some serious ethical
mishaps, including a board member who improperly
intervened
 to try to get funding for his organization. (He is
no longer on the board.) After this and several other examples of
impropriety, rules were tightened. Board members must recuse
themselves from votes when there is a conflict of interest, but
with 29 members who all want certain projects to receive funding,
there is too much potential for mutual back-scratching. Instead of
repairing this problem, the new proposition would expand CIRM’s
board to 35 members and retain its troubling independence from
oversight by the governor and Legislature, leaving it open to
further conflicts of interest.

“Proposition 71 hasn’t yet yielded a significant financial
return on investment for the state — or the cures that were
ballyhooed at the time. Though no one ever promised quick medical
miracles, campaign ads strongly implied they were around the corner
if only the funding came through. Proponents oversold the
initiatives and voters can’t be blamed if they view this new
proposal with skepticism.”

The Times noted a number of lingering issues involving the
agency, including the size of its 29-member board and the fact that
members “generally have ties to the advocacy organizations and
research institutions that have received most of the money.”
(For
more on that subject, see here.
)

The Times credited CIRM with giving “rise to a burst of
scientific discovery.” It said that CIRM has supported “promising
advances in the treatment of diabetes,  ‘bubble boy’ immune
deficiency and vision-robbing retinitis pigmentosa, but other
efforts have fallen short in clinical trials.” The editorial also
said CIRM made “the state the ‘it’ place for stem-cell
research.”

Unlike other newspaper editorials, the Times suggested that
backers of the agency could come back in a couple of years with a
revised, scaled-down proposal that would address issues with the
agency.  The agency will still be operating during that period on a
minimal level, administering multi-year grants with a skeleton
staff.

The Times wrote, 

“There would be an opportunity to rethink and rewrite any future
proposals, which should include a far more modest ask of taxpayers
as well as fixes to the structure and inflated size of the CIRM
board. The institute should also be placed under the same state
oversight as other agencies reporting to the governor.

“If CIRM needs money for a basic operating budget over the next
couple of years, that could be covered by the state’s general
fund. The agency still needs to administer already-funded projects
and could use that time to discuss a more affordable path forward.
Right now, the state has other, more urgent spending
priorities.” 

For more on the life and times of the stem cell agency, Klein
and issues involving the agency, see David Jensen’s new
book, “California’s
Great Stem Cell Experiment: Inside a $3 Billion Search for Stem
Cell Cures.”
  Jensen has covered the agency since 2005 and
written more than 5,000 items on the subject plus a number of
freelance articles for Capitol Weekly, The Sacramento Bee, and
other publications.

(Editor’s note: Our count of newspaper editorials pro and con
shows six with five against and one in support. They include the
Times, Chronicle, Bakersfield Californian, San Jose Mercury, Santa
Rosa Press Democrat and the Bay Area Reporter. If you know of
others, pro and con, please email
djensen@californiastemcellreport.com.) 

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