Friday, March 14, 2008

The ICOC Plays The Crest

The board of directors of the California stem cell agency met earlier this week in a restored movie house (see photo) in downtown Sacramento. The location was a bit unusual for a CIRM meeting, but the affair triggered the imaginations of some board members. Here is a report from John M. Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpaper and Consumer Rights, who attended the meeting.
ICOC members took note of their unusual surroundings as they took to the stage of the Crest Theater in Sacramento this week, a venue that has seen performances ranging from Cab Calloway to Kurt Cobain.

These days the Crest often shows classic movies like "Gone With The Wind." Calling the meeting to order, Chairman Robert Klein noted the entertainment industry backgrounds of board members Sherry Lansing and Leeza Gibbons and declared the Crest "an adequate stage for our tremendous talent."

Lansing objected that she was only a "bit player."

Introducing new President Alan Trounson, Klein suggested that the Crest's marquee should have billed the meeting as "Starring Dr. Alan Trounson, straight from Australia."

Trounson began his president's report by confessing to snapping a few photos of the Crest "because they won't believe me at home."

In fact, to the bemusement of several passersby who didn't seem to know what to make of it, the huge letters on the marquee spelled out:

Wed March 12
CA Institute For Regenerative Medicine
8:15 AM Spotlight on Deafness
9:00 AM ICOC Meeting
Open to The Public

For the most part the unusual message didn't draw a larger or different crowd than usual when the meeting is held in a hotel or academic setting.

Not usual for an ICOC meeting, however, Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Carlsbad, and Sen. Mark Weyland, R-Escondido, showed up to speak for adoption of a regulation that would define a "California supplier" that was presented by John Valencia, attorney for Invitrogen. You can be sure that had nothing to do with the marquee.

The ICOC ended up at the Crest this way: The date and general location of the meeting were set before a venue was booked. It turned out when Klein's aide Jena Pryne tried to nail down a site, virtually everything in Sacramento was booked for conventions and activities relating to the legislative session. She sought advice from Scott Tocher, interim associate legal counsel to the vice chair, who grew up in Sacramento.

Tocher, who remembered the Crest hosting graduations and citizenship ceremonies, thought it could work. Pryne booked it and the ICOC's name was, if not up in lights, on the marquee.

Appropriately during the board's closed executive session when members decided to hire Dr. Marie Csete as Chief Scientific Officer at a salary of $310,000, Melissa King, CIRM executive director, passed out free popcorn to those waiting for the board to return and make the action official in public.

The seats were the most comfortable I've been in at any ICOC meeting. Let's play the Crest again next year.
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