Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Text of Consumer Watchdog Comments on CIRM Communications Proposal

Here is a statement from John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., related to the proposal to create a subcommittee of CIRM directors to deal with public communication matters. Simpson had a long career as a newspaper editor and has observed and participated in CIRM proceedings for several years. He has both praised and criticized the agency.
"There is a simple thing CIRM could do to improve communication. Maybe they can discuss this at their first communication committee or task force meeting. It's really quite simple: Their communications director and vice chairman should respond to questions from the public.
"When an agenda is posted saying the compensation for the statutory vice chairman will be considered, people who follow the agency want to know what's up. Currently Art Torres is paid $75,000 for what officially is described as a half-time job. As soon as the agenda was posted, CIRM should have expected questions and had answers ready.
"Because I follow CIRM's activities I sent Don Gibbons, communications officer, an email asking what was under consideration. There has been no response.
"So then I sent an email to Art Torres asking what is proposed. I didn't get an answer.
"The first rule of public communication is to anticipate questions and then when they are raised, answer them. I used to get $500-a-day as a consultant offering this sort of advice. No charge this time.
"An appropriate answer could be: 'The issues involved are considered a personnel matter and will be discussed in executive session. If a decision is made to change Torres' salary, the action will be considered in open session and the public may comment on the proposal before final action is taken.' Again, no charge for the advice.
"The irony in all this is that Torres might deserve a raise. I hear he is devoting full time to the job. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but it's hard to do so given CIRM's silence."
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