Today’s News: Reports rips California stem cell agency; LA gets first Poet Laureate; Suffering ski resorts

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Hands on. An independent panel says conflicts of interest abound at California’s $3 billion stem cell institute, with many board members standing to benefit financially from decisions the agency makes. Authors of the review say the agency needs to be thoroughly restructured. The study was undertaken on behalf of the national Institute of Medicine. It didn’t cite specific incidents but instead focused on structural problems. Critics have long complained that the agency lacks independent voices and is susceptible to conflicts of interest. L.A. Times

Clean water. L.A. County property owners are being asked if they support a proposed ballot measure that would raise rates to pay for projects to boost the local water supply and to clean runoff flowing into local rivers and beaches. The county Flood Control District sent out more than two million notices to property owners this week that explain how much they’d be charged under the Clean Water fee. The costs range from about $55 dollars for a 5,000-square foot residential lot to nearly $10,000 a year for a big box store. The notices include a protest form that people can return to the district if they oppose the measure. If enough people send in the forms, the measure would be automatically killed. L.A. Daily News

City of verse. A mainstay of the L.A. literary scene will be named the city’s first Poet Laureate today. Sherman Oaks resident Eloise Klein Healy was picked for the honorary post earlier this year. Healy has authored six volumes of poetry. She’s a professor emeritus at Antioch University and runs a book imprint focuses on lesbian authors. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he was moved by Healy’s poetry and impressed by her passion to promote the power of the written word. L.A. Daily News

Third rail. State lawmakers were only sworn in a couple of days ago. But there’s already talk of tackling one of the state’s political sacred cows – Proposition 13. Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiamo is proposing to change the way commercial property taxes are calculated. It’s the third proposal in the last couple of weeks to adjust Prop. 13. The other two would go to voters as constitutional amendments. Ammiamo’s proposal would only require approval from the legislature and the governor. Sacramento Bee

No snow. Global warming has cost ski resorts in California and elsewhere in the country $1 billion in the past decade. That’s the conclusion of a study by University of New Hampshire researchers. Sacramento Bee says their report concludes that up to 27,000 jobs have been lost in the past 10 years because shorter winters and meager snowfalls. The report cites an industry survey that found that half of all U.S. ski area opened late last year, and nearly half closed early. Sacramento Bee

Sky eye
. Traffic helicopters in L.A. are as ubiquitous as, well, traffic. But it wasn’t always so. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the man you can thank for introducing them to Southern California skies was John Silva, a former chief engineer for KTLA-TV. Silva, who died recently in Camarillo, created what he called the telecopter in 1958, attaching a pared down camera to a customized Bell 47 helicopter. He had to convince his bosses at KTLA to spend $40,000 on equipment that no one knew would work. It worked well. Other stations followed suit and the rest is television history. L.A. Times