• Rights of Special Ed Students at Stake

    • 04/21/2017
    • Lyn Jensen
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    The rights of thousands of children with special needs in the Los Angeles Unified School District are at stake in a lawsuit that’s bounced between the U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for four years. LAUSD is the defendant in the class action suit filed in 2013 by several parents with special needs children.

    At issue is whether the LAUSD is complying with a 1975 federal law and a 1995 consent decree.

    “The LAUSD has routinely been violating the rights of the special needs children,” charges attorney Eric Jacobson via e-mail. Jacobson represents the parents who, on behalf of their children, allege the LAUSD has engaged in a district-wide pattern of improper activities in violation of the 1975 federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by forcing students with special needs into general education schools.

    Often referred to as IDEA, the law says each student with special needs must be assessed as to the “least restrictive” placement on an individual basis. The parents argue that for their children, a special education center is the least restrictive environment.

    The parties are primarily at odds over the interpretation of a portion of the consent decree that was renegotiated and modified in 2003.

    The court filing alleges that, “The District has been engaged in a district-wide pattern of improper activities to comply with Renegotiated Outcome 7 which violate IDEA” and the modified consent decree.

    The court could hold the district in contempt for violating the modified consent decree but so far, technicalities and appeals have resulted in no clear outcome.

    The LAUSD has been closing special education schools and mainstreaming thousands of special needs students into general education for several years. The lawsuit alleges this is in violation of not only IDEA but also the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree. Chanda Smith was a special needs student in the LAUSD during the 1990s and the plaintiff in a federal case that resulted in a consent decree named after her.

    Now, the issue is whether the LAUSD violates IDEA and the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree by placing students in general education without changing their individual assessments and without proper parental permission.

    Jacobson was involved in mediation that led to the Modified Consent Decree in 2003. The LAUSD has still not met the requirements to get out from under it.

    Jacobson said around 2002 the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the Chanda Smith lawsuit, began arguing children with disabilities must be mainstreamed into the general student population. Some parents represented by Jacobson and another lawyer, Steve Masada, went to mediation with the district to settle the dispute in 2003.

    “Starting in 2012 or so the ACLU and the LAUSD joined forces [to mainstream disabled students into general education],” Jacobson said. “What’s at stake is the right of the parents of the disabled to guide their education for their children.”

    Joy Efron is a LAUSD educator who disagrees with the district closing special education centers.

    “The ACLU and some other civil rights groups consider special schools for children with disabilities as segregated,” Efron stated in an email. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

    She said for many years LAUSD housed some classes for non-disabled students at schools such as Frances Blend, for years the only school for the blind in the district. A few years ago the district moved the non-disabled students out — then argued special schools for the disabled were “segregated.”

    “LAUSD has special schools for gifted kids, pregnant minors, performing arts [and] at-risk youth,” Efron explained. “Only those schools for disabled kids are [labeled] segregated.”

    “Special schools are mandated by the federal government as part of a continuum of options [in the student assessments which IDEA mandates]. They are also mandated by the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree,” Efron argued.

    She speaks as a former principal (now retired) at Frances Blend. It was closed in 2013 and the students placed in what LAUSD called an “integrated learning community” at Van Ness Elementary.

    Efron said that around 2012, the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree “morphed into a move to close all special education classes.” She added that since the LAUSD began closing special education schools in 2013, blind students now receive only about 45 minutes of education in Braille per month.

    In response, some parents, including Mina Lee and April Munoz, representing special needs children, filed a Motion to Intervene in federal court in 2013. The lawsuit charges the LAUSD moved “solely to meet the quota requirements” to comply with the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree.

    “Every child with a visual impairment is being assigned to schools regardless of special needs,” Jacobson argued. “Kids are being forced to attend schools that do not have bathroom facilities that they can use. Blind children are being moved to schools that are dangerous.”

    In 2014, Judge Ronald Lew denied the motion to intervene on grounds of timeliness and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The decision was appealed. In February 2016, the appeals court overruled Lew’s decision and ordered intervention.

    The case has since gone back and forth between Lew’s court and the court of appeals at least twice. In June 2016, the LAUSD petitioned the appeals court for a rehearing.

    Subsequently, some parents pleaded with the LAUSD board at a June 14 meeting to withdraw the request. The majority — Steve Zimmer, Monica Garcia, Monica Ratliff and Ref Rodriguez — voted against withdrawal. The appeals court turned the LAUSD down.

    In August 2016, Lew granted motion to intervene but only to the parents actually named, not the entire class, and denied an injunction on another technicality. The parents appealed again. Both sides filed appeals briefs early in 2017.

    Jacobson said in a phone interview that the appeals court decision could come at any time. If the appeal is successful, the case will likely be sent back to Lew again.

    He said that if the appeal is not successful, the parents must go back to the independent monitor charged with enforcing the modified consent decree who, he maintains, is representing “only parents who believe in full inclusion.”

    The LAUSD declined to comment. Littler Mendelson, the law firm representing the district in this case, also declined to comment.

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  • Get High Class Cuisine: Terranea Resort’s Catalina Kitchen

    By Richard Foss, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    Anyone who frequents the island of Catalina will attest that the food served there is mostly oriented to the tourist trade. With few exceptions, I’d rather eat somewhere with a view of the island than at most restaurants on it.

    Surprisingly, few places on the Palos Verdes Peninsula have a view of Catalina, and the restaurant named after that island isn’t one of them. Catalina Kitchen is angled so it has a view of Abalone Cove rather than the island, so you can’t see one from the other. But the dining experience more than compensates, offering attractively presented riffs on California cuisine with a few novel twists.

    Catalina Kitchen is on the pool level of Terranea Resort. Upon arrival, you’ll be offered a choice of dining indoors or out. We unhesitatingly chose outdoors despite the cool and were first offered an attractive table with cushioned benches on one side and chairs on the other. After we sat down, we discovered that the benches are several inches lower than the chairs. The people on benches found the table level awkwardly high. When we asked to move, our server indicated that this wasn’t the first time that happened. (Management should consider having additional firm cushions available to give a boost to those who prefer it.) We moved to a table with four chairs — much more comfortable.

    Although we were unfamiliar with the menu, the ocean view raised our expectations of seafood. Catalina Kitchen offers an impressive raw bar, chowder and seafood entrees. But the options are balanced with crepes, pastas, pizzas and meat items — basically, something for everybody.  It was difficult to choose, so we bought time by ordering a starter of fried deviled eggs and some cocktails to keep the body and soul together while we deliberated.

    Coating and frying the whites of hard boiled eggs before making deviled eggs is starting to catch on, and it’s more than a novelty. The crisp exterior adds a dash of style to what is usually a casual picnic item, an extra layer of texture to something that is otherwise all about cool creaminess. Each half-egg had a paper-thin slice of radish, a sliver of applewood bacon, a dusting of chives and sprigs of micro-greens to complete both the presentation and flavor. It was as stylish as it was delicious and a promising start to the meal.

    We considered ordering more starters but saw some substantial plates going to other tables, so we went straight to main courses. These were a steak salad, cavatelli pasta with eggplant, olives, chard,  ricotta and black cod in a miso glaze, and a half-chicken in what was described as a tomato-mustard crust. I ordered the chicken because I was curious about the idea of crusting anything with tomato, which can be very sweet when concentrated. In this case, the mustard counter-balanced it effectively, creating an appealing spicy-sweet combination. It’s a great trick and one I have never seen anywhere else. It arrived with garlic spinach and a parmesan potato gratin. It was an excellent full meal.

    Nothing was innovative about the miso-marinated cod, because that combination is already just about perfect. Yet, the accompaniments made the dish: a medley of English peas with bacon and sweet-and-sour pearl onions in tarragon butter sauce over Yukon gold mashed potatoes. The fish in the caramelized glaze and the earthy, smoky and slightly pickled flavors in the vegetables were perfect together.

    The other two dishes were more about execution than innovation. The steak salad was just what you’d expect: a good spring mix salad with marinated sliced steak on the side. You might not expect that the spring mix over a potato salad owes more than a bit of inspiration to German tradition. As for the pasta, the kitchen played it straight here. The cavatelli (pasta that has been compared to tiny hot dog buns) was in a light tomato herb sauce with Japanese eggplant, green olives and Swiss chard. Ricotta cheese was sprinkled on top. Parmesan and red pepper were offered on the side. I thought the dish was improved with a little of each since the ricotta didn’t have quite enough flavor to sustain my interest.

    We ordered a carafe of Villa Oneiro Chardonnay, made from grapes grown only about a mile from Terranea. It seemed like the best thing to do in a restaurant that emphasizes local ingredients, including sea salt gathered from the property. It was a fine wine made in a Greek style, a reminder that most of this area was once agricultural.

    We saved enough room for dessert, and ordered a caramel cheesecake, a crème brulée, a cookie and ice cream combination called “Heaven in a Box,” a chocolate budino and a classic crêpe Suzette.

    I’m not a big cheesecake fan, but this one was something special: the layer of cheesecake was topped by a layer of crème brulée — a neat idea. It was served with a berry compote that added a nice tart fruitiness. The crêpe Suzette was delicate and light, the chocolate budino was  a dense, rich pudding enlivened with a dash of caramel and sea salt and ornamented with very dark chocolate wafers. Heaven in a Box was huge and unbalanced in terms of flavors; the chocolate chip cookie was a bit too rich with the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla gelato. The combination might have been better with shortbread or an oatmeal cookie — something neutral to better complement each ice cream.

    Our meal for four, with four drinks and a small carafe of wine, ran $287, which is not out of line for the food, location and quality of the experience. Catalina Kitchen is good enough to flourish in any downtown location in the South Bay. That is the highest praise for a resort restaurant. They’re not just depending on the view to sell food; they’re delivering a world-class experience.

    Catalina Kitchen is at Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Valet, street parking and wheelchair access are available. The eatery includes a full bar as well as vegetarian and vegan items.

    Details: (310) 265-2836; terranea.com

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    Environmental Justice, Unions Intervene to Save Chemical Safety Rules

    • 04/20/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    LOS ANGELES — On April 10, three California environmental justice organizations and the United Steel Workers filed a motion to intervene in an industry lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. The interveners fear that in the drive to rollback the Barack Obama administration era protections, the Donald Trump administration’s Justice Department will do little to defend federal agency they’ve already vowed to drastically cut.

    The environmental justice interveners include California Communities Against Toxics, Clean Air Council, Coalition for a Safe Environment, Community In-Power & Development Association, Del Amo Action Committee, United Steel, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union and AFL/CIO among others.

    The lawsuit filed by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing the interest of American chemical companies, seeks a review of the EPA’s rule entitled “Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act.”

    This rule was the first major update to the prevention requirements of the EPA’s chemical Risk Management Program in more than 20 years, adding significant protections for vulnerable communities.

    On April 17, 2013, a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas destroyed homes and a school, killing 15 people including first responders. In response, the EPA developed important amendments to the safety rules for facilities that use or store large amounts of very dangerous chemicals that will help protect first responders and communities.

    Oral arguments for this suit as of the publishing of this story has not been set.

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  • Frank Stallone

    • 04/20/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Calendar
    • Comments are off

    ENTERTAINMENT

    April 22
    Frank Stallone
    Grammy and Golden Globe nominated artist Frank Stallone is one of the most versatile actors, singers and musicians in the business. His explosive voice and his range from comedy to drama and rock to blues to big band, leaves audiences entertained and captivated.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 22
    Cost: $28.50 to $60
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/lxbjpr8
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    April 22
    Jim Curry
    Jim and Anne Curry deliver the multi-platinum hits of the great John Denver in an evening full of familiar songs. You’ll be invited to sing along, share in the memories, learn new songs and howl at the moon.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 22
    Cost: $25 to $30
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    April 22
    L.A.vation
    Check out the world’s greatest tribute to U2.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 22
    Cost: $20
    Details: https://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    April 22
    Miki Aoki, Rolf Haas
    Classical Crossroads’ The Interludes concert series presents Beverly Hills National Auditions winners, pianist Miki Aoki and violinist Rolf Haas.
    Time: 3 p.m. April 22
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 316-5574; www.palosverdes.com/ClassicalCrossroads/TheInterludes.htm
    Venue: First Lutheran Church & School, 2900 W. Carson St., Torrance

    April 22
    Jim Curry
    Today’s top performer of John Denver’s vas legacy of multiplatinum hits will show of his talent.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 22
    Cost: $25 to $120
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    April2
    John Rzeznik
    John Rzeznik will be stopping by Fingerprints what he’s calling a “one-time only acoustic set.” It seems like we shouldn’t have to say much more about the Goo Goo Dolls, other than that they’re the Goos.
    Time: 7 p.m. April 22
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 433-4996
    Venue: Fingerprints, 420 E. 4th St., Long Beach

    April 23
    Love Stages
    Love Stages is a musical story of a woman’s journey through love with it’s highs and lows.
    Time: 4 p.m. April 23
    Cost: $25
    Details: https://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    April 29
    Doo Wop Legends
    Come out for a night of music with Doo Wop legends The Original Medallions singing their hits Magic Mountain and The Letter.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 29
    Cost: $30 to $40
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/Doo-Wop-Legends
    Venue: Marina Seafood Restaurant, 1050 Nagoya Way, San Pedro

    THEATER

    April 22
    The Promise
    Romeo and Juliet meets Puerto Rican black magic. In a Puerto Rican enclave in the United States, over-protective and superstitious Guzman finds out that his daughter has fallen in love with his rival’s son. Guzman formulates a treacherous scheme using black magic traditions from Puerto Rico to keep the young lovers apart. However, he quickly learns that his manipulation has led to consequences he never imagined.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 22, and 2 p.m. April 23
    Cost: $10 to $15
    Details: www.csudh.edu/theatre/tickets
    Venue: Edison Studio Theatre, California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    .

    April 22
    Uncanny Valley
    Drawing on current research in artificial intelligence and robotics, Uncanny Valley charts the relationship between Claire, a neuroscientist, and Julian, a non-biological human. As Julian is “born” a few body parts at a time over the course of the play, Claire teaches him how to be as human as possible. Uncanny Valley explores the painful divide between creator and creation, and how we are redefining what it means to be human in the 21st century.
    Time: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 7
    Cost: $25 to $35
    Details: http://ictlongbeach.org
    Venue: International City Theatre, 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach

    April 22
    Earth Tales
    Earth Tales, presented by We Tell Stories, will delight kids of all ages with its educational and entertaining stories. This one-hour show is free and open to all members of the community, but seats are limited, so reservations are required.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 22
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 495-4595; ict@ictlongbeach.org
    Venue: Beverly O’Neill Theatre, 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach

    April 23
    Nora
    Nora, the adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House shows a world where independence and feminism are outrageous ideas. The three-act play concludes with Nora, the protagonist, walking out on her husband and children to find herself.
    Time: 8 p.m. through April 23
    Cost: $14 to $17
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/mh3vm2e
    Venue: Cal State Long Beach, University Theatre, 1250 E. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach

    April 30
    Romeo and Juliet
    Elysium Conservatory Theatre opens in their new home with a fantastical reawakening of the greatest love story ever told, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Artistic Director Aaron Ganz has chosen to dive into the very essence of love — weaving stunning choreography, poetry and music into a theatrical adventure that pushes the very boundaries of possibility.
    Time: 8 p.m. through April 30
    Cost: $25
    Details: (424) 535-7333; info@fearlessartists.org
    Venue: Elysium Conservatory Theatre, 729 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro

    May 6
    Seaward Ho!
    Long Beach Playhouse presents Treasure Island, the beloved classic by Robert Louis Stevenson. For many of us, most of what we know about pirates, buried treasure and adventure came from Stevenson’s novel.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 6
    Cost: $14 to $24
    Details: (562) 494-1014
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    FILM

    April 23
    Hahn Sponsors Crows of the Desert for Armenian History Month

    On April 23, Supervisor Janice Hahn will partner with the LA Harbor International Film Festival to sponsor a special screening of the acclaimed film Crows of the Desert in honor of LA County Armenian History Month.  The screening will take place at San Pedro’s Warner Grand Theater.
    The film tells the true story of Levon Yotnakhparian’s struggle to survive and save others during the Armenian Genocide.   The film’s director, Marta Houske, and several of her colleagues credited in the film will be present for a conversation and Q-and-A after the screening.
    In March, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a motion offered by Supervisor Janice Hahn and Supervisor Kathryn Barger to name April Armenian History Month.  The screening also takes place on the eve of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
    “It has been our honor to create this documentary based on the heroic efforts of Levon Yotnakhparian, who saved thousands of innocent lives during the Armenian Genocide a century ago,” said film’s director Marta Houske.  “His bravery is an inspiration to all, and what we can aspire to do to help one another in times of strife, regardless of race, religion or creed.”
    Time:  4 p.m. April 23
    Cost: $8 to $10
    Details: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2928432
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    April 24
    Content
    Cal State Dominguez Hills’ annual senior design showcase and senior studio art exhibition features works of graduating seniors. An opening reception is scheduled 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 24.
    Time: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 24 through May 4
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 243-3334
    Venue: CSUDH, University Art Gallery, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    April 26
    Creative Expressions
    Creative Expressions, featuring glass artist Howard Schneider, local painter Kathie Reis and abstract artist Lois Olsen opens at the Artists’ Studio Gallery at the Promenade on the Peninsula.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, through April 16
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2592; www.artists-studio-pvac.com
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center/Beverly G. Alpay Center for Arts Education, at 5400 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    April 30
    Ann Weber, Sculpture
    TransVagrant and Gallery 478 present Ann Weber, Sculpture. Ann Weber’s organic sculpture is abstract, formally elegant, and composed of inelegant salvaged cardboard. Weber’s technique is disarmingly direct.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, through April 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 600-4873;  www.transvagrant.com
    Venue: Gallery 478, 478 W. 7th. St., San Pedro

    May 14
    Threesome
    The exhibition Threesome featuring multimedia artist Brian Bernhard, ceramic artist Nora Chen and mixed media and digital artist Miyuki Sena opens at the Artists’ Studio Gallery at the Promenade on the Peninsula. The exhibition continues until May 14.
    There will be an opening reception from 4 to 8 p.m. on April 8.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, through May 14
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2592; artists-studio-pvac.com
    Venue: Promenade on the Peninsula, 550 Deep Valley Drive, #159, Rolling Hills Estates

    May 20
    Artist/Mother
    Artist/Mother is a multi-media exhibition that presents the works of Calida Rawles and Mother Naturalist, Julia Barbee, Camilla Løhren Chmiel and Megan Schvaneveldt. These artists are confronted with the challenge: “What do my identities of both artist and mother mean for my practice?”
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. through May 20
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 429 0973; www.southbaycontemporary.org
    Venue: South Bay Contemporary at the Loft, 401 S. Mesa St., 3rd Floor, San Pedro

    May 21
    Dreamland
    The Museum of Latin American Art presents a retrospective of the work of one of the original Los Four founders, Frank Romero, in the exhibition titled Dreamland. Romero’s most iconic works — including his mural work, such as Driving to the Olympics on the Hollywood Freeway — address life in the barrios of Los Angeles.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, through May 21
    Cost: $7 to $10
    Details: (562) 437-1689; molaa.org
    Venue: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach

    COMMUNITY

    April 22
    The 12th Annual Freestyle Festival
    The Freestyle Festival 2017 will feature Naughty By Nature, Montel Jordan, Trinere, Debbie Deb, The English Beat, Stacey Q and Chubb Rock.
    Time: 3 p.m. April 22
    Cost: $15
    Details: http://queenmary.com
    Venue: Queen Mary Seawalk Pavilion, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

    April 22
    2017 Green Prize Festival

    The Green Prize Festival is a one-day event celebrating and highlighting more than 75 green entrepreneurs in building, renewable energy, urban farmers, chefs, technology and environmental organizations. There will be live entertainment, educational workshops, demonstrations and guest speakers. Entertainment lineup includes Vibrant Heights MBT (MajicBulletTheory), Sazon and Slushbox Longbeach.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 22
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.facebook.com/events/206863013119395
    Venue: Houghton Park, 6301 Myrtle Ave, Long Beach

    April 22
    Barns in Spring
    Come see the Rancho animals. Learn about their care and about each animal’s role on the ranch. Space is limited. Advance reservations are required.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 22
    Cost: $7
    Details: www.rancholosalamitos.com
    Venue: Rancho Alamitos Ranch, 6400 E. Bixby, Long Beach

    April 23
    Quartermania for Relay For Life
    This event is a mix between an auction and a raffle. Bust open that piggy bank and bring out those quarters because there will be tons of prizes. This will benefit the American Cancer Society.
    Time: 12:30 p.m. April 23
    Cost:  $7 to $15
    Details: (310) 920-0354, (310) 346-8968
    Venue: Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson St., Carson

    April 29
    IWW Joe Hill Memorial
    Joe Hill was convicted of murder in Utah in 1914 and was sentenced of death by firing squad. Many believed Hill was being railroaded for his association with the Industrial Workers of the World — otherwise known as the Wobblies. Join in the celebration honoring Hill and his life’s work in San Pedro. Speakers include local labor historian Art Almeida and Matt Hart of the Los Angeles General Membership Branch of the IWW. Musical guest includes the Moon Bandits.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 29
    Cost: Free
    Details: (323) 374-3499, www.iww.org/branches/US/CA/lagmb
    Venue: 5th Street at Harbor Boulevard, San Pedro

    April 29
    KJLH Women’s Health Expo
    Ladies!! This is a day of health information, free testing, fellowship and even healthy food. A live broadcast kicks off your day first thing in the morning with panel discussions from medical and health professionals from a variety of disciplines.
    Time: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://kjlhradio.com/kjlh-womens-health-expo
    Venue: Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach

    April 29
    This Fight Is Our Fight
    Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be reading from and discusses her new book This Fight Is Our Fight. Every ticket includes a pre-signed copy of the book; the program does not include a book signing.
    Time: 4 p.m. April 29
    Cost: $35
    Details: http://www.alextheatre.org/
    Venue: Alex Theatre, 216 N Brand Blvd, Glendale

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  • Neno’s Norooz is Pure Delight

    By Richard Foss, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    Although there’s no firm agreement about the healthiest diet, there is consensus that the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern traditions come pretty close. Both involve meals rich in olive oils, simply prepared vegetables, pasta, seafood and moderate amounts of grilled meats. The fact that Italians tend to live long despite consuming oceans of strong black coffee, lots of red wine and too many cigarettes has to prove something about what they eat.

    If you feel like performing an experiment to see which diet is better for you, Neno’s in Wilmington will be your laboratory. Neno’s was once a typical pizza joint, but in 2007 new owners added Persian food to the menu. In the process, they also remodeled the interior, which is decorated with enough elegance and taste to inspire other businesses in Wilmington. This is undoubtedly the prettiest and most upscale place in town, the date night spot for the heart of the harbor.

    I went there with my wife. She was attracted to the Italian side, while I was drawn to the Persian. She looked longingly at the pizzas but eventually decided on fried zucchini and fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp, while I was curious about a baked eggplant starter and decided to follow with a lamb shank accompanied by basmati rice with sour cherries and barberries.

    The first thing to arrive at the table was something we hadn’t ordered: thin lahvosh flatbread with raw onion and pats of butter. On the theory that things that arrive together probably should be eaten together, I started to butter my bread and put onion on it. Our server volunteered that the bread was intended to be eaten with the eggplant starter, the butter was for the rice, and Persians like to eat bits of raw onion to cleanse their taste buds between nibbles of lamb.

    The zucchini was exactly what we expected: spears of vegetable breaded with an herbed crumb batter and fried. It was made from fresh ingredients and crisp— a well executed classic. The eggplant item called kashkeh bademjan was more interesting but might not be for everybody because it has strong, albeit well-balanced, flavors. The eggplant was baked without being de-seeded, which gives it an intense vegetable flavor, then mashed and mixed with sautéed onions and herbs, topped with chopped mint and a type of thick yogurt called kashk or kashik. It’s not like the better-known Arabic baba ganoush, which has smoky flavors, tahini and garlic. This eggplant was modified by the sweet onion, olive oil and herbs with a little bright mint to round it out. I had to think about whether I liked it at first. The balance of flavors changed with every bite and I decided I did. We might have eaten it all except that we had seen plates at other tables and knew a lot more food was coming.

    When the main courses arrived, we realized immediately that a lot of food would be going home. The big bowl of pasta Alfredo had been offered with either chicken or shrimp, and there was a generous portion of seafood over the noodles in creamy sauce with little hints of red and black pepper. Sometimes Alfredo sauce tastes only of cream and a little cheese, but when it’s done right, there are hints of seasoning that elevate it. The pepper was on the assertive side for this sauce, but we completely approved.

    The lamb shank had plenty of tender meat and was fragrant from the herbed braising sauce; unusually, it was served on a separate plate rather than over the Persian style rice. The rich meat paired nicely with the tart barberries and sour cherries in the rice, so we combined the two thoroughly and enjoyed the mix. We also discovered the wisdom of having a bite of mild raw onion every once in awhile, as it rebooted our palates after the rich meat and let us taste everything as though it was the first bite. I didn’t think the rice needed the butter when it had that braising sauce, but would fit with something unsauced, like a kebab.

    Neno’s Norooz has a minimal beer and wine selection. We had glasses of Chardonnay and cabernet. They were standard low-end wines but drinkable; if you want to bring your own, corkage is only seven bucks.

    A few desserts are usually offered, including tiramisu and Persian sugared doughnuts, but on the day we went they had run out of the most interesting items. Since we were full and taking leftovers from both entrees and the starter, we didn’t really need it. Our lavish meal ran only $60, which was remarkable for both quality and quantity.

    Had we been dedicated scientists, we might have resolved to return on a regular basis with my wife always ordering Italian and me always ordering Persian, just to test the health effects. In practice, this would be futile, since we always share our meals and also couldn’t control for other factors like the fact that I drink many more cocktails than she does. I’d also want to try the fried chicken and other items, which would damage the predictability of the experiment. We’ll probably return regularly, anyway, just because we like the food, environment and cheerful service.

    Neno’s Norooz is at 910 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Wilmington. It is open daily at 10:45 a.m.; it closes at 9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It has a small lot or side street parking, wheelchair accessible and many vegetarian options.

    Details: (310) 834-5577; nenospizzawilmington.com

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  • Clinic Spells Community with a Capital W

    • 04/17/2017
    • Zamná Ávila
    • Feature, News
    • Comments are off

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Hilda Ávila (no relation to Random Lengths News Assistant Editor Zamná Ávila) arrived in the United States on vacation and fell in love. The object of her affection was an inconspicuous community in the heart of the Harbor Area: Wilmington.

    “I saw how the community does acts of goodness and I’ve seen change,” said Ávila in Spanish, referring to the grassroots community activism in the Los Angeles neighborhood.

    She found one such act of goodness when she was searching for a doctor to get a regular physical examination at the Wilmington Community Clinic.

    “I [now] have 15 years with the clinic [as a patient] and I haven’t changed [providers] for a reason,” Ávila said. “They make you feel as if you are family.”

    The clinic’s family has grown to serve several families throughout the years. This year marks Wilmington Community Clinic’s 40th anniversary.

    “It’s really a treasure in the community,” said Dr. Marco García, who practices family medicine at the clinic. “Some patients have been served for several generations…. We are really dedicated to Wilmington.”

    Dr. Xylina Bean and Rosa Montano founded the clinic on April 17, 1977, responding to maternal and pediatric health care needs in the community. The clinic first opened as a free clinic that helped about 3,500 patients per year. Since then, it has helped combat teen pregnancy, expanded pediatric programs through grant funding, offered educational parenting classes and provided lactation education. These days, the clinic also provides cancer and diabetes screenings.

    “What attracted me [to this job] is that it is an authentic community clinic and that it specifically aims to serve the underserved population — people without insurance or [who] can’t afford [to pay for a regular office visit somewhere else],” said García, who has been working at the clinic for three years. “The mission has remained the same for all those years that it has provided service to the community.”

    In 2016, the clinic provided services to 22,939 low-income and uninsured women, children and men.

    What Ávila appreciates the most is accessibility. Not only is the clinic open late and on Saturdays, but also the staff is very helpful, she said. Many of the patients are monolingual; they only speak Spanish.

    “The majority of the doctors are accessible and also, the work of the nurses can’t be minimized,” Ávila said. “If the doctor speaks only English, the nurses help with translating…. They not only have supported me with my medical issues, they’ve also given moral support.”

    It is with that understanding that García, whose family immigrated from Mexico when he was three years old, goes out of his way to treat each person with dignity and respect, “especially those below the poverty line.”

    In 2015, the clinic incorporated dental services with two part-time dentists and one part-time hygienist. Within the first seven months, 485 patients used the new services. The clinic is expanding those services to include four more dental chairs. This year, the clinic also is providing mental health services that include psychological counseling and coping-mechanism therapy.

    In 2012, the clinic became a federally qualified health center, which allowed it to expand services and qualify for some reimbursements. With the Donald Trump administration cutting services, there is general concern about the future of funding.

    “The question is whether we will have enough funding to maintain the doors open,” García said.

    But clinic officials believe the type of services the clinic provides will remain the same.

    “Providing integrated services is going to increase prospects for health for our patients,” Chief Financial Officer Jay Boyer said. “What is really important is that we diversify our streams of revenue.”

    One way to diversify is through grants and fundraising. This year, the clinic will celebrate its 40th milestone by hosting a fundraiser at Ports O’ Call Restaurant in San Pedro. The event, which includes a three-course meal for $75, will host about 200 people. It will include a silent auction and a raffle. Prizes include tickets to Disneyland, Universal Studios, a Dodgers game, an Angels game and to the Aquarium of the Pacific. There will be dinner vouchers as well.

    “The same people [who are part of the community] respond [to their call of duty] because they don’t want to be left without a clinic,” Ávila said. “It is the seal of Wilmington.”

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  • Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park Fights Entropy

    • 04/17/2017
    • Kym Cunningham
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Kym Cunningham, Contributing Writer

    Looking out over the green and blue expanse of Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, it is difficult to believe the transformation that has occurred since the groundbreaking ceremony three years ago.

    A shoreline covered in hazard-orange mesh nets to protect the adolescent plant life has replaced the jungle of invasive weeds, human refuse and toxic chemicals. Reggie, an alligator who eluded official capture for almost two years between 2005 and 2007, is nowhere in sight.

    Although backhoes and dirt plumes still mar the scenery, it is decidedly better than the motorcycles that used to crash, unimpeded by or unheeding of any apathetic government workers exiled to this wasteland.

    Scientist and conservationist Martin Byhower at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park. Photo by Terelle Jerricks.

    “It was Siberia as far as the city was concerned,” Martin Byhower said.

    A lifelong conservationist and scientist by trade, Byhower had been a staple at the park since 1984, when he first visited the area to watch the many species of birds that use the park as a migratory staging area. Home to the only natural lake in Southern Los Angeles County — Machado Lake, which itself spans 45 acres — the 290-acre park was one of the few wetlands these migratory birds could access.

    “The park is a world-class birding area,” Byhower said. “The historic birding list for Harbor Park is larger than any other place I know of in the state.”

    But when Byhower first visited the park in 1984, this migratory menagerie was not what he encountered at all. Instead, he found a smog-filled sky above a lake contaminated with DDT, chlorine compounds, and levels of heavy metal capable of harming any unwary swimmers. The land wasn’t any better. Aside from the trash freckling the landscape, the park had become a nexus for so-called criminal elements: homeless people, prostitutes and drug addicts congregated — and sometimes lived — within the confines of the park after having been excluded from modern society.

    “The park was kind of a microcosm for everything that could go wrong,” Byhower said.

     How Everything Went Wrong

    Byhower said that the park’s degradation stemmed from two different albeit entwined sources: the local lack of political advocacy and confusion between city and county jurisdictions.

    When Byhower began pulling for the park in the 1980s, he found that local community members — from areas like Watts, Wilmington and Harbor City — who wanted to restore the park were shut out of big city Los Angeles politics.

    “All of those areas were basically ignored,” Byhower said. “They had no political pull. They had no political advocacy.”

    And those who actually did have power in city and county government were loath to take responsibility for an area that might not be a part of their jurisdictions.

    “Whenever something was wrong, each side blamed the other,” Byhower said. “No one wanted to know

    . No one took responsibility.”

    But Byhower didn’t believe that the government’s refusal to accept responsibility was malicious; rather, he called this game of jurisdictional hot-potato something common in modern government: “benign neglect.” Byhower also attributed some of the responsibility for the truly atrocious state of the park — which once housed over 167 otherwise homeless occupants — to overall community neglect.

    “It was a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Byhower said. “If you don’t use it, it’s going to decay and then the people who come there are going to prevent people from using it.”

      Starting with Clean Water

    In 2004, Byhower succeeded in getting the Clean Water Bond, or Proposition O, passed, providing almost $130 million to restore the park.

    “Prop. O was supposed to support water quality, habitat and recreational activities,” said Byhower. “[It] was geared primarily at creating a sort of natural environment park. Other parks don’t even have the constraints of Prop. O.”

    To create this natural conservation area, Ken Malloy Park cannot have many of the other activities offered at parks unconstrained by Prop.O: pedal boats and the feeding of feral animals, including ducks, would force the local fauna from their natural breeding habitats.

    To accomplish this mammoth task, city workers wanted to ensure that the park’s design included measurements for water conservation. Within one year, staff members hope that the entire park will be irrigated using reclaimed water from Terminal Island.

    To monitor such activities  the old concessions building is being converted into an onsite ranger headquarters.

    Vacuum barges sucked up hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic sediment, replacing the lake’s benthic layer with gravel to foster a cleaner and more sustainable ecosystem. More than 400 trees were planted to improve the park’s air quality and visual aesthetics.

    After the heavy rains of this past winter, much of the area flooded. However, the storm drain system collected 25 tons of trash that would have otherwise polluted the newly cleaned lake water.

     Almost There

    On Jan. 30, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino announced that 90 percent of the park’s cleanup and restoration is complete. However, unpredicted rains and flooding delayed construction and maintenance activities. Workers estimate that the project will be finished in May or June of this year.

    It will be more than a year before water quality tests allow the California Fish and Wildlife Service to stock the lake with bass, trout and catfish. Fishing will be allowed only on designated piers, and a catch-and-release policy will be instituted to prevent disturbance of aquatic plants and wildlife.

    Kaiser-Permanente is allotting a $100,000 grant to subsidize a number of fitness and health programs intended to help improve the health of the surrounding community.

    To promote community involvement, Buscaino plans to re-establish the previously intermittent Park Advisory Board, although many are skeptical as to this committee’s effectiveness. In Byhower’s experience, the board resembled many, often contradictory, voices screaming at one another in an empty room.

    Similarly, many people still do not understand the limitations placed upon the park by Prop. O.

    “There are people who are misguided about what the programming should be for the park even at this point,” Byhower said. “I have a lot of trepidation about it.”

     How It Could Go Wrong (Again)

    Byhower’s trepidation stems from his experience with the Harbor City Greenway cleanup — a Prop. O project similar in restoration to although much smaller in scale than Ken Malloy Park.

    “[It] is turning out to be a real fiasco,” Byhower said.

    The Greenway’s problem originates from inattention to the importance of removing invasive plant species. During the restoration, workers planted local flora among the same invasive plant species that had killed it off before. Admitting ignorance, city officials claimed the Harbor City Greenway served as their ‘learning ground’ for Ken Malloy Park, admissions which make Byhower nervous for the future of Ken Malloy Park.

    “You still can’t get [Harbor City Greenway] right.” Byhower said. “What idea would we actually have that we’re going to get Harbor Park right?”

    Byhower also witnessed the same benign neglect after the Greenway cleanup that he cited as a cause of Ken Malloy Park’s degradation.

    “They build it and they go away and it falls into disrepair because nobody knows what to do,” Byhower said. “[Harbor City Greenway] is a mess and I don’t see a whole lot of movement to fix it, which makes me worried.”

    Byhower was also concerned with the fishing that will be offered at Ken Malloy Park.

    “Fishermen consistently leave fishing line and hooks and that kills the birds that nest there,” Byhower said.

    Byhower is still fighting Buscaino, among others, on the usage of pedal boats in the lake.

    “Because Joe wants to stay popular in the community … he keeps bringing it up as something that the community might want  there,” Byhower said. “If he’s going to bring things up, he has to bring things up that are feasible and that are allowable.”

    Homelessness has been another problem for Ken Malloy Park that many don’t view as having been solved. Thus far, the short-sighted and ineffective solution to remove the homeless has been to enforce curfews and ban overnight camping while clearing away any brush or overgrowth where individuals might hide. Short of providing them with free housing, little is to prevent individuals with no other place to turn from re-congregating in the newly restored park, a much more inviting place than, say, a highway underpass.

    More than anything, it seemed that Byhower wanted people to use the park, but with a conscious respect for the natural habitat. He spoke of the misconception associated with being an environmentalist.

    “There’s this belief that us tree-huggers are trying to tie up the resource and prevent others from using it,” said Byhower. “But how could anybody not be an environmentalist? For me, it’s logical because I’m a scientist…. It’s being a survivalist…. It’s being someone who wants to live on a healthy, sustainable earth.”

    Avoiding Entropy

    Byhower suggested that the park be subject to constant patrolling and maintenance of infrastructure by a mixture of civilians and government officials committed to the success of this park in relation to Prop. O. Byhower said that there needs to be a park staff to monitor the park’s attendees, programing, infrastructure and ecosystem.

    At the beginning of any new park or restoration project, the individuals hired to monitor parks are highly certified. However, they are also the first to go after budget cuts.

    “Because of the high turnover rate, there was no institutional memory,” Byhower said. “No one knew how to take care of things or solve problems that arose.”

    For Ken Malloy Park, Byhower only saw two potential outcomes: fostering the park into a flourishing environment or allowing it to dissolve into entropy.

    “Are they just going to go away and leave this project, or are they going to leave behind people who are going to monitor, clean up, enforce and educate,” Byhower asked. “If that stuff doesn’t happen, then it has all kind of been a waste.”

     What Ken Malloy Could Be

    But Byhower remained hopeful as to what Ken Malloy Park could look like, instead of what he was worried it might become.

    “There’s so many ways that the park can serve the community,” Byhower said.

    Byhower cited birding as a huge moneymaking venture in ecotourism. He also said that the park could provide a great opportunity for community members to become students of nature.

    “Of course, you’re never going to get a natural aquatic ecosystem back,” Byhower said. “It’s a storm drain and any time anybody dumps a critter down the toilet, it’s going to end up there.”

    But sometimes restoration is more about the environment’s health than its history.

    “The idea is that the water will be cleaner and purer and won’t support nearly as many [invasive species],” Byhower said. “It will be a different kind of ecosystem, hopefully, and it will support different species.”

    Byhower suggested that local government invest in a Friends of the Park organization, similar to the Friends of Madrona Marsh project.

    “That’s a huge and powerful organization that saves the city a lot of money,” Byhower said. “If the city just provided a little bit of funding to help it get started, they would probably get volunteers. Once people see what the park can be, they’re going to love it and they’re going to want to help it.”

    Byhower is still watching Councilman Buscaino, skeptical as to how closely the letter and spirit of Prop. O will be followed and for how long.

    “They’ve invested all this money in the park, you would think that they would take some pride in it,” Byhower said. “But it remains to be seen.”

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  • ROMEO AND JULIET @ Elysium Conservatory Theatre

    I was not looking forward to this play. I don’t love Shakespeare as I once did, and I never thought much of Romeo and Juliet. Yeah, he’s a genius, and admittedly R&J is a great cautionary tale about the dangers of being swept away by immature passions. But three problems: 1) most productions of R&J totally miss or ignore that angle, so we never see its cleverest side; 2) most Shakespeare is conceived/performed poorly, period; and 3) I’ve read/seen R&J way more than I needed to for one lifetime.

    But there I was, in the lush confines of the Elysium Conservatory Theatre lobby, getting right back on that horse. Shortly after 8 p.m. the audience was marched down to a cavernous, dimly lit stage space where two kids that obviously had to be our star-crossed lovers (no spoiler alert needed for R&J, right?) on a wheeled bier, locked in an eternal embrace. Cue the prologue: “Two households, both alike in dignity, / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,” blah blah blah.

    But a funny thing happened on the way to arriving at the familiar, predetermined destination: I got there by a route I’d never traveled, full of moody music and manic movement, a journey where Shakespeare’s text is merely a means to a visceral end.

    This last point will not endear director Aaron Ganz to Shakespeare purists. Huge chunks of text are tossed out, while others are transported across state lines. Some plot strands are only partially cut away, leaving confusing loose ends. (Character doubling and conflation is a downright mess in the play’s final scenes.) The acoustics—fantastic for certain things—swallow up entire passages. Long stretches pass with no Shakespeare at all, the Bard held in abeyance while Top 40 hits of the 2000s, mood music (a lot of Act 1 sounds scored by Sigur Røs lite), and a cappella takes of Bette Midler’s “The Rose” (fairly gorgeous takes, it should be said) fill the time.

    Be a little flexible, though, and you won’t really mind. For a Shakespeare play, R&J would be pretty easy to follow even if you didn’t already know what was going on. But what Ganz really wants to get across is feeling—the characters’ lust and frustration, their anger and confusion, their dread and hope. Music reverberates and echoes, with singers beside and behind you. Lighting (particularly effective after intermission) modulates both subtly and dramatically, illuminating you where you sit and throwing misty blue shadows against the distant back wall, volcanic red up the sides. Action happens a great distance and within a couple of feet of your face (not even counting the point at the party where you’re on the dance floor with everyone else). Bodies run and contort and thrash about.

    Those bodies—the cast—are the main vessels of feeling. Never have I seen a Shakespeare production where pure movement is more essential. Elysium ain’t Cirque de Soleil, but they’re not trying to be. What they do is fairly simple and not always graceful, but always, always, always energetic. At their disposal they’ve got god knows how much square footage to play with, and the play with all of it, vigorously, both physically and emotionally. There’s a lot of running, a lot of yelling and crying out, a lot of contact, a lot of style. The Tybalt-Mercutio duel starts with a wonderful tableau and contains some of the best stage combat I’ve seen. Somewhere there’s a slap that was either the best stage slap in the history of drama or simply a real-life, capillary-breaking smack in the face. Somewhere else there’s a punching of the cement floor that I can only hope didn’t result in a broken hand. This cast ain’t fucking around. This is live live theatre, friends.

    Romeo and Juliet is the inaugural Elysium production in the building that until late 2012 was San Pedro’s landmark Ante’s Restaurant (hence the slightly confusing street sign out front saying you’re on Ante Perkov Way). I get the sense that Elysium is just getting their feet under them. But they’re hitting the ground running. This is not the best production you’ll see from Elysium, but it’s a take on Shakespeare you haven’t seen, and it’s a show that you’ll feel.

    ROMEO AND JULIET ELYSIUM CONSERVATORY THEATRE • 729 S PALOS VERDES ST • SAN PEDRO 90731 • 424.535.7333 • FEARLESSARTISTS.ORG • FRI-SAT 8PM; SUN 7PM • $10–$25 • THROUGH APRIL 30

    (Photo credit: Louella Boquiren)

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  • South Bay Rises Against the Fossil Fuel Status Quo

    • 04/13/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Christian L. Guzman, Community Reporter

    The Donald Trump administration may be committed to rolling back regulations that protect the environment, but Harbor Area and South Bay residents are ready to fight. The action at the South Coast Air Quality Management District meeting on April 1 regarding the PBF Energy Refinery in Torrance, is just the latest example.

    About 50 of the 300 people in the room resolutely waved “Ban Toxic MFH” signs whenever MHF was mentioned by the board or speakers.

    This meeting took place partly as a result of Torrance residents that became active following the former Exxon Mobil refinery explosion two years before PBF Energy took it over. In February, about 100 people marched in the rain to protest the refinery’s continued use of the alkylation catalyst, modified hydrofluoric acid or MHF. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and PBF Energy gave reports at the hearing. The main topics were the refinery’s MHF, and public opinion on the chemical.

    Speakers explained that in 2015, shrapnel from the explosion nearly pierced a tank containing MHF; a rupture or explosion of the tank would have released gaseous MHF that could have affected 30,000 people.

    “MHF not only burns because it is an acid, it is a systematic poison,” said Sally Hayati, panelist at the hearing and president of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance.

    Fluoride ions from hydrofluoric acid easily absorb into human skin. They then bond with calcium in human bodies, making it unavailable; without calcium, cardiac arrest can result. Lungs can also fill with blood and water.

    Laboratory scientists consider hydrofluoric acid to be one of the most dangerous chemicals to handle. Using EPA guidelines, Hayati and a team of other scientists determined that the worst case scenario from an MHF release would be lethal exposure.

    Since the explosion two years ago, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance has informed the community of MHF’s potential danger as a refinery catalyst. Their campaign has been successful, prompting government officials to respond to the will of the people.

    “My No. 1 priority is to make the people safer,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who represents Torrance. “I have introduced a plan to the Assembly to not just make [the PBF refinery] safer but all refineries. That includes a ban on MHF.”

    Muratsuchi’s plan consists of five Assembly bills: AB 1645, AB 1646, AB 1647, AB 1648 and AB 1649. In addition to banning MHF, the other bills would call for real time air quality monitoring, a community alert system, more refinery inspectors and codification of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Interagency Refinery Task Force.

    Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who was also present at the SCAQMD hearing, supports Muratsuchi’s bills.

    “This is personal for me … it involves the safety of my constituents,” said Hahn. “It’s a common sense plan.”

    Elected officials from Torrance, including the mayor, were in attendance as well. On March 28, the city council voted against a phase out of MHF. However, Mayor Patrick Furey told SCAQMD board members and the audience about two resolutions the council adopted. One encourages the refinery to adopt safety measures. The other supports regulations that include a safer catalyst than MHF.

    Safer catalysts include sulfuric acid and solid acid.  Laki Tisopulos, an engineer with the SCAQMD, and Glyn Jenkins, a consultant with Bastleford Engineering and Consultancy, discussed each catalyst and its potential to replace MHF.

    They said that sulfuric acid has been used instead of MHF to refine fossil fuels for decades. Out of the 18 refineries in the state of California, 16 use sulfuric acid. Converting the PBF refinery would cost between $100 million and $200 million.

    Solid acid technology is newer. But Jenkins said that there is a refinery in the United Kingdom that successfully refines fossil fuels with it. The same refinery switched away from MHF because it was considered too risky. Like the name suggests, the solid acid process uses a solid catalyst. No acid clouds would result from an explosion, making it safer than either the gaseous MHF or sulfuric acid.

    Tisopulos estimated that converting the PBF refinery to use solid acid would cost $120 million initially. Additional costs would come whenever the catalyst had to be replaced.

    PBF Energy has not embraced the idea of switching catalysts. In an advertisement in the Daily Breeze, the company stated, “We are confident that the many layers of protection, mitigation steps, and safety systems we have in place allow us to operate the MHF Alkylation Unit safely…”

    Their own estimate for converting to another catalyst was around $500 million.

    “The discourse [between PBF Energy and the community] has been if the chemical is changed, we lose jobs,” Torrance Councilman Tim Goodrich said.

    Fearing any potential job loss, various refinery workers and union members stood up during the hearing’s public comment section and said that they support the status quo. They feel the refinery is safe enough and that the explosion this past year was a fluke.

    “…[T]here is no reason why MHF can’t be phased out while jobs are protected,” Hahn responded. “I believe the switch will accelerate newer and safer alternatives, innovation,  and lead to better jobs.”

    Muratsuchi agreed. He said he doesn’t want to see the refinery shut down, but it should be safer.

    In November 2016, the EPA inspected the safety of the PBF Energy refinery.

    “They were not following their own safety procedures,” said Dan Meer, assistant director of the Superfund Division of the EPA.

    The EPA released a preliminary report on the inspection in March.

    “There are issues the refinery needs to address,” Meer said. “If I had to a rate the current risk, with 10 being an emergency situation, [PBF] would be somewhere between a 5 and 7.”

    Meer went on to explain that PBF did not have permits to store certain chemicals it has on site. Management is also not effectively communicating with workers, which could be dangerous in an emergency situation. PBF has until the end of April to respond to the EPA and make changes. Otherwise, the EPA will take administrative and legal action.

    “This is an urgent public safety risk,” Hayati said. “The refinery should not be in operation at least until the EPA verifies that procedures are being followed.”

    Although the local United Steelworkers don’t want to change the catalyst, the steelworkers at the international level feel differently. A study completed by United Steelworkers found 131 HF releases or near misses and hundreds of refinery violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules.

    “The industry has the technology and expertise [to eliminate MHF and HF],” the report stated. “It certainly has the money. It lacks only the will.  And, if it cannot find the will voluntarily, it must be forced by government action.”

    Los Angeles Harbor

    The SCAQMD has plans to release an environmental impact report on the Tesoro Corporation’s desire to combine its Wilmington refinery with the former British Petroleum refinery in Carson. Environmental organizations view the report as flawed and will call attention to Tesoro’s plans at the Los Angeles People’s Climate March on April 29.

    In 2012, Tesoro purchased the refinery in Carson. Tesoro’s expansion into that site would include adding storage tanks to hold 3.4 million barrels of oil.

    Communities for a Better Environment and other climate advocates oppose the expansion. But the focus of the march will be to inform the people about Tesoro’s lack of accuracy and transparency in detailing the project’s impacts to the SCAQMD.

    “Tesoro has said that this project is going to reduce emissions and will be ‘cleaner,’ but they admitted to their investors that they are switching to a dirtier crude,” said Alicia Rivera, a community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

    In a presentation to investors, Tesoro called the type of crude oil, “advantaged crude.” The advantage is that it is cheaper than standard crude. The new type of crude will originate from the Canadian Tar Sands and the Midwest’s Bakken Formation. (About 75 percent will come from North Dakota and 25 percent will come from Canada.)

    “These fuels have different characteristics than what Tesoro is refining [in Wilmington] now,” said Julie May, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “They behave more like gasoline. They contain more benzene, which is a volatile organic compound that causes leukemia.”

    The draft environmental impact report that Tesoro submitted to the SCAQMD does not clearly mention a crude oil switch. In a comment letter to the SCAQMD, May explained that this failure does not meet the California Environmental Air Quality Act’s project description requirements. Consequently, no one can properly analyze the switches’ impacts, environmental effects and risks to community and worker health and safety.

    Another major reason Communities for a Better Environment wants to march against Tesoro is the corporation’s failure to properly evaluate the scope of the project. If the environmental impact report is approved, the refinery will receive fuel via ships traveling from Vancouver, Wash. Vancouver is the site of a rail-to-oil tanker terminal in which Tesoro and Savage Energy invested.

    “That [terminal] is the bridge to bring dirty crudes from North Dakota and Canada,” Rivera said. “We call the rail cars that transport the fuel ‘bomb trains’ because some have derailed and exploded.”

    Refineries and projects like this undoubtedly have an impact on Harbor Area residents. The challenge now for Communities for a Better Environment is getting residents to come out to the march. Rivera and other Communities for a Better Environment members acknowledged that many of residents are immigrants or working class people; for them, climate change is not always a tangible concept nor an immediate concern.

    But Communities for a Better Environment is determined.

    “We have youth members going to elementary and middle schools and colleges,” Rivera said. “We are pamphleting markets and Catholic churches. When we inform [people] about this project, they want the expansion to stop.”

    On the day of the march, Communities for a Better Environment will circulate a petition to marchers.  Its purpose is to pressure the SCAQMD to take Tesoro’s EIR back to a draft stage. Then it can properly detail the project and allow for public input.

    The SCAQMD has the authority to finalize the EIR before the march. But that won’t stop Communities for a Better Environment from trying to get the community engaged.

    “We need to bring attention to local industries trying to expand in a time when they should be cutting down their emissions,” Rivera said. “Tesoro’s Los Angeles refinery is the highest greenhouse polluter in the state. If the project goes forward, it will be the largest refinery on the West Coast.”

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  • The Town Hall Affair Debates Culture Wars

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    The Wooster Group’s The Town Hall Affair, based on the 1979 documentary, Town Bloody Hall plunges its audience into the women’s liberation movement of the early 1970s. The REDCAT Theater presented the play, capping Women’s History month.

    The play opens with a first-person account from the perspective of Jill Johnston, a panelist who was also a dance critic at the Village Voice (cofounded by Norman Mailer). She explains why she participated in the debate.

    The play that depicts the film as the world’s first reality television show set in a loosely structured space with known antagonists and provocateurs as they broadly engage in conversation about sex and women’s liberation. All of it was moderated by Trump-like public intellectual Norman Mailer.

    Germaine Greer, left, and Norman Mailer in “Town Bloody Hall.” Credit Pennebaker/Hegedus Films

    The Town Bloody Hall is set in the wake of Kate Millett’s feminist exposition, Sexual Politics, which was published in1970.

    In Sexual Politics, Millett argues that “sex has a frequently neglected political aspect” and she goes on to discuss the role that patriarchy plays in sexual relations. She particularly takes shots at the works of D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and Norman Mailer. She called Mailer “a prisoner of the virility cult.”

    Mailer publishes Prisoner of Sex as a retort to Millett and a defense for himself, Miller and Lawrence. This is the crucible that made possible the 1971 panel debate.

    Somewhere along the line, someone (likely Mailer) thought that this battle of the sexes that was taking place in the world of ideas might make for a lively panel discussion. The film received critical acclaim when it was released several years later. The place the film holds as an influence in activist and liberation circles bears this assessment out.

    “(This) could be a disaster for women and a minor triumph for me,” Johnston said. “I’m not sure I want to further acknowledge Mailer by promoting his sport … women’s liberation as a debatable issue. It has the pretense of a trial.”

    Millet refused to debate Mailer. So did radical feminists, Ti-Grace Atkinson and Gloria Steinem.

    Johnston probably had similar thoughts, but she ultimately joined literary critic Diana Trilling, author Germaine Greer, Village Voice columnist Jill Johnston, president of The National Organization of Women  Jacqueline Ceballos, and Norman Mailer. The three hour event was sponsored by the Theatre for Ideas, a series of events which hailed as the forum for New York’s intellectual elite which Mailer moderated. Greer referred to it as an idea founded on privilege.

    Johnston promoted the idea of “lesbian feminism,” which consists of understanding womanhood as perpetual lesbianism. Johnston argued liberation follows the ability of women to love themselves and from that position, practice self-determination. This makes them lesbians.

    Trilling focused on the intersections of gender and sexuality, arguing that women’s sexuality is consistently repressed and that sexual liberation, regardless of orientation, is required for women to be liberated from social norms.

    Ceballos focused primarily on second wave feminism, without any intersectional approach.

    Greer deconstructed gender roles and argued that women should strive to free womanhood, rather than for women to strive to become equal to men.

    It’s been said that Mailer was adept at identifying social and political phenomena but struggled to describe the experiences of women, African Americans, and other groups in his works without typecasting them from his own experiences.

    This particular attribute of Mailer’s combined with the explosive emergence of the women’s liberation movement in all of its diversity, served as a perfect foil for the drama that played out during that three hour panel discussion.

    “Are we good debaters? Do we hear each other?” is what the play ultimately asks its audience.

    In this reality show of sorts, Mailer provoked feminists with his responses to the panel’s’ opinions. He claimed more than once that they had misunderstood his writings.

    When Johnston launched into a stream of conscious monologue during her allotted time to speak and declared that “all women are lesbians except those who don’t know it naturally,” Mailer interrupted and cut her off. He took an audience vote to see if anyone wanted her to continue. In response, two women suddenly ran onto the stage and began cavorting, rolling, kissing and groping in a display of sexual affection with Johnston.

    Mailer frequently offered soundbite descriptions on panelists’ philosophies and positions. He called Greer’s exposition of a feminist revolution, “Diaper Marxism.”

    When Trilling noted that nothing in the recent sexual culture has been more justifiably attacked than the idea of a single definition “normal” sexual desire or response, Mailer called it “left-wing totalitarianism.”

    Wooster’s Town Hall Affair provides a striking addition to the dialogue by making the footage of the original panel debate part of the play. As each actor approached the podium to speak— reciting highlights of the panelists’ speeches. They spoke in unison with the panelists in the film — every pause, stumble and laugh. Their voices, as well as the panelists in the film, were simultaneously audible. The skill in doing this accurately and emotively was remarkable. And it worked well leaving the unsettling effect that we still haven’t progressed.

    LeCompte noted that while these people could debate in public and make loud coherent responses, they were all intellects from the same race and class. Reality shows and social media have now opened the “debate” setting for all races and classes to talk.

     

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