• CA$H Rules in Harbor City: How Persistence Pays Off

    • 07/15/2019
    • RL Intern
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Steven Guzman, Editorial Intern

    If the grand opening of a new skate park in Harbor City proves anything, it’s that persistence pays off and that anyone, at any age, can directly impact their community.

    “Age is nothing but a number,” Richard “Richie” Ortiz said. “It just depends on your persistence.”

    Ortiz is a member of the CA$H Skate Crew, a group of Harbor City youth skaters who led the effort to build a skate park in its community.

    “As long as you stay persistent and you really stay consistent to achieve what you’ve got to achieve, nobody can deny you,” Ortiz said.

    The idea for the skate park began germinating in the minds of these young adults while they were still in middle school.

    “It’s been an idea for the longest,” Emilio Otero Jr. said.

    Otero, 19, is one of the youngest members of the Harbor City Neighborhood Council.

    “When we were young we were doing it; going to these meetings, [but] nothing was being done, you know?” Otero said.

    As children, Ortiz, Otero and their friends would attend the Harbor City Neighborhood Council meetings religiously. They made direct requests for a skate park from their neighborhood council representatives. They created petitions, walked their neighborhoods and knocked on doors collecting signatures for a skate park, trying to convince anyone who would listen.

    “When we were young we wanted it to be for ourselves, as little kids,” Ortiz said. “But [eventually,] we kinda look[ed] at it as, ‘This isn’t just for us; this is for our futures; this is for our community and with this skate park we can save a lot of lives.’”

    However, their initial attempts to drum up support for a skatepark within city government failed. Their voices were disregarded or brushed aside.

    “When you’re doing something as little kids, do you really expect someone of a high stature to really believe you or take you seriously?” Ortiz said. “They kinda push you off like, ‘Sure kid it’ll happen.’”

    Nothing happened for six or seven years, but when Otero graduated from Sunburst Youth Academy, he was still itching to make his dream a reality.

    “So, I got out of Sunburst and was like, ‘Fuck it, let’s do this again,’” Otero said. “I got all my friends together and we went out to the [neighborhood council] meeting and spoke up.”

    It was at this meeting that they finally got the break they had needed. Tim Tucker and Howard Scott Jr., cofounder of the City Lights Gateway Foundation and respected music producer, happened to be in attendance.

    “Mr. Scott was there…,” Otero said. “Later on … we were all outside that day chilling, skating, and then Howard Scott and Tim Tucker, they come up to us and they asked us, ‘You all really want a skate park?’ We tell them, ‘Yes, we do.’ [They’re] like, ‘Alright, it’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to do this.’”

    From that moment on, the CA$H Skate Crew’s dream of a skate park in their community steamrolled. With help from Scott, Tucker and the City Lights Gateway Foundation, the city found money within its budget for the construction of the project. The total estimate for the construction of the skate park was around $650,000 and it would be designed, not by a third party, but by the CA$H skate crew itself. In total, $700,000 was available — $300,000 from the city, as well as from Quimby Act funds  set aside for local park and recreation purposes. The final  $400,000 was donated anonymously.

    For Scott, who was born and reared in Harbor City, this was the exact opportunity he was looking for to give back to the community that saw him grow.

    “I was looking for the same thing for young kids that the longshoremen Local 13 did for older guys in the community [who] didn’t get along,” Scott said. “They hated each other back in the day. But then they became longshoremen. How did all of that anger eradicate? What I found out was that it was more important for them to take care of their families and make money, and be part of Local 13, as opposed to be(ing) part of local bullshit.

    “What we were looking for is the same thing with these young kids, to find them a Local 13, something that they were unified in, [where] it didn’t matter where they were from [and] that it would allow them to be ambassadors for the youth in that way…. Skating just happened to be their Local 13.”

    During the time Scott and Tucker spent alongside the CA$H skate crew, Otero and another member, Armando Micro II, heard as an off-hand comment from their mentors that the Harbor City Neighborhood Council was about to have its elections and that seats would be open. From there, as Otero succinctly puts it, “We nominated ourselves for election.”

    Not only did Otero and Micro run for the Harbor City Neighborhood Council, but they won. “We got over 200 votes,” Otero said. “For me and Mando, from a lot of people … everyone knew what we were doing. They were so psyched that we were actually doing it because of how young we are.”

    “We were thinking about it,

    how we wanted to have a say about what happens in our city,” Micro said. “It’s what we’ve been wanting for so long and now we had a chance to be able to do that. So, we took advantage of that.”

    On June 21, Los Angeles District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks joined Scott, Tucker and the CA$H Skate Crew at the grand opening of their dream skate park. During the celebration, Otero made a short speech in which he brought up the entire CA$H Skate Crew to bask in their achievement.

    “What we’re doing is a reconstruction of the whole mindset of this youth base, if they’re out here doing positive things like this and nobody is dying, then our mission is complete, Tucker said.

    Otero and Micro both run the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness and the Youth Committee.  The CA$H Skate Crew is looking to build on its momentum. If you ask them why they do what they do for their community they’ll probably tell you it’s all about what CA$H stands for: “Cuz All Skaters Hustle.”

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  • When Your “Little Mermaid” Has a Perfect Lead and Imperfect Staging

    By Greggory Moore, Curtain Call columnist

    My only experience with The Little Mermaid, the film that launched Disney’s second wave of animated classics, is a Moonlight Movies on the Beach screening last summer, so clearly the complaints you’re about to read are not those of a purist. I don’t care what skin or hair color Ariel has. I don’t know what Ursula is supposed to look like. I can’t even tell you which songs are original to the stage adaptation.

    I can, however, see and hear when something doesn’t work on its own merits. So although Musical Theatre West serves up a serviceable show overall, obvious shortcomings leave me feeling this Little Mermaid is less than she might be.

    But let’s be clear right off: Katharine McDonough is a perfect Ariel. Perfect. With seeming effortlessness, McDonough makes every note her own, milking every expressive possibility from her songs, with even her quietest and most subtle inflections cutting clearly through the mix. Her acting is equally good, extracting all the humor and pathos there is to get from what is (let’s face it) not the deepest of scripts. And since people buy tickets to The Little Mermaid not for depth but a good Ariel and a lot of spectacle, you’re going to come away from this show at least half-satisfied.

    More than half, actually. There’s certainly more than McDonough to like. As Ursula, via sheer force of personality Cynthia Ferrer finds more humor than there is on the page. Meanwhile, as her minions Flotsam and Jetsam, Jacob Hoff’s and Matt Braver’s voices are wonderfully intertwined during “Sweet Child”. There are also a few idiosyncratic details that make for hilarity, such as a radio-controlled crab car and a queer candidate for Prince Eric’s (David Burnham) hand. 

    Several possibilities, however, feel less than fully realized, as if Musical Theatre West ran out of time or money to get them right. A strangely disappointing moment comes in Ariel’s secret grotto. After a big build-up, an enraged King Triton (Marc Cedric Smith) points his trident at her heap of human whatsits and thingamabobs, and…well, there’s a bit of steam, and a couple of gadgets and gizmos from the top shift downward about three feet. That’s it. It’s ridiculous to have Ariel lamenting the complete destruction of her collection when it’s sitting right there in plain sight, little altered for all her dad’s sound and fury.

    Too often there isn’t enough flash. Daniel Smith choreography for “Daddy’s Little Angel” our introduction to Ursula, Flotsam, and Jetsam seems to designed to draw attention to just how empty the stage is at this point. “Under the Sea” has a different problem. This is clearly one of The Little Mermaid‘s biggest moments, but rather than pull out all the stops, Smith and director Danny Pelzig make the curious choice not to have any of the number’s many dancers take to the air (as Ariel and other characters do elsewhere whether flying or swimmingto fine effect).

    Musically, Musical Theatre West gets it mostly right. For every weakness (sometimes Burnham’s singing is less than inspired; the counterpoint of “If Only (Quartet)” starts off shaky) there is strength (Flounder (Connor Marsh) and the six mersisters make harmonic magic during the last half of “She’s in Love”), even though compositionally The Little Mermaid suffers from a condition plaguing most musicals: having one or two songs that make the rest seem pedestrian by comparison. In A Chorus Line it’s “What I Did for Love”. In Guys & Dolls, it’s “Luck Be a Lady”. Here it’s “Part of Your World” (“Under the Sea” is a close second). Fortunately, McDonough gets to sing it, and as with everything she touches, it’s golden.

    Yes, this Little Mermaid could be better. If you’re a fan, though, you’re not going to come away from this production unsatisfied. This Ariel is just too good. 

    The Little Mermaid at Musical Theatre West
    Times: Fri–Sat 8 p.m. + Sat. 2 p.m., Sun 1 p.m. & 6 p.m. + July 25 at 8 p.m.
    The show runs through July 28
    Cost: $20-$92
    Details: (562) 856-1999 ext. 4, musical.org
    Venue: Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach

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  • Random Letters 7-11-19 — This Land is Our Land; RE: Robots, tech & automation; Stone Wall Inn; On Increasing Homelessness; When the Big One Strikes

    • 07/12/2019
    • Reporters Desk
    • Letters
    • Comments are off

    This Land is Our Land

    No more accurate lyrics have been made — “This Land is Our Land” as it applies to the sidewalks surrounding the Post Office. More than four-and-a-half-years of occupation and its is clear the sidewalk belongs to the Urban Squatters; it is their land. Why is this the case? Could it be the Council Office is pleased to have so many of San Pedro’s “homeless” gathered all in one place? Could it be this is where the Urban Squatters are easily serviced with food, clothing and drugs? Regardless of the reason, it is clear these sidewalks are their land and this is the new normal; evidently accept it and move on.

    Today’s photo is much like the many taken over the past months with the Tent up (should be down), sidewalk not passable and filled with crap. This sidewalk is our sidewalk, from Beacon Street to 9th  Street, from Palos Verdes to 8th streets, to Tent Park, this sidewalk belongs to the Urban Squatters.

    Bob Nizich, San Pedro

    Dear Mr. Nizich,

    I noticed your misinter-pretation of the Woody Guthrie song This Land Is Your Land recently.

    This folk song is considered by many as the “people’s national anthem”  but the verses not commonly sung in elementary schools all across America are as follows;

    As I went walking,

    I saw a sign there

    And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

    But on the other side,

    it didn’t say nothing,

    That side was

    made for you and me.

    In the shadow of the steeple,

    I saw my people,

    By the relief office I seen my people;

    As they stood there hungry,

    I stood there asking,

    ‘Is this land

    made for you and me?’

    The question this song asks by extension is, “Who does the sidewalk around the U.S. Post Office belong to?”

    And the answer is it belongs to all of us, including the homeless, it’s just that you and I are not in need of a place to camp out because we are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads.

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    RE: Robots, Technology and Automation

    The issue of robotics, AQMD Regulations, and efficiency at Pier 400 is only the most recent and public excuse for attacking working people, their union voice, our collective communities and economies. Who will have jobs to purchase the goods imported to, or made in the USA?

    The daily news reports that “we” have full employment in the USA today. Not true.

    Many people in So Cal are working two or three jobs to pay rent.

    Management at Pier 400 blame the ILWU for their plan to automate. Another “Red Herring.” The words “automate” or “robotics” don’t identify the type of automation intended.

    Automation, robots, can and must serve humans, not replace humans. If so designed.

    Twenty five years ago, our communities were filled with people who made things, contributed by their labor and their ability to purchase commodities, take care of their families and extended families and give back to others. Today, L.A. county has only identified 60,000 homeless — an understated quota of the devastation of the previously employed workforce that produced tens of thousands of products

    Hopefully, the decision makers will realize before too late, the wrong decision will leave the mess to all our children to survive. They must have integrity and the courage to stand with working people and our communities, before they declare they don’t know what happened.

    What will be next? What company will automate and say they can’t compete with Pier 400? Then what?

    Luisa Gratz, Local 26 ILWU, Los Angeles

    Stone Wall Inn

    Fifty years ago, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, a motley multitude of queer folks fought back. The stage was the Stonewall Inn, a popular Mafia-owned gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City’s West Village. The spectacle was a police raid, which had become an increasingly routine fact of queer life during the 1960s. It was summer, people were hot, and the nation was pulsing with protest.

    Stonewall was hardly the first confrontation between state authority and gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer citizens. In many ways, however, it was the most spectacular and sustained. Though the foundations of what would become the LGBTQ movement were built during the decades preceding those fateful nights, Stonewall was an unmistakably radical moment, one that helped to unleash a fabulous new ferocity.

    Anniversaries are occasions for remembrance, even pride and celebration, but they should also be moments of reckoning, which offer us the opportunity to reflect critically on where we come from, where we are, and where we go from here. To help us reckon with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, The Nation invited a remarkable group of LGBTQ activists, artists, and academics to reflect on its many legacies.

    I encourage you to take the time to read through our forum, “Reclaiming Stonewall.” Ranging in age from 23 to 88 years old, the participants represent the stunning diversity of our community across generations. Combining the personal and the political, this collection of living queer histories is something of an archive of our moment, when many of us are grappling with what might be called the paradox of progress: the coexistence of important changes — in courtrooms and legislatures, hearts and minds — with seemingly intractable challenges.

    As we reckon with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, let us heed all these voices and ask, “What still needs to be done?” If the legacy and inheritance of Stonewall mean anything, it’s that our fight is far from over and that our collective struggle for liberation — for everyone — must continue.

    Timothy Patrick McCarthy

    Guest editor, “Reclaiming Stonewall,” and author of the forthcoming book, Stonewall’s Children: Living Queer History in an Age of Liberation, Loss, and Love (The New Press).

    On Increasing Homelessness

    Random Lengths’ excellent June 13 articles “Homeless Count Up By 45 Percent” and “Homeless on the Corner of 9th and Beacon Streets” paint a dire picture of our housing crisis but a clear example of the government intentional fiscal mismanagement. Billions of dollars came from Props 1 and 2, but Mayor Garcetti and others say that is not enough and they want $13 billion more. That’s government for you. Garcetti said we should build 15 percent affordable housing and 85 percent market rate housing. I feel the goal should be reversed to 85 percent new affordable housing (includes middle class incomes) with a 15 percent new market rate luxury housing.

    Reminds me of that movie the “War of the Worlds” where the towering monster machines destroyed whole populations, polluted the atmosphere, demolished buildings. We have created a modern day housing monster called “market rate high density” and we have ignored environmental impact, smog, green grass, and open space. We have ignored the rising cost of living. The monsters destroy everything in their path.

    The city will spend $2.7 million for bathrooms but not a penny to provide the current Jordan Downs complexes an uplifting coat of paint and yard maintenance, while tenants still reside there. Homelessness is individuals slipping through the cracks. We need to address the individual rather than wait until they become a group of  hundred. If we do the work behind the scenes and set up the network, we should be able to walk up to the homeless and say “here is your new address” or “here is your new job, just go to this address,” and “this van will take you to your new home.” But we are not doing the work behind the scenes and we have made things unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. This is a simple case of pulling the wool over the public’s eyes. Voters passed Props. 1 and 2 but there are no deadlines in those laws, no set number of affordable units required to be built; the bills claim that 2006 allocated monies of five billion dollars had already been “expended.” Very little affordable housing is created, as your editorial pointed out. Unfortunately the homeless numbers are much greater than the few brave souls we visibly see living on the streets. The ACCE claims that there are seventeen million renters in California with nine million charged over 30% of their income on rent, five million charged over 50 percent of their income on rent. As the $4,000 per month market rents become the new norm, many also will be unable to afford the total rising cost of living. These mega market rate luxury monstrosities are rising at an incredible fast timetable. Yet the replacement for the Jordan Downs mixed use housing in Los Angeles, will take ten years to complete.

    A house can take many months to build. There is a lot to be happy about in California — and to be proud of — but fair housing is not one of those accomplishments.The government machinery is not moving fast enough and that is by design. It doesn’t have to be this way. If we only listened to the editorial intelligence of an empowered individual like publisher James Preston Allen. As your editorial says, “the solution to do something immediately eludes all the agencies, politicians, and groups involved.” Maybe it is hard for politicians to think straight when they have millions of dollars at their disposal and they have a lot of hungry developers to feed before they help the homeless and affordable income tenants. I have faith there is an individual who can quickly solve this dire situation.

    Juan Johnson, Los Angeles

    Dear Mr. Johnson,

    Effective use of public monies is only one part of an octagonal problem that is being approached with two dimensional solutions.  The mayor and city council of Los Angeles are slowly coming around to understanding this complexity. Thanks for writing.

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    When the Big One Strikes

    Please think hard about the words below as they apply to the “big one”

    This 6.4 earthquake was yet another warning shot over the bow.  What does Los Angeles City Hall, LA County, the Attorney General and the California State Lands Commission “not get” about storing this massive 25 million gallon-volume of one of the most highly explosive commodities in existence within an “active earthquake rupture zone” (the convergence of multiple faults in a region) … on USGS identified “landslide” and “liquefaction” areas, with each antiquated 12.5 million gallon butane gas tank having a blast radius of over three miles? These tanks lie within mere feet of pre-existing homes, schools, traffic corridors, and over 700 homes being constructed “right now” within one-half to one mile of those tanks? The “Economic Engine” of the State of California, the Port of Los Angeles, lies within quarter-mile with the port’s public asset property line extending to the LPG facility’s own fence line!  The ports of LA and Long Beach represent an over $400 billion annual industry delivering over 40 percent of all U.S. goods.

    See the clip — Garcetti “gets it” but “ignores” it, https://www.facebook.

    Janet Gunter, San Pedro

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  • You Can’t Hack a Longshoreman

    By Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn

    The debate over automation has come to a boiling point at the Port of Los Angeles. Workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, worried about the inevitable job losses that a trend toward automation would cause, I have taken a stand against automated cargo handling equipment at the APM Terminal.

    The longshore jobs at our ports are some of the last remaining good-paying blue collar jobs.

    These jobs have allowed workers to buy homes, send their kids to college, and live the classic “American Dream.”

    The threat of losing these good jobs is reason enough for me to oppose automation — but there is another serious consequence of automation that has not gotten the attention it should: vulnerability to economy-crippling cyberattack.

    Earlier this month, Target experienced a nationwide computer outage that left customers stuck in long lines as cashiers manually entered barcodes and accepted only cash or check. The problem was magnified by Target’s reliance on self-checkout stations, which went down during the outage, and the lack of cashiers they had on shift to compensate.

    Target’s outage was reportedly an accident and not a cyberattack, but it is a cautionary tale in an age of growing automation and dependence on fallible, hackable computer systems. We would be fools to put our ports, the engines of our economy, in this same vulnerable position.

    More terminals, both at our local ports and across the country, are moving towards full automation. That means driverless trucks, cranes without operators, and 45-foot tall robotic cargo carriers that can move on their own around the terminal. This technology is hailed as a huge advancement in efficiency but we should worry about what will happen when it becomes the target of cyberwarfare.

    We don’t have to wait to find out. In 2017, the Maersk shipping company and their subsidiary APM Terminals were hit by a computer virus called NotPetya. Their entire worldwide system — computers, phones, even automated gates —went down and forced port workers to use pen and paper to process cargo. Every APM Terminal suffered long truck lines and shipping delays, but none more than APM’s fully automated Maasvlatke II terminal in Rotterdam. With few port workers to back up computer systems with pen and paper, the terminal was completely shut down for more than a week.

    Cyberwarfare is increasingly becoming the method of choice for our foes, whether it is Russia, North Korea, or Iran, and while hacks of government databases or individual companies are  more common, if one of them really wanted to debilitate our economy they would be wise to target automated ports. In fact, when I was in Congress, I authored legislation to study the gaps in cyber security at our ports. That legislation passed, and while the results are classified, I can tell you our ports are the most vulnerable entryway into our country. Automation makes these threats all the more serious. On top of bringing commerce to a standstill, hacking into three-story driverless cargo carriers could quickly become destructive.

    I am proud to stand with the ILWU against the automation plan at the APM terminal at the Port of Los Angeles and I appreciate Councilman Joe Buscaino’s leadership in fighting for this cause on the City Council. I hope this fight wakes people up to the realities of the automation trend — not just replacing longshoremen but cashiers and warehouse workers as well. Not only are we sacrificing good-paying jobs and enriching multi-billion-dollar companies — we are also opening our economy up to cyberattacks on a scale we have never dreamed of.

    These will be the threats of the future if we sit by and let it happen. But today I take solace knowing this: you can’t hack a longshoreman.

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  • Evelyn McDonnell Awarded at the SoCal Journalism Awards 2019

    • 07/12/2019
    • Melina Paris
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    Random Lengths News congratulates local author and director of journalism at Loyola Marymount University, Evelyn McDonnell on her recent awards. On July 1, the LA Press Club awarded McDonnell winner for Entertainment News or Feature for her Billboard Magazine obituary on Aretha Franklin, The Role of Struggle In Aretha Franklin’s Path to Greatness.

    The judges’ comment: It totally bowled us over. This piece is expertly researched and extraordinarily well written. This is a masterful and poetic analysis of Aretha’s impact, not just on the music world but on this nation and its history.

    The night of the awards, McDonnell tweeted: Tonight I won an @LAPressClub award for my @billboard obituary on Aretha. Thanks to @catucci & @rebeccamilzoff for editing & to the Queen of Soul for never ending inspiration #respect.”

    McDonnell, however, didn’t stop there. Another third place award was bestowed on the professor for Reviews – Books/Art/Architecture/Design with her piece for The New York Times, Rock-Your-World Moments Fill New Music Memoirs from Tina Turner and a Disillusioned Hit Maker

    In March, Random Lengths featured a story on McDonnell and the timely and pivotal book she edited, Women Who Rock, Bessie to Beyonce. Girl groups to Riot Grrrl. McDonnell has devoted her career to the topic of female musicians. She has enough knowledge to write a thesis on the subject, but what lifts her writing to higher echelons goes beyond her knowledge to a place of passion.

    McDonnell’s Aretha Franklin Obituary



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  • Fear or Courage — False Narritives on Freedom

    • 07/11/2019
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    “Don’t you know

    They’re talkin’ bout a revolution

    It sounds like a whisper …”

    — Tracy Chapman

    The psychology of fear is one of the most motivating and debilitating factors of the human condition. Fear overcomes our rational sensibilities and preys upon our most irrational instincts. Fear is what’s driving the national narrative — inspired on Twitter by the Hate-Monger-in-Chief, broadcast by Faux News and reiterated endlessly on social media echo chambers.

    This fear is grounded in existentialist angst — the sense that one’s race and culture are on the verge of disappearing — and that’s the direction it takes us. There really is no discussion — just fear and recrimination. It paralyzes our republic and infects our civic debate and institutions from the national level all the way down to the microcosm of neighborhood councils.

    This fear is often cloaked in the rhetoric of patriotism and freedom. The American Freedom Alliance, a non-profit organization, is but one example of this manifestation. Its mission statement says it exists to “promote, defend, and uphold Western values and ideals.” It’s one of many groups that sponsor anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim conferences, publications and networking groups. Its members are critical of multiculturalism and say that diversity is killing Western civilization and its values. They use the United States Constitution’s First Amendment as a shield to protect racist speech.

    Not unlike Richard Bertrand Spencer, the American neo-Nazi and white supremacist who used the “free speech” issue to cause conflict at UC Berkeley, AFA uses the false narrative of “defending freedom” to promote racism. This sounds good to a lot of people until they look closely at their core beliefs.

    Spencer, if you  recall, is president of the National Policy Institute and the head of the Washington Summit Publishers. The names sound innocent enough until you actually read what they publish. Spencer rejects the labels of “white supremacist” and “neo-Nazi.” He considers himself a white nationalist or a white identitarian — the equivalent of a “Zionist” for white people. These labels are much easier to hide behind.

    Dr. Karen Siegemund, on the other hand, is the president of the AFA, and like other right-wing white nationalists, she claims to be a victim of discrimination. Here we see how convoluted the civic debate has become about civil rights in America. Siegemund was fired from her teaching job at a private school after speaking at The Left’s Long March, a conference on defending Western Civilization. Actually  her contract was canceled because the teachers at this school don’t have a union and she works like many other non-union teachers on a yearly basis. She might now wish to reconsider Western history to include labor studies instead of right-to-work ideologies, but still she is being honored as a “hero of conscience,” by her own organization in Los Angeles in August.

    This kind of twisted narrative folds back 50 years of civil rights progress in this country. One might assume some of these issues were settled with the election of Barack Obama as president, but no. His presidency only brought out the latent looney bigotry from the shadows of our society and then was encouraged by Donald Trump who brought us Spencer inspired uprisings at Berkeley, Tiki torch marches in Charlottesville, Va. and the discovery of white nationalists right here in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

    Three members of the Rise Above Movement, a violent, racist organization based in Southern California, were charged under a federal anti-riot statute with planning and then carrying out assaults at 2017 pro-Trump rallies in Huntington Beach, San Bernardino and Berkeley in the volatile months after Trump’s election. Their case was ultimately dismissed, but like those in the South who still wave the Confederate flag, they continue fighting for their “lost cause.”

    Strangely enough, the fear and hate narrative comes home in perverse ways locally ­— making victims of the innocent and accused bullies out of the defenders. I have experienced this personally with the Saving San Pedro anti-homeless antagonists as they storm the halls of neighborhood council meetings, leaving volunteer council members shell shocked. Some are still suffering from post-traumatic stress from the social media harassment and confrontational intimidation tactics used by the social media group. Their tactics remind me of juvenile high school hazing and worse.

    I learned long ago that the only way to stop bullies like these are to stand up to them, look them in the eye and tell them you aren’t afraid of them. That takes courage — something that is in rare supply these days, but is embedded in our human psychology. You find it on the shelf just beyond the fear factor that has helped us survive the worst of times. It’s there if you turn on the closet light and look for it inside yourself.

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  • Trio of Arts District Pioneers Honored

    • 07/11/2019
    • Melina Paris
    • Art
    • Comments are off

    By Melina Paris, Arts and Culture Reporter

    Three pioneering artists, who for a quarter century have worked, educated and exhibited the highest level of professional art in Harbor Area and far beyond, will be honored at the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District’s annual summer fundraiser on July 14.

    The event will feature art from the venerable San Pedro artist, Muriel Olguin, as well as curated pieces from many others in the Art Deco building at 8th Street and Pacific Avenue. The artwork will be for sale to benefit the Arts District.

    Random Lengths News sat with TransVagrant gallery curator Ron Linden and Gallery 478 proprietors Arnée and Ray Carofano for a chat about the arts district, its changes and the requirements necessary to support such an entity.

    For the first 15 years of this century, the Carofano’s anchored San Pedro’s budding arts district by inviting cutting-edge artists from across the country to their gallery and hosting regular artist openings. Gallery 478 was not alone in this work, but it did lead the charge.

    Linda Grimes, the managing director of the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District, assembled a temporary committee of last year’s honorees (Anne Olson and Eugene Daub) plus Gallery Azul and Carol Hungerford to select those to be honored in 2019 for their contribution to San Pedro’s art scene.

    “They were active participants at the formation of the district in 2009 and continue to make significant world class contributions through their gallery exhibitions, continuously adding to the communities’ knowledge of art and appreciation of exceptional artists,” Grimes said.

    Linden and the Carofanos came to San Pedro in 1991 and 1998, respectively. They have had a long, sometimes painful, history with the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District. During the 1990s and into the 2000s, with its galleries, studios and with the start of First Thursday Art Walks in 1998, the arts district slowly grew and thrived. These three artists, along with James Allen, publisher of Random Lengths News, launched the idea to create the Arts, Culture and Entertainment, or ACE, district.

    Linden, Carofano and Allen created its guiding principle: one of “enlightened self-interest,” meaning that what is good for the individual artists in the district is inherently good for the greater community. The ACE notion of self-interest, however, does not mean that this district exist to amass greater personal power, wealth or control for those forming it. Instead, its purpose has been to distribute as equitably as possible the benefits of this district without regard to status, position or other bias.

    The ACE District was launched in 2008 with a $500,000 Community Redevelopment Agency grant intended to market the arts district and its connection to the San Pedro Waterfront and finance quality art shows that would bring critical recognition to San Pedro area. The effort was widely endorsed by both the arts and business communities. The original ACE District was formally adopted by the Los Angeles City Council and remains a part of the San Pedro Community plan as a key economic factor in redevelopment.

    The praise proved to be short-lived. Gov. Jerry Brown soon announced he would  disband the Community Redevelopment Agency during the great recession and in effect ended a reliable funding source to the district. However, the effort continued and the legal standing of the ACE District has been expanded with recognition by the State of California as one of 14 cultural arts districts.

    By 2015, conflicts over transparency, direction and the removal of dissident artists from the board (or exodus of artists depending on one’s perspective), the ACE board voted over the objection of some of its founding members, to disband and form a nonprofit that could apply for grants and sponsorships that might keep the group in business. Since that time it has been run as a private non-profit.

    Subsequently, Linden moved TransVagrant Gallery to Los Angeles Harbor College and other locations, while the Carofanos continued hosting important gallery openings for big name artists.

    “Prior to [2008] we were able to get money from the CRA,” Linden said. “When that went away, we were totally on our own. [CRA] gave us money to build the walls in the gallery and the lighting system. The galleries applied for grants and received funds to produce catalogs for exhibitions.”

    Linden contends this is the kind of “civic support that is needed for an arts district to thrive. The CRA benefited the whole arts community.” Subsequently, the reputation of First Thursday grew out of a regional recognition that something important was happening.

    “We survive by our own means right now,” Linden said. “If the community at large realized that it takes effort and money that comes from artists, for the community, they might think of artists differently. But nobody thinks like that.”

    During this period of transition in the ACE District, the  San Pedro Business Improvement District morphed into property owners Business Improvement District, a quasi-public entity in which property owners can assess a property tax on themselves to pay for PBID initiatives that benefit the district— the boundaries of which coincide with the ACE District. They pay for yellow shirt security that have placed surveillance cameras in downtown.

    “We did our best to stop it because we figured out the increase that everybody in the district including us [had to pay] is now on our property tax,” Carofano said. “There’s no way out of it. When it was just BID it was an option for a property owners to either pay some money into it or not.”

    Linden spelled out that there are equal amounts of resentment and appreciation.

    “We have done more goddamn work—leg work, written work, exhibition, production, etc., etc., etc. than almost anyone,” Linden said. “It’s just ironic that you can work your ass off in relative obscurity and provide the best you can, the most professional exhibitions. [This work] has real value but it’s largely unrecognized.”

    That’s because some in the community still don’t recognize the value that the art district brings to an urban area.

    Linden and the Carofanos praise the individuals and galleries still fighting the good fight in support of the arts district.

    Arnée, Carofano and Linden said they absolutely have no doubt that James Preston Allen, the founding president of the arts district, has been a good advocate. They called arts patrons Marilyn Ginsburg Klaus and Chuck Klaus unsung heroes.  The Klaus Center for the Arts is property the couple donated to Marymount University. The purpose of founding an arts institution in downtown San Pedro was to give talks on how to be an artist and live and work in the same space. The Klauses bought a house and remodeled it for Syracuse University fine arts students to stay for a semester of arts study in the Los Angeles area. They also have a standing lease on Angels Gate studio spaces for the students.

    Linden and the Carofanos also highlighted others like Robin and Doug Hinchcliff, who for years have provided live-work spaces.

    Gentrification has the artists worried about what will happen next. Linden wondered if galleries, like the Machine Art Gallery, with its “appeal to young people” would be priced out of existence with rent. “Will artists who live here have to go find a new ghetto?” Linden said.

    Rent increases are really a big issue throughout the county. It’s getting harder to find a place reasonably priced for artists. Some have left.

    Arnée suggested they should give artists a break and a few artists should be on the PBID board to represent the arts community and get involved with the port’s waterfront projects. The Port of LA used to have a professional arts review panel of which Linden was a participating member.

    “What we need are a few more quality galleries,” Carofano said. “We need younger people than us [to] open galleries here.”

    While it’s frustrating for these visionary artists to witness missed opportunities for the art district to thrive, their vision is undying. Linden said it wouldn’t take much to build mega-European style gallery spaces out at the Warehouse One area, for instance. What a boost to the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District to go from imagining to actualizing high-level professional live-work studios and galleries for artists, for educational opportunities and the community at large, as well as for multitudes of visitors that the Port of LA is trying to attract to this artistically rich port town.

    In the end,  recognition for this trio is long over due.

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  • Gang Sweep Adds Detail to Murder Story

    • 07/11/2019
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor with contribution by Melina Paris

    June marked the one-year anniversary of Walter Crespo’s murder. The alleged perpetrator, Juan Martinez, was a Rancho San Pedro gang member who went by the name “Flaco” in the streets. He was arrested, but no one seemed to know exactly what happened to the murder weapon. However, the unsealing of the federal indictments of more than a dozen members of the Rancho San Pedro gang revealed new details on that murder.

    Crespo was killed June 11, 2018, shot multiple times while standing outside in the east-west alley of West 5th Street. Sources close to Crespo say the shooting occurred after he had a confrontation with a neighbor, Carol Bodman, who was allegedly dealing drugs out of her apartment.

    Two weeks after Crespo’s death, Bodman was arrested and charged with having knowledge of a crime after iniial reports on Crespo’s death.

    Crespo’s mother, Cindy Hebert, revealed to Random Lengths that Crespo and Bodman lived in the same building and that Crespo confronted Bodman about her alleged drug dealing out of their building.

    Hebert asserted that Bodman manipulated Martinez from the beginning to go after Crespo.  Crespo’s close friend, Eddie Baca, said Crespo had confronted Bodman about her alleged drug dealing from the building. Bodman persuaded Martinez to give Crespo a message to back off and even supplied a weapon, which was found to be registered to Bodman.

    Martinez initially pleaded not guilty. He later pleaded guilty when he was arrested on a parole violation in September 2018.

    The indictment that was unsealed on June 26, 2019, alleges that Martinez’s murder weapon was bought through a straw-sale along with an additional .32 revolver two days later. Those guns were purchased by a confidential informant to the police.

    The two unsealed federal grand jury indictments charging 14 members and associates of the Rancho San Pedro street gang documented the operations of a drugs and firearms supply chain involving three businesses along Pacific Avenue including the Barton Hill Hotel, the Enigma Bar and Auggie’s Tavern (a bar formerly known as the Indian Room). The indictments resulted from a two-year joint LAPD and DEA investigation which predated Crespo’s murder by a year.

    Four of the 13 defendants named in the main federal indictment were arrested June 26. Seven others were already in state custody, while three more are fugitives. Federal authorities say another 10 members and associates of the gang were arrested on local charges during the sweep,  which also seized 45 firearms.

    The indictment links certain gang members to murders, attacks on rivals gangs and the disciplining of fellow gang members. The indictment reveals the ways the gang funneled money to three Mexican Mafia members who are currently serving prison time for murder.

    Several of those indicted were also charged with substantive drug-trafficking offenses and three more were further charged with being felons in possession of firearms. If convicted as charged, all 13 defendants face potential life sentences in federal prison.

    A second federal indictment charged one member with possessing ammunition after being convicted of a domestic violence offense, which carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

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  • Barragán at the Border

    • 07/11/2019
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Twenty four immigrants have died in ICE custody; border detention inspections continue as crisis mounts under the Trump administration

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On July 1, Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro) was part of a delegation organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that toured immigration facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and reported disgusting conditions. The same day, ProPublica reported the existence of a secret Facebook group of 9,500 current and former Border Patrol agents who joked about the deaths of migrants and made obscene comments about congresswomen.

    The horrifying conditions described by the delegation were confirmed the next day, when the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security issued a management alert headlined, DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley.

    The day after that, Barragán and Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat of San Antonio spoke on a press call sponsored by United We Dream, along with four Texas state representatives who joined the tour. State and local representatives had previously been blocked from inspection efforts undertaken on their own.

    “This was a very different experience than the last time that I went,” Barragán said. “I’ve been down there a few times. There are a lot more restrictions being placed on members. They try to confiscate phones; all of a sudden they said we couldn’t talk to people. And so it is becoming a lot more combative.”

    Barragán suggested that the increased tension stemmed from “all the work that’s being done on the ground to get the stories out,” and the resultant rise in public ire. “The work is critically important to continue, to highlight the stories,” she said. “With the inspector general’s report coming out, there should be continued outrage.”

    That report urged DHS “to take immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.” The accompanying photos—from an early June inspection period—showed squalid, sardine-like conditions.

    “Children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers,” the report stated. “At one facility, some single adults were held in standing-room-only conditions for a week, and at another, some single adults were held more than a month in overcrowded cells.”

    “Atrocities have been carried out in Trump’s name by ICE and CBP,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, of United We Dream. “Under the Trump Administration we know that 24 immigrants have died in ICE custody, with more dying under the watch of other federal agencies like CBP, including five children.”

    When Donald Trump became president in January 2017, no one had died in ICE custody for 10 years.”While all of this is going on, Trump and Republicans have been having a debate over semantics,” Rosas said.  “What do we call these places, detention centers? Concentration camps? I’ll tell you what we don’t call these places: humane. These are not places for human beings.”

    “We were in that one cell with the women from Cuba for about 45 minutes. And it’s clear that the human rights were being neglected,” Castro said. “They didn’t have a sink that was working to provide them water to wash their hands after they use the restroom, for example. Or for easily obtainable drinking water. Several said that they had not have their medications given to them in days; some of them said that they had gone 15 days without being able to take a bath or shower.”

    The inspection tour followed the passage of an emergency spending bill, without any of the corrective protections included in an earlier House version. “0 negotiation with the House,” Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “We offered crucial amendments to protect children and families — none are even being considered.”

    “This system is completely broken,” Castro said. “So it’s not just a matter of pumping more cash. Things have to change in terms of the standards of care and the medical treatment that’s provided…. What we’re seeing is willful neglect of these people.”

    “These stations are supposed to be holding facilities,” said Lina Ortega, a Texas state representative. “The detainees, the migrants, the families, the persons being held there are only supposed to be there for 72 hours. And they have turned into detention centers.”

    As far as food is concerned, Ortega said, “We saw cups of ramen noodles, we saw Kool-Aid, we saw chips, and we heard about frozen burritos there. We didn’t see any milk. We didn’t see any fruit. We didn’t see any vegetables. They’re not cooking or preparing any kind of meals. This is the same food that they receive day in and day out while they’re there. There is no appropriate food for children. When I asked about exercise—because I don’t really see any place that they can exercise—I was told that exercise is not necessary because they’re supposed to be there only for temporary stay. But that’s not what it’s been turning into.”

    “There is still separation happening of family units,” Barragan said in a separate statement, citing several specific examples she encountered.

    Ortega explained part of the reason why. “Families are defined as being a mother and father or a legal guardian,” she said. “So if the child is with an aunt and uncle, grandparent, even a brother or a sister, they will separate them, because they’re not considered to be family.”

    Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez lives in the town of Clint, home to one of the facilities.“What I’ve seen, being at the front lines, is how traumatic this experience is for border communities at all levels,” she said. “We do not have to, in this country, detain children. We do not have to detain grandmothers.

    Monday when we went on our tour, we saw a 70-year-old grandmother in a detention cell. We do not have to be this country. And sadly we are…. Everything we saw was an intentional strategy to dehumanize.”

    “This is our moment of moral and political clarity,” Rosas declared. “We are in a moment of choice where we can either continue Trump’s policies of family separation and criminalization of immigrants allowing our government to keep killing immigrants and refugees, or we can fight back.

    “The idea that we only need to provide more money to provide a few basic needs to fix the current immigration humanitarian crisis is wrong. On the contrary, we have to ensure that ICE and CBP are held accountable, that there is a defunding of these agencies, and more accountability and oversight over them.”

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  • Public Hearing Notice on Level I Coastal Development Permit at Port of Los Angeles

    Level I Coastal Development Permit No. 18-25 Landslide Infrastructure to Operate Battery-Electric Powered Equipment

    In Accordance with Guidelines of the Port Master Plan, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners will reconvene to hear, receive, evidence and adjudicate an appeal of the above entitled Coastal Development Permit, or CDP.

    All public commenters will be limited to one minute. The board president has the “…right to accept a motion to conclude the taking of oral testimony or to close a public hearing when a reasonable opportunity to present all questions and points of view has been allowed ”

    Anyone unable to attend the public hearing may submit written comments to the director of planning and strategy P.O. Box 151 San Pedro CA. 90733. Written materials must be submitted to Harbor Department staff no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday before the hearing. (Staff will then distribute your materials to the Board). Summarize your position in no more than two or three pages if possible. Note, you are discouraged from submitting written materials to the board on the day of the hearing, unless they are visual aids. It is difficult for commissioners to carefully consider late submittals.

    The staff report and recommendation on the proposed project, the item’s record, and the CDP Appeals Procedure are available for review on the Port of Los Angeles website.
    Time: 9 a.m. July 11
    Details: www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue: Cruise Terminal Baggage Handling Facility, 250 S. Harbor Blvd. San Pedro

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