• Camilla to the Rescue

    By James Preston Allen, Publsher and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    I interviewed Camilla Townsend a few weeks ago about vision, consensus building and leadership—particularly in light of her work with the Port of Los Angeles High School and the on-dock marine research center, AltaSea.

    In my most recent editorial, I wrote about the high turnover of executive directors in the local nonprofit sector, including Angels Gate Cultural Center’s former executive director, Debra Lewis; former San Pedro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, Betsy Cheek and Port of Los Angeles Executive Director, Geraldine Knatz; and most recently Marymount California University President Michael Brophy.

    What each of these organizations has in common is that they are structured as corporate nonprofit organizations. The decision making of the individuals that make up the boards of these nonprofits is, at various times, less than transparent.

    Camilla Townsend, on the other hand, strikes me as an example of engaged leadership.

    In the past 12 months, Townsend was drafted twice to navigate nonprofits in some state of crisis. The first was POLAHS after the homegrown charter school was rocked by teachers organizing for labor representation this past fall, and student demonstrations staged amid financial impropriety allegations against Executive Director Jim Cross.

    The second was when Townsend was tapped to become the chairwoman of the board of directors of AltaSea after Rachel Etherington, the chief executive officer, unexpectedly stepped down on April 28—to the surprise of almost everyone.

    That Townsend was tapped to act as a first responder for a nonprofit in crisis—a fixer, of sorts—is what made me want to interview her about vision and leadership.

    I said as much to her when we met over a late breakfast recently at Think Café.

    “I like the word, ‘Once again, brought in to save the day.’ I think that should be my subtitle,” Townsend said jokingly, adding, “I don’t ever save the day by myself. It’s always a great team of people.”

    Still, there has to be leadership. POLAHS Executive Director Jim Cross was forced to resign, and many parents during and after the turmoil were asking—justifiably or not—for the head of Jayme Wilson, the president of the POLAHS Board of Trustees.

    In the case of AltaSea, Etherington’s name was drawn from a high-profile search that looked across the pond to the United Kingdom.

    “There has to be leadership,” Townsend said. “What’s similar about the two projects is that even though one is relatively new and the other one is now 10 years old, they were both, in business terms, startup projects.

    “As you know, I’m an educator, and even though I had the opportunity to do a lot of innovative things in education, it’s a little different kind of animal in the business world. And, even the charter high school—even though it’s education—it’s truly a business venture.”

    Startup vs. Governance

    Townsend’s career spans nearly 50 years. Her résumé and accolades are long—too long to be listed here. For the past 27 years she has served as the executive director of the charitable education-focused Max H. Gluck Foundation, which gives millions of dollars every year toward education and arts outreach initiatives from kindergarten through 12th grade and at the university level.

    “Even though POLAHS is an educational institution, it’s different [from AltaSea] in that it’s an independent setup, and it has to be looked at like a startup business or a startup organization,” Townsend explained.

    Townsend noted that the ways in which the two organizations are similar as business ventures is that both experience a maturation process that requires them to operate differently as they grow.

    “When you have a startup organization, you operate one way to get it off the ground… and then it kind of comes to a point where it moves from a startup organization to a sustaining organization,” Townsend explained. “Sometimes, that transition is critical in an organization, because if it doesn’t happen, you’re setting yourself up for another kind of failure. It’s just like growing up. It’s just life.”

    Townsend said POLAHS outgrew its startup phase two or three years ago.

    “What was relevant and very much needed in the first…eight years or seven years…the project was not in the same kind of need in terms of building a building…getting permits, etc,” she explained. “It was time now to say, ‘Hey, it’s here now. This is good. We really need to look at enhancing the basic education program and moving forward now to make sure we’re in sync with the educational needs of students.’ So, in that sense, that’s changing—that transition happens.”

    Regardless of whether a business venture is in the startup phase or the growth phase, transparency is rarely a strong suit for an organization structured as a nonprofit. Townsend noted that this structuring of the POLAHS and AltaSea was intentional.

    “AltaSea has no choice because they are not a public entity. They are a private nonprofit corporation—whereas POLAHS is a public entity because it uses public funds.”

    Townsend said the lack of transparency in POLAHS’ case had posed a particular problem, forcing the 10-year-old institution to incorporate a recordkeeping system that complies with California’s open-access “sunshine laws.”

    Despite being a private entity, Townsend admitted that AltaSea’s pursuit of public dollars from the port and other sources inspires calls for transparency.

    “How that will manifest itself…and how that happens, remains to be seen,” she said. “But AltaSea—even though they’re not a public non-profit right now—are doing everything they can to be transparent in spite of that fact that they don’t have to have Brown Act-ed meetings.”

    In lieu of open board meetings, Townsend noted that the AltaSea Communications Director Pat Means is making a number of moves to further community involvement and community engagement initiatives for AltaSea.

    Learning, Growing and Gaining Experience

    Though Townsend has been repeatedly called to fix critical issues at various civic organizations in town, she denies being some sort of guru. She says she’s just been learning as she goes along.

    “This is a huge learning experience for me,” she said.” I don’t claim to be coming in here with these two projects with any superior knowledge about anything. My life has always been, ‘Keep trying new things. And, if need be, come in to try to fix things that are good, but are having a struggle.’

    “If you were to ask me 10 years ago, ‘What would you be doing,’ I would have said you’re out of your mind. But in the last 10 years, things have evolved—ever since I retired from education.”

    Townsend officially retired from education in 2002, after serving as the principal of Harbor Adult School for 11 years. In 1999, Townsend was appointed to the Los Angeles Commission for Children, Youth and Families by Mayor Richard Riordan. In 2001, she was appointed to the Board of Harbor Commissioners by Mayor James Hahn. From 2006 to 2011, Townsend served as president of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce.

    “I love it because I really am excited when people want to try new things and do new things that are better for the community,” she said. “I love this community, obviously, and I love Los Angeles—I’m an L.A. girl… I am drawn to these kinds of things rather than things that are just continuing to run and do whatever they do. I’m drawn to the outside-the-box type of things—the visionary thinking.”

    I pointed out that she was also present and involved in the very beginnings of POLAHS and AltaSea, during the design phase of these nonprofit organizations.

    “Helping to design the project… is the part I love the most,” she said. “When you pull all these people together, who buy into a vision, [who] love the vision, [who] have a passion for it and they all bring different expertise to the project, [this] is really exciting.”

    Townsend credits her background in theater for this view of organization building—not from the perspective of an actor, but that of a director.

    “I was a director; I was not an actress; I was not anything else,” she said. “To me, bringing all this talent together to create a work of art in the theater was what I loved the most. And this is no different. Even being principal of the school is really no different than that.”

    I wondered aloud if having the same cast members playing roles on multiple boards could make for a stale and restrictive environment for these nonprofit organizations.

    “I don’t think of the board so much as I think of the people who are basically running and making the organization or making the project work,” she said.

    “Boards are a good thing. Part of POLAHS’ challenge was—over the years—that the board had to learn a lot and move forward, and a lot of it had to do with who was on the board. It has to do with how the board operates and how well the staff understands that the board is their boss.”

    Townsend draws a distinction between management and members of a board of trustees or directors. When she is talking about staff, she’s talking about management staff.

    She noted that in the case of POLAHS, the original leadership that was a part of the charter school’s startup wound up being the same people who ended up on the board—the same people who are on a lot of boards in San Pedro.

    “We have learned a lesson this year at POLAHS,” Townsend said, “A big, huge lesson about board oversight and a board really taking responsibility seriously.”

    Townsend’s takeaway from POLAHS’ recent troubles is that organizations have to be able to adapt.

    “Remember, I am not an expert on this business of boards and governance,” she said. “I’ve experienced a lot of it. But part of the deal here with POLAHS was that it came to a point where it was time to revisit the management structure of the school for good reasons—nothing bad—all good.

    “That was sort of difficult because the board didn’t quite see why that had to happen, nor did the top management staff,” she said.

    The Down and Dirty

    As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get Townsend to assign blame for the school’s inability to adapt fast enough.

    To recap, Executive Director Jim Cross, was placed on paid leave for the second and final time in February following a closed meeting amid renewed allegations of financial impropriety.

    Conflict between Cross and Principal Tom Scotti (who is a relative of District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino), lack of financial transparency, teacher input on school site spending, and the appearance of cronyism were the dominant issues. An audit of the school’s finances was conducted and ultimately cleared Cross of wrongdoing, though the actual audit report was not released.

    During his tenure, Cross reportedly used personal funds for school expenditures, even as he used school funds for personal expenditures. Following the audit, he was called to reimburse the school the paltry amount of misspent funds and the school was to reimburse him for purchases made on behalf of the school from his personal funds.

    Townsend noted that the people involved in the school’s startup got involved because they loved the school.

    “The board did not provide proper oversight of the management staff,” Townsend said. “They didn’t take that role as seriously as they should have. Not that they didn’t care or anything. Nobody pointed out to them that your job as a board of trustees for a charter school is no different than being the board of education for LA Unified School District.”

    The people that sit on the nonprofit boards of directors are typically people whose professional experience, expertise, professional networks and often wealth could be leveraged to further the long-term goals of the nonprofit.

    As a result, it’s not uncommon to find the same people occupying multiple boards. Sometimes, this phenomenon can be pronounced in places like San Pedro where there are about 50 nonprofit organizations with an elite few individuals or families occupying three to five boards of directors.

    In settings such as these, in which there’s so little diversity and so great a difference in wealth and power among members, the normal tendencies to avert conflict within a governing board is multiplied exponentially.

    Townsend agreed with my belief that resolution can’t come without conflict. When it became clear that Cross wasn’t going to return to POLAHS, she began mentoring and grooming Scotti to occupy the POLAHS chief executive role that now combines the powers of principal and executive director.

    “We knew POLAHS was settled and it was going to be OK…I had decided…for the last six months while we were trying to work out this deal with Jim [Cross]…I was going to focus on making sure everything stayed good at this school,” Townsend said. “So, I just became Tom’s mentor and I was at school almost every day helping everybody feel good and move forward and continue to do all the good things they were doing.

    “I needed to re-establish and prove to the board that Tom, who is a great principal, can run this show. Because sometimes business people on boards think that a principal doesn’t know anything about business,” she said. “Well, it’s probably very true with many principals in the City of LA because they don’t have to handle a lot of that…the school district handles it. But when we get our administrator’s credentials, we are trained in school law, we are trained in school business, you know, and code…So a principal should understand the skills or what’s needed to do that.”

    Townsend noted that the power imparted to the roles of both principal and executive director was a decision made intentionally by the founders of POLAHS and that played a role in the well-documented friction between Scotti and Cross.

    “We saw this coming,” Townsend said. “It wasn’t a problem in the beginning because the executive director had millions of things to do regarding the building of the facility.

    “Tom focused on the instructional program and building that program and that would fund her for the first few years. But then, as you move forward, it has to come together, because the education program needs to drive the budget not the other way around. Even though you have limited funds from the state, you say, ‘OK, here’s how much we have in the education program. What is needed and how best can we spend that money? You know, so that wasn’t really happening.”

    AltaSea and Changing Leadership

    Townsend became chairwoman of the board at AltaSea following the departure of Etherington, right after much of the hard work at POLAHS was concluded in May. Townsend it wasn’t a good fit, despite Etherington’s stellar credentials.

    “You start with belief in the project,” Townsend said. “But in order to do that, you have to have money… you really need somebody that can really get out there and be the visionary and excite the people to give money to the project.

    “You have both elements. Sometimes you can find a person who’s good at both, but rarely. Two years ago…there was no board. There was an advisory encampment.” The advisory board just formed a year-and-a-half ago. “When that happened…they hired a firm…That’s what they wanted, to fulfill both obligations.

    “I think what happened was—because Rachel is an extremely dynamic, energetic woman, she’s very bright, extremely articulate both verbally and in writing, and she’s devoted to the environment…I think that’s what probably motivated them thinking of the day-to-day operations running of that too, and that she could get out there and raise the money… I had all hopes that she could,” Townsend said.

    Before Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Knatz resigned, she bequeathed a 50-year lease to AltaSea, pledging a total of $210 million to be matched by a legal minimum of $408 million. AltaSea was to raise $549 million by 2019. A quarter of that money—$139 million—was to be raised by 2017.

    With $54 million in hand from the port and matching funds commitments elsewhere, the change in leadership comes at a critical juncture. Townsend, however, believes the challenges are the same as they were when AltaSea was formed.

    “Yes, $100 million is a lot of money,” Townsend said. “However, it takes a while, first of all to generate the connections to roll the money out. So, for a year, that’s been going on.

    “You just don’t go out there…They need to learn about the project. They’ve never heard about it before. And it’s a lot of the people who are in this world who are in philanthropy…That’s where the money’s going to come from. We don’t have it here in San Pedro.”

    Townsend noted that philanthropists must be shown that something is happening on the site, even while money is being raised to actually build the project.

    She explained that AltaSea has been working on an interim use plan that does exactly that, by laying out what is going to be built, how it will be used and who will use it during the development of the marine science hub.

    When the interim plan has reached a critical milestone, Townsend said the community will get to provide comment on the plan before it moves forward.

    The recent news that aerospace manufacturer SpaceX is partnering with AltaSea to base its rocket and spacecraft retrival operations in the Harbor Area might just be the milestone they are waiting for.

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  • Mishi Strudel Looking for Buyers

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    I was shocked and a little sad to learn on Facebook that Aniko and Michael Schueller were looking to sell their pastry shop, Mishi’s Strudel.

    The comment thread is full of local regret. “Say it ain’t so” and expressions of hope that the shop will retain its Hungarian cuisine and homespun character in the hands of a buyer.

    “Bittersweet to be sure,” the Schuellers posted for their Facebook followers. “We love how this wonderful community has welcomed us over the past 8-plus years, and we love all the close friends we’ve made just by sharing our passion for delicious Hungarian food, culture and most of all, flaky strudel, in our little cafe.”

    The Schuellers described the closing as a transition into their next adventure. I, for one, will miss their Arabica coffee and the warm smells of cinnamon, vanilla nut and almond.

    Michael Schueller, for whom the cafe is named (Mishi is the Hungarian derivation of Michael), recounted taking his aunt’s traditional Hungarian strudel recipes and updating them for today’s more health conscious consumer.

    “[In the old days] there was no concern about healthiness,” he told me. “The recipes were extensively modified. My wife, Aniko, is very well-versed in health foods. She reads a lot of health food articles. I’m not allowed to eat bad things.”

    Said the biggest changes to his aunt’s traditional recipes include dropping the use of coloring in the cherries and replacing shortening with butter.

    Recognizing the fan base they have built, the Schuellers trademarked their logo and name to allow for the possibility that Mishi Strudel could live on beyond them.

    Strudel lovers can only hope a buyer is found that is committed to preserving Mishi’s authenticity. But even then, it may not be the same.

    More Entrée News on page 16 of www.RandomLengthsNews.com

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  • Former POLA Executive to Direct Port Authority of New York, New Jersey

    NEW YORK — Former Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Molly Campbell has been chosen to become the next port of commerce director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    Campbell will succeed Richard Larrabee, who is retiring after 15 years, on July 27. One of Campbell’s first tasks will be continuing Larrabee’s work on helping coordinate implementation of 23 recommendations issued this past year by a port performance task force appointed to find ways to improve efficiency and reliability, and reduce congestion and delays.

    The port authority also is in the midst of a $1.3 billion project to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge, which now prevents large ships from serving most port container terminals. The existing bridge roadway is scheduled to be raised next year.

    Campbell joined the Port of Los Angeles in 2000 as chief financial officer and in January 2007 was promoted to deputy executive director. In that post, she was responsible for strategic development projects, operations and maintenance and management of the port’s annual operating and capital budgets.

    Recently, she was named director of financial management systems at Los Angeles World Airports for Los Angeles.

    At the Port of Los Angeles, Campbell served as vice chairwoman of the International Association of Ports and Harbors’ finance committee and the chairwoman of the American Association of Port Authorities’ maritime economic development committee.  She also was a member of the city planning commission in Long Beach.


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  • Trade Connect Offers Online Training — RL NEWS Briefs June 18, 2015

    POLA ‘Trade Connect’ Website Offers Online Training
    SAN PEDRO — Trade Connect, the Port of Los Angeles’ export education outreach program, formally debuted its new website, LATradeConnect.org on June 18.
    Visitors to the website will find detailed information about Trade Connect curriculum, services, data and industry partners in a user-friendly format. The video content includes a summary of Trade Connect’s 101 introductory export course and its entire 301 Export University advanced training series The 301 training series is free, and viewers need only register online to access it. For those who can attend in person, the new website has a calendar of upcoming programs. The next event, June 25, is the Export University Session: “Logistics and Shipping Documents.” July 9 is the “Export Plan & Panel” during which companies pitch their export business plans to a panel of experts.
    Established in 2007, Trade Connect is a one-stop resource for small and midsize U.S. businesses looking to learn the nuts and bolts of exporting their made-in-America goods and services. The program offers a wide variety of beginning, intermediate and advanced export workshops, as well as regional trade forums focused on import/export opportunities with key international markets.
    Visitors to the website will find detailed information about Trade Connect curriculum, services, data and industry partners in a user-friendly format. The video content includes a summary of Trade Connect’s 101 introductory export course and its entire 301 Export University advanced training series. The latter is a package of seminars — each approximately 30 minutes in length — on topics such as how to develop an export business plan, international logistics, documentation requirements, Internet export marketing, legal and regulatory compliance, and cultural business practices. The 301 training series is free, and viewers need only register online to access it.
    Current international trade statistics, information on existing and pending free trade agreements, the Los Angeles Regional Export Plan and the International Trade Compliance Institute’s extensive database are also available on the new website. It also links visitors to the Inland SoCal Link iHub, a multiagency partnership established to promote manufacturing and logistics innovation and job creation in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and encourage foreign investment to further economic development in the Inland Empire trade corridor that connects the Port to the rest of the nation.
    Trade Connect partners with other agencies, institutions and professional associations to offer most of its programs at little or no cost. Speakers include government, international trade, legal and financial experts, and successful Trade Connect graduates and entrepreneurs. To date, Trade Connect workshops and seminars have drawn more than 32,500 attendees.

    Marymount Announces Interim Leadership
    RANCHO PALOS VERDES — On June 17, Marymount University trustees announced the appointment of two interim co-presidents.
    The board of trustees unanimously selected provost and dean of faculty, Ariane Schauer, and senior vice president of finance, Jim Reeves.
    Schauer and Reeves are collaborating with current president, Michael Brophy to ensure the university’s progress toward its 2015-2016 priorities. Brophy leaves the university in August to serve as president of Benedictine University in Illinois.
    The trustees will select a consultant to guide a national search for the next university president.
    Schauer joined the Marymount faculty in 1998. She has served as Marymount’s chief academic officer for the past six years, leading the institution’s academic transformation from a two-year college to a university with bachelor’s degrees, and the addition of master of business administration and master of science degrees. Schauer serves as a peer evaluator for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Senior College and University Commission and regularly presents to higher education peers. Schauer earned a philosophy doctorate in economics from the University of California Los Angeles.
    Reeves joined Marymount in 1978 as a member of the faculty and quickly moved into a leadership role. Serving three university presidents, Reeves was appointed dean of Student Affairs in 1982, and since 1994 has served in the senior leadership role of vice president. He was promoted to senior vice president in 2013. Reeves’ oversight of the institution’s finances and operations has helped grow the student body and expand to sites in San Pedro and Lake County, California. His work in managing the institution’s real estate assets, including playing a key role in the acquisition of Marymount’s two student residential sites, is viewed as a milestone in advancing the student experience at Marymount. Reeves earned a master’s degree in education from California State University Dominguez Hills.
    Details: www.MarymountCalifornia.edu.

    POLB Sees Strongest May in Nine Years
    LONG BEACH — On June 17, the Port of Long Beach announced Cargo rose at the Port of Long Beach by 6 percent in May.
    A total of 635,250 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containerized cargo were moved through the Port in May. Imports numbered 327,317 TEUs, a 4.8 percent increase from the same month last year. Exports decreased 7.4 percent to 135,855 TEUs. Empty containers rose 22.6 percent to 172,078 TEUs. With imports exceeding exports, empty containers are sent overseas to be refilled with goods.
    Cargo volume is up partly due to a stronger retail market. The port is also attracting new services in order to boost cargo growth.
    Through the first five months of 2015, cargo is up 1.1 percent overal
    For all the latest monthly cargo numbers, click here.
    For more details on the cargo numbers, please visit www.polb.com/stats.

    Building Records Now Accessible Online
    LOS ANGELES — On June 13, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a new customer service tool from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, the LADBS Online Building Records system.
    The system will offer users a quick and easy way to research building records and obtain digital images of original documents online.
    The Online Building Records system allows 24-hour access to key records such as building permits and certificates of occupancy without requiring customers to make a trip downtown and wait in line at the records counter.
    The system contains more than 13 million records dating from 1905 to the present, including building permits, building modifications, grading information, and commission files. Since the system’s soft launch in May, it has been accessed more than 27,600 times by nearly 3,700 unique users.
    Access to Online Building Records is from LADBS.org under the “Online Services” tab, or directly at http://ladbsdoc.lacity.org/idispublic. Records can be retrieved by address, legal description, County Assessor Parcel Number, or document number.
    Permits and certificates of occupancy, the most requested and used documents, were converted to digital image first, and more than 4.7 million of them are now available. Conversion of historic microfilm and paper documents is in progress, and those images will be placed online as they are converted.
    LADBS serves about 65,000 records customers annually. Primary users include homeowners, contractors, architects, engineers, escrow agencies, banks, and permit expediters. Real estate industry users may use records to validate use and occupancy for a building being sold or purchased. Development industry users might use records to review permits and certificates of occupancy, address code enforcement issues, or bid on jobs. Homeowners preparing to obtain new permits, sell their homes, or wanting to satisfy curiosity and concerns may also seek records.

    Board of Supervisors Approve County Assessor Systems Modernization
    LOS ANGELES — On June 16, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved more than $12.7 million as the first installment to replace the Los Angeles County Assessor’s antiquated technology systems.
    This technology upgrade guides the creation and management of Los Angeles County’s $1.2 trillion assessment roll, which includes the assessment of each of the County’s 2.6 million properties. The assessment roll results in the accurate assessment of billions of dollars of revenue which funds social services and programs such as schools, public safety, hospitals and countless quality of life services in local communities.
    The current technology systems used by the Office of the Assessor includes more than 120 aging applications that are not well integrated, relying on outdated green-screen technology that is substantially paper-based, inflexible, and inefficient for staff. The current system also makes it difficult for the Office of the Assessor and other county departments to respond to taxpayer inquiries efficiently.
    The new technology replacement project will construct a modern assessment roll database, rewrite the interface for both computers and mobile devices, build data storage and Proposition 13 functionality that will increase staff productivity, and contribute to the Assessor’s Open Data initiative. The project will also consolidate existing databases into a single, easily-accessible system. All Assessor employees will have complete access to all data, thus eliminating lengthy delays required to research paper records or access different systems.
    Once completed, the new technology system will be much more user-focused and user-friendly. The public will have direct access to information and benefit from faster responses to their questions. Furthermore, the assessor’s modernization project will set new standards for transparency and accuracy, while supporting modern and future business and compliance requirements. Finally, the project will implement advanced security features will protect sensitive county and public information.

    Unsung Heroes of World War II Storm Capitol Hill
    WASHINGTON, D.C. – On June 17, a delegation of World War II Merchant Marine veterans stormed the Hill, visiting with members of Congress in the Capitol as they seek to raise awareness and gain greater recognition of their important service as part of the “the fourth arm of defense.”
    Now in their 80s and 90s, the men might not move as quickly or have the strength they did more than 70 years ago during their wartime service, but they remain just as patriotic and are fiercely determined in advocating on behalf of the surviving Merchant Marine veterans.
    Military and political leaders including Eisenhower, Churchill, and MacArthur praised their service and credited the Merchant Marine for their important role in the Allied victory.
    They risked their lives, facing attacks by U-boats and enemy planes and traveling through mined waters. As many as 9,000 mariners were killed – and thousands more maimed and injured – during the war. In fact, the casualty rate among the Merchant Marine was higher than for any branch of our armed forces in World War II.
    However, despite their dedicated wartime service to the nation, Merchant Marine veterans were not eligible for the benefits others received under the G.I. bill. This means they never received the college tuition subsidies, the home loan guarantees or other provisions of the G.I. Bill that helped millions of veterans transition seamlessly into civilian life and lifted many of their families into the middle class.
    Merchant Mariners were even excluded from Veterans Day and Memorial Day events. Only in 1988, following a class-action lawsuit, were they recognized as veterans, entitling them to care at Veterans Affairs hospitals.
    The group met with Rep. Janice Hahn (CA-44), who has introduced the Honoring Our World War II Merchant Mariners Act of 2015 (H.R. 563) and has been a leading advocate for them in the U.S. House of Representatives.
    The men shared stories of how they and their colleagues transported vital supplies and equipment to troops overseas, of their ships being sunk by torpedoes and their fellow Mariners who never made it home. They also talked about the indignity and injustice they experienced over the many years after their service, not being credited for their work and the risks they endured and not being recognized as veterans, unlike those whom they served alongside and supported.
    Clint Quirk, 91, from Arizona, said, “Like many, I couldn’t pass the physical, but I wanted to help with the war effort.”
    He dropped out of college and joined the Merchant Marine. At one point, he wound up manning the gun on his ship and serving as the shooter, despite not being enlisted in the military or having combat training.
    Charles Mills, from Texas, who will celebrate his 95th birthday while in Washington, DC, explained that the Navy assigned 16 gunners per ship, not enough to man all the guns, so commanders assigned mariners to those duties.
    Eugene Barner, 89, from Kansas, recalled being anchored at Okinawa preparing invasion forces when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and later sailing into Tokyo harbor and going ashore seeing the devastation. (His mother was like Rosie the Riveter, working in a Kansas plant where B-25 bombers were produced.) He is proud of his service and the role he and other Merchant Mariners played during the war and hopes H.R. 563 will pass into law.
    Charles Mills agrees, adding, “Merchant Mariners were promised to be part of the G.I. bill. I expected to be able to rely on the G.I. bill to go to college. But we weren’t included.” Decades after this disappointment, he explains that by supporting H.R. 563, “We are trying to get benefits we feel entitled to from the government in lieu of what we lost. And we also welcome the respect this would bring us.”
    He notes that unlike the U.S., our allies including Great Britain, France and Canada compensated maritime veterans or gave them pensions.
    Gabriel Frank, 87, from New York grew up in group homes after his mother died when he was 6. While in high school, he shined shoes and worked in factories. Virtually penniless, hungry and without a home, he got permission to join the Merchant Marine when he was 16 and served a total of 23 years including during both World War II and the Korean War.
    The group attended an event on Capitol Hill that a veterans organization hosted. A Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittee hearing and
    were introduced and acknowledged warmly at both events.
    A film crew accompanied the group during their Capitol Hill visit for a forthcoming documentary called The Sea is My Brother. (The trailer for that film can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/117332721 )

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  • Long Beach Women Hotel Workers Rally Against Abuse

    Long Beach Women Hotel Workers Rally Against Abuse

    By Crystal Niebla, Contributing Reporter

    LONG BEACH — More than 70 hotel workers, community activists and their families gathered outside the Long Beach City Hall on June 16 to speak up against poor working conditions in the Long Beach tourism industry.

    “People shouldn’t be overworked, overwhelmed with their duties, especially if they’re being robbed [from] breaks, ” said Martin Rodriguez, who heard about the rally at a Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a social justice group.

    Workers — mostly women — say they constantly are dealing not only with extreme workloads, but also, sexual harassment at hotels in Long Beach.

    Rosa Casarrubias, a banquet server at the Long Beach Westin Hotel, shared her story.

    “I’ve always remembered when I encountered a drunk guest [dressed] only in a towel,” Casarrubias said. “He kept saying, ‘Come on, honey, come inside to the room.’ Approaching me he asked, ‘What is your name? Where do you live? Do you like to drink? What are you doing after work?’ I was uncomfortable and scared. My heart was racing. I constantly kept looking around to see if anyone could help me, but there was nobody.”

    According to Long Beach Coalition for a Good Job and Healthy Community, a recent international study revealed that 68 percent of sexual assaults go. Casarrubias also said that when workers complain, they are either ignored or disciplined.

    “Many of us are told that it’s not a big deal, but rather, we should have a thicker skin,” she said.

    “I am gravely concerned about the lack of safety that exists in our city’s hotels, especially of the treatment of the hard-working women,” said Elizabeth Castillo, sexual assault forensic nurse specialist,who works at the Long Beach Memorial.

    Castillo said these women also are extremely overworked. In many cases, women are forced to clean without the proper tools and supplies, often on their hands and knees. Some women describe having to pick up hair out of carpet with their hands, she said.

    “Imagine having to clean up to 20 rooms a day — that’s 20 toilets, 20 sinks, 20 floors and 20 bedrooms in only eight hours,” Castillo said. “It’s not humanly possible for one woman to do without a break [and] the rest to go to the bathroom, let alone eat lunch.”

    “I, like many women, can’t even have a restroom break because we have to be on the floor the whole time attending guest orders,” Casarrubias said. “I want to see change.”


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  • Suspect, Officer Wounded in Shooting–RL NEWS Breifs June 16, 2015

    Suspect, Officer Wounded in Shooting

    LONG BEACH — The Long Beach Police Department identified a suspect they said was involved in a shooting that wounded an officer on June 14.
    The LBPD identified 31-year-old Eric Arroyo as a suspect in the officer involved shooting.
    The incident took place at about 9 p.m. that day, when police officer were dispatched to an apartment complex on the 3000 block of East Artesia Boulevard. When the police entered the complex, Arroyo exited one of the apartment units and began firing shots at an officer in the courtyard. Three officers returned fire at the suspect. One officer and the suspect both sustained gunshot injuries, officials said.
    Arroyo remains hospitalized. The wounded officer, who remains unidentified, underwent surgery June 15, officials said. Both injuries are considered non-life threatening.
    After learning the suspect had fired a gun within an apartment complex nearby, officers entered the complex to look for victims and evidence.
    When they entered the complex, the suspect exited one of the apartment units and began shooting at an officer in the courtyard. Three officers returned fire at the suspect. Officials said the suspect then left the complex and dropped his weapon, which was later recovered.
    Officers used an electronic control device to take Arroyo into custody. Arroyo resisted arrest. A second officer sustained minor injuries during that altercation, officials said.
    Arroyo was booked for attempted murder of a police officer.
    The case is still being investigated and will be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.

    Tongva Nation Files Public Nuisance Notice Against Plains All American.

    SANTA BARBARA — On June 14, Tongva Ancestral Tribal Nation Administrator John Tommy Rosas filed a public nuisance notice against Plains All American Pipeline.
    The notice was related to a May oil spill in Santa Barbara.
    The letter, written by the Tongva Nation’s legal representative, Anthony Patchett, highlights the mismanagement of Plains operators citing a number of obvious mistakes that have led to dire environmental consequences.
    The letter also makes direct references to the Plains All American Pipeline’s subsidiary, Rancho LPG LLC, in the Los Angeles Harbor Area. This facility has been of grave concern to local residents for more than 40 years due to the voluminous 25 million gallons of highly explosive butane and propane gases and the facility’s close proximity to pre-existing homes and schools.
    The Plains/Rancho 42-year-old liquefied petroleum gas tanks sit within a city documented “Earthquake Rupture Zone” (a convergence of multiple faults) whose magnitude quake potential is 7.3. The millions of gallons of explosive liquefied petroleum gas are stored in tanks built in 1973 to a seismic sub-standard of 5.5 to 6.0. The Plains/Rancho property is designated by the U.S. Geological Survey as “landslide” and “liquefaction” areas.

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  • POLA Container Volumes Edge up Slightly in May — RL NEWS Briefs, June 15, 2015

    POLA Container Volumes Edge up Slightly in May

    SAN PEDRO — May 2015 containerized cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles edged up .8 percent compared to the same period last year. The Port handled a total of 694,791 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in May 2015.

    Imports decreased .8 percent, from 351,403 TEUs in May 2014 to 348,427 TEUs in May 2015. Exports declined 3.5 percent, from 158,473 TEUs in May 2014 to 152,917 TEUs in May 2015. Combined, total loaded imports and exports decreased 1.7 percent, from 509,876 TEUs in May 2014 to 501,344 TEUs in May 2015. Factoring in empties, which increased 7.9 percent, overall May 2015 volumes (694,791 TEUs) increased .8 percent.

    For the first five months of 2015, overall volumes (3,181,718 TEUs) are down 4 percent compared to the same period in 2014.

    Data container counts for the POLA may be found at: www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp

    Garcetti Signs Minimum Wage Increase Into Law

    LOS ANGELES — On June 13, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the City of Los Angeles’s largest anti-poverty measure into law, increasing the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. The law will give a raise to more than 600,000 Angelenos earning minimum wage, helping lift them and their families out of poverty. The Mayor was joined by business, labor, and religious leaders as well as seven members of the Los Angeles City Council to sign the ordinance at

    The law raises the minimum wage to $15.00 by 2020 for businesses with 25 employees or more and to $15.00 by 2021 for businesses with 25 or fewer employees. By 2022, and annually thereafter, the minimum wage will increase based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
    The minimum wage in Los Angeles will be increased on the following schedule:
    7/1/16: $10.50
    7/1/17: $12
    7/1/18: $13.25
    7/1/19: $14.25
    7/1/20: $15
    For businesses and nonprofits with 25 or fewer employees, the increase will happen on the below schedule:
    7/1/17: $10.50
    7/1/18: $12.
    7/1/19: $13.25
    7/1/20: $14.25
    7/1/21: $15
    Youth wages will be 85 percent of the minimum wage for workers 14 to 17 years old.
    Of the more than 600,000 minimum wage earners who will receive a raise, 97 percent of those workers are aged 20 and older; 60 percent are older than 30 years old. More than 80 percent of the workers receiving this raise will be people of color and 50 percent are women. Almost half of minimum wage earners earning this wage have some college education and 14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
    In addition to the minimum wage, Garcetti will sign into law an ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council that will establish an Office of Labor Standards, with $500,000 budgeted in fiscal year 2015-2016 to fund investigators and outreach efforts to ensure businesses are paying workers their fair share. The office will work to curtail wage theft and ensure a level playing field for businesses in Los Angeles, working in conjunction with state efforts to enforce the minimum wage.


    Garcetti Announces New Deputy Mayor

    LOS ANGELES — On June 12, Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Jeff Gorell as his new deputy mayor for Homeland Security and Public Safety, effective July 6, 2015.

    Gorell is a former California State legislator who also served as a military intelligence officer and a deputy district attorney.

    As deputy mayor for Homeland Security and Public Safety, Gorell will advise the mayor on policy related to and oversee the departments of police, fire, and emergency management, and he will also coordinate with other regional, state, and federal agencies to ensure Los Angeles is safe and fully prepared for any emergency.

    Gorell was a member of the California State Assembly, representing the 37th and 44th District, from 2010 to 2014. Previously, he was a deputy district attorney in Ventura County, serving in the Major Narcotics and Serious and Violent Felony Units. Gorell is also a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was deployed twice to Afghanistan, in 2001-2002 and 2011-2012.

    Gorell earned his bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of California, Davis and his juris doctorate from University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. He lives in Camarillo with his wife Laura and their three children.


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  • Time Slips A Cog

    By Lionel Rolfe

    I’m beginning this piece by chipping away at a giant writer’s block.

    That big ugly monolith plunked itself down in front of me the other day when the boyfriend of my ex-wife discovered I was still texting and phoning and even meeting her for nice dinners on rare occasions. She didn’t even tell me in person. She texted me that she was cutting me off. I even think that was the word she used. I was indeed cut.

    Suddenly, all the insights I thought I had gained during my seven decades on this earth slipped away. My ability, even my desire to write disappeared. A river of mundanity flooded my floundering ship. In that mood, I walked down to the corner liquor store for a friend of mine who wanted a small bottle of scotch. I peered down at the sidewalk which I check out much more carefully nowadays because of my age. I didn’t want to slip and fall.

    It’s been more than half a century since I was a student at Los Angeles City College and lived in the Echo Park and Silver Lake area. I wouldn’t have thought about it further, except for a great universal fart that occurred, tearing me loose from my moorings. Something was missing. It took me a moment to realize what was missing was the majority of my life. The blinding revelation came right after I had missed a particularly large hole in the sidewalk and avoided stumbling and falling. I realized too I had never really left the old hood. It was as if I had never gone to the Thracian Valley or the Black Sea coast or London or Canada or Baja California or Jerusalem or Melbourne. Whatever wisdom I gained on those voyages was no longer a part of me. I had simply never left here.

    When I was a student living in Echo Park, I knew I would devote my life to making the world a better place. I was excited by the things that could be. My earliest mentor in all this had been Jacque Fresco, a futurist who is nearly 100 years old today, and at last word was still living in Florida where he’s yet building the city of the future. In those days he had his laboratory on Riverside Drive, a bit south of Los Feliz Boulevard, closer to Toontown than Silver Lake.

    Jacque excited me about the future, but that’s when I wasn’t even a teenager. Now, at a venerable age, I’m struck hardest by the reality of the fact that today’s sidewalks are the same aged, buckling, piss-ridden thoroughfares they had always been even though the stores are all fo-foo and wildly trendy. Still, I think it’s a fair question to ask–if the sidewalks have grown so much worse in 50 years, how can we talk about any future?

    Some of the catalyst behind the slipping cog may have simply been that it was summer — never my favorite time in the ol’ hood. The sun that falls in Los Angeles in the summer is hot, smoggy, intense, profoundly dreary and intensely mundane. It is flat, with no spring or autumn sparkle.

    And I now have to closely watch where I put my foot so I won’t take a fall from an unexpected fissure created by a protruding tree through the sidewalk.

    As I said, I nearly fell. I was happy I hadn’t. But I also realized that It was probably inevitable that one day I will fall on these mundane and dreary sidewalks and die there.

    It was a big deal when I left the old neighborhood. I was 19, and my pregnant wife and I moved to Pismo Beach, a couple of hundred miles up on the coast, so I could take a newspaper job. The world travels would come much later, for I intended to tell the various tales that seemed so important to tell. Now I’m probably done traveling. And I’m home, still walking the stifling hot summer streets of the old neighborhood. I’m seeing the same old sidewalks and streets, and I no longer believe we can make this a better earth. We only seem to be able to make it worse. I’m sorry to be so sour but the facts leave me no choice.

    I so badly want to make sense of it all. Where did the years go? What the hell was it all about? Very soon after that fateful trip to the liquor store, I needed someone to talk to. I have interviewed many brilliant people over the years, even some great ones — politicians, philosophers, scientists, musicians and the like. I guess it would be interesting to take a trip to Florida to see what my old mentor Jacque Fresco is doing and saying. But I am afraid even if I could go, it would be a disappointment. I’m afraid even if I could somehow sit down in a room with some of my heroes like Mark Twain or Jack London or Beethoven, I would come away disappointed. People are nothing if not human, and that’s a problem.

    So, I’ll go hang out with a friend who lives in Angelino Heights, one of the oldest residential areas close to downtown. His name is John Owen. He used to be a pretty important bureaucrat in Los Angeles City Hall. He’s a somewhat philosophical fellow. He had a droll way of telling stories of how corruption works in city hall. He also was a dedicated fighter of nuclear weapons and the like, going to jail for his pacifism many times. These days his activism is mostly relegated to helping the homeless as best he can. He’s aligned, at least politically and spiritually, with what’s left of the old Dorothy Day Catholic Worker movement. His two life-partners died on him. He’s resigned to that. He says he’s entirely asexual these days. He’s created a wondrous back yard for himself and his friends. It is full of odd trees and bushes he brought in over the years. The place looks like a jungle, yet, it’s little more than stone’s throw from downtown. It’s a surrealistic perch even in Los Angeles, which has a number of wonderfully surrealistic perches hidden in various corners here and there.

    I confess my doubts and fears to him. He introduces me to a friend, Barry Qualls, who describes himself as a songster from Lincoln Heights.  Barry has spent his whole life seeking stardom in rock ‘n’ roll, and apparently never quite made it. But it’s all good to him. Each day he wakes up is a blessing.

    When John does his version of waxing rhapsodically he talks about how “the body of man puts out more light than it takes in,” which is what stars do. He concludes we already are stars.

    Owen came to his view because “there was an event in my life. I lost my mind. I was in the process of losing my mind, and then it happened,” he says happily–and not really looking to me like he really had lost his mind.

    From that event he came to realize that “Everything is connected, it’s far more beautiful than we can tell. Everything is a star, everything is shining and we are the viewing station of the planet. Our consciousness is the consciousness of the plant. This whole earth is one animal, one organism. But then, I always get I was never born and hence cannot die. And that’s the way it is.”

    Was this something like what had happened to me?

    Sounds kind of like hippie babble, I say to him, but not in an unfriendly way. So, dear reader, do you have a better answer? I’d still be happier if my ex-came home, but knowing that isn’t going to happen, I’ll just go with the flow, man.

    I am from LA, after all.


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  • Homelessness Increases in Harbor Area, County

    By Ivan Adame, Contributing Reporter

    New data produced from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority shows homelessness in the South Bay Harbor Area increased 39 percent since 2013.

    Since the prior count, in 2013, volunteers counted 838 new homeless people in the South Bay Harbor Area, totaling to 3,006. Service Planning Area 8, the South Bay Harbor Area, includes San Pedro, Wilmington, Lomita, Carson, Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Gardena, El Segundo, parts of Hawthorne, Lakewood,  Lennox and Inglewood.

    The Los Angeles  Homeless Services Authority considers different categories of homeless people, among these categories are: chronically homeless people, chronically homeless family members, people who have substance abuse issues, severely mentally ill people, veterans, domestic violence survivors, people living with HIV/AIDS and people who have some sort physical disability or challenge.

    The homeless count results showed significant increases in most classifications of homelessness. The largest group of homeless people impacted are chronically homeless people. Their numbers have almost tripled at 1,122, up from 409 two years ago. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines chronic homelessness as an individual or family with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

    The numbers of homeless people who have experienced domestic violence have tripled, from 187 to 584. Veteran homelessness has doubled, from 238 to 575. Also, the amount of homeless people who have issues with substance abuse have increased from 680 to 1,084.

    Overall, the new data shows that the Los Angeles County has experienced a 16 percent increase since 2013, with 5,650 new homeless people, totaling to 41,175.

    One of the most notable changes in homelessness across the county includes a significant increase in the use of tents, makeshift shelters and vehicles, up 85 percent from 2013. There was also a 12 percent increase in family homelessness.

    The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which took place in late January, was an effort of 5,500 volunteers across 108 deployment sites around much of the county.  Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena did not participate because those cities produced their own counts.

    Details: http://tinyurl.com/homelessscount2015


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  • Any Given Sunday

    UCO Comes Through for Long Beach Homeless

    By Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaug, Editorial Intern

    Urban Community Outreach may not be a large nonprofit, but what they do is not small.

    The Long Beach organization has been helping to stem homelessness and poverty since 2008. Not only does it feed and clothe thousands of people, but it has also succeeds in providing a safe and comfortable environment for homeless people. Every Sunday it opens its doors of its drop-in center in downtown.

    Its mission statement is simple: “To advance the interests and promote the welfare of children, the economically disadvantaged and homeless people in the downtown Long Beach area.”

    The drop-in center, founded by Janet Rhodes, was originally part of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, a progressive church that has been making efforts to help Long Beach’s homeless community. It was established after people began to realize that the homeless had no place to go on Sundays. Most agencies are closed that day. They began to open up their church to the homeless on Sundays, giving them a place to escape the weather and relax.

    In time, the drop-in center began to increase its scale and services and attracted more volunteers, including college students and AmeriCorps members. In 2008, the center had grown large enough to become a nonprofit organization separate from the church. Thus, Urban Community Outreach was born.

    Today, the nonprofit continues to run the center. Many of Urban Community Outreach’s volunteers and board members are also members of the church.

    The center’s doors open from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sundays, except the first weekend of December and all Sundays in July. Two hot and nutritious meals are served, one when the doors open and one at 2 p.m. It’s computer lab has 16 computers that people can use to send emails, browse the Internet, or other activities like writing. Computer skills are also taught to broaden patrons’ job opportunities. A nurse visits the center once a month for treatment and counseling, and dental care is offered sporadically.

    UCO Executive Director Arlene Mercer, also founder of Food Finders, said by the end of 2015, the organization hopes to have dental services scheduled monthly.

    Additionally, the center distributes camping supplies to people living on the streets, including tents and sleeping bags, hygiene kits, books, food for pets they may have, canned goods, toilet paper and backpacks.

    “We are one of the few organizations that give completely free services like these,” Mercer said.

    The drop-in center at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, also known as Patterson Hall, is at 241 Cedar Ave. in Long Beach

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