• Communities Outraged At Opportunities for New Gas Power Plants

    SAN FRANCISCO — On March 13, the California Environmental Justice Alliance expressed outrage at the California Public Utilities Commission approval of a flawed plan to replace the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating System.

    The approved decision passed unanimously giving utility companies such as the San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison the option to build more dirty natural gas power plants. The commission released changes last minute with no time for public input.

    The commission’s final plan allows utilities to choose where the bulk of the energy need comes from, which includes natural gas. In addition, the final plan increases the total projected energy need. Though it does require some clean energy development, it backs away from the commitment to “preferred resources,” clean energy, energy efficiency and other programs that promote conservation and renewable energy.

    Less than a month ago, over the alliance’s strenuous objection, the commission approved a proposal to build the Pio Pico power plant in the Latino, low-income area near San Diego. Pio Pico is projected to emit 685,000 tons of greenhouse gas pollutants per year from burning natural gas. According to the California Air Resources Board, greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2012 for the first time since 2008 because of increased reliance on gas plants after San Onofre closed.

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  • Papered Over

    Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Perhaps you have noticed that large fluffy cloud floating in the window of the Angel’s Ink Gallery on 6th Street in San Pedro.

    With each exhibit, gallery owner Robin Hinchliffe is building the reputation of her gallery, along with the 7th St. gallery row. Her objective is to communicate with visitors to her gallery and the district.

    The point of the First Thursday Art Walk in San Pedro is to connect artists with the public. The exhibit Papered Over, brings six accomplished artists whose works in this show share a theme of the many layers of life that humans experience throughout the society. Hinchliffe states the title refers not only to the collage process used by several of the artists, but also that the term “papered over” refers to hiding the real essence of an object.

    “It is the joy of bringing ideas to people visually,” Hinchliffe said. “I could be seeing something that makes you feel wonderful or joyful, and you can’t even figure out why. When that works it is wonderful.

    “People can go by on their sidewalk; they own it. They own that sidewalk. It is their space. But they can walk past this space, look in the window and say ‘Is that art? I didn’t know I liked art!’” (more…)

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  • San Pedro Arts Community Memorializes Debbie Marr

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
    Friends, family and artists from throughout the Harbor Area gathered to celebrate the art and life of Debbie Marr.

    Marr was memorialized March 8, in an exhibition of her art at the Croatian Cultural Center in San Pedro.  She was an award-winning artist and owner of the Lazy Dog Gallery at 361 W. 7th St. in San Pedro.

    Michael Caccavalla prepared a sumptuous buffet for the gathering while friends shared stories and watched a video tribute created by Valerie Smith-Griffin.

    The art exhibit, curated by Ron Linden of Transvagrant Gallery, demonstrated the talent of the well-loved artist. Several paintings were loaned by local collectors for the celebration. Many of her paintings focused on the rich history of San Pedro, which she wished to preserve.

    Marr published art book San Pedro: Faces and Places. The volume displaying iconic San Pedro location is a compilation of work by five local artists portraying local landmarks and residents.

    Marr’s ability as a photo-realist artist was acknowledged just before her death through her inclusion in a national photo realism exhibition in Tempe, Ariz. (more…)

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  • News of the Week: Ponte Vista, Murders, More

    SAN PEDRO
    LA City Council Approves Ponte Vista
    LOS ANGELES — On March 4, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the Ponte Vista development in San Pedro.

    This project has an almost decade-long history. It began in the early years of the 2000s as a 2,300-unit mixed-use urban village on a hill and through the recession has become the master-planned residential suburban neighborhood that is embodied in the plan that was approved.  At 676 – 700 units, it is a fraction of the size that was originally proposed.  It will have publicly-accessible walking and jogging paths, recreation centers and a variety of for-sale housing type that speak to the current generation of homebuyers.

    In addition to the critical mitigation measures for traffic and other impacts  that will be imposed as a result of the environmental review process, the project applicant has agreed to a number of additional community benefits;

    • a permanent access road from Western Avenue to the Mary Star High School property which abuts the property
    • a Project Labor Agreement with the Building Trades Council
    • a Local Hire program facilitated through the City’s Worksource Center and PV Jobs
    • Streetscape Improvements to Western Avenue
    • Two-and-a-half acre park along Western Avenue, designed, constructed and operated by the developer and the subsequent homeowner association, but fully accessible to the public. (more…)

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  • MoLAA Brings Frida Kahlo to Long Beach

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    The Museum of Latin American Art, MoLAA, is set to unveil what may be the most important exhibition in their history.

    Frida Kahlo, Her Photos, 247 images culled from Frida Kahlo’s personal Casa Azul archive in Mexico City opens to members, March 15,. The photos offer insight into Frida’s daily life, showing her with family, friends and at work, painting. They provide a stark contrast to the collective image of Kahlo that has been largely generated by her self-portraits.

    A little-known side of the artist and lifelong resident of Coyoacán, Mexico is revealed in this exhibit. The collection of photographs in this exhibition reflect Kahlo’s tastes and interests, the experiences she shared with those close to her, and her complicated and also electrifying personal life. Viewers get a look, not only through the photographer’s viewfinder, but also through the annotated writing found on the back of many of the photographs.

    Kahlo is one of the most recognizable Mexican artists, known for her surrealist paintings as well as her turbulent marriage to Diego Rivera. The two artists lived in post-revolutionary Mexico, an environment infused with political and creative turmoil.

    Kahlo lived her life as art. Her esthetic permeated her home and all these elements are evident in her personal photo collection.

    The excitement at the museum reverberates throughout the building. (more…)

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  • Melville Boys

    By John Farrell

    The Melville Boys is Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s second work.

    Since then he has written a few more plays, more than 50 others in all, and has had more than 150 plays produced every year for 20 years (including plays at the Torrance Theater recently and at the Long Beach Playhouse). He hit his stride early: The Melville Boys is delicious, a four-member situation-comedy with more than a little bite, more than a little food for thought in its two-hour length.

    The story centers around Owen Melville (Michael Hanson) and Lee Melville (Bill Wolski) who have come up to their uncle’s cabin at the lake for a weekend of fishing before they have to return to the real world where Lee has to have a serious medical procedure and Owen is soon getting married. (more…)

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  • Raining On The Ukrainian Parade

    By LIONEL ROLFE

    I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but let’s get off this thing about poor picked on Ukraine standing up for freedom against the big evil Russians.

    Would you feel sympathy if poor picked on Texas decided they wanted to secede? Maybe that might not be an entirely bad idea, given the reprehensible politics of the place. But still we’d probably object.

    My best insight into the Ukraine came a couple or so years back when I stood in front of the National Library in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. I was fascinated by the statue in front of two brothers, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, credited with inventing the Cyrillic alphabet which is used not only in Bulgaria but in Russia  and a lot of other places.

    The Cyrillic alphabet, based on the Greek alphabet (Greece is a neighbor of Bulgaria), was created as a way to spread Orthodox Christianity in the eighth century. So, little Bulgaria gave Eastern Europe the basis of the Slavic language.

    Not far away from the library is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, named after the great saint of the Orthodox Church who defended Mother Russia from the Germanic invaders in the 13th century.  (more…)

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  • Long Beach’s Proposed Medpot Tax: Legitimate Revenue or Mere Money-Grab?

    Long Beach’s history with medical marijuana has been, to put it mildly, inconsistent. In 2009 the City had an official “wait-and-see” attitude, tolerating the operation of over 50 medpot dispensaries. In 2010 the city council passed an ordinance officially sanctioning them, albeit at exorbitant cost and restrictions many regarded as overbearing. In 2012 the council reversed course and banned them outright. Now, after instructing city attorney draft a new medpot ordinance, the council seems poised to reverse course once again.

    The motivating factors for such zigzagging are open to speculation. But considering that the city council placed Measure A on the ballot, it’s a fair surmise that money is one. Measure A, “General Tax on Medical Marijuana Sales,” would compel dispensaries to pay, in addition to business-license fees and the regular 9% sales tax, a city tax of up to 10% on gross annual receipts, along with a tax of up to $50 per square foot of real estate. The starting figures would be a 6% tax plus $15/sq. ft., with the council empowered to raise each at any time.

    Is the proposed tax is a legitimate part of bringing medpot back to Long Beach, or is the City simply trying to cash in, regardless of who bears the cost? One councilmember who is not shy about accusing her colleagues of the latter is mayoral candidate Gerrie Schipske. Never afraid to chart her own course, Schipske is apparently the only councilmember to oppose the tax, saying so not only by casting the lone “nay” vote for putting Measure A on the ballot, but subsequently using her blog to enumerate the reasons for her opposition.

    Those reasons are varied. She argues that the tax is unfair to dispensaries because it would make them the only business in Long Beach taxed on gross sales receipts. She says it’s unfair to patients because “[n]o other ‘medicine’ is taxed in California,” and that this would be “the largest tax ever paid by residents for a product sold in the City,” a cost “passed along to those with medical conditions who can least afford it.” And she says that, because the tax “cannot be estimated as a steady source [of revenue, i]t cannot be used for police, fire or other essential services and will become a slush fund for City Council.”

    According to City Budget Manager Dennis Strachota, some of Schipske’s claims are more accurate than others. While Strachota doesn’t know whether the proposed tax will give medpot the distinction of being the city’s highest-taxed item ever, he confirms that, aside from vending machines, Measure A would make dispensaries the only business taxed based on gross sales receipts. However, he doesn’t see any reason why the tax would need to be considered one-time money.

    “We don’t segregate license taxes and identify whether one is more predictable and reliable,” Strachota says. “We look at the source in its entirety. And if this particular tax were making a regular contribution in terms of increased revenue, most likely the City would consider that an ongoing source of revenue, not a one-time [source].”

    However, Schipske is correct regarding the taxation of medicine. While prescription medication is exempt from state sales tax, in 2011 the California Board of Equalization ruled that medpot does not share the exemption, and so the passage of Measure A would mean Long Beach medpot would be taxed at a rate as high as 19%, in addition to the square-footage tax.

    Schipske’s opposition to Measure A may not be motivated by an interest in securing patients’ safe access in Long Beach to medicinal cannabis (which may be hinted at by her referring to marijuana a “medicine”—i.e., with quotation marks). Between 2010 and 2012, for example, Schipske, O’Donnell, and the 3rd District’s Gary DeLong formed a voting block that consistently worked to block the presence of dispensaries in Long Beach.

    But there’s no such ambiguity in the position of the Long Beach Collective Association, an advocacy group for ensuring patients have safe access to medicinal cannabis. The LBCA supports passage of Measure A, going as far as to author the sample ballot’s “pro” argument.

    “The majority of the people we’ve talked to do not seem to have a problem with the [proposed] tax,” says LBCA Boardmember Adam Hijazi. “And if it’s going to help public funding—whether it’s police, fire, parks, potholes, whatever it is—I think everybody is kind of okay with it.”

    Well, not everybody. Erstwhile 7th District council candidate and dispensary manager Larry King speaks for many in the medpot community when he echoes Schipske’s objections in his anti-Measure A argument.

    “This new measure was hastily pushed through Council to create an issue for this election and is ill conceived,” King writes. “No other prescribed medicine is taxed in California. And no other business in Long Beach has even been taxed on both gross sales and square footage combined. […] A tax on marijuana would be acceptable for recreational purposes, just like alcohol. But this is MEDICINE, which is not taxed in California.”

    The LBCA concedes all of King’s points, admitting that Measure A “is by no means perfect, and the unprecedently high taxation rate does raise alarm on many levels [… creating] the possibility that the cost will then be passed onto and perhaps out of reach for the truly sick patients. […] Also true is that the measure did get fast tracked onto the ballot even tough the actual medical marijuana ordinance itself has not yet been crafted.”

    And as Hijazi notes, the council could have placed a “tax and regulate” ordinance on the ballot, thus allowing voters to approve dispensaries along with an accompanying tax in one step, as the LBCA attempted to do with a proposed ballot measure that, according to the City, failed to collect the necessary number of verifiable petition signatures for inclusion on the ballot. If given the opportunity, Long Beach residents would almost certainly approve allowing dispensaries. In 2010, for example, residents voted in favor Proposition 19, which would have legalized the use and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes (as is currently the case in Colorado and Washington) had it passed statewide.

    As it is, even if voters pass Measure A, the council will still have to pass an ordinance allowing dispensaries in order for the tax to take effect. And Hijazi admits to being “very concerned” that the council may back away from allowing dispensaries in Long Beach if Measure A fails.

    Hijazi’s concern does not seem unwarranted. For example, despite having been the council’s staunchest opponent of dispensaries over the last three years, in September 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell voted along with the rest of the council to have a new medpot ordinance drafted. Might he turn around and vote against the pending medpot ordinance if Measure A fails? Random Lengths News posed this question to him but received no reply.

    Regarding the severity of the proposed tax, Schipske is not the only councilmember who seems to regard it as too high. For example, 6th District Councilmember Dee Andrews called the tax “out of proportion” during the January council meeting at which the ballot initiative was approved.

    So how does one justify taxing medicinal cannabis at such a high rate when it already does not enjoy the sales-tax exemption given to other medicines? Random Lengths News posed this question to Councilmembers Robert Garcia, Suja Lowenthal, and Al Austin, the three co-sponsors of the agenda item that became Measure A, but we received no response to that question, nor to whether their ultimate support for a medpot ordinance would be affected by Measure A’s fate.

    Hijazi admits another concern regarding Measure A: that if it passes, the council will immediately exercise the latitude the new law will gives the and raise the taxes from their starting rate—a move he says would definitely negatively impact patients.

    “Right now, at 6% and $15 per square foot, [the proposed tax] will be creating a pretty [noticeable burden],” he says. “If it goes up from that, I’d rather give out medical cannabis for free than have to tell patients, ‘This is the minimum [donation for medicine] because the taxes are so high. So it’s a big concern. […] We’re trying to educate the council that [the proposed starting tax] has pretty much hit the peak of what [the tax can be] without really being a burden on the patients.”

    Long Beach residents vote YES or NO on Measure A on April 8, 2014.

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  • Instructor Seeks District 5 Council Office

    By Zamná Ávila,, Assistant Editor 

    Thomas SutfinMost seasoned teachers recall their first year in the profession as being one big blur of preparation, teaching, grading and stress punctuated with fun.

    For Long Beach Council District 5 candidate Thomas Sutfin, the same can be said of campaigning for public office–except that it’s more stressful.

    “Kids can be critical, but accept you as long as they know you care,” said Sutfin, who has taught for 23. “On the campaign trail it’s easy for people to be critical (they need to) and not know how much you care about the role of being on the city council.”

    Sutfin has also operated a flight instruction business for the past 6 years.

    The computer programming teacher at Milikan High School, Sutfin first got exposed to politics about 8 years ago, when he helped his friend Dave Radford in his bid for the same seat against Schipske.

    One of the things Sutfin admires about Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske is her fight for more transparency in the city. He said he would like to continue that effort and add more access to the conversation. Taxpayers should have access to how their funds are used.

    “Government should be both accessible and transparent to the community it serves,” he said. “Improving the city’s web presence so that services can be rendered more efficiently is one strategy to improve customer service.”

    The father of two boys considers himself to be fiscally conservative, believing there is much wasteful spending that needs to be reconsidered. He said he decided to run for office after a friend of his responded to Sutfin’s complaints about city spending. His friend’s advice to Sutfin was, “Do something about it.”

    “After taking that first step, I realized quickly [that] in addition to poor use of city funds, there are a great number of additional issues that have to be addressed,” Sutfin said. “The fundamental thing about fiscal conservancy is, ‘a penny in, a penny out…. “If you are going to spend money on something, the people of Long Beach ought to see the results of that; it should be almost a one-to-one correlation.”

    One expenditure Sutfin is looking at more closely these days is the rebuilding of the Long Beach Civic Center.

    “There is some information that hasn’t come out yet,” Sutfin said.

    Sutfin is referring to retrofit studies. While most of the city council seems bent on tearing down the existing building and constructing a completely new civic center after they were told that the Long Beach City Hall building is not seismically fit, few have discussed the options of retrofitting the city hall and the Downtown Library, which also has drainage and roof issues.

    “Now, it’s my understanding that the facility was built in 1977, and you know, the school I’m working at was built in 1953,” Sutfin said. “It’s much older …. It’s harder to justify something, I think rebuilding something, spending millions of dollars on what you’ve got there.”

    But the biggest issues in his district relate to the economics of the Long Beach Airport and the surrounding area, he said.

    “When I look at the economic focus or the economic identity of Long Beach, I look at two things: it’s the airport and Boeing, and the Port of Long Beach,” Sutfin said.

    He aims to bring more high-tech industries to the area. He believes the city must create think tanks and identify its resources and assets. Then, turn around and recruit large engineering industries such as new energy, solar energy, biotech and robotics, which he cites the city’s local colleges as having talented people to pool from.

    “I am in support of any kind of job,” he said. “However, the jobs that we bring should work toward high paying [jobs].”

    But higher paying jobs may not solve all of the city’s issues. With more than 4,300 homeless people in Long Beach. Finding facilities for the homeless has been a challenge. After the announcement of the army’s base realignment and closure of Schroeder Hall in District 5, in 2005, the idea was to transfer the land to the city so that it could benefit the homeless and mentally ill. However, most communities, including District 5 fought such efforts. Suftin expressed his disappointment.

    “The important aspect of this issue is that it followed democratic process,” he said. “I am a little disappointed because the location of Schroeder Hall seemed to be a good place for the non residential facility. Especially for those in district 5 who would have benefitted from the services. True it would have brought people from the whole city, but it was, as I recall, over a thousand feet from any residence. This is a human issue which requires thoughtful consideration. Those services were ultimately displaced to another part of the city and any potential impact on property values was averted.”

    Another issue fought by the community is the placing of a cell phone tower at Wardlow Park.

    “Cell phone towers have been shown to emit electromagnetic waves that can increase the risk of cancer with extended, close range, exposure,” he said. “Any installation should be placed in such a way that is aesthetically pleasing and creates no opportunity for extended exposure.”

    He also recognizes that there are obvious field improvements needed with regard to the green belt and Douglas Park. To that end, he would like to see the creation of turf field through private-public partnerships.

    Public Safety

    As with education, Sutfin believes public safety is rooted in communication and understanding.

    He wants to advocate for a water-bearing engine for his district.

    “The movement of assets in the city of Long Beach and the reduction of force have created a small void in the station of Palos Verdes and Woodruff,” he said. “Right now, there [are] only [emergency medical] services there. There is not a fire engine there…. We ought to bring back some those assets we pulled out early on.”

    He also would like to create community fairs and/or block parties where youth may do community service, police would present their reports and the fire department would provide information and emergency training.

    Sutfin recognizes he may not have all the answers, but he is willing to learn in the process. Nevertheless, he believes he has a lot to offer.

    “The biggest thing is build a community,” he said. “That’s a big part of being a council person…. It’s about collaboration; it’s about building community even within the group.”

    View the RLn Long Beach 2014 Election Blog Here.

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  • LB Mayoral Candidates Account for Their Decisions

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor | Photo By Phillip Cooke

    Moderator Dave Wielenga challenged candidates’past and present choices during the Feb. 28, Long Beach Mayoral Debate at First Congregational Church.

    Vice Mayor Robert Garcia, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, Long Beach Board of Trustees member Doug Otto, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske and nonprofit CEO Jana Shields participated in the Yes We Can Democratic Club-sponsored debate.

    Wielenga, the publisher of GreaterLongBeach.com, first questioned Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske.

    Schipske was the lone vote against declaring a state of emergency that would allow for simple majority of voters to pass Measure I. Measure I, was a $551 million parcel tax that Mayor Bob Foster promised would be spent on infrastructure. But to be implemented, the city charter required Long Beach voters to approve Measure I by a two-thirds majority, unless the city council unanimously declared the situation constituted a state of emergency. Voters approved Measure I by a 52 percent margin, but falling short of the two-thirds, it did not pass.

    “Council member Schipske, please explain why you didn’t vote for the state of emergency that would have enabled Measure I’s passage,” Wielenga requested.

    Schipske explained that the issue was railroaded through. (more…)

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