• UC Unlawfully Threatens AFSCME 3299

    OAKLAND — In a bargaining offer emailed from the University of California to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299’s Patient Care Technical Unit on Feb. 3, UC unlawfully threatened to rescind their proposals and deduct unspecified costs from future offers if AFSCME 3299 proceeds with its planned strike authorization vote Feb. 11 through 13.

    In response, AFSCME 3299’s legal counsel has issued a cease and desist letter to the University of California, and AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger has penned a similar appeal to UC President Janet Napolitano.

    With negotiators for both AFSCME 3299’s Service (SX) and Patient Care (EX) units already having conceded to UC’s demands on more than 30 of 40 contract issues—as well as UC’s top priority of pension reform—the remaining sticking points remain staffing standards and wage increases.

    On these priority issues for AFSCME 3299, UC has refused to offer anything commensurate with what it has already granted to its other employees.

    UC also illegally coerced AFSCME 3299 members in an effort to prevent the exercise of collective bargaining rights back in May, and singled out AFSCME workers for unilateral implementation of contract terms that included what amounted to pay cuts on its lowest paid workers this past year.

    A recent study pointed to rising income inequality and staffing shortfalls at UC hitting AFSCME represented Service workers the hardest—with workplace injuries skyrocketing more than 20 percent in the past five years, 99 percent of service workers currently income eligible for some form of public assistance and some full time UC workers even living in their cars. (more…)

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  • Garcetti Announces Military Veteran Advisory Council Appointees

    LOS ANGELES — On Feb. 6, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the members of the Mayor’s Military Veteran Advisory Council.

    The advisory council will have its first official meeting on February 27th at Los Angeles’ Bob Hope Patriotic Hall. It is comprised of four mayoral appointees and three Los Angeles City Council appointees, who will advise Garcetti’s administration on issues affecting the military community.

    The advisory will work to enhance the well-being of the Los Angeles veteran community by advising Garcetti and the city council on emerging policies and programs.

    The advisory is an initiative of the mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, created by the mayor to address the needs of veterans’ community in Los Angeles. The office is working to coordinate resources with a variety of stakeholders to support veterans in Los Angeles and seek strategies to mitigate the potential for long-term unemployment, instability and homelessness.

    In conjunction with the mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs, Garcetti has debuted a page on his website where veterans can learn about resources for housing, employment, medical and mental health services, as well as contact the Veterans’ Affairs coordinator with questions. The site is available at www.lamayor.org/vets. (more…)

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  • Long Beach Through the Eyes of a Longtime Frequent Visitor

    Typically Long Beachers have plenty to say—good and bad—about the city we call home. But what impressions does it make on others, particularly those rare individuals who have both spent a lot of time in Long Beach and have a lot with which to compare it?

    The thought came to mind while speaking with Jimi Vesely at the end of his recent four-month stay with us. A native of the Czech Republic who attended university in Edinburgh and has traveled throughout the United States and Europe, the 26-year-old Vesely has stayed in Long Beach for at least one month nearly a dozen times since 2000.

    The bottom line is that he loves Long Beach. But he’s seen it change for both better and worse and finds as much to criticize as to praise.

    Long Beach was not Vesely’s first experience of the United States. He lived in Claremont (for which he retains a fondness) for two years in the mid 1990s. When his parents split up towards the end of the decade, Vesely went back to the Czech Republic, while his father purchases a house at Orange Avenue and 2nd Street. Thus did Vesely’s first strong impression of Long Beach center around the ocean, which was only a couple of blocks away.

    “Even though I’m not really big on water, going to the beach, enjoying the sand and the waves….”

    At this he catches himself and laughs. “You don’t get many waves here because of the [breakwater],” he continues. “But still, for someone coming from Europe, you have the ocean at your fingertips. Even if you’re not big into water, at first it overwhelms you. You’re like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.'”

    He recalls that when other children heard where he lived, they would refer to the neighborhood as a “ghetto,” a perception that puzzled him even then. To him the side streets were a playground, with he and his brothers often bicycling and roller-blading all throughout the immediate area.

    The feeling of freedom to roam stemmed partly from the people here, who evinced a qualitative difference from the people in his homeland.

    “I find people in Long Beach, and maybe in America [as a whole], quite friendly and open,” Vesely says. “When we were kids going to the park, we frequently interacted with the people there, and we never really felt threatened by the adults or the kids. [Everything] was [undertaken] in a friendly way—the small talk, the chatter—which is an experience you definitely don’t have in the Czech Republic. There is a great public-transportation system in Prague, but you will never really talk to anyone on the metro or the tram because they are strangers, and if you can avoid contact with them, you do. That’s just the way it works there. But in Long Beach, and in America in general, the people seems to be a lot more open and want to communicate, to connect a lot more.”

    As far as local attractions, Vesely recalls Pine Avenue as being a big deal.

    “Back then, Pine Avenue was the experience,” he says. “We were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to Pine!’ Because it was the place you had to walk like 15 or 20 minutes [to get to], and it was the place where everything happened.”

    One of Vesely’s criticisms of Long Beach is how Pine-centered the city remains and how development of other areas has been neglected.

    “On the one hand, it’s really great to have everything concentrated in one place, because you know where to go,” he says. “On the other hand, you walk [beyond] Pine, and it can be really hard to find another [highly activated] place. There are a lot of projects [underway] to make Pine look even better. There are new trees here, and they have a long-term plan for what to do with the street. And that’s great. I love that. But at the same time, it would be great to take some of that attention and apply it to a different part of Long Beach, or maybe expand it a little bit so it’s not just one street. […] There are things happening [elsewhere in Long Beach], like on 4th Street, but I don’t think the City gives attention to those places. The attention is all on Pine. […] It would be great to expand that, or maybe find a second place so there is more diversity for someone who comes here as a tourist so he can go to two different places and not just one.”

    When asked to single out what he likes best on Pine, Vesely’s answer may be surprising: the bar/restaurant Taco Beach.

    “I would say Taco Beach is one of the mainstays of Long Beach,” he says. “We used to go there back then, and we go there quite often now. It’s a really great place.”

    Equally surprising is the high marks Vesely gives to the area’s public transit. He calls the free Passport service downtown “an awesome thing [that] you don’t see that very often in any city around the world,” although he was disappointed to hear that since the Passport’s free east-west service was discontinued in August 2012. Even so, he praises the convenience of local bus service and the Blue Line.

    “And that’s coming from someone who comes and visits, so obviously I don’t have my own car here,” he says. “Perhaps a lot of people who live here locally might not use the [public transit] service as often because they have a car, but I think [public transit] is an integral part of making a lively city.”

    For Vesely, the most memorable change in Long Beach is a negative one: the loss of Acres of Books.

    “In the early years that was a big part of the Long Beach experience for me, and it’s gone now,” he laments. “I really loved that place. It was amazing. When you stepped in, the smell overwhelmed you. It was perfect. I loved to go there and buy something or just sit down for a little while and read something. […] I was actually here during the time they were closing it down; I was here on the last day it was open. That was kind of a sad experience, feeling that that is going away. It makes it even more bitter walking past that place today because the building is still standing there. The [façade] is still there. They said they were going to build something there, but they haven’t. They haven’t torn the building down; they haven’t built anything new there. That’s a sad thing that happened here. This amazing place disappeared.”

    The loss of Acres of Books is one aspect of a problem Vesely feels plagues Long Beach and much of the United States: poor long-term planning.

    “Walking down the streets in Long Beach—and […] in L.A., as well—it just seems like everything is put together cheaply,” he says. “It feels like things were built to last just long enough but not much longer. Whereas in Europe things usually tend be made to last a really, really long time. […] I like the place. But compared to some aspects of Europe, you can definitely tell it’s a much younger place that hasn’t been grounded as much.”

    Considering that poor long-term planning brings Vesely back to the wasted opportunity that is the Long Beach beachfront.

    “You’re staying in a city that is on a beachfront, and you might say, ‘Oh, that’s amazing!'” he says. “But I feel that if you really want to live on a beachfront, you usually want the waves—which you won’t get here. […] If I wanted to live by the beach, and that was the deciding point, I would probably give Long Beach a glance, but then I would move somewhere where the waves are bigger. Long Beach is not just about the beach; there are lots of other things that make Long Beach worth it. […] But for someone who is looking for a beach-centered place—and [in Long Beach] ‘beach’ is even in the name—the beach isn’t a selling point.”

    For Vesely, Long Beach’s main selling point is the people, including the inclusiveness within the community. Such inclusiveness has shaped Vesely’s very alignment toward his fellow humans.

    “Long Beach is quite known for being a place where there are a lot of gay people,” he says. “[Here] was one of the first times I really came into contact with something like that at that scale. Meeting all these great [gay] people, I realized you can’t judge someone by their sexual orientation. I was maybe 15 or 16 at the time when I was thinking about this and making this discovery that, ‘Wow, these are just really nice people. […] They’re just like everyone else.'”

    Considering that Long Beach has a higher population than Atlanta, we ought to expect our city play on the level of the world’s international cities. With such a lofty goal, it is probably worth keeping in mind how our home appears not only to us, but also to those who visit us from afar. An international city needs to attract people. Through Vesely’s eyes we can glimpse some of what Long Beach has, what it has lost, and what it has failed to develop. Perhaps such glimpses can help guide us into becoming all that we might become.

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  • Observing a Sign of the Changed Times During Black History Month

    At the center of Let’s Misbehave, a recent musical built around the music of Cole Porter, are three friends who vow to fall in love by the Fourth of July. Although the time period of the play is not made explicit, the music, lyrics, and Art Deco urbanity lead us to infer this as sometime between the two World Wars.

    Even though interracial couples have existed probably since the first time two different “races” came into prolonged contact, in pre-WWII American society, “Black-White” pairings were hardly the business as usual they are in today’s world, where our president is the product of such a coupling and we get a Super Bowl ad that not only features a White woman who is pregnant with a Black man’s child, but does so in such a way that their difference in ethnic extraction is completely beneath mention. The first cinematic depiction of Black-White marriage didn’t come along until 1964’s One Potato, Two Potato. Needless to say, then, that a Black-White couple during the time of Let’s Misbehave would have been generally noteworthy.

    But we don’t live in that time. So it is that for its current production of Let’s Misbehave International City Theatre cast Jennifer Shelton as Alice without regard to the fact that Shelton is Black, even though during the course of the show Alice falls in love with Walter, who is played by Mark Ginsburg, a White man.

    American society might not be post-racial, but ICT’s casting is. When Alice and Walter kiss, contextually it’s not an interracial kiss, because skin color is not meaningful here. Were ICT staging Othello, that would be a different story, because Othello’s pigmentation is an explicit part of the proceedings. But there was no cause for ICT to make such consideration when casting of Let’s Misbehave. Shelton and Ginsburg are simply two fine actors able to give voice to Porter’s work. When their characters gaze into each other’s eyes, when they kiss, they are two souls in love, nothing more.

    Because there certainly were people in the first half of the 20th century who did not consider skin color in the casting of their own friends and lovers, it’s not quite right to say that a play set in this era that features an interracial color without brining any attention to this fact calls for suspension of disbelief. But disbelief is what many of us today feel at the idea that not so long ago neither couples nor casting directors could be truly free of such considerations.

    One of cinema’s landmark moments on the subject, 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner—released just months after the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision struck down legal barriers to interracial marriage—is a case in point. Despite the film’s message being that skin color shouldn’t be a barrier to love, director Stanley Kramer reportedly cut scenes of Joey (played by Katherine Houghton) and Dr. Prentice (Sidney Poitier) kissing. The only one that wasn’t left on the cutting-room floor was a shot of the couple smooching in the back seat of a taxi as seen through the rearview mirror of an uncomfortable cabbie.

    Strategically, Kramer almost had to make the cuts. Just by leaving in a single, fleeting shot of a Black man kissing a White woman he risked the film’s not being show in the South—where, obviously, its message desperately needed to be heard.

    Not that the South was the only place. During that same year President Lyndon B. Johnson received from Secretary of State Dean Rusk an offer of resignation. The reason? Rusk’s daughter planned to marry a Black man, and Rusk feared saddling Johnson’s presidency with such a political burden. Not surprisingly, Johnson, who three years earlier had signed the Civil Rights Act into law, refused Rusk’s offer.

    Today is a different time. No-one thinks of resigning from any organization this side of the Ku Klux Klan just because his White daughter takes a Black husband. No director edits his film around potential problems associated with two actors of differing pigmentations pressing their lips together. And theatre companies feel free to cast against the expectations of a bygone era when those expectations are neither here nor there in telling the story onstage.

    Perhaps no-one seeing ICT’s production of Let’s Misbehave will be put in mind of such issues. And that is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But Black History Month is not only about where we’ve been: it’s also about where we’ve come. The present is always part of the historical continuum, and it’s good to recognize the ways in which where we were is not where we are.

    This is not to say American society has completely arrived on the question of race. How do you fully deliver a society with slavery at its roots and the weeds of racial inequity living all around us? It seems no-one has an answer, but undoubtedly it is a good step on the journey in that direction for us to continue to drop considerations ethnic extraction where they simply make no difference.

    (Photo by Suzane Mapes for International City Theatre’s Let’s Misbehave)

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  • CSU chancellor aims to direct $50 million to increase graduation rates

    LONG BEACH — California State University Chancellor, Timothy P. White, aligned himself with the Gov. Jerry Brown’s higher education reform efforts while calling for larger increases in state funding.

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  • Jane Close Conoley to be first woman to lead CSULB

    California State University Board of Trustees appointed Jane Close Conoley to serve as the seventh president of Cal State Long Beach, Jan. 29. She will be the first woman to lead the California State University in its 65-year history.

    (more…)

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  • Ninth Circuit Court Upholds Ban on Gay Conversion

    SAN FRANCISCO — On Jan. 29, the Ninth Circuit Court denied a rehearing en banc on Pickup v. Brown, which deals with Senate Bill 1172, a California measure that repeals the practice of gay conversion therapy for minors.

    (more…)

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  • 39 Steps Turns Hitchcock’s Adventure into Comedy

    By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

    Perhaps the first thing you need to know about The 39 Steps, is that Jeffrey Cannata, who plays the unflappable hero Richard Hannay, never has to change his costume, — not even once.

    The three other actors in the play hardly stay dressed the same for more than a few minutes at a time. There are, as producer James Greussing announced, only four performers — no stage hands hidden behind the scenes and hardly any time for scene changes as the action moves from London to a train to Scotland, to the heath-covered bogs of the highlands and back to London.

    Karen Jean Olds plays three different woman including, Pamela, Hannay’s love interest. The very tall Kenny Landman and the much shorter Louis Lotorto are the two clowns, who play everything else from the villain to a Scots regiment, and trench-coated killers to a husband and wife who run a broken-down hotel in Scotland. Hannay and Pamela may have the lead roles, but Lotorto and Landman do most of the work and get most of the laughs.

    Hannay travels across England and Scotland, dangles the Forth bridge and is attacked by biplanes as he defeats several German spies. (more…)

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  • Person Commits Suicide off Vincent Thomas Bridge

    SAN PEDRO — A person committed suicide, at about 1:30 p.m. Jan. 29, at the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.

    The person, whose gender and identity has yet to be disclosed, exited his or her car,  jumped off the bridge and landed on the Evergreen container terminal dock.

    Another vehicle collided with the abandoned car, a spokeswoman for the Port of Los Angeles said.

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  • Getting and Keeping Clients, Donors

    Guest speaker, Janet Levine, of Janet Levine Consulting, will discuss getting and keeping clients and donors at the upcoming San Pedro Chamber of Commerce Munch & Learn Workshop, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 13.

    Members pay $10; non-members pay $15 (includes lunch).

    Details: (310) 832-7272; www.janetlevineconsulting.com
    Venue: San Pedro Chamber of Commerce
    Location: 390 W. 7th St., San Pedro

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