• Junot Diaz Spotlights His Audience at REDCAT

    • 03/07/2017
    • Melina Paris
    • Feature
    • Comments are off

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    It was with good reason that author, Junot Diaz canceled his original speaking date in January at REDCAT. The Pulitzer Prize winner received an invitation from the White House to attend a private event during the last week of President Barack Obama’s administration.

    Instead Diaz appeared on Feb.17, a night of heavy rains in Los Angeles. But showers and freeway closures didn’t stop this audience, which overflowed the theater’s capacity, from attending.

    “There’s plenty of reason to keep your ass at home,” said Diaz congenially, opening the discussion. “Thank you for coming.”

    The author wrote the critically acclaimed Drown, Pulitzer Prize-winning, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which also garnered the National Book Critics Circle Award and This Is How You Lose Her. Immigrant experiences and identity are at the heart of his work.

    Diaz, a writer in residence at California Institute of the Arts Writing Program, was recognized in his introduction for his continuous demonstration in writing, thinking and activism.

    He mentioned that he always checks in when speaking, to see if any of the communities that he is part of are present. The Dominican-born author first asked if immigrants were in the audience. About a third responded. He also asked if Latinos, Caribbean’s, Dominicans and folks of African descent were present. All were in attendance.

    He did two readings from his books but Diaz made the evening mostly about his audience, which included his students. He opened the night with a Q-and-A, noting he would answer anything we wanted to ask him.

    The author demonstrated a skill in responding quickly, but in depth to questions. A student asked if Diaz could talk about his concept of turning away from a dystopian future, which he previously spoke about at the California Institute of the Arts.

    “We should be able to think of it that way, but also be able to switch and imagine better futures,” Diaz explained. “We have to fight to protect today.”

    Diaz believes that our imaginations within society are not articulate or fluent in the understanding that we actually can overcome this “B.S” of a dystopian future. We haven’t imagined the overcoming of this future instead we tend to succumb to it, he said.

    In interviews Diaz has previously spoken about growing up during the 80s, a time ripe with apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narrative. Films such as Terminator and Blade Runner had come out. While teaching a class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on post-apocalyptic literature, he realized that many young people were equally possessed and fascinated by this dread. He pointed out that bearing witness to what’s happening is perhaps the most important step for us to overcoming it.

    He credits author, Ray Bradbury with giving him a way of bearing witness to his own experience as an immigrant going through a lot of the nonsense young immigrants put up with when in a very hostile society and climate,  It is something he never forgot.

    Volunteering is a priority to him. One of his main messages was about giving of your time and working with people, especially so for artists. The idea that an artist’s work is their civic contribution is an idea he does not buy. He believes giving back to the civic is to manage the interest on our civic debt.

    His keen perception of this audience’s concerns opened this forum to safely tackling deeper issues and fears. One person asked how to filter what is happening in Washington D.C. Diaz continued with the idea of volunteering.

    “Filter through exposure,” he said. “First get over your panic, then get to it. I just keep volunteering. Help others with less agency. As soon as you’re doing this, [Donald] Trump won’t piss you off so much.”

    Book Reading

    Diaz read from his multi-faceted novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which takes place in both America and the Dominican Republic. The story includes Oscars love trials, his love of comics and sci-fi, emigration, familial history and the supernatural. But one of its main themes explores the complexities of living in two cultures at once. It is the idea that one can carry inside them both the country of their origin and the country that received them.

    But the overarching motif is the curse called “fukú” that has plagued Oscar’s family for generations.

    Diaz read about fukú. His passage foretold of what could befall the Dominican Republic’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. It also described, with supernatural quality, the essence of this curse in the protagonist’s life and its effect on his family. Through the stories narrator, Yunior, Diaz’s descriptions were vivid explorations of oppression and violence.

    “Fukú is generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the curse and the doom of the new world.” Diaz has explained. “It is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world.”

    Diaz’s family moved from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to New Jersey when seven. His father came to the United States to work, then later sent for his family.

    Díaz attended Rutgers University and earned his bachelor’s degree in history and literature. After graduating from Rutgers, Díaz earned a master’s degree of fine arts in creative writing at Cornell. While attending Cornell he began to write the short stories that eventually formed his first published collection, Drown.

    Diaz said that the popularized  notion that a person must choose between your home place and the new place is cruel and absurd. You can be two things simultaneously.

    Diaz’s engaging speaking elicited a wide range of questions. Subjects from politics, to writing, to having immigrant parents, to dealing with people in your own family who voted for Trump came up.

    He had a remarkable response to one of his last questions.

    The audience member asked Diaz, regarding fear and identity, as a person with a high profile how does he think of his identity in situations such as his visit with Obama and in volunteering.

    “What a marvelous thing it is to help somebody,” Diaz said. “To be human is to be in pain.”

    Nothing diminishes his pain like helping another person.

    “That’s how I balance it, Diaz said. “I try to keep people and different selves I’ve been front and center,” he said.

    Diaz shared that he was slapped by his father. This is the self he brings to the White House with him, so that he can feel that love and excitement rather than locking that self up and forgetting him.

    “Keep those lost selves around,” Diaz said.  It takes more energy to forget than to remember.”

    Diaz is the fiction editor at Boston Review. He also is the Rudge and Nancy Allen professor of writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Diaz also co-found the Voices of Our Nation Workshop. Its mission is to develop emerging writers of color through programs and workshops taught by established writers of color.

    Details: www.junotdiaz.com

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  • Course through Civic Center City

    • 03/06/2017
    • Zamná Ávila
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    These days, driving along Ocean Boulevard in downtown Long Beach is quite a distracting adventure.

    Head west toward San Pedro and your eyes will unavoidably wander toward a wall of blue-covered fences surrounding City Hall and the Main Library. Turn right on Magnolia, heading north and you might catch a glimpse of a gigantic hole where the Superior Court once stood. Park and walk to either of the government buildings and you might experience a bit of claustrophobia as you pedal through the maze of fences.

    This traffic trek — in the middle of the rush hour — is an expected facelift to the center of Long Beach civic engagement buildings and recreation areas. The Civic Center will be transformed into a state-of-the-art work, live, and play facility in the coming years. It will house a new city hall, Port of Long Beach headquarters, a new Main Library, a reconfigured Lincoln Park and retail and residential units.

    Breaking Ground

    Since July 2016, the city has been demolishing the old to make way for the new—the new Long Beach Civic Center, that is.

    The $525 million project, scheduled to be completed by 2019, encompasses the area where Broadway, Chestnut and Pacific avenues broadside Ocean Avenue. City Hall and the POLB headquarters are planned to be 11 stories high, with a plaza in between them for public events. The Main Library will be on Broadway and will include an underground level for its archives.

    With construction ahead of schedule, occupancy is expected by June 2019 with the Lincoln Park build out to be complete by the summer of 2020. A residential-commercial tower expected to rise about 432 feet may be in the works and completed by spring of 2020. The tower may have a 200-room hotel as part of the project, but that is not guaranteed.

    Performance spaces, a dog park and children’s play area are expected to be part of the new Lincoln Park.

     Out with the Old

    Discussions about a new Long Beach Civic Center began as early as 2008, when then-Mayor Bob Foster was told that the Main Library roof was in danger of collapse. Around that time, a public-private partnership had been initiated to construct the George Deukmejian Court on Magnolia Avenue, near Broadway. A 2013 study, following a federal investigation that surfaced from Hurricane Katrina, found that Long Beach City Hall’s stairs could break and the structure could collapse during a large earthquake. The construction of a new city hall is said to withstand a 7.5 earthquake with a low probability of injuries and zero deaths.

    But not everyone believes the project was necessary.

    “I have lots of reservation as the city has obligated taxpayers to a … project that was not needed and is being done to help other developers in the area,” former Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske said. “If the building were so unsafe, why are employees still there and will be there until late 2019?”

     Deal or No Deal

    In late 2015, the Long Beach City Council approved a deal to enter a public-private partnership with the Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners. The partnership works by having the company pay for the construction of the Civic Center, with the city being its tenant for the first 40 years. This comes out to about $14.5 million annually. Repairing the civic center might cost about $19 million.

    Long Beach Civic Center rendering. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach Public Works Department.

    The property will then be returned to the city after the 40-year lease is over. The first payment of about $16.7 million would be due by fiscal year 2020. That cost will gradually increase partially at a fixed 2.18 percent with a 2.4 percent cost of living increase.

    Schipske said this price is not as fixed as it seems. The cost may end up being higher when considering the underground infrastructure of oil pipes that may be found in the process.

    “There will be massive overruns and the cost to the city will escalate,” she said.

    But Jennifer Carey, an executive assistant with the Public Works Department, said the construction risk is primarily on the developer.

    “The city has an agreement that makes the developer contractually obligated to deliver the building for the price agreed upon,” Carey said.

    Plenary-Edgemoor will get two parcels out of the deal, one on Ocean Boulevard and the other at Pacific Avenue and 3rd Street. Those parcels will be used for private development after the Civic Center is complete.

    And, that’s the crux of the project, Schipske said.

    “This project wasn’t done because we need a civic center, it was done to connect with a larger development that starts at Magnolia and goes to Pacific,” she said. “Few people realize the city gave [the] Lincoln parking [garage] to developers. That, was a source of revenue for the city that defrayed the costs of city hall.

    “Sadly, once the costs hit, people will complain, but not before.”

    However, Carey said the deal is optimal.

    “This project is unique and groundbreaking, both parties are satisfied with the parameters.” she said.

    The project is expected to generate about 3,700 jobs within its three years of construction. Whether issues arise in the future remains to be seen.

     

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  • Ballot Endorsements

    • 03/03/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • Editorials
    • Comments are off

    After coming off a very depressing national election, where America has just elected its first fascist head of state, a local election would not seem very interesting. But the March 7 ballot has important issues that requires voter attention.

    As usual, I consulted with friends who are expert in the relevant  areas, read as much as possible and tried to weigh all sides of the issues.

    Here are Random Length News’ endorsements:

    City Attorney Mike Feuer: Yes

    Controller Ron Galperin: Yes

    Council District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino: No

    Noel Gould and Caney Arnold are better choices. Vote for either of them.

    The Los Angeles Times stated that Buscaino’s performance was “adequate.” I would call him below average and unacceptable. Council District 15 has EVERY oil refinery in the City of Los Angeles.  Wilmington has the highest rate of childhood asthma in the state.  Energy production is going to be the No. 1 issue in this district for the foreseeable future.

    Yet, despite the persistent attempts of environmental groups to educate Buscaino and his staff, his “State of the District” luncheon was still FUNDED by TESORO, an energy company seeking to expand its already gigantic capacity to pollute — some would say poison — our council district. Our district must have a council representative who understands and advocates for environmental justice and doesn’t approach homelessness as a problem best addressed through law enforcement.

    Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees:

    Seat 2 – Steven Veres

    Seat 4 – Ernest Moreno

    Seat 6 – Nancy Pearlman- The only progressive candidate on the College Board.

    County Measure H: Yes

    Maybe the most important issue on the ballot is the one-fourth cent sales tax for the 10 years that follow. The tax would fund a variety of significant services to “prevent and combat homelessness.” This measure provides citizen oversight and an annual audit.

    Los Angeles Measure M: Yes

    It’s time to end the drug war and to regulate cannabis.

    Los Angeles Measure N: No

    Of the two cannabis measures, this is the one least favored. Recreational use of marijuana has already been approved by the voters of the state. The question now is reasonable regulation.

    Los Angeles Measure P: No

    Provides for longer terms for Harbor Department leases. This basically impacts the Los Angeles Waterfront Alliance Ports O’ Call waterfront development. In the County of Los Angeles developers often get only 39-year leases for a $100 million investment.

    Los Angeles Measure S: Yes

    We have been flooded with information about this measure.  The Los Angeles Times states that  “much of the YES on S literature is so much misinformation.”  And yet, every argument against this measure ends with the same conclusion as the Yes side — that the Los Angeles General Plan is outdated and that the 35 community plans should be passed. Measure S forces the city to do just that within a two-year moratorium on spot zoning and would only stop 5 percent of the existing projects within Los Angeles. This is a battle between the 35 communities of the city and City Hall. Vote Yes on S

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  • Re-Elect Pearlman: An Experienced Trustee

    • 03/03/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Nancy Pearlman, LACCD Seat 6 Trustee

    On March 7, voters have a chance to re-elect me to the Los Angeles Community College District’s Board of Trustees Seat 6. The district’s nine colleges deserve to have my committed and knowledgeable leadership.

    With more than 25 years of experience serving the LACCD, first as an anthropology and communications instructor and now as a trustee, I am the most qualified candidate for this seat.

    As an advocate for students, I have expanded the colleges’ support services in order to aid students in achieving their goals. Student success must be the board of trustees’ highest priority, which includes working to realize free two-year education through the College Promise, guaranteeing that students are able to transfer to the University of California system or the California State University system, and providing joint high school and college classes. Students must also be afforded the resources they need to succeed, including mentoring and tutoring services.

    As an educator, I have worked within our shared governance system to get all nine colleges to be accredited without warnings. I also recognize that each campus is unique, reflecting the differences in the communities they serve; each campus must be treated as such. I regularly visit the colleges in order to understand their needs and to be sure that the board establishes the necessary policies to make them the best. These colleges include: Harbor, Southwest, West, Trade-Technical, East, City, Valley, Mission and Pierce. I am also an advocate for expanding satellite facilities into other communities.

    I have dedicated my life to public service. The LACCD deserves to have a trustee who is seeking office because of a commitment to the district. Unlike my opponent, I am not using this as a stepping stone to higher office. I have successfully won my past elections to the board whereas my opponent has lost his bids for the California State Assembly and Los Angeles Unified School District. His vote will be a rubber stamp on the corporate agenda, whereas I challenge the status quo and work for positive change.

    Voters deserve an experienced, responsible representative who will advocate for their values on the LACCD Board of Trustees. During my tenure I was able to get the nation’s largest academic public building program to meet LEED green building standards. I continue to oversee the maintenance and operations of the district’s facilities in order to ensure that they continue to meet sustainability standards and are not wasting taxpayer dollars.

    I understand that education is the key to success for the district’s 250,000 students. Whether it is training the next generation of solar panel installers or providing the lower-division classes necessary for students to transfer to a four-year university, the Los Angeles Community College District provides an invaluable resource to the greater Los Angeles area. Our award-winning workforce training programs include culinary arts, mechanics, dental hygiene, construction and fashion design. The excellent academic curriculum provides students with the resources they need to achieve their goals. I am committed to ensuring that the district continues to provide quality resources to students while simultaneously supporting the teachers and staff of the colleges.

     

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  • Gould Discusses Issues Vital to CD 15

    By Noel Gould, Candidate for Council District 15

    I’m Noel Gould and I’m running for Council District 15. Our district is terminally ignored and our council office is totally ineffective. Enough! It’s time for a CHANGE! I, with my staff, will host town hall meetings every two weeks in order to listen to you. Then we’ll work together to find creative solutions.

    San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and Watts voters have been tricked for the past five years by incumbent Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who has not only deliberately failed to respond to community concerns about the homeless issue and inconsistent over-development of our communities, but has also completely failed to provide the necessary police support and crime suppression. These failures, according to Los Angeles Police Department’s COMPSTAT Harbor Area and Southeast area reports, have increased total violent crimes by 45 percent in the past two years: a 400 percent increase in rapes in the last month of 2016 alone, a 200 percent increase in shooting victims, and a 100 percent increase in murders this past year. But arrests are down 190 percent. So Joe just doesn’t care.

    That’s why I decided to run for council: because Joe is killing our community with bad decisions, or indecisiveness. He is a also perfect example for why Measure S should pass to help slow the out-of-control and inconsistent development in our region.

    Buscaino, a former LAPD senior lead officer, has the know-how to address safety and police-related issues. But he’s failed to deliver and he must be defeated!  Joe no longer has a “cop mentality” about service; he’s now a full-fledged “developer pimp,” who receives large contributions from developers and gives them whatever they want, even if, it means ignoring zoning laws, and the health and safety of his constituents.

    One classic example of Joe’s “dirty deeds” is now under investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney. It involves the “Sea Breeze” housing project he and Mayor Eric Garcetti jammed into the middle of an industrial zone near Harbor UCLA Medical Center. According to the Los Angeles Times, Joe took almost $95,000 from the developer, Garcetti took $60,000, and former Councilwoman (and now County Supervisor) Janice Hahn took more than $200,000 then changed the zoning laws so that the project could go forward.  The city’s Planning Commission even opposed the project 100 percent, but Buscaino and Garcetti, as Hahn before them, caved in to the developer.

    “The Times reports that a spokesperson for DA Jackie Lacey confirms the office is reviewing the donations.”

    “After the Planning Commission voted unanimously not to recommend the project, the council approved it anyway, with crucial support from Garcetti and Buscaino,” the article read. “Both Garcetti and Buscaino … received sizable contributions from associates of the project’s developer.”

    Another example of Harbor Area residents suffering from Joe’s inaction: Harbor Division lost 30 officers to other parts of Los Angeles and Joe has refused to fight to get them back.  Six years ago, when the new Harbor Division station was built, it came with a state-of-the-art jail that’s NEVER BEEN OPENED.  Even the LAPD officer’s union has supported protests by port area locals demanding staffing for the jail.

    Your safety is at stake because when local officers arrest a suspect, they have to drive to 77th Street Station at Florence and Broadway to book the arrestee.  They have to do their paperwork there as well, which means they’re out of service here at home for 4 to 5 hours!  If you call for help and our cops are in Los Angeles booking suspects, you are at great risk of harm or death.

    Buscaino could have fought to get the jail staffed, but he’s too busy trying to cram high-end condo high-rises onto San Pedro lots that have always housed single-family residences.  And, by the way Wilmington, Watts and Harbor City — YOU’RE NEXT!

    Joe’s cozy relationship with billionaire developers and the District Attorney’s investigation are now on full display. That’s one big reason why Measure S on the March 7 ballot is so important.

    For 20 years, the Los Angeles City Council has refused to update the Los Angeles General Plan that determines zoning in our neighborhoods.  As a result, these billionaire developers from New York, Miami, Canada and Australia are opposing Measure S. They want to turn all of Los Angeles into a skyscraper skyline, right here, in earthquake country; and, here in the Harbor Area from Wilmington to Cabrillo Beach.

    Measure S simply tells the city it has two years to finally update that 20-year-old general plan or it can’t give special zoning favors to billionaires like Buscaino has been doing.

    Measure S does not affect the building of affordable housing or housing for the homeless. And if you build on a lot and comply with current zoning, Measure S doesn’t affect you either.

    However, if you want to slam a 14-story luxury condo project like Joe wants to squeeze in between the Beach City Grill at 6th and Nelson, and Neil’s Pasta & Seafood at 5th and Nelson, in downtown San Pedro making NO street parking available, Measure S says:

    “No, you’re in violation of San Pedro’s local community plan.”

    Measure S stops Joe from these kinds of “political favors” in exchange for money from his out-of-state and foreign billionaire-developer sugar daddies.

    I support Measure S and I oppose everything Buscaino stands for because he is more committed to special interests and his dream of becoming Los Angeles’ next Mayor than taking care of crime and unacceptable developer- raping of our communities by his billionaire pals.

    “And why hasn’t Joe Buscaino done something about the homeless problem?”

    That’s an easy answer:  The more homeless on the street, the faster property values drop and the cheaper the property deals his developer pimps can receive.

    I’m Noel Gould and I will open new communication channels with every community in the 15th Council District every two weeks during my term.  My staff and I will make sure we hear YOUR concerns, and you will be able to hold us accountable on a constant basis for our promises.

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  • Galaz Joins CD 15 Race

    • 03/03/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing  Editor

    Donald Galaz, Vice President of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council and longtime proponent for a sanctioned racetrack for street racing, announced his write-in bid for the Los Angeles City Council District 15 seat, Feb. 24, on Youtube.

    Galaz is a protegé of Big Willie Robinson, a widely respected founder of the International Brotherhood of StreetRacers. Robinson got wayward youths involved with cars as an alternative to causing trouble in the streets.

    Galaz, a San Pedro native, followed in Robinson’s footsteps when he founded Project Street Legal, an organization that  similarly reaches local youths through cars. He’s lobbied City Hall to open a dragstrip in an effort to cut down on illegal street racing and the deaths that result from it.

    It was that activism to open a dragstrip that led him to join the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council.

    In his campaign announcement, Galaz said he wants focus his attention on public safety, the environment, port issues and vocational education.

    He argued that CD15 isn’t getting its fair share of resources, particularly in regards to street services and police officers.

    “After I’m elected, my plan is [to] give my constituents back the power and champion them in City Hall, not taking “no” for an answer,” Galaz said.

    “All too often, the politicians say one thing and do another, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of those that elected them,” said Galaz, reflecting on his disappointment Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council incumbent.

    Galaz has less than two weeks to make his case.

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  • Arnold Gives His Reasons to Represent

    By Caney Arnold, Candidate for the Council District 15

    When I started this campaign I was determined to provide voters with a better option.  The more I campaigned, the more I realized voters need a better option. On the campaign trail, I heard voters complain about pay-to-play politics, bribery, intimidation, lack of caring about people’s health, and just plain poor judgment on the part of Buscaino.  With my Air Force program management experience, my ethics and my sense of empathy and caring, I can bring a much needed change to District 15.

    As a child,  my mother (a native of Burlington, Vt.) and my father (a native of a Mississippi delta town called Itta Bena) stressed that we could do or be anything that we wanted if we worked hard enough.

    Despite the fact that economically, the whole town was in the same boat, Itta Bena was a place where a racial hierarchy was so deeply embedded and encoded that there were parts of the town in which I couldn’t play.

    When he was a child, my father’s family lived in an old shack, and my dad picked cotton and other crops. At the time, it was an exciting novelty to think that my dad had picked cotton when he was a kid. It didn’t occur to me at the time how hard his life had been.

    My dad was able to escape on the G.I. Bill. He majored in mathematics, became an engineer, and moved to San Diego for another job where he met my mom. When I was five years old, we moved to Woodland Hills. It is on this foundation, set in an era of 1960s movement politics, anti-war activism and assassinations of our nation’s brightest that shaped my values.

    I graduated from UCLA with a degree in economics and went to work as a civilian at the Department of Defense. I settled, with my family in Harbor City. After 32 years, I retired in 2011.

    Following our councilman’s Homeless Forum in September 2015, I became energized and connected to the issues affecting the Los Angeles Harbor when I assisted a local homeless advocate and her team of volunteers.

    After six long months, they got a mom and her two children into Harbor Interfaith Services shelter program. The family was unable to get into permanent housing until after more than a year.

    As one of my fellow Berners likes to say, “There’s got to be a better way.”

    But that way is not Councilman Joe Buscaino’s way.  He is on record as saying he supports the housing-first approach in transitioning our neighbors without homes off the streets. Yet, his policies say he favors transitioning them off the streets into jail.

    Buscaino led the charge in rewriting Los Angeles City Ordinance 56.11, which authorizes more aggressive encampment sweeps and increased criminal penalties.

    Despite the fact that Los Angeles gets sued every year and loses in federal district court, Buscaino continues to push for even tighter restrictions, wanting to limit people to only be able to carry what can fit into a backpack.

    The housing-first ap- proach gets people off the street as soon as possible and places them into shelters where they can escape the trauma of the streets and receive any mental health or substance abuse treatment they might need, along with job training. Cities that practice the housing-first approach reported 80 percent success rates and was no more expensive than the “move along” approach.

    Seeing how ineffective and uncaring our city is to our homeless neighbors, I decided someone needed to run against Buscaino because his policies just didn’t make sense.

    I watched the short videos produced by his office making it appear that he was actually working on behalf of all of his constituents.

    What I found instead was a string of broken promises and ethics violations. Then I researched those subjects and found promises being broken by Buscaino, the rest of the city council and the mayor. I decided I needed to run for Buscaino’s seat on the city council so I could bring the ethics, constituent-based dedication and the project management discipline to help turn around the management and direction of our district.

    As I campaigned I found more abuses and failures:

    • The SeaBreeze money laundering scandal — where Buscaino accepted $90,000—was written up in the Los Angeles Times.
    • The Exxon pipeline leak in Watts that leaked into the Jordan Downs water system so people were drinking polluted water — similar to what happened in Flint, Mich., but it wasn’t a big story like Flint’s was. I learned about contaminated soil at Jordan Downs.
    • The pay-to-play politics going on at the Port of Los Angeles, where requests for proposals, known as RFPs, are tailored for a campaign contributor to win the award.
    • The broken promise of the Bridge to Breakwater revitalization, a $1.5 billion project promised by then-Mayor Antonio Villaragosa and Buscaino among others.
    • The Ezell Ford settlement that Buscaino voted against, which sparked outrage when he stated in a radio interview that the police officers who killed Ezell Ford acted “righteously.”

    Many people from many different corners have asked me why I chose to go on this quixotic quest to represent Los Angeles’ Council District 15.

    I am a Sandernista and from the very start, I’ve been encouraged by people in our district who supported Bernie Sanders. His  message of change did not begin and end with his presidential campaign. It was a call to action to protect the bedrock American values of hard work and equal opportunity.

    I would be honored to have your vote and to serve you as our next council member.

     

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  • The Buscaino Report Card

    • 03/02/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • Feature, News
    • Comments are off

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    March 7 is the date District 15  voters will grade Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino. Although there are many in the district who believe he should be graded on a pass-fail basis, he won’t be.

    Three challengers, two of whom have columns in this edition of Random Lengths News, are critical of Buscaino’s handling of the San Pedro waterfront development, the homeless crisis, the Harbor Division jail and the environment — issues on which he is vulnerable. But the depth of their campaign resources, coupled with their lack of name recognition throughout the council district means their quest to unseat an incumbent will be a tough one.

    The Los Angeles Times editorial board endorsed the councilman, but described his “performance,” thus far, as only “adequate.”

    The Times editorial board also laid out the historic and geographic realities that constrain the aspirations of communities such as Harbor Gateway, Harbor City and Wilmington, noting that each of these areas needs its own representatives.

    “But they will never get one,” the Times board wrote. “Not as long as the city herds all of those areas into a single, mammoth city council district.”

    Buscaino has repeatedly said that his success as councilman would be determined by how much communities that are historically underserved by the city, like Watts, Harbor Gateway and Wilmington, are improved.

    At his state of the district luncheon on Feb. 16, the councilman discussed some of the success he has overseen, if not in some way abetted. Buscaino typically highlights the work of residents, community advocates and nonprofits as a way to highlight how the resources and the political weight of his office assist them.

    “The most important function a city can serve is to keep it safe and clean,” the councilman said.

    The councilman called the district’s residents efforts to improve their community inspiring, citing groups like Clean San Pedro, Clean Wilmington and Clean Watts.

    An example of the councilman’s involvement  was the Recreation and Parks Department’s $4 million renovation of the 109th Street Pool. The pool was closed following a 2008 melee that saw 30 men overrun two armed guards and six pool workers. Buscaino provided funding for increased security services.

    The councilman recounted the activism of Watts’s resident and founder of Clean Watts Ronald “Kartoon” Antwine that brought Watts Serenity Park; and the work of John Jones III, founder of East Side Riders Bicycle club, that brought Ciclavia to Watts and said it was set for it to come Wilmington in 2018.

    The councilman highlighted work of entrepreneurs like chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson who opened LocoL, the conscientious health-oriented fast-food restaurant and the Ortiz family’s Hojas Tea House of Wilmington, which has opened up locations in San Pedro and Long Beach within the past few years.

    He applauded Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council chairwoman Pamela Thornton and her council’s advocacy for a pocket park with the aim of pushing out sex offenders from the community.

    The councilman announced the near completion of Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park following the yeoman’s work of local educators Martin Byhower and Joanne Valle. What he neglected to mention was the park’s redevelopment had pushed some 167 homeless people out into the open in the Los Angeles Harbor Area and has become something that has  stained his image.

    The councilman highlighted the funds pouring through Wilmington to upgrade the Avalon corridor and the work in particular of Santa Luna restaurateur Antonio Castaneda, who has renovated several Avalon Boulevard façades.

    Random Lengths evaluated the motions the councilman authored and seconded in his first, full term in office. Buscaino’s performance cannot be fully measured by the motions he filed given that the power of his position relies on  influencing actors beyond the council chambers. But it does paint a picture of his priorities and the depth of his commitment to them.                   

    Homelessness, Affordable Housing, New Development Projects

    In 2015, the councilman was busy in the kitchen when it came to development. He cooked up several motions from Watts to San Pedro. Whether anyone will like, let alone be satisfied with what he’s cooking remains to be seen.

    In May 2015, Buscaino along with Councilman Mike Bonin authored and seconded a motion to negotiate and execute an amendment to City Contract C-120911, a block grant contract extension between the city and Boys and Girls Club.

    In June of 2015, Buscaino with Councilman Bernard Parks, authored and seconded a motion to direct the Port of Los Angeles and the Department of Recreation and Parks to submit a report to the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee report about the feasibility to establish a dog park in the inner Cabrillo Beach area.

    In September 2015, Buscaino and the Los Angeles City Council allocated $200,000 for the purchase of real estate related to Watts Civic Center redevelopment. The councilman filed a motion to relocate a council office and the substations of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Fire Department when the Watts Civic Center gets renovated.

    In October 2015, Buscaino and the Trade, Commerce and Technology Committee over which he presides as chairman, commissioned a feasibility study on San Pedro’s Waterfront redevelopment efforts. The result of that study was released two weeks before the primary election on Feb. 21.

    In December 2015, the councilman’s committee commissioned a report on the marketing strategy to promote tourism at the LA Waterfront due out by the end of 2017. This study was commissioned around the same time as the committee’s feasibility study on San Pedro’s Waterfront redevelopment efforts.

    The study sought to answer the following question:

    For 16 publicly-owned sites in the LA Waterfront area, what are the best near- and longer-term development options given market conditions, zoning codes, regulatory constraints, physical site characteristics, and ongoing public and private investment in the LA waterfront?

    Of the 16 publicly-owned sites, the report identifies the Outer Harbor and the historic Warehouse #1 as likely to elicit the most excitement from developers, with Daily Breeze reporting that some would like to convert it into a hotel. However, a closer look at the report identifies the historic property only as potential “office/flex” space, which has no interest.

    The report noted that 804 market-rate units are slated to be built in downtown San Pedro. Yet, none have broken ground. The report explained that San Pedro rents are too low ($2.02 versus $2.65 per square foot) to support higher-density development like recent Long Beach projects. But the report’s authors believe rental rates will rise in the future. There is no mention of the comparable public investments in infrastructure made in Long Beach as compared to San Pedro.

    Between Holland Partners 312 mixed-use development on the courthouse property, Omninet’s 400-unit development on the former  C-worthy Paint store on Palos Verdes Street between 5th and 6th streets; LaTerra’s 24 single-family residences, which are planned to have direct access garages and rooftop decks; and the councilman’s much maligned Nelson One project, there hasn’t been one project to actually get started.

    The reasons for the criticism of the councilman’s Nelson One project have as much to do about style as about substance. The councilman is looking to place a 47-unit luxury apartment building with ground floor commercial space on the ground floor, adjacent to the Mesa and 6th streets parking lot.

    On this concept alone, the project has been panned as out of character with the neighboring architecture and the narrow one-way street  upon which it would be built. The other issue is that the councilman’s lack of vetting of developer Richard D. Lamphere. Lamphere was connected to a failed land deal that cost two private investors hundreds of thousands of dollars. That ultimately led to his conviction of fraud and resulted in a prison stint in September 2016.

    The councilman talks a good game about building affordable housing, just as long as it is not in San Pedro. None of the projects listed above have any affordable housing component. When he does address low-income housing, he’s talking about getting rid of or significantly altering the public housing at Rancho San Pedro.

    During his state of the district speech, Buscaino proclaimed that the ground has been broken on 300 new units of low-income housing on his watch. That included Blue Butterfly project for homeless vets along Western Avenue (which was started long before he came into office) and two low-income housing developments in the community of Willowbrook, just south of Watts.

    During his forum on homelessness in September 2015, the councilman said that there were several affordable housing developments on the way. He was correct. For a councilman that is on the record favoring a housing-first model approach to addressing homelessness, it’s conspicuous that he didn’t mention that it would be several years before any of those affordable housing units would be available. And of the ones that would be built, none would be in San Pedro.

    The Environmental and Port-Related Issues

    On port-related issues, Buscaino is a reliable vote, especially given that he’s chairman of the Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, as well  as the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee — committees that tend to see a lot of Harbor Department requests.

    For example, in May of 2016, the Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee submitted a report that supported the continuance of a contract with law firm Brown and Winters. It was to recover fees from environmental investigation and cleanup expenses from historic or past tenant insurance policies with the Port of Los Angeles.

    And, his Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee has submitted a number of reports supportive of the Harbor Department’s request to transfer responsibility of certain streets in the industrial areas of Wilmington into private control.

    Decisions made by his committee that support the port’s efforts occasionally benefit residents closest to port operations directly.

    One example is when Buscaino authored a motion in 2012 that supported the appeal of environmental justice activist Jesse Marquez on denying an application to operate a truck and container storage facility in an area zoned as a residential area.

    He also authored motions streamlining permit approval process for maritime-related construction.

    Another such example is when the councilman authored a motion to authorize staff to re-enter negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad to acquire property to complete the East Wilmington Greenbelt Community Center expansion. The railroad initially tried to sell the land to the city for $1.2 million until it was discovered that the property had significant soil and groundwater contamination requiring remediation. Union Pacific agreed to sell the land for $100 if the city would indemnify it against any future lawsuits regarding environmental degradation. Negotiations between the city and Union Pacific devolved into a three-year impasse.

    On simple, no-brainer issues, Buscaino does OK. It’s the bigger stuff that lends credence to the idea that he is over his head and is an unreliable ally for his constituency.

    In March 2016, Random Lengths reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed the South Coast Air Quality Management District that its 2012 pollution reduction plan for meeting Clean Air Act standards did not pass muster.

    RLn had reported at the time that AQMD’s NOx cap-and-trade program, NOx RECLAIM, repeatedly failed to perform as well as direct regulation of refineries and other facilities. This is required by state and federal law, dating back to its inception in 1994. But oversight has been lax and slow moving. The story in Random Lengths continued:

    … the EPA’s action was attention-grabbing, especially in light of recent AQMD actions weakening its regulatory commitment — most notably by ignoring its own staff and adopting an oil industry plan for amending the same NOx RECLAIM program. The AQMD raised eyebrows when it fired its long-time executive officer Barry Wallerstein, who openly criticized the decision to ignore staff and adopt the oil industry plan. Buscaino is a member of the AQMD board.

    “[T]he amendments do not appear to meet the minimum emissions control requirements in California law,” California’s Air Resources Board already warned.

    … President pro tempore Sen. Kevin de León also announced plans to add three more members to the AQMD board representing public health and environmental justice points of view.

    De León noted that the AQMD board “further weakened” NOx RECLAIM in December.

    “SCAQMD board members should rethink their votes to weaken the region’s clean air standards and take the necessary steps to comply with state and federal law,” De Leon said. “Their actions are not only irresponsible, but illegal.” San Pedro’s City Council member Joe Buscaino [Mayor Garcetti’s appointee] joined with Republican board members to approve the weakened plan. This goes a long way in backing up the claim that he is a Democrat in name only.

    The Councilman’s Final Grade

    The councilman is pretty good at jumping on bandwagons while maintaining his megawatt smile at the photo-ops, whether it’s at the dedication of the Misty Copeland Square in front of the uninspiring mural of San Pedro’s famous ballerina; the renaming of Center Street between Viewland Place and Knoll Drive to Eastview Little League Drive; the naming of the intersection of Sixth and Centre streets, “Papadakis Square,” or the renaming of Cabrillo Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, to the honorary title of “Boys and Girls Club Way.” If he was graded on just these appearances, Buscaino would earn a B. (He lost points for the execution of the Misty Copeland mural.)

    But on the issues that matter to district residents and that impact their daily lives, the incumbent has not been a consistent ally of residents.

    Think about:

    • His inability to get Rancho LPG to release copies of its liability insurance documents and a specific seismic figure that the plant could survive;
    • His support of BNSF’s Southern California International Gateway;
    • His role as the mayor’s appointee to the board of the South Coast AQMD;
    • His failure to offer a fix that adequately addresses the homeless crisis;
    • His failure to get the San Pedro jail open to improve patrol times;
    • His office’s lack of transparency in choosing developers as exemplified by his choice for Nelson One.

     Councilman Buscaino’s grade: D

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  • The Growth of a Musical Legend:

    • 03/02/2017
    • Kym Cunningham
    • Music
    • Comments are off

    A Conversation with Howard Scott

    Correction: A caption on page 14 of the March 2 edition of Random Lengths News incorrectly associated an artist with his former band. Guitarist and songwriter Howard Scott is performing, on his own, March 16 at JDC Records in San Pedro and March 17 at the Carson Community Center in Carson. Random Lengths News regrets the error and will continue to strive to bring accurate independent news to the Los Angeles Harbor Area.

     

    By Kym Cunningham, Contributing Writer

    For more than 50 years, Howard Scott has made a living doing something most people only dream of: making music.

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Scott was a guitarist and lead vocalist in the legendary musical omnibus, WAR, collaborating with artists ranging from former Animals lead singer Eric Burdon to Danish harmonica player Lee Oskar. And yet, Scott never thought of making music as a paycheck.

    “I didn’t look at it as a way of making a living,” Scott said. “It was just something that we were doing and we were very good at it.”

    The Music of Compton

    Born in San Pedro, Howard Scott grew up in Compton in the 1950s and 1960s, when the city was at its peak. Scott remembers the annual Christmas parade on Compton Boulevard, which rivaled the more famous holiday parade in Hollywood.

    There was also an annual Compton Invitational Track Meet, which featured Olympic athletes.

    “Athletes would come from all over the world to compete,” Scott said. “The guy that had the world record for the 440 was going to Compton High School at that time.”

    Scott credits the City of Compton for much of his musical growth.

    “Compton was probably one of the most unique places to grow up,” Scott said. “Everybody was into the arts…. Everybody had singing groups…. It was amazing to grow up in that era.… The whole city was into music…. The whole community was inspired.”

    At Compton High School, Scott, along with Harold Brown, formed a band called The Creators.

    “It was the natural thing [to be in a band],” Scott said. “It just so happened that the whole city was into music. When we were going to Compton High School … we would go to other [Compton] high schools and perform.”

    But even the musical aptitude of The Creators couldn’t save Scott from the social turmoil of the 1960s. Cultivated at the height of the Vietnam War, the band took a hiatus when Scott was drafted into the Army in 1966. In a stroke of luck, Scott was not sent to Vietnam, but rather spent 18 months in West Germany shortly after finishing high school. When he returned from his service, the band had splintered.

    “When I came back, everybody was gone,” Scott said. “The band had broken up. People were all over in different places.”

    The Start of War

    But music was Scott’s lifeblood. It was a beat coursing through his veins, waking him up in the morning, driving him through the day. Shortly after Scott returned from West Germany, he and Brown got together with Lonnie Jordan and B.B. Dickerson to form The Nightshift. The band included the late Deacon Jones, the NFL Hall of Fame defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams.

    While playing at a North Hollywood club in 1969, The Nightshift met famous producer, Jerry Goldstein, and Lee Oskar, who had recently teamed up with Eric Burdon. The rest, as they say, is history.

    “In the club that night, Lee came up and asked if he could start jamming with us,” Scott said. “A couple of weeks after that, we had a meeting with them [Lee and Burdon] and we decided to form a band with them. And that’s how Eric Burdon and WAR started, right there.”

    But the interaction of these musicians strikes Scott as more than just history.

    “It was destiny,” he said. “It was something that was meant to be. We had a band but Eric Burdon came in with his concept and took it to the next level. He was a world class entertainer.”

    Scott refers to those days as carefree. He fondly remembers his time spent collaborating with Burdon and the rest of WAR.

    “We cranked,” Scott said. “We played so many good shows. We were blowing people’s minds from coast to coast.”

    Hendrix’s Last Jam

    One of Scott’s most memorable experiences is the night WAR played with Jimi Hendrix at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London on September 18, 1970 — the night before Hendrix died. Hendrix was supposed to come in the night before to play, but he didn’t show up.

    “The first night, he couldn’t play or didn’t want to play,” Scott said. “The second night … he had his Strat guitar and he was just on fire.”

    Scott fondly remembers playing blues with Hendrix the night before he died.

    “It was a great night,” Scott said.

    Hendrix was supposed to come back the next night but instead died of asphyxiation after overdosing on barbiturates. Even today, Scott finds this difficult to believe.

    “We were the last band to play with Jimi Hendrix,” Scott said. “I was the last guitar player to play with Jimi Hendrix. That always sticks in my mind.”

    Scott is also proud to have written War’s top 10 smash hit, The Cisco Kid. The song’s name is derived from Cisco, a Los Angeles club where WAR used to play shows.

    “We were playing there and this wino-looking guy came up off the streets and offered me a dollar to play a song that nobody had ever heard,” Scott said. “One of the bouncers from the club grabbed this little man and threw him in the street. I was so upset … so I wrote this song.”

    Scott began to sing the words to his favorite song.

    “The Cisco Kid was a friend of mine,” Scott sang. “He drink whiskey, Pancho drink the wine.”

    “It was my most fun song,” Scott said.  “It put a smile on your face …. I was so uninhibited.”

    Scott admits he also likes the song Why Can’t We Be Friends. But by the time the song came out, the band was already famous, making—as he puts it— “a bunch of money.”

    “It wasn’t as meaningful to me,” Scott said.

    Transcending Barriers

    Arguably the most popular funk group in the 1970s, WAR featured influences from soul, Latin, rhythm and blues, rock, jazz, reggae and blues. Much of this musical amalgamation was courtesy of the various backgrounds of the band members. In fact, WAR was touted as transcending racial and cultural barriers, promoting harmony and brotherhood through its music.

    Scott acknowledges the diversity of the band but maintains that it was the music that brought people together.

    “When WAR came out, they didn’t put our pictures on the covers,” Scott said. “People were judging the band purely by their music, not how we looked or where we came from. We had this whole rainbow coalition of people in the band.

    “Then, when people saw pictures, it didn’t make any difference. The music won them over. When you went to a War show, you saw everybody. It was a great thing to see.”

    Politicization of War

    Through this musical harmony, the band also politicized its message, spreading awareness within its song lyrics.

    “WAR was a political band,” Scott said. “We had political statements.”

    One such song was Get Down, which criticized the “police and their justice” as well as world leaders.

    Scott calls these songs “unity songs,” which he says made people think “about organization, and power to the people.”

    Scott even came up with a kind of musical campaign riffing on the political nature of WAR songs called Peace in the Streets.

    “The world we are in now, politically, we need peace in the streets,” Scott said. “The kids today are not writing those kinds of songs anymore to get people thinking.”

    However, Scott credits the lack of politics in music as a part of why WAR songs continue to be so popular.

    “The songs we came up with during those days are still around,” Scott said. “The message still resonates as something the people can latch onto. It doesn’t have a time period on it … We came up with a memorable tone that will last forever.”

    Still Goin’ Strong

    WAR was plagued by fractured friendships and law suits among band members, some of which actually prevent Scott from using the band’s name in association with his music. However Scott hasn’t let these setbacks keep him from making the music he loves. Rather, it becomes apparent speaking with Scott that the man thinks in music, as though his words come to him in lyrics with a pre-formed melody attached to them. Every few minutes, he’ll break into song, demonstrating just how deep within him music runs.

    “Music is always going to be something that when you wake up in the morning, you have a melody in your head,” Scott laughed. “It’s going to make a change. Musical statements are always going to be there.”

    It seems that part of the reason Scott has not allowed WAR’s legal issues to become an impediment to his music making is simply because creating music makes him happy.

    “You can always make somebody smile with music,” Scott said.

    Scott has his hands in a few musical ventures. He still plays shows with some of his old WAR bandmates in The Lowrider Band — named, of course, after one of WAR’s biggest hits, Lowrider. The band just got back from a show in Panama.

    “We’re working on all 12 cylinders,” Scott said. “You can’t beat it.”

    Scott also hosts a radio show out of his home in Texas, where he plays a variety of music, including, of course, many of the old WAR hits.

    But mostly, Scott spends his time writing more music.

    “I write all of the time,” Scott admits.

    His latest musical solo venture, The Howard Scott Project, seems to be his favorite as it allows him the opportunity to experiment.

    “This is an outlet for me to just come up and do a whole lot of new things,” Scott said.

    On March 16, Howard Scott will play at JDC Records, 447 W. 6th St., San Pedro. The next night, March 17 he will be performing at the Carson Community Center.

    “I’ll be playing some of the biggest songs that WAR recorded that I personally wrote,” Scott said. “Me and Baby Brother, Slippin’ Into Darkness, Gypsy Man … Lowrider because I co-wrote that. Just some of the biggest WAR hits and some of the stuff I did on my own.”

    Advice from a Legend

    Scott ended his interview with some advice for aspiring artists.

    “Stay focused on the art,” Scott said. “Be true to the art and who you are all the way through. Don’t play for money. Be dedicated to the music and be dedicated to yourselves,” Scott said. “Unity is something that bands need.”

    But despite all this hard work and dedication, Scott broke into song with his last piece of advice.

    “‘Keep on rockin’,” he sang. You could tell he was smiling as he crooned the words.

    Howard Scott will perform March 16 at JDC Records in San Pedro and March 17 at the Carson Community Center in Carson.

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  • No on Joe, Yes on S and H

    • 03/02/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    Challenge to the status quo of Los Angeles

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    I don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully tired of seeing Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino’s smiling face everywhere I look.

    He has become the cheerleader-in-chief for Council District 15 — nothing more. The sad part about it is that being a councilman is not about you. It’s about serving the people of the district. It’s about getting bigger things done than opening a coffee house and praising small business owners for taking a risk.  It’s about more than conducting photo ops while pretending to care about the homeless — especially while the Los Angeles Police Department is out arresting them on meritless warrants because they have no better options than to camp out in front of the San Pedro City Hall building because there are no other options.

    Buscaino’s latest campaign mailer claims that he is “the councilman of the Port of Los Angeles.” This is strange since most of us here believe that the Port of L.A. exists as the 16th district of the city. It has no elected representatives on its commission and very little to hold it accountable to the Harbor Area residents without the threat of protests, strikes or litigation.

    The Harbor Department is insular in so many ways and immune to public accountability except by higher authorities (i.e. the Los Angeles mayor, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the State Tidelands Commission and the California Air Resources Board), with no serious public engagement except the public relations initiatives at neighborhood councils. Not since the POLA unilaterally canceled the Port Community Advisory Council has there been any significant public oversight of port activities.  Buscaino has not stepped into this void.

    Buscaino’s past five years in office have been an abject failure. He failed to garner support for his delusional waterfront dreams and other grandiose proposals. Because of his abhorrence of real collaboration, he is incapable of leading by consensus, costing him his core ethnic support — Italians, Croatians and Greeks.

    To put it more bluntly, what Buscaino has put forward thus far as a pathway to the future of the greater Harbor Area is neither bold nor brilliant enough — let alone sustainable. What he has done so far is to adopt the initiatives of others like the Gaffey Great Streets Initiative that left people wondering exactly why would you put a playground at an exit park where some 63,000 cars pass onto the 110 Freeway?

    Then there is the Nelson One project, which surprised everyone this past year. Proposed by a man convicted of real estate fraud in Solano County, it would put a 15-story high-rise on one of San Pedro’s narrowest streets. And none of the projects in the pipeline have any affordable housing units.

    Complain all you want about what Measure S doesn’t accomplish, but Buscaino’s development plans for the lower 15th are the poster child for spot zoning and back room deals.

    As for Measure S, I have been reading everything that has been written in the Los Angeles Times against this measure and all the propaganda for and against it. As confusing as this is for most voters not familiar with zoning law and development what this comes down to is whether or not to push the pause button on business as usual at city hall. Los Angeles has been remiss in its obligation to finalize and approve the 35 community plans that make up its General Plan, which gives everybody a chance to chime in on development issues.

    The plans that are in place are some 20 years old and every time a developer wants a variance to the plan or a zoning change, it gets wrapped up in city bureaucracy forever. So to speed things along, political grease is applied in the way of campaign contributions and donations to officeholder accounts.  In the record business, it’s called payola.  At city hall, it’s called pay-to-play, but it’s all the same.

    Now I doubt that we’ll ever get that kind of money out of politics, but what we can have are 35 community plans that are reviewed by the 95 neighborhood councils and approved by the city council. We can have a general plan that reflects the consensus of the communities and the council signed by the mayor. That’s a democratic process. What we have now is just bad governance.

    Measure S is the reset button that holds up only 5 percent of current projects in the pipeline and the moratorium is for only two years. So let’s use those two years to fix the city and come to some plan on where to build density, where and how to build affordable workforce housing and what to do with the cities excess real estate assets. Who knows? Perhaps we could actually build  homeless housing on some of it?

    As for Measure H, Los Angeles County’s quarter-of-a-cent tax, isn’t the best way to finance a cure for the homeless crisis. But it is a “right now” solution that has citizen oversight. So, I’m endorsing a yes vote on it. I’d prefer to place a luxury tax on any real estate valued at over $5 million and to change the appraisal laws on property transfers that occur when a business is sold.

    For instance, when Exxon Mobil sold their Torrance refinery to PBF Energy, a Parsippany, N.J.-based company, all of that property didn’t get reappraised as a real estate transaction but was transferred without it, because it’s a sale of total business assets.  I’d love to know which lawyer wrote that loophole into Prop. 13.

    Lastly, Nancy Pearlman for the Community College Board seat 6 is my endorsement. She’s one of the few true progressives in local office.

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