• California State Lands Commission Notice of Draft SB 50 Regulations

    The State Lands Commission staff is seeking public comment on draft regulations regarding Senate Bill  50. Commission staff believes that the legislature intended for SB 50 to address conveyances of federal public lands with high value for environmental conservation or preservation, tourism, scientific study, or recreation, such as national parks and monuments. The draft regulations focus the application of SB 50 on these categories of conveyances by limiting or eliminating the application of SB 50 to other conveyances, such as conveyances of lands associated with a military defense base realignment or closure.

    The commission staff has received numerous inquiries about conveyances of forfeited property. Under the draft regulations, transfers of property forfeited under federal criminal statutes would not qualify as “conveyances” subject to SB 50.  If that provision is not included in the proposed regulation, alternatively, the commission staff anticipates that the regulation would be modified such that conveyances of property forfeited under federal criminal statutes would qualify as “routine” conveyances under SB 50.

    Please submit any comments to Patrick.huber@slc.ca.gov by May 11. After this informal comment period, staff will consider public comments received, revise the draft regulations, and initiate the regular rule-making process in which the public will have the opportunity to comment again. To view a copy of the draft regulations visit: https://tinyurl.com/draft-regulations.

    Read More
  • YWCA Voter Education Forum

    The Torrance area’s League of Women Voters will provide up-to-date information on this year’s primary election, basic and fundamental information on the election process and who is eligible to vote.  Light refreshments will be served. Child care available. Spanish translation available. Parking is free.

    Time: 6 to 8 p.m. May 10

    Cost: Free

    Details: (310) 547-0831; rayme@ywcaharbor.org

    Venue: YWCA Harbor Area & South Bay, 437 W. 9th St., San Pedro

    Read More
  • AQMD Fails to Act on MHF Use

    • 05/04/2018
    • Mark Friedman
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Mark Friedman, RLN Contributor

    Opponents of the continued use of the toxic hydrofluoric acid at Torrance PBF and Valero refineries had little impact at the latest is a series of public hearings regarding unsafe conditions at the facilities. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) board failed to make any determination but a majority of members implied their support for refinery management and no ban, while calling for yet another hearing in 90 days.

    The Torrance City Hall auditorium on April 28, was packed with 500 community residents, unionists, company representatives and scientists.  Testimony was heard for five hours for or against the refineries continued use of the dangerous chemical.

    This came on the heels of three explosions this past week, near miss accidents with tanks of this same acid, in Superior, Wis. and Texas City, Texas. Tens of thousands were evacuated for an area of 25 miles.

    Leading the AQMD hearing agenda was a presentation by Craig Merlic, UCLA scientist and an expert on the human impacts of modified hydrofluoric and sulfuric acid, commonly referred to as MHF.  The science was clear: Hydrofluoric is far deadlier than sulfuric acid.

    Hedge fund PBF Corp. purchased the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, after a 2015 explosion.

    The Torrance Refinery Action Alliance has been educating local communities on the dangers posed to refinery workers and communities within a several mile radius.

    They have gathered the support of people in Congress, state senators, city and neighborhood councils, the NAACP, some unions, environmental groups and more than 10,000 residents  who signed petitions for a ban on modified hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acid.

    On the other side, opposing a ban and fighting any meaningful new safety measures are Torrance and Valero refinery management, union officials and unionists working at these two locations, who are being threatened with plant closure and loss of their livelihoods if the AQMD mandates a MHF and HF ban.

    Hundreds of workers attended the hearing to attack the residents fighting for safety in and outside of the refinery, walking in step with the management that appears only interested in its bottom line.

    These refineries have the money, especially with new tax breaks, to retrofit with safer sulfuric acid, used in all other California refineries. The retrofit to the safer sulfuric acid is estimated to  cost $300 million. Public records show that PBF earned $250 million in 2017 and expect earnings to increase $350 million. PBF calls this their most profitable refinery.

    But members of the International Association of Machinists are being pitted against their natural allies in the neighborhoods surrounding the refineries and safety is being characterized as a threat to the jobs of steel workers, carpenters, iron workers, electrical workers and laborers.

    A Risk Too Great

    The United Steelworkers, North America’s largest industrial union, issued a national report in 2010 called A Risk Too Great, which called for the immediate elimination of hydrofluoric acid (virtually identical by all scientific reports to Modified Hydrofluoric).  Citing more than 131 HF accidents in the five preceding years, the report ends by stating that: “Fortunately HF alkylation can be entirely eliminated. The industry has the technology and expertise. It certainly has the money.”  If refinery management  says they don’t have the money, activists’ response is “Open your financial books.” Which, of course, they won’t.

    Many community activists believe that if the local steelworkers union were to join with the community and urge other unions to participate in this community and worker safety fight, they would win this battle overnight.  Until then, hundreds of thousands of South Bay citizens live in the hazard zone, according to Torrance Refinery Action Association.

    Read More
  • Putin’s Killing Fields Turn Odorless and Colorless

    • 05/04/2018
    • Sara Corcoran
    • Features
    • Comments are off

    By Sara Corcoran, RLn Columnist

    Vladimir Putin must be a very happy man. He has a lot to be thankful for, including: a new term as Russian President; his image as a swashbuckling, anti-Western superhero is cemented;  his gambit to confuse the American electorate to the point that it no longer has a baseline definition of truth has been a success; and his former spooks and enemies are “retiring” early.  So, if you were are part of the Vienna Spy Swap of 2010 (and alive), an oligarch who has fallen out of Putin’s favor or represent an existential threat to the office of the US President ― cooperating or unknowingly providing material information to the Special Counsel’s Investigation ― you need to fear Putin’s unforgiving revenge and visit the nearest FBI field Office. Either that  or head on over to Lego-land as soon as possible. Putin’s list is growing and he is just getting started.

    With the success of the American disinformation war under his belt, Putin has a new action item of his agenda: eliminate the perceived enemies of the Russian State.

    While en route to visit the graves of his wife and son (who both died in “car crashes”),  Sergei Skripal and his daughter,Yulia, were exposed to Novichok, a Russian nerve agent. Both have emerged from critical condition after they were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, England on March 4, 2018. Putin’s beta testing of military grade Novichok outside Russia is extremely dangerous. Normally, Putin’s assassins will strangle, poison using conventional means , cause heart attacks, or arrange car accidents, but it now seems that Putin, his aggressive behavior unchecked by a passive United States, is on to a new phase of temerity.

    So what is Novichok and why is it so dangerous? The nerve agent  was once classified as chemically similar to VX ( but 5 to 8 times more lethal), which was recently used to kill Kim Jong Nam. However, its makeup and organization of hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms makes it far more deadly.   Former Russian scientist, Vil Mirzayanov, who once worked with the agent and has spoken out about its structure publicly, has likely made it possible for other Western governments, especially the UK,to identify the agent as uniquely Russian.

    So while Putin continues to deny any involvement in the attempted murders of Sergei and  Yulia Skirpal, he is also sending a message to the rest of the world: No one is safe. I can reach you wherever you are and I am coming for you. Rumors indicate that up to 20 British citizens were peripherally affected as they came into contact with airborne nerve gas particles. Putin obviously was willing to risk this secondary exposure of British nationals.

    Last week’s strangulation of  Nikolai Glushkov, the close friend of murdered oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, is another indicator that Putin is prepared to ratchet up his contract killings in the UK, possibly expanding operations to the United States. The mysterious demise of Russian diplomat, Vitaly Churkin, ambassador to the United Nations in New York City may be a hint of things to come. Numerous parties should be quaking in their boots and taking precautionary measures. Russian movements in and out of the UK, its NATO allies, and the United States should be carefully scrutinized. The names on the list below are hypothetical targets of Putin’s Black List and should immediately acquire round the clock security.

    Putin’s Black List Expanded:

    Surviving Members of the Vienna Spy Swap of 2010:

    Alexander Zaporozhsky, Igor Sutyagin, Gennady Vasilenko

    Creators of Novochik:

    Vil Mirzayanov and Vladimir Uglev

    Potential Mueller Witnesses Who can link Trump to Putin:

    Paul Manafort-Enemy of Oleg Deripaska to whom he owes money and is a risk to Putin by disclosing secret Russian money transfers;

    Carter Page -Former Merrill Lynch employee who has amassed large portion of his 610 million fortune partnering with a Russian partner;

    Potential Mueller witnesses who can link data manipulation to Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0:

    Chris Wylie- formerly of Cambridge Analytica: Whistleblower; Architect of Cambridge Analytica psychographic algorithms used in the Trump campaign

    Professor Alexander Kogan of Cambridge University, on payroll of St Petersburg University

    Magnitsky Act Proponents

    Doug Browder- Former CEO of Hermitage Capital & helped pass the Magnitsky Act.

     

    While Putin’s  Pol Pot impulses thuggish behavior plays well to his Muscovite base, we in the United States and our British cousins grow more suspicious and weary of Putin’s  intentions, spy games, and influence over our Commander in Chief. Should Putin expand his tactics to US soil and potentially US nationals, Mr. Putin will have overplayed his hand. Comrade Putin,  accept the fact you will never have the “special relationship” enjoyed by the US & UK. Even if our President is misguided when it comes to attributing bad intentions to his “best pal” Putin, thank goodness our intelligence agencies are keenly focused on his expansive conduct . However, for the first time, their efforts may not be enough and the United States may have to rely on its NATO partners to do the heavy lifting in checking and isolating Putin. No country will ever want a special relationship with you, Mr Putin, and, fortunately, our past loyalty to our allies will not be forgotten.

    Read More
  • Rep. Ted Lieu for reelection.

    Ted Lieu Rising

    • 05/03/2018
    • Sara Corcoran
    • Feature
    • Comments are off

    Second-term representative brings strength, power to Southland

    By Sara Corcoran, Washington, D.C. Columnist

    Taking over Henry Waxman’s job was no easy undertaking. With 40 years as a U.S. representative and one of the most powerful members of his day, Waxman’s departure created a void in 2015.

    Since being elected to California’s 33rd Congressional District, Rep. Ted Lieu has managed to cement his reputation as  one of the most powerful and influential Democrats in Congress. As a formidable leader of the resistance movement, Lieu had made blocking the Trump agenda and advocating for his constituents his top priorities. Though California Congressional District 22 Rep. Devin Nunes may have shut down the House of Representatives investigation against the wishes of many Democrats, Lieu continues to offer on air perspective on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to examine Russian interference, including exploring any links between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government, as well as multiple scandals that seem to engulf Trump’s presidency.  In his short three years in office Lieu stands to supercede the legacy of Waxman.

    Lieu recently spoke about his effort in an April 2018 interview

    Sara Corcoran: It has been widely discussed in the media that Trump is not the target of a criminal investigation but a subject. Can you envision any scenarios where a subject could become a target?

    Ted Lieu:  There are basically three classifications: witness, subject and target. A witness is someone who has relevant information. A subject is someone who engaged in conduct that is under investigation. A target is someone that the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him to a crime. The Washington Post reported that Mueller told Trump’s attorneys in March that he was investigating the president, but did not consider him a “criminal target” in the Russia probe “at this point.” That is an important qualification. As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that during any investigation things are fluid and often depend on new evidence or real-world events. A subject can always become a criminal target as the investigation progresses.

    SC: What active steps are you and your fellow committee members taking to limit Russian  and foreign agent influence in our elections?

    TL: I’m proud to serve on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice. We have questioned Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, Deputy Attorney General [Rob] Rosenstein, and FBI Director Chris Wray during appearances before our committee about Russian interference in our democracy. I was glad our committee recently came together to pass an amendment to the Foreign Agent Registration Act that would close a legal loophole and improve transparency around foreign lobbyists. Ultimately, though, I am deeply disturbed by this administration’s failure to take the threat of foreign meddling seriously on all fronts.

    Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are coming to grips with the fact that although they are private companies, they can affect billions of people very quickly. They can impact lives in ways no government can. Discussions about regulating technology companies shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. There are real, technical considerations that need to be addressed.

    The [European Union] has a  …unique legal regime surrounding privacy and information disclosure. We can learn a lot about their approach.

    SC: Do you embrace the “Silicon Beach” moniker for the growing tech sector in the Santa Monica area? What can be done at the federal level to avoid the San Francisco crisis with housing costs?

    TL: I love the name! It shows how innovative and impressive our creative constituents are. In terms of housing, I support increased funding at both the state and federal level for additional housing.

    SC: Given the role of beach-related tourism in your district, what are you doing to ensure the oceans and beaches remain clean?

    TL: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2014, the ocean economy contributed $41.9 billion to California’s gross domestic product, nearly half of which came from the tourism and recreation industries. That’s why I am committed to supporting policies that protect the ocean and the environment. One threat to the ocean I am particularly worried about is increased offshore drilling in the Pacific. In the last year, I have sent several letters to the Trump administration with my California colleagues to express our opposition to this drilling. I’m committed to fighting to protect our coastlines.

    SC: Given your Trump tweets, is there any one or two you wish you could take back?

    TL: I have approximately 665,000 followers. Since Trump was elected, I’ve learned to hone my voice on social media to represent my constituents and oppose stupid ideas or outrageous behavior by Trump. I believe we must not normalize what cannot be normalized. Constituents are upset. And, I’m upset. I realized the most patriotic thing I could do is to tell the truth.

    SC: As somebody who represents a very urban area and who began public service on the Torrance City Council, how do you access the apparent urban-rural divide when it comes to Trump?

    TL:  I am very concerned and alarmed by President Trump’s recent executive order that would cut critical benefits, including housing, [which] help low-income families. It is a deeply flawed and misguided [executive order] that will harm families. Proposals to cut housing benefits through work requirements, time limits, and rent increases will only increase the ever growing homelessness and poverty issue Americans are facing in California and around the country. I also reject dividing our nation. Federal policies that help rural families also help urban families, and vice versa.

    SC: Do you ever get to Taiwan to visit? What do people there make of your being in Congress?

    TL: I still have family in Taiwan and visited a few years ago. My family immigrated to the United States when I was three years old. We first lived in the basement of a person’s home and my parents sold gifts at flea markets to make ends meet. That business grew into eventually opening up six gift and jewelry stores. It occurred to me that my family had achieved the American Dream, from coming here with almost nothing to starting a business that provided for my brother and me. I’m so grateful to the United States because I can genuinely say it was the land of opportunity for my family. It’s one reason I joined the Air Force, because I learned that American ideals are worth defending.

    SC: What do you think of the recent tit-for-tat tariff spat with China?

    TL: As with most of the president’s foreign policy decisions, the tariff spat with China is impulsive and lacks any real plan for success. Instead of pursuing our trade disputes through the World Trade Organization to give our claims international legitimacy, the president has set us on an uncertain path and left our manufacturers and exporters to bear the brunt of it.

    SC: What is your role with the ports, and what do think is its biggest challenge now?

    TL: The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are the largest in the U.S., driving economic growth not just in the Southland, but across the nation. At the same time, though, the high volume of traffic coincides with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In the next few years, the port and related industries will need to take serious steps to green the infrastructure to ensure that it reduces the climate impact and meets California’s emissions goals.

    SC: What effect have the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids had in our district?

    TL: ICE should be targeting individuals who are dangerous, but its current practice of conducting random raids without discretion is instilling fear in our communities. Students are fearful that parents will be deported and are less productive at schools, parents fear seeking medical help and individuals are less likely to report crimes to the police. All of these make our communities less safe.

     SC: What legislation of significance will be passed before November that will impact Los Angeles — Housing and Urban Development funding or lack there of, cuts to local sanctuary cities?

    TL: Just this week, a U.S. district judge ruled that the Department of Justice cannot deny federal funds to cities with sanctuary type policies.

    SC: What is your position on the Torrance refinery?

    TL: The Torrance refinery has been a key pillar of our local economy for generations. Like any major facility anywhere, the Torrance refinery has an obligation to the community and to its workers to maintain the safest possible operations. While recognizing the refinery’s contributions, this community knows that there are legitimate questions surrounding the use of a highly-toxic chemical, hydrofluoric acid, in its operations.

    If the Democrats manage to flip the House in 2018, expect to see a hear a lot more of Ted Lieu. Armed with subpoena power, Lieu could lead the push to have Nunes’ midnight White House runs investigated. So, while Nunes faces a formidable challenger to his seat, the real challenge will be Lieu, waiting for him to return to Washington.

    Read More
  • Bombshell of Report on Harbor Benefits

    • 05/03/2018
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    For as long as I can remember, the narrative pushed by the Port of Los Angeles and other boosters of industry and commerce has been this: the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are an “economic engine” that are jointly responsible for more than $400 billion in annual cargo value and create some 190,000 jobs in Los Angeles and Long Beach. That’s 1 in 12 jobs with an impact of creating 2.8 million jobs nationally in direct or indirect employment.

    I’ve never questioned these statistics until today. That is, until I read the report, Harbor Community Off-Port Land Use Study — a Look at the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro and Wilmington.

    The Harbor Community Benefit Foundation recently released this report, which analyzes the benefits and deficits to the Harbor Area communities of San Pedro and Wilmington, both directly and indirectly related to port activities.

    The Harbor Community Benefit Foundation was created in 2008 as part of a settlement resolving a dispute over the expansion and environmental impacts created by the TraPac terminal. That agreement provided $8 million in mitigation funds paid by the Port of Los Angeles to be administered by the foundation. As part of this agreement, the foundation was charged with the responsibility of assessing the port’s impact on surrounding land uses. To that end, the foundation hired the outside firm Raimi + Associates to conduct the study 10 years later.

    As I read the report, the voices of community activists from 20 years ago calling the areas surrounding the Port of Los Angeles a “diesel death zone” began to echo in the back of my mind. This was their assessment before the port shifted gears following the China Shipping settlement; It was their assessment before the creation of the Port Community Advisory Council; it was their assessment before that advisory council called on the port to significantly reduce air pollution and before the port admitted to being the single largest stationary source of pollution in all of Southern California. As I read this report, I thought, “Surely, things have changed?”

    No one can dispute the fact that the twin harbors have a huge economic impact on the San Pedro Bay region. The Port of Los Angeles website states, “[the two ports] handle more containers per ship call than any other port complex in the world. When combined, the two ports rank as the world’s ninth busiest container port complex.” But what has not been explicitly quantified until now is how little direct benefit goes to the residents who live closest to the ports. The rather innocuous title of this study might not inspire many in the community to sit up and take notice until they get to the conclusions. However, it does challenge POLA’s assertion that “70 percent of the …direct, indirect and induced benefits connected to the port occurs within L.A. county.”

    After a study of the Harbor Area’s 135,327 residents and analysis of the 45.3 percent who are actually employed in the study area surrounding the Port of Los Angeles, the conclusion is dismal:

    If we assume that resident workers are evenly distributed across all industry sectors, we can make a rough estimate that 2,153 Port and Port-related jobs in the study area are held by residents. This means that 3.5 percent of all employed study area residents work in the port or port-related jobs.

    So, out of all the 190,000 jobs that create the “economic engine” of the Port of Los Angeles, only 3.5 percent are actually residents here? I’m thinking that the local chambers of commerce might want to reassess their evaluation of the economic value to the local economy. This just might factor into business leaders’ forecasts on future prosperity and revitalization. However, the final point is even stronger:

     This biggest takeaway of this analysis is that while almost all study area households bear the direct and indirect negative impacts from living near the port and port-related operations, very few households reap the economic benefits [from it].

    This almost sounds like something John Papadakis has been telling Councilman Joe Buscaino for years, perhaps both of them and the San Pedro Chamber will actually read this report.

    It can be found at https://tinyurl.com/HCBF-Report

    Read More
  • Carson Mayor Ordered to Leave Water Board, Refuses

    • 05/03/2018
    • Lyn Jensen
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    Carson Mayor Albert Robles still refuses to surrender either of two elected offices — on the Water Replenishment District board of directors and the Carson City Council — despite a judge’s ruling that he’s violating state law by doing so.

    On April 17, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant agreed with a lawsuit greenlighted by former California Attorney General (now Sen.) Kamala Harris and filed by Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey that Robles holds incompatible offices that create a conflict-of-interest.

    Robles has served as a Water Replenishment District director since 1992. Since March 6, 2013 he has simultaneously served on the Carson City Council, and has been the city’s mayor since April 1, 2015.

    State law forbids an elected official from simultaneously holding two offices that are incompatible. Robles has steadfastly maintained he may hold both offices because, he argues, they are not incompatible.

    Final ruling is scheduled for May 29. Robles may attempt to show cause of why the final judgement should not be entered. If he does not show cause, or his argument is not accepted by the court, final judgement will be entered that day.

    State law does allow for “simultaneous holding” of offices when “compelled or expressly authorized by law.” Carson recently passed an ordinance stating that members of the Carson City Council may hold office in the Water Replenishment District. The water board also passed an ordinance that their directors may have city council offices.

    At a previous court proceeding, on Feb. 27, Chalfant stated that the state’s carve-out exception for “authorized by law” was not intended to “permit local officials to wiggle out of” compliance.

    The court’s decision on April 17 concluded that, even if a city might perhaps had power to override the state, the Water Replenishment District couldn’t do so.

    Robles argued the decision at length, first asserting that since the original complaint dated back to his previous terms in both offices, it didn’t apply to the terms he’s serving.

    “Your argument does not make sense,” the judge told him. “Why do we care what term it is?”

    The judge reminded him the case was about holding incompatible offices, regardless of terms.

    Robles appeared confused, at times asking where his own brief was and another time complaining he forgot his glasses. He kept arguing about common law and general law and exceptions.

    “I’ve already ruled the offices are incompatible,” the judge responded. “You argue but you cite to me nothing.”

    Robles said he intended to appeal. He asked for a stay pending the appeal. It was not granted.

    At a Carson City Council meeting that night, Robles said he would stay on the water board at least until May 29 and he would ask the judge to reconsider.

    He accused the district attorney of “persecuting” him.

    “The main reason they are coming after me is because I am not a friend of the oil industry,” he said.

    He complained that another “individual” has been holding two offices for decades and the district attorney has “never gone after him.” He did not name the individual he was referring to.

    A court document states Robles is willing to resign from the water board, “upon the construction of a wastewater treatment plant scheduled to be completed in September 2018.”

    Another Water Replenishment District director, Sergio Calderon, recently resigned his seat on the Maywood City Council rather than give up his water board seat.

    According to the Transparent California site, which calls itself California’s largest public pay and pension database, Robles’ total pay and benefits in 2016 from the water board was $80,092. That same year his total pay and benefits from Carson totaled $54,740.

    Recently a pay-or-quit notice was delivered to Robles’ law office near South Bay Pavilion. It was from Regent West Corp. and dated April 3, 2018. According to it no rent had been paid since the beginning of 2018.

    Read More
  • We Stand with Jeannine Pearce.

    Sex, Lies and Recall

    • 05/03/2018
    • Melina Paris
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Business versus Labor Champion: The power struggle behind efforts to recall Jeannine Pearce in Long Beach

    By Melina Paris, Staff Writer

    There are many stories to tell about the former Navy port city of Long Beach, known as the “Iowa by the Sea.”  The city has evolved over the years, some even say it now reveals a new tale of two cities.

    The first city has successfully harnessed the tourism sector as a host to global travelers. Long Beach, especially downtown, is home to a number of high-end hotels such as the DoubleTree by Hilton, The Renaissance, Hotel Maya, The Hyatt Regency and The Westin, with more on the way. In April, the New York Times reported that Seattle-based real estate investor, American Life Inc. had plans for a 29-story glass high-rise adjacent  to a redevelopment of the city’s civic center.

    The second city belongs to the residents, many who work in the hotels.

    A 2009 Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy report, Tale of Two Cities, stated that the “second” Long Beach consists of the surrounding working-class neighborhoods where poverty concentration is listed as sixth highest in the nation by the Brookings Institution.

    Long Beach District 2 Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce represents both.

    Some say that the power struggle between the business and labor communities that divide the city have led to the effort recall the councilwoman. An effort anchored by the events of one night.

    The anchor

    Despite the end of an extramarital affair months earlier, Pearce’s former chief of staff Devin Cotter and she celebrated his birthday on a June night in 2017. Pearce was driving when an argument erupted between them. She pulled over to the center median of the 710 Freeway.

    The Committee to Recall Council Member Jeannine Pearce issued a press release, August 2017, accusing Pearce of domestic violence and sexual harassment against Cotter from that June night. No arrest has been made and no charges have been filed against Pearce. Recall proponents also claimed that Cotter was kept on the payroll after he left his position. This has not been confirmed. Reports from the Long Beach Police Department and California Highway Patrol state that the CHP initially spotted Pearce’s car and stopped to investigate and subsequently called LBPD to assist in what appeared to be a domestic violence situation. Pearce was given a DUI test, which she passed.

    That night set the framework for the efforts to recall Pearce in August. It has become the cover story for what has ostensibly become an effort by the hotel industry to take out a political opponent supported by the hotel workers’ union. For many, it was a harsh reaction to a personal incident. Many wonder what is behind such a strong reaction to a personal issue. These type of situations are common in and out of politics. In fact, in the recent past both Democratic frontrunners for California governor had similar personal situations. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa both had extra-marital affairs while in office, but neither man faced a recall. As we know, Donald Trump has had his share of infidelities.

    “So, while yes, I had a personal mistake; Gavin Newsom had personal mistakes,” Pearce said. “He’s running for governor, likely going to win. Villaraigosa, another gubernatorial candidate, he’s likely going to stay in politics. There wasn’t a recall campaign against these men [who made] mistakes. The only reason that this recall campaign has teeth is because of $180,000 funded by the hotels for my advocacy for women speaking out.”

    Pearce said she has tried to remain private about the incident because it was already well-documented in police reports.

    As an elected public figure, she is more vulnerable to scrutiny.

    Nevertheless, she believes her personal life is being used as red herring to mask political attacks on a progressive politician.

    The two groups behind this effort are The Committee to Recall Jeannine Pearce and a well-funded group called Friends of Long Beach. Ian S. Patton manages the committee supporting the recall. He also owns Cal Heights Consultancy, a political consulting firm. Patton initially responded to an interview request but did not follow through by press time.

    Victor Sanchez, the director of The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, which is anchored by LAANE, knows Pearce from her work through city council. He said the recall effort is unfortunate.

    “It’s really about power,” Sanchez said. “When you follow the money you get a clearer picture of what this is about. It’s about a larger power struggle in the city and you have a few interests that are trying to use a personal issue as a front and as a means to take back power in Long Beach.  Jeannine has been a champion and is meeting the immediate needs for her constituents. We’ve seen nothing less from her. She is a great partner. We’re obviously continuing to do our work within council but the thing I would be able to say is that you just have to follow the money and you will see what this is about.”

    The players behind the recall effort

    The Friends of Long Beach is made up of local hoteliers and developers, including, American Life Inc. Pearce said the group was formed by former Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and labor consultant, George Urch. Foster did not respond to an interview request and his affiliation with Friends of Long Beach is not confirmed. However, longbeachreport.com reported that Friends of Long Beach supported Robert Garcia for Mayor under the belief he would continue many of Foster’s policies The recall campaign disclosure statement lists the major hotels and businesses that have put money behind this effort, totalling $180,000. They are American Life Inc., The Breakers, Long Beach Hotel Properties, Pabst Kinney, Kristie M. Pabst, Reed and Davidson LLP, Hotel Maya and The Marriot.

    Pearce has a long history of supporting workers’ rights in Long Beach. Ten years before she ran for city council, Pearce was a community activist working with Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy in the fight to improve working conditions and to pass a living wage ordinance for hotel workers. This culminated in two ballot measures from 2013 to 2016: Measure N and Claudia’s Law.

    Measure N was a Long Beach living wage ballot initiative to support low-wage hotel workers, which passed in November 2013. Claudia’s Law was named after a female Long Beach hotel worker who sustained a cerebral hemorrhage after working a 14-hour shift at the Long Beach Renaissance Hotel. Claudia’s Law would have limited the work loads of hotel employees and required hotels to supply staff with panic buttons as protection against sexual harassment and assault. Long Beach City Council rejected the proposal in a 5 to 4 vote in 2017.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    After losing 100,000 jobs in the late 70s from defense spending cuts and closure of the naval base and aerospace plants, Long Beach began a redevelopment plan. The plan was based in trade and tourism being the most significant parts of the economy. Long Beach transitioned from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based one.

    The Tale of Two Cities showed the city tax dollars that go to the major hotels since the 1980s. It cites that more than $2 billion of private and public investment has been made in the hospitality and tourism industries in Long Beach.

    After making $2 billion in investments, the influence hotel’s and developers have on Long Beach city politics is obvious. Long Beach aims to realize huge economic progress, progress that ideally should be good for the entire city. The Tale of Two Cities conclusion lists factors behind the emphasis on tourism, one being that successful redevelopment efforts should capitalize on natural assets of an area. For Long Beach that means taking advantage of its coastal location. Tourism and hospitality have also been fast growing sectors of the U.S. economy.

    Joining the city’s economic fortunes to tourism is not new to Long Beach. Between 1900 and 1920, city leaders tried to make Long Beach the Coney Island of the West. It never quite materialized and Long Beach became a military, industrial and port town. Today, with revitalization of those sectors unlikely, the question is: “Can the currently conceptualized tourism-based strategy halt the erosion of the middle class and replace outsourced jobs and downsized areas with good jobs”

    Pearce spoke about the recall effort and her background with LAANE.

    She explained LAANE’s position: Its organizing efforts are based on the idea that because tax subsidies are given to hotels, Long Beach residents should be able to reap the benefits of having a good paying job in return.

    “The Hyatt was one (hotel) that received rent free for 10 years that was on city land,” Pearce said. “Long Beach has a long history of trying to make it easy for hotel developments. The Westin and The Renaissance also received a large subsidy.”

    LAANE worked toward getting the Long Beach City Council to pass a living wage for hotel workers. It was unsuccessful. Then in 2010, The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs, of which LAANE is a coalition member, changed their mission from just policy to becoming an organizing and leadership development organization. A subgroup, called Long Beach Rising was started to bring everybody in for representation. For two years their focus was on base building and leadership development.

    In 2012, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs began a field campaign to support a living wage for hotel workers, Measure N. When they were not able to get the city council to pass measure N, they took it to the voters. Pearce was a co-lead on that campaign, which won with 64 percent of the vote. The power shifted for hotel and low-wage workers and for the progressive movement. After Measure N was passed, a worker retention policy was passed that stated that if the Long Beach Airport and Convention Center changed operators, they would need to retain their workforce. This happened after new operators were coming into convention spaces, laying off employees and hiring new ones at lower wages.

    “After Measure N, you saw tourism go up in Long Beach,” Pearce said. “I firmly believe that you have social justice tourism out there that says, here is a city that cares enough about their employees, their residents, their neighbors, to pass policy to protect them. I want to check out that city. That’s why people go to Seattle. That’s why people go to Portland. And, Long Beach should be a city where we can say, ‘We’ve got a thriving tourism industry that respects its workers.’”

    A large base of people were fighting for progressive issues and were walking door-to-door for progressive candidates and the mayor’s race. The next round of elections in 2014 saw progressives, Rex Richardson, Roberto Uranga and Lena Gonzalez win.

    Pearce as advocate

    When the 2016 election came up and Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal chose not to run, Pearce decided to take a chance. She knew that hotel workers, truck drivers, those living on some of the corridors with the highest asthma rates, probably weren’t going to have a voice. So, she decided to run. Pearce said many people believed Eric Gray, her opponent, would win. He had the support of the Long Beach Police Officers Association and he had Foster’s support.

    “It was old guard Long Beach and new guard Long Beach,” Pearce said. “We were at this time of this shift and when voters have to decide, ‘Do we go backwards or do we progress forward?’ That’s the tug and pull that you see on council right now.”

    Pearce was elected into office July 2016. In June, 2017 the incident with Cotter occurred. In September 2017, Claudia’s Law was put on the agenda with Lena Gonzalez leading it.

    Pearce said the hotels’ response to Claudia’s Law was that there was no sexual harassment happening and they opposed supplying their staff’s with panic buttons.

    “I was elected based on the premise that I was going to fight for these women,” Pearce said. “It was really clear to everybody who I was during my campaign. In September, the vote happened. Unfortunately it didn’t pass.”

    Pearce continued, saying her opponents will try to get her to talk about details of her personal life. They say she never publicly apologized but she counters that she did, four or five times. Pearce attended an outpatient program for two weeks and she sees therapists regularly.

    The money talks

    Pearce said she has to govern for everybody and that includes those who feel they haven’t had a voice. Pearce was told by her predecessor that some people in downtown don’t feel like she is listening to them as much.

    “I know a lot of these people were upset by the Westin Hotel pickets,” Pearce said. “Before they went union, there were picketers every morning, right across the street from residents and so that’s what I think stirred the pot.”

    Downtown residents often complained of the loud early morning protests in front of the hotel, where picketers used bull horns and noisemakers.

    Pearce said she has a problem with the hotels that come to the city and the taxpayers asking for transient occupancy tax deals, for subsidies to come here. Then “based on not wanting to protect their housekeepers, … then ask taxpayers to foot the bill for an election that the majority of these folks don’t want.”

    So, in this tale of two cities an industry of hoteliers and developers has put $180,000 into a the recall of a council member who advocates for the labor within these hotels. This tale is an old story that has resurfaced in a city on the cusp of  major growth. In a New York Times story, After Years of Decline, a California Port City Sheds Its Past, Mayor Robert Garcia said the downtown is being reborn and recreated.

    “We’ve got the welcome mat out,” Garcia said. “We’re constantly meeting with folks, hosting forums for development interest.”

    Garcia’s office was contacted for this article, but Communications Director Veronica Quezada said the mayor was not available for this interview.

    Piercing the truth

    Pearce said she realizes that people want to know a couple things.

    “They want to know if I was driving under the influence,” she said. “They want to know if I caused the damage to that gentleman’s face. I was drinking responsibly. I ate. I drank minimally and I did not make those marks to his face.”

    She said it has made her hyper-aware of how difficult it is to share a story and not be victim-shamed.

    “It was a night that made me realize that I was going to have to get a restraining order and that it wasn’t a safe situation to be in,” she said. “The fact is, with narcissists, every time that you regain a little bit of the power that they have managed to take away from you, the more rage they have. That’s really at the crux of what happened that night.”

    She elaborated on the events of the night, as Cotter was getting in her car.

    “I said to myself, ‘What am I doing?’” she said. “I remember he got in my car and had some kind of attitude and I pulled over and said, ‘If you’re going to have an attitude, get out of my car,’ and he said, ‘No, I’ll be fine.’”

    Looking back, that’s exactly when she should have kicked Cotter out of her car, she said.

    “From that moment on it was the most anxiety driven evening that I can recall having,” Pearce said. “The only thing that mattered was, [that] it was abusive [and] it was sick … Because I didn’t have a mark on my body, I was dubbed the abuser. The wounds that women and men face through narcissistic abuse are often harder to get over than physical violence because [with] physical violence they see it, they understand it, they believe you.

    “The officers that night told me to get a restraining order. They said, ‘If you see him again call 911.’ If they hadn’t told me that I might not have called 911 when he showed up at my house later. Because your mind doesn’t work the same way when you’re under attack.

    “So that happened but that’s not why I’m being recalled. These guys are trying to re-traumatize me re-abuse me, victim blame. That’s why women don’t speak out.”

    Pearce said that one thing that has kept her in office and to fight the recall is believing that nothing that horrible could have happened to her without a reason, without being able to share her story. She hopes people in similar abusive situations realize it’s not their fault and that  there is help out there.

    The recall campaign has until May 9 to gather 6,400 signatures. Then it would go to a November election. If enough signatures are turned in by May 3, that would trigger a special election. A special election would cost the city taxpayers up to $275,000. Should they be successful in recalling Pearce, there would then be another special election costing the taxpayers up to another $275,000.

    To view The Tale of Two Cities report visit: https://tinyurl.com/LBTale-Two-Cities

    Read More
  • May Day Coalition in L.A.: Together We Fight Back

    The May 1st march and rally demands protection for all workers, calls on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop family separations and raids, and urges all Angelenos to get involved.

    Together We Fight Back is an invitation for all Angelenos to take to the streets at noon May 1 on the corner of 6th Street and Olive Street.

    The May Day Coalition of Los Angeles will promote three main issues throughout the one mile route:

    1) Defend, protect, and respect worker rights.

    2) Fight against the anti-immigrant agenda and stop the cruel separation of families by ICE.

    3) Underline the importance of civic engagement in this year’s midterm elections.

    Read More
  • Great Performance, Timely Topic Makes for Watchable “Extremities”

    By Greggory Moore, Curtain Call reviewer

    It’s one of the better-known premises in modern theatre: a man breaks into a house to rape a woman, but she fends him off, injuring and taking him prisoner. She knows it’s his word against hers, and with him threatening to come back and finish the job, does she try her luck with the police or mete out her own version of justice?

    Despite its simplicity, William Mastrosimone’s Extremities is a bit difficult to pull off. Because the play’s intensity peaks so early in a scene whose resolution we already know, it’s completely up to the actors to sustain the audience’s interest for the next 80 minutes, which unfold without the benefit of a single scene change and more or less in real time.

    On this count, the Garage Theatre is largely successful. In the pivotal role of Marjorie, Maroon Stranger is fantastic. All at once Marjorie is a victim and a survivor, scared and empowered, confused and decisive, sad and angry, engaged and withdrawn. Stranger plays all of it perfectly. Her big moments are excellent, but perhaps even more impressive is her subtlety, letting us see how much is happening behind her eyes. This is one play where the close confines of a black-box space like the Garage are a huge advantage. This is a performance you want to see up close and personal.

    If Marjorie is a role challenging for its number of facets, would-be rapist Raul is the opposite. He is a sociopath, completely unsympathetic and irredeemable. A bad actor could turn such a pure villain into pure caricature—I mean, it’s pretty much written as a caricature (which is not really a flaw)—but Nicholas B. Gianforti makes him real, monstrous and menacing but also flesh and blood. We believe him—there really are monsters in the world—and together he and Stranger make their opening encounter nearly every bit as harrowing as it should be. For most of it we are truly in the room, watching a real assault, and because of that we’re on board for the rest of the play.

    Unfortunately, from this point onwards we find little bits of sloppiness that remind us we’re watching a piece of fiction.  Reference is made to Raul’s being hogtied, but his feet are never bound, making for a double gaffe when he sits idly during a moment where clearly he would kick Marjorie. Later, one of Marjorie’s roommates asks whether she can loosen the noose around Raul’s neck (because otherwise he won’t be able to swallow the food she’s giving him), yet we clearly see the noose hanging like a loose necklace. There’s also no cause to hand-feed him, as his bonds don’t come close to preventing him from reaching his mouth.

    In fact, the overall physicality is too restrained. That’s not really a problem during the attempted rape, but the rest of the physical action never feels as believable. Gianforti never truly struggles to free himself, asking for us to suspend our disbelief in a play that pays off most handsomely if we don’t have to.

    Pretty clearly part of the reason he never truly struggles is that the fireplace in which he’s confined for most of the play is not built sturdily enough to withstand any real thrashing about. It’s the only weakness in Rob Young’s solid set design, which otherwise helps us feel immersed in the action.

    Despite a compelling premise, at times Mastrosimone’s text seems overly much like he’s going down a checklist (debate about whether Marjorie dresses like she wants it—check; turn the tables on the would-be rapist—check; convenient confession—check), rather than the characters’ words emanating organically from the deep emotional well such a situation would draw from. That failing (which, to be fair, is minor, not fatal) makes the acting all the more important. So it is a tribute to the cast—especially Maroon Stranger—that the Garage’s production works as well as it does.

    Extremities at The Garage Theatre
    Time: Thurs-Sat 8 p.m., Runs through May 5 
    Cost: $18–$25 (Thursday tix are 2-for-1)
    Details: (562) 433-8337, TheGaragetheatre.org
    Venue: 251 E 7th St. (Just off Long Beach Blvd.), Long Beach

    Read More
  • 1 5 6 7 262