• Oldest Harbor Area Synagogue Breaks Ground

    Temple Beth El, which is entering its 93rd year, is getting a significant facelift.  On May 31, the synagogue had a ground breaking ceremony for a remodel that promises to enhance the facility with a building that mirrors warmth and spiritual richness.

    The congregation is led by Rabbi Charles Briskin, Cantor Ilan Davidson and director of education and programs, Debi Rowe, the congregation is affiliated with the Union for Reform.

    Temple Beth El Ground Breaking

    Members of Temple Beth El write good wishes on the lumber for a building. Cantor Ilan Davidson, far right, also participates. Photo by Dr. David Feldman.

    The much-needed renovations will address safety (e.g., handicap access, sprinklers) and security (funded by a Homeland Security grant).  The project will also address maintenance concerns (e.g., bathroom, social hall upgrades).  The facility will enjoy new functionality (e.g., new technology, front entrance ramp) as well.

    The roots of Temple Beth El were planted in 1922 when the first organized Jewish religious services held in San Pedro took place at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Leven. There were 25 known Jewish families living in San Pedro at the time.

    Prior to 1922, a group of Jewish men had formed a social club that met in a photographer’s studio on Beacon Street. In 1923, their wives established the San Pedro Jewish Sisterhood, dedicated to supporting a Jewish community and giving aid to the poor and needy in our community. These women donated the synagogue’s first Torah scroll in 1928 and became, in time, the primary force in raising funds for the growth of the community.

    As services and activities continued and grew, the “founding” men and women raised the money to build a Jewish Center. The San Pedro Jewish Sisterhood held the grant deed for the center.  In 1935 the San Pedro Jewish Community Center was dedicated at the corner of 19th and Cabrillo streets (now currently the home of the Italian American Club).

    By 1938, about 75 Jewish families lived in San Pedro and the name “Congregation Beth El” was adopted.

    It soon became clear that the Jewish community would outgrow the original facility and in 1942, several lots on Seventh Street were purchased for future development, though that was not to happen until 1955, when the San Pedro Jewish Sisterhood sold the building at 19th and Cabrillo Streets and donated the proceeds to the construction of the current facility on Seventh Street.

    In 1956, the Torah Scrolls were brought to the new location, which comprised classrooms, offices, a kitchen and the combination Social Hall-Sanctuary.  In 1959, the charter was changed one last time and the congregation became Temple Beth El, a Reform congregation affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now known as the Union for Reform Judaism).

    As the community grew into the 1980’s, the Seventh Street facility was enlarged and on November 10, 1985 the congregation consecrated the location.

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  • Community Groups Host People’s State Of The City

    LONG BEACH– People from 15 community-based organizations gathered Long Beach residents together for the fourth annual People’s State of the City on May 27, at Stephens Middle School in Long Beach. The free event attracted individuals from across the city to dialogue on issues affecting residents including jobs, housing, education, immigration, environmental justice and neighborhood safety.

    The program promotes civic participation, voter engagement and community organizing among historically underrepresented communities.

    Member organizations of Long Beach Rising! include Anakbayan Long Beach, Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, California Faculty Association Long Beach Chapter, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, EndOil, Filipino Migrant Center, Housing Long Beach, Khmer Girls in Action, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & a Healthy Community, Long Beach Latinos in Action, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, The Long Beach Time Exchange, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach and Unite Here Local 11.

    “It is a special time where we can look to our neighbors and say, ‘We live in a great city, but there is work to be done to transform it into a great and equitable city,” said Ernesto Rocha, an organizer with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s Clean and Safe Ports project.

    This year’s event included musical performances, a theatrical skit titled, A Day in the Life of a Hotel Worker, a video featuring local residents and a presentation on the state of the city. Throughout the presentation, audience members were polled on issues such as their support for higher wages and protections for renters in Long Beach.

    Nikole Cababa, an organizer with the Filipino Migrant Center called on audience members to get involved with local campaigns that promote equity in Long Beach and sign a “progressive pledge” to support living wages, election reform, environmental justice, and affordable housing.

    “We can learn and accomplish so much more together through collective action, and this event is one example of the unity emerging from our neighborhoods,” Cababa said.

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  • Despite Talk, Long Beach Nowhere Close to Bringing Medpot Back

    We do owe the public a resolution on this issue, with a responsible timeline.
    –Mayor Robert Garcia, February 2015

    The cannabis landscape in the United States has gotten a whole lot greener since September 10, 2013, the night the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted to draft a new ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to return to the city. Four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The California Democratic Party has inserted into its platform a plank calling for “the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.” The police chief of Washington, D.C. has publicly stated that “[a]lcohol is a much bigger problem [than marijuana],” and that “[a]ll those [marijuana-related] arrests do is make people hate us,” while generating unnecessary paperwork and court appearances. Congress has even prohibited the Drug Enforcement Administration from conducting any more raids on retail operations sanctioned in states like California that allow medpot.

    Nonetheless, nearly two years later cancer patients who cannot fend for themselves must induce providers to break the law in order to get medpot within city limits. And it’s looking increasingly likely that nothing will change before California jumps on the legalization bandwagon.

    Seem unlikely in a city whose residents look so favorably on cannabis that over four years ago they voted in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use? Read on to get a lay of the land.

    After the September 2013 city council meeting that started the current process, it was more than four months before the Planning Commission began work on a new medpot ordinance. Eight months later, the commission finally provided the city council with its draft ordinance, which proposed allowing 18 dispensaries citywide under tight restrictions.

    However, the city council did not pick up the matter until a February 10, 2015, study session, where it created a Medical Cannabis Task Force of two citizen representatives from each council district to report to the city council in April with input concerning what the eventual ordinance should look like.

    The one councilmember who voted against this action was Suzie Price. Price says her “nay” vote was not because she opposes dispensaries or the task force, but because the plan as outlined was unrealistic.

    “Frankly, it seemed to me like it [i.e., the timeline] was a little more for show than it was real,” she says. “It was more about trying to send a message to people who wanted to move this along than realistic […] We voted on this timeline that was absolutely insane considering what we were asking [the task force] to do […] That gives people a false expectation.”

    Price was right, as the task force did not hold even its first meeting until April 1. Moreover, the five meetings since then have be decidedly unproductive—a fact of which many task force members seem keenly aware. During the May 13 meeting, for example, Member Greg Leifan wondered aloud when the task force would take any action—and whether they even had in place the mechanics for such.

    That question was on full display when the task force spent 45 minutes attempting to hammer out how they could compile a list of “tentative suggestions” to bring back at the end of the task force’s life so as to decide whether they want to recommend any or all of them to the city council.

    “We’ve had three meetings, and we really haven’t done anything,” said Member Adam Hijazi during the discussion. Member Joe Sopo concurred: “Going for three-and-a-half hours and doing nothing I feel is non-productive.”

    But two weeks later things were no better, with the task force still struggling with the logistics of compiling those tentative suggestions. Member Adam Herzberg called the process a “circus of absurdity,” adding, “This committee has been absolutely useless to this point.”

    For all this, the Medical Cannabis Task Force is purely advisory, and the city council is under no obligation to pay heed to any of its recommendations.

    One organization with no desire to see the process move forward is the Long Beach Police Department. Since the city council’s September 2013 signal of intent to reintroduce dispensaries, the LBPD has remained active on the cannabis front, arresting 780 people for marijuana offenses, issuing 683 citations, and serving 70 search warrants.

    According to Deputy Chief David Hendricks, a guest speaker at the May 27 Medical Cannabis Task Force meeting (the first from whom the task force has heard), the LBPD regards the distribution of marijuana—including for medicinal purposes—as a felony. When questioned by a task force member as to whether it would be better for the city to have licensed dispensaries in place of unlicensed delivery services—of which over 50 can be found locally via listings such as WeedMaps—Hendricks acknowledged no distinction. “I don’t think either one is good for the city of Long Beach,” he said. “[…] It’s illegal, pure and simple.” When asked whether the department has a mechanism to allocate its drug-related resources based on the relative harm of respective drugs, Hendricks demurred: “I don’t feel the need to address whether one [drug] is worse than another.”

    Hendricks acknowledged that in the past the department’s resource allocation toward dispensaries—including the full-time work of eight detectives and one supervisor—has come at the expense of the department’s ability to address not only other drug-related crime but also property crime and even violent crime. And he says this will again be the case if the City allows dispensaries.

    The LBPD’s willingness to prioritize its resource expenditure in such a manner is nothing new. Former Chief Jim McDonnell repeatedly inveighed upon the city council to ban dispensaries by claiming their presence “negatively impacts our ability to be able to address [crimes such as] human trafficking, prohibited possessors of guns, gang crime, and violent crime.” (McDonnell, who is now sheriff of Los Angeles County, is slated to address the task force on June 3.)

    City Manager Pat West supports the LBPD’s contention that other areas of law enforcement must suffer if dispensaries come back to town. “[T]he Police Department would need to decide which current enforcement operations would be reduced to provide a marijuana enforcement detail,” he wrote in a memo dated March 24, 2015.

    Nonetheless, the LBPD is pushing for any ordinance to include “seed to sale” tracking and the mandate that all cannabis be cultivated within city limits, unusual requirements (absent, for example, from L.A.’s medpot ordinance) that would increase the LBPD’s resource commitment, as opposed to minimizing it.

    According to West, “[E]ven if additional resources were found, there would need to be a minimum of a one-year preparation period” to get an approved ordinance up and running. So with the Medical Cannabis Task Force virtually certain to extend past its current June 17 deadline (city staff have speculated that an August conclusion is more realistic), it is looking like marijuana could be legal for recreational use statewide before Long Beach is again home to a single medicinal dispensary.

    Does that pace fit with Mayor Robert Garcia’s February 10 assertion that the city council “owe[s] the public a resolution on this issue, with a responsible timeline”? Garcia declined to comment.

    “It’s time for all of us to step up and step in and lead once again in California, just as we did in 1996,” said Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom at the 2014 California Democratic Party Convention. “We did just that with medical marijuana. But for almost 20 years now, we’ve sat back admiring our accomplishment while the world, the nation, and states like Colorado and Washington have passed us by. ”

    Just as other states have left California behind on the cannabis question, locally Long Beach has been left behind by Los Angeles, San Pedro, and most recently Santa Ana. Exactly why Long Beach is lagging may—or may not—be a complicated question. But the simple truth is that this city whose residents heavily favor allowing dispensaries to come back to town won’t be getting them anytime soon.

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  • Vladovic Wins, Again

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    The results are in. Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Richard Vladovic held on to his seat, following the District 7 elections May 19.

    The low-turnout race yielded Vladovic his largest margin going in to his third term in office. He received 9,282 votes out of 16,600 (55.91 percent), compared to 44.08 percent garnered by his opponent, Lydia Gutierrez.

    The election was amidst a federal grand jury investigation into a technology program that took place in 2014, a search for a new superintendent and negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles.

    A retired educator who has worked as a principal, social studies teacher, administrator and superintendent for the West Covina Unified School District, Vladovic drew the support of political action committees from pro-charter advocates and labor groups. However, Vladovic would not say whether he agreed or disagreed with charter schools due to state law, which states that approval of charters must take place if they demonstrate they are fully funded and have a solid education system.

    Gutierrez, by contrast, opposes charter schools. She believes a school must first fail in order to transition to a charter.

    In February, Vladovic said he supported raising teachers’ salaries more than 4 percent but was not more specific because he was part of the collective bargaining process.

    His campaign website describes him as an advocate for smaller schools who fights to take schools off year-round calendars. It also describes him as a champion for the arts, “building and sustaining mentorship and dropout prevention programs.” One of Vladovic’s top priorities was to convince the California legislature to increase education funding.

    On her website, however, Gutierrez wrote that LAUSD “is poorly run in three areas: finances, administration and lack of academic goals…” In fact, she accused the district of misusing funds and lacking oversight of money during a Feb. 6 debate, noting the $139 million in payouts to child abuse scandal victims and the new MiSiS computer system that reportedly cost millions of dollars to fix. She also heavily criticized the district’s billion dollar iPad controversy.

    Gutierrez did not have major endorsements or campaign money. The teacher-turned-aerospace-industry administrator was endorsed by the Los Angeles County Republican Party and Election Forum, an evangelical Christian group. She reported $37,844 in campaign contributions and $39,799.19 in expenditures as of May 13.

    She finished the 2015 March 3 primary only five percentage points behind Vladovic. Both candidates were challenged by a third candidate, Euna Anderson.

    The 2015 election was not Gutierrez’ first run in education politics. In 2014 and 2010, she ran as a candidate for the California Superintendent of Public Instruction seat and lost. In 2008, Gutierrez ran for the California State Senate in District 25 as a Republican. She won in the Republican primary but lost in the general election.

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  • Truckers Reclassification Plan Advances

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On May 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward in developing a plan to support misclassified port truck workers. The plan focused on five recommended areas of action, presented in a report from the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

    The motion was advanced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, one-time head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

    “The issue of wage theft is one that we should all be concerned about,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Businesses that follow the law should not be undercut by those that lower their labor costs by cheating.”

    Another active supporter was Supervisor Hilda Solis, former secretary of labor during President Barack Obama’s first term.

    “I wholeheartedly support this,” Solis said.

    Specifically, while noting that the county’s authority to act was limited by the powers granted to other jurisdictions, the report noted that action could be undertaken in each of these areas:

    • To help prevent wage theft violations by conducting outreach and education workshops for workers and employees

    • To provide information and referrals for those seeking to file wage theft claims;

    • To “[p]artner with other government al agencies to share information and monitor the constantly evolving situation at the ports”

    • To use its contracting power as a market participant by prohibiting county departments from contracting with companies that have wage theft judgments against them

    • To support three pieces of state legislation that would encourage resolution of the ongoing industry-wide struggle: Senate Bill 588, which would facilitate collection of judgments by the Labor Commissioner Assembly Bill 621, which would provide an amnesty program for port trucking companies that enter into a consent decree with the labor commissioner prior to Jan. 1, 2017 to convert all their drivers to employee status; Assembly Bill 970, which would give the labor commissioner increased enforcement authority to issue citations for violations of local wage laws and other worker protections when encountered in the field—a power that already exists in hearing situations

    Before voting, the supervisors heard public comments, including the testimony of three port drivers, who vividly illustrated the deceptive and illegal practices they were fighting against.

    “Many weeks I make far less than the minimum wage,” said David Linares, a driver with Pac-9 for seven years. “Some weeks I even owe the company to work…In December 2014, the California DLSE [Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, also known as the Labor Commissioner’s Office] determined that I was one of four Pac-9 drivers misclassified as independent contractors. Pac-9 was ordered to pay us a total of $254,627 in back wages stolen from our paycheck, and penalties; 43 additional drivers have filed claims valued at more than $6.25 million. If every driver of the company were to file a claim, the company would face an additional liability of at least $12 million.”

    Also testifying was Alfredo Reyes, a driver for XPO Logistics with 20 years of experience in port drayage.

    “I first went on strike last November to protest misclassification, and since then, XPO has been retaliating against me, cutting my loads and I’ve been falling further and further into debt,” Reyes testified. “I am one of many drivers who have filed wage claims and lawsuits against the company for misclassification. We have filed lawsuits that amount to potential liabilities of more than $5 million. The California Superior Court has ruled that XPO owes an additional $2.2 million to just seven XPO drivers, making the potential liability in California alone of more than $160 million.”

    Yet, Reyes went on to note, XPO clearly has the money.

    “While we were on strike a few weeks ago, XPO announced they were spending $3.5 billion to buy a French company,” Reyes said. “Days later, they announced the purchase of another U.S. freight company, Bridge Terminal Transport, for $100 million. We believe that the money they’re spending buying other companies and passing on to shareholders is money they have stolen out of our pockets.”

    The companies are lawless, Reyes said.

    “These companies are knowingly breaking the law for profit and they are doing it right here in your county,” he concluded.

    “Until recently, I drove for port trucking company QTS,” Felix Umana said. “Like Daniel and Alfredo, I was misclassified as an independent contractor, but unlike my brothers, the company I drove for from 2011 to 2015 took the cheating way out. They filed for bankruptcy and reopened under another name rather than pay us what they owed us.”

    He went on explain the QTS was just one of several companies owned by Eric Yu.

    “The same day QTS filed for bankruptcy, QTS management created a new company CSJJ express to which it then began shifting its work essentially starving QTS of the income needed to pay our claims,” Umana said. “Our attorney in the class action suit has filed in court to connect the assets of QTS with Mr. Yu’s other businesses, but with this you should see the kind of corrupt businesses we are dealing with at the ports.”

    Rani Narula Woods, the deputy political director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, also testified. She took note of the fact that the Los Angeles City Council was in session voting on a historic $15 per hour minimum wage hike.

    “Just a few blocks down the way in city hall chambers, the most wide sweeping legislative step towards wage equality and wage theft protection in our nation is taking place,” Woods said. “As you know, Los Angeles is the wage theft capital of the country. In the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, this rings particularly true.”

    The sharp contrast between Los Angeles’ historic vote and the plight of port truckers was also underscored by Julie Gutman-Dickinson, local counsel for the Teamsters Port Division, who also represents a number of port drivers.

    “Ironically, at the same time that we work to raise the minimum wage to bring hard working members of our community out of poverty, there remain thousands of misclassified drivers working below the current minimum wage and some weeks even receiving negative paychecks,” Gutman-Dickinson said.

    “[The companies responsible] have been like robber barons,” she said. “[They have been] getting away with breaking the law for profit, making money on the backs of taxpayers by avoiding high payroll taxes, costly payments for unemployment insurance, disability insurance, workers’ compensation.”

    She concluded by saying that they appreciate all the five actions that this board is intending to move forward with. The report back for final action is expected in 60 days.

     

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  • Sardine Fishery Collapse is Ominous Warning of Worse to Come

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On April 13, federal regulators meeting in Rohnert Park, just outside Santa Rosa, Calif., cancelled the next sardine fishing season, starting July 1, due to a devastating collapse in the West Coast sardine population, which is down 91 percent from 2007. Later that same week, they approved an immediate halt to sardine fishing. It was a drastic response to a drastic situation, but only one small harbinger of the massive changes that may come to our oceans as result of global warming in the decades and centuries ahead, making large portions of the ocean inhospitable to most life, a situation similar to what happened to the oceans when the last ice age ended.

    The decisions came from the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a 19-member policymaking organization made up of fishery representatives from California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

    “While this is a sad day for all those dependent on a healthy sardine fishery, it is actually a good thing that this council is addressing the problem directly, something you don’t always see across the nation or certainly, internationally,” said Council member Frank Lockhart. He then pointed to previous actions: “This council cutback on salmon with extensive closures a decade or so ago, and the Klamath and Sacramento stocks rebuilt fairly quickly. This council also cut back on lingcod and other groundfish catches in the recent past, and those stocks are also rebuilt. This action today paves the way for the sardine population to rebuild as soon as the ocean cycles permit.”

    But conservationists, notably the international conservation group Oceana, have been fighting for almost a decade to implement stricter regulations that would pro-actively protect against such drastic collapse in the first place. The sardine population peaked in 2007, according to a March 19 report by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sardine stocks reached almost a million tons in 1999, but fell to less than 400,000 in 2003. They rebounded to more than a million tons in 2007, but have been declining relentlessly ever since. They reached a low of just under 97,000 tons in the 2015 projection contained in the report. This is the lowest level recorded in six decades, since the period following the industry’s momentous collapse in the 1940s. Prior to that, stocks were estimated to be more than 3 million tons—30 times what they are today.

    Yet, even as the biomass plunged below 600,000 tons after 2011, the “exploitation rate” (catch divided by the biomass) skyrocketed. From 2005 through 2011, the exploitation rate varied little from year to year, averaging 7.9 percent for American fishermen, 11.6 percent total. But in 2012, the figures jumped dramatically to 20.6 percent for U.S. fisherman and 26.8 percent total. They inched up even higher the next year, before falling to the mid-teens this past year. When the 2015 projection fell below 150,000 (about last year’s level), that triggered the requirement for the season to be canceled.

    Oceana’s California campaign director, Geoffrey Shester called the move “a huge step” when it was announced. “The council’s closure of the directed sardine fishery acknowledges the severe crisis in the sardine population,” Shester said. “Yesterday’s vote is a first step toward recovery of this important forage species.”

    A press statement from Oceana went on to stress the systemic ecological effects of the sardine collapse. Sardines—like anchovy and herring—are what’s known as a “forage fish.” They swim in huge schools and play major roles in the diets of a wide range of larger fish and other animals.

    “We have been seeing the impacts of a collapsing sardine population on sea lions and seabirds for years now,” added Ben Enticknap, Pacific campaign manager and senior scientist with Oceana. “Sardine are also prey for recreationally and commercially important species like Chinook salmon and albacore tuna, so the effects of a lack of sardine could have much wider impacts.”

    Sea lion pups have been dying in large numbers for three years now. In April, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that a record 2,250 starving and stranded sea lions, mostly pups, have washed up on Southern California beaches so far this year. This is a tally 20 times the average over the past decade, and twice the number documented in 2013, the previous worst year. Lack of prey is the primary cause, but the crash in sardine populations may be only part of the picture, as the shifting of warmer waters farther north—a result of shifting wind patterns that’s also contributing to California’s drought—is also thought to play a role.

    This underscores another increasingly important point: the growing need to understand and anticipate complex systemic interactions. The Fishery Council has begun moving in this direction with its April 2013 adoption of its Fishery Ecosystem Plan. According to its website, “The purpose of the FEP is to enhance the council’s species-specific management programs with more ecosystem science, broader ecosystem considerations and management policies that coordinate council management across its Fishery Management Plans and the California Current Ecosystem.”

    This year, in a move applauded by Oceana, the council adopted its first amendment to the FEP, protecting unfished and unmanaged forage fish species. Again, its website explained: “The council’s objective is to prohibit the development of new directed fisheries on forage species that are not currently managed by the council, or the states, until the council has had an adequate opportunity to assess the science relating to any proposed fishery and any potential impacts to our existing fisheries and communities.” This reflects a maturing understanding that ecosystems are complex and that human markets for seafood can easily upset balances we don’t even know exist.

    One example of this understanding comes from a just-released study showing that over-fishing intensifies, though it does not prolong, normal boom-and-bust cycles in forage fish populations. It’s known from the geological record that forage fish populations go through boom-and-bust cycles naturally—a point that industry advocates repeatedly harp on to argue against over-fishing limits. The new study, conducted by a team led by Timothy Essington, a marine biologist at the University of Washington Seattle, analyzed time-series data for fish populations amounting to almost two-thirds of the global catch of forage fish.

    Essington’s team found that “Forage fish population collapses shared a set of common and unique characteristics: high fishing pressure for several years before collapse, a sharp drop in natural population productivity and a lagged response to reduce fishing pressure.” They also found that lagged response “can sharply amplify the magnitude of naturally occurring population fluctuations,” making crashes much worse than they would otherwise be—exactly what seems to be happening with West Coast sardines. Consequently, they advise, “A risk-based management scheme that reduces fishing when populations become scarce would protect forage fish and their predators from collapse with little effect on long-term average catches.”

    Of course, implementing such practices ought to take place within a broader framework that helps secure the long-term viability of small operators, those who have the smallest share of responsibility for over-fishing, but are least able to survive a suspension in fishing operations. As with the struggle to clean up port trucking, to work properly, environmental protection requires a social justice dimension as well.

    But this only takes into account existing conditions, and the one thing we know is that conditions are changing. Perhaps the most relevant large-scale threat to consider is the growth of “oxygen minimum zones” (OMZs), which can profoundly alter ocean environments on a scale spanning thousands of nautical miles. This threat was the subject of a recent article in National Geographic. As that article explained:

    These are not coastal dead zones, like the one that sprawls across the Gulf of Mexico, but great swaths of deep water that can reach thousands of miles offshore. Already naturally low in oxygen, these regions keep growing, spreading horizontally and vertically. Included are vast portions of the eastern Pacific, almost all of the Bay of Bengal, and an area of the Atlantic off West Africa as broad as the United States.

    Globally, these low-oxygen areas have expanded by more than 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers) in the past 50 years.

    It’s a matter of debate how much global warming has contributed to this expansion, and how much is simply due to climate variability—a familiar tale. But it’s much more certain that continued global warming will only make this problem get worse—just as OMZs expanded significantly in the past when natural processes were responsible for heating up the planet. This subject was explored in a paper written by a team headed by Sarah Moffitt, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California Davis, working at the Bodega Marine Laboratory.

    OMZs did not exist during the last ice age, around 20,000 years ago, but they appeared as the glaciers melted and the planet warmed. The timing of their expansions was “regionally coherent,” but not simultaneous on a global scale. As the paper explains, “OMZs are tightly coupled to upwelling systems and Eastern Boundary Currents, such as the California Current, the Humboldt Current and the Benguela Current.”

    The California Current is the coldwater current running from British Columbia to Baja California, which has a submerged warmwater counterpart, the north/south California undercurrent. A 2008 study headed by Steven Bograd, a NOAA oceanographer, found large declines in dissolved oxygen in the southern California Current System over the period of 1984 to2006, with the OMZ starting as shallow as just 100 meters deep in some places.

    A 2010 paper, “Ocean Deoxygenation in a Warming World,” by lead author Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps CO2 Program at UC San Diego, looked at future projections from a suit of ocean/climate models. “Ocean models predict declines of 1 to 7 percent in the global ocean O2 inventory over the next century,” he wrote, “with declines continuing for a thousand years or more into the future.” He noted that “Significant deoxygenation has occurred over the past 50 years in the North Pacific and tropical oceans, suggesting larger changes are looming.”

    Two distinct sorts of processes caused by global warming are reflected in the models, Keeling noted—gross heating of ocean water, which reduces the solubility of oxygen, and “changes in ocean circulation and biology.” Elaborating on the later, the paper continued:

    The most important cause of these changes is the effect of global warming on upper ocean stratification, particularly at high latitudes, where reductions in surface density result from both warming and freshening due to an enhanced hydrological cycle.

    Even now, Keeling noted, “much of the North Pacific…can be considered an OMZ.” Furthermore, “The relative rapidity of O2 decreases in the subarctic Pacific and in coastal upwelling regions off the west coast of North America raises the specter of imminent impacts on marine habitat and fisheries,” meaning even more of what we’ve already seen, with no end in sight.

    “Even if the recent O2 variability in the North Pacific has been partly naturally driven, the implications for the future appear ominous,” the paper said. “The declines over the past 50 years demonstrate that O2 levels in the thermocline [range where temperatures drop with depth] of the North Pacific are highly sensitive to climate changes.”

    Furthermore, looking at oxygen declines on the North American shelf, from British Columbia to Baja California, the paper attributes them to “a combination of factors acting in concert,” including “declines observed as far away as the subarctic and equatorial Pacific,” along with local factors as well. “It is worrisome that all of these factors may be amplified in the future by continued global warming,” Keeling warns.

    The paper’s summary leaves us with a final warning:

    The relative rapidity of O2 decreases in the subarctic Pacific and in coastal upwelling regions off the west coast of North America raises the specter of imminent impacts on marine habitat and fisheries.

    Which means that the actions taken so far by the Pacific Fishery Management Council are almost certainly only the beginning. A time for new thinking is at hand.

     

     

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  • Santa Barbara Oil Spill Highlights Local Concerns

    Plains All American, the corporate parent behind the Rancho LPG facility, has gained national attention for its abysmal safety record after a 24-inch pipeline owned by a Plains subsidiary, Plains All American Pipeline, burst near Refugio Beach in Santa Barbara County on May 19.

    The burst released up to 105,000 gallons of oil, five times the amount originally reported by the company. An estimated 21,000 gallons reached the sea, producing a nine-mile oil slick, which brought out hundreds of local volunteers to clean up as the oil washed back ashore. The 11-mile-long pipeline, part of a larger multi-county network, can pump 6.3 million gallons per day.

    Although Santa Barbara County requires pipelines in its jurisdiction to be equipped with automatic shut-off valves (so sensitive they can detect a 20-barrel loss over a 20-hour period), the pipeline in question was the only one in the county without such equipment, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. This is a result of Plains’ corporate predecessor successfully fighting regulatory oversight, much as has happened at Rancho. The oil spill is in the same general area as the 1969 off-shore spill that supercharged the environmental movement and inspired the first Earth Day in 1970.

    In covering Plains’ involvement, Al Jazeera America has called attention to “a long history of safety and environmental violations by the company in the United States and Canada,” citing news reports and Environmental Protection Agency records, including a 2010 settlement with EPA for $3.2 million in civil penalties covering 10 oil spills. At the time, the EPA said Plains and its subsidiaries, “have agreed to spend approximately $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States.” Al Jazeera also cited the rupture of a pipeline in Atwater Village almost exactly one year earlier, which released more than 18,000 gallons of crude oil into city streets.

    The Los Angeles Times cited federal records saying the company “has accumulated 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006,” but that figure only covers Plains Pipeline, the most extensive of three Plains All American subsidiaries identified by Random Lengths News listed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in its online database.

    Altogether, Plains subsidiaries had 206 violations over this period (4.5 percent of the total reported), with damages totaling $26.8 million. The most common causes were corrosion, followed by material and/or equipment failure. The average of more than 21 spills per year amounts to almost one every two weeks. Only two other entities had more spills reported over this period: Sunoco Pipeline LP had 232 and Enterprise Products Operating LLC had 208.

    —Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

     

     

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  • Tanaka Indicted

    The Former Undersheriff Couldn’t Keep a Lid on Pandora’s Box

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    On May 14, former undersheriff of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Paul Tanaka, was indicted, along with alleged co-conspirator William Thomas Carey, in what Tanaka called “Operation Pandora’s Box,” an effort to conceal an FBI informant during its investigation of corruption and excessive-force incidents in the sheriff’s department in 2011. The recent announcement was somewhat anti-climatic since six deputies directly involved in the operation were already charged, tried and convicted in 2014. Tanaka and Carey testified in those cases.

    The writing has been on the wall since at least May 2014 when the deputies were officially indicted. At the time, Tanaka was actively running for election to become the next sheriff by participating in town hall meetings and a couple of debates against rivals. When the announcement was made, Tanaka fell silent, effectively halting his campaign.

    When Random Lengths News interviewed Tanaka in February 2014, the blue ribbon commission report on violence in the Men’s Central Jail released in 2012 had taken a toll on both the sheriff’s department and the former undersheriff.

    During our interview, Tanaka denied he even had jurisdiction over the Men’s Central Jail during the periods the reports said he did, chalking the criticisms of his leadership up to a few deputies angling to become sheriff.

    “I’m implicated [in this study] because people have made it a point to point that out, suggesting that I was involved,” Tanaka said. “When you look at the study, when it all began—the period ‘08, ‘09 and ‘10—I didn’t have responsibility for the jails. I had responsibility for patrol and investigations county-wide. When I was in charge of the jails for the brief period from ‘05 to ‘07, we didn’t have those problems because we had people that were there.”

    Tanaka also complained that witnesses interviewed by the blue ribbon panel weren’t under oath or were cross-examined, a situation that allowed witnesses with ulterior motives to speak unchecked.

    In the months that followed, four grand juries had indicted up to 18 deputies linked to excessive force incidents and other misconduct. This wasn’t the first report to document problems in the department. But what made this report different is that it also documented how the department failed to implement reforms suggested by previous reports.

    Sheriff Lee Baca, the “Teflon Lawman” who had been winning re-elections with little effort for 20 years, saw his chances for reelection in 2014 come into doubt. So much so that opponents both within and outside of the department signed up as candidates for the top job, including Tanaka, the second most-mentioned name in the Men’s Central Jail report.

    Baca’s retirement in January 2014 came as a shock. The field of candidates, in a race with a weakened incumbent, now only had each other and their ideas of how to reform the department.

    Still, the main question remained: was Tanaka running?

    Operation Pandora’s Box

    The conspiracy, according to the indictment, began in August 2011, when the sheriff’s department discovered a cell phone wrapped in a glove inside a potato chip bag in the possession of inmate Anthony Brown.

    Brown was an informant working for the FBI. At the time the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a federal grand jury were investigating abuse and corruption allegations in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He did so, following a number of internal reports on excessive force and corruption kicked up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office over the years.

    U.S. attorneys in the Tanaka indictment cited two special counsel reports sent to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2005 and 2007 that noted, among other things, the Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau was not doing enough to uncover criminal misconduct by LASD employees. Also, too many misconduct allegations made against department employees were not investigated criminally or administratively. And, perhaps more critically, the department was not conducting sting operations to test the integrity of its deputies.

    Prosecutors noted that Tanaka was told about problem deputies assigned to the Men’s Central Jail in February 2006.

    A special counsel report to the county supervisors noted in 2007 that about half of the Internal Affairs Bureau investigations were not thorough. A separate report released by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review published a warning to those in authority of the harm of disparaging internal investigations and of outside scrutiny of the sheriff’s department.

    This was the backdrop against which Tanaka’s alleged conspiracy to impede the federal investigation in 2011 was set.

    The report found that the alleged conspiracy ostensibly failed at keeping Pandora’s Box closed, as prosecutors laid out the lengths to which Tanaka and alleged co-conspirators went to hide Brown.

    Alleged co-conspirators, which include Gerard Smith, Maricela Long, Stephen Leavins, Scott Craig, Mickey Manzo, James Sexton and Greg Thompson, had already been indicted, tried and convicted. Tanaka and Carey, a former captain of the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, are the higher-ups who the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association president said should have been charged for giving the orders in the first place.

    The measures undertaken to hide Brown include:

    • Removing Brown’s hard copy file from the records center, so that there was no physical record showing he was ever in the department’s custody

    • Making false entries into the computer database so that it appeared as though Brown had been released from custody, when in fact, he hadn’t

    • Rebooking Brown under false name and fake booking information without fingerprints

    • Moving him from a cell in a high-security area to a medical floor within Men’s Central Jail, where there were no cameras

     

    To gather information about the investigation, Tanaka allegedly ordered his underlings in the conspiracy to interview Brown, and went so far as to conduct undercover operations by posing as Brown’s cellmate who had been beaten by deputies.

    They allegedly even tried to convince Brown that he had been abandoned by his handlers in order to pressure him not to cooperate with the federal investigation.

    They reportedly reviewed old complaints by inmates investigated by the department but deemed unfounded and closed. They also reportedly interviewed deputies they believed were connected to the federal investigation, essentially tampering with potential witnesses by attempting to deter them from cooperating with the federal investigation.

    Tanaka allegedly directed a co-conspirator to draft a new policy that would require the FBI to get his approval before they could interview any inmate in sheriff department custody. He shortly thereafter approved it. Tanaka allegedly subsequently ordered that his name be removed from the draft policy.

    U.S. attorneys also reported that Tanaka deployed lies, threats, blackmail and the force of chain of command to keep deputies from speaking to the FBI.

    News of high-ranking deputies hiding an FBI informant from a grand jury broke four months after Random Lengths interviewed Tanaka. Our interview produced neither a hint nor a clue of what was to come. But that interview did hold a few takeaway impressions that now seem most prescient.

    Tanaka’s cynicism was one. In reply to a question about his position on constitutional and community policing, he recalled his first run for city council in the city of Gardena in 1999, noting that the relationship between residents and its police department was at an all-time low.

    “I remember going on a ride and a little kid in a certain part of town where we were driving around gave the officer a one-finger wave,” Tanaka said in February 2014. “And I said, ‘Is this what the community thinks about our cops?’”

    Changing this relationship between the community and the Gardena Police Department became his all-consuming mission as a city councilman and later, mayor.

    Tanaka’s solution was to replace a white police chief with a black police chief. For Tanaka, this was a no-brainer for a “minority-majority” city like Gardena comprised of 40 percent Hispanics, 30 percent African Americans and 25 percent Asian Americans.

    That a citizen’s advisory committee was formed following the elevation of a new police chief was secondary in the improvement in relations between the community and the police.

    When Tanaka was asked to respond to the Men’s Central Jail report’s characterization of him as an important element in the department’s culture of abuse and impunity, he rejected the characterization and steadfastly argued that he wasn’t in charge during the periods of time on which the report focuses.

    Rather than the abuse statistics the report documented, Tanaka focused on emails he received from deputies and jail personnel complaining about proposed changes to their work schedules in response to rising abuse claims.

    Tanaka characterized the change as a National Labor Relations Board case waiting to happen. He subscribed to the notion that the department just had a few bad apples that needed to be removed. The effort to rotate the work schedules was ultimately dropped, due to his applied pressure, as he made clear.

     

    The Butterfly Effect

    Mathematician and pioneer of chaos theory Edward Lorenz coined the term, “the butterfly effect,” to explain “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”

    Put another way, the flap of a butterfly’s wings can influence the formation of a distant hurricane several weeks later.

    Tanaka’s failure to keep Pandora’s Box closed has resulted in consequences that reverberate far beyond Southern California. One such consequence is that advocates for police reform and civilian oversight in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department such as the Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Patrisse Cullors, were invited by local activists in Ferguson to teach them effective organizing techniques to address police abuse following the police killing of Michael Brown.

    More police killings of unarmed black people led to more places for the Black Lives Matter Movement to spread and more people to train in languages and tactics of direct action and civil disobedience. The lid that has kept pent-up frustration about police abuse, killings and institutional racism in the box is now starting to come off.

    The allegations in the Department of Justice’s indictment of Tanaka are still to be tried in court and Tanaka continues to deny his culpability in the cover up and corruption of the LASD scandal. This continues to undermine the trust in law enforcement.

     

     

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  • Santa Barbara Spill Illustrates Safety Loopholes at Rancho LPG

    By Janet Gunter, Community Activist and Member of the San Pedro Homeowners Association

    The recent large oil spill at Refugio Beach in Santa Barbara shines a major spotlight on the deficient safety record of Plains All American Pipeline (the owners and operators of Rancho LPG LLC in San Pedro and also illuminates the major “void” in regulations and oversight of the energy industry itself. Plains All American Pipeline and its subsidiaries have been responsible for over 200 spills, leaks and violations over the past several years. The Environmental Protection Agency ordered Plains to pay $41 million in remediation costs associated with 10 pipeline spills occurring in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma between 2004 and 2007 that wound up putting 6,510 barrels of crude—273,420 gallons—into nearby waterways. The culprit was typically corroded pipeline pipes.

    This past year, a Plains pipeline ruptured in an industrial neighborhood in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, causing crude to spray 40 feet into the air. People working at a medical store nearby got so sick from the fumes they had themselves hospitalized. In that instance, 450 barrels escaped. The event was reported to the authorities by residents. The facility became aware of it after being notified by the fire department.

    Even more incriminating is information provided by Plains All American in its most recent Securities and Exchange Commission report. That report itemizes $82 million in environmental liabilities. The EPA fined the company $6 million for a 120-barrel spill in Bay Springs, Miss., in February 2013. The Canadian government assessed the company $15 million in cleanup costs for two spills in June 2013. And, this February, the Canadian National Energy Board Audit levied a $76 million penalty on the company for slipshod environmental safety practices. These EPA and Canadian financial penalties represent less than a simple “slap on the wrist” to Plains Corp. According to the SEC, the company’s net revenue this past year was $1.39 billion.

    Plains continues to move their business forward as if they are stalwart guardians of public safety and the environment. Harbor Area residents concerned about the high risk being posed to them daily by the Plains-owned Rancho Liquefied Petroleum Gas storage facility being operated in their back yards, have been repeatedly chastised by Rancho LPG’s manager, Ron Conrow, as being “hysterical fanatics.” The mantra by Rancho LPG/Plains is that they are in “full compliance” and therefore, “safe.” However, as all the other previous Plains disasters have proven, “in compliance” is a long way from being “safe.” While the results from an oil spill are horrible, an explosion and resulting inferno from Rancho’s massive 25 million gallons of butane and propane gases has the potential to kill thousands within a 3- mile radius, and to decimate the entire Harbor Area, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    In truth, both the operators and our government alike have long tried to dispel public fears with blue smoke and mirrors employed to provide a false sense of security. Unfortunately, most people have bought the lies. It is much easier than investigating and taking action on a most unpleasant and unnerving truth. Perhaps one of the most disappointing discoveries we’ve made is the reliance of the EPA on the “energy industry” itself for their regulation and oversight. The “Environmental Protection Agency” is in reality taking its cues and direction from the American Petroleum Institute. The API threatens to sue anyone or anything that attempts to restrict or limit its business potential. Obviously, there is only one end goal of the API…and that is the health and well-being of their charter members not the general public. It is the powerful influence of this industry that has encouraged a political blind eye to the unacceptable hazards that threaten the innocent public.

    Just as the Santa Barbara County Fire Marshall was ill-equipped to conduct proper inspections of the Plains pipeline that ruptured, so also is the Los Angeles City Fire Department (under the Certified Unified Program Agency) inexperienced and unqualified to inspect and respond to the overwhelmingly improperly sited and geologically vulnerable conditions at Rancho LPG. While the EPA regulations for this facility have allowed for significant under reporting of blast radius, have accepted the fact that its tanks (while sitting in a documented earthquake rupture zone of magnitude 7.3 potential) are built to a seismic substandard of 5.5 potential; have acknowledged that the soil that the entire facility sits upon is identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as “landslide” and “liquefaction” areas; have allowed for the American Petroleum Institute required setbacks of 200 feet to be reduced to far less than that on three sides; and that NO consideration was ever given to the fact that pre-existing homes and schools lie within 1,000 feet of the highly explosive site, God given common sense SCREAMS the outrage of this violation of public safety.

    So, as you listen to the banter of the Plains/Rancho LPG management and of your own government officials as they declare their “righteous” pleas of performance to safety, recall the many recent disasters that we have experienced that prove their words meaningless. Remember the explosions of San Bruno, West, Texas, Tavares, Fla., Lac Megantic, Canada, and even Fukushima. All of these explosions and catastrophes are attributed to situations that were in “compliance.” All were touted as being “safe.” Unlike many of the catastrophes described above, there are several glowing, neon red warning flags being waved at the Rancho LPG site. Paying attention to those flags now, in advance of the looming tragedy, will save many, many lives. But, doing that means that the public needs to step up. Whether it is the expected “big quake,” a terrorism event, infrastructure failure, or human error, the deadly consequences at Rancho LPG are far too great to ignore. The opportunities are many…the disaster deliverable at any time now. We are simply playing a game of “beat the clock.”

    Call or write your mayor, city councilman, senator and congressional representative now.

     

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  • THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE BREWERY:

    IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SOUR BEER AND SPOOKY ATMOSPHERE

    By Mick Haven, Cuisine Columnist
    Photos By Phillip Cooke

    A plastic toy soldier with a handkerchief parachute falls from the sky as a giant rubber buzzard suspended from piano wire swoops in and gobbles up the hapless G.I.

    This black-and-white, Ed Wood-esque tableau—or maybe an actual Ed Wood film— plays out in the screening room at the Phantom Carriage Brewery in Carson as the Misfits blare out of the sound system. But Phantom’s main objective isn’t starting a schlock horror film renaissance, it’s bringing craft sour beer to the South Bay, while invoking a Transylvanian taproom feel.

    With ingredients like bacteria and naturally occurring strains of yeast in their brews, you know mad scientists are running the laboratory.

    Head brewer and mad scientist Simon Ford brings all the sour beer formulas from his days concocting small batches in his garage for friends.

    What’s the origin story with sours? Well, Belgium’s been doing them for more than a minute. But it’s a pretty new deal in the New World. Phantom Carriage Brewery’s at the forefront in the Los Angeles area, along with other local breweries including Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, Craftsman and Monkish Brewing Co.

    Ford’s most potent potion, the Lugosi (see their theme? Consistent, huh?), a dark sour, clocks in at 12.8 percent alcohol by volume.

    Andrew Fuller, from Venice Beach, tried a flight that included a couple of blondes and the Lugosi.

    “The Lugosi’s my favorite, he said. “It has this winey finish I’m really liking.”

    Fuller’s got an astute palate, seeing as how the Lugosi’s got about the same alcohol content as wine.

    Ford continues his monstrous in-house experiments, brewing small batches and filling the wooden barrels held together with rusty patinaed hoops. The portly containers were stacked high throughout the industrial building housing Phantom. They have partnered with Smog City, which handles the big batches, keeping the Carriage Brewery floating in suds.

    Besides its puckery trademark, Phantom offers a rotating roster of other beers. On tap, options range from the El Segundo Blue House Citra Pale and from El Segundo Brewing, to the farthest flung offering of a toasted porter all the way from Akureyri, Iceland, by the Einstök Beer Co.

    And, along with the taps, the oodles of bottled choices are pushing 100.

    How to get there to sample some of these sumptuous suds? Well, since secret laboratories are secret, finding the place to get a taste of these nefarious libations ain’t all that easy. A lone, unlit sign hanging from a chain link fence in a long block of industrial buildings makes missing the driveway on the first pass likely. But it’s there on 18525 S. Main in Carson. So, don’t get scared away.

    Once you find it, there’s a lot in back or street parking, if that gets crowded. Watch out if it’s dark as, just like the driveway, you might sail right past the front door, and only entrance, on the side of the big block of a building.

    Inside, it’s all noir as you pass through a foyer and get to the bar. Behind the bar is a lit-up menu of featured beers available. To the left is a sizable tasting room, all dark and appointed with heavy wood tables and tall chairs. To the right is the screening room, playing cheesy horror films that started things off way back in the beginning. Everything is black. The open ceiling with exposed girders goes all the way to the top of the two-story building, with the wooden barrels presumably holding the hootch stacked on racks forming a wall at one end, as well as on top of the kitchen structure.

    There’s food, too. The place features a menu that elevates some classics, while staying hearty and basic. How’s that done, you ask? Well, the menu’s got things on it like a turkey sandwich, but it’s smoked turkey with chipotle mayo. Another smoked offering is brisket on a baguette with some au jus to get it wet or a bar staple, the pickled egg, which gets a bunch of pickled vegetable companions reminiscent of Italian giardiniera or sottaceti. Either way, it’s damned tasty if you like sour goodies with your sour beer. Oh, and an ice cream beer float composed of vanilla bean ice cream and a rotating stout sounds wicked also.

    The only gripe: the latest the place stays open is 11 p.m. Thursday through Friday. C’mon, everyone knows that the most diabolical plans aren’t hatched till the darkest depths of night.

    Jairo Bogarin, the bar manager, went to Cal State Dominguez Hills and revamped the DH Sports Lounge, the campus watering hole, by turning it from a Coors Light swillhouse into an IPA and stout-friendly environment.

    “I’m pretty sure we’re zoned for it,” he said. “So, it’s definitely on the table to stay open later as the clientele grows.”

    Details: (310) 538-5834; www.phantomcarriage.com
    Venue: The Phantom Carriage Brewery, 18525 S. Main St., Carson 90248

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