• Choi, Patterson Give Watts Healthy, Affordable Fast Food Option

    By: Katrina Guevara, Contributing Writer

    First come food trucks, then come restaurants, then affordable and healthy food marry. C-U-I-S-I-N-E.

    Roy Choi

    Chef Roy Choi enjoys laughs with “Chef” film director Jon Fareau at the grand opening of LocoL. Photos by Phillip Cooke

    That is the love story of chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson from the ground up. The duo have joined forces to open their first fast food restaurant, called LocoL in Watts, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More branches are tentatively targeted for the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco and East Oakland.

    “It’s two concepts together,” said Choi when describing the meaning behind the restaurant name at last August’s MAD4 festival. “Loco, like we’re fucking crazy to be doing this; And then, local.”

    Their mission statement on their LocoL IndieGogo page is to have “Revolutionary fast food made with real ingredients to nourish the body, soul and community.” Choi and Patterson are on a quest to feed everyone delicious, healthy and affordable meals, especially in low-income neighborhoods. They are also collaborating with world-renowned chefs Rene Redzepi (Noma) and Chad Robertson (Tartine Bakery) to revolutionize food technology. Patterson has collaborated with Tartine Bakery on whole grain burger buns technology by using rice flour as an ingredient. They aim to change supply lines in order to make efficient and delicious food to bring to other areas, said Patterson in the LocoL introduction video. Choi said he wants to put chefs rather than the suits back into the food game.

    Choi and Patterson announced the restaurant concept at last year’s MAD4, the annual Copenhagen gathering for chefs, cooks and farmers founded by Redzepi. Choi’s big question was where to start with social change. So, he started by applying the Danish ergonomics of practical, minimal and high-minded style into food culture. Choi does not like the idea of fast food trapping children with unhealthy options. He wanted a restaurant to have flow, so his first concept for LocoL was to have an open kitchen.

    Patterson said no chefs have gone into the fast food sector. Since chefs ultimately feed people, they can perhaps be a solution to hunger.

    The LocoL Instagram (@welocol) account showcases the makings of the fast-food joint. The restaurant started its job fair in mid-December for a staff entirely local to Watts. The social media account previews the development of menu items ranging from a pressed burger to nuggets. From the MAD4 symposium, Choi said a $5 to $9 burger is a huge valley. The recently posted LocoL menu offers “Burgs” at $4. “The Fried Chicken Burger” has slaw, buttermilk mayo and hot sauce. “Foldies” at $2 are a combination of a taco, quesadilla and pupusa. “The Bulgar Language” for $4 is a bowl that comes with green goddess creamy dressing and croutons. The appetizers are $1 each, along with comparatively affordable items like bowls, burritos, soft serve ice cream, agua frescas and breakfast items.

    The massive open kitchen is the sight of the minimal restaurant with “We Are Here” lettering at the main door.

    LocoL is Watts’ first sit-down restaurant in years, said Councilman Joe Buscaino from a video of the soft opening on Jan. 16.

    The original IndieGogo campaign to fund the fast food restaurant reached its goal of $100,000 by March 19, 2015. More than 1,366 backers donated a total of $128,103 for both restaurant locations.

    The concept started a few years ago with Patterson founding The Cooking Project to teach children how to cook at home. Patterson said there is no cooking problem, just a tasting problem in the nation. Choi volunteered at A Place Called Home in South Central Los Angeles to empower the youth to open their food-based business through cooking.

    LocoL is now the latest addition to the densely populated 2.1 square mile neighborhood of Watts. The Los Angeles Times reports 45 percent of food places in South Central are fast food chains. The United States has the biggest fast food industry, making $200 billion annually. On the contrary, the median resident age of Watts is 21 years old, which is younger than most of the county and country. The neighborhood has the highest rate of single parent families at 2,818 families out of a population of 41,028 population in 2008 based on Los Angeles Department of City Planning estimates.

    Choi is the owner of local restaurants Chego!, Sunny Spot, A-Frame, Pot, 3 Worlds Café, Alibi Room, Commissary at the Line Hotel and the infamous Kogi truck. Daniel is the founder and owner of Daniel Patterson Group, which includes restaurants Coi, Alta, Plum, Plum Bar and Haven.

    Fast food has quickly changed in the last two generations. Choi believes it can be changed in another two generations. With Choi dubbed as one of the godfathers of the food truck movement, he along with self-taught chef Patterson are forces to be reckoned with.

    Details: (310) 123-4567; www.welocol.com
    Venue: LocoL, 1950 E 103rd St., Los Angeles

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  • GDB Replacement Project Work: RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS Jan. 22, 2016

    Jan. 22
    GDB Replacement Project Work
    The Pico Avenue underpass at Ocean Boulevard (Gerald Desmond Bridge) will be closed in both directions between Broadway and Pier E Street. Additionally, the westbound Ocean off-ramp to Pico will be closed.
    Time: 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday, January 22 and February 3 to 5
    Details:
    www.newgdbridge.com

    Jan. 25
    Rec & Parks Ad Hoc Committee Meeting
    The public is invited to attend the Recreation and Parks Ad Hoc Committee meeting.
    Time: 6 p.m. Jan. 25
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/Rec-Parks-Committee-Meeting-Ja
    Venue: Anderson Park Senior Center, 828 S. Mesa St., San Pedro

    Jan. 25
    City Parks “Needs Assessment” Community Workshops
    The City of Long Beach is participating in a comprehensive parks and recreation needs assessment being conducted by the County of Los Angeles. The public is encouraged to participate in a community meeting in Long Beach to ensure that the voices of the community are heard regarding priorities for future park development and rehabilitation.
    Time: 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 25
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/jx9hlul
    Venue:
    Whaley Park, 5620 Atherton St., Long Beach

    Jan. 26
    2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
    The 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is right around the corner! Last year we conducted the largest homeless census in the nation and this year we are poised for an even bigger showing of community engagement. Because of our volunteers and community partners, we all helped shine a light on the critical issue of homelessness in our region. Let’s do it again!
    Time: Jan. 26 to 28
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/jygcbyp

    Jan. 27
    San Pedro Monthly Climate Action Meeting
    From the Harbor Area to the Valley, from Exxon to Porter Ranch, we will now take climate action to shut down the polluting, climate wrecking, fossil fuel operations and make their owners pay to transition us to 100% clean, green, renewable energy.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 27
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/jnnm2az
    Venue: George H. Peck Rec Center Auditorium, 560 Western Ave., San Pedro

    Jan. 27
    Complimentary Community Health Lectures
    Learn about what muscle pain is and what to do with it with the help of Romina Ghassemi. RSVP.
    Time: 7 p.m. Jan. 27
    Details: (310) 548-5656
    Venue: San Pedro Chiropractic and Posture, 1534 W. 125th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 27
    Trade Connect Workshop at the Port of Los Angeles
    Trade Connect program will host a Trade Connect Workshop, which will cover the fundamentals of exporting, including costs, risks and steps. This series also presents a summary of services, which also includes the basics of the commercial transaction, finding overseas markets, trade financing, logistics and documentation.
    Time: 8:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Jan. 27
    Details: www.latradeconnect.org
    Venue: Port of Los Angeles, 425 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro

    Jan. 30
    City of Long Beach Sandbag Sundays
    As part of the Long Beach City El Niño preparedness efforts, Long Beach CERT will be hosting Sandbag Saturdays in the coming weeks! Come and fill your own sand bags with assistance from CERT & Search and Rescue personnel. Both sand and sandbags will be available free on site.
    Time: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 30
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/zyfxbfp
    Venue: Fire Station 11, 150 E. Market St., Long Beach


    Jan. 30

    Free Document Shred and E-Waste Fundraiser
    This e-waste and shred drive is hosted by the students of the Hughes Middle School Environmental Science Class and local realtor Andrea Testa. Funds raised will go towards taking the kids of the class on different field trips where they will learn more about how to keep our world environmentally green and protected. Please consider a donation with your drop off.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Jan. 30
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/zzkt4ue
    Venue:
    Hughes Middle School, 3846 California Ave., Long Beach

    Jan. 31
    Eyes on Trafficking Community Outreach Rally
    Take a stand against human trafficking and join us as we take to the streets of Los Angeles for a night of volunteer outreach. This program is part of the Human Trafficking Outreach Project, a project that aims to implement Senate Bill 1193 throughout LA County by training volunteers to visit businesses mandated to put up posters with human trafficking hotline numbers on them
    Time: 3 to 9 p.m. Jan. 31
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/hl9pvkq
    Venue: Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E Willow St., Long Beach

    Feb. 4
    LB Board of Harbor Commissioners Meeting
    The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioner will meet to discuss a $1.5 million contract for the Pier G Metro track improvements and wharf repair project and support services for the port-wide rail program.
    Time: 6 p.m. Feb. 4
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/LBHarborCommFeb4
    Venue: Harbor Department Interim Administrative Offices, 4801 Airport Plaza Drive, Long Beach

    Feb. 4
    Public Hearing on Proposed Changes to Metro Bus Service
    The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will host a public hearings in to receive community input on proposed modifications to Metro’s bus service. Approved changes will become effective June 2016 or later.
    Time: 6 p.m. Feb. 4
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/metro-service-changes-proposed
    Venue: Carson Community Center, Adult Lounge, 801 E. Carson St., Carson

    Feb. 4
    Los Angeles Forum on Crime
    Councilman Joe Buscaino will be presenting the Los Angeles Forum on Crime at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. The featured speakers will be Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, LAPD Police Commission president Matthew Johnson, and Assistant Commanding Officer of South Bureau Phillip Tingirides. RSVP.
    Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 4
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/j7m7ox6
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Feb. 6
    Rain Harvesting Workshop
    Join us again as we partner with Hughes Middle School’s Green Team students and Rain Barrels International for another workshop and rain barrel sale! Rain barrels are $85 each but So Cal Smart Water offers a rebate of $75 per barrel for up to four barrels. Only rain barrels ordered in advance are guaranteed to be available.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Feb. 6
    Details: www.rainbarrelsintl.com
    Venue: Hughes Middle School, 3846 California Ave., Long Beach

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  • LB, Army Corps Sign East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study: RL NEWS Briefs Jan. 22, 2016

    LB, Army Corps Sign East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study

    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 20, Mayor Robert Garcia and Maj. Gen. Donald Jackson signed an agreement to officially begin a feasibility study on the East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration project.

    The East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study will focus primarily on restoring the aquatic ecosystem. Officials will conduct engineering analysis that will include coastal engineering, as well as geotechnical engineering design of any alternative affecting the Long Beach breakwater, including wave modeling to assess surface wave effects on infrastructure, navigation and recreation, and circulation modeling that will show movement of water within the East San Pedro Bay. These expert evaluations will shed light on opportunities for kelp, eelgrass, and wetlands restoration within the East San Pedro Bay. Long Beach and Army Corps of Engineers have committed to mitigating any impacts to the capacity for maritime operations within the project area, and will not tolerate negative impacts to coastal homes and infrastructure.

    For more details visit www.longbeach.gov/linklb
     

    Woman Convicted of LB Identity Theft

    LONG BEACH — On Jan. 20, a Riverside woman has been convicted on federal identity theft charges for possessing the identities of more than 50 patients of a residential medical facility in Long Beach formerly known as the Hillcrest Care Center.

    Bridgette Jackson, 45, was convicted by a jury yesterday afternoon in United States District Court of conspiring to possess more than 15 identities, possessing more than 15 identities, and aggravated identity theft.

    Jackson’s aunt, who testified against her at the trial, was an employee at the Hillcrest Care Center and had access to all of the patient files. According to the testimony at trial, Jackson approached her aunt and asked for personal identifying information of patients. Jackson’s aunt copied or wrote down personal identifying information and provided it to Jackson on three separate occasions. Jackson then used that information to help others file false tax returns in the names of the patients and keep the refunds for themselves. When law enforcement executed a search warrant on Jackson’s residence, officers seized approximately 56 Hillcrest medical records, along with almost 70 other identity profiles, which included names, social security numbers, and dates of birth of individuals other than Jackson. Law enforcement also seized over 50 prepaid debit cards in names of people other than Jackson.

    “This identity theft scheme targeted vulnerable victims,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The victims included elderly patients at a convalescent home and a 28-year-old woman with a traumatic brain injury who has lived in a 24-hour nursing facility since she was 16.”

    After Jackson’s conviction, a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 7. At that time, Jackson will face a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 17 years.

    In an unrelated case, Jackson pled guilty last year to conspiring to commit credit card fraud in the U.S. District Court in Riverside and faces up to five years when she is sentenced in that case on March 28.

    LASD Seeks Help in Solving Murder

    CARSON — The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is seeking the public’s assistance in solving the murder of 30-year-old William Treas.

    On Jan. 12, Treas was riding his bicycle near the 21900 block of South Grace Avenue in Carson, when he was approached by two men, between the ages of 17 and 20 years old. The suspects shot Treas before fleeing the scene. Treas was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to (323) 890-5500 or visit http://lacrimestoppers.org.

    Garcetti Appoints General Manager for Office of Finance

    LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 19, Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Claire Bartels as general manager of the Office of Finance.
    The Office of Finance is charged with tax and permit collection, cash management, and short-term investments. Finance, the Controller’s Office, and the city administrative officer handle the majority of fiscal services for the city.
    Bartels brings seven years of executive-level experience in the city’s fiscal operations, most recently as executive officer and chief deputy controller for both Galperin and Wendy Greuel. She oversaw the successful implementation of the new enterprise financial management system and helped launch ControlPanelLA, opening the way to greater transparency and accountability through open financial data.
    Bartels has been serving Los Angeles for almost 30 years, beginning in the General Services Department. Later, she served as a special projects deputy for Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski and as chief of staff to Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. She was also appointed by Mayor Richard Riordan to head his Targeted Neighborhood Initiative in 2000. There, Bartels was responsible for managing and administering the $36 million program — which provided 25 neighborhoods with resources to increase economic development and reduce blight in the community.

    Bartels replaces the former general manager, Antoinette Christovale, who retired earlier this month with more than 16 years of service.

    The Mayor has appointed Deputy Mayor Matt Szabo to serve as the interim general manager for the Office of Finance as Bartels transitions from her role as deputy chief controller to general manager.
    Bartels’ appointment will now move to the Los Angeles City Council for confirmation.

    LAPD Announces Crime Fighting Strategies

    LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 20 directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League hosted a press conference regarding the department’s efforts to fight crime in the city.

    While reported violent and property crime increased in 2015, the league noted that this past year’s crime increase was largely driven by the following factors:

    • The potential unintended effects of Proposition 47 and AB 109 which reduced penalties for certain offenses and promised additional services which have not yet materialized;
    • Stricter reporting of aggravated assaults under the federal Uniform Crime Report system;
    • Increased outreach to victims of domestic violence, traditionally an underreported crime; and
    • The increase in the homeless population which increased the number of potential victims vulnerable to a variety of property and violent crimes.

    Despite these factors, and the statewide trend of increasing crime, the LAPD has implemented several strategies:

    • Significantly expanding the number of specially-trained officers assigned to LAPD’s Metropolitan Division who are flexibly deployed to rapidly respond to crime spikes and proactively prevent crimes throughout the city;
    • Doubling the number of domestic abuse response teams enabling every LAPD patrol division to field specialized teams to prevent and respond to domestic violence incidents;
    • Expanding the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program to include twice as many GRYD zones that provide prevention and intervention services to at-risk youth;
    • Combining city and county efforts to reduce homelessness comprehensively by increasing available housing and providing additional support services;
    • Doubling the number of specially-trained teams of police officers and mental health professionals to respond to incidents involving a mental health crisis; and
    • Expanding smart policing initiatives to use sophisticated data analysis to deploy police resources in areas that will have the largest impact in preventing and reducing crime.

    Hall Announces Legislative Package to Reduce Gun Violence

    SACRAMENTO — On Jan. 20, Sen. Isadore Hall, III announced a legislative package designed to reduce gun violence in California.

    Senate Bill 880, joint authored by Senators Isadore Hall and Steve Glazer (D – Contra Costa)  closes the “bullet button loophole” by redefining assault weapons to include military-style semi-automatic firearms with the capacity to accept a detachable magazine, requiring such weapons to be registered with the Department of Justice and prohibiting the future sale, purchase or possession of such weapons in California.

    For years, gun owners have been able to circumvent California’s assault weapon laws by using a small tool to quickly eject and reload ammunition magazines. These types of modifications have no legitimate use for sport hunters or competitive shooters. They are designed only to facilitate the maximum destruction of human life. Such weapons have been used in a number of recent gun attacks including the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino that left 14 Californians dead and 21 injured.

    Hall has also introduced SB 872, which would allow local law enforcement agencies to enter into contracts with private schools, colleges or universities to provide on-campus security services.

    Completing Hall’s legislative package to reduce gun violence, Hall has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 20, which urges the U.S. Congress to end the current federal prohibition on publicly funded scientific research on the causes of gun violence and its effects on public health. The resolution also calls upon Congress to appropriate funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other relevant federal agencies to address the public health crisis caused by gun violence.

     

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  • The Nomad: An Artistic Expression and Lifestyle

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Dominque Moody’s Nomad is both visual and performance art. It also happens to be artful living. The exhibit was Dominque Moody’s mobile living space that she built from found objects and salvaged materials, such as corrugated metal and reclaimed wood.

    I visited Nomad this past December at the California African American Art Museum. The venue, and each venue in which she exhibits her work, makes arrangements so that she could continue living in her dwelling/masterpiece during the five-day exhibition.

    “The living in it [aspect] is as equally important as a configuration of it as a work of art,” Moody said.

    Moody’s, The Nomad, was a part of VisionLA ’15 Climate Action Arts Festival  which was launched to coincide with the International ten day  talks on climate change in Paris this past December. Moody’s work was concerned with what she calls economic and climate refugees. Moody’s work is particularly relevant considering that Angelenos have been debating about what to do with these refugees before El Niño hits the city.

    Moody believes that allowing shelters, crafted by artists, for the homeless addresses a foremost social issue on housing.

    “People are not quite sure how to address these issues,” Moody said. “But the more that the public has an opportunity to see them, I think it makes for a much more dynamic and powerful statement.”

    The Nomad is a self-sufficient and self-contained mobile unit allowing Moody’s work to connect more intimately to the public. The experience is akin to walking a through a home on a home tour with residents available to answer questions.

    The Nomad is outfitted with a grey water tank that recycles wastewater for reuse  and a solar panel to provide heat and electricity.

    It was more affordable to go portable,” Moody said.

    The corrugated metal exterior of the The Nomad displays a beautiful, but unintentional landscape.

    On one side of The Nomad’s exterior  is what Moody calls “Daytime” where she painted a topography of green to brown which is so classically California. The other side, she calls, “Nighttime” which seems to depict the cosmos over a flowing river.

    The landscape was the result of her treating the unsealed metal using water, salt and vinegar, which brought out a patina in the metal. Then on top of the patina is a metal stain.

    “I had no idea I did a landscape because I was working with each panel on the ground and I never had an area where I could lay it all out,” Moody said.

    “I only had the area of color that I was working on. But building this in Altadena, where you are ringed by mountains, you naturally (create) if you’re in tune with your surroundings; it just naturally happens.”

    Moody believes in balancing the natural environment with the man-made environment and says that one is a reflection of the other.

    “As an artist that’s what you want to capture but you’re not always doing it in a fully conscious way,” Moody said. “You’re feeling it as you go and it starts to manifest itself.”

    Aside from having all the amenities for cooking, sleeping and washing, the inside of The Nomad is neat, compact and comfortable space that is both Spartan and Afro-centric, warm and rich, and full of life.

    Through the building of The Nomad, Moody said she was able to reclaim the experience of her family’s and her own personal journey, which started in motor homes when she was a small child. Moody described it as a way for her family to circumnavigate the limits of the Jim Crow era.

    In the 1950’s, Moody’s family traveled, living full time in a trailer. They were not allowed to stay in a hotel or go into a restaurant at that time, due to segregation. To be completely self-sufficient at that time was unheard of, even amongst people who could afford recreational trailers. It was completely unheard of for African Americans to do so.

    Her father got a big commission to be a recruitment officer through the south in the 1950s, at the height of Jim Crow. He bought a 45-foot, silver and red, New Moon trailer by The Redman Co., still known as the largest travel trailer ever built. They traveled throughout the South. Moody notes that they were able to do that, though they had to encounter a lot of “stuff,” even with her father in full uniform.

    As a child Moody was always fascinated by her life experience. Her family moved frequently, knew how to be mobile, and made that an acceptable norm. During the 60s, though her family did not have a lot of cultural background and understanding about the specifics, they felt that using the term “nomad” allowed them to frame what they were doing in a particular way.

    “We used to call ourselves nomads, because we felt as kids that that was a positive thing,” Moody said. “That it was about being, a way of life, and that we knew there were nomadic people in Africa. Our mom would say to us when we moved, ‘Don’t think of the fact that we are leaving our home, home is carried within us.’ I think that was an important idea to understand and learn some wisdom. It was certainly in keeping with nomadic practices.”

    A combination of things kept her family moving frequently. Through the process of making Nomad, Moody learned that it is much deeper than economics, issues of segregation or (being) an ex-military family with a pattern of moving. It’s all of the above, but still there is a much deeper story.

    Recently, Moody’s family found that their matrilineal DNA traces them back to African ancestors who are both among the largest nomadic tribes, the Fulani and Hausa tribes.

    “The tribes span a tremendous part of Africa from coast to coast, from northern to central Africa,” Moody said. “Nomadic peoples go beyond any colonized borders, and they are still trying to practice that way of life. But at one time, when we looked at just human evolution, just human practice of being, initially we were all nomadic. It was the first way of living on the planet and recognizing the planet as our collective home.”

    As a young person she did not understand the depths of that but Moody felt the nomadic way helped make sense of moving about and how to claim a space as home.

    “Most immigrants have some connection to a motherland, a home,” Moody said. “The African experience in the Americas was radically different. We were in displacement, in bondage and so we came to a place that was never desired and wanted to be considered as a destination for home, which is really critical.”

    But she came to an epiphany.

    “I realized what could that possibly do, if you are nomadic and then enslaved?” Moody wondered aloud. “Because you are the ultimate practice of freedom when you are nomadic. To then be enslaved and in bondage and to be not allowed to roam in your natural way, that has got to have an imprint on your whole being, and even your genetic imprint. I inherited that. I needed to manifest The Nomad regardless. It was in my DNA to do this.”

    Details: http://dominiquemoody.com

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  • Garcia Talks Economics

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia painted a rose colored picture over a gloomy forecast at his Jan. 13 state of the city address.

    Speaking to a full house at the Terrace Theatre Mayor Garcia focused on successes in economic development, education and action on crime reduction.

    The 28th mayor of Long Beach emphasized themes of fiscal restraint and responsibility for the city’s balanced budget and modest surplus this year.

    Included in the highlights of Garcia’s address:

    • Unemployment at 6.5 percent, the lowest since 2007.
    • Workforce Development Department served more than 3,000 job seekers and permanently placed more than 1,900 into jobs in 2015

    Garcia also touted the latest tenants to occupy the newly renovated Pike, including the H&M, The Gap, Forever 21, Converse and Nike. He also noted that Virgin Galactic, Mercedes-Benz USA and Shimadzu Instruments have also recently found a home in Long Beach.

    The last Boeing C-17 cargo plane left Long Beach this past November. Garcia put a positive spin on a sad event. Garcia noted that the city received $4 billion to repurpose the Boeing C-17 site and retrain workers.

    “Aerospace is alive and well in Long Beach!” Garcia said. “I am confident that Long Beach—the birthplace of the commercial aircraft industry—is becoming a center of commercial space industry.

    He also cited thriving occupancy rates at local hotels and months-long advanced booking at the Long Beach Convention Center.

    Garcia articulated a long-term vision of poverty reduction as he touted the city’s efforts in expanding access to preschool education and internships for local students in local industries.

    “In just 18 months, we have increased internship by more than 50 percent, adding more than 750 internships to 1,500 already being offered,” said Garcia, thanking Long Beach CALL, the Pacific Workforce Investment Network, Long Beach Unified School District and Long Beach City College.

    He noted that LBUSD has added more than 800 new preschool seats, and is expected to open a preschool center in north Long Beach in 2017.

    “Helping our neighbors requires a focus on education, retraining, jobs, and yes, fair wages,” he said.

    In 2014, the city joined LBUSD, Long Beach City College and Cal State University Long Beach as a full partner in the Long Beach College Promise, which provides guaranteed admission to CSULB, and early outreach and intensive support.

    Long Beach City College is now offering a full year of tuition-free for every LBUSD graduate in good standing.

    Garcia endorsed the city’s Economic Development Commission’s recommendation to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019 rather than the $15 that has been passed by both the city and the county of Los Angeles.

    A week after the State of the City address, the Long Beach City Council passed the $13 per hour minimum with a “pathway” to a $15 minimum wage by 2021.

    The commission also recommended giving small businesses and nonprofits an extra year to comply with the new minimum wage.

    Garcia also touted the preservation or construction of 1,500 affordable housing units for families, workers, seniors and veterans; and that chronic veteran homelessness is officially ended and that he’s seeking federal certification for the feat.

    The mayor, like other elected officials, did not define affordable housing, saying only that his office is holding meetings with housing advocates and developers to discuss possible affordable housing policies.

    Although he never mentioned the occupancy level at downtown residential units, he set a goal to construct 4,000 new residential units in the 10 years that follow. About 224 units are under construction and 1,700 more are entitled for construction. Whether these units successfully will be sold and occupied remains to be seen.

    The mayor also congratulated the Long Beach City Council for moving forward with the controversial Civic Center. While the project is expected to create 8,000 jobs, provide and expanded Lincoln Park, a more accessible library, residences, a new city hall and headquarters for the Port of Long Beach, some people question the motive and need to move forward with that project.

    Garcia took the time to tout some of the port’s accomplishments for the year.

    • 3,000 new jobs created as a result of construction projects at the port, including the $1.5 billion Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project.
    • 5.4 percent increase in cargo volume
    • 21 percent decrease in greenhouse emissions over 10 years.

    Public Safety

    Although he did not mention the number of officer-involved shootings this past year, Garcia did say that public safety must be supported by working with the city’s police, rather than against them.

    He outlined six things the city is doing to improve its police force:

    • Funding expansion for the city’s police academy
    • Fighting human trafficking
    • Maintaining positive community relation- ships
    • Implementing a body camera program
    • Developing mental health diversion programs
    • Enhancing officer training to assist homeless or mentally ill people

    He said those are approaches are working by minimizing response times to 4.9 minutes and answering 93 percent of emergency calls within 10 seconds.

    While crime has increased in the city and across the country, he noted that 2015’s numbers were similar to 2011—the lowest crime level in a generation.

    Garcia said he is confident that the city will meet the many challenges of the present and the future.

    “The most important reason we will do this is our people,” he said. “It’s the people in Long Beach that make this city great and keep us moving forward.”

     

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  • 20 Eyes Looks to the Future

    Photo and article by Mike Botica, Editorial Intern

    The Dec. 21 renaming of the intersection of Pacific Avenue and 13th Street after American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland was a homecoming celebration, that coincided with a gift-wrapped opportunity for San Pedro band, 20 Eyes.

    The band’s performance of their song Wait for Me was aired on live television and written up in the Los Angeles Times.

    “I’ve played it once or twice acoustically at small shows and stuff,” said Wolf Bradley, 20 Eyes’ lead vocalist and guitarist. “So to play it and then have that many people there watching [and] to get written up about it in the LA Times was really exciting, because that’s as big of a debut as we could’ve hoped for.”

    To have the debut coincide with Copeland’s return to San Pedro made it extra special. Bradley, keyboardist Chance Famighetti and drummer Andrew Macatrao were children 20 years ago, when Bradley’s mom Sandra took the teenaged Copeland under her wing and guided her into the world of ballet.

    Bradley said Copeland has become like a sister to him, no matter the demands of their careers.

    “She’s never seen me perform as a band,” Bradley said. “We did like a little secret impromptu acoustic show for her. It was super cool,” he said.

    20 Eyes isn’t Bradley’s first run at celebrity. Random Lengths wrote about him and his four-piece band, Last Day Off, in 2009. Only Bradley and Macatrao remain from that band. With a few weeks to reflect on the late-December whirlwind of attention, it seemed time for an update.

    Mike Botica:  Are there any unexpected influences that you guys took from growing up in the ballet scene?

    Wolf Bradley: For me, it’s been performing.  I’ve been performing since I was three.  Andrew and I met 10 years ago. He was performing in ballet even before we started the band.  Also, listening to such classical and classic great music like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, or things like that. It’s like the pop music of that era — super catchy, but very full of art and creativity.

    Andrew Macatrao: They both have a lot to do with staying in time, they just go hand in hand.

    WB: I feel like I forget how weird it is that we do ballet to some people.  Well, not “weird” in a bad way, but just like “interesting,” because I’ve grown up with ballet and we’ve all taken ballet for a while … the most that it’s helped us performance-wise is being so comfortable performing on stage, because that’s where we like to be.

    But Misty and Wolf aren’t the only artists from their household.  Wolf’s mother, Cindy, was in a punk band called The Whigs, and played shows from San Diego to Los Angeles before the band eventually found their way onto KROQ.  Now the former punk rocker runs the San Pedro Ballet School, but Wolf is well aware of her past life.  

    MB: Wolf, your mother was in a rock band in the ‘80s.  Tell me more about that.

    WB: She was in a band called The Whigs, and lived in San Diego for a while, but then all their shows kept getting shut down by the cops, so they moved to San Pedro. And then they started playing around LA a lot, and they got really big in LA for a little bit.  This guy named Rodney Bingenheimer, who used to be huge on KROQ, he had a show called Rodney on the Roq, and he was the first person to play her on the radio.  And he really took a liking to my mom and they were playing (her music) all the time.  My mom’s favorite band is Blondie, and he knew Blondie (Deborah Harry), and they talked on the phone.  I have a lot of their music, and it’s so weird to think about her as a singer and as a “punk” person, because she’s so conscientious and careful now being a mom, because I’m sure she was different back then.  Going crazy… (he laughed).

    Cindy introduced Wolf to ballet at a young age, and it was through the ballet school in San Pedro that Wolf met up with Chance and Andrew, later forming their first band together.  Andrew and Wolf first started Last Day Off as a way to play the kind of music that they loved as children, but soon their hobby grew into something more. 

    MB: When did Last Day Off end and 20 Eyes start?

    WB: Andrew and I started the band [Last Day Off].

    AM: … in 2007 (continued) and 20 Eyes began in 2011.

    WB: We were originally called, The Ballerhinos.  I was 14, and we kinda just wanted to do Blink-182 songs and just write fun pop-punk songs.  Then we got a little more serious about it and changed our name to Last Day Off, switched out some members, and we were still just playing pop-punk stuff.  I feel like if we hadn’t done Last Day Off, 20 Eyes wouldn’t be as — what we think is good —  as it is now.  It really prepared us to be on stage all the time musically. But 20 Eyes started because it was time for a change. We didn’t want to play music that we were writing when we were 15 or 16, and we decided to change the name, change the style a little bit, and we’re constantly changing; there’s always room for evolution in music.

    Wolf says the band is demoing more than 50 new songs, hoping to further refine them through performing, and eventually put out a full-length debut album as 20 Eyes.  The band is also working on a TV pilot, a comedy show based in San Pedro about the band’s strange encounters with fans and musicians while on the road and playing at venues. 

    MB: How do you see the future of 20 Eyes?

    WB: I’d like to get the songs out there, because we have a lot of songs that we’re very passionate about that we love a lot that we play all the time, but it’s all just a matter of getting it to a wider audience.  Because we have songs that I think are deserving of an audience and constantly gonna get better and better, so … we can grow along with our fan base that we already have and turn that into something, touring more, start to get more real radio play here, and things like that.

    AM: To put out a full-length album would be amazing [and] do a lot more touring.

    WB:  That’s what I love about being in a band.  Performing is half of it, and writing is half of it, and I love writing so much. Just doing that, writing new songs. Hopefully put out another new song soon.  It’s happening very organically, too, because we haven’t paid anybody to get our song out there.  People have just been globbing onto it and spreading it by themselves, and I think that’s really exciting.

    MB: Who are some of your favorite artists?

    AM: Blink-182 was one of the first artists that I was inspired by, Travis Barker’s drumming.  Of course, Green Day.  A few ska bands that my brothers listened to, Reel Big Fish.  No Doubt, they have one of my favorite drummers.

    WB: When I was really young, I just listened to whatever my dad listened to, and my dad was more of a disco guy, which was really random because before that he was more of a metal guy, so I really liked Metallica.  My mom liked a lot of punk stuff, so I really like The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, and all those really quintessential punk bands, Buzzcocks.  But then when I discovered music I was in like 6th or 7th grade, Green Day came out with American Idiot, and I was like, “That’s what I love. That’s the thing.”  My first concert was Green Day, and from then on in, they were my favorite band ever.  But I love The Beastie Boys.  And, it’s horrible to say it, but I love Kanye West and I love hip-hop. We listen to, like, everything now.  I love Grouplove and Foster the People and Young the Giant, all those kinda indie bands that came out in like 2011 and 2012.

    Chance Famighetti: My dad was always into blues, and that got me into playing the piano.  I started the piano when I was four, and since then I’ve been really into that kinda stuff.  And then, early on, I got into really poppy rock, like Maroon 5.  That was always my favorite.  And now I’m super into hip-hop, as Wolf said, and we’re all into alternative stuff.

    WB: Oh, I think the best band that’s come out in the last 10 years is Cage the Elephant.  I love Cage the Elephant, their songs are always good.  And David Bowie, which is crazy that he’s dead now.  My mom, that was like her favorite person besides Debbie Harry.  So when I was younger, Ziggy Stardust, that whole album and that era was really cool to me.

    Check the band’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/20eyesmusic and Twitter at https://twitter.com/20eyesband, for live dates and upcoming shows.

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  • True Leadership Demands Action in a Crisis

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that the edifice, which produces beggars, needs restructuring.”

                                                                                                      —Martin Luther King Jr.

    Recently, I attended the 24th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit at USC sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Second District.

    He is the first politician, either black or white, to call the “homeless crisis” not only the challenge of our time, not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a “civil rights” issue. He is perhaps uniquely positioned to voice this perspective, as some 47 percent of the homeless living in the county are black, out of a general population of 9 percent.

    Ridley-Thomas’ address to the Empowerment Congress took on the sing-song quality of a sermon by a Baptist preacher, reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, as he outlined the challenges of homelessness in Los Angeles County.

    “With more than 44,000 homeless [people] on any given night and many more perhaps just one day away from homelessness, Los Angeles County is mired in a crisis of massive proportions,” he said. “Compounding this problem is the fact that there is a local shortage of 500,000 affordable housing units. The combination of surging housing costs, plunging incomes and diminished opportunities has left one in four Angelinos living in poverty with few prospects of a better life.”

    The county has only recently completed some 1,900 low-income units regionally.

    Clearly, Ridley-Thomas’ view of the problem is a more holistic one compared to some of the members of the Los Angeles City Council. They are more focused on implementing and enforcing anti-vagrancy laws.

    Councilman Joe Buscaino of the 15th District, by contrast, as emphasized enforcing the onerous Municipal Code 56.11 rather than working on increasing the number of available emergency shelter beds in either the city or his district.

    His leadership has been about as effective as his cleanup of the homeless encampment surrounding the San Pedro Post Office on Beacon Street on Christmas Eve.

    Leadership in this context demands action, not more excuses for why we still have homeless people living on the streets at the beginning of the El Niño winter season.

    Leadership demands a critical response to residents and business owners who object to encampments littering the streets and sidewalks of our communities—other than temporary enforcement of a municipal code that has been repeatedly challenged on constitutional grounds.

    Leadership demands swift action not repeated closed-door discussion of the facts and data of the homeless problem or the oft-repeated narrative that the majority of the people living on the streets are “shelter resistant.”

    The facts are that we have 44,000 homeless people in the county and the Los Angeles County Grand Jury claims there are just 2,772 shelter beds. What leadership demands is the opening of emergency shelters.

    In the greater Los Angeles Harbor Area, there is just one emergency shelter—the Long Beach Rescue Mission. There are no emergency shelters in San Pedro, Harbor City, Lomita, Harbor Gateway or, God forbid, in Rancho Palos Verdes. Wilmington’s Beacon Light Mission, with its combined total of 20 beds for men and 20 beds for women for seven days, is not considered emergency shelter. There are nonprofits that provide assisted housing like Harbor Interfaith Services and Harbor View House if a potential client qualifies under their program guidelines. But most of our 1,500 destitute neighbors in the 15th District without shelter don’t qualify for one reason or another. The causes are many, but the solutions are few.

    Everyone who has read the City of Los Angeles’ report on homelessness, or looked at the statistics, knows how daunting a problem this is. However, our political leaders also know how and have the power to act in a crisis.

    Locally, the California National Guard Armory on 13th Street has historically been used as an emergency shelter. I don’t understand why the council office has not acted to open it at this time.

    Moreover, there have to be hundreds of vacant or underutilized government owned properties throughout this district, if not the city and county of Los Angeles that could be commandeered by executive action to immediately address this crisis.

    These temporary emergency shelters would address the suffering of the homeless on the streets, and immediately redress the blight and complaints of the community, while giving social service workers a focal point to start addressing the underlying causes and conditions of homelessness.

    If this were any other kind of crisis, like an earthquake or a tsunami, there would have been an instantaneous “all hands on deck” response. Emergency resources of the city would have been triggered, the Red Cross would have been activated and the National Guard would be called up—something would be done.

    Yet, what we have here is a political bureaucratic stalemate of elected leadership arguing over the shape of the problem, the terms of the solutions and the enormity of the costs. This is one of the great moral conflicts of our time and it not only takes great courage but true leadership to command real solutions. Both of which seem to be truly lacking in some parts of Los Angeles. And, homelessness is a problem the LAPD can’t arrest its way out of.,

    And in honor of one of our greatest moral leaders whose birthday was celebrated this week, I’ll leave you with this one last thought:

    “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

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  • It Isn’t Just a Game, Anymore

    By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Reporter

    The recent release of NFL Hall-of-Famer Frank Gifford’s autopsy and the timely premiere of the movie Concussion has many people taking a second look at the game that millions love.

    The results of post-mortem brain studies of former football players have blindsided many, yielding frightening facts about contact sports, specifically NFL football. The sport has replaced 23 Sundays of the year for many throughout the world.

    Football players didn’t just begin getting concussions during the past decade. Concussions have always been a consequence of contact sports. Recent advances in medicine have yielded the discovery of a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

    CTE is a degenerative disease found in people who have sustained numerous concussions and blows to the head. People diagnosed with CTE often end up dealing with dementia, memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression. Sometimes, it even ends with a person with CTE taking his or her own life. CTE, for the time being, can only be diagnosed in patients post-mortem. It has been found in 87 former NFL players during in the past 10 years. Players are now dealing with serious effects of the game they played their whole life.

    The National Football League has promised to fight to make the game safer.

    But there is evidence that the NFL has known more—and done less—about CTE and other mentally or physically debilitation conditions than it has let on. The league feared it would be in danger once players began finding out about the permanent, adverse reactions that years of blows to the head caused. In 2013, the league settled with several former players for damages they sustained during their playing days. The settlement was not only for injuries sustained, but the information the league withheld from these players.

    Players or their survivors were paid a combined total of $765 million. 18,000 players are eligible for this settlement. Former athletes representing the most severe cases of Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and CTE will receive between $1 and $5 million. Those with moderate cases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia would receive $190,000.

    The NFL Players Association has advocated heavily on the side of their own, especially those whose conditions have left them incapable of doing so.

    “Football, in general, would have us believe that we could make the game safe,” said Dr. Lawrence Genen, a psychiatrist with The Genen Group. “But the reality is that evidence shows that repetitive blows to the head will ultimately lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”

    The NFL will have a tough time making its game safe, and regardless, the likelihood of developing something like CTE can’t even be slimmed down, Genen said.

    “It’s very difficult to imagine a way in which you’re truly going to significantly decrease the risk of developing CTE,” Genen said. “I appreciate that they’re making attempts to make the game safer by making an effort to eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits, but the feedback is that those hits still do occur and even good tackles often result in blows to the head.”

    Not only are the professionals susceptible to diseases caused from repetitive head trauma, Pop Warner, high school and collegiate level players are also susceptible. “I’ve talked to some trainers, particularly with the YMCA, and they feel the younger athletes are at a higher risk,” said Dr. Harley Deere, a neurologist with Dignity Health at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach. “‘[They] should play flag football until they get into high school.”

    Younger players are at risk because they’re still learning how to tackle and specialists believe that adolescent players are more vulnerable to developing CTE from multiple head blows over a period of time.

    A smart mouth-guard, which transmits real-time information via bluetooth in order to pinpoint the exact location and direction of a head injury, is one of many precautionary tools being developed. Functional magnetic resonance imaging, known as fMRI, also helps by showing how the affected area is functioning, as opposed to a regular MRI, which only reveals the structure. But a helmet can only help guard the exterior of the head.

    “[That] the helmet doesn’t stop the direct blow to the brain is the problem,” Deere said. “The brain is inside your skull and the helmet is good, it protects your skull, but it doesn’t protect the blow to the brain, because the brain moves inside the skull.

    “I think it comes down to the people who are administering the program, whether it be the schools, the people pushing these programs, they [should be] held responsible to make sure the kids are protected.”

    Genen cited a New York Times article regarding helmetless practices. The article suggested that not using a helmet forces players to tackle using their arms and bodies, placing an emphasis on proper technique.

    The article referred to a study featuring the University of New Hampshire football team. Half of the team practiced twice a week without wearing helmets. During the regular season, players wore helmets equipped with sensors that kept track of the number of impacts and the force of those impacts to the head. By season’s end, the half of the team that participated in those helmetless practices were hitting their head about 30 percent less than the half that didn’t.

    Putting specialists on the sidelines to help evaluate injuries was also recommended.

    “It would be great to see, for almost every team in all sports, to have a psychiatrist as part of their coterie of team physicians,” Genen said.

    The National Institute of Health is working with the NFL to find the closest thing to a resolution. The NFL promised to donate $30 million to the NIH for traumatic head injury research. The NFL would hold on to the money and allocate the necessary amount for each project the NIH presents and is approved. Even though the NFL said the money would come with no strings attached, it vetoed an NIH proposal.

    NIH announced a 7-year, $16 million research initiative that it wanted the NFL to fund with the money the league promised. However, when the NIH selected the leader of their research team, the NFL reneged on this specific project, forcing the NIH to fund it itself.

    The future of football might be not in the hands of those who catch it, but with the doctors and researchers involved with the NIH and this situation.

    Dr. Robert Stern, a prominent researcher from Boston University, was selected by the NIH to head the research group in charge of the 7-year study. Stern has been critical of the league in the past, saying commissioner Roger Goodell inherited a cover-up from his predecessor Paul Taglibue. He also wrote a critical 61-page report opposing the league’s settlement with the players, claiming many players who were affected would not be eligible to receive any award from it.

    The study, which the NIH will fund, will consist of 50 researchers at 17 different institutions. Hundreds of former NFL and collegiate players also volunteered to participate as studies.

    The aim is to detect, define and measure the progression of CTE.

     

     

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  • ECHOES OF NAFTA :

    Keystone Pipeline Lawsuit Portends Anti-Democratic Decisions

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On Jan. 7, TransCanada, the company behind the recently-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, filed two lawsuits—one in federal court, the other seeking $15 billion in damages under the North American Free Trade Agreement’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions.

    “A powerful legal tool designed to protect foreign investors could undermine commitments made in Paris last month to reign in climate warming emissions,” wrote Brian Bienkowski for The Daily Climate. “The tool [Investor-State Dispute Settlement] is tucked into two pending trade deals President [Barack] Obama wants to finalize this year…. The language is de rigueur for trade agreements and is designed to protect against what’s known as ‘loss of expected profits.’”

    TransCanada’s lawsuit exposed a fundamental contradiction between Obama’s global warming activism and the trade agenda he continues to pursue. This despite intense opposition from environmentalists, labor activists and others in the Democratic Party, who’ve opposed similar deals all the way back to NAFTA in 1993.

    Environmentalists’ condemnations came quickly.

    “This isn’t going to get the pipeline built, and it is going to remind Americans how many of our rights these agreements give away,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, the leading organizer of the global grassroots climate change movement.

    “These destructive provisions that wrongly empower corporations to attack our safeguards show exactly why NAFTA was wrong and why the dangerous and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is worse and must be stopped in its tracks,” added Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

    “This case, hopefully, is like the canary in the coal mine letting us know what we’d be getting into,” Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach said on Democracy Now! “The TPP would give 9,500 more companies—big multinationals from Japan, in banking, in manufacturing, mining firms from Australia—the right to do this.”

    Although various commentators offered different assessments, the $15 billion claim is objectively dubious. Plummeting oil prices could render the entire project unprofitable (Shell recently gave up on Arctic exploration, taking a $7 billion loss after nine years, partly because of this). At best, it’s much less certain than originally expected. (Prices peaked at more than $140 per barrel in 2008, and were still more than $100 as recently as May 2014, but are now under $30 per barrel.) Objective reality has almost nothing to do with the trade deal framework, which operates in a world of its own.

    The federal lawsuit seems far-fetched according to reporting by Reuters, which noted TransCanada’s claim that the decision was “unconstitutional.” In contrast, they cited James Rubin, an environmental regulatory lawyer with Dorsey & Whitney, who called the federal suit “challenging.” Reuters explained, “He noted that courts have considered cross-border pipeline decisions before and have generally found they fall within the president’s discretion.

    But international trade law is radically different—Sharia law for CEOs, crafted in secret for years by governments and corporations, with no public input at all, until hasty up-or-down votes on final bills. The NAFTA suit will be heard by a secret, private 3-person arbitration panel of the exact same kind that’s included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP. Win or lose in the long run—expected to take years—the lawsuit’s filing drew sharp attention to how the TPP could effectively cripple efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, just weeks after a landmark international agreement of almost 200 countries seemed to have signaled a new era of serious commitment to fight climate change.

    “There was nothing unusual about the proposed pipeline or the oil it was intended to carry,” TransCanada argued in its NAFTA compliant, pointing to earlier pipeline permits that had been granted, before grassroots opposition gained traction. “Environmental activists, however, turned opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline into a litmus test for politicians—including U.S. President Barack Obama—to prove their environmental credentials…. The activists’ strategy succeeded.”

    Thus, TransCanada’s claim is that democratic responsiveness violates NAFTA—and, by extension TPP. But it also ignores how falling oil prices and other factors may have changed the assessment. It’s now widely realized that vast fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground, in order to protect our future. This wasn’t yet recognized when the Keystone proposal was submitted in 2008. As with terminal building and expansion projects locally, the default practice of piecemeal analysis, neglecting or minimizing cumulative impacts, may well be “traditional,” but does not reflect reality, nor protect public health and welfare. In this instance, if rejecting Keystone were vital to securing widespread buy-in by other countries reducing carbon emissions, the cumulative impact of the project would be far larger than originally assumed. Thus, the Obama administration decision to reject the pipeline would be very sound public policy—but could still be seriously attacked under NAFTA, or the proposed TPP.

    “The idea that some trade agreement should force us to overheat the planet’s atmosphere is, quite simply, insane,” McKibben commented.

    But it wouldn’t be the first time an Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision has been used to protect life-threatening corporate behavior, as it’s already being used to fight a cigarette packaging law in Australia under a similar system. Here in the United States, a meat-packaging law, passed partly in response to mad cow disease, was recently repealed after the World Trade Organization ruled against it, authorizing retaliatory tariffs of more than $1 billion.

    Despite the clear threat signaled by the lawsuit, the following Tuesday, Jan. 12, Obama pushed for passage of the TPP in his State of the Union speech, calling it “the right thing to do,” just two paragraphs before touting “the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change” that it threatens to undermine.

    The disconnect in Obama’s speech is not new in Democratic Party politics, but it also reflects a deep disconnect in the much broader global policy world, as well, pointed out by Ilana Solomon, head of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

    “In the halls of power where the [Paris] deal was being crafted there was very little discussion of trade and there’s a real challenge that these two issues—climate and trade—are operating in separate silos,” Solomon said. “In the trade negotiations, climate change is totally absent from the discussions…. If we’re really serious about taking on the climate crisis, we have to stop entering into trade agreements that constrain our ability to do so.”

    Philip Morris Asia (headquartered in Hong Kong) used a similar Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision to try to block a 2012 Australian law which required cigarettes to be sold in plain, logo-free brown packages, with prominent health warnings. After losing in Australian court, the tobacco giant turned to Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions under a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong. The case is still pending.

    “I.S.D.S. provisions have been a common part of trade agreements for 50 years, and they were originally intended to protect companies against foreign governments expropriating their assets or discriminating against them in favor of domestic competitors,” James Surowiecki explained in the New Yorker this past October.

    But the once-rare Investor-State Dispute Settlement lawsuits have become increasingly common, and with expanded reach “against regulations they perceive as unfair” such as Australia’s cigarette packaging law. And Surowiecki also pointed out that “Canada was successfully sued for not granting a permit to a mining company on environmental grounds.”

    Which is one reason the TPP is so worrying. It actually includes a carve-out provision barring tobacco companies from suing under its Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions, “unquestionably a good thing,” as Surowiecki noted. “But creating a carve-out only for tobacco underscores the basic problem with I.S.D.S.”

    If it’s a bad idea to let tobacco companies wield that weapon against the common good, it’s even worse to let fossil fuel companies do the same. Tobacco companies kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Fossil fuel companies threaten modern society as we know it, putting hundreds of millions, if not billions of lives at risk in the decades ahead. Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions are a powerful weapon for them to use in blocking governments from acting to help save us.

    This past May, speaking at Nike in Beaverton, Oregon, Obama flat-out denied the existence of any such threat.

    “Critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation, food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations,” Obama said. “This—they’re making this stuff up…. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

    But that very same month, that’s exactly what happened—or at least started to. The World Trade Organization ruled against a U.S. appeal to keep its country-of-origin labeling regulation for imported cuts of beef and pork.

    “It took 50 years for us consumer groups to actually get mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat,” Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on Jan. 7.

    It finally became law in 2008, a belated response to the mad cow flare-up in the early 2000s.

    “The polling shows 90 percent of Americans love that law,” Wallach said.

    Domestic courts in Canada and the United States refused to strike it down, but then industry groups brought it to the World Trade Organization—and won.

    Industry groups “cheered the ruling” according to a report by The Hill, which covers Congress, which quoted a press release from the North American Meat Institute, saying, “If there ever was any question that mandatory country-of-origin labeling is a trade barrier that violates our international agreements, the WTO ruling against the United States today should lay those doubts to rest.”

    The Hill went on to report that “NAMI said it will work with Congress to repeal COOL once and for all.”

    Then, in early December, the World Trade Organization ruled that Canada and Mexico could impose retaliatory tariffs of $1.1 billion (Canadian) and $227.8 million (United States), respectively. Shortly after that, Congress repealed the regu- lation.

    But Obama’s claim that no trade agreement would force a change in U.S. laws wasn’t the only questionable thing he said at Nike that day. He also sought to discredit critics of TPP who point to disastrous results of NAFTA:

    When you ask folks, specifically, “What do you oppose about this trade deal?” they just say, “NAFTA.” NAFTA was passed 20 years ago. That was a different agreement. And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable.

    But far less has changed than Obama then claimed, now that TPP’s text has been released.

    “The actual language that TransCanada is using in this case, because they filed a brief, is the same language that, word for word, is replicated in TPP,” Walloch said. “There are bells and whistles that have been changed” between NAFTA and TPP, but, “In many ways, actually, TPP expands investor-state [claims]. It allows more kinds of challenges.”

    It’s not the first time Obama promised to improve on NAFTA, and failed to deliver. He promised to renegotiate NAFTA several different times during the 2008 election campaign, but changed his mind after the election. On Aug. 11, 2009, Democracy Now! reported on Obama’s first summit meeting with leaders from NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, where he gave the following excuse for reversing himself:

    At a time when the economy has been shrinking drastically and trade has been shrinking around the world … we probably want to make the economy more stabilized in the coming months before we have a long discussion around further trade negotiations.

    But the unspoken premise here is that NAFTA is good for the economy, and disrupting it would be risky. Nothing could be further from the truth. A detailed analysis from the Economic Policy Institute in May 2011, found that “As of 2010, U.S. trade deficits with Mexico totaling $97.2 billion had displaced 682,900 U.S. jobs.”

    The report broke down job losses by state and congressional district. Instead of trade surpluses and job growth promised when NAFTA was passed, the U.S. trade balance had gone from a slight surplus ($1.6 billion) to the aforementioned $97.2 billion deficit. Most of the displaced jobs (60.8 percent—415,000 jobs) were in manufacturing industries, with computer and electronic parts (22 percent—150,300 jobs) and motor vehicles and parts (15.8 percent—108,000 jobs) leading the way.

    Two years after Economic Policy Institute’s report, as NAFTA turned 20, Economic Policy Institute co-founder Jeff Faux wrote a critical overview, published by Foreign Policy In Focus, in which he called NAFTA “a template for neoliberal globalization,” that impacted American workers in four main ways:

    First, it caused the loss of some 700,000 jobs as companies moved their production to Mexico, where labor was cheaper…

    Second, NAFTA strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits…

    Third, NAFTA drove several million Mexican workers and their families out of the agriculture and small business sectors, which could not compete with the flood of products—often subsidized—from U.S. producers. This dislocation was a major cause of the dramatic increase of undocumented workers in the United States…

    Fourth, and ultimately most importantly, NAFTA created a template for the rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor. Among other things, NAFTA granted corporations extraordinary protections against national labor laws that might threaten profits…

    The same corporate protections block consumer and environmental-protection laws. Since workers are also consumers, who live in the environment, they suffer a triple blow under NAFTA and all later agreements based on the NAFTA template.

    “In U.S. politics, the passage of NAFTA under President Bill Clinton signaled that the elites of the Democratic Party—the ‘progressive’ major party—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan,” Faux wrote.

    Although Faux didn’t mention it, the consequences were dire. NAFTA passed the Senate 61-38, and passed the House 234-200. But Republicans supported it roughly 3-1 in both chambers, while Democrats split 27-26 in the Senate, and rejected it strongly in the House, 156-102. (Bernie Sanders, the sole independent, voted against it.) Intense White House lobbying was crucial to its passage in the House. Yet, this effort was a major contributor to the Democrats landslide losses in 1994. It turned Perot and his voters against the Democrats, while also helping to depress the Democratic base vote.

    The story is told in detail in Three’s A Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence by Ronald Rapoport and Walter Stone, but political elites are in deep denial over such matters, blaming a wide range of other things instead.

    Perhaps that helps explain why Obama remains firmly committed to trying to pass TPP, but as a candidate, Hillary Clinton is much more wary about repeating her husband’s mistake, and she’s joined Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley in a united front of Democratic candidates opposed to the deal. While the media now has largely chosen to ignore TransCanada’s suit, the underlying issue is a ticking time bomb as we head toward the election in November.

     

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  • Underwater Parks Day: COMMUNITY Calendar Jan. 14, 2016

    Jan. 16
    Underwater Parks Day
    Join Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for Underwater Parks Day. By attending this free event, you can learn about Marine Protected Areas in Southern California that went into effect on January 1, 2012.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 16
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
     
    Jan. 17
    Uptown Word Reading, Art Series
    January’s Uptown Word Reading & Arts Series will focus on San Bernardino. The event will feature Ruth Nolan, Isabel Quintero and Uptown Word organizer, Liz Gonzalez, three writers who have all at one time in their lives lived in San Bernardino. There will be an open mic following the readings, as well as free light refreshments.
    Time: 1 p.m. Jan. 17
    Cost: Free
    Details: Uptown Word website
    Venue: North Branch Library, 5571 Orange Ave., Long Beach
     
    Jan. 17
    Salt Marsh Open House
    Step out into nature and discover the hidden world of the Salinas de San Pedro Salt Marsh.
    Join Cabrillo Marine Aquarium educators and Coastal Park Naturalists as they help uncover the world of mud and water that is our local wetland.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 17
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
     
    Jan. 22
    Farmer’s Market
    Experience the downtown San Pedro Farmer’s Market’s fresh produce and craft vendors.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 22
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 449-9299
    Venue: 6th Street between Pacific Avenue and Mesa Street, San Pedro
     
    Jan. 22
    Creation Station
    Participate in hands-on craft activities that are appropriate for all ages.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 22 through 24
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 732-1270; www.CraftedPortLA.com
    Venue: Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro
     
    Jan. 23
    Pet Parade
    Break out the top hats and tiaras for the Port of Long Beach’s 2016 pet parade.
    Time: 9 to 10 a.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue: Downtown Harbor, 6th Street at Harbor Boulevard, San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    The Great San Pedro Crab Feed
    The Harbor Area Chapter of the Rotary Club is hosting The Great San Pedro Crab Feed, a family-style dinner.
    Time: 5 to 9 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $60
    Details: (310) 210-8577; arlenedickey@gmail.com
    Venue: Cabrillo Youth Center, 3000 Shoshonean Road, San Pedro

     
    Jan. 23
    San Pedro Relay for Life’s Purple Ball
    Support the American Cancer Society at the San Pedro Relay for Life’s Purple Ball
    Time: 6 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $80
    Details: (310) 753-3334; Purple4Relay@aol.com
    Venue: DoubleTree by Hilton Port of Los Angeles Hotel, 2800 Via Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro

    Jan. 23
    Full Moon Yoga
    Be part of January’s Full Moon Yoga at Terranea Resort. Reservations are required. Donations will go to charity.
    Time: 6 p.m. Jan. 23
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310) 265-2740; www.Terranea.com
    Venue:. Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, Peninsula
     
    Jan. 24
    Sandy Banks
    The Friends of San Pedro Library are presenting Sandy Banks, a CNN, PBS and NPR commentator and celebrated speaker and former columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She will discuss topics the future of print journalism and the Los Angeles Times.
    Time: 2 p.m. Jan. 24
    Cost: $15
    Details: www.friendsspl.org
    Venue: 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Jan. 27
    Join SEA Club
    Third to sixth grade students enrolled in Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s SEA Club (Science Education Afternoons) will learn while having fun exploring the local marine environment. The club will meet from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on four consecutive Wednesdays, Feb. 3 through 24. Preregistration is required; deadline to register is Jan. 27.
    Time: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Feb. 3 through 24
    Cost: $30
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
     
    Jan. 28
    Heart of the Harbor Local Harvest Farmer’s Market
    Enjoy the Heart of the Harbor Local Harvest Farmer’s Market in Wilmington
    Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.LocalHarvestFarmersMarkets.com
    Venue: L Street between Avalon Boulevard and Marine Avenue, Wilmington

    Jan. 31
    45th Annual Whale Fiesta
    This fun-filled family event, co-sponsored by Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society, celebrates marine mammals, and the beginning of the migration of the Pacific gray whales along Southern California.
    More than, 20 marine life organizations will exhibit and provide information about their efforts to bring awareness and protection to these animals. Throughout the day our expert Cabrillo Whalewatch naturalists will give talks on various marine mammals.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 31
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org
    Venue:  Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White, San Pedro

    Feb. 4
    Farmer’s Market
    Enjoy Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center’s Farmer’s Market.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 4
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center, 1300 W. 7th St., San Pedro

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