• Garcetti Nominates General Manager of Information Technology Agency: RL NEWS Brief July 31, 2015

    Garcetti Nominates General Manager of Information Technology Agency

    LOS ANGELES — On July 30, Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Interim General Manager Ted Ross to serve as the general manager of the Information Technology Agency and chief information officer for the City of Los Angeles. In this role, Ross will direct the city’s more than 460-person technology agency to harness the power of technology in order to achieve Garcetti’s goals of innovation, transparency, and efficiency across all aspects of city government.
    Ross, a native of Los Angeles, has worked for the City since 2004, most recently serving as assistant general manager for Information Technology Agency and in information technology leadership roles under City Controllers Laura Chick and Wendy Greuel and at the Los Angeles World Airports. Ross has had key roles in replacing the city’s Financial Management System, instituting the Mayor’s Open Data Portal, and has been a major contributor to the city’s recent technology awards, including:

    • First Place Digital City (Government Technology Magazine)
    • First Place Open Data City (Code for America & Sunlight Foundation)
    • Second Place Best of the Web (Government Technology Magazine)
    • StateScoop 50 Project Winner (Drupal Project for LACity.org and other city websites)

    The Information Technology Agency provides citywide systems, voice and data communications, a 24/7 data center, and the city’s public safety infrastructure, including police and fire radio communication systems on vehicles and helicopters.  This includes www.lacity.org, a new global navigation bar across all city websites, and the recently Emmy-nominated Channel 35 TV station.  The Information Technology Agency is a key player in the Mayor’s initiatives on cyber security, sustainability, open data, cloud computing, and developing an effective mobile workforce.
    Today, the Information Technology Agency is leading efforts to improve broadband internet across Los Angeles through the CityLinkLA initiative.
    Ross’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the Los Angeles City Council.

    Poll Shows Bernie Sanders Beating Republican Candidates

    A just released CNN poll found that Bernie Sanders out-polled all of the GOP’s major candidates, though he pretty much tied with Jeb Bush. Here’s how Sanders stacks up:
    Sanders: 48%
    Bush: 47%
    Sanders: 48%
    Walker: 42%
    Sanders: 59%
    Trump: 38%
    Polling shows he’s the only candidate from either side who has a net favorability rating.
    Donald Trump has 18 percent to Jeb Bush’s 15 percent. In the state polling, Trump is the leader in New Hampshire in the Marist poll, at 21 percent with Jeb Bush at only 14 percent. In Iowa, Trump is at 17 percent and Scott Walker is at 19 percent.

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  • LB Harbor Commission President Named: RL NEWS Briefs: July 30, 2015

    LB Harbor Commission President Named

    LONG BEACH — On July 27, The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners elected Lori Ann Farrell Harrison as its new board president.

    The five-member Harbor Commission, which oversees the Port of Long Beach, also selected Lou Anne Bynum as vice president and Tracy Egoscue as secretary. The commission selects from its own members the president and the other board officers for one-year terms each July.

    Farrell Harrison, a 5th District resident, is the director of finance for the City of Huntington Beach and was previously chief financial officer for Long Beach. She was appointed to the Harbor Commission in 2013 by then-Mayor Bob Foster. The commission president chairs board meetings and represents the port to the public.

    Farrell Harrison and Bynum succeed Doug Drummond and Rich Dines as president and vice president, respectively.

    Under the city charter, the mayor of Long Beach appoints city residents to the Harbor Commission for a six-year term. Commissioners oversee the port and direct the CEO, who in turn manages the more than 500-person staff of the Long Beach Harbor Department in the development and promotion of the Port of Long Beach.

     

    Former Police Chief Dies

    LONG BEACH — On July 29, the Long Beach Police Department announced the death of former Long Beach Police Chief Jerome E. Lance on Saturday, July 25. Lance was 72 years old when he succumbed to his battle with cancer.
    Lance began his career with the Long Beach Police Department in 1964. During his career, he worked various assignments throughout the Department at all ranks before being promoted to the position of chief of police on November 20, 1999.
    During his tenure as chief of police, he was faced with several challenges of a magnitude including, the aftermath of 9/11 and the loss of four officers.

    He was responsible for multiple facility projects which included the refurbishment of the public safety building, the construction of a new communications center, the relocation of the crime lab and property section, and the upgrading of the police academy.

    Additional accomplishments included increased security duties at the airport and harbor, the purchase of two new helicopters, and implementation of the first boat patrol unit in the history of the Long Beach Police Department.
    After Lance’s retirement from the LBPD in 2002, he served as interim chief of police for the Oceanside Police Department from March through December of 2005. He was head of the CSULB Center for Criminal Justice in 2003 and continued to teach and consult in the law enforcement community until 2014.
    Lance is survived by his wife Margaret “Bunny” Lance, his sister Patricia “Pat” Chapman (Oberg), his daughter Pamela Jane Crandall (Lance), her husband Brett and children Mackenzie and Brayden, and his son LBPD Sergeant Darren Jerome Lance, his wife Nancy and their daughter Sierra, along with many nieces and nephews.
    A memorial service will take place for Lance at 1 p.m. Aug. 9, at the Long Beach Police Officers Association Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in his honor to either of the following:
    Long Beach Police Officers Widows and Orphans Trust Fund c/o
    L.B.P.O.A
    2865 Temple Avenue
    Long Beach, California 90755
    http://lbpoa.org/about/widows-orphans/

    Law Enforcement Cancer Support Foundation
    6475 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 354
    Long Beach, CA 90803
    http://lecsf.net

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  • Morad Family Sues LBPD: RL NEWS Briefs July 29, 2015

    Morad Family Sues LBPD
    LONG BEACH — On July 22, supporters joined Morad family members at a press conference in front of the Long Beach Police Department.

    The family announced that they are filing a $28 million dollar lawsuit  against the City of Long Beach for the death of 20-year-old Feras Morad. On May 27, Offficer Matthew Hernandez killed Morad. Morad, who was displaying erratic behavior after apparently consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms, was unarmed.

    Morad’s family filed $28 million civil rights lawsuit against the LBPD. Mother Amal Morad, father Amr Morad, sister Ghada Morad and cousin Kareem Morad spoke at the press conference.

    “My son needed care,” said Amr Morad, Feras’s father. “Instead, he got killed…. I only hope that there is a change so that the next young man gets the help he needs.”

    A native of Woodland Hills, Feras Morad attended El Camino Real Charter High School, then Moorpark College, choosing a longer commute in order to join that school’s accomplished debate team. A high school and college debate champion, he ranked nationally in both the Phi Rho Pi National Forensic Organization and the National Speech and Debate Championship Tournament, and competed in many other leagues. He was a ranking member of ROTC while at El Camino Real.

    Feras chose to enroll at Cal State-Long Beach in order to save money in hopes of attending law school.

     

    Man Kills Step-Daughter, Himself

    LONG BEACH — Long Beach Police Department detectives are investigating what they are considering a murder-suicide, which took place about 4:45 p.m. July 27.

    Sixty-four-year-old Keenan Wynn killed his 41-year-old step-daughter Tecia Robinson.

    Police responded to a residence in the 2200 block of Eucalyptus Avenue and learned that a woman was in her home with her husband, Wynn, and her daughter, Robinson. Wynn attempted to shoot her and Robinson. The woman fled the home and called police. Robinson remained in the home. It wasn’t clear whether or not she was shot at the time.
    Officers tried phone calling Wynn but he did not answer. Believing Robinson may have been shot and in need of immediate medical attention, officers entered the residence and delivered her to Long Beach Fire Department paramedics who were staged nearby. Robinson was shot in the torso and declared dead on at the scene.
    Wynn, who was within the residence, shot himself in the torso and was also determined deceased at the scene by paramedics. A motive for the shooting is unclear and the investigation remains ongoing.
    Anyone with information regarding the incident should call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.

     

    Garcia Selects Long Beach City Clerk

    LONG BEACH — On July 28, Mayor Robert Garcia announced that the City Council has selected Maria de la Luz Garcia to serve as the city clerk for Long Beach, pending a formal vote at its Aug. 11 meeting.

    The appointment of de la Luz Garcia (no relation to the mayor), who is senior project coordinator in the Elections Division of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office, was selected from a pool of more than 30 candidates after extensive interviews.

    De la Luz Garcia replaces Larry Herrera-Cabrera, who retired April 30 after 12 years as Long Beach city clerk.
    De la Luz Garcia is a Long Beach resident.

    Charged with keeping records, including minutes and actions of the council and all boards, commissions and committees, the clerk is also responsible for overseeing elections, posting ordinances and is custodian of the city seal. The clerk can also perform civil marriages and register voters.

    De la Luz Garcia, who will supervise a staff of 15, was also previously director of voter engagement for the NALEO Educational Fund. She is a dean’s merit scholar and master in public administration candidate at the Price School of Public Policy at USC. In 2008, de la Luz Garcia won an Emmy as an associate producer for an elections public service announcement. She is fluent in English and Spanish, and serves on the board of CORO Southern California, a public affairs leadership development organization.

    City Clerk de la Luz Garcia is scheduled to start Aug. 31.

     

    LA City Council Approves High Capacity Gun Magazine Ban

    LOS ANGELES — On July 28, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a ban on high capacity gun magazines.

    The ordinance makes it a misdemeanor to have gun magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition. State law allow bans the sale manufacturing and importing of such magazines, but that didn’t include possession.

    The council will have to do a second vote on an amendment exempting retired police officers who have concealed weapons permits.

    “Everyday 89 Americans are killed by guns,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “As national and state leaders struggle with a way to move forward with much needed gun laws, I applaud our City leaders for taking decisive action today that will help us save lives and prevent crime. I wholeheartedly support a ban on the possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines and am eager to sign it into law.”

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  • Get Organized: ANNOUNCEMENTS July 28, 2015

    July 29
    Get Organized
    The San Pedro Convention and Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce the launch of its Breakfast Seminar Series to help you start your day informed. The first program will be presented on organizing your desk, calendar, and office by Darryl Ashley of Confusion Solution.
    The Confusion Solution owner and professional organizer, has made it a goal to use the years of experience working in space planning and organizational management to help others live uncluttered and peaceful lives.
    Time: 8:30 a.m. July 29
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 729-9828, http://www.confusionsolution.com
    Venue: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 2800 Villa Cabrillo, San Pedro
     
    July 30
    Pitch Lab
    Everyone is welcome to Pitch Lab.
    This month’s event will feature expert and industry feedback from the following panelists:
    Bryan Sastokas
    Innovation & Technology Department Director, City of Long Beach
    Lisa Mae Brunson
    Wonder Women Tech
    Roger Howard
    Senior Developer, Consultant
    The following pitches are from:
    Luis Marquez | Replaylocker
    Scott Wayman | Kangarootime
    Deborah Casarez | Voca
    Time: 7 p.m. July 30
    Cost: $5
    Details: RSVP today, lincoln@welabs.us
    Venue: WE Labs, 235 E. Broadway, # 800, Long Beach
     
    July 30
    Regional Transit Feasibility Study
    Long Beach Transit is conducting a study on the feasibility of a Regional Transit Center that would be located on the eastern portion of transit’s service area and is holding community meetings to seek input and gain valuable feedback on location, amenities, design and more.
    Time: 6 p.m. July 30 and Aug. 27
    Details: (562) 599-8504; lbtregionaltransit.com
    Venue: El Dorado Library, 2900 N. Studebaker Road, Long Beach
     
    Aug. 1
    Map Your Neighborhood
    An emergency preparedness workshop, called Map Your Neighborhood, will:

    • Describe specific Harbor Area hazards such as the Palos Verdes
    • and San Andreas earthquake faults, tsunamis, hazmat, landslides, etc..
    • Teach the basics of personal and family preparedness.
    • Present the Map Your Neighborhood 9 Step Program.
    • Teach the community how to work together and be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours following a disaster.
    • Provide attendees with information and materials needed to organize a Map Your Neighborhood program in their neighborhood.

    Time: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 1
    Cost: Free
    Details:Attend Event
    Venue: Providence Little Co. of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, 1300 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Aug. 1
    Schemes, Scams and Rip-offs
    Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell is hosting a fraud prevention town hall meeting.
    A panel of experts will provide tools and resources to avoid becoming a victim of fraud and identity theft.
    Time: 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 1
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
     
    Aug. 3
    The Hot L Baltimore Auditions
    The Long Beach Playhouse is proud to announce open call auditions for a The Hot L Baltimore. The scene is the lobby of a rundown hotel so seedy that it has lost the “e” from it’s marquee.
    Audition requirements: bring headshot and resume. Cold read from script.
    Time: 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 3 and 4
    Details: (562) 494-1014
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse,  5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    Aug. 4
    Navy Days LA 2015 Volunteer Opportunities
    There are many opportunities for volunteers during Navy Days LA 2015 coming up Aug. 4 through 9.
    Give sailors a big San Pedro welcome as they sail past Ports O’ Call Restaurant, the official welcoming point. Volunteers to help direct people to the welcoming areas and to help out at the Visitor Center are also needed.
    The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce is looking for volunteers for ANY part of this time:
    2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 4 at Ports O’ Call
    6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at Visitor Center, Downtown Harbor and in downtown
    8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 5 at Cruise Terminal for STEM Expo and Youth Ship Tours
    6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 5 at Visitor Center, Downtown Harbor and in downtown
    8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 6 at Cruise Terminal for STEM Expo and Youth Ship Tours
    6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6 at Visitor Center, Downtown Harbor and in downtown
    9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 7  at cruise terminal for public and VIP tours
    11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at Downtown Harbor
    9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 8  at cruise terminal for public and VIP tours
    11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 8 at Downtown Harbor
    9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9  at cruise terminal for public and VIP tours
    11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 9 at Downtown Harbor
    Details: (310) 729-9828; www.SPCVB.com
     
    Aug. 14
    Northbound Alameda Street Closure
    All northbound lanes on Alameda Street from O Street – just north of Pacific Coast Highway – to Sepulveda Boulevard are closed to repair a damaged overhead bridge through Aug. 14. Take Pacific Coast Highway to State Route103, turn left onto Sepulveda Blvd and right onto Alameda Street. Southbound lanes will not be affected.

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  • Freedom2Roll

    SAN PEDRO — On July 25, In recognition of the significance of the World Games being held in Los Angeles on the anniversary of the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act into law, Fiesta Harbor Tours and San Pedro Fish Market & Restaurant sponsored free harbor tours for disabled passengers and their families.

    Ms. Wheelchair California 2013, Cynthia Dejesus, Robert Corsini, the owner Videocratic Media Inc., and Joe Martinez, executive producer of Freedom2Roll participated in the event.

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  • How a Little Long Beach Theatre Company Got to World Premiere a Tom Stoppard Play

    Tom Stoppard has won more Tony Awards (four) than any playwright in history, and he got jobbed out of a fifth in 1995 when his Arcadia, the best play ever written, lost out to Terrence McNally’s comparatively mediocre Love! Valour! Compassion!

    No doubt a certain subjectivity plagues the previous paragraph, but there’s no spin in saying that Stoppard, who has also managed to pick up an Academy Award for co-writing Shakespeare in Love, is as big a deal as there is in the literary wing of the theatre world.

    So no-one would have guessed that the black box that is the Garage Theatre will host the world premiere staging of Darkside, Stoppard’s 2013 radio play incorporating music from Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

    That goes double for Eric Hamme, who obtained the rights and will direct the show. “‘Why the hell did you give these guys the play?'” he proposes as my first question for Stoppard. “That would be something I’d like to know.”

    Considering that Stoppard lives 100 miles from London and says he is in even NYC “only when absolutely necessary,” the man himself certainly had not heard of Hamme’s little Long Beach theatre, which has to get creative to cram in an audience of 50. Presumably, then, it’s got to be partly because no-one thought to ask. Darkside is a radio play, after all, which means it wasn’t conceived to unfold in physical space.

    Nonetheless, this isn’t uncharted territory for the Garage. The second-ever show the company staged was Artist Descending a Staircase—as it happens, also a radio play by Stoppard, the only other such show they’ve mounted in their 15-year existence. “Apparently we only do Tom Stoppard radio plays,” Hamme jokes.

    But the challenges of attempting such work—both radio plays and works by Stoppard—are formidable. While Darkside is intellectually straightforward for Stoppard, with its evocation of utilitarianism, Kantian and Nietzschean ethics, and thought experiments such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, let your attention wander and you might find yourself lost before you know it. And that’s without even considering the metafictional question of what is really going on as philosophy student Emily McCoy wanders through a mysterious, mountainous milieu looking to answer that age-old question “What is the Good?” while The Dark Side of the Moon washes across the action, more a character in its own right than simply a score.

    “You could present it like a musical, in sense: when the songs play, treat them like you would in a musical and have people dancing and moving, [etc.],” Hamme says. “But I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pull away from the songs. I want the music to be sort of the center of those scenes. But then what do you do, just turn on the lights and have, like, a listening party? That also isn’t very interesting. […] Stoppard in general is challenging. Fascinating and fun, but challenging. He works on so many different levels, and everything means something. It’s like every word he writes has this wealth of knowledge behind it. So diving into that and familiarizing myself with stuff that I don’t have any experience with, [such as] Nietzschean philosophy, that’s a challenge, because you could spend a lifetime studying that stuff, and I got two months.”

    Stoppard himself regards the Garage’s attempt as an uphill climb. “I guess every scene is difficult when not impossible,” he says, offering as an example a moment when the play, which has unfolded in Emily’s mind, “change[s] to ‘real world’ (sort of real).”

    Hamme learned of Darkside in spring 2014 while browsing the aisles at Fingerprints Music in downtown Long Beach. A lifelong Pink Floyd fan who regards Stoppard as “obviously one of the most fascinating and intelligent playwrights out there,” Hamme brought the play home and read/listened to it (it comes with a CD of the BBC’s production, which originally aired in August 2013). Instantly enamored of the work, Hamme began to imagine the possibilities of staging it.

    “I was like, ‘God, this would be great for our theater,'” he recalls. “It fits our aesthetic. But then there was that other part of me was like, ‘There’s no way they’re going to give us permission to do it.’ But I knew I wanted to try, at least. It never hurts to ask.”

    Thus began a series of e-mails to Stoppard’s literary agency. Although they were responsive, Hamme wasn’t holding his breath and set about applying for the rights to other shows that could possibly fill the space in the Garage’s season where he wanted to insert Darkside.

    “And then I got an e-mail one day from his agent,” Hamme chuckles, “that just said: ‘Tom is interested. What are your ideas?’ And I was like, ‘Holy shit.'”

    By this point Hamme had not looked at the script in six months, “and now I had to write Tom Stoppard and tell him my ideas about his show. So I re-read it twice, listened again to the radio broadcast, and started jotting down, and then I kept myself up ’til 5 in the morning writing this e-mail in my head over and over again. Then I got up the next day and wrote it. Of course it never came out the way I wanted it to. It was, like, this long description of how I wanted to present the show, and how I saw Pink Floyd in ’94 and my experience with that and that I wanted to take elements of that experience and put it into this, and blah blah blah blah blah. [Laughs] And then they got back to me right away and said, ‘That’s great, but we’re thinking, like, what dates are you looking at.'”

    Hamme became optimistic as e-mail exchanges over the next few weeks seemed to indicate that approval was pending, although he remembers feeling crestfallen when asked about the size of the Garage Theatre and ensuing discussion of whether the Garage is technically considered a “professional” or “amateur” theatre company. But then came the magic word: yes.

    There was a catch, however: Hamme had to obtain from Pink Floyd permission to use the music.

    Unlike with Stoppard’s team, Pink Floyd’s people were completely non-responsive to Hamme’s inquiry. After a half-dozen fruitless follow-ups, Hamme went back to Stoppard’s agent, hoping the latter might intercede. And that’s exactly what happened: “He wrote back and said: I talked to them, and it’s all good.”

    Hamme was still proverbially pinching himself when we sat down a month ago, but there was an unresolved downside to doing Darkside. Aside from the fact that the rights to perform the play cost about double the industry average, considering that the Garage needed to find an additional $1,500 worth of tech to bring Hamme’s vision to life, the logistics of living the dream were murky.

    But the community—of which the Garage Theatre is an active part—stepped up. A social-media campaign offering “executive producer” and “associate producer” credits for large donations was a success, and institutions like Cal Stage and Lighting and the Orange County School of the Arts provided equipment on loan.

    “It’s pretty ridiculous,” Hamme says of the results. “I’ve never seen so many lights in our theatre before.”

    The generosity that has enabled the Garage Theatre to mount Darkside is apropos the play itself. “So, what is the Good?” I asked Stoppard, meaning it as a bit of a joke, considering the broadness of the question. But he played along: “I think a competition of generosity would tend towards Good.”

    Certainly all has transpired for the good of the Garage, which may forever be distinguished as the unlikeliest place to world premiere a work by one of theatre history’s true giants. (The Garage Theatre is calling their Darkside staging only the U.S. premiere, consider that it was first broadcast on BBC Radio; but the playwright says that to his knowledge the Garage is the first theatre company in the world to stage it.)

    Stoppard has a laconic answer to Hamme’s question about why he gave a little place like the Garage Theatre such a chance: “Why not?” In fact, in a comment he passes along through me to the Garage he shows himself a bit grateful: “Thanks for giving Darkside a walk around your black box, an unexpected reprise which I appreciate.”

    It seems that sometimes there is enough good to go around.

    Tom Stoppard’s Darkside, featuring Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and a hell of a lot of lights, opens Friday at the Garage Theatre (251 E. 7th St., Long Beach 90813) and runs July 31 through September 6. Seating is VERY limited, so you best buy your tix in advance. For tickets, showtimes, and more information: thegaragetheatre.org.

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  • CBP Seize Fake Hermès Belts in LA: RL NEWS Briefs of the Week July 27, 2015

    CBP Seize Fake Hermès Belts in LA
    LOS ANGELES On June 18, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and import specialists, assigned to the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex, seized 3,960 high-fashion belts bearing counterfeit Hermès listed trademark.

    If genuine, the seized belts had an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $3.23 million. This seizure is part of a new generation of counterfeit fashion goods offering much more convincing copies of actual products. The belts, had the Hermès trademark stamped on each the boxes, and on the back of each belt. The trademark was also engraved on the back of the belt buckle.

    The merchandise arrived from China. In an attempt to evade detection, the shipment was manifested as “Plastic Besoms”.

    About $1.22 billion worth of counterfeit goods originating overseas were seized by Customs and Border Protection in 2014. China, Hong Kong, Canada, India and United Arab Emirates were the top five countries of origination for counterfeit goods seized by Customs and Border Protection this past fiscal year.

    Morad Family Sues LBPD
    LONG BeACH Supporters joined Morad family members at a press conference in front of the Long Beach Police Department.

    The family announced that they are taking legal action against the LBPD for the death of 20-year-old Feras Morad. On May 27, Offficer Matthew Hernandez killed Morad. Morad, who was displaying erratic behavior after apparently consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms, was unarmed.

    Morad’s family filed $28 million civil rights lawsuit against the LBPD. Mother Amal Morad, father Amr Morad, sister Ghada Morad and cousin Kareem Morad spoke at the press conference.

    “My son needed care,” said Amr Morad, Feras’s father. “Instead, he got killed…. I only hope that there is a change so that the next young man gets the help he needs.”

    A native of Woodland Hills, Feras Morad attended El Camino Real Charter High School, then Moorpark College, choosing a longer commute in order to join that school’s accomplished debate team. A high school and college debate champion, he ranked nationally in both the Phi Rho Pi National Forensic Organization and the National Speech and Debate Championship Tournament, and competed in many other leagues. He was a ranking member of ROTC while at El Camino Real.

    Feras chose to enroll at Cal State-Long Beach in order to save money in hopes of attending law school.

    LB City Council Approves First Responder Fee
    LONG BEACH — On July 21, the Long Beach City Council approved, 8-1, Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez opposed, a first responder fee measure.

    The measure allows residents to be charged $250 for using services from the Long Beach Fire Department. Fee is effective immediately.

    City representatives believe the measure would help offset a projected budget shortfall for the following fiscal year. The shortfall would amount to about $11 million. The department heads stated that almost 85 percent of its calls include medical service. Eleven million dollars out of $22 million are part of LBFD’s budget.

    Within the 30 days from the meeting, the city manager must advise the council in a fee waiver plan.

    About $1.8 million could be generated in its first year, officials said. The money could ultimately help revive programs cut from the budget in past years.

    LA is On Track to 100,000 Unit Housing Goal
    LOS ANGELES — On July 22, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a key milestone in his goal of producing 100,000 new housing units by 2021.

    Based on fiscal-year-end data from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, building permits have been issued for 25,929 new housing units since July 1, 2013, putting production at 26% of Garcetti’s goal two years into his eight-year timeline.
    Building permits are issued by building and safety departmetn after necessary approvals from the Department of City Planning and other agencies are obtained and construction is ready to begin.
    Housing production has been climbing steadily since a low of 3,573 units were permitted in fiscal year 2009-2010, in the midst of the recession. The pre-recession peak was 15,168 units in fiscal year 2005-2006.

    Programs Garcetti has put in place to facilitate housing production include LADBS’s Parallel Design Permitting Process, which saves up to six months by allowing design and plan check to be conducted simultaneously for projects with at least 40 units, and the Inspection Case Management program, which provides coordinated inspection services during construction for projects with a valuation of $10 million or more and can reduce construction time by an additional three to six months.
    Forthcoming initiatives include Build LA, a software system that will integrate and streamline the City’s development review processes across departments. Initial funding for this project has been secured and kickoff is expected in early 2016. The Department of City Planning is also moving forward with re:code LA, a comprehensive rewrite of the 1946 zoning code that will address the city’s contemporary housing needs.
    The mayor’s Sustainable City pLAn identifies additional strategies for the production and preservation of housing including expanding zoning capacity in key transit nodes and corridors; streamlining the building of transit-oriented and affordable housing; and preserving existing affordable housing. The Mayor is continuing to work with city departments, the Los Angeleles City Council, and stakeholders to develop these strategies.

    Hahn, Leiu Help Lead House Effort to Ensure Full LGBT Equality
    Washington, D.C. — Rep. Janice Hahn and Rep. Ted Leiu signed on as original co-sponsors of the Equality Act, legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals in public accommodations, housing, employment, and other core areas of daily life.

    The legislation was introduced July 23. The Equality Act, which is sponsored by Rep. David N. Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation would apply to public accommodations, federal funding, education, employment, housing, credit, and jury service.

    Despite the Supreme Court ruling in June that affirmed marriage equality, discrimination against LGBT individuals remains legal in most states. Today, only 19 states and the District of Columbia offer employment and housing protections for the LGBT community. And three other states have prohibitions on discrimination based solely on sexual orientation.

    Only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination for public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Another four prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Just 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in education. And only one state, Wisconsin, prohibits it based on sexual orientation.

    House Passes Hahn Legislation to Aid Homeless Veterans
    Washington, D.C. — On July 23, the House of Representatives passed a measure that Rep. Janice Hahn introduced. The measure would extend federal aid to homeless veterans fleeing domestic violence.

    Homeless veterans seeking assistance have long relied on an outdated definition of “homeless veteran,” which excluded victims of domestic abuse fleeing their homes. Because of this, many of these victims have been unable to access the aid they need and could be forced to stay with their abuser, leaving themselves in harm’s way. The legislation will correct and expand the definition of homeless veterans to include those fleeing domestic violence and other life threatening situations, finally allowing them to qualify for assistance.

    Hahn first introduced the bill in 2012.  In the past two years, Hahn has been able to help veterans in these circumstances through one year fixes. The legislation, passed as part of a larger bill, HR 2256 the Veterans Information Modernization Act, which provides a permanent solution.

     

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  • Activists: State Fracking Regulations Fall Short

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Fracking is the process of injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals into fuel-bearing rock formations to fracture them in order to extract the fuel.

    Although fracking dates back to the 1940s, its use has skyrocketed since 2004. This has generated widespread alarm, and even bans based on its health and environmental impacts. But activists say that a new set of state regulations here in California falls far short of the mark.

    Fracking is primarily focused on extracting gas from shale formations in the Northeast, along with tight oil (also known as “shale oil”) in a handful of Western states, such as Texas, Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota. In California, fracking has been used more for oil extraction from already-existing wells—though with a now-faded promise of massive new tight oil reserves.

    The term is sometimes used more loosely to refer to a broader range of well treatments used to bring hard-to-get fuel to the surface, including the use of acids and other secret substances when not employed to specifically fracture the underlying rock formations.

    On June 29, the State of New York instituted a ban on fracking following a promise made by Gov. Mario Cuomo this past December. It was reinforced by the mid-May release of a final report encompassing seven years of research. New York’s action stood in stark contrast to the federal government, which continues to either ignore or downplay the dangers of fracking, and California, whose actions have been decidedly mixed.

    On July 1, the Los Angeles Times ran a story headlined, “State issues toughest-in-the-nation fracking rules,” but that characterization is misleading, at best. Environmentalists working on the issue were highly critical of the action’s shortcoming, which came about because of a 2012 law, referred to historically as “SB 4.” Beyond that, neither California nor the federal government appear to be enforcing existing environmental protection laws, as both have just recently been sued by environmentalists for allowing fracking without proper environmental impact studies.

    “These regulations went into effect on the first [of July]; the environmental impact report also came out on the first; and the health study—which looks at the health impacts—doesn’t even come out until the ninth,” Jackie Pomeroy, spokesperson for CA Frack Facts, told Random Lengths News the first week in July. “So the regulations that went into effect did not consider any of the environmental or health impacts that were studied under the law.”

    When the report did come out, however, it left more questions than answers. Among other things, it concluded that “Direct impacts of hydraulic fracturing appear small but have not been investigated.”

    Relatedly, it also stated that, “Operators have unrestricted use of many hazardous and uncharacterized chemicals in hydraulic fracturing.”

    And, it went on to say, “The California oil and gas industry uses a large number of hazardous chemicals during hydraulic fracturing and acid treatments. The use of these chemicals underlies all significant potential direct impacts of well stimulation in California.”

    The day after the report’s release, more than a dozen groups launched an online petition called “Stop Fracking in California,” and several days later the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board came out for a moratorium, saying: “Pushing forward in the dark isn’t smart. It has long been apparent that a moratorium on major new fracking is in order until more is known about its risks and benefits.”

    Typifying the inadequacies of California’s regulatory framework, environmentalists had also objected to the state’s June 24 approval of fracking by nine offshore wells in the Long Beach harbor.

    “The fact that the state just approved nine new offshore fracking jobs in the midst of California still suffering from the worst oil spill in the last 25 years, is just a new low,” said lawyer Kristen Monsell, from the Center for Biological Diversity. “Every offshore frack increases the risk of chemical pollution, and another devastating oil spill…Gov. Brown should recognize that halting offshore fracking is critical to protecting marine animals and coastal communities from this toxic practice.”

    Monsell was similarly disappointed with the new state fracking provisions.

    “Those regulations are weak and will do almost nothing to protect Californians from fracking pollution,” Monsell said. “The rule still allows oil companies to pollute the air, endanger drinking water and produce huge quantities of waste, tainted with chemicals that cause cancer.”

    In contrast, “New York just banned fracking and for good reason,” Monsell pointed out. “In announcing the ban, Commissioner Joe Martens said banning fracking is the ‘only reasonable alternative,’ given fracking’s ‘significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated.’ Fracking also adds more dirty fuel to the fire cooking our climate.”

    Pomeroy also weighed in on this last point: not only is fracking more carbon intensive, burning more carbon to get as much energy as other forms of fossil fuel produce, it also releases unaccounted for quantities of methane, which is “20 times more potent than just regular carbon” in contributing to global warming.

    “As New York pulls ahead in the race to save our planet, New York recognized that fracking is incompatible with public health, a technique so dangerous that it can’t be made safe,” Monsell added. “And, it certainly doesn’t belong in our oceans. It’s time for California to catch up, reach the same conclusion and ban fracking.”

    Regulators in both states were faced with significant uncertainty, in large part because so much about the chemicals involved is hidden behind claims of “trade secrets.” But the response in the two states could not have been more different, Pomeroy pointed out.

    “In New York they said, we don’t have enough research yet, to say whether this is safe or not,’” Pomeroy summarized. “In California, we’ve reversed this regulatory process, and said we’re just going to go ahead, until we find it’s not safe.”

    New York’s approach prioritizes public health. California’s prioritizes corporate profits.

    Probably the most salient underlying difference between the two states is the role of energy interests in state politics. Although oil company ownership was once heavily concentrated in New York, production activities were never a dominant part of its economy, and the recent explosion of natural gas fracking has given rise to scores of local anti-fracking ordinances throughout the state. An online list of New York municipal actions as of Dec. 30, 2014 included 85 bans, 95 moratoria and 87 movements for prohibitions (bans or moratoria). California, in contrast, has long been a major fossil fuel producer. Oil companies wield considerable power. It’s the only state without a significant tax on oil extraction.

    Technological advances and relatively high oil prices have helped fuel the fracking boom nationwide for almost a decade—at least until oil prices plunged this past year. But in California, there was an added incentive, in the form of a projected massive tight oil reserve, according to a 2011 report by INTEK Inc., published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This report projected that the Monterey [shale] Formation, which underlies much of California’s oil producing areas, contains an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of tight oil, 64 percent of the entire tight oil reserves in the lower 48 states. The economic impact of such a reserve would have been enormous. A subsequent economic analysis from USC projected as much as a $24.6 billion per year increase in tax revenue and 2.8 million additional jobs by 2020, based on assumptions that Monterey shale could increase total California oil production as much as seven-fold.

    This is precisely the sort of giant piggy-bank the oil industry so often presents itself as. Without doubt it had an impact on eroding public criticism of still poorly-understood technology. Then, in December 2013, the Post Carbon Institute and Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy issued a report, “Drilling California: A Reality Check On The Monterey Shale,” authored by J. David Hughes, a Canadian geoscientist, which brought everyone down to earth again, based on a detailed analysis of existing production and comparisons of geological properties in other formations, such as South Dakota’s Bakken formation.

    “This was the first empirical analysis that used real geological and oil production data to question the assumptions,” said Seth Shonkoff of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, who edited and reviewed the report.

    “The Drilling California report was the first to cast doubt on the U.S. Department of Energy statements that California’s Monterey Formation constituted two-thirds of U.S. tight oil resources,” Hughes said in an interview with Random Lengths News. “The report debunked the pervasive hype, such as the USC economic report on the Monterey, that tight oil production would produce a windfall of California tax receipts and employment. The report and its subsequent confirmation by the U.S. Department of Energy dashed dreams of a hope for tight oil windfall, and allowed California to get on with more realistic planning for its economic and energy future.”

    That confirmation came about six months later, in May 2014. It lowered the earlier estimate by 96 percent.

    “Our report severely altered the public and policy conversations about the economics and geological basis of such a claim and helped to focus the conversations more on issues associated with existing oil and gas development in California,” Shonkoff added.

    And yet, the environmental protection side of things still seems to have been disabled. Even the dubious new protections often don’t apply, particularly to many wells in the Los Angeles basin, Pomeroy said.

    “They didn’t include things like well maintenance,” she explained. “What’s happening in LA, these companies are categorizing their stuff as well maintenance, just because they can.”

    It’s a meaningless distinction, she pointed out.

    “They’re classifying this stuff as well maintenance, even though it uses dozens of tanker trucks full of acid—more acid, in fact, then is used in actual instances of acidization that have been reported.” As a result, “All of that activity is totally exempt from having to comply with SB 4 regulations. There’s no neighbor notification, there’s no basic water testing required. So in LA that loophole in state regulation is having a really big impact.”

    These wells are sometimes as close as 20 feet from somebody’s front door.

    “There are places in LA, [where] you could throw an empty Starbucks cup and hit an oil well from someone’s window,” Pomeroy said. “It’s that close.”

    And that’s not just an isolated home.

    “It just multiplies the impact that has on people’s health, because the population is so dense,” she said. “I’m not making is up…There’s an oil site in LA, that’s surrounded on four sides by a Catholic convent, a low-income housing project, an elementary school and a school for mentally disabled adults. Talk about vulnerable populations having to put up with this stuff!”

    The state and federal failures to protect the public and the environment have lead the Center for Biological Diversity into legal actions on two fronts, that Monsell directed attention to.

    First, in November 2014, the CBD was a plaintiff in a state court suit filed by Earthjustice against the California state agency responsible for regulating oil and gas drilling, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. The suit concerned 214 Kern County drilling permits granted to Area Energy, of which at least 144 were projected to involve fracking. The complaint began by asserting that division “has consistently failed to live up to its obligations pursuant to California Environmental Quality Act, by permitting oil drilling projects in the South Belridge Oil Field without any kind of environmental review. This permitting is occurring as if CEQA never became law in 1970.”

    CEQA provides for different levels of scrutiny, following a preliminary investigation. Environmental impact reports (EIRs) are the best-known kind of process, called for when significant environmental impacts are foreseen, requiring a comprehensive consideration of possible mitigation measures. Federal law has analogous provisions under the National Environmental Policy Act, with a similar level of scrutiny via environmental impact statements (EISs).

    In February 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity got involved on a second front in federal court, filing a similar suit involving offshore fracking against the U.S. Department of the Interior and two of its bureaus. It alleged the same sort of failure to abide by National Environmental Policy Act, as well as related violations to three other federal laws, including the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

    “The bureaus have a pattern and practice of rubber-stamping permits to frack with no analysis of the environmental impacts, no determination of whether such activities are consistent with the plans governing oil development and production in the Pacific Region or California’s Coastal Management Program, and no public involvement,” the complaint alleged. “The bureaus’ actions—or lack thereof—violate a myriad of laws,” including those just cited.

    Specifically, the complaint went on to note, “the Bureau’s approval of such permits without conducting a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impacts of offshore fracking violates NEPA.” As a result, “These violations of law damage California’s unique and economically significant coastal environment, threaten the health and welfare of coastal communities, and deprive the public of information and participation to which it is legally entitled.”

    If taken seriously, California law ought to put an end to fracking entirely Monsell argued.

    “As I mentioned, we think that this whole process has been a sham, because they’re ignoring scientific information,” she said, “But as you may also know, CEQA requires the state actors to mitigate any significant environmental impacts, and as we’ve seen from the recent oil spill, there’s really no such thing as safe offshore oil and gas drilling, and transportation. The best way to mitigate these damages is to prevent them from occurring in the first place, by banning fracking, not allowing it in our oceans.”

    Pomeroy articulated a related perspective—that of considering the total costs involved in fossil fuel energy production.

    “We can’t survive on oil forever,” she observes, but the price of oil is “artificially cheap,” slowing down the transition to renewables, which represent the future. “If they had pay for the externalities of polluting the air, and causing asthma, and polluting the water, and making it so we can’t use aquifers, and impacting food, and all of those things… If you added up all those, the price of oil would be much higher than it is now, and renewables would be a much more viable alternative, much faster.”

    This leads her to suggest a market-based solution of sorts:

    “If I had to take an approach, it would be accurately force the cost of the stuff on society, and then let the market decide,” Pomeroy said. “I’m pretty sure once all these costs are taken into account it would be a totally different picture.”

     

     

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  • Here Comes Rolling Thunder

    Local Advocacy Group Gives the Homeless a Leg Up, Not a Handout—One Relationship at a Time

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Every weekend and occasion- ally a day or two during the week, Nora Vela and her boyfriend Fernando Escobedo load up an old 1973 Volkswagen van with survival supplies, including hot, homemade meals, socks and hygiene kits. “Rolling Thunder,” as Vela metaphorically calls her van, is a welcome sight for sore eyes to people who are struggling with homelessness and living in makeshift encampments.

    Vela found Rolling Thunder on Craigslist four years ago. Barely operable, the 40-year-old vehicle was missing a windshield, the sliding side door was rusted shut, and when driven, it—in Vela’s words “farted” black smoke every few miles.

    But it had a few things going for it.

    “The interior was mostly immaculate considering it was used as a storage space for junk,” Vela said. “But it was a piece of shit on wheels.”

    She bought the bus for $1,500, but Vela estimates she poured about $7,000 into it for repairs and renovations, and a whole lot of hours of love and sweat. Now, it’s a reliable source of transportation. It has a DVD player with a surround sound system, a table and space for a queen-size bed.

    On weekdays, Vela is an artist, crafter and entrepreneur. She creates original items, from handmade dolls to mounted assemblage works, which she sells at her booth at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. Weekends and any other spare moments she has are devoted to procuring food, clothing and other supplies through donations or otherwise, to be distributed to people in need.

    Vela and her crew, her boyfriend Escobedo and Vela’s 15-year-old son, Augustin, generally visit three to four homeless encampment sites each night, spending enough time at each location to catch up with the people living there with whom they’ve formed friendships.

    Vela said they began with 12 tacos from Del Taco, which they bought after a homeless person asked them for food. Seeing a need, the crew of three began handing out more tacos. Their deliveries quickly went from 12 tacos to a couple of deep trays of food.

    In an age where social media users routinely try to capture video of people living on the streets doing something socially unacceptable, so they can complain about it with virtual friends, Vela chooses to engage people struggling with homelessness, offering them meals and friendship.

    I joined Vela and Escobedo on one of their weekend excursions around the Harbor Area.

    At the time, Mayor Eric Garcetti was being raked over the coals by both sides of the debate about what to do about the growing number of homeless people in San Pedro. This, after the mayor allowed two anti-homeless ordinances to pass by the Los Angeles City Council without signing them.

    The new ordinances include reducing the time authorities have to remove bulk items that pile up on sidewalks from 72 hours to 24 hours, and a ban on sleeping in vehicles on city streets between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. without a permit. The permit would only be granted if the applicant also received services from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and other regional providers through the Coordinated Entry System.

    The Coordinated Entry System and the Homeless Family Solutions, respectively, serve individuals and families who are homeless. Both entities engage, keep track of and coordinate Section 8 housing and other services in Los Angeles County. Each of eight service planning areas have a lead agency that coordinates with various aid agencies to connect homeless people to services and get them into permanent housing. Harbor Interfaith Services is the lead agency for Service Planning Area 8, which encompasses the southernmost regions of Los Angeles County including Inglewood, Carson and the San Pedro Peninsula.

    Vela, Escobedo and Augustin are the core of the local outfit of volunteers that regularly visit the homeless in San Pedro. Though there are others who hand out food in the community, Vela and her crew of volunteers have formed tight-knit bonds with the folks who sleep in encampments at the post office on Beacon Street, Anderson Park, Jack In The Box on Gaffey at 6th streets and the area near the railroad tracks by the 110 Freeway underpass.

    Vela makes it a point to prepare healthy homemade meals. She says she spends about $40 to feed 40 to 50 people. Each of these meals include a main entrée, water and dessert. On at least a couple of occasions, she has hosted dessert and root beer float parties to celebrate the birthdays of her homeless friends.

    “We make sure they are following up with people,” said Vela, referring to service providers in Service Planning Area 8. “The 60- or 70-year-old veterans… no one can come out and do it? But yet [a diabetic] dog can get insulin and have his glucose checked twice a day and have expensive specialized food for diabetic dogs and have nice water, but [a veteran] has to live in squalor?”

    Vela was referring to a veteran who was living the near the railroad tracks with his friendly 2-year-old pitbull. She noted that the man had been dealing with significant health issues, and at the time, to her knowledge, had not been reached by a case manager of any sort.

    One of the first persons I interviewed was a 60-something homeless woman who asked to be called “Julie” for this story. She had been sleeping in the immediate vicinity of China Cook Express restaurant and Jack In The Box on Gaffey Street with her dog.

    “I used to live in my van for about three years,” Julie explained after finishing the dinner Vela brought her.

    She had a string of bad luck and circumstances: her boyfriend went to jail and her van broke down a few times, until it just wasn’t operable.

    “So I’ve been living out here with my dog; It’s a little hard,” she said. “People think you’re out here because you want to be out here. But you don’t really want to be out here. Some people give you problems and some don’t. Some are pretty lenient. There are a lot of people [who] are willing to help you out here.”

    Julie was fairly well-informed about a measure going through the state legislature that would have forbidden local municipalities from enforcing bans on sleeping in cars. The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution opposing the legislation unless there was an amendment that would allow local municipalities to enforce the permitting for vehicles used for sleeping.

    Julie said if she still had her van and the council indeed passed the law, it’s unlikely she’d be able to afford the permit. Last month, she lost her wallet with her identification card and other important documents. That caused a lapse in paperwork needed for her to collect a Supplementary Security Income check. Now she has to renew all of that paperwork.

    “Harbor Interfaith can help me get a new I.D. for $8, but I may need that $8 for me and my dog to eat,” Julie said. “And, we need other things aside from food.”

    She doesn’t have a carrier for her dog, which makes it difficult to get on the bus to go to the social services office to apply for general relief, unless she gets a ride there.

    Julie said she rescued her dog from an abusive situation and would rather stay homeless than give up her companion.

    She acknowledges that there are all sorts of programs that could help get her into permanent housing, but none flexible enough to allow her to keep her dog.

    It’s important to maintain relationships when serving the homeless community, Vela said.

    “We all create bonds with different people and it reintegrates them back into society,” Vela said. “It’s what they need. It’s amazing how they blossom with time.”

    Another person I interviewed was 56-year-old Tony Esquivel, who can often be found at Anderson Park. Vela often has lunch with him and has, on occasion, invited him to her home for dinner and allowed him to bathe in her bathroom.

    He takes pride in the fact he doesn’t look disheveled or dirty, managing to stay relatively clean without carrying a lot a lot of his possessions around with him, so that people don’t notice that he is living in the streets. He credits this with his ability pick up short-term jobs.

    Even without Vela’s help, Esquivel knows where to get food and other resources, but keeping up appearances, not looking like he’s homeless, is difficult.

    “Being homeless doesn’t feel good. A lot of people like to get up and shower and do what they have to do. Here, wherever you wake up at, you have to think about… ‘I know I have to take a shower, but where?’ Cabrillo Beach is too far.”

    Esquivel was originally from Corona in Riverside County. He said a couple of years ago his family got together and decided to do an intervention and sent him to a Christian rehabilitation center.

    “I was heavy into drugs [when] my sister, my mom and dad had a meeting and they…shipped me to Wilmington to a men’s Christian home,” Esquivel said. “I stayed there three years and five months.”

    At some point, a director at the home befriended Esquivel and allowed him to stay in his garage for three months.

    When the three months were up, he was homeless again, until another man allowed him to stay in his garage for $100 per month. He then got romantically involved with a woman and followed her to Palmdale. Shortly after moving, his girlfriend gave him $35 to leave. He came back to the Harbor Area.

    “The people who have jobs and have homes, it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “Right now they look down at us. But we’re normal people like they are. They got the money right now, but watch, one of these days their time is going to end and they will be homeless and they will feel what we feel.”

    Esquivel lamented that Hope Chapel—a church known for feeding the homeless before the building was sold and turned into a charter school—did not become a transitional housing location.

    “If they wanted homeless people off the streets, they could have opened it there,” he said. “But…city councilman and the chamber…said no…yet, they’re still complaining about it. If they are complaining about the problem and they want to get rid of the problem then why don’t they do something about it?”

    Later, I asked Vela to comment on the attitude among some members of the general public that what she does “enables” the homeless to continue being homeless.

    “To folks who say that the homeless could get off the street if they wanted, [I say,] ‘No, they can’t,’” Vela said. “When you have people on the street that are dealing with mental and physical health issues…those are huge obstacles to getting off the streets. I’ve helped people who are diabetic, I’ve helped people who are bipolar or are schizophrenic or are on Paxil dealing with anxiety and depression. You name it. It’s out there.”

    The Source of Nora’s Fire

    Vela says her upbringing is the main reason why she does what she does. She knows firsthand the connection between foster care and homelessness.

    She grew up poor in an abusive household. For Vela, her aunt’s downstairs apartment was her safe haven.

    “We didn’t have money,” she recalled. “My mom couldn’t even keep food in the fridge. I mean, it would be iffy if she even got out of bed because of her depression. Then she would blame me and have me hit for it.

    “I noticed that all the neighborhood kids didn’t have money, and I didn’t have money to buy candy and hardly a toy between them.”

    Vela said she had to learn at an early age how to earn money. She recalled how at the age of 6, she began selling painted rocks and bags of peanuts for 50 cents.

    Vela was placed in 29 foster homes before landing in the care of foster parents that she was able to trust and love as her family.

    “I’ve been raped, molested; my shit has been stolen in foster care,” Vela said. “I’ve coordinated mass escapes from foster care…I was one of those kids.

    “Throughout my life I found that I was going to do what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t going to allow anybody to get in my way.”

    Vela recalled graduating at the top of her class at UEI College to become a medical assistant, with two jobs and 1-year-old Augustin in tow. She was also homeless.

    Vela paid babysitters to watch her toddler by let them sleep over, while she spent the majority of her time going to class and working two jobs.

    Life, on balance, got better although she had two more children with an abusive husband whom she ultimately left. She remarried a Marine, who served three tours in Iraq. When he was deployed she spent her time crafting items for sale, cooking large healthy meals for the kids at the military base and also for the homeless.

    Advocating for foster children and the homeless has been Vela’s lifelong passion. And that passion is spreading.

    Wilmington residents following Vela’s Facebook page, “Helping Homeless in Need—San Pedro”—have reached out to her to create a group in Wilmington. Membership on the page has been growing exponentially since it started July 20.

    It looks like Wilmington will soon have its own Rolling Thunder.

     

    For information on how to donate food, supplies or your time visit Helping the Homeless in San Pedro on Facebook.

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  • The Donald, the Confederate Flag and the GOP

    Free Speech, Even When Offensive, has Value

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher
    Far be it from me to be the one to try and stop the fearless Donald, as in Trump, from speaking his mind as he runs for the Republican nomination for president. But his run has done more to expose some of the underlying racist attitudes still held by many in this nation who love to repeat, “with liberty and justice for all.”

    In his blustery campaign speech, he accused Mexico of “dumping its worst citizens” at our borders who are “rapists and drug dealers” and later that these immigrants are bringing “tremendous infectious diseases” into the United States.

    This is a lot of hubris for a man who probably hires more Mexicans to clean his hotels, mow the greens on his golf courses and wash his cars than live in Wilmington. He is the leading Republican candidate in the early opinion polls which shows that there is considerable support for his inflammatory race-baiting and scapegoating candidacy. And, as shocking as this hate speech is to the rest of America, if not the world, he exemplifies the disconnect that exists in our discourse about racism in this country. He actually believes what he says and doesn’t consider himself a racist!

    So why pay attention to such an egotistical blowhard like Trump? It’s because he is the posterboy for elitist white capitalists who have historically used race to avoid discussing the inequalities of class in this country and to stir up historic antagonisms fueled by biases projected in the media.

    Trump is so stupid that he thinks America is still going to buy this old line and that his “celebrity” status is going to protect him or propel him to attaining the power that he just can’t purchase or steal otherwise.

    The Donald is not alone. On a recent Saturday in front of the capitol building in Columbia, SC, supporters of the Ku Klux Klan came out to protest the removal of the Confederate battle flag.

    Yes, the very same flag South Carolina’s state legislature voted to remove and signed into law by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley following the massacre of 9 church members by an avowed white supremacist. During debates on the floor of the legislature, a small but vocal minority defended the flag as a “historic” symbol of the South.

    So what’s the deal about these state flags anyway?

    Prior to the Civil War, the majority of states—with the exception of California and Texas—didn’t even have a state flag. If you remember, California and Texas were independent republics before they entered the union. Then came the war of separation, the costliest war in terms of lives lost that this nation has ever fought.

    You may recall that the South lost that war, the nation’s union was preserved and the institution of slavery was broken by the Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863, and codified in this nation’s constitution with the 14th Amendment. The Confederate battle flags did not fly over Southern statehouses for the next 82 years.

    Only when President Harry Truman gave the executive order to integrate the U.S. military after World War II did the Southern Dixiecrats rebel. Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC) ran a campaign for the Democratic nomination in protest and lost. Only then did the former rebel states raise their “historic flags.”

    You see, these flags were less about the Civil War and the cause that they lost in 1865, than about the white political hegemony of Jim Crow laws and segregation that the “new South” had maintained even until the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.

    The odd footnote to all of this is that the final bulwark of the Old South, Thurmond, had an illegitimate black daughter who he had supported her financially through the years. This only adds another layer of complexity in discussing race or racism in America. Flags are symbols that hold different meanings for many people, but the hypocrisy of Thurmond should make us all wonder aloud about the color line in these here United States of America.

    As shocking as it may be for some of you to see the Klan rise up in South Carolina today, don’t be so smug as to think that there aren’t folks in these parts who still hold such sympathies too. It was not so long ago that the Klan marched from its local headquarters above Gaffey down to throw out the local IWW (Wobbly) Hall on 12th and Centre streets, in part because they had an integrated union in 1924.

    It was not that long ago that racial real estate covenants in California restricted people of color, including Jews, from owning property in cities like Torrance, Palos Verdes and parts of San Pedro or Long Beach and elsewhere—a practice that didn’t end until 1968.

    And it was not that long ago that a local workman found fascist Italian propaganda hidden in the wall of an old San Pedro home and that Harbor College was used as an internment camp for Italians of “questionable loyalty” during World War II. This, as well as the internment of Japanese Americans during that world war.

    What is astoundingly stupid in a country that has become the melting pot of the world’s peoples—ethnically, culturally and racially—is that we still have people of great wealth and power, like Trump, and those who follow him, that attempt to divide us by race or religion and don’t have a clue as to why people from south of the border or from China are drawn to immigrate here. Are their reasons so different from when his people or mine, of German and Scottish heritage, came here?

    Like I said before, far be it from me to stop The Donald from expressing his racist views as he leads the GOP down this disastrous path. Just don’t expect this newspaper to endorse anything that he propounds. Ever!

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