• Do Not Feed the Pigeons (or the Homeless)

    It’s time to consider the consequences of criminalizing the homeless

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    While the great homeless debate continues to inspire both citizen vigilantes and Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office to enforce the more than 24 Los Angeles ordinances against homeless people, the city agreed on Aug. 12 to pay $1.1 million to settle a suit with lawyers who successfully challenged a municipal ordinance prohibiting people without shelter from sleeping in their vehicles.

    Then, just this past week, the Los Angeles City Council passed two more narrowly tailored ordinances outlawing people from sleeping in campers on public streets, including this statute for San Pedro:

    RESOLVE, pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Section 80.69.4 and California Vehicle Code Section 22507, to hereby prohibit the parking of vehicles that are in excess of 22 feet in length or over seven feet in height, during the hours of 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM, along West 25th Street between the City boundary on the west and South Patton Avenue to the east.

    The city’s $1.1 million payout comes as it enforces an ever-growing list of new laws against homelessness and homeless encampments as they’ve began to creep into residential neighborhoods over the past several years—a consequence of the lack of planning foresight when the encampments at more secluded areas like Harbor Regional Park or the railroad underpass near Lomita Boulevard and the 110 Freeway were cleared out. These and many other actions in Council District 15 appear to have been ordered by Joe Buscaino via the Los Angeles Sanitation Department with the help of Los Angeles Police Department, without any regard to where these homeless people would then move. And move they did, right down the street to residential areas of Harbor City, San Pedro and Wilmington.

    Lawyers like Carol Sobel have warned that the new laws, which make it easier to dismantle camps and dispose of homeless people’s property, are unconstitutional. This seems to be the opinion of the Department of Justice, which recently won a case against the City of Boise, Idaho.

    Sobel says the settlement is one of a half-dozen agreements the city has reached with lawyers who brought civil rights challenges to recent police crackdowns on homeless people. In other words, Los Angeles is willing to pay millions in legal fees while still trying to criminalize poverty and then admitting, “being homeless is not a crime.” It just appears that everything a poor person does in public has become a crime.

    Researchers at the UC Berkeley School of Law gathered information from 58 California cities and found there are more than 500 anti-homeless laws among them.

    According to the study, all 58 cities have daytime laws that criminalize four kinds of basic activities that can be applied to the homeless:

    • Standing, sitting, and resting in public places;
    • Sleeping, camping, and lodging in public places, including in vehicles;
    • Begging and panhandling;
    • Food sharing.

    Locally, the vigilante group operating under the Saving San Pedro hashtag on Facebook, led by none other than George Palaziol — one of the newly appointed “stakeholders” in Buscaino’s Homeless Taskforce—has mounted his own campaign to enforce panhandling laws. He has enraged anti-homeless sentiments as he attacks the food sharing programs of religious and nonprofit organizations that don’t provide other services.

    His companion, Joanne Rallo, the newly minted columnist for the nativist San Pedro Today, has gone on her own mission—confiscating homeless shopping carts and dumping the contents in trash containers. These actions and more, well-documented in their copious Facebook postings, are on the edge of legality. The tactics are confrontational, but without real solutions.

    They resemble our own city councilman, who is still trying to be a “good cop” while not realizing that these actions jeopardize Los Angeles’ U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department funding for building supportive housing.

    If the Justice Department were to enforce sanctions against the city, as it did with civil rights abuse cases against the Los Angeles Police Department, the city could lose hundreds of millions in federal subsidies, plus millions more in legal fees. And, there would still be no timely means of clearing the homeless out of parks or business districts. In short, we are wasting precious tax dollars on policing and enforcement while jeopardizing millions in federal grants by continuing to do what historically doesn’t work.

    From those who have studied this problem the most and from those who service the homeless community daily, the only solution to the current crisis is “shelter.” The housing-first model is the only one that has been proven to work, yet the city and our home-grown vigilantes want to pretend that we can clean up this mess by chasing homeless people out of the visible public domain. Clearly, these people have lost their minds.

    The evidence of the past two years proves that this approach is wrong and that the immediate solutions need to be explored to locate vacant public properties and to use these throughout the city as temporary transition centers.

    To spread the responsibility more equitably, there should be at least one temporary transition center in every one of the 15 council districts. They should be placed outside of residential and business areas while still located close enough to public transportation. If managed by reputable service organizations, these centers will give safe and sanitary shelter while providing the social services necessary to sort out the variety of causes and issues afflicting these people. It is both humane and cost effective.

    Temporary transitional centers provide an active solution for what can be done now, rather than later, and could be executed as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “state of emergency” for far less money than it would cost to build one 79-unit transitional apartment complex.

    Continued reliance on enforcement only kicks the can down the pathway of failed past policies and solves nothing. It’s time for some different solutions and less cyber vigilantism.

    Disclaimer—­Nothing in this editorial or the pages of this newspaper should be taken as the official position of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, of which I was elected president in 2014. Nor does it reflect the opinions of any of its board members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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  • China Shipping Mitigation

    Port’s Failure Reignites Calls for Fundamental Change

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    And here I sit so patiently waiting to find out what price you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice.

    —Bob Dylan Memphis Blues Again

    The Port of Los Angeles has failed to implement 11 out of 52 mitigation measures (including six life-saving air-quality measures) contained in the 2008 final environmental impact report for China Shipping. The port publicly admitted these failures, which formed the basis for a new supplemental EIR process initiated on Sept. 18 to review and revise the measures “based on feasibility, effectiveness and other factors.” The process began with a “notice of preparation” and a 30-day comment period that ended Oct. 19.

    The port originally tried to build the China Shipping terminal without a project-specific EIR. But a lawsuit initiated by local homeowners, represented by the Natural Resources Defense Council, resulted in an historic settlement in March 2003. It included a $50 million mitigation fund, and required a full EIR process, which was finally completed five years later. The settlement also expanded the responsibilities of the Port Community Advisory Committee.

    While the broader environmental and public health community was shocked by the news—and responded by calling for strong remedial actions in their public comments—local community activists viewed it as virtually inevitable.

    The Source of the Compliance Failure

    Random Lengths News Publisher James Allen sought more information on the unfinished mitigations through a Public Records Act request on Aug. 5. The port did not reply to the request until Sept. 22, more than a month later than the law allows.

    Port spokesman Phillip Sanfield told the Los Angeles Times, however that, “there is absolutely no relationship” between Allen’s request and the release of the notice of preparation.

    POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka told Random Lengths that he discovered the problem with the China Shipping EIR as early as this past April. Seroka said he informed Mayor Eric Garcetti in June and notified the Natural Resource District Council and the South District Air Quality Management District in the following months.

    However, the port did not inform neighborhood councils or community litigants until the Notice of Preparation for the Supplemental EIR was released in September.

    The port claims its monitoring either meets or exceeds the air quality mitigations outlined in the Amended Stipulated Judgement stemming from the China shipping lawsuit. It says that without Mitigation Monitoring Reports since 2011 it is impossible to prove what levels might have been attained had the port met all 52 of the mitigations measures—not just 41 of them. However, critics charged that the port’s assertions are questionable, that there is no safe minimum pollution level other than zero.

    “It is more than clear that this policy of ‘ignoring the law’ in conducting port business is a longstanding and ingrained pattern of behavior,” Chuck Hart wrote in a notice of preparation comment letter on behalf of San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners United—one of two homeowner coalitions represented by the NRDC in the original lawsuit. Hart is the coalition’s president.

    “It now appears we are again in a time when the only way the public can communicate with the Port is via the courts,” wrote Dr. John Miller, president of the other coalition (San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition) in supplementary comments responding to the notice of preparation.

    “This is a direct result of the dissolution of the PCAC. If that group were still in existence we would have been discussing the present problem collaboratively years ago and working collaboratively to resolve it.”

    Miller served in several key posts in the Port Community Advisory Committee.

    Gunter recalled the reaction of the NRDC lawyers on the original China Shipping lawsuit when she asked how the judgement was going to be enforced.

    “I asked [NRDC lawyers] Gail [Ruderman] Feuer and Julie Masters at the time. I said, ‘Who’s going to be following up on these guys?’” Gunter recalled. “‘They’re saying that they’re going to be doing all this stuff, but how do we know that they’re going to comply?’ And, of course, they were shocked, because it’s legal duty under the law. But we already had a huge problem with trust, as far as the port goes, and of course, they never had that experience. I think they were kind of surprised that we would even have any concern about that follow-through. And, I remember them very clearly saying at the time, ‘No, the NRDC is engaged in this and don’t worry, we’re going to be keeping an eye on all of this.’”

    But not close enough, obviously, particularly because of what happened several years later to make compliance-checking virtually impossible.

    PCAC: The Missing Factor

    A key result of the China Shipping settlement was the assignment of additional oversight responsibilities to the Port Community Advisory Committee, which the port first dismantled, then completely dissolved, starting around the time it would have brought the failed implementation measures to light, had it been allowed to continue.

    “[Former POLA Executive Director] Geraldine Knatz started really doing everything she could to get rid of the Port Community Advisory Committee about the time we started looking very carefully at the mitigation monitoring,” Miller told Random Lengths. “When the PCAC EIR people started asking pointed questions about the mitigations, Geraldine Knatz moved to withdraw any support from the air quality committee,” former PCAC co-Chairwoman June Smith added.

    Reconstituting the Port Community Advisory Committee—or creating some functional equivalent—is a recurring theme in many environmental and public health community forums, including the NRDC, which drafted a letter for a coalition of groups and individuals (including Smith). Similar letters also came from the Committee for a Safe Environment, as well as both homeowner coalitions involved in the China Shipping lawsuit.

    Individual letters were submitted as well. More narrowly, a comment letter from public health and preventative medicine professors at USC and UCLA, drafted by USC’s Andrea Hricko called for “an independent third-party oversight committee to monitor the China Shipping agreements and compliance dates.”

    While POLA appears to see this as fixing a glitch, Smith summarized the much broader understanding shared by many critics.

    “We’re back to the whole question as to whether they’re going to continue to have a port that is run on the boss model, or whether we are going to move into the 21st century and take the bold step that we have begun to take with a more cooperative form of government and management,” Smith said.

    Overall, the letters call for a much broader and deeper reconsideration than the port has envisioned. This includes consideration of new mitigation measures involving new technologies not available in 2008, changes in monitoring as well as governance to ensure that the problem never recurs again, and a more robust environmental review process. The federal government, was involved with the original review.

    Implied assertions of “infeasibility” were widely questioned, along the with overall vagueness of the “project,” resulting from the fudge-factor term “other factors.”

    There were also calls for the notice of preparation comment period to be extended to 90 days, as the port has commonly done in the past.

    The Failures

    Two of the unimplemented measures dealt with ships, including: Electrical power for 100 percent of docked ships and 100 percent compliance with the 40-nautical mile Vessel Speed Reduction Program.

    Three measures dealt with yard equipment, including one that aims to ensure that 70 percent of port trucks are running on liquefied natural gas through 2017 and 100 percent of port trucks starting in 2018.

    There was also a measure addressing noise mitigation along with four traffic intersection improvement projects.

    Comment letters, however, also called attention to another apparently unmet mitigation measure, AQ-22, “Periodic Review of New Technology and Regulations,” which calls for new technology reviews whenever there’s a lease amendment or facility modification, and additionally, “not less frequently than once every 7 years following the effective date of the permit.”

    Because of AQ-22, the port is required to pursue the comment letters’ calls for consideration of new mitigation measures involving new technology.

    In prepared remarks for the Oct. 7 scoping meeting, Executive Director Gene Seroka appeared willing to acknowledge past mistakes and assumed responsibility for fixing them.

    “This is a situation that was inherited by this current port management team,” Seroka said. “We are taking ownership. It must be addressed. The Board of Harbor Commissioners, along with the mayor and I are committed to fixing the issue. We are solution driven. And we are committed to ensuring that something like this never happens again.”

    But it’s not clear that he understands the depth of the problems or how profound the breach of trust is between the port and the community.

    “At the time the Board of Harbor Commissioners decided to do away with PCAC, they claimed all of the mitigation, EIR stuff, had been done, and that PCAC’s job was finished,” Smith said. “But when James Hahn set it up [in 2001], it wasn’t for the China Shipping thing. That came afterwards.”

    As she went on to explain, Hahn set out his vision in a letter stating three main points.

    First, PCAC “was to assess the impacts of port developments on the Harbor Area communities, and to work closely with the soon-to-be-formed local neighborhood councils,” meaning that he clearly envisioned a distinct role for PCAC as an umbrella organization.

    The second point was “to review all past and present and future environmental documents, in an open public process,” June explained, adding, “Well, the port just wiped out the future. They said, well we completed all the past things, so we don’t need you anymore. Which was totally wrong.”

    The PCAC’s third role was to “take a leadership role in creating communities…to make sure business concerns as well as community concerns were met.”

    Hence, it was very clear that the PCAC was not supposed to be a temporary, narrowly-focused entity. It was supposed to facilitate a permanent transformation in how the port conducted its business, moving it away from its old, opaque, corporate, command-and-control way of doing things into a more transparent, democratic, collaborative style of governance.

    At the time the PCAC was shut down, Smith presciently warned the Harbor Commissioners.

    “The ghost of PCAC will linger on,” Smith warned. “It will be invoked with every future lawsuit from continued flawed EIRs and continuing neglect of the nexus between the adjacent community and port activities. It’s literally criminal that the only future successful communication to address mitigation from the port’s studied indifference to the community will be in the courts of law.

    “It’s extremely disappointing to those of us to work hard and long conscientiously believing the cooperative model was working and could continue to work, and then to have politics come in, for whatever reason, and derail something that could have been and was a model for the rest of the nation. It’s extremely disheartening that people can’t see how they could really be a leader not just communally here, but for the whole nation and the world. I would hope that perhaps that idea, that they really could be this kind of leader in the world, in governance would drive them to do something productive here.”

    Comment Letter Seeks Solutions

    The NRDC comment letter addresses these concerns, along with much else.

    “We strongly urge the port to work with the community to create a permanent and independent oversight committee, funded to conduct audits of the implementation of all committed mitigation measures, portwide,” the letter reads. The closing paragraph adds: “Finally, this letter is not to be construed as a waiver of rights under the Amended Stipulated Judgment or under state or federal law, including the rights to arbitrate and/or litigate compliance with existing China Shipping mitigation measures, all of which rights are expressly reserved.”

    “There are a number of legal remedies available, but the big question is which is best to attain the desired goal” said NRDC senior attorney David Pettit, who drafted the letter, to Random Lengths News.

    This ties into another key point of the letter, that an EIR must analyze compliance “with relevant local, state and federal laws, which in this case includes the final China Shipping decision (“Court approval will be necessary,” if terms are changed), the ports’ Clean Air Action Plan, CAAP and the federal and state Clean Air Acts, and more than half a dozen other state and regional policies, regulations or laws.

    “The CAAP has been based in part on using lease renewals to effectuate environmental improvements,” the NRDC warns. “If China Shipping is allowed to defeat this process by refusing to sign a new lease, then all port tenants will adopt China Shipping’s tactic and the CAAP itself will be in danger. Simply put, this new EIR must be considered in light of a complex web of legal requirements, and goals, not in sheltered isolation.

    Several other crucial broad contextual points were made in the letter.

    First, “With respect to the mitigation measures not included in the notice of preparation, measure AQ-22 has been triggered and should be complied with,” meaning that the list of mitigation measures must be expanded, or the failure to implement AQ-22 will only be made more severe.

    In line with what’s required by AQ-22, the letter said:

    In the supplemental EIR process, the port needs to look at what mitigation measures are feasible now, not what may have been feasible in 2008….Given the advances in zero and low-emission technology since 2008, there is absolutely no excuse for the port to go backwards in its mitigation measures by, for example, allowing diesel drayage trucks at China Shipping in place of liquefied natural gas or better.

    The letter also warned against unfounded claims of infeasibility:

    The port cannot hide behind conclusory claims of infeasibility; infeasibility determinations must be supported by evidence.

    For example, the notice of preparation lists among the mitigation measures that were not implemented both Alternative Maritime Power and compliance with the 40-nuatical mile Vessel Speed Reduction Program. Yet, Seroka stated publicly that the port complied with these two measures at a rate of 98 percent and 96 percent, respectively. It is hard to imagine that these measures can be deemed “infeasible” if the port has admitted to have already substantially complied with them.

    Other unimplemented measures “are identical to or very similar to mitigation measures committed to in the TraPac EIR,” meaning they “are clearly feasible for China Shipping, and if TraPac is not in compliance, then the port needs to publicly disclose that failure and fix that problem immediately as well.” The uncertainty pointed to here is yet another reminder of why restoring transparency, accountability and trust is so crucial.

    The NRDC’s letter also proposed a list of additional mitigation measures to consider. These include:

    • Phasing out diesel trucks in favor of trucks meeting or exceeding the emission levels of the Cummins Westport LNG engine recently certified by the California Air Resources Board.
    • Consideration of zero-emission cargo movement solutions, particularly from the China Shipping terminal to the near-dock rail yards.
    • Consideration of deployment of “sock on a stack” ship emissions capture technology.
    • Maximization of the on-dock rail potential at China Shipping in view of the current arrangements among shippers.
    • Use of all-electric yard tractors as used in the Long Beach Middle Harbor project.
    • Terminating the China Shipping lease if China Shipping does not promptly agree to whatever mitigation measures are certified in the current supplemental EIR process.

    Other comment letters provide an even broader range of criticisms and proposed mitigation measures.

    “Typically, a company that fails to meet its environmental health obligations will be faced with sanctions, penalties or fines,” Hricko wrote, for example. “Please include information in the [draft] EIR about what these will entail.”

    Similarly, the Committee for a Safe Environment asked for the draft EIR to include “a matrix of Penalties and Sanctions” for “failing to comply with legal requirements,” and also called for “disciplinary action against the City Attorney,” as well as suspension of two port staffers for their “failure to timely disclose to the public” the port’s failure to comply with the China Shipping EIR and related legal documents: Christopher Cannon, the port’s director of Environmental Management and Janna Sidley, the port’s general counsel.

    As profound as the port’s historical pattern of failure regarding China Shipping may be, it cannot be understood in isolation.

    Similar Concerns

    In recent years, Gunter has been deeply involved on another front, trying to shut down or relocate the Rancho LPG facility, which similarly implicates the port’s lack of community concern.

    “Rancho was introduced by POLA. It was totally facilitated through them, and the EIR that was conducted, everything was through the port,” Gunter said.

    The recent explosion in Tanjin China highlights the local danger and policy failure, she said. Rancho’s tanks hold “a TNT equivalent that is over 1000 times greater than” the explosion in Tanjin, while Chinese law requires a 0.6 mile buffer zone, roughly 3,000 feet, while the Rancho facility was built within 1,000 feet of the nearest residents.

    But Rancho was not an isolated problem, Gunter stressed, just as China Shipping’s multifaceted community impacts—and the port’s repeated failures to cope with them—don’t exist in isolation. Gunter drew attention the port’s 1981 master plan, which called for relocating hazardous terminals, but has never been followed in that regard, and is now being altered to remove that responsibility.

    “In 1981, when they installed that, it was at the insistence of the LA Planning Department,” Gunter said. “They didn’t want to do it.”

    An inter-departmental memo Gunter supplied makes it clear that the California Coastal Commission was a the driving force behind the relocation requirement.

    “So for 35, whatever years it’s been since they instituted that document, they’ve effectively ignored it,” Gunter said. “There’s no responsibility to the public.”

    In fact, Pier 400 was originally conceived to relocate such facilities away from the public.

    “Not far enough now in retrospect, we realized that it’s not even close to far enough away,” Gunter said, “But they took that money, they took those efforts and dedicated them to not a relocation site, but a new container terminal. Once again superseding any consideration for the local public, and to the responsibility to protect them.”

    This brings us back to choice described by June Smith above, between the old boss model or moving into the 21st century “with a more cooperative form of government and management.”

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  • Hoffa Signals Ongoing Escalation of Port Truckers Strike

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On Oct. 26, after years of organizing, port truck drivers misclassified as “independent owner-operators” began their eighth “unfair labor practice” strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    The strike drew in-person support from Teamsters president James P. Hoffa and two of the union’s vice presidents, while a pair of new developments signaled the further growth of the ongoing struggle.

    First, truckers at one company became the first misclassified workers ever to simultaneously demand their rights as employees and their right to join a union.

    Second, the Teamsters announced a wider escalation of organizing throughout the supply chain. Their new partnership with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center seeks to bring warehouse workers and truckers together and support Cal Cartage warehouse workers who went on strike Oct 28.

    Hoffa was joined by Fred Potter, head of the Teamsters Port Division, and Ron Herrera, vice president of the Western Region and executive director of the National Hispanic Caucus.

    “I bring you the pledge of support from 1.4 million brothers and sisters who support you here today,” Hoffa said at a Oct. 27 morning press conference at International Transportation Service Inc. marine terminal in Long Beach. “The whole country supports you. We will be here until this fight ends. We are just beginning.”

    Hoffa credited Potter’s leadership for organizing hundreds of port drivers.

    “But you see that sign there: ‘Justice for Port Drivers’?” Hoffa asked. “We’re just getting started. And we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

    Potter said the strike that had just begun is an example of that work.

    “This morning a majority of misclassified so-called ‘independent contractors’ at Intermodal Bridge Transport, ironically known as the IBT [the same initials as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters], sent a demand to their employer, to be represented as employees and to be represented by the Teamsters Union,” he said. “On receiving no word back from the company, they took their picket signs and went on strike.They demanded a dignified and safe work environment. Something that everybody should have.”

    Another example is the new partnership with warehouse workers, said Hoffa, elaborating in a press release.

    “Yesterday, I visited with supply chain workers who haul imports and exports to and from the docks at our nation’s largest port, and with the warehouse workers who unpack and reload items onto trucks destined for major retailers like Amazon and Walmart,” Hoffa said. “Every one of these egregiously exploited workers shared stories of their inhumane working conditions and their determination to fight back, not just for themselves but for all of their supply chain co-workers.”

    At the press conference Potter cited the historic nature of the port truckers’ two-pronged objectives—securing their rights as employees and the right to join a union—and asserted that they represent growing labor activism.

    “They join drivers from XPO Logistics, who went on strike this week, and drivers from Pacific 9 Transport, who’ve been on strike eight times now and who have been on strike for the past 14 days,” said Potter.

    “These drivers are on the front lines of the fight in America to end wage theft. They are leading the way for Americans, including janitors, ex-con workers, entertainment workers, homecare workers, construction workers, and many many more. It’s an embarrassment in this country that companies will put the whole burden of their company on the backs of workers who have no say in what they’re paid and what their working conditions are. So we have to change that.”

    As for warehouse workers, Potter connected their struggles in a press statement.

    “Wage theft isn’t just about misclassification,” he said. “It’s about workers who are supposed be paid a living wage—and they’re not.

    “And that is happening right here on port property, at the Cal Cartage warehouse, where the company is violating the city’s living wage ordinance. We support these workers and pledge to stand with them throughout their fight to help them secure dignity, respect and fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.”

    Anthony Vallecillo, a Cal Cartage warehouse worker, gave an inside view of what’s going on.

    “We came together about a year ago to improve our conditions at the warehouse,” Vallecillo said. “I got involved because I was tired of struggling to provide for my son, my family, and my wife.

    “Most of us are working through a staffing agency, and I have been there for about three years, and I’m still a temp. Last December we filed a lawsuit. We believe that we should be paid living the city living wage, because the warehouse sits on city property.”

    No one’s been fighting longer than the Pac-9 truckers—two-and-a-half years now.

    “But before I could only dream that one day we would unite and we would fight,” Amador Rojas said at the press conference.

    Now he’s confident.

    “When we unite, and we fight we win,” Rojas said. “We will not stop until Pac-9, as a company, submits to the law, to the demand that they return the wages that they be illegally deducted from our paychecks.

    Humberto Canales has worked for XPO Logistics for seven years. “They’ve always treated us without dignity, stealing our wages, misclassifying us. This is our third strike against them.

    “We want the future for our families better, dignified, and to have the respect for the newer generation that will come in this world. I have a small son, six-month and he was born as they say in the midst of the strike, and a lot of my brothers and sisters were Teamsters, and I don’t want him to grow up seeing that we’re being pushed around by these exploitative companies. And this time we’re going to go all the way until we win.”

    The faith community was represented at the press conference by Rev. William Smart, who heads the Southern California chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    “I’m here because Dr. King gave his life in fighting for sanitation workers in Memphis Tenn., and was gunned down there in the midst of fighting for workers.” Smart explained. “Dr. King understood something that, all of us, [including] President Hoffa, and that is America does not treat its workers right. America does not honor the work we put in. Right now, the economy is improving but workers are still at a low. Hotels are coming back but the workers are still low. [Changes] are taking place in the trucking industry, but they refuse to recognize us…. So we’re here following a long tradition in the labor movement…we have to strike to get respect. We have to protest for our families to be fed. And we have to picket in order for us to get benefits. So, in the tradition of the Black church, let me tell you this: ‘Keep on fighting! Keep on fighting!’”

    At the end of his remarks, Hoffa emphasized that they were putting four companies on strike that day.

    “We’re putting four companies on strike today, and tomorrow,” he said. “We’re just beginning this battle. We aren’t going away. We’re going to be here again. We’ll be here tomorrow. We’ll be here next week. We’ll be here the week after that. The Teamsters are going to win. We’re going to win.”

     

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  • Shipping Container Kills Cyclist: RL NEWS Briefs of the Week Oct. 29, 2015

    Shipping Container Kills Cyclist

    CARSON — On Oct. 27, 51-year-old Long Beach resident Robert Castorena was killed in Carson when a big rig’s container came loose and slid off its trailer, crushing the cyclists, officials said.

    The incident took place at about 5 p.m. near Santa Fe Avenue and Warnock Way. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at the Carson Station officials are investigating the incident.

    Investigators noted that it seemed that the truck, Western Pride Inc. in Cedar City, Utah, did not squarely strike the vertical surface of the 14 feet and 5 inches tall bridge. Containers are about 12 to 14 feet high on a chassis.

    Details about whether the truck exceeded the posted height of the railroad bridge, or what other factors may have contributed to the container toppling off the truck onto the passing bicyclist are unclear. It has not been determined whether the driver was an independent contractor, who determines his own route, or a company employee.

    Man Stabbed to Death

    LONG BEACH — Long Beach Police Department officers found 22-year-old Jesus Pimentel of Long Beach stabbed at 1000 block of Maine Avenue.
    The incident took place at about 7:45 p.m. Oct. 25. Pimental was found stabbed in the torso, lying on the sidewalk. Long Beach Fire Department paramedics transported Pimental to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
    The motive for the incident does not appear to be gang-related and the investigation remains ongoing. No suspect information is available at this time.
    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact to call (562) 570-7355 or visitwww.lacrimestoppers.org.
     

    Long Beach Human Trafficker Arrested

    LONG BEACH — On Oct. 21, Long Beach Police Department officers arrested 38-year-old Long Beach resident Jeff Floyd Beadle for trafficking a 17-year-old girl, officials said.

    Charges were filed against Beadle on Oct. 23 for human trafficking of a minor and pimping and pandering a minor.

    According to a release issued by the LBPD today, officials discovered the victim in the online advertisement. They later learned she was being forced to provide sex for money, and found her living in a motor home with the suspect, who was on parole for previously committing a “lewd and lascivious act.”

    The victim was rescued and services will be provided to her through the Los Angeles County First Responder Protocol for Sexually Exploited Children.

    Beadle is currently being held in Los Angeles County Men’s Jail without bail. Beadle was charged this afternoon.

    Anyone with information regarding this investigation is urged to call (562) 570-7219.
     

    Port Awarded EPA Grant for Zero-Emission Tractors

    LONG BEACH — The Port of Long Beach has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help Long Beach Container Terminal replace diesel-fueled tractors with electric, zero-emission vehicles.

    The Diesel Emission Reduction Act grant will help Long Beach Container Terminal to buy eight cargo-handling electric-powered yard tractors for $5.4 million, replacing a matching number of diesel-powered yard tractors and reducing the associated air pollution.

    The electric vehicles are critical components of the port’s $1.3 billion Middle Harbor project, which when opened early next year will be the world’s greenest shipping terminal, and one of the most technologically advanced  — a virtually all-electric and zero emissions facility.

    The project is expected to reduce emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 40 tons and diesel particulate matter by two tons during the lifecycle of the equipment. Vehicles are scheduled for delivery by the spring or summer of 2017.

    The Diesel Emission Reduction Act was created in 2005 and provides grants to state, local and tribal governments for programs to reduce emissions from diesel engines. It is estimated every $1 allocated by the legislation’s grants results in about $13 worth of health and environmental benefits. Since 2005, the Port has received about $10.5 million in grants from the EPA to reduce emissions in the Harbor Area.
     

    Garcetti Announces Goal to Double Affordable Housing Production

    LOS ANGELES — On Oct. 23, Mayor Garcetti announced that Los Angeles is well on its way to meet his goal of building 100,000 new housing units by 2021, reaching almost 30,000 new permitted units as of September 2015.

    Speaking at the Mayoral Housing, Jobs, and Transportation Summit hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council, Garcetti detailed a bold package of strategies to double the production of affordable housing, including his support of a “linkage fee” on market rate development that would create local, flexible funding for affordable housing. To incentivize production, he also signed Executive Directive No. 13, directing city departments to expedite case processing for housing development projects with more than 20 percent of units dedicated as affordable.
    At this past year’s Los Angeles Business Council summit, the Mayor announced his goal of permitting 100,000 new units of housing by 2021 to help meet the city’s growing demand. As of September, the city is exceeding its timeline to meet that goal with 29,750 units permitted. This strong progress is set to continue with about 37,000 units in the Department of City Planning’s entitlement pipeline.
    Garcetti also set a target of building or preserving at least 15,000 units of affordable housing from 2013 through 2021. To reach this, he announced his support for launching a housing linkage fee study that would create a new, dedicated local source of funding for affordable housing activities which, according to the most recent study done by the city in 2011, could raise between $37 and $112 million annually. Garcetti also called for the city to continue contributing at least $10 million annually from its general fund for affordable housing activities.
    The linkage fee study would be handled by a new housing policy unit within the City’s Planning Department that would also lead the development of new zoning initiatives to encourage the development of mixed-income housing around transit. This is one of several development reforms Garcetti for in his executive directive. In the past year, Garcetti has also implemented several efforts to reduce barriers to development by launching parallel design permitting, which gets shovels in the ground while plans are finalized; introducing Saturday building inspection service, so homeowners don’t have to take time off to wait for permit clearances; creating a concierge service at the city’s development service centers, to guide applicants through the permitting process; and expanding counter plan check services, where engineers are available for walk-in, face-to-face, building plan check review.

    IBEW Local 11 Endorses Jeannine Pearce for Long Beach City Council 

    LONG BEACH — On Oct. 26, the Jeannine Pearce for Long Beach City Council Campaign announced the endorsement of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11.

    Jeannine Pearce is a 2nd District resident and is running for the Long Beach City Council to fill Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal’s seat.

    Pearce’s priorities include supporting a thriving and growing local economy, building a clean and safe environment for residents to flourish and a commitment to collaboration with all stakeholders.

    O’Donnell Endorses Malauulu

    LONG BEACH – On Oct. 28, Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees candidate

    Vivian Malauulu announced that Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell formally

    endorsed her campaign for the board’s Area Two seat in next April’s municipal elections.

    “I believe Vivian Malauulu will be an excellent trustee and will focus her energy on student success,” O’Donnell said. “As a journalism professor at Long Beach City College and chair of the City of Long Beach’s Commission on Youth and Children, Vivian knows education, the needs of our students, and our community well.  I am proud to add my name to her growing list of endorsements.”

    In just a few weeks she has raised more than $40,000 in campaign contributions. State Sens. Isadore Hall and Tony Mendoza, former state Sen. Betty Karnette, the Teamsters union, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union also have endorsed Malauulu.

    Trustee Irma Archuleta Announces Campaign

    LONG BEACH – On Oct. 27, Irma Archuleta announced her campaign to seek a full term representing Trustee Area #2 on the Long Beach Community College District Board.

    Archuleta, whose career in post-secondary education has spanned more than 30 years, was appointed to the board this past to fill the unexpired term of former trustee and current Long Beach Councilman Roberto Uranga.

    Archuleta’s campaign also released the following list of endorsements:

    State Senator Isadore Hall

    State Senator Ricardo Lara

    Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis

    Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia

    Long Beach City Councilmember Lena Gonzalez

    Long Beach City Councilmember Steve Neal (Ret.)

    Long Beach City Councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga (Ret.)

    Long Beach City Councilmember Roberto Uranga

    Long Beach Community College District Trustee Jeff Kellogg

    Long Beach Community College District Trustee Patricia Lofland (Ret.)

    Long Beach Community College District Trustee Doug Otto

    Long Beach Unified School District Boardmember Megan Kerr

    Cerritos College Board Trustee Ruth Banda-Ralph (Ret.)

    Rancho Santiago Community College Trustee Lawrence Labrado

    Long Beach Port Commissioner Carmen Perez (Ret.)

    Long Beach Planning Commissioner Erick Verduszco

    Long Beach City College Academic Senate President Phyllis Arias (Ret.)

    *Titles uses for identification purposes only

    “Irma Archuleta is a thoughtful, effective, and experienced advocate for expanding access to higher education in Long Beach,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia in announcing his support. “She is an educator and college administrator who has spent over three decades working to improve the lives of students. From one educator to another, I’m proud to support her.”

    Throughout her career, she has served in various administrative roles within both the California Community College and California State University systems. She has worked at Compton College, El Camino College, Cal State Long Beach, and Evergreen Valley College. In addition to serving as an administrator, Irma has taught courses in both Political Science and Ethnic Studies.

    Archuleta attended Compton College before studying at both Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Dominguez Hills. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human studies with an emphasis in bilingual education, and she has a master’s degree in public administration.

    Hahn Reiterates Call for Scanning at Ports

    Washington, D.C. — On Oct. 27, Rep. Janice Hahn called for 100 percent scanning of cargo at U.S. ports in a House of Representatives hearing on the prevention of and response to a dirty bomb attack at a U.S. port.

    “When people ask me what keeps me up at night? A dirty bomb at the Port of Los Angeles,” Hahn said in a released statement. “Since 9/11, our nation has strengthened aviation security but our ports have not received the same scrutiny and remain incredible vulnerable to what could be a devastating attack.”

    Dirty bombs could be smuggled into ports in cargo containers on ships coming into the port, Hahn has long advocated for requiring scanning of 100 percent of cargo containers at American ports to catch dirty bombs and other dangerous materials. One hundred percent scanning was mandated by Congress in 2006, but today we scan just 3 percent of all cargo.

    Although some have insisted that scanning all cargo would slow down port operations, Dr. Gregory Canavan, senior fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratories was a witness at the hearing. He said that technologies could be implemented that would not impede the flow of commerce. Hahn agrees and has introduced the SCAN Act, which would initiate a pilot program for 100 percent scanning and test its practicality at two of our nation’s ports.

    Hahn remains concerned that our major ports are vulnerable because they do not have a recovery plan in case of an attack. Without a recovery plan, an attacked port could remain out of commission for an extensive period of time, multiplying the impact on the economy and making a port an even more appealing target for terrorism.

     

    Congresswoman Hahn’s Amendments to Improve Highway Bill Pass Committee

    Washington, D.C. — On Oct. 22, members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed two of Rep. Janice Hahn’s amendments to improve the long-overdue highway bill.

    “By finally moving on from short-term extensions we can give our local governments the ability to plan ahead and make real improvements to our country’s roads, bridges, and highways,” said Hahn in a statement. “Over the life of this bill, this legislation will bring $22 billion to California.”

    Hahn’s first amendment will allow federal freight funding to go to roads connecting ports to major highways. The National Freight Network created by the Department of Transportation designates the major roads and highways that goods movement depends on. Unfortunately, it fails to include “last mile” roads, which connect major highways to the ports and airports and prevents specialized freight funding from going to infrastructure projects on these roads.  Her amendment will fix this problem and allow those roads to receive some of the $750 million of annual dedicated freight funding.

    “Our local ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40 percent of the freight that enters our country and I know firsthand the importance of these ‘last mile’ roads,” Hahn said. “We know the impact landside congestion has on port congestion and this fix will allow us to better address it.”

    Hahn’s second amendment will allow more young people to receive job training in the transportation industry.  Hahn has recently met with LA Metro’s new Executive Director Phil Washington about the ongoing problem of youth unemployment and the opportunities young people could have in Metro and other transit programs around the country.  Her amendment will make grants available for transportation job training programs for unemployed youth.

    This legislation will also include a directive from Hahn drawing attention to the impact associated with cutting bus service to low-income communities.

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  • Watts Writer Workshop Members Reunite: RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: Oct. 22, 2015

    Oct. 23
    Watts Writer Workshop Members Reunite
    To expose a new generation to the idea of finding a voice through creativity, the organizers have invited middle and high school students from the Watts Learning Center, Dominguez High School Centennial High School and Carson High School.
    Artists, poets and musicians from the Watts Writers’ Workshop will come together for a 50th anniversary gathering.
    Time: 4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 23
    Cost: $6 parking
    Details: (310) 243-3583.
    Venue: Loker Student Union ballroom, California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    Oct. 24
    Green TI Fourth Community Workshop
    The public is invited to attend the fourth community workshop event marking the completion of the Green Terminal Freeway Transition Plan.
    Residents will have the opportunity view preliminary designs to transform the TI Freeway into an eco-friendly corridor with an associated greenbelt that better serves the community. This free event will feature interactive booths, demonstrations, and refreshments.
    Time: 10 a.m. Oct. 24
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Street adjacent to Hudson Park, 2335 Webster Ave., Long Beach

    Oct. 26
    Coastal Risk, Beautification Meeting Notice
    The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s Coastal Risk and Beautification Meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Marine Exchange Room.
    (Note: Use the Gaffey St entrance to Olguin High School, follow the road up the hill, and continue till the very to. The Marine Exchange can be seen atop the hill, on the left, at the very end of the driveway.)
     Link to agenda
    Time: 6 p.m. Oct. 26
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Marine Exchange Conference Room,3601 S. Gaffey St #803, San Pedro

    Oct. 27
    Andrews Hosts Public Safety Town Hall
    Councilman Dee Andrews will host a 6th District Town Hall meeting, at 6 p.m. Oct. 27, at the Mark Twain Library in Long Beach.
    The topic of the Town Hall meeting will focus on public safety. The guest speakers will include Commander Robert Smith, Long Beach Police Department, West Division and Homeless Services. The commander will be reporting crime updates and giving tips on crime prevention.
    Time: 6 p.m. Oct. 27
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 570-6816
    Venue: Mark Twain Library, 1401 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    Oct. 28
    Paseo Del Mar Landslide Permanent Restoration Project
    Residents are invited to a community briefing on the White Point Landslide Permanent Restoration Project, at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Cabrillo Marine Community Room in San Pedro.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: Here
    Venue: Cabrillo Marina Community Room, 2865 Via Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro

    Oct. 28
    Beat 12
    Beat 12 Community Watch Group will hosts its first meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Orizaba Park Community Center in Long Beach.
    If you are interested in joining the Beat 12 Community Watch Group sign up.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: HERE
    Venue: Orizaba Park Community Center, 1435 Orizaba Ave.

    Oct. 30
    Inaugural South Bay Economic Forecast
    California State University, Dominguez Hills will host the region’s first South Bay Economic Forecast with a breakfast and panel discussion from 7 to 11 a.m. on Oct. 30, in the Loker Student Union ballroom on the CSUDH campus.
    For decades, Los Angeles County’s South Bay region has been home to big industries such as international trade, aerospace, energy, and automotive, and has had one of the highest concentration of Fortune 500s in the state of California. As these and others industries evolve and grow in the region, a focused analysis of key economic and employment drivers, and the impacts and opportunities that exist was warranted.
    Hosted by business news anchor for KNX 1070 Frank Mottek, the morning’s events will feature a report on real estate and housing trends by Dr. Jose Martinez, assistant professor of accounting, finance and economics at CSUDH; a speaker panel with Praveen Penmetsa, CEO and founder of Motivo Engineering, Michael Keenan, director of planning and strategy at the Port of Los Angeles, and Andre Oosthuizen, vice president of marketing with Porsche Cars North America, Inc., looking at their industries’ impact in the region; and the forecast report by Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.
    Time: 7 to 11 a.m. Oct. 30
    Cost: $95
    Details: (310) 243-3337; www.csudh.edu/economic-forecast
    Venue: Loker Student Union Ballroom, CSUDH, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    Nov. 11
    Cats-only Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics
    The Peter Zippi Fund for Animals is once again sponsoring a cat-only mobile spay/neuter clinics for Harbor Area residents. The date is Nov. 11 at Los Angeles Harbor College in Wilmington.
    The cost is $10 co-pay for residents of 90731 (only) and 90744 includes vet exam, surgery, pain injection, and rabies & FVRCP vaccines. Veterinary services are provided by Lucy Pet Foundation who also handle all appointments.
    Time: Nov. 11
    Cost: $10
    Details: www.lucypetfoundation.org
    Venue: Los Angeles Harbor College, 1111 Figueroa Place, Wilmington

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  • DMV Worker, 5 Others Charged in Identity Theft Scheme

    DMV Worker, 5 Others Charged in Identity Theft Scheme

    SANTA ANA — A clerk at the California Department of Motor Vehicles office in El Monte and five others have been indicted on federal identity theft charges for allegedly using legitimate birth certificates and Social Security numbers obtained from Puerto Rico to create new identities that were sold to people willing to pay thousands of dollars for fraudulent identity documents.

    DMV clerk Tracey Lynette Jones, 33, of Long Beach, surrendered to federal authorities on Oct. 19. She was arraigned that afternoon. Jones entered a not guilty plea, was released on a $25,000 bond and was ordered to stand trial on Nov.24.

    Jones and the other five defendants were named in a four-count indictment returned on Sept. 30 by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges all six defendants with conspiring to produce identification documents. Several of the defendants, including Jones, are charged with various identity theft offenses.

    Four of the remaining defendants were arrested in Septemeber by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and investigators with the DMV’s Investigations division. They are:

    • Wilfredo Montero, 36, of Los Angeles;
    • Adolfo Maria Cruz, 47, of Corona;
    • Roberto Ruiz, 35, of Tustin; and
    • Jose Cruz, 49, of Corona.

    Out of the four defendants arrested in September, three have been freed on bond and Cruz remains in custody.

    The sixth defendant charged in the case, Jorge “Diablo” Perez, aka Pedro Josue Figueroa-Marquez, 33, originally from Mexico, remains at large and is being sought by authorities.

    According to the indictment, the conspiracy was allegedly spearheaded by Montero and catered to individuals willing to pay as much as $5,000 for new identities obtained with genuine birth certificates and Social Security numbers obtained from Puerto Rico residents. Investigators are working to identify the source of the documents obtained from Puerto Rico.

    The case, which is the result of a three-year undercover investigation, revealed many of the ring’s customers were previously deported felons. Federal prosecutors have filed charges against three people believed to be customers of the identity theft ring, and authorities are seeking to take those individuals into custody.

    “Based on our evidence, this ring’s clients had good reason to want to obscure their pasts,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “And, for a price, the defendants were allegedly willing to oblige.”

    An affidavit in support of criminal complaints that were previously filed in the case describes a July 2012 meeting between Montero and an HSI undercover special agent posing as prospective client. After the undercover investigator indicated he wanted to purchase identity documents, Montero led him to his garage where he pulled out a Puerto Rican birth certificate and matching Social Security card which were concealed inside a boxing glove.

    After obtaining identity documents for buyers, the defendants, for an additional fee, allegedly helped their clients use the documents to apply for California driver’s licenses or California identification cards under the assumed identities. The indictment alleges defendant Jones altered records in the DMV’s electronic databases to make it appear the applicants had passed required exams to obtain a driver’s license when, in fact, they had not.

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

    If convicted in the identity theft conspiracy, the six defendants named in the indictment would face a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

    Eight Charged in Credit Card Scheme

    LOS ANGELES — On Oct. 21, authorities arrested four defendants charged with federal fraud and identity theft charges for allegedly participating in a scheme that installed credit card “skimmers” inside gas pumps at gas stations across Southern California and Southern Nevada.

    A criminal complaint charges eight defendants – three of whom are fugitives at this time – with participating in a conspiracy that secretly installed electronic devices known as skimmers inside of gas pumps that were equipped with point of sale terminals. When gas station customers swiped their credit or debit cards through the device that reads the magnetic strips on the back of their cards, the information was stored on the skimmers that were hidden inside the gas pumps. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, members of the conspiracy were able to later retrieve the account information without going back inside the gas pumps by using Bluetooth-equipped devices, such as cellular phones or tablets.

    According to an affidavit by a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service, participants in the conspiracy manufactured skimmers with parts purchased at electronics stores. At the gas stations, they allegedly used large vans to conceal their activities as they forced open panels on the gas pumps and installed the skimming devices that were not visible to customers who used their credit cards at the pumps.

    The affidavit outlines how the organization installed dozens of skimmers at gas stations operated by different companies in areas that include San Gabriel, Burbank, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Eagle Rock, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Torrance, Long Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Tustin, Fountain Valley, the Coachella Valley and Las Vegas, Nevada.

    In conjunction with the arrests, investigators executed a series of search warrants. At one location, they found materials indicating that members of the conspiracy were actively involved in the manufacture of counterfeit credit cards.

    The eight defendants named in the criminal complaint are:

    • Nazar Daniyelyan, 47, of Sun Valley, who was arrested;
    • Ruben Karapetyan, 39, of Porter Ranch, who was arrested;
    • Armen Khalulyan, 30, of Los Angeles, who is a fugitive;
    • Arutyan Oganyan, 41, of North Hollywood, who is a fugitive;
    • Grigor Pambukyan, 26, of Van Nuys, who was arrested;
    • Arsen Terzyan, 32, of Van Nuys, who was arrested;
    • Anthony Tngryan, 26, of Van Nuys, who is a fugitive; and
    • Oganes Tagaryan, 23, of North Hollywood, who is expected to surrender to authorities in the near future.

    The four taken into custody Oct. 21 are expected to make their initial court appearances this afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

    A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

    The eight defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess 15 or more unauthorized access devices. If they are convicted of this charge, each would face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

    If any member of the public has information concerning the three fugitives in this case, they are urged to contact the Secret Service at (213) 533-4400.

    The investigation into the credit card skimming ring is ongoing. At this point, authorities have no estimate for the loss that may be associated with the stolen credit card information.

    LB Council Authorizes Winter Shelters

    The Long Beach City Council voted 9-0 to authorize a winter shelter for homeless persons between Nov. 2, 2015 and March 15, 2016.

    The shelter will open a month earlier than usual this year, in part due to considerations about the winter being forecast to be wetter than usual.The winter shelter will be operated by the Long Beach Rescue Mission, a provider for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which pays for the annual program. The shelter in Long Beach will be at 6845 Atlantic Ave.

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  • Crash, accident, collision

    One Man Killed, Five Injured: RL NEWS Briefs of the Week Oct. 21, 2015

    St Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach is Pretty in Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. Starting at 7:30 p.m. every evening until 6 a.m., the hospital will be lit up in pink. The hospital will feature pink filters on the footlights giving the soft glow of pink to the hospital campus. In addition to a hologram of the iconic pink ribbon projected onto the hospital exterior. Also in the foreground, you can see pink ribbon poles. This will occur through the end of the month. Photo courtesy of German Martinez.

    St Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach is Pretty in Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. Starting at 7:30 p.m. every evening until 6 a.m., the hospital will be lit up in pink. The hospital will feature pink filters on the footlights giving the soft glow of pink to the hospital campus. In addition to a hologram of the iconic pink ribbon projected onto the hospital exterior. Also in the foreground, you can see pink ribbon poles. This will occur through the end of the month. Photo courtesy of German Martinez.

    One Man Killed, Five Injured in Collision

    SAN PEDRO — One man was killed and five others were injured Oct. 17 in San Pedro.

    Alcohol and/or drugs may have been a factor in the crash, officials said.

    The multi-vehicle crash was reported at about 2:30 a.m. in the 1500 block of South Gaffey Street, ] Los Angeles Fire Department officials said.

    The driver of a Toyota Scion — a man in his 40s — was going southbound on Gaffey Street when he began making an eastbound turn onto 16th Street. The car was struck on the passenger side by a northbound BMW, which sideswiped two other vehicles. The driver of the Toyota was killed instantly, LAPD officials said.
     

    Buscaino’s Homelessness Task Force Meets

    SAN PEDRO — Joe Buscaino’s committee on the “homelessness problem” met Oct. 15 for the first time.

    The meeting, which was closed to a Random Lengths News reporter, included law enforcement members and county homelessness officials. The group plans to meet monthly for the first six months. The upcoming meeting is Nov. 19.

    The coordination of food banks and feeding programs, panhandling, providing housing are among the topics the group must tackle.

    POLA Advances Clean-Energy Solar Power Projects

    SAN PEDRO — On Oct. 15, the Port of Los Angeles entered a long-term agreement with Hecate Energy Harborside LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hecate Energy LLC, to build, operate, and maintain photovoltaic solar power systems that will generate electricity at multiple site locations within the Port. The photovoltaic solar power systems will feed clean energy to the utility grid operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

    The agreement supports the Port’s larger goals under the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan to expand the use of clean energy and related infrastructure while continuing to improve air quality throughout Southern California. Key initiatives to date include a 1 megawatt photovoltaic solar power systems atop the port’s World Cruise Center.

    Hecate was selected as the operator following a competitive bidding process.  Specializing in developing and operating alternative energy generation plants, Hecate will build and operate photovoltaic solar power systems at up to 12 different site locations on Port property with a total capacity of approximately 10 megawatts. The locations are a mix of rooftop, parking lot and underutilized ground mount site locations.

    The 10 megawatts of solar energy is enough electricity to power about 2500 homes. It also represents about one-sixth of the port’s power demand.

    Under the agreement with the port, Hecate will operate its photovoltaic solar power systems for 20 years, starting when each site becomes operational. Subject to final approval by the Los Angeles City Council, the photovoltaic solar power systems are expected to begin generating electricity in mid-2016.

    The port will receive about 7 percent of Hecate’s gross annual revenue from the sale of its electricity to the LADWP. The port’s income is projected to total more than $2.8 million over the life of the operating agreement. No costs to the port are anticipated outside of expedited roofing maintenance.

    The solar power generation projects will serve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the LADWP supply clean energy to its customers.

    Overall, the increased use of electricity to run ship-to-shore cranes, ships at berth, and terminal equipment has contributed to a dramatic reduction in harmful pollution from port-related operations. Newly release data from the port’s 2014 Inventory of Air Emissions show emissions of diesel particulate matter down 85 percent, sulfur oxides down 97 percent, and nitrogen oxides down 52 percent since 2005.

    The port committed to installing 10 megawatts of photovoltaic solar power on its property under an umbrella agreement with the California Office of the Attorney General.  The operating agreement with Hecate will help the Port both meet and exceed its commitment.

    LA Harbor Commissioners Approve Grant Recipient Agreements

    SAN PEDROOn Oct. 15, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved agreements between the Port of Los Angeles and its two largest Community Investment Grant Program recipients, International Trade Education Programs Inc. of Carson and the Los Angeles Maritime Institute of San Pedro.

    The two recipients were among 32 organizations selected this past June to receive funding under the Port’s grant program. ITEP and LAMI received grants of $340,000 and $255,000 respectively.

    International Trade Education Programs Inc. began as a pilot program in 1999 at Banning High School in Wilmington. Since then, International Trade Education Programs Inc. has developed four model academies on the campus, including the International Trade Academy; Global Safety and Security Academy; Global Environmental Sciences Academy; and the Maritime Agriculture, Tourism, Cuisine and Hospitality Academy.  Eight additional academies are also running in San Pedro, Gardena, Barstow, Harbor City and Carson. In addition, each year International Trade Education Programs Inc. places about 100 of its students in maritime industry-related internships, including placements at the Port of Los Angeles.

    Los Angeles Maritime Institute is a local nonprofit organization and creator of the TopSail experiential education program for at-risk youth. In operation since 1992, the program consists of three to five one-day sails in and around San Pedro Bay, and an optional multi-day voyage to Catalina Island. The program promotes teamwork, teaches responsibility and encourages leadership and self-esteem through character-building experiences aboard the twin brigantines, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, the Official Tall Ships of Los Angeles. Youth also receive educational information about the Port and maritime industry, as well as the local coastal ecosystem. For some participants, TopSail voyages provide a first-ever introduction to the port and its operations.

    The port awarded a total of $1 million in grants for fiscal year 2015 and 2016. In approving the year International Trade Education Programs Inc. and Los Angeles Maritime Institute agreements, Harbor Commissioners also authorized similar grant amounts for ITEP and Los Angeles Maritime Institute for the fiscal 2016-17 grant cycle to assure program continuity.

    Port of Los Angeles Moves 730,306 TEUs in September

    SAN PEDRO — The Port of Los Angeles handled a total of 730,306 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in September 2015. While volumes were robust, they did not match the past September, which was among the strongest in port history. September 2015 volumes showed a decrease of 5.8 percent compared to the same period in 2014.  Current and historical data is available here.

    “While we fell short of last September’s exceptional volume of 775,000 TEUs, I’m encouraged by the productivity our terminals and supply chain partners have demonstrated over the past six months,” said Port of Los Angeles Director Gene Seroka. “We are experiencing a consistent pattern of larger ships and more efficient cargo conveyance at volumes that are market leading.”

    Imports decreased 9.4 percent to 383,963 TEUs in September 2015. Exports declined 17.5 percent to 124,286 TEUs in September 2015. Factoring in empties, which increased 9.4 percent, overall September 2015 volumes of 730,306  decreased 5.8 percent.

    For the first nine months of 2015, overall volumes (6,119,623 TEUs) are down 2.9 percent compared to the same period in 2014.

    Current and past data container counts for the Port of Los Angeles may be found at: http://www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp

    Record September Delivers Best Quarter in Port’s History

    LONG BEACH — With the best September in its 104-year history, the Port of Long Beach moved enough cargo volume to also achieve its busiest quarter, signaling a return to pre-recession trade levels in September.
    Many of the popular Halloween and holiday items on U.S. store shelves today were brought through the harbor in recent months. Retailers are stocking costumes, decorations and other goods in order to meet consumer demand.
    Measured by individual containers of freight, cargo volume at the Port of Long Beach climbed 4.1 percent in September compared to the same period in 2014, to 655,624 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of boxed cargo. The year’s third quarter — July through September — topped 2 million TEUs in a first for the port, and improved 14.8 percent over the third quarter of 2014.

    Through the first nine months of 2015 the port has seen a 5.2 percent increase in cargo volume compared to the same period last year. At this rate, the port would finish the year with more than 7 million TEUs for only the third time in its history..
    This year’s third quarter saw 10.6 percent more imports and 10.5 percent more exports, compared to the third quarter of 2014.

    For September alone, imports dipped 1.9 percent compared to the same month last year, to 332,909 TEUs. Exports grew 6.1 percent to 125,639 TEUs. Empty containers rose 14.6 percent to 197,076 TEUs. With imports exceeding exports, empty containers are sent overseas to be refilled with goods.
    For all the latest monthly cargo numbers, click here.

    For more details on the cargo numbers, please visit www.polb.com/stats.
     

    Murder in Long Beach

    LONG BEACH — On Oct. 19, 25-year-old William Tyshoen Davis was shot and killed at about 12:30 a.m. in 2000 block of Magnolia Avenue in Long Beach.
    When officers arrived, they discovered Davis had been struck in the torso. Long Beach Fire Department paramedics responded and transported the victim, in critical condition, to a local hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.

    A motive for the shooting is unknown and is being investigated as possibly gang-related.

    The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.

    Workers Declare Boycott of Long Beach Westin Hotel

    LONG BEACH On Oct. 13, employees of the Long Beach Westin Hotel declared an official consumer boycott of the hotel in support of their demand for a fair organizing process to decide on unionization.

    The boycott call comes after workers filed a class action lawsuit in August alleging that the Long Beach Westin violated state wage and hour law concerning legally-mandated breaks and overtime pay. The hotel is operated by Noble Interstate Management Group and majority-owned by Utah Retirement Systems.

    Since February 2015, Long Beach Westin workers have been urging their management to accept a fair process by which workers can decide whether to unionize without the intimidation and pressure-tactics that frequently accompany unionization efforts.  Hotel management has refused.  On August 17, three Long Beach Westin employees filed a class action on behalf of housekeepers, restaurant workers and banquet servers, alleging that the hotel has violated wage and hour law related to rest breaks and meal periods, overtime, off-the-clock work and reimbursement to workers who purchased their own work supplies. The lawsuit is pending in Los Angeles Superior Court.

    This boycott is the latest step taken by workers at the Long Beach Westin hotel who have been organizing to address working conditions they consider intolerable since February.

    Details: www.unitehere11.org
     

    State Agency OKs New Pollution-Scrubbing Technology

    LONG BEACH — On Oct. 20, the California Air Resources Board approved a new technology that uses specialized barges, which connect to the exhaust ports of container ships, to scrub pollution.

    In 2013, the Port of Long Beach provided about $2 million in seed money to help test the Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System. Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc., a Carson-based company, can now market the Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System to vessel operators as an alternative to container ships plugging into the electrical grid to reduce emissions while at berth.

    Container and cruise ships must significantly reduce at-berth emissions to meet state regulations, but the existing “shore power” option requires retrofits to each vessel. According to Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc., the Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System barge system can meet the state standards by removing 90 to 99 percent of harmful emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter without requiring vessel retrofits.

    With an emissions inventory released this month showing already record-low pollution levels at the Port of Long Beach, officials hailed the regulatory approval as another option to advance the port’s environmental goals to near-zero and zero emission levels.

    “The California Air Resources Board’s approval of ACTI’s project as an alternative to the at-berth emissions reductions rule provides the flexibility our shipping lines need while protecting our environment and creating new jobs for our communities,” Commissioner Rich Dines said.

    The California Air Resources Board’s approval of Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System on container ships will allow Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc. to begin the process of testing the system on other vessel types.

     

    Boeing Pays $18 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

    LONG BEACH – On Oct. 14, the Boeing Co. paid the United States $18 million to settle allegations that the company submitted false claims for labor charges on maintenance contracts with the Air Force for the C-17 Globemaster aircraft.

    “Defense contractors are required to obey the rules when billing for work performed on government contracts,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates that the Justice Department will ensure that government contractors meet their obligations and charge the government appropriately.”

    The government alleged that Boeing improperly charged labor costs under contracts with the Air Force for the maintenance and repair of C-17 Globemaster aircraft at Boeing’s Long Beach Depot Center in Long Beach.  The C-17 Globemaster aircraft, which is both manufactured and maintained by Boeing, is one of the military’s major systems for transporting troops and cargo throughout the world.  The government alleged that the company knowingly charged the United States for time its mechanics spent on extended breaks and lunch hours, and not on maintenance and repair work properly chargeable to the contracts.

    The allegations resolved by the settlement were originally brought by former Boeing employee James Thomas Webb under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.  The act permits private individuals to sue on behalf of the government those who falsely claim federal funds, and to share in the recovery.  Webb’s share of the settlement has not yet been determined.

    The case was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency.

    The False Claims Act lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Webb v. The Boeing Company, CV13-000694 (C.D. Cal.).  The claims resolved the civil settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

    Operators Of Medical Equipment Supply Company Convicted

    LONG BEACH – On Oct. 15, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted the former owner and the former operator of a durable medical equipment supply company of health care fraud charges in connection with a $1.5 million Medicare fraud scheme.

    Amalya Cherniavsky, 41, and her husband, Vladislav Tcherniavsky, 46, of Long Beach, were both convicted late Oct. 15, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and five counts of health care fraud.  Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. of the Central District of California, who presided over the trial.

    The evidence at trial demonstrated that Cherniavsky owned JC Medical Supply, a purported durable medical equipment supply company, and that she co-operated the company with her husband, Tcherniavsky.

    According to the trial evidence, the defendants paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals.  The evidence further showed that the defendants paid kickbacks to physicians for fraudulent prescriptions – primarily for expensive, medically unnecessary power wheelchairs – which the defendants then used to support fraudulent bills to Medicare.

    According to the evidence presented at trial, between 2006 and 2013, the defendants submitted $1,520,727 in fraudulent claims to Medicare and received $783,756 in reimbursement for those claims.

    To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
     

    Death of 15 Year-Old Male Juvenile in Carson is Being Investigated

    CARSON — Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide detectives continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy.

    The shooting took place Oct. 17, in the 23900 block of Avalon Boulevard in Carson.

    Detectives have learned that the victim was walking on Sepulveda Boulevard from Avalon Boulevard, Carson, with a female companion when they were approached by a silver or white 4-door vehicle. Two male black suspects wearing hoodies exited the vehicle and shot the victim multiple times. They then re-entered their vehicle and fled eastbound on Sepulveda Boulevard out of view.

    The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The female companion was unharmed during the incident.

    At this time, it is unknown if this incident is gang-related, however, it appears that the victim was specifically targeted by the suspects.

    The investigation is still on-going.

    There is no further information available at this time.

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

    Homeless Vet’s Vermont Villas Officially Open

    HARBOR GATEWAY — On Oct. 15, the Vermont Villas officially opened for homeless veterans.

    The Vermont Villas, at 16304 S. Vermont Ave. at Harbor Gateway, will serve chronically homeless veterans.

    Resident services will include health and social service resources. The four-story Vermont Villas features 79 studio and one-bedroom apartments, common gathering spaces for residents, and offices for staff. Common spaces include a teaching kitchen, a large courtyard with barbecues and resident vegetable gardens, a lounge, and meeting rooms. Other amenities include on-site property management, offices for five on-site staff, who will provide supportive services for the residents, secured access, and laundry rooms.

    The apartments, which cost $22 million to build, are now being occupied by about 68 residents. It was a collaboration of Affirmed Housing and PATH Ventures that took more than two years to build. The apartments follow the model of permanently housing people who are homeless and then providing services such counseling and training.

    Former LA Sheriff’s Deputy Indicted by Federal Grand Jury

    LOS ANGELES – In a case stemming from the beating of a handcuffed man at Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, a sixth member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was indicted Oct. 16 on federal charges for allegedly participating in the cover-up of the violent incident.

    Byron Dredd, 33, who is no longer with the LASD, was named in a three-count indictment that charges him with conspiracy to violate the victim’s civil rights and two counts of making false reports.

    Five other former deputies have been convicted in relation to the 2011 attack and are pending sentencing (see: http://go.usa.gov/3Jypx).

    Dredd, along with the other defendants previously convicted, was assigned to the Visiting Center at Men’s Central Jail. On Feb. 26, 2011, the victim and his girlfriend went to the jail to visit the victim’s incarcerated brother. Both visitors had cell phones in their possession, which is prohibited under jail rules. When the phones were discovered, the victim was handcuffed and brought into an employee break room, where he was beaten and sprayed with a burning agent similar to pepper spray. The victim was later transferred to the hospital by paramedics. As a result of false statements made by the previously convicted deputies and allegedly made by Dredd, the victim was charged with several crimes, including resisting an officer and battery.

    The indictment against Dredd alleges that he wrote an incident report in which he falsely claimed that the victim attacked one of the deputies and then attempted to escape.

    “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable individuals who abuse their positions as law enforcement officers by committing crimes or by trying to cover them up,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “While this former deputy sheriff allegedly participated in a scheme to violate the civil rights of a man who had to be hospitalized after he was beaten by other deputies, his actions should not reflect on the good work performed by the overwhelming majority of Los Angeles deputy sheriffs.”

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

    If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Dredd would face a statutory maximum penalty of 35 years in federal prison – up to 10 years for the civil rights conspiracy, up to 20 years for the falsification of records, and up to five years for making false statements to the FBI.

    Dredd will be summonsed to appear for an arraigned in U.S. District Court in the coming weeks.

    This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI, and is one in a series of cases resulting from an investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses at county jail facilities in downtown Los Angeles. As a result of the investigation, 15 current or former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department have now been convicted of federal charges.

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  • MOLAA’s Salsa Intensifies the Heat

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Back in September, Grammy award-winning Herman Olivera sang to the driving rhythms of Conjunto Costazul during an evening of New York salsa at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

    Olivera and Conjunto Costazul put on an energetic show in front of a full house of non-stop salsa dancers of all ages

    Conjunto Costazul’s four trombones and powerful drumming made for a big sound with special guest Artie Webb, on flute, who added more flavor to the music.

    “There is an incredible energy out there with the full moon tonight,” Olivera said. “The public is having a great time and the band is propelled to new heights”

    Olivera calls the music a “stimulant.”

    “You leave your house with a thousand problems and you come to a show, you want to forget your problems and so do I,” Olivera said. “I go to a musical high and I’m up there with the moon. I’m very honored to be here again closing the series.

    Olvera has been trekking to Southern California since 1981 and says that he’s seen a lot of growth in the salsa scene ever since.

    “There’s always a lot of dancing and activity out here, it’s public news that LA is into salsa,” Olivera said. “The whole state of California is happening from San Francisco to San Diego. It’s like what New York used to be in the 70s.”

    Over the years, Olivera has worked with the likes of Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Bobby Rodriguez and La Compañia, and The Machito Orchestra. He currently performs with Eddie Palmieri’s orchestra and is featured on five of Palmieri’s CDs, including Masterpiece/Obra Maestra with the late, great Tito Puente, which earned two Grammys. The musicians who inspire him include Puente, Rodriguez, Palmieri, Machito, Hector Lavoe and Palmieri.

    Olivera makes the music extraordinary by keeping to the original New York salsa style. It’s organic music that originated on the streets and in the clubs of New York from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Singers of that era drew their lyrics from their often-raw feelings about what was happening in the streets, their lives and times and emotions.

    As music tends to do, salsa has changed throughout the years, taking a turn toward pop-oriented romanticism, salsa romantica. But Olivera says he has put a “grasp” on the genre.

    “I’ve maintained a certain musical structure from the 1970s,” Olivera said. “I haven’t been too commercial.”

    Make no mistake, it’s not outdated. Olivera is the bridge between the 1970s and the new generation.

    “I seem to be one of the only ones in this lane,” Olivera said. “Most of my counterparts have gone to the commercial side.There’s a market for that, but when you are the root, it’s very important. When you kill the root, you kill the tree.

    “People are gyrating to this music. I’ve been very lucky to take this music globally, where some of my counterparts have a very small public. People want real music — you cannot fake it out, man — and they want to hear real music with real lyrics. This is dance music.”

    Salsa thriving in Central and South America, where it was struggling 30 years ago, and has a presence in some unexpected places, such as Australia.

    Olvera’s most recent solo release is La Voz Del Caribe, (The voice of the Caribbean), which was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

    “It’s on the radio and it’s been accepted very well from salsa lovers all over the world,” Olivera said.

    Olivera also just finished a new album with Palmieri called Mi Luz Mayor that’s set for release in February 2016. Some singles went on sale of Sept. 26.

    Details: www.kxlu.com

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  • Between Heaven & Hell

    By Lionel Rolfe

    It’s an oppressively hot day.

    It was the first time this summer the temperature had gotten up in to the 90s. That wouldn’t have meant much — after all last month it was only August — but for the humidity. Summer usually isn’t humid in Los Angeles. Humidity is mostly alien to Los Angeles. That’s more for Miami or New York or those kinds of places. I don’t know for others, but this kind of weather makes me depressed and hopeless.

    I guess I’m spoiled. The air conditioning in my 20-year-old Toyota is broken. So I don’t go out much more than I absolutely have to. But as I pamper myself, I feel guilty. Like everyone else, I’ve seen those pictures of families from Africa and the Middle East, often children and young mothers, stranded on old rust buckets in the Mediterranean, crying from hunger, thirst and fear.

    The more real poverty that I see, the more I despair. And, I know that I’m only one missed paycheck away from joining their ranks.

    Today I’m OK. I am inside my apartment, at my desk by the window in my bedroom where I normally write. As I said, the weather is almost surreal. It looks angry and gray and wet out there but I know if I opened the window, it would be hot and oppressive. Luckily my window is closed, and the air conditioning is keeping away the suffocating humidity, purring quietly and efficiently. The temperature is nice inside. But I know if the window were open, I’d quickly be wiping the copious sweat away from my chin and head. I would be completely miserable.

    I suppose being old and diabetic doesn’t help. Sometimes my legs really rebel against carrying me any further. Old age, I guess. But young age has its pains as well, for sure.

    It’s about 5 p.m. outside. I can see the plants are rustling, so I know there’s some kind of breeze out there. Maybe it’s a kind of Santa Ana, but not a dry one, but a wet one. I’m going to hide from the outside because I’m too comfortable in my bedroom to deal with it.

    Not too far away from my desk is the collection of William Blake my father had lovingly assembled.  The air conditioning keeps whirring quietly, almost silently. Perhaps I’ll go open the pages of the great old Blake, savoring those songs of innocence and songs of experience and that “tiger, tiger burning bright in the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

    Maybe it’s wrong to be as smug and content as I put on the television and listen to the gloom and doom of what the Germans are doing to the Greeks — to my mind, the whole thing breaks of World War II again. The Germans are really coming across as pricks —lecturing the Greeks about the virtues of austerity. I’ve seen the Germans when they are on vacation in the mountains of Bulgaria. They remain an arrogant bunch, even if they supposedly lost the war. Meanwhile, all the escapees from the civil wars raging in Africa and the Levantine are being dumped into Greece and Italy, with derisive little remarks from the Germans.

    I look out the window again. A bit more drama is going on out there now. Some sort of angry winds are whipping the giant jungles leaves that form the landscaping around the apartment swimming pool. Something angry is out there, but thank God I’m inside.

    You probably have to live in Los Angeles to understand those Santa Anas — those famous winds that blow out of the desert down through the canyon passes into the basin. Raymond Chandler once wrote that when the Santa Anas come, meek wives look at the back of their husband’s necks and sharpen their knives. But the air conditioning is making that hypothetical. The scene outside is more surreal than real. Certainly, the turmoil outside doesn’t perturb the little plastic girl I have dancing on the window ledge. She’s doing a hula dance, powered by sun power. When the sun goes down, she stops dancing.

    But I can’t stop thinking of the other day when my ex-wife called me from across the country. She begged me for help. She was getting evicted. You have to know a way to help, she said. If I didn’t, I’d be killing her. She said she had no car, no way to move everything, including Hammy the blue-fronted Amazon she took with her when she left me for another man. She pointed out I had loved her once, just for that alone I had to find a way to help her. But nothing she said worked. I’m old and tired and have barely enough money to live myself—and I don’t know for how much longer.

    “Of course I care,” I thought, and meant it. But there was still nothing I could do. For the next several nights I dreamt of her being homeless, and woke up upset and drenched and exhausted from the thought. No wonder I didn’t want to feel that raging humidity and heat outside.

    Some years back, as a result of that lingering love, when I came across some extra money I sent her a check for a few thousand dollars. But that was then and now is now.

    I switched on the television.

    “Black lives matter” is the new cry of the civil rights movement. Fox news suddenly wonders why they don’t say “white lives matter,” purposely ignoring the obvious. Maybe it’s because innocent white men and women don’t get killed by cops every day? You think?

    Racists have always taunted the oppressed by being obtuse about the suffering, because they want to deny the suffering. They know perfectly well why people say black lives matter. There’s a wonderful woman I know, a black woman. For a girl from the hood, she has done OK for herself. She’s brought into the American dream and lives a middle-class life—but the other day with a surprising look of deep hurt on her face, she reacted to yet another killing of a black person. I forgot which one it was — in Ferguson, in Cincinnati, in Stanton Island, wherever, and she was suddenly both scared and frightened. It was there to read on her face. My friend is a civilian employee of a police department, so she knew something of the lay of the land. That’s why she felt both safe and scared at the same time.

    Her expression stayed with me. Some people have said it’s wrong to feel sorrier for Cecil the Lion than a dead child. I don’t know how to compare the life of an animal to the life of a human being anymore. Both are sentient beings living on this earth. Both are important. Of course all life is important, black, white, yellow, — whatever. But there’s an immediate real reason to say “black lives matter.”

    I saw a documentary not long ago about music, and in it a flautist is playing his instrument to a dolphin, and the dolphin obviously is enraptured and is swooning. Then the animal starts singing the melodies of his universe, and the human flautist and dolphin create a haunting duet.

    There’s a ridiculous notion around that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m not sure that that doesn’t rank right up there with the words over the doors of Auschwitz, “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

    It ain’t necessarily so. I wish I knew what was.

     

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  • Iconic Mug Shots

    By Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaug, Editorial Intern

    Icons: we all make use of them in some form or another. Be they in the form of singers, actors, politicians or cartoon characters, we identify with them. We aspire to be them and we worship them.

    We think we know who they are — at least until something jars our perspective.

    Iconic Mug Shots, the new group show by Ray Vasquez, which features seven other artists, does exactly that. It paints some of the most instantly recognizable stars of pop culture in the most instantly recognizable pose of the police booking photo: the mug shot. The works explore how the images of these fantastic gods are impacted when placed within the circle our own vulnerable human reality.

    As I walk into the Azul gallery with Vasquez and his wife Cora, the stars are definitely out. The walls are covered with a veritable pop icon constellation: Adam Levine, Keith Haring, Sophia Loren, and even Bugs Bunny and Mr. Potato Head. They are all painted as though they were caught at the moment the police cameras flashed across their faces.

    So I asked, “Why?”

    “Well,” said Vasquez, “We all have a day job and don’t want to be caught in these kinds of situations, so I think we fantasized

    . “If you look up icon in the dictionary you will find references and images of more saint-like figures like Jesus Christ. You look up to those figures, but you also look up to these icons, their celebrity, which they each achieved for specific reasons, like musicians or actors or even politicians. And when you see them in a mug shot it’s like, ‘Wow, you guys are also kind of human in a way if you can be in a situation like that.’”

    Then I asked them how they came up with these ideas.

    “Well, a couple of years ago we did an icon show,” Vasquez said. “We did the 60s and 70s, just iconic figures. And we were in Long Beach at Warehouse 1333 and it was real successful, and this time we were thinking, ‘Let’s do something really similar.’ We like to do a lot of galleries, you know, like theme shows. We did Day of The Dead, we did a women’s show and we just thought ‘Ah, let’s repeat the show and see if we can further it.’ So as we were talking about celebrities and icons we thought of mug shots. It was just a conversation Cora and I had. Again, just the alter ego on the inside of us and looking into the people we look up to.”

    “We try not to go back on the original [pure] icon or figure like Christ or Nelson Mandela. [Many of] these figures went to prison for years… They didn’t have mug shots of course. I mean, I’m not saying the Dalai Lama had a mug shot but still, he was chastised.”

    “Well, we’re always trying to think of new themes and concepts that will stir up thought about things we’re talking about. The Iconic Mug Shots show that these famous people can get in trouble too,” Cora added. “I mean, with all the arrests going on it applies to everybody. Pointing to a mug shot of Charlie Chaplin, she said “He was blacklisted [as a suspected communist during post-World War II political hysteria]. He couldn’t come back to the U.S. so he had to go to Europe and if he came back he would be arrested. This guy was famous and known and beloved but still he was wanted.”

    Ray also wanted to make it very clear that the intent was not to make fun of these icons. “We’re not trying to make fun of other people’s misfortunes” he said, “We’re not trying to make fun of them.”

    Iconic Mug Shots is being shown through Oct. 25 at the Gallery Azul, 520 W. 8th St. in San Pedro

    Details: www.galleryazul.com

     

     

     

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