• VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE @ International City Theatre

    I must be a very dour fellow. There I was, sitting in the lovely Beverly O’Neill Theatre as a solid cast acted out the 2013 Tony-winner for Best Play on one of International City Theatre’s typically fine sets, the audience around me awwwing with empathy and giggling with delight…and I felt nothing.

    Fiftysomething siblings Vanya (Stephen Rockwell) and Sonia (Jennifer Parsons) still cohabit their childhood home and lament that their lives seem to have passed them by sans adventure. Enjoying morning coffee in the dayroom is pretty much the highlight of their day, that and looking out for the blue loon that makes a daily visit to the lake beyond their rear window. Were it not for the melodramatic prophesying of their housekeeper Cassandra (Murielle Zuker), their lives would be colorless. But today will be different: Masha (Leslie Stevens), their younger sister and a jet-setting movie star, is coming for a visit, her twentysomething boy-toy Spike (Connor McRaith) in tow.

    If you like your comedy with a dash of subtlety, Christopher Durang ain’t your guy, and giving a character named Cassandra psychic powers is the least of it. It’s not enough for Durang to incorporate elements straight from multiple Chekhov plays, he’s got to have his eponymous sibs given their Chekhovian names by theatre-loving parents (Sonia was adopted at 8, actually, by which point kids already have names, but let that go), and they’ve got to talk explicitly about Chekhov and do bits from Chekhov and live on a lot with a cherry orchard. It almost shocking that we aren’t shown a gun in Act 1 that will finally be used in Act 2.

    It may be fitting, then, that there’s nothing subtle in any of the performances. When Cassandra prophesizes, Zuker seems straight out of an episode of I Love Lucy. Stevens plays Masha as a by-the-book comedy prima donna. McRaith’s Spike is reminiscent of Joey from Friends. Although Vanya and Sonia are quieter characters, their reserve shouldn’t be confused with subtlety. Everything about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is obvious.

    But Durang has proven expert at getting laughs. He was a big deal way back in the 1980s, and he’s a big deal today. I may not have any idea why the woman in the front row cackled when one of the characters said, “Lions and tigers and bears—oh my,” but she did. And I give Durang this much credit: he aimed to throw in all this Chekhov stuff and yet create a play that could be enjoyed by those completely ignorant of Russia’s national playwright, and he hit his mark.

    I’ve got to take back something I said. There is one subtle element to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, one that does in fact take a bit of knowledge of Chekhov to appreciate. Chekhov’s onstage characters are prototypes of quiet despair. Vanya and Sonia immediately show themselves to be cut from that cloth, as does Masha ultimately. Durang’s inspiration is to deliver these characters from despair—a move directly counter to Chekhov’s aesthetic. It may not be as clever a conceit as what Tom Stoppard does with Shakespeare in Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, but it does provide Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike with an unexpected dimension (even if the liteness of the play means their desperation lacks gravity).

    That’s not going to be enough to redeem it for you if you don’t like the comedy. You know how some you simply adore Christopher Guest films, while the rest of us just shrug? It’s not that we don’t get what Guest is doing or even appreciate it to some degree; we just don’t find Guest funny. Some of us don’t find Christopher Durang funny, either. But we may be in the minority.

    VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE BEVERLY O’NEIL THEATRE • 300 E OCEAN BLVD • LONG BEACH 90802 • 562.436.4610 • ICTLONGBEACH.ORG • THURS-SAT 8PM, SUN 2PM • $47-$49 • THROUGH JULY 3

    (Photo credit: CaughtintheMoment.com)

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  • Dave Widow

    Widow and Pearl, Together Again in Pedro

    Dave Widow and Bernie Pearl Reunite at the Grand Annex

    By B. Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude

    Funky Blues ​rocker Dave Widow and The Line Up is returning to The Grand Annex with veteran blues artist Bernie Pearl on June 18. Pearl is opening the show with an acoustic set.
    Although the Widow and Pearl are power hitters on the blues scene, the Line Up are awesome in their own right.
    Popular session drummer and musician James Gadson will be laying down a groove on this night. He has played with the greatest, from Marvin Gaye to Paul McCartney, and has been a part of 500 gold selling records.
    One of the great bass players working the Los Angeles music scene Michael Be Holden, is joining the Line Up on this date.
    Also featured is special guest blues guitarist Kirk Fletcher whose resume includes playing with the legendary Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Bonamassa.
    If you were privileged enough to have been at this year’s Doheny Blues festival a few weeks ago, you would have seen a tour de force performance that concluded with a standing ovation for Fletcher. His brilliant string is talked about globally. This will be a very unique evening for blues fans, witnessing an impressive array of talent across the board.
    Bernie Pearl is one of the true American treasures, his wealth of knowledge and experience has set him a cut above others who play the country ­ or really any style ­ of blues acoustic or electric.
    Dave Widow and the Line Up tore up The Grand Annex with two blistering sets with his guest Bill Champlin (Chicago and The Sons of Champlin) in 2015. At the time, the versatile Gadson had the room jumping with his version of Ray Sharpe’s “Linda Lou.” Bassist James “Hutch” Hutcherson (Bonnie Raitt) just added to the excitement .
    Widow and Pearl’s performance at The Grand Annex last year sold­ out was sold out. Tickets for their return engagement are expected to sell out quickly​.​ On the night of the show, door tickets will be $5.00 more than if your purchased them in advance at all ticket levels. Online sales ends at 7:00 pm, day of show.
    Time: 8 p.m., June 18
    Details:http://tinyurl.com/Widow-Pearl
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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  • Negroni Cocktails:

    It’s for A Good Cause

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer
     
    Some of us don’t need an excuse to drink cocktails, but if I could be so bold, here’s a good one. It’s called Negroni Week and this year it lands between June 6 and 12. It’s a benign week for most people, but anybody in the “industry” — of course, I mean the food and beverage industry — knows all about this lovely little week of fun and friendly competition.

    Negroni Week was launched in 2013 as a celebration to raise money for charitable causes around the world. Venues select a local charity and then pledge to donate $1 from the sale of each Negroni.

    Let’s address the obvious: the Negroni cocktail. It is made from equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari, then garnished with an orange peel for aromatics. The classic aperitivo, or before-dinner drink, is said to prepare the stomach for the meal to follow. It is one of the few cocktails that dates back to the early 20th century. Named after Count Camillo Negroni, who asked his bartender to strengthen his usual drink by replacing soda water with gin, the cocktail has remained unchanged throughout the years. But bartenders are starting to add their own twists and turns to the spirited beverage.

    The Negroni Movement

    What started as a handful of participants has sparked a global Negroni movement. Participation ranges across thousands of bars and restaurants in over 28 countries, and features local competitions among bartenders and drinkers. There are prizes for the bartenders who put their own spin on the beverage, and the financial haul is counted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.The bar that sells the most Negron-inspired cocktails will receive an extra $10,000 dollars from Campari to donate to their charity. Imbibe magazine also throws down some serious cash to the winner.

    Some of our favorite bars and restaurants in the Harbor Area are also getting on board. J. Trani’s in San Pedro will be featuring a special Negroni aged with vanilla bean, and will be donating to the Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor.

    Michael’s Restaurant Group in Long Beach will be featuring two Negroni cocktails, one with an Aperol foam garnish. The bartenders at James Republic, Anthony Jackson and Todd Deckinger, came up with a trio of Negroni-inspired cocktails: Il Padrino, Il Figlio, and Il Sprito Santo, featuring rum, tequila and gin, respectively. Nathan McCoullough of Padre in Long Beach will be doing his classic take on a Negroni, adding a few subtle changes like cherry wood smoke and a bit of coffee concentrate.

    I see a Negroni bar crawl in my future, and I use the word “crawl” here, loosely. The goal is to leave each bar in an upright position.

    Detailswww.negroniweek.com

     

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  • CASA: Someone to Call ‘Home’

    By Zamná Avila, Assistant Editor

    Lisa Slayton had a rough start at life.

    Her mother was paranoid-schizophrenic and was unable to take care of her. The identity of her biological father and his whereabouts is unknown. Her maternal grandmother took care of her, but when Slayton was 10, her grandmother died.

    In total, Slayton has lived in eight foster homes and about five group homes. She said some of her experiences were positive, but others were not.

    “Some foster homes…take you in as their own, but some…have kids and you can feel the difference,” Slayton said. “And, in group homes, some of the staff they come in just because it’s their job. They really don’t care about the situations of the kids in the system. It’s like a paycheck to them.”

    She was alone. Ironically, that is, until she became a ward of the court at the age of 14. That’s when she met Sam Herod.

    Someone to Call “CASA”

    CASA Sam Herod

    Sam Herod received the G.F. Bettineski Child Advocate of the Year Award for his service to foster children in Los Angeles County

    “When I first met him, he came on very strong,” Slayton remembers. “I was blowing him away. I didn’t want him around. My grandma had just passed. I didn’t want to be around nobody. I was like, ‘Why is this person coming into my life? Why is he so interested and wants to know so much about me?’ But he kept dropping off clothes and food. Until one day, I finally opened up.”

    Herod is part of a Court Appointed Special Advocate program, also known as a CASA. The primary source of National CASA Association’s funding is a community funded organization. Operating funds come from donations and grants from private and government organizations.

    Judges appoint difficult cases to CASA volunteers so they can advocate for abused and neglected children to make sure they don’t get lost in the system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.

    “It’s kind of like they’re a godfather or a godmother,” said Dilys Garcia, the executive director of CASA Los Angeles. “They’re acting like a surrogate parent in some matters that normally a parent would take care of.”

    Herod agrees.

    “My first job is making sure they get everything that’s coming to them through the court system,” said Herod, 60, who has a 41-year-old son, a 35-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old granddaughter of his own. “My second job is to form a relationship where they can trust me, and sometimes, that trust takes me down that road where they look at me as the father they never had.”

    Long Beach resident Maureen Wharton, another CASA volunteer, agrees. She’s been a volunteer for about 10 years. Wharton describes her work as an investigation in which the volunteer tries to learn as much as possible about the child and the people who surround that child.

    Wharton has handled some of the toughest cases, including the case of 14-year-old child who ended up being trafficked for four months after she ran away from her foster home. She was able to get mental health help and an attorney. She also got her enrolled in a residential treatment school paid for by the Long Beach Unified School District.

    “It’s been a very complicated, long case,” Wharton said. “If I wasn’t on the case — I’m not giving myself kudos; I was an extra person on the case — she might not have ever gone to a residential school or succeeded to go to high school and get her diploma.”

    Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe,  permanent home.

    “It’s kind of a big responsibility for a volunteer, but it’s such a rewarding thing,” Wharton said.

    Herod is a retired audio visual specialist from Los Angeles. He started volunteering with CASA in 2000. Growing up around several foster children in his neighborhood during the 60s inspired him to become a volunteer. It’s also why he had the patience to keep coming back to Slayton.

    “Lisa was a very special case,” Herod said. “She had a lot of letdowns from providers that promised her a lot of stuff and didn’t come through…. I love this population of kids because they’re so resilient… They have their faults, like most kids. But when they get knocked down they get up really quick.”

    If you are wondering what the difference between a CASA volunteer and social worker, Slayton makes it simple.

    “The CASA is only really for you,” she said. “It’s somebody you know you can just call and will always answer…. CASAs can have two to three mentees at a time. They can really focus and really get to know you.”

    Social workers often have big caseloads. While they do check on children in their caseloads, they often are unable to provide the emotional support that a CASA volunteer provides.

    “The system is very overburdened,” Garcia said. “Social workers and attorneys have very high caseloads, as do judges….[CASA volunteers] work with the social worker and the attorney and the judge… They’re part of that group, but they become an extra head, an extra heart, an extra set of eyes and ears.”

    Slayton said Herod has helped her find the best school, individual educational plans, self-maintenance, therapy and job preparation.

    “[Sam] is the only person who has been consistent in my life since I was 14,” Slayton said. “I’m now 20 and he’s still there for me. He always wants the best for me.”

    Today, Slayton is working to get herself and her 3-month old son into transitional housing. Her case will be closed when she turns 21, but she plans to continue school, where she is studying child family education. Her goal is to own a daycare for infants or perhaps study to become a child therapist.

    She said Herod will forever be part of her life.

    “I really didn’t have a family,” she said. “I don’t know if I have any relatives. If Sam never came… I don’t know who would be in my life or where I would be.”

    Garcia said Long Beach has a great need for CASAs, considering the number of foster youth in the community.

    “There are only six CASA volunteers in Long Beach… In the Long Beach Unified School District alone there are 840 foster youth,” Garcia said. “That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 30,000 foster children in all of Los Angeles County, of which our volunteers also help as many as possible.”

    Slayton hopes her story will inspire others to volunteer.

    “There are a lot of us… who really don’t have anybody to talk to or depend on,” Slayton said. “If people volunteer and want to open up and come work with us, come hear our story and hear us out. We may change your life and you can change our life. You can… be that one person. Sam changed my life.”

    CASA is hosting a volunteer information session from 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 29 at Total Wine in Long Beach. RSVP.
    Details: (323) 859-2888; volunteer@casala.org
    Venue: Total Wine Long Beach, Long Beach Towne Center, 7400 Carson Blvd., Long Beach

     

     

     

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  • Clinton Hosts Rally in Long Beach

    On June 6, in a last-minute effort to sway California voters in this year’s primary election, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton scheduled “Get Out the Vote” stops in Lynwood, Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    Clinton’s campaign hoped to beat a recent poll from CBS News showing Clinton up only two points over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

    Ramped up security activity, crowds of people and traffic congestion heralded the rally at the Long Beach City College Liberal Arts Campus. Thousands of supporters started lining up at 7 a.m. and waited hours in the hot sun for a glimpse of the contender.  Only 1,600 were allowed into the crowded gymnasium at 6 p.m., said Long Beach Deputy Fire Chief Rich Brandt.

    About 10 Bernie Sanders supporters demonstrated with signs, while Military Families Speak Out made their presence known with signs and chants about ending wars.

    Notable guests included LBCC President Eloy Oakley, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Senate President Kevin de León and actress Busy Philipps.

    Clinton focused on the key issues of raising incomes for California families, lowering health costs, improving education, climate change and the environment, equal pay and womens’ rights, marriage equality and affordable college education.  Regarding over-incarceration and mental illness, she stated that no one belongs in prison for sickness or drug addiction.  She said that one of the first issues she plans to tackle as president is immigration reform.

    Clinton’s comments about her Republican opposition, Donald Trump, were summed up in her statement: “He is not mentally fit to run this country.”

    — Diana Lejins, Contributing Writer, Photographer

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  • Wondem Awakens Brotherly Love

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Wondem, Dexter Story’s debut on Soundway Records, is a love letter to Ethiopia.

    Wondem (pronounced “Windem”) means “brother” in Amharic. But the music on Wondem is adorned with distinctive elements derived from a variety of other East African nations. The result blends Story’s wide-ranging background in soul, funk, jazz and folk with the sounds of Ethiopia,  Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. The album is a personal one and Story’s voice comes through.

    The music is infectious, getting inside you like a celebration. The feeling is  apparent on the album cover: An old black-and-white photo of a young man (a teenaged Dexter Story), leaning to the side, seated on a brick wall bench. Holding his guitar, he wears a huge grin and aviator shades on the purple covered album.

    Hand clapping is a big part of Wondem’s musical formula, contributing a sense of joyfulness to the overall.

    “It is said that the drum and voice were the first instruments,” Story said. “I would bet that clapping hands were also among the original musical devices. The more I immerse myself  into African music and culture, the more I realize the power of the communal circle where people of all ages expressed themselves through singing, dancing, drumming and clapping.”

    Handclapping served an important role in his creative process.

    “Clapping transported me, put me in the right headspace to journey musically,” Story said. “When you listen to music from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the clap is dominant. When you see the indigenous eskista dance of Ethiopia, a fast outstretched clap is an unmistakable aspect of the art form. And, we applaud to express our enjoyment and often rhythmically accentuate the stronger beats in the west with clapping. Clapping is universal.”

    Story collaborated with musicians from Los Angeles and Africa. This blend of east and west brought the original and infectious sound to this heavily percussive album. An abundant circle of local musicians contributed, including, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Carlos Nino, Nia Andrews, Mark de Clive-Lowe and Todd Simon.

    Wondem’s unique arrangements are tightly engineered but share a warmth. It’s filled with percussion, brass, woodwind and strings, an upright piano or vibraphone in some places and a Wurlitzer electric piano as well as synthesizers. You can also hear African instruments. If you listen closely, you will hear the kebero drum and Ethiopian chordophone krar, which sounds similar to a harp.

    Story wanted indigenous language on Wondem. The African artists featured on the album are Alsarah Elgadi and Yared Teshale. Elgadi sung in Arabic on Without an Address, which focuses on the refugee issues in her native Sudan. Teshale sang Sidet Eskemeche, which means, “we will remember,” or “it will never be forgotten,” in Amharic.

    Story sings on a few numbers including, A New Day. His voice sounds like part of the instrumentation. This happens on Merkato Star. It has a great clapping and horn introduction. Yene Konjo, the last track on the album, includes piano played by Mark de Clive-Lowe. Story said that since he doesn’t speak Amharic or Arabic, he was concerned that too much English singing would detract from the authenticity he was trying to convey. He created chant-styled parts allowing him to blend with the instrumentation more smoothly.

    Wondem is a multitude of unique sounds that will leave you desiring more. Story has deftly blended the indigenous with the orchestral, and the melodic with energy driven rhythms.

    “I hope that I can continue to create music that honors and celebrates the African continent and the diaspora,” Story said. “This is only the beginning for me. Wondem feels like a rebirth.”

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  • Carson to Appeal Rent Control Case

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    In an ongoing dispute over a city board’s decision regarding rent-controlled property, a federal court this past month ordered the City of Carson to pay more than $3.3 million to Colony Cove Properties.

    City Attorney Sunny Soltani told Random Lengths News in a phone interview that the decision, which Carson plans to appeal, will have no effect on the city’s rent-control ordinance.

    “It’s specific to this one case,” Soltani said.

    The litigation resulted from two decisions by the Mobile Home Park Rental Review Board, one in September 2007 and another in September 2008. Both involved applications for rent increases for Colony Cove mobile home park. Colony Cove and Colony Cove Properties are owned by James Goldstein.

    Soltani said the case began when Goldstein refinanced his mortgage on the park, then asked Carson’s Mobilehome Park Rental Review Board for permission to raise the rent by $600 on every rent-controlled space. When the board approved a rent increase of only $50 per space,  Goldstein sued—and lost—six times in state court, Soltani said. When his legal options in state courts ran out, Goldstein decided to make a federal case of it.

    “The city has essentially forced Colony Cove to shoulder an affordable housing burden that should be borne by the city taxpayers as a whole,” Goldstein’s complaint argued.

    On April 28, a jury trial began in U.S. District Court. On May 5, the jury rendered a unanimous verdict in Goldstein’s favor. The jury decided both actions “constituted a regulatory taking without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” the judgement affirming the jury’s decision stated.

    Soltani said Carson would appeal on grounds that the judge erred in making jury instructions.

    “It is an error for the court not to define Plaintiff’s burden of proof for the jury,” the defendant’s trial brief stated. “In this case, the court must instruct the jury that Plaintiff has the burden of proof of showing that the Defendants’ actions under the three Penn Central factors were so severe that they effectively ousted Plaintiff from its property.”

    Carson has 60 days to appeal the case, Soltani said, after which a hearing on the appeal is expected in about a year. She added the trial should have been a “bench trial” (before a judge only).

    Carson’s rent control ordinance covers mobile home park spaces but contains no language applicable to apartment units. There is no similar city ordinance applicable to apartment units.

    “Plaintiff’s assumption of debt that was unsupportable by rents at the time of purchase was self-inflicted,” the defendants’ trial brief responded. “Merely because a property owner is not permitted to reap as great a financial return on his property as he might have hoped, does not establish a taking.”

    The website CITY-data.com lists the mean price of a mobile home in Los Angeles, as of 2013, at $120,527. By comparison, the Los Angeles Almanac website says that the average price of a single-family residence in Carson is $378,650 to $422,650.

    Soltani estimated that about 80 to 90 percent of California’s cities are not in compliance with state-mandated affordable housing quotas.

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  • Sanders’ 44 Percent Falls Short

    Sanders loses LA County by wider margin than the state

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Musician and activist Mike de la Rocha predicted that mainstream media would call the election for Hillary Clinton, instead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, before the polls closed.

    “There’s a couple of primaries on the [June] 7, one in New Jersey which ends three hours before,” he said he said at Banning Park this past Memorial Day. He was a part of the Sanders campaign recreational vehicle tour of artists stumping for Sanders from one of California to the other during the preceding four days.

    “You best believe that the media pundits and news outlets when the polls close are going to say Hillary won. Game over. She got the nomination. But she doesn’t actually have the delegates to win yet. They’re doing that because they don’t want people in California to actually go out and vote.”

    It’s doubtful who could have predicted that it would have been called before California polls even opened.

    At the time Sanders and Clinton were statistically in a dead heat.

    Sanders supporters saw the race as a David and Goliath story—a grassroots campaign with no money pitted against the establishment with virtually unlimited resources—but on June 7 Goliath won anyway and won handedly.

    The RV tour that stopped in Wilmington on Memorial Day—before moving on to Long Beach and the Pico Union area, didn’t feel like a campaign event. It was more organic—maybe even Obama-like, if we’re talking about the 2008 campaign.

    It doesn’t feel like a campaign even now. Especially since Sanders has vowed to stick to his pledge to fight until he reaches the Democratic convention floor in July.

    Instead, it feels like an uprising by progressives disappointed by ground lost and every quarter given in the name of grim pragmatism of getting something done in the face of recalcitrant congress.

    From De la Rocha’s comments and those of his RV mates Rosario Dawson (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Shailene Woodley of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Kendrick Sampson (How to Get Away with Murder), and CNN pundit Nomiki Konst.

    Mike De la Rocha, founder and director of Revolve Impact.They had set off from the United States-Mexico border with an itinerary that visited Watsonville, Salinas, San Jose, Stockton, Wilmington, Long Beach and Pico Union—even rolling through the Monterrey Jazz Festival. At each place, its passengers coordinated with individuals and local nonprofits working on issues ranging from helping the victims drug cartel violence in Mexico to anti-immigration policies.

    The RV tour visited Banning Park with little notice or fanfare. De la Rocha is the most unusual of the bunch given his lengthy resume working as a legislative aid and consultant for elected officials and nonprofit organizations involved criminal justice reform.

    De la Rocha is also the founder of Revolve Impact, a social impact firm that aims to build progressive mass movements and campaigns. But he doesn’t credit the RV tour as his firm’s doing. Instead, he describes it as a gathering of like-minded artists using their celebrity on behalf of Sanders’ candidacy.

    De la Rocha recounted going to a park in a town south of San Diego known for high rates of addiction and open drug abuse.

    “We went there purposely and Bernie met us there,” De la Rocha explained. “It was an interesting thing. The residents there were coming and asking for T-shirts, not so much because they were for Bernie but because they were homeless and needed new clothes.”

    From there, the caravan traveled to Stockton, a city de la Rocha noted as having one of the highest murder rates in the state. De la Rocha said they stopped there because of the work nonprofit organizations and community members are doing to reclaim their neighborhoods.

    “We went there because…despite the violence and madness, we have this beautiful community reclaiming their livelihood, and so we had this beautiful ceremony of black and brown and formerly incarcerated… it was really like a healing ceremony.”

    After San Jose, de la Rocha noted they went to Union City and Hayward, where the Clinton campaign had opened 10 new offices.

    “What we’ve seen throughout this tour… there are community residents who may not have a lot of money but have a lot of heart,” De la Rocha said. “So we’ve been going into people’s homes—[homes] that has been serving as [campaign] offices. People are going to Starbucks to meet up and do phone banking there. We talked to 40 to 50 volunteers.”

    De la Rocha recounted their experience in San Jose where they met with 150 urban Native American youth “from everywhere, from Pine Ridge reservation to Oakland and San Francisco.”

    De la Rocha recounted youth asking, “Why should we vote for Bernie? We’ve been lied to more than anyone else [and] survived attempted genocide by the U.S. government. And you’re asking us to believe in a candidate.”

    “It’s obvious that this movement is bigger than Bernie Sanders,” De la Rocha said.

    He noted this encapsulates the issues addressed by Black Lives Matter, migrant’s rights movements, federal $15 hour minimum wage and the anti-carceral movement, the anti-bank and anti-foreclosure movement.

    De la Rocha explained that the movement that envelopes the Sanders campaign is one that is tapping into all of these movements and elevating them in the current political conversation. He suggested that Sanders’ campaign appeals to those who have been let down and left out of the Obama administration’s message of hope.

    “Whoever wins, we still have to hold them accountable,” De la Rocha said.

    In a context in which Americans are told hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars are required to run an election campaign, de la Rocha called the Sanders campaign the first in human history with a record-breaking campaign funded by donations of $27 per individual.

    De la Rocha didn’t speak on the difference between President Barack Obama and Sanders, but according to OpenSecrets.org, during Obama’s 2008 campaign, he raised as much money from small individual donors as he did from large ones. In his 2012 campaign, about a third of his fundraising totals came from small individual donors.

    On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of Sanders’ campaign cash has come from small individual donors. That’s reason enough to believe that June 7 will not be the end for Sanders.

    The Senator from Vermont is scheduled to meet with President Obama Thursday to discuss the future, but those truly feeling the “Bern” are probably looking to carry the message to more local elections moving forward.

    “The beautiful part of what we’ve done and what happening across the country and around the world is that people are starting to realize their own innate power,” de la Rocha said. “They are realizing that everything is local.”

    De la Rocha said the Sander’s campaign is about political consciousness raising and organizing.

    “What’s the next phase? It’s whatever the community decides the next phase is,” de la Rocha said. “You can’t unlearn what you’ve learned.”

    The activist-artist noted that the people he encountered over previous four days kept asking him what to do next.

    “How should I know?” he said. “You tell us how we can help you.”

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  • Voter Guide

    U.S. President

    Bernie Sanders

    U.S. Senate

    Kamala D. Harris

    U.S. Representative District 44

    Nanette Diaz Barragán

    U.S. Representative District 47

    Alan Lowenthal

    State Senator District 33

    Ricardo Lara

    State Senator District 35

    Warren T. Furutani

    Superior Court Judge

    Cyndy Zuzga

    County District Attorney

    Jackie Lacey

    County Supervisor District 4

    Janice Hahn

    Democratic County Committee

    Carrie Scoville
    Ivan Sulic
    Emiliano James Uranga
    Tonia Reyes Uranga
    Cory W. Allen
    Joan V. Greenwood
    Uduak-Joe Ntuk

    Long Beach District 2

    Jeannine Pearce

    State Measure 50

    Yes

    Long Beach Measure A

    No

    Long Beach Measure B

    No

    Long Beach Measure LB

    Yes

    CSPNC_Slate_WEB_600

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  • Long Beach District 2 Takes to the Polls

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    A segment of Long Beach voters won’t just be voting on their choice for a presidential candidate at the June 7 primaries, they also will be choosing the next council member for the District 2.

    Long Beach District 2

    District 2 includes parts of the Port of Long Beach, downtown and its waterfront, Retro Row and parts of the Craftsman Village Historic District.

    Whoever the district’s residents decide to lead the area, that person must be ready to take on issues such as parking, water quality, homelessness, public safety and business development, as well as citywide matters such as the airport and pollution.

    Earlier this past year, Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal decided not to run for a third term as a write-in candidate.

    After the city’s April 12 primary two candidates made it to a run-off election: small business owner Eric Gray, who received 36.13 percent of the vote and community activist Jeannine Pearce, who garnered 44.72 percent of the vote.

    Eric GrayEric Gray

    Gray is the owner of ITO solutions, an information technology business that sells hardware and software and set up networks. He has served as the president of the Downtown Residential Council and cofounded the Historic Pine Avenue Business Association, the Long Beach Music Council and Culinary Long Beach.

    Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, former Mayor Bob Foster, Signal Hill Mayor Larry Forester, and the Long Beach Police Officers Association are among his endorsers, such as many LGBT-owned businesses in District 2. District 1 Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, District 3 Councilwoman Suzie Price, District 6 Councilman Dee Andrews, whose districts abut District 2 also have endorsed him.

    While Mayor Robert Garcia has not officially endorsed him, Gray said he believes he shares many of the mayor’s core values.

    “The mayor and I have very similar visions,” he said. “We both want to see growth in downtown; we both want to see revitalization of the Broadway corridor; we’re both pro-business, yet we’re both pro-labor. We’re very, very similar in our political stances and we’ve worked together a lot.”

    The 40-year-old was the first to announce his intention to run for the council district in June of 2015.

    “I’m running because the city of Long Beach all the assets of an amazing city,” said Gray, who live in the downtown area of the city. “Long Beach is moving in the right direction in so many ways but we still have improvements to make as far as continuing the revitalization of downtown, working to enhance the Broadway corridor and 4th Street and 7th Street, fixing parking, and just creating a more vibrant city.”

    Parking

    District 2 is one of the most parking impacted districts in the city. Gray said he’d like to take a multipronged approach to parking looking for opportunities to use parking garages, adding more hash marks to delineate parking across the district, finding parking spaces in alley ways, share parking with overnight business lots and take someone from the planning department or development services to become a full-time planner and find parking citywide.

    “We have a major parking problem and we need to be more bold for parking,” Gray said.

    Unions

    Gray describes himself as “pro-labor.” However he said he wants to ensure that the city has a balanced government, where they are sharing in prosperity.

    “You can be a Democrat and be pro-business as well as be pro-labor and pro-worker,” said Gray, who considers himself a lifelong Democrat and pro-business. “I have labor support. I have business support. I have community support. I have a very balanced support across the district…. I’m looking for the most balanced support.

    Taxes

    Along with the primary and District 2 run-off election, Long Beach residents also will vote on whether to support a sales tax that would go into the general fund to help pay for public safety and infrastructure. Gray weighed in on his support Measure A.

    “We do have infrastructure problems, where we need to redo our streets and our alleys and our sidewalks,” he said. “We do need more police officers and firefighters. That’s why I am supporting Measure’s A and B.

    Connecting the Dots

    One of the characteristics Long Beach is known for is its distinct community corridors. Gray said he would like to find ways to connect the corridors such as the Broadway corridor, often referred to as the gayborhood for its population of LGBT residents. He would like to find opportunities to connect the corridor with downtown and Belmont Shore. Retro Row, on 4th Street, is another area he would like to connect by lighting up the streets, bringing new trees, events and cultivating new businesses.

    However, said he is pro-development in the downtown area, but not areas such as the Alamitos Beach area. He believes the city should develop more hotels in the city, again, especially in the downtown area.

    He also would be in favor of changing the municipal code to allow for youth hostels.

    Gray said his experience working with the community makes him a more viable candidate for the job than his opponent.

    “I’m definitely more of a visionary,” he said. “I’ve done a lot more work in the community. I understand the community groups a lot more and how we shape policy with city government.”

    Find out more about the candidate at www.ericgraylb.com

    Jeannine PearceJeannine Pearce

    Pearce is the public policy director at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

    She has served as vice chairwoman for Long Beach’s Human Relations Committee and was a member of Mayor Robert Garcia’s transitional team. She also served as the director of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community and helped start Long Beach Rising.

    Assemblyman Mike Gipson, Rep. Janice Hahn, former Councilman Steve Neal, Councilman Roberto Uranga, Councilman Rex Richardson, the California Nurses Association, Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as well as many Harbor Area social justice groups are among her endorsers.

    Earlier this past year, Lowenthal officially endorsed her candidacy.

    “Suja definitely helped the district move in the right direction,” Pearce said. “We’ve added parking. We’ve also helped rebuild downtown, Retro Row…. So, I’m thrilled to have the vice mayor’s endorsement. She’s done a lot of great things but we will be very different in the way we govern.”

    The 35-year-old says she wants to use her experience as community organizer to help the city move forward.

    “I’m running to make sure that we have a local government that is accessible, transparent and that works for everybody,” said Pearce, who has worked on the minimum wage campaign and local hire policies. “I want to ensure that we have leadership for people who don’t have access. I’ve been doing public policy for nine years; I’ve passed five different policies in our city; I’ve helped protect our parking; and I have a great passion to make sure that people have representation.”

    Parking

    Pearce also recognizes that parking in the District 2 is a major issue. She said she wants to tackle parking right away.

    “It impacts working families more than anybody else,” she said.

    She wants to build out public transportation. She plans to use the relationships she’s built in her public policy work to help alleviate parking issues. She want to create more head-in parking and working with the tech industry to connect with the Go Long Beach app to identify parking spots for residents.

    Unions

    Some critics say they distrust Pearce because of her heavy support from unions, believing that she will accommodate unions at all avenues. However, Pearce does not shy away from that criticism.

    “I’m very proud of my labor backing, whether you are talking about nurses, firefighters, hotel workers, truck drivers,” she said. “These are not some abstract workers who live somewhere else. They are my neighbors; they are your neighbors; they are Eric’s neighbors. They are people who live in the city and have really taken a step forward when we talk about democracy. Their process is more democratic than any other process you see outside of voting…. I will help to ensure that they have a voice at the table.”

    But her support for unions does not equate to being anti-business, she said. She believes business is important to support workers.

    “The only way that we move our city forward is when everybody is at the table together,” she said. “I want to make sure that companies have a voice because I need them to create jobs, but I also need to break standards. And, I want workers at the table because I want to make sure they are not left behind.”

     

    Quality of Life

    Pearce would like bring more businesses to her district and institute more local hire policies, where veterans and youth would be considered by asking businesses to hire a certain percentage of workers within certain zip codes in the city. She wants to build relationships with businesses by doing outreach. She wants to make sure that the permitting process is easy, quick and inexpensive by working with the economic development commission.

    She said she wants narrow the income gap in her district.

    “We have two zip codes in the district: one with the highest life expectancy, one with the lowest life expectancy and there is difference of seven years,” Pearce said. “I want to make sure that we are enacting policies that help close that gap, expanding access to jobs, economic development and protecting our environment.

    Voter Turnout

    During the April 12 city primary election, only 11.5 percent of the electorate showed up to vote in the city. District 2 yielded 16.9 percent of voters. That’s a big problem, which Pearce said she wants to change through community organizing. She said she wants to achieve that by working with neighborhood associations, with residents who might not be associated with an organization, and really trying to empower residents to engage with local government more than they are currently. She also wants to go door-to-door year round and engage with residents online throughout the year, not just during election season.

    She also wants to emulate how north Long Beach, District 3 and 1 is doing by using $250,000 of discretionary funds for residents to vote on how they will be used.

    “If we’re engaging people every day on issues like that, then when it comes time for an election they are going to be more apt to vote because they understand that their voice is being listened to,” she said.

    Pearce also points to her experience in comparison to her opponent.

    “Eric doesn’t have experience with working with big business; he doesn’t have experience with working with working with labor; he doesn’t have track record of demonstrating that outside of a neighborhood association that he can bring people together,” she said. “We need leadership on day 1 to step into the second district. We have 75 percent of port; we’ve got downtown; and we’ve got the residents at 10th and Redondo who are living multiple families in one apartment who need someone to step up and say we are going to make it better.”

    Find out more about the candidate at www.jeanninepearce.com

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