By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor
On July 21, a majority of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed two measures to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour by 2020, affecting an estimated 155,000 workers.
The board also unanimously passed a third motion taking aim at wage theft. That unanimity highlights both a severe problem and a corresponding political dynamic.
“Poverty is very, very expensive,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in his comments to the board. While the main thrust of his testimony was directed at raising the minimum wage, it was equally applicable to the issue of wage theft.
Six years ago, a groundbreaking report, Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers, found that wage theft from low-wage workers in just three cities—Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City—totaled $2.9 billion the year before. As Random Lengths reported at the time (“Robbed On The Job,” RLN, Sept. 25, 2009), this was “a rate more than double that of reported theft in California.”
President Barack Obama’s first Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, authored the July 21 motion. It directs staff to produce two written reports aimed at informing and motivating the board to take future action to substantially enhance county law enforcement against wage theft.
“It’s important to provide enforcement tools against those [who] would take advantage of our employees,” said Solis, shortly before the vote.
The first report, due in 60 days, will be “an analysis of the county’s legal authority to regulate wage theft…and its authority to enforce municipal, state, and federal wage theft laws.” The second, due in 90 days, calls for a “recommendation for the most effective and efficient model by which the county can enforce wage theft regulations.”
The first minimum wage measure covers workers in unincorporated areas of the county, as well as employees of county contractors. It was opposed by both Republicans on the board, Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe. The second minimum wage measure covers county employees. Only Antonovich voted against. All three Democrats—Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl—voted for both minimum wage measures.
The lack of opposition to the wage theft motion underscores the broad-based nature of support that anti-wage theft measures enjoy. What’s been missing in the past has been, first, awareness of the problem; second, data about its extent; and third, organizing to focus political attention on the need to do something. Six years after Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers, all three of those missing pieces are finally being put into place.
Victor Narro, a project director of UCLA Davis Center, laid out some of the basic facts in his public comments.
“Wage theft is 20 percent higher in Los Angeles County than the national average,” Narro said. “The UCLA Labor Center published an extensive survey in which we found in any workweek, eight in 10 low-wage workers in Los Angeles, about 655,000 total, suffered from wage theft; 80 percent of these workers worked overtime [and] are not properly compensated; another 80 percent of these workers are denied their right to meal and rest breaks. All this amounts to $26.2 million per week stolen from workers in wage theft violations, which is estimated at $1.4 billion a year.”
Narro boiled it down to what it means per worker.
“Individually, these workers lose $2,000 annually out of an average earning of $16,500, which means that more than 10 percent of their earnings are lost in wage theft,” he added.
But there’s also a significant impact on government.
“Every year we estimate wage theft robs the state and local government between $103 and $153 million in lost tax revenues—
The issue of wage theft costs to Los Angeles County is significant because Antonovich, who opposed all the minimum wage increase measures, supported the wage theft motion, but questioned the cost involved in taking action.
“Wage theft is irresponsible and ought to be punished to the full extent of the law, but the problem that we have is that the county has many unmet needs,” Antonovich said. “I don’t know how an additional cost to our budget, to our general fund, is the appropriate manner to handle this issue.”
But Narro’s figures suggest that enforcement costs would be far less than the costs of continued lawbreaking—a point Solis also made in response to Antonovich.
“What we’re trying to get at is the loss of revenue, the money that goes to the underground economy, which is in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Solis said. “That will come back to us.”
“As the county considers raising the minimum wage, it’s important to understand enforcing that wage is just as important as raising it,” Narro continued. “All 10 municipalities in California that have raised their minimum wage have authorized and funded enforcement of the wage theft.”
The board also heard from labor leaders, lawyers and ordinary workers. In her testimony, Maria Elena Durazo, vice president of UNITE-HERE, the hotel, casino and food service workers’ union, quoted Marin Luther King Jr.
“Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth,” she added. “One day our society must come to see this. That day has arrived in Los Angeles. That day is today.”
Although wage theft impacts workers in many different industries, the per-person costs are particularly devastating among port drivers, two of whom offered direct testimony. Edwin Ortiz, a driver for Harbor Rail Transport, owned by X.P.O. Logistics, testified about how that company steals from workers like him.
“X.P.O. is a multibillion-dollar corporation traded on the New York Stock Exchange,” Ortiz said. “They bill themselves as one of the top 10 logistics companies in the world. Despite being worth billions of dollars, they are stealing pay from drivers like me through illegal deductions…That’s the reason I’m making the claim with the California Labor Commissioner to get my money back. In April, X.P.O. bought a French company for $3.5 billion dollars in cash.”
He explained that he and his coworkers couldn’t help but wonder if X.P.O. had that cash because it had been stolen from their paychecks.
Also testifying was Carlos Quintero, a port driver for Pacific Line Transportation.
“I am a victim of wage theft and my company owes me over $200,000,” Quintero said. “Here is evidence of receipts for fuel, tires, lease payments, insurance, brake repairs, windshield wipers, truck washes, administrative fees, hundred of thousands of dollars they deducted from my paycheck every week.
“With the deductions, I’m below minimum wage and your vote today to raise the minimum wage won’t help me or my family at all. Why? Because as a misclassified independent contractor, I’m not even entitled to the current minimum wage, not entitled to overtime, [and not entitled to] worker’s compensation, disability. They say I’m not even entitled to anything…. But that’s not true because the government has already ruled that I am an employee, that I have employee rights.”
And yet, his struggle isn’t over, Quintero explained.
“My company, for a while, even agreed with the government,” he said.“They reached a settlement and posted up signs in the offices in the company, but they never stopped the illegal deductions. They never gave me a W-2 form. They never even started paying the payroll taxes that I’ve been paying for them for years. So I’m on strike again. This is my sixth strike in two years. This time I’m not going back until they re-classify me as an employee and stop the wage theft.”
The staff studies that have been authorized are intended to find the best way to help curb such abuses, not just for Los Angeles County, but in coordination with other levels of government.
“I know that we have some other agencies that want to work with us, the state labor commissioner’s office as well as the federal wage and hours division,” Solis said. “So I know that we’ll have a lot of interest here.”Read More
The nexus between global trade, gentrification and homeless
By James Preston Allen, Publisher
I recently read an article in a daily paper that explained how increasing property values have matched the growing homeless population in Orange County. It would seem obvious that, as real estate prices rise in areas with no rent control, some people will be priced out of the market. But who knew the O.C. had a homeless problem?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the words we use to frame the discussion about homelessness, and how those words color our thoughts and solutions to the matter.
The term “homeless” itself connotes a being without a place; an outcast or a vagrant. At the very start, the word “homeless” denies that these economically displaced persons are a part of our society, our city or our neighborhood—when in fact these folks are as native as anybody else. Some were born and raised here while others came, like so many of you, from other places. In the end they are our neighbors, who just happen to be without shelter.
The truth is, there are many thousands more who are just one paycheck, one health crisis, or one financial disaster away from sleeping in their cars or having to choose between paying the utilities or buying groceries.
Yet, we’re happy as long as they’re not camping out on the sidewalks or in our public parks where they could be an affront to our common sensibilities. So from here on out, I’m going to use the term “our neighbors without shelter” because in the end there is only one solution for these neighbors—shelter.
Putting a roof over their heads is the only civilized thing that a wealthy nation should provide and there are plenty of studies proving that it’s a more cost effective, more efficient and definitely a more humane solution. For so many reasons, a shelter-first philosophy is better for our neighborhoods, our business districts and our common safety and public health. Stray and abandoned dogs and cats are shown more sympathy on Facebook than people panhandling at a freeway offramp.
Once we stop blaming these people for their own circumstances (for which there is plenty of blame to go around), perhaps then we’ll be able to cozy up to the idea that this is a human problem completely within our collective ability to solve. After all, Americans are still really good at building things and solving big problems. We put a man on the moon, constructed a 400-mile aqueduct to bring water to the desert of Los Angeles and built the largest harbor complex in North America. When we stop arguing with ourselves and put our minds to a project, amazing things get done.
Providing shelter for our less fortunate neighbors shouldn’t be that difficult, but it is. Why? The reason is that there is no “economic imperative” to solve this problem.
But, there are an ample number of imperatives that are animating the continued expansion of the industrial basis of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars will be spent over the course of the next decade to modernize and expand industrial port operations to accommodate an ever-increasing global import market—a market based on domestic outsourcing and foreign manufacturing that has cost American workers dearly, contributed directly or indirectly to the plight of neighbors without shelter, and continues to negatively impact portions of the Harbor Area both environmentally and economically.
While the two ports boast of handling more than 40 percent of the nation’s imports, creating 1.5 million jobs in Southern California and even more nationwide, still within a few miles of these two ports reside some of the deepest pockets of poverty in Los Angeles County. Such disparity between POLA’s $200 billion trade business and the US Census figures of areas near this “economic engine” seem to be at odds with each other.
Clearly, many of the jobs created by the import trade are remote from the harbors, with distribution warehouses out in San Bernardino or out past Tehachapi—far enough away from the reach of the waterfront unions where land is cheap and workers willing to work even cheaper. The impacts of this are both environmental and logistical, causing more travel time and pollution in the region, while transferring jobs that could be had locally to boost employment near the harbor to other regions.
POLA, by mandate of the State Tidelands Trust, is perhaps the largest landlord in all of LA County, granting the City of Los Angeles and the port control over these tidelands for the benefit of California’s citizens.
So, just who should benefit most from the use of these tidelands? I would argue that the people who live closest to the tidelands in this state should be considered first, rather than second or last.
It would seem that if POLA, understanding this mandate, were to build on its own property more near dock distribution warehouses—more industrial manufacturing buildings to attract new innovation technologies and export companies—it would solve more of its current logistical problems. And, in the process reduce pollution and address more of the economic disparities.
In the end this would provide more of an economic imperative than attempting to gentrify Ports O’ Call Village or subsidizing automated technologies on terminals that will ultimately cost more jobs than they will save in time. The benefit to Los Angeles in taxes raised and jobs created could be immense.
This may just be part of the solution to ending the problem of our neighbors without shelter also. The best way to keep people from becoming homeless is to create more good paying, secure jobs. This is a plan both Mayor Eric Garcetti and POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka could get behind.Read More
The Semiotics of the Watts Insurrection
By Danny Simon, Contributor
The Watts Rebellion began Aug. 11 and ended Aug. 17, 1965, after an altercation between a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s unit and a group of black citizens escalated violently.
Six days of fires, looting and violent confrontations between members of the black community, local law enforcement and the California National Guard that enforced martial law, left 34 dead and more than $40 million in property damages. Amid the ashes, the mass media rushed in to report from the newest war zone—not in Vietnam, but in the City of Angels.
For a brief moment, the nation was wide awake and its eyes moved to the plight of urban black America in the American West as never before — or since. Previously, black Los Angeles was largely ignored in the media, or occasionally covered by black journalists like retired Los Angeles City Councilman Robert C. Farrell. But the sensationalism surrounding the 1965 Watts Riots produced a rabid curiosity, which was partially satiated by popular books and articles that attempted to put the events into context. This happened while espousing a wide range of ideological positions on American history and culture. What is astonishing is the range of perspectives that this one event spawned, and that some writers actually took the time to ask the right questions and formulate answers that got to bigger truths. This in stark contrast to the limited McCone Report, the government’s investigation and report, which largely exonerated police officials and ignored structural poverty and racial segregation.
In A Journey into the Mind of Watts, a young Thomas Pynchon went to the streets and brought back some straight answers, a feat that seemed to mystify so many at the time. Systematic ghettoization, poverty and police harassment led a slim minority of the population of Watts to rebel against anything they could. Leave it to a surrealist fiction writer to be a rare clarion voice in the midst of so much pain and confusion. In A Prelude to a Riot, Paul Jacobs addresses the structural issues of race and poverty that led to the insurrection of poor urban blacks against a system that failed to address their concerns: police brutality, ghettoization, white ignorance, economic exploitation and general disregard for the black ghetto in Los Angeles and across the nation amid a period of economic prosperity. Jacobs concludes that unless America addressed those issues, more revolutions against the government and society would continue.
Was it a riot or was it a rebellion? Complexity may be a vice, however the semiotics of the telling and retelling of the event are varied and revealing.
The use of the the term “riot” connotes a lawless and chaotic disruption of the status quo, a plague set loose upon the innocent and civilized. Before 1965, ironically, race riots in America were the practice of white terrorists who attacked black communities. As the nation’s media cast its gaze upon Watts, multiple meanings were relayed and accepted. For segregationists, it was proof that integration was dangerous and containment of the black population was necessary; for the general viewing public, it was proof of distinct cultural differences. While some of the media sensationalism may have produced a short-lived form of sympathy, it did not create a form of empathy which would have demanded a historical recitation of inequities of race and class stemming from Jim Crow.
The use of the term “rebellion” connotes a concentrated effort by individuals within a group to strategically attack what they believe are either concrete or symbolic examples of exploitation and violence within their community. Fed up and tired of waiting for progress to arrive, black youth exploded and could not be contained by traditional leadership in the community. Black revolutionaries involved in the Watts rebellions found empowerment and international attention through violence and looting, a warning to a result of a nation riddled with inequity and too slow or simply unwilling to engage.
Whether the event was perceived as a riot or a rebellion depended on one’s place amid a deeply divided American society. The effects of separate but always unequal was largely ignored by most white Americans out of a habit of denial that continues to this day amid this supposed post-racial era. Mass incarceration of the poor and the militarization of law enforcement occlude the structural inequalities that remain from 50 years ago. But infected with historical amnesia, the next urban unrest will appear unexpectedly, cleaved from the past, though explanations of the event will have to be 140 characters or less.
50 Years After the Watts Rebellion
By Danny Simon, RLn Contributor
Few family names in Los Angeles politics evoke a tradition of public service like Hahn. Kenneth’s older brother, Gordon, represented the 66th District of the California State Assembly from 1947 to 1953, after which he filled Kenneth Hahn’s vacant seat on the city council until 1963. Kenneth was a Democrat, while Gordon was a Republican, but the politics of both brothers, and the family in general, echo the idealism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, though plainly infused with more plebeian sensibilities.
Kenneth’s lasting popularity can be explained by his diligent awareness of the wants and needs of his community and his diligent attempts to bring them to fruition.
The national Civil Rights Movement inspired a generation of black politicos to fight social and political inequality, and many cut their teeth on John F. Kennedy’s California campaign for the presidency in 1959. Hahn worked both openly and behind the scenes to help empower black politicians and to help their constituents achieve racial representation on the Los Angeles City Council. On Kenneth’s advice, Gordon stepped aside to make way for Billy G. Mills. He served, along with Tom Bradley and Gilbert Lindsay, as part of a movement of black political leadership that arose to challenge the white domination of Los Angeles politics in the early 1960s.
President Lyndon B. Johnson fought a “War on Poverty” for a “Great Society” and the Civil Right’s Movement marched on, but for many black youth of South Los Angeles, progress was too slow and hard to see. Violence broke out on Aug. 11, 1965, after a crowd witnessed what had seemingly become routine police brutality via the humiliation of members of the black community. The National Guard poured into the area, followed by state and federal funds. California Gov. Pat Brown (Gov. Jerry Brown’s father) swiftly assembled an investigatory committee headed by John A. McCone, a wealthy California scion and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Among the committee’s varied findings was the need for a full-service hospital for the people of South Los Angeles, though that idea originated with local black physicians like Dr. Wells Ford and Dr. Sol White Jr. In tight collaboration with black political leaders like Mervyn Dymally, Hahn began a long process which eventually led to the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital and the Charles R. Drew School of Medicine and Science (King/Drew) in Willowbrook. Shuttered mid-scandal in 2007, King Hospital reopened in 2015.
A generation later, Kenneth Hahn’s children, James and Janice, have enjoyed remarkable ascensions of their own. James Hahn served as city controller and city attorney before serving as mayor of Los Angeles from 2001 to 2005. He now presides as a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench in Santa Monica. Janice Hahn represented the 15th District of the Los Angeles City Council from 2001 to 2011, after which she’s represented the 36th and 44th districts in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Janice Hahn took a break from her busy schedule in Washington D.C. to speak about the politics of her father, her experience in the House and her campaign for the 4th District of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Danny Simon:How do you account for your father’s progressive politics?
Janice Hahn: My dad was born into a family with a single mom who raised seven boys in poverty in South Los Angeles. He lived and died no more than two miles from where he was born. He grew up in poverty and I think he never lost touch with that. I know that the first suit he ever owned was when he joined the Navy, and I think the first steak he ever ate was in the Navy. I think he never lost touch with his roots and his poverty, and he had a keen way of relating to the people he represented. He was one of them and I think they knew that, so I think his politics were about how he would’ve liked to have seen politicians in the ’30s and ’40s make policies that would’ve helped his family.
DS:Do you think that came out of a sense of FDR Progressivism that was bipartisan?
JH: Yes, I think that in those days there was a sense that government did have a role to play in people’s lives, both positive and helpful in terms of reaching out to the poor and trying to make more opportunities available. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Social Security. Two great programs that have kept many people out of poverty.
DS:So there’s a bit of a paradox in that after Johnson got past all the Great Society legislation, then comes the violence of August 1965. Do you think your dad understood the anger in the black community? Could he empathize or was he offended by it?
JH: As I recall it—I was 13 at the time—I remember the Watts Riots very well. I think his first reaction was a bit of disbelief, a little bit of sadness that then quickly turned to resolve. My father was very interested in helping to rebuild the community. He was very interested in seeing what the McCone Commission recommendations were and what he could do to implement some of them. Of course, one recommendation was that the black community needed a full-service hospital, and one of my dad’s greatest legacies was [that] they built a hospital in Watts.
DS:How do you think he’d respond to King Hospital reopening in such a scaled-back manner?
JH: I think that if he’d been still alive, we’d never have lost the first hospital. He took such a keen interest in that hospital. I remember so many times that we would drop by the hospital and he would go in unannounced, he would walk the halls and talk to doctors, talk to patients. I think he had a much better sense of what was going on in that hospital and I’m not sure that he would’ve allowed it to meet its demise like it did. He would be happy that there is some sort of healthcare available to that community. But like me, I’m sure he would not have been fully satisfied until there was a level-one trauma center again. It had a first-rate trauma center and I think people probably lost their lives because that trauma center was closed.
DS:How do you explain your dad’s lasting popularity amid a massive demographic shift?
JH: I think Kenny Hahn is synonymous with public service and with faithfully representing his constituents. He set an incredibly high bar for all politicians, like, if you take care of little things, the big things will take care of themselves. He was famous for filling potholes, for building swimming pools, for putting in stop signs, for knowing the pastor of every church. I was sitting on a plane next to a woman who said, “We always felt like your father had our backs.” His constituents knew that Kenny Hahn had their back and that no matter what happened, he’d be on their side because he was always on the side of the people. Not many politicians have that reputation. I think there’s still a sense that people have to fight city hall to get their concerns addressed. I don’t think he ever gave the impression that people had to fight county government to get something. He worked day and night to bend county government to work for the people. And that has really lasted and they remember his legacy for having built a hospital and assembling a paramedics program, to put call boxes on the freeway, to bring the Dodgers to LA. He was one of those people’s politicians that would see a problem and figure out how to solve it and people appreciate that.
DS:What have you learned both politically and personally while serving in the House of Representatives?
JH: I think what I’ve learned is that even if you have a passion or idealism to accomplish things or change the world, in Washington D.C. it’s very difficult…There’s almost zero cooperation between both parties. The deck is stacked against whomever is in the minority, the committees are stacked against them, the rules are stacked against them. Its very difficult no matter how hard you try to form a relationship to work across the aisle. It just doesn’t bode well for a divided government. There’s no real incentive for the party in the majority to work with the party in the minority. A few times when the Tea Party revolted against the speaker, the Democrats have come into play because Speaker [John] Boehner needed our votes to pass something, and then we were able to force some compromises and get some of our ideas onto a bill. I’ve learned that I’m not politically wired for partisan politics; I enjoy and I’m more suited to nonpartisan politics; I enjoy building consensus; I enjoy bringing different people to the table; I enjoy identifying a problem and identifying a solution; I enjoy that kind of politics and I think my skills are better suited for local politics. I learned that it’s a team sport back in Washington D.C., us versus them, and both sides try to move the football down the field and try to score some points. It’s not something I’ve found enjoyable. I’m not as well-suited for partisan politics as I thought I was.
DS:But you have cultivated some relationships across the aisles?
JH: One of my biggest accomplishments in Congress was my bipartisan port caucus; that was the first time in the history of the United States Congress that anyone decided to gather people together around the subject of our nation’s ports. I started it; I co-chaired it and it had about 100 members of Congress whom I educated about why ports matter in this country. Because of those relationships, I’ve brought some of them to LA and Long Beach to look at our ports, and I’ve traveled with them to look at their ports, and as a result, I believe for the first time we’re able to bring more money back to our ports than ever before. When I look back, that will be my greatest accomplishment [in Congress] and that was done in a bipartisan way.
DS:How will you campaign for the 4th District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (currently served by Don Knabe)?
JH: This race is neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, almost block by block. It’s about really understanding the needs of the different communities and seeing how county government can step in and play a role to solve problems. Or, I’m sure there are many communities that won’t want county government to play any role. That’s what I’m good at, because of my father, who was good at listening and talking to people about where they’re at and seeing their frustrations, or maybe, their disappointment with county government, and seeing if there’s something I can do to fix it…. If elected, I will be the third female on the county board, making it a female majority, the first time in its history. I kind of joke, “this is not my dad’s board of five men that ruled the county for a very long time.”
DS: Your dad’s board could be extremely divisive over issues like the creation of King Hospital. How do you feel things have changed?
JH: My dad was many times on the end of a losing vote, 4-1. He finally went to the voters to build that hospital (Hahn lost that vote by a razor- sharp margin of .3 percent, but eventually forged a compromise with Mayor Sam Yorty). I feel that this is a board on which we will find many opportunities to build consensus. I know Mark Ridley-Thomas very well. I know Hilda Solis, who was also a member of Congress and who served as secretary of labor under President [Barack] Obama. I know Sheila Kuehl, I talk to her a lot; Sheila and Hilda have endorsed me. I feel like this is a board that will be very workable, and I’m proud of the work they’re doing right now with their progressive agenda.
DS: Do you have any projects you’d like to see accomplished in the next decade by the Board of Supervisors?
JH: I get asked that question a lot, and at this time, I don’t know. I’m sure when my dad first took office in 1952, he never dreamed he would be building a hospital or bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles or putting call boxes on the freeway or starting the paramedics program. Those probably weren’t visions or dreams of his, and by the way, they probably happened like during year 15 or 20 of his tenure on the board. Now, of course, we have term limits and there are only 12 years that you’re allowed to serve. I think I’ll take it one step at a time and look for opportunities to serve the residents of the 4th District in a way that would make my dad proud.
DS:Why do you want this job?
JH: I grew up in the home of a county supervisor. I was a baby when my dad was elected, so I watched the way that my dad did the job for 40 years. I watched him solve problems for constituents, from filling the potholes to building the hospital…. It was certainly imprinted on my soul and my heart and my brain that this was a noble profession and a good opportunity for me to serve my Los Angeles County. I was born and raised in Los Angeles County; it’s my home and I know that I can deliver results for the 4th District. I look forward to that job, I look forward to that work. I think everything I’ve done so far has prepared me and led me to this moment in time and I’m gonna embrace it.Read More
A Celebration of Life
San Pedro native and long-time Los Angeles area arts critic John Farrell will be honored, at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 15, with “John Farrell: A Celebration of Life” at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 31290 Palos Verdes Drive, West, Ranch Palos Verdes.
In addition to Random Lengths News, the San Pedro High and Long Beach State graduate’s work appeared in the Press-Telegram, the Daily Breeze and the Pasadena Star-News. He covered opera, classical music and stage productions throughout Los Angeles County from the early 1980s until his death in May.
Details: (415) 902-6376, (510)566-3575
The New Blues Festival II
Labor Day Weekend Blues Bash, a Proper End to Summer
By Melina Paris, Music Columnist and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
Bring the lawn chairs and the ice chests. Come Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5 and 6) the New Blues Festival II is going down at El Dorado Park.
The festival has two stages, two days, and dozens of blues bands, including fan favorites Bernie Pearl, Sean Lane, Barbara Morrison, teen blues phenom Ray Goren, and Sherry Pruitt and the Delgado Brothers.
Over the years, Random Lengths has spent a considerable amount of ink covering Pearl, Lane and Morrison. We will likely cover Goren in the near future. However, we were eager for an artist we haven’t covered who is deserving of a bit of the spotlight.
Pruitt, a Beaumont Texas transplant to Long Beach, calls herself the Soulful Songstress. Her range includes gospel and rhythm and blues, she has performed all around the world, having been a singer and performer all her life.
The Delgado Brothers are a versatile band whose roots go back more than 50 years, starting in the Maravilla public housing in East Los Angeles. There are 11 brothers, straddling two generations.
Their range includes the blues (an original Texas-style blues they call the Stevie Ray Vaughan style), R&B, Latin, roots, rock and Americana music. And they play only original music. No covers.
The versatility in their music could probably be credited to the gap in age between the older and younger brothers in the group. But they’re so good, it really doesn’t matter what they play. This band has the capacity to sonically take you places you either haven’t been in a while, or where you have never been at all.
We were able to reach Pruitt and Joey Delgado recently and talk to them about their set at the New Blues Festival and how they joined forces.
Pruitt and the Delgado Brothers have played together periodically since 2006. Pruitt and Joey were introduced at a housewarming party hosted by their mutual friend, Bobby Zeno, KPFK radio’s “Blues Power” disc jockey.
As Delgado tells it, Zeno hired Pruitt and her backup band to perform at his housewarming party. Joey and his wife were among Zeno’s invited guests.
“When Sherry sang; it was unbelievable,” Delgado recalled of the evening. “She [Pruitt] saw that I was digging her, so she came to our table to sing for my wife and me. She literally brought us to tears. Her singing is just incredible.”
Delgado immediately asked her to perform at his housewarming party. Pruitt consented, for a fee of only $75.
“God bless her,” Delgado said, praising her humility. “Anyway, we agreed on a higher rate. She came to the party, performed and people just lost their minds. We ended up raising $500 or $600 more than I agreed to pay her by just passing the hat around.”
Soon after that, the Delgado Brothers were working on an album and Joey Delgado invited her to be the featured vocalist on it. Pruitt and the Delgado Brothers periodically teamed up for festivals, concerts and blues competitions following the release of their first collaboration.
The most recent competition in which Pruitt and the brothers participated together was the 2011 Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. They placed second.
Check out the YouTube videos of their performances. The chemistry between Pruitt and the Brothers is as obvious as that of peanut butter and jelly.
At the New Blues Festival, Pruitt and the Delgado Brothers are going to perform a mix of the latest material from their discography, ranging from some of their oldest to newest music. Both have released new CDs within the past couple of years.
“Whenever we’ve done festivals or other events and we need to spice it up, we’ll hire Sherry to come in, and you know, raise the roof,” Joey said.
Pruitt is excited about the outdoor festival.
“That’s my favorite,” she said. “I like being outdoors in the open and seeing people have a good time. The club scene is different but the outdoors is magical to me. I’m looking forward to playing the New Blues Festival. It will be exciting to play together with the Delgado Brothers again.”
Pruitt and the Brothers are scheduled to perform on the main stage on the last day of the festival, Sept. 6. But they are by no means the only ones to look out for on that day, or the next.
By our estimation, the inclusion of James Harman on the main stage is a coup for festival goers. Harman’s down home vocals and harmonica playing is both nostalgic and groove-inspiring–”groove inspiring” because his music has the capacity to move your body and soul like a snake to a charmer’s flute.
Harman has played with and been among the best for 50 years. He’s been performing since the ‘60s, and experienced his greatest success after recording several albums in the 1980s and ‘90s.
A number of Harman’s songs have been used in films and on television, including “Kiss of Fire,” which was on the soundtrack of the movie The Accused. Harman was also a frequent guest artist at the Long Beach Blues Festival.
Also on the bill is Dave Widow, an artist that a festival can never go wrong. The Random Lengths News columnist, B. Noel Barr called Widow’s critically acclaimed album, Waiting for the World to End “an outstanding collection of blues songs, demonstrating first-rate production and musicianship.”
You don’t want miss his performance Sept. 5.
The Second, But Golden, Stage
Though the Golden Grove is not the main stage, it will feature Lil’ A and the Allnighters; Kelly Chappue and the Soul Collectors; the Other Mules’ Shadow Blue Featuring Lady Faye; Tracy Niles; Crooked-Eye Tommy, and the Seatbelt, who Random Lengths has profiled a few times over the years.
But one artist to watch on the Golden Grove Stage is South River Slim. This guy is not your typical artist that says he’s a blues and rock n’ roll guy but sounds like every other blues and rock n’ roll guy.
We couldn’t find a single YouTube video of him performing. But we did get to hear two of his singles, “Heavy Like Liquorice” and “Square of the Dead.” The songwriting and performances of these songs immediately grabbed my attention because they sounded fresh and new, and familiar, at the same time.
The lyrics of “Square of the Dead” reminded me of the sort you’d hear in early blues cuts from the likes of blues legend Robert Johnson and others.
So, we tapped some keys into the Google search engine and found a feature story on Slim and his battle with cancer just as he was beginning to find his voice on Urbanitenews.com.
The Yardbirds, Rolling Stones and The Doors were South River Slim’s gateway to the blues. By the time he was 12, Slim had “immersed himself in the deep blues, devouring old masters like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson,” according to the online feature.
It chronicled his early years trekking and jamming with his friends on Route 66, playing covers of the above-mentioned artists, as well as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Elvis Presley, along the way.
Family tragedy seemed to ultimately halt his youthful adventures, forcing him to put aside his music and get a day job—only occasionally writing something and playing guitar in his basement.
Just when he had decided to pursue his music again, Slim was diagnosed with throat cancer. Ultimately, music, and his desire to live, are what saved his life. South River Slim is going to be performing on Saturday on the Golden Grove Stage.
Time: 9 a.m to dusk, Sept. 5 and 6
Cost: General admission $25 for one day; $40 for two days
Venue: El Dorado Park, 7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach
LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 5, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Kappelhoff announced that the Justice Department reached a comprehensive settlement with the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Sheriff to protect prisoners from serious suicide risks and excessive force in the Los Angeles County jails.
The agreement was filed along with a complaint that alleges a pattern or practice of inadequate mental health care and excessive force at the jails in violation of prisoners’ federal constitutional rights. The Justice Department, together with the county and the sheriff, has requested that the district court enter the settlement as an order to bring court oversight to the reforms, to ensure that the reforms are implemented fully and transparently, and to strengthen public confidence in the jails.
The settlement resolves claims stemming from the Justice Department’s long-standing civil investigation into mental health care at the jails, which found a pattern of constitutionally deficient mental health care for prisoners, including inadequate suicide prevention practices. In addition, the settlement agreement includes remedial measures to address a separate civil investigation into use of force by jails staff.
The Justice Department’s investigations involved an in-depth review of thousands of pages of documents and other records, on-site visits and interviews with numerous jails staff members, prisoners and others. The Justice Department was assisted by subject matter experts in the fields of mental health care, suicide prevention and correctional practices.
The county and the sheriff cooperated with the civil investigations and have begun to implement many of the negotiated reforms in the settlement agreement, which was negotiated by attorneys with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“The settlement agreement avoids protracted litigation and provides a blue print for durable reform that will foster continued collaboration among sheriff deputies, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders,” Decker said.
Under the settlement the county and the sheriff have agreed to implement comprehensive reforms to ensure constitutional conditions in the jails and restore public trust. The settlement agreement will be court-enforceable once approved by the district court and will be overseen by an independent monitor and a team of mental health and corrections experts. The settlement agreement is designed to prevent and respond more effectively to suicides and self-inflicted injuries through measures that include:
• additional steps to recognize, assess and treat prisoners with mental illness, from intake to discharge;
• significant new training on crisis intervention and interacting with prisoners with mental illness for new and existing custody staff;
• improved documentation in prisoners’ medical and mental health records to ensure continuity of care;
• improved communication between custody and mental health staff and increased supervision of mentally ill and suicidal prisoners;
• steps to mitigate suicide risks within the jails;
• increased access to out-of-cell time for mentally ill prisoners; and
• improved investigation and critical self-analysis of suicides, suicide attempts and other critical events.
With respect to use of force, the settlement agreement expands critical reforms agreed to by the county and the sheriff in Rosas v. McDonnell to cover all facilities within the jail system. These reforms include:
• enhanced leadership and executive staff engagement;
• significant revisions to use-of-force policies, which should significantly reduce the use of excessive force, with added protections for use of force against prisoners with mental illness;
• enhanced training for custody and mental health staff;
• enhanced data collection and analysis;
• enhanced accountability measures, including use-of-force reporting, use-of-force reviews and discipline; and
• enhanced grievance procedures.
The Justice Department’s investigation was originally opened in 1996, under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. The Justice Department found constitutional deficiencies in mental health care, suicide prevention and the use of excessive force against prisoners with mental illness. In 2002, the Justice Department entered into a memorandum of agreement with the County and the Sheriff to address these concerns. Despite considerable progress over the years of monitoring the memorandum of agreement, the Justice Department concluded in 2014 that the jails were failing to provide adequate mental health care, including suicide prevention, and that conditions under which prisoners with mental illness were housed exacerbated the risk of suicide.
In addition, in 2013, the Justice Department initiated a separate civil investigation into allegations of use of excessive force by jails staff under both the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. While the use-of-force investigation was ongoing, the County and the Sheriff settled the Rosas v. McDonnell class-action lawsuit, which alleged excessive force by jails deputies in three downtown facilities. The settlement agreement incorporates all of the reforms in Rosas and extends them to all county jail facilities to cover prisoners throughout the jails system.
The civil investigations were conducted by attorneys and staff from the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section.
“I am pleased that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the County, and the United States Department of Justice have entered into a joint agreement that will provide our jail system with the opportunity to move beyond past problems and build on the progress that has already been made in enhancing the treatment of those in our custody,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a released statement. “I personally commit to the DOJ, our employees and our community that we will rise to meet these and future challenges. While there undoubtedly will be setbacks, we will aim to do better every day and learn from, and be open about, our mistakes with the goal of continuous improvement.”Read More
Collision on Gerald Desmond Bridge Yields Death
LONG BEACH — Three vehicles collided because driver was moving against traffic, at about 7 a.m. Aug. 1, eastbound on the Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Earlier that the morning, officers observed a vehicle driving erratically and crashing through barricades in the area of Special Olympic events. Officers attempted to follow the vehicle through the downtown Long Beach Bicycle Path after it struck numerous objects, but lost sight of the vehicle.
Witnesses directed officers toward the Gerald Desmond Bridge regarding a multi-vehicle traffic collision. Upon arrival, officers found two vehicles on fire and immediately attempted to rescue the drivers. Despite life-saving efforts by several officers, one driver succumbed to his injuries and was determined dead at the scene. An officer sustained minor injuries to his arm during his attempt to pull the driver. The officer was transported to a local hospital where he was treated and released.
Long Beach Fire Department personnel provided rescue and fire suppression services, as well as medical aid at the scene. Fire personnel transported the two remaining drivers in critical condition to local hospitals.
The preliminary investigation revealed that a 2012 Mercedes Benz being driven by Alvin Ray Shaw, a 28-year-old resident of Hawthorne, entered the eastbound lanes of Ocean Boulevard at Golden Shore traveling westbound towards the Gerald Desmond Bridge against eastbound traffic.
At the crest point of the Gerald Desmond Bridge, the Mercedes, still traveling westbound against eastbound traffic, collided with a 2014 Ford Fusion, driven by a 21-year-old resident of San Pedro, and a 2010 Nissan Pickup Truck. Both the Ford and Nissan vehicles were traveling eastbound in the eastbound lanes of the Gerald Desmond Bridge. The resulting collision caused the Mercedes Benz and the Nissan truck to catch fire. The Mercedes appears to be the same vehicle that was seen driving erratically and through barricades earlier.
The deceased male driver of the 2010 Nissan truck is not being identified at this time. The Los Angeles County Coroner will make positive identification and notify next of kin.
It is unknown, at this time, if alcohol and/or drugs were a factor in the collision.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call (562) 570-7355 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.
Arrest Made in Connection with June Murder
LONG BEACH — On Aug. 1, Long Beach Police arrested 26-year-old Jorge Luis Cruz, of Long Beach, in connection with a murder that took place earlier June 22.
The murder happened about 8:45 a.m. near the 800 block of Cedar Avenue in Long Beach. Long Beach Police Department officers responded to the call regarding shooting. The shooting resulted in the death of 37-year-old Douglas Wilson of Long Beach.
At about 5:50 p.m. Aug. 1, officers initiated an investigation involving a vehicle in the 1300 block of Ohio Avenue. A passenger, who officers recognized as a subject wanted in connection with the June homicide, fled from the vehicle. Officers established a containment perimeter to find the subject with the assistance of air support and K9 services. Around 8:15 p.m., Cruz was taken into custody.
On Aug. 3, Cruz appeared in Long Beach Superior Court; however, his arraignment in connection with the murder of Douglas Wilson was postponed until August 18, 2015. He is being held in Los Angeles County Jail on $2 million bail.
The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information regarding the murder is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.LACrimeStoppers.org.
Woman Who Has Fed Homeless for 12 Years is Honored
District 6 Councilman Dee Andrews will honor Alice Robinson and friends for their service of feeding the hungry at the 12th anniversary of the Feeding in the Park, at 12 p.m. Aug. 5, 2015, at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Long Beach.
Friends of Alice Robinson is celebrating another anniversary for the Feeding in the Park program. For the past 12 years, Robinson has prepared and served more than 11,000 hot, home-cooked, full course meals to eager smiling faces at the park. Out of her own senior income and generous donors, she and her friends have prepared the meals on a monthly basis.
Robinson is 77 years old and has been married to her husband, Bennie, for 56 years. She is originally from Tuscaloosa, Ala. However, she has lived in the 6th District of Long Beach since 1957. Since her retirement in 1998 from Mary Kay Contributions, she started volunteering her time to improve the Long Beach Community. Robinson has two daughters, Rosie Cade and Vanessa Conner, who volunteer to help their mother feed the hungry as well.
The “Friends” includes a number of retired seniors and community volunteers that assist Robinson in serving the hot meals each month. The number one request for food is spaghetti. They also serve meatloaf, beef stew, and corn. Menus have included such things as fried chicken, bar-b-cued chicken, ribs, corn bread, sausage, beans, rice, greens, salads, cakes, biscuits and gravy.
For those in need of a hot meal, Friends of Alice Robinson serves a free meal every first Wednesday of the month at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
Details: (562) 570-6816
Garcetti Nominates General Manager of Information Technology Agency
LOS ANGELES — On July 30, Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Interim General Manager Ted Ross to serve as the general manager of the Information Technology Agency and chief information officer for the City of Los Angeles. In this role, Ross will direct the city’s more than 460-person technology agency to harness the power of technology in order to achieve Garcetti’s goals of innovation, transparency, and efficiency across all aspects of city government.
Ross, a native of Los Angeles, has worked for the City since 2004, most recently serving as assistant general manager for Information Technology Agency and in information technology leadership roles under City Controllers Laura Chick and Wendy Greuel and at the Los Angeles World Airports. Ross has had key roles in replacing the city’s Financial Management System, instituting the Mayor’s Open Data Portal, and has been a major contributor to the city’s recent technology awards, including:
- First Place Digital City (Government Technology Magazine)
- First Place Open Data City (Code for America & Sunlight Foundation)
- Second Place Best of the Web (Government Technology Magazine)
- StateScoop 50 Project Winner (Drupal Project for LACity.org and other city websites)
The Information Technology Agency provides citywide systems, voice and data communications, a 24/7 data center, and the city’s public safety infrastructure, including police and fire radio communication systems on vehicles and helicopters. This includes www.lacity.org, a new global navigation bar across all city websites, and the recently Emmy-nominated Channel 35 TV station. The Information Technology Agency is a key player in the Mayor’s initiatives on cyber security, sustainability, open data, cloud computing, and developing an effective mobile workforce.
Today, the Information Technology Agency is leading efforts to improve broadband internet across Los Angeles through the CityLinkLA initiative.
Ross’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the Los Angeles City Council.
Poll Shows Bernie Sanders Beating Republican Candidates
A just released CNN poll found that Bernie Sanders out-polled all of the GOP’s major candidates, though he pretty much tied with Jeb Bush. Here’s how Sanders stacks up:
Polling shows he’s the only candidate from either side who has a net favorability rating.
Donald Trump has 18 percent to Jeb Bush’s 15 percent. In the state polling, Trump is the leader in New Hampshire in the Marist poll, at 21 percent with Jeb Bush at only 14 percent. In Iowa, Trump is at 17 percent and Scott Walker is at 19 percent.
LB Harbor Commission President Named
LONG BEACH — On July 27, The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners elected Lori Ann Farrell Harrison as its new board president.
The five-member Harbor Commission, which oversees the Port of Long Beach, also selected Lou Anne Bynum as vice president and Tracy Egoscue as secretary. The commission selects from its own members the president and the other board officers for one-year terms each July.
Farrell Harrison, a 5th District resident, is the director of finance for the City of Huntington Beach and was previously chief financial officer for Long Beach. She was appointed to the Harbor Commission in 2013 by then-Mayor Bob Foster. The commission president chairs board meetings and represents the port to the public.
Farrell Harrison and Bynum succeed Doug Drummond and Rich Dines as president and vice president, respectively.
Under the city charter, the mayor of Long Beach appoints city residents to the Harbor Commission for a six-year term. Commissioners oversee the port and direct the CEO, who in turn manages the more than 500-person staff of the Long Beach Harbor Department in the development and promotion of the Port of Long Beach.
Former Police Chief Dies
LONG BEACH — On July 29, the Long Beach Police Department announced the death of former Long Beach Police Chief Jerome E. Lance on Saturday, July 25. Lance was 72 years old when he succumbed to his battle with cancer.
Lance began his career with the Long Beach Police Department in 1964. During his career, he worked various assignments throughout the Department at all ranks before being promoted to the position of chief of police on November 20, 1999.
During his tenure as chief of police, he was faced with several challenges of a magnitude including, the aftermath of 9/11 and the loss of four officers.
He was responsible for multiple facility projects which included the refurbishment of the public safety building, the construction of a new communications center, the relocation of the crime lab and property section, and the upgrading of the police academy.
Additional accomplishments included increased security duties at the airport and harbor, the purchase of two new helicopters, and implementation of the first boat patrol unit in the history of the Long Beach Police Department.
After Lance’s retirement from the LBPD in 2002, he served as interim chief of police for the Oceanside Police Department from March through December of 2005. He was head of the CSULB Center for Criminal Justice in 2003 and continued to teach and consult in the law enforcement community until 2014.
Lance is survived by his wife Margaret “Bunny” Lance, his sister Patricia “Pat” Chapman (Oberg), his daughter Pamela Jane Crandall (Lance), her husband Brett and children Mackenzie and Brayden, and his son LBPD Sergeant Darren Jerome Lance, his wife Nancy and their daughter Sierra, along with many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will take place for Lance at 1 p.m. Aug. 9, at the Long Beach Police Officers Association Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in his honor to either of the following:
Long Beach Police Officers Widows and Orphans Trust Fund c/o
2865 Temple Avenue
Long Beach, California 90755
Law Enforcement Cancer Support Foundation
6475 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 354
Long Beach, CA 90803