• Tanaka Indicted

    The Former Undersheriff Couldn’t Keep a Lid on Pandora’s Box

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    On May 14, former undersheriff of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Paul Tanaka, was indicted, along with alleged co-conspirator William Thomas Carey, in what Tanaka called “Operation Pandora’s Box,” an effort to conceal an FBI informant during its investigation of corruption and excessive-force incidents in the sheriff’s department in 2011. The recent announcement was somewhat anti-climatic since six deputies directly involved in the operation were already charged, tried and convicted in 2014. Tanaka and Carey testified in those cases.

    The writing has been on the wall since at least May 2014 when the deputies were officially indicted. At the time, Tanaka was actively running for election to become the next sheriff by participating in town hall meetings and a couple of debates against rivals. When the announcement was made, Tanaka fell silent, effectively halting his campaign.

    When Random Lengths News interviewed Tanaka in February 2014, the blue ribbon commission report on violence in the Men’s Central Jail released in 2012 had taken a toll on both the sheriff’s department and the former undersheriff.

    During our interview, Tanaka denied he even had jurisdiction over the Men’s Central Jail during the periods the reports said he did, chalking the criticisms of his leadership up to a few deputies angling to become sheriff.

    “I’m implicated [in this study] because people have made it a point to point that out, suggesting that I was involved,” Tanaka said. “When you look at the study, when it all began—the period ‘08, ‘09 and ‘10—I didn’t have responsibility for the jails. I had responsibility for patrol and investigations county-wide. When I was in charge of the jails for the brief period from ‘05 to ‘07, we didn’t have those problems because we had people that were there.”

    Tanaka also complained that witnesses interviewed by the blue ribbon panel weren’t under oath or were cross-examined, a situation that allowed witnesses with ulterior motives to speak unchecked.

    In the months that followed, four grand juries had indicted up to 18 deputies linked to excessive force incidents and other misconduct. This wasn’t the first report to document problems in the department. But what made this report different is that it also documented how the department failed to implement reforms suggested by previous reports.

    Sheriff Lee Baca, the “Teflon Lawman” who had been winning re-elections with little effort for 20 years, saw his chances for reelection in 2014 come into doubt. So much so that opponents both within and outside of the department signed up as candidates for the top job, including Tanaka, the second most-mentioned name in the Men’s Central Jail report.

    Baca’s retirement in January 2014 came as a shock. The field of candidates, in a race with a weakened incumbent, now only had each other and their ideas of how to reform the department.

    Still, the main question remained: was Tanaka running?

    Operation Pandora’s Box

    The conspiracy, according to the indictment, began in August 2011, when the sheriff’s department discovered a cell phone wrapped in a glove inside a potato chip bag in the possession of inmate Anthony Brown.

    Brown was an informant working for the FBI. At the time the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a federal grand jury were investigating abuse and corruption allegations in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He did so, following a number of internal reports on excessive force and corruption kicked up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office over the years.

    U.S. attorneys in the Tanaka indictment cited two special counsel reports sent to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2005 and 2007 that noted, among other things, the Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau was not doing enough to uncover criminal misconduct by LASD employees. Also, too many misconduct allegations made against department employees were not investigated criminally or administratively. And, perhaps more critically, the department was not conducting sting operations to test the integrity of its deputies.

    Prosecutors noted that Tanaka was told about problem deputies assigned to the Men’s Central Jail in February 2006.

    A special counsel report to the county supervisors noted in 2007 that about half of the Internal Affairs Bureau investigations were not thorough. A separate report released by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review published a warning to those in authority of the harm of disparaging internal investigations and of outside scrutiny of the sheriff’s department.

    This was the backdrop against which Tanaka’s alleged conspiracy to impede the federal investigation in 2011 was set.

    The report found that the alleged conspiracy ostensibly failed at keeping Pandora’s Box closed, as prosecutors laid out the lengths to which Tanaka and alleged co-conspirators went to hide Brown.

    Alleged co-conspirators, which include Gerard Smith, Maricela Long, Stephen Leavins, Scott Craig, Mickey Manzo, James Sexton and Greg Thompson, had already been indicted, tried and convicted. Tanaka and Carey, a former captain of the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, are the higher-ups who the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association president said should have been charged for giving the orders in the first place.

    The measures undertaken to hide Brown include:

    • Removing Brown’s hard copy file from the records center, so that there was no physical record showing he was ever in the department’s custody

    • Making false entries into the computer database so that it appeared as though Brown had been released from custody, when in fact, he hadn’t

    • Rebooking Brown under false name and fake booking information without fingerprints

    • Moving him from a cell in a high-security area to a medical floor within Men’s Central Jail, where there were no cameras

     

    To gather information about the investigation, Tanaka allegedly ordered his underlings in the conspiracy to interview Brown, and went so far as to conduct undercover operations by posing as Brown’s cellmate who had been beaten by deputies.

    They allegedly even tried to convince Brown that he had been abandoned by his handlers in order to pressure him not to cooperate with the federal investigation.

    They reportedly reviewed old complaints by inmates investigated by the department but deemed unfounded and closed. They also reportedly interviewed deputies they believed were connected to the federal investigation, essentially tampering with potential witnesses by attempting to deter them from cooperating with the federal investigation.

    Tanaka allegedly directed a co-conspirator to draft a new policy that would require the FBI to get his approval before they could interview any inmate in sheriff department custody. He shortly thereafter approved it. Tanaka allegedly subsequently ordered that his name be removed from the draft policy.

    U.S. attorneys also reported that Tanaka deployed lies, threats, blackmail and the force of chain of command to keep deputies from speaking to the FBI.

    News of high-ranking deputies hiding an FBI informant from a grand jury broke four months after Random Lengths interviewed Tanaka. Our interview produced neither a hint nor a clue of what was to come. But that interview did hold a few takeaway impressions that now seem most prescient.

    Tanaka’s cynicism was one. In reply to a question about his position on constitutional and community policing, he recalled his first run for city council in the city of Gardena in 1999, noting that the relationship between residents and its police department was at an all-time low.

    “I remember going on a ride and a little kid in a certain part of town where we were driving around gave the officer a one-finger wave,” Tanaka said in February 2014. “And I said, ‘Is this what the community thinks about our cops?’”

    Changing this relationship between the community and the Gardena Police Department became his all-consuming mission as a city councilman and later, mayor.

    Tanaka’s solution was to replace a white police chief with a black police chief. For Tanaka, this was a no-brainer for a “minority-majority” city like Gardena comprised of 40 percent Hispanics, 30 percent African Americans and 25 percent Asian Americans.

    That a citizen’s advisory committee was formed following the elevation of a new police chief was secondary in the improvement in relations between the community and the police.

    When Tanaka was asked to respond to the Men’s Central Jail report’s characterization of him as an important element in the department’s culture of abuse and impunity, he rejected the characterization and steadfastly argued that he wasn’t in charge during the periods of time on which the report focuses.

    Rather than the abuse statistics the report documented, Tanaka focused on emails he received from deputies and jail personnel complaining about proposed changes to their work schedules in response to rising abuse claims.

    Tanaka characterized the change as a National Labor Relations Board case waiting to happen. He subscribed to the notion that the department just had a few bad apples that needed to be removed. The effort to rotate the work schedules was ultimately dropped, due to his applied pressure, as he made clear.

     

    The Butterfly Effect

    Mathematician and pioneer of chaos theory Edward Lorenz coined the term, “the butterfly effect,” to explain “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”

    Put another way, the flap of a butterfly’s wings can influence the formation of a distant hurricane several weeks later.

    Tanaka’s failure to keep Pandora’s Box closed has resulted in consequences that reverberate far beyond Southern California. One such consequence is that advocates for police reform and civilian oversight in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department such as the Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Patrisse Cullors, were invited by local activists in Ferguson to teach them effective organizing techniques to address police abuse following the police killing of Michael Brown.

    More police killings of unarmed black people led to more places for the Black Lives Matter Movement to spread and more people to train in languages and tactics of direct action and civil disobedience. The lid that has kept pent-up frustration about police abuse, killings and institutional racism in the box is now starting to come off.

    The allegations in the Department of Justice’s indictment of Tanaka are still to be tried in court and Tanaka continues to deny his culpability in the cover up and corruption of the LASD scandal. This continues to undermine the trust in law enforcement.

     

     

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  • Santa Barbara Spill Illustrates Safety Loopholes at Rancho LPG

    By Janet Gunter, Community Activist and Member of the San Pedro Homeowners Association

    The recent large oil spill at Refugio Beach in Santa Barbara shines a major spotlight on the deficient safety record of Plains All American Pipeline (the owners and operators of Rancho LPG LLC in San Pedro and also illuminates the major “void” in regulations and oversight of the energy industry itself. Plains All American Pipeline and its subsidiaries have been responsible for over 200 spills, leaks and violations over the past several years. The Environmental Protection Agency ordered Plains to pay $41 million in remediation costs associated with 10 pipeline spills occurring in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma between 2004 and 2007 that wound up putting 6,510 barrels of crude—273,420 gallons—into nearby waterways. The culprit was typically corroded pipeline pipes.

    This past year, a Plains pipeline ruptured in an industrial neighborhood in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, causing crude to spray 40 feet into the air. People working at a medical store nearby got so sick from the fumes they had themselves hospitalized. In that instance, 450 barrels escaped. The event was reported to the authorities by residents. The facility became aware of it after being notified by the fire department.

    Even more incriminating is information provided by Plains All American in its most recent Securities and Exchange Commission report. That report itemizes $82 million in environmental liabilities. The EPA fined the company $6 million for a 120-barrel spill in Bay Springs, Miss., in February 2013. The Canadian government assessed the company $15 million in cleanup costs for two spills in June 2013. And, this February, the Canadian National Energy Board Audit levied a $76 million penalty on the company for slipshod environmental safety practices. These EPA and Canadian financial penalties represent less than a simple “slap on the wrist” to Plains Corp. According to the SEC, the company’s net revenue this past year was $1.39 billion.

    Plains continues to move their business forward as if they are stalwart guardians of public safety and the environment. Harbor Area residents concerned about the high risk being posed to them daily by the Plains-owned Rancho Liquefied Petroleum Gas storage facility being operated in their back yards, have been repeatedly chastised by Rancho LPG’s manager, Ron Conrow, as being “hysterical fanatics.” The mantra by Rancho LPG/Plains is that they are in “full compliance” and therefore, “safe.” However, as all the other previous Plains disasters have proven, “in compliance” is a long way from being “safe.” While the results from an oil spill are horrible, an explosion and resulting inferno from Rancho’s massive 25 million gallons of butane and propane gases has the potential to kill thousands within a 3- mile radius, and to decimate the entire Harbor Area, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    In truth, both the operators and our government alike have long tried to dispel public fears with blue smoke and mirrors employed to provide a false sense of security. Unfortunately, most people have bought the lies. It is much easier than investigating and taking action on a most unpleasant and unnerving truth. Perhaps one of the most disappointing discoveries we’ve made is the reliance of the EPA on the “energy industry” itself for their regulation and oversight. The “Environmental Protection Agency” is in reality taking its cues and direction from the American Petroleum Institute. The API threatens to sue anyone or anything that attempts to restrict or limit its business potential. Obviously, there is only one end goal of the API…and that is the health and well-being of their charter members not the general public. It is the powerful influence of this industry that has encouraged a political blind eye to the unacceptable hazards that threaten the innocent public.

    Just as the Santa Barbara County Fire Marshall was ill-equipped to conduct proper inspections of the Plains pipeline that ruptured, so also is the Los Angeles City Fire Department (under the Certified Unified Program Agency) inexperienced and unqualified to inspect and respond to the overwhelmingly improperly sited and geologically vulnerable conditions at Rancho LPG. While the EPA regulations for this facility have allowed for significant under reporting of blast radius, have accepted the fact that its tanks (while sitting in a documented earthquake rupture zone of magnitude 7.3 potential) are built to a seismic substandard of 5.5 potential; have acknowledged that the soil that the entire facility sits upon is identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as “landslide” and “liquefaction” areas; have allowed for the American Petroleum Institute required setbacks of 200 feet to be reduced to far less than that on three sides; and that NO consideration was ever given to the fact that pre-existing homes and schools lie within 1,000 feet of the highly explosive site, God given common sense SCREAMS the outrage of this violation of public safety.

    So, as you listen to the banter of the Plains/Rancho LPG management and of your own government officials as they declare their “righteous” pleas of performance to safety, recall the many recent disasters that we have experienced that prove their words meaningless. Remember the explosions of San Bruno, West, Texas, Tavares, Fla., Lac Megantic, Canada, and even Fukushima. All of these explosions and catastrophes are attributed to situations that were in “compliance.” All were touted as being “safe.” Unlike many of the catastrophes described above, there are several glowing, neon red warning flags being waved at the Rancho LPG site. Paying attention to those flags now, in advance of the looming tragedy, will save many, many lives. But, doing that means that the public needs to step up. Whether it is the expected “big quake,” a terrorism event, infrastructure failure, or human error, the deadly consequences at Rancho LPG are far too great to ignore. The opportunities are many…the disaster deliverable at any time now. We are simply playing a game of “beat the clock.”

    Call or write your mayor, city councilman, senator and congressional representative now.

     

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  • THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE BREWERY:

    IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SOUR BEER AND SPOOKY ATMOSPHERE

    By Mick Haven, Cuisine Columnist
    Photos By Phillip Cooke

    A plastic toy soldier with a handkerchief parachute falls from the sky as a giant rubber buzzard suspended from piano wire swoops in and gobbles up the hapless G.I.

    This black-and-white, Ed Wood-esque tableau—or maybe an actual Ed Wood film— plays out in the screening room at the Phantom Carriage Brewery in Carson as the Misfits blare out of the sound system. But Phantom’s main objective isn’t starting a schlock horror film renaissance, it’s bringing craft sour beer to the South Bay, while invoking a Transylvanian taproom feel.

    With ingredients like bacteria and naturally occurring strains of yeast in their brews, you know mad scientists are running the laboratory.

    Head brewer and mad scientist Simon Ford brings all the sour beer formulas from his days concocting small batches in his garage for friends.

    What’s the origin story with sours? Well, Belgium’s been doing them for more than a minute. But it’s a pretty new deal in the New World. Phantom Carriage Brewery’s at the forefront in the Los Angeles area, along with other local breweries including Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, Craftsman and Monkish Brewing Co.

    Ford’s most potent potion, the Lugosi (see their theme? Consistent, huh?), a dark sour, clocks in at 12.8 percent alcohol by volume.

    Andrew Fuller, from Venice Beach, tried a flight that included a couple of blondes and the Lugosi.

    “The Lugosi’s my favorite, he said. “It has this winey finish I’m really liking.”

    Fuller’s got an astute palate, seeing as how the Lugosi’s got about the same alcohol content as wine.

    Ford continues his monstrous in-house experiments, brewing small batches and filling the wooden barrels held together with rusty patinaed hoops. The portly containers were stacked high throughout the industrial building housing Phantom. They have partnered with Smog City, which handles the big batches, keeping the Carriage Brewery floating in suds.

    Besides its puckery trademark, Phantom offers a rotating roster of other beers. On tap, options range from the El Segundo Blue House Citra Pale and from El Segundo Brewing, to the farthest flung offering of a toasted porter all the way from Akureyri, Iceland, by the Einstök Beer Co.

    And, along with the taps, the oodles of bottled choices are pushing 100.

    How to get there to sample some of these sumptuous suds? Well, since secret laboratories are secret, finding the place to get a taste of these nefarious libations ain’t all that easy. A lone, unlit sign hanging from a chain link fence in a long block of industrial buildings makes missing the driveway on the first pass likely. But it’s there on 18525 S. Main in Carson. So, don’t get scared away.

    Once you find it, there’s a lot in back or street parking, if that gets crowded. Watch out if it’s dark as, just like the driveway, you might sail right past the front door, and only entrance, on the side of the big block of a building.

    Inside, it’s all noir as you pass through a foyer and get to the bar. Behind the bar is a lit-up menu of featured beers available. To the left is a sizable tasting room, all dark and appointed with heavy wood tables and tall chairs. To the right is the screening room, playing cheesy horror films that started things off way back in the beginning. Everything is black. The open ceiling with exposed girders goes all the way to the top of the two-story building, with the wooden barrels presumably holding the hootch stacked on racks forming a wall at one end, as well as on top of the kitchen structure.

    There’s food, too. The place features a menu that elevates some classics, while staying hearty and basic. How’s that done, you ask? Well, the menu’s got things on it like a turkey sandwich, but it’s smoked turkey with chipotle mayo. Another smoked offering is brisket on a baguette with some au jus to get it wet or a bar staple, the pickled egg, which gets a bunch of pickled vegetable companions reminiscent of Italian giardiniera or sottaceti. Either way, it’s damned tasty if you like sour goodies with your sour beer. Oh, and an ice cream beer float composed of vanilla bean ice cream and a rotating stout sounds wicked also.

    The only gripe: the latest the place stays open is 11 p.m. Thursday through Friday. C’mon, everyone knows that the most diabolical plans aren’t hatched till the darkest depths of night.

    Jairo Bogarin, the bar manager, went to Cal State Dominguez Hills and revamped the DH Sports Lounge, the campus watering hole, by turning it from a Coors Light swillhouse into an IPA and stout-friendly environment.

    “I’m pretty sure we’re zoned for it,” he said. “So, it’s definitely on the table to stay open later as the clientele grows.”

    Details: (310) 538-5834; www.phantomcarriage.com
    Venue: The Phantom Carriage Brewery, 18525 S. Main St., Carson 90248

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  • The Secret that Never Was

    POLA Threatens Saturday Fish Market

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    In early May, the Harbor Department began notifying tenants of the Municipal Fish Market that the department will enforce permit violations if tenants continued to sell seafood to people for personal consumption.

    In doing so, the tenants are violating their lease because, by definition, selling to the general public makes a sale a retail sale, and therefore, in violation of the tenant’s permit, Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

    The definition of wholesale is connected to who is buying. It involves large quantities of goods to be resold by others. It is therefore, not connected to the price of goods. Retail is the sale of goods to the public in relatively small quantities for use or consumption rather than for resale.

    In an email, Sanfield wrote that the port confirmed that tenants were selling retail to the public as a result of a March investigation.

    “If tenants engage in retail fish and seafood sales to the general public, then they need to comply with the California Retail Food Code and other relevant health and safety regulations,” Sanfield wrote. “Currently, tenants do not meet these requirements.”

    Deputy City Attorney Janet Karkanen, a lawyer for the Harbor Board of Commissioners, is assisting the Los Angeles Harbor Department in the permit enforcement.

    The Municipal Fish Market at the foot of 22nd Street, was built in 1951 as a receiving facility for fish caught off boats based in San Pedro. The fish market helped fishing companies increase their efficiency. It was associated with the expansion of the Main Channel following World War II. The fish market is important to San Pedro’s heritage going back to the first fish canneries established in 1912.

    Sanfield said that the Harbor Department is enforcing the wholesale-only requirement because the building is on an industrial site that is not appropriate for access by the general public. And, retail sales of seafood require compliance with certain health and safety code requirements within that environment.

    “There is more to it that they are not telling us,” said John DeLuca, president of J DeLuca Fish Company Inc., one of three companies at the Municipal Fish Market that was given notice of enforcement plans. “They mentioned they are concerned about safety—about people walking up on the dock—but whether you walked on the dock or I did, our safety is equally as important. So, I don’t think safety really is the ultimate decision…”

    Sanfield said the port recently noticed an increase in customers at the fish market, which has been going on for years and is commonly known to locals seeking seafood bargains.

    That’s not exactly true, DeLuca said. The fish market has had the same volume in customers for several years. But perhaps, because of the turnover in the Harbor Department, new personnel may not be aware of what’s been part of the port community for decades, he said.

    “They [the port] don’t like the volume of people who are down here and I don’t think that should be the criteria,” DeLuca said.

    While some people have considered the inexpensive prices at the Municipal Fish Market a local secret, DeLuca believes that secret ship sailed a long time ago, since social media has made the marketplace common knowledge.

    “It’s no longer a little secret,” he said. “We get customers from all over.”

    Cashier Kathy Edgard is one example. Every other Saturday, she gets up before dawn and drives 20 minutes from Los Angeles to the San Pedro market, where she can buy seafood at an affordable price. Then, she goes back home and cooks up a storm, making soups and ceviche for her family. But price is not the only reason for her early-morning trek.

    “I am reminded of a place in [my] country where they sell seafood this way,” said Edgard, a native of Ecuador.”

    But Edgard’s nostalgic pleasure may soon come to a halt if the Port of Los Angeles gets its way.

    The Harbor Department’s crackdown on the fish companies can be seen as shortsighted, noted Jean DeFour, DeLuca’s assistant. People from out of the area don’t just come down to buy fish at reasonable prices. They eat breakfast and lunch locally and visit sites such as the USS Iowa or the Korean Bell while they are in town, she said.

    “They do all kinds of other things that include the Port of Los Angeles and the [community] of San Pedro that is important to … [other] business,” DeFour noted. “They are kind of biting their nose off to spite their face because they are trying to stop something that brings in a lot of business for other businesses here in San Pedro.”

    Oscar Arangulo, who cleans the fish at DeLuca’s, went a step further.

    “In reality, this has been a tradition for years,” Arangulo said, in Spanish. “They come to have fun. They come with their families.”

    The public has been able to purchase a whole fish at the market for what they would normally spend on just a few pounds at a supermarket.

    While the port alleges that the companies are violating the terms of their lease, DeLuca, president of one of three companies at the Municipal Fish Market that were given notice of enforcement plans, noted that his lease states they are in the business of “wholesale fish and seafood sales.”

    “‘Seafood sales’ doesn’t seem to limit who we sell it to—whether a man wants to buy 5 pounds or 5,000 pounds,” he said. “That’s a seafood sale.”

    DeLuca said there is a murky distinction between what a seafood sale and a wholesale is, comparing it to Costco sales.

    Costco sales essentially are retail sales, Sanfield said. He said that the permits allow the wording of “wholesale fish and seafood sales” in their lease allows tenants to engage in these sales to individuals and entities authorized to buy wholesale.

    DeLuca said that a few weeks ago, the port called the three companies—J DeLuca Fish Company Inc., L.A. Fish & Oyster Co. and J & D Seafoods—into a meeting to discuss, “wharf updates.” However, the real purpose of the meeting was to talk about Saturday sales, he said.

    The port followed up with a letter the following week after the meeting. DeLuca said that the letter also mentioned a “Farmer’s Market.” He said that while there are a multitude of vendors that have wandered into the area on their own, tenants have nothing to do with these businesses at the fish market.

    Yet, Sanfield maintains that the issue involves any sale of food products to the general public, whether it is fish and seafood sold by the tenants or other products sold by unrelated individuals “who unlawfully set up a ‘farmer’s market.’”

    He wrote that the port has offered to allow the tenants to pursue this option if they are interested in doing so with all the necessary permits.

    “So far, the tenants have indicated that they are not interested in this option,” Sanfield said.

    DeLuca, 62, has been selling fish since he was 15. He started with his family at State Fish Co. when his parents were still alive. Nine years ago he left the family business and opened up shop in the fish market under his own name.

    “Therein lays the problem with the Harbor Department: a lot of these people don’t know the history of this,” DeLuca said.

     

    The Future of the Fish Market

    DeLuca said that the seafood industry in the port is in bad condition. There is very little fish coming in locally and the seafood industry as a whole is hurting. He believes the Harbor Department is doing more damage than good by this action.

    “I don’t think it’s their job to hurt our business or put us out of business and if they stay on this road right now, that’s what they are going to accomplish,” he said.

    Donavan Kawaa of Valencia has been making the one-hour journey to San Pedro for two years. He goes from one fish business to the next to chose his seafood and to get the best price. He said the drive is worth it and he is disappointed about what the Harbor Department is trying to do.

    “All businesses have the right to make a living,” Kawaa said. “I believe in giving everyone an opportunity to buy [seafood].”

    The port plans to enforce their measure by forcing tenants to require that buyers provide a copy of a resale certificate, a business license or some equivalent document that shows the buyer is in the business of resale seafood or uses these products for commercial purposes.

    “The port has asked us to ask for that [resale certificates], but now we are in the enforcement business. I don’t judge how people do their business. If they have a license or they don’t have a license, that’s not for me to police…I don’t believe I’m in law enforcement…I’m selling fish. That’s my line of work.”

    Still, DeLuca is hopeful that something can be worked out.

    “I for one would like to sit down and speak to the port one-on-one, as just a business person, and try to find a solution to a problem,” DeLuca said. “I don’t think selling fish is wrong.”

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  • California Dreaming

    From Booms to Busts, the Optimists are Always Searching for the Gold

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    At a meeting I attended recently with the management of the Port of Los Angeles, a civic leader voiced his enduring optimism for a bright and successful future. I gave the unsolicited reply, “an ounce of skepticism is worth a pound of optimism.”

    Others at the meeting said aghast, “Oh, no. How would anything ever get accomplished?”

    Skepticism is not the opposite of optimism. That would be “pessimism.” And that, I am not.

    To my mind, skepticism as it pertains to government funding of waterfront development is the same as saying, “design for the best; plan for the future and build for the worst-case scenario.”

    This is why we have earthquake and fire regulations in our building codes. It’s to remember past mistakes. It’s the remembering of the past that makes me skeptical. Most agencies, politicians and bureaucracies never wish to look back at past mistakes, even when trying to avoid them in the future. This is particularly true here in California.

    Dating back to the pre-Gold Rush era, California’s history is littered with examples of optimistic boosters predicting a lasting boom period, only to bust 10 years later like clockwork.

    The recent Great Recession is an example of this boom-bust cycle in which hundreds of billions of dollars were made and lost based upon some bizarrely crafted mortgage bond swaps that ultimately resulted in the foreclosure on millions of Americans’ homes—some of which are just down the street from where you live.

    Californians, however, have never been big on being pessimistic about the future. We’ve always thought something better was just over the horizon. Our politicians are the best at selling this “just over the rainbow” ideal and almost never, ever tell us to look back.

    Even during the recent Memorial Day services, while reflecting on the sacrifices of the fallen, they never asked the questions, “What were we fighting for?” Was it really our freedom the soldiers fought for in Iraq or Korea or Vietnam? Any reflection to the contrary is seen as being “un-patriotic.”

    I remain skeptical.

    A year ago we interviewed former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in our office during his run to become the next sheriff of Los Angeles County. I was amazed. His optimism seemed almost delusional, considering that the FBI was investigating him at the time.

    Does the allure of power cloud one’s hold on reality while running for public office? He seemed so assured that he was the one who should lead the sheriff’s department out of its scandal- ridden state—a scandal he had overseen and possibly helped create.

    I remained skeptical.

    The California dream that we’ve all embraced one way or another is so ingrained in our culture and consciousness that to even question it publicly is almost an absurdity.

    Yet, with the recent report that Los Angeles ranks No.1 with the largest homeless population in the state, coupled with the declining number of affordable housing units in the face of rising gentrification, I do, at times, wonder aloud, “What is the future that we are building, and who does it serve?”

    Questioning the dream or challenging it with uncomfortable truths is not very popular, particularly here, where so many still believe that the next gold rush is just over the horizon—be it on the waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles, the rising Playa Vista development up the 405 Freeway, or even the long-contested Ponte Vista project on Western Avenue. (Don’t we love to invent exotic-sounding Spanish names for places while refusing to learn the language?)

    “Progress is building,” you can hear it in all the words, the effusive optimism, ebullient and overtly denying any negativity. Yet, as I’ve warned before, there are always the unintended consequences. Even in the best of projects. This is the value of skepticism—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    So my skepticism is not rooted in a defeatism that says that this or that can’t be done. My skepticism is rooted in caution. Let’s not make the same mistakes twice. And, if we are as smart as we think we are, let us design and build something for the future that is worth living in, for all of us.

    And yes, that too is a kind of California dream.

     

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  • Mid-City Studio Tour Provides Insight Into Artist’s World

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
    An artist’s studio is a charmed place, filled with creative drive. It is a sheltered haven, where an artist can be alone with the muse.

    The upcoming Long Beach Mid-City Studio Tour is a rare opportunity to obtain insight into working artists in their creative environment.

    This year’s 7th Biennial Mid-City Studio Tour includes more than 25 carefully selected artists working in the fields of painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography pastel, printmaking, art books, installations and mixed media. The tour takes place at various locations in the Long Beach area.

    One of the early founding artists on the tour is legendary Long Beach mixed-media artist Slater Barron.

    “Many of us have been close friends before we even started the tour, so we have hung in there with each other,” Barron said. “We have moved a little bit across our traditional strengths. It’s good that we can accommodate work, beyond where we were before. ”

    Barron works in many media, including dryer lint formed into astonishingly accurate reproductions of sweet candy treats or delectable sushi, among other subjects. Pieces about current social issues come from her sociology background, and her humor comes out in works of lint, food and assemblage.

    Because of the unusual nature of her work, she has appeared many times on television programs including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Visiting with Huell Howser. Her resume lists at least 30 solo shows and more than 100 group exhibitions nationally and internationally.

    New to the tour this year is Nate Jones, who grew up in Signal Hill, working in his dad’s tire shop. Surrounded by the durable material of tires his entire life, Jones was challenged in 2004 as he was getting his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Cal State Long Beach to come up with a new expression for his art, which originated in a painting class. Jones said he uses tire shavings as “paint” to create abstract expressionist pieces that are painterly. These, however, are not spontaneous. Rather, they are intentional and carefully directed.

    Jones’ connection to his media is deep and visceral, an affinity picked up from working side-by-side with his father as a child. The manipulation of discarded rubber product mimes his paintings, which are also on display in his studio. Initially laying down his ideas with pencil and paper, Jones develops his concepts into large-scale, color-infused sculptures, which are surprising in their wit, insight and intelligence.

    Savvy art collectors know about these studio tours. Rare opportunities abound to discover thought-provoking new artists’ work, as well as to purchase art at studio prices, minus the often substantial gallery fee.

    Caryn Baumgartner is an example of an artist who had a successful studio tour. Baumgartner’s focus is primarily on figurative painting. She employs a variety of mediums, including oil, wax, charcoal, encaustic, collage and assemblage, as well as photography and digital painting, as a means to articulate the human portrait.

    “The first year that I was on the tour was just an amazing experience,” Baumgartner said. “The turnout was amazing. I sold out of most of my big pieces, and I also sold small pieces and sketches. To see that people were investing in art during the depth of the recession was very encouraging to me.”

    A studio tour is an opportunity to have an intimate experience with artists and their work at a comfortable pace not always possible in galleries. Collectors have been known to travel from Ventura and San Diego counties to Mid-City galleries for the opportunity to find rare treasures at great prices.

    Long Beach City College art professor Carol Roemer draws from her knowledge of art history, finding motivation and meaning in the expressive forms of the past. Her multimedia work intertwines mythology and symbolism of early civilizations with personal introspection, dream imagery and meditation.

    Roemer suggests that the best way to begin the tour is to start at Chez Shaw Gallery. Lynn Shaw is setting up a salon-style gallery in her home that will have small-format pieces from every artist on the tour. Aficionados will be able to purchase these works for only $75.

    Since this is a biennial tour, it will be 2017 before these studios are open to the public again. This year’s tour takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6 and 7. So, clear your calendar now. A map and bios of participating artists are available on the tour’s website: midcitystudiotour.com.

    Participating artists in this year’s tour include: Kristine Baker, Caryn Baumgartner, Slater Barron, Sheriann Ki Sun Burnham, Dorte Christjansen, Cynthia Evans, Moira Hahn, Betsy Lohrer Hall, Nate Jones, Kim Hocking, David Hocking, Connie DK Lane, Tini Miura, Kimiko Miyoshi, Pia Pizzo, Bob Potier, Dawn Quinones, Sue Ann Robinson, Carol Roemer, Joan Skogsberg Sanders, Kumi Steffany, Annie Stromquist, Craig Cree Stone, Gail Werner and Jaye Whitworth.

    Time: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6 and 7
    Cost: Free
    Details: midcitystudiotour.com

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  • JAZZ AND OPERA:

    A Match Made at Alvas

    By Melina Paris Music Columnist

    Frank Unzueta and Aaron Blake demonstrated that when done right, jazz and opera can fit together like a hand in glove. They did this during their May 8 performance in An evening of Jazz and Opera at Alvas Showroom in San Pedro.

    Unzueta, a jazz pianist and composer, has superb composition skills. His playing on piano and guitar is richly layered. Blake, an operatic tenor, has precise delivery. He is highly charismatic with a well-versed knowledge of the American songbook.

    Classical and jazz musicians have similar methodologies in music composition and arrangements. Logic implies that the genres would culminate at a point. It is not uncommon to listen to classical music and at times experience the thrill of jazz elements within it.

    The show is presented at Alvas annually, often at Christmas, to growing positive reception. Unzueta’s jazz trio, which includes Gordon Peeke on drums and Ernie Nunez on standing bass, started the evening performing songs from Unzueta’s CD, Thoughts Revealed. Unzueta’s music unfolds before you. It’s emotive. He simply names the title, the music begins and steadily you are deep into the ambience of the melodies.

    The first set presented six beautiful numbers. “Madrid,” dedicated to Unzueta’s grandmother, and “Love Me When Winter Comes” were particularly notable. The former is a playful, sweet song with strong salsa–tinged arpeggios. The latter, which Unzueta calls a “spacey tune,” evokes the desire to just keep listening.

    Beginning the second set, an animated Blake came out to perform Rossini’s “The Merry Widow,” accompanied by Unzueta on piano. Crisp and clear, Blake’s vocal elixir makes an instant impact.

    Blake grew up locally in Rancho Palos Verdes. He is also a violinist and an alumnus of Julliard School, where he developed a love for jazz. This was a special night for him. His family and his first voice teacher, now 92 years old, were present. Blake shared with the audience that he just auditioned for the prestigious New York’s Metropolitan Opera with good results. He promised more on that later but never quite got to that story. Instead, he entertained us with comedic stories of high points along the road early in his singing career, which began with opera at 15 years old.

    Fast forward to present day, the Los Angeles Times has called him “a vocal powerhouse.” This rising star is strong and soft at once and delivers his absolute best.

    Unzueta and Blake continued with two love songs by Sir Paolo Tosti, “Aida Celeste,” by Verdi, which is known as one of the most challenging roles for any tenor, and “Ah Moon of My Delight,” by tenor Richard Crooks. Also performed were “The Prayer” by Charlotte Church, “Non Ti Scordar Di Me” by Italian pop singer Giusy Ferreri, and “Core ’ngrato composed by Salvatore Cardillo.

    More jazz and show tunes were interspersed throughout the show, including popular numbers from Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald. They also performed Man of La Mancha’s “The Impossible Dream,” George Gershwin’s, “Foggy Day” and the Yip Harburg-Harold Arlen classic, “Over the Rainbow.”

    The finale included an operatic note with Unzueta on guitar and Blake performing a favorite, “O Sole Mio,” to resounding applause.

    The pairing of jazz and opera is something for music lovers to experience. Spoil yourself with the indulgence and let the music elevate your spirit next time Unzueta and Blake return to Alvas.

     

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  • Brouwerij West Navigates Community Concerns and Permits

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Brouwerij West may finally get to shed its gypsy brewer status this summer, if it can just get past the objections of its northern neighbors about hours of operation.

    Crafted at Port of Los Angeles hosted a community meeting to answer questions and assuage resident concerns May 27.

    Residents attending a May 7 zoning hearing opposed Crafted’s master conditional-use permit application, which would have added live entertainment that could go from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. for the entire property. They feared that venue which could stage live entertainment events between the two warehouses would disturb the typically quiet neighborhood.

    Residents on the northern hillside who raised objection have been quoted as saying they only want to preserve their quality of life.

    Rachel Sindelar, director of Crafted reportedly said that the early opening hour listed on the application would be to accommodate a future coffee bar operation.

    The idea is to turn the warehouse into a full-scale production brewery with a bottling line, a full service restaurant and dining area in the courtyard space between their space and Crafted’s. In all, Brouwerij will occupy more than 7,500 of the 60,000 square feet available in Warehouse No. 9. There will be 15,370 square feet of common area seating within the market.

    Crafted’s plans calls for Off the Vine, a farmers market and a space for community kitchen classes in the warehouse.

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  • RL NEWS Briefs — May 22, 2015 — Longshore workers approve 5-year contract

    Longshore workers approve 5-year contract

    SAN FRANCISCO — On May 22, West Coast Longshore workers voted to ratify a tentative contract agreement reached in February with employers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association.

    Twenty-nine experienced slowdowns this past February due to contract disputes and suspension of operations.

    “The West Coast ports are an economic engine for the United States, supporting millions of workers and trillions in economic impact,” said PMA President and CEO Jim McKenna in a statement. “The disruptions that occurred during negotiations, and the inconvenience and hardship created by them, were regrettable.”

    International Longshore and Warehouse Union members voted 82 percent in favor of approving the new 5-year agreement that will expire on July 1, 2019. The previous contract was ratified in 2008 with a vote of 75 percent in favor.

    Voting results were certified by the ILWU’s Coast Balloting Committee, which was chosen by Coast Longshore Caucus delegates elected from each of the 29 West Coast ports.

    “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committee made this fair outcome possible,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

    The new agreement provides about 20,000 jobs in 29 West Coast port communities.  The contract will maintain health benefits, improve wages, pensions and job safety protections; limit outsourcing of jobs and provide an improved system for resolving job disputes.

    “This new pact is terrific for management and labor, and proves that by working together, we can build a partnership that will continue to help to improve this economy and provide jobs all across the United States,” said Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond in a statement.

    Port of Long Beach workers returned to work Feb. 17.

    Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia also issued a statement.

    “We can now move forward together and continue operating the world’s best Port, which is the engine of our local and national economy,” he said. “My thanks to all the parties involved for working hard to reach this important agreement.”

     

    Andrews Announces Write-In Campaign 

    LONG BEACH — On May 22, Long Beach City Councilman Dee Andrews announced that he will seek another term as a write-in candidate in April 2016’s municipal primary election.

    Under Long Beach’s City Charter, council members may run for a third term, but only as write-in candidates in the primary election. Upon advancing to the general election, their names will appear on the ballot.

    Andrews was elected to the Long Beach City Council in a Special Election in 2007. He was re-elected in 2008 and was unopposed in his re-election in 2012. Andrews has been a resident of central Long Beach for more than 60 years. He served as the first black student body president at Poly High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and physical education from California State University Long Beach.

    For more than 29 years, Andrews taught black history and government at Long Beach Poly and Wilson High Schools. He now works as a substitute teacher at Cabrillo High School in the Long Beach Unified School District.

     
    UCC Gets New Director
    LONG BEACH — On May 21, the United Cambodian Community board of directors appointed Susana Sngiem as its new executive director.

    Sngiem worked at the United Cambodian Community as a program director for two years. She recently served its interim executive director.

    Sngiem is the first second-generation Cambodian-American to be appointed executive director at the UCC. Her family immigrated to Long Beach from Cambodia in the early 1980s after surviving the atrocities of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, from 1975 to 1979.

    Born and reared in Long Beach, Sngiem earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California Irvine and a master’s in social work from the University of Southern California.

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  • The Nick Smith Project and Influence

    Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    The Nick Smith Project is a hot one to keep an eye on. I saw Smith perform music from his latest CD, Influenced, this past March at the Jazz Chapel Room in Long Beach. Months later, I’m still playing his music on repeat, while recalling my conversation with him about music and the importance of paying homage to the artists that inspired and blazed a trail for others to follow.

    Smith put together a top-notch cast for that night, featuring Ray Fuller on guitar, Chris Coleman on drums, Vashon Johnson on bass, Michael Hunter on trumpet and vocalist Marian Marie along with the twice Grammy nominated saxophonist, Najee.

    A significant part of my impression of the evening is likely owed to the role played by Jazztyme Entertainment, a company that specializes in putting together intimate concerts at dining venues.

    The producer of Jazztyme, Anthony Le Noir knew what he was doing by booking the Jazz Chapel Room, which is located in the same hotel as the fine-dining restaurant, the Skyroom.

    Set in the snow white décor of the Jazz Chapel room, Marian Marie, in a well-fitted black lace dress, opened the show with a cover of Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk.” Hunter attached a mute on his trumpet and started jamming with Najee on his flute, forming a sublime harmony. Najee played his flute at least as much as his saxophone that evening and it worked beautifully.

    The band next performed “Mo Chillin,” from Influenced next. This is a straight ahead jazz single with Najee improvising followed by Hunter’s full robust trumpet.

    With Smith laying down an intricate, multi-layered solo on keys, Coleman was continuously scaling and building on drums. Then, Johnson painted the stage floor thick with bass. This is bona fide jazz taking you on an improvisational ride to venture out with the music — wherever it leads.

    Next, they performed a celebratory tune, ironically titled, “Mack’s Blues.” Horn harmonies on this original number were exceptional and Smith’s dexterity on the ivories compelled you to move. Smith’s music and arranging skills are highly intuitive. He utilizes sound modules and samplers, building the most creative expressions, for example, augmenting a vibraphone or an organ into a number and creating a surprising elevation.

    The agile guitarist, Ray Fuller, took the lead on the “Wes Montgomery” track, another multi layered tune with rich, full chords. Fullers nimble-fingered, unremitting playing befitted musical foreplay while Smith hit the stratosphere, driving the high notes on keys. Najee flowed into this mood synchronized on flute, cool, gifted and impassioned.

    Between sets, I was able to speak separately with Najee and Smith. I learned from my conversation with Najee that he had flown in from New York the day before the show and had just walked into rehearsal.

    “Because we didn’t over rehearse, there was an element of freedom in there,” Najee said about the evening’s performance. “Nick is actually a very good prolific writer. When you read his charts you’ve got to pay attention, he puts a lot into it.”

    Najee is recording a CD called Signature. He described it as his first album not to include A-list musicians on it.

    “I’m introducing people [who] the world hasn’t already heard,” Najee said. “A guitarist by the name of Chuck Johnson, who tours with me, sings on this album. I also have a couple features with Robert Damper, who’s played with Kenny G for about 30 years.”

    From my conversation with Smith, it was clear his intentions for Influence wasn’t just to create a groove for people to dance to but to offer up a kind of musicology lesson for the generations of folks who are not taught music.

    “I was lucky to come from a musical background and at a time when schools taught music,” he said. “Many kids are only into the technical aspects today. They want to create a beat, but how, if they don’t know the elements of the drums?”

    It wasn’t as if we had a lot time to talk, but conversation quickly went deep with Smith casting a critical gaze at the repackaging and branding of rhythm and blues as “smooth jazz” and too many people not knowing the difference.

    “You‘ve got to have a foundation,” Smith said. “If you’re not into the traditions, at least know the difference.”

    We seem to be of the mindset that if you don’t hear vocals, it’s jazz and that’s not true. He noted that there are a lot of great R&B songs that did not have vocals, such as music from groups like Earth Wind and Fire.

    “We need to stop putting things in categories,” Smith said, noting that it misleads people and makes the process of creating more difficult for musicians who have dedicated their lives studying the craft.

    Smith became animated at this point.

    “Why should it be? I may have this much knowledge (gesturing with his hands spread wide), but I can only use this much,” he said after drawing the palms of his hands significantly closer. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with many people like: Najee, Eddie Harris Hank Crawford… These guys gave me some valuable information and I want to hopefully leave something positive to someone else and I hope that they can benefit and learn from it…. I just want to give back.”

    You can see The Nick Smith Project perform quarterly through Jazztyme Entertainment Shows in Long Beach at The Sky Room and in Beverly Hills at HOME (House of Music and Entertainment).

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jazztyme-Entertainment/237068286321885?sk=timeline

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