• (Artists+Activists) x Innovation = Talent + Opportunity + Engagement

    By Melina Paris, Columnist

    To maximize the Knight Ridder Cities Challenge, the ArtExchange (ArtX), a visual arts center in the downtown East Village arts district, hosted (Artists + Activists) x Innovation, on Oct. 19. Local artists and activists were invited to share ideas about how to improve Long Beach.

    Because the Press Telegram was once owned by Knight-Ridder Inc., Long Beach, where the newspaper is based, is among 26 places across the nation eligible to receive ongoing funding from the Knight Foundation for programs intended to attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

    It’s the legacy of John S. and James L. Knight, brothers whose names were once atop the largest newspaper chain in the country. It’s called the Knight Cities Challenge.

    The facilitators of (Artists + Activists) x Innovation recognize that artists and activists do not connect that much. Nicolassa Galvez, CEO of the ArtExchange, said she kept hearing conversations about the importance of collaboration among both groups, but it was only happening on a small scale, usually among people who already knew each other.

    “This evening’s purpose is to hold a space for Long Beach artists and activists to connect or reconnect and brainstorm innovative ideas for cross-collaboration,” said Kenny Allen, one of the event facilitators, who is also managing director of Evolve Theatre and the marketing and membership director for the nonprofit organization Teaching Artists Guild.

    Other facilitators were John Thatcher Montgomery, an ArtX Studio artist and the lead organizer of PechaKucha Nights Long Beach, and Janay Watts, an activist-scholar and emerging writer who organizes with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and facilitates youth intergroup dialogue through restorative justice.

    Attendees came from the Long Beach Arts Council, Long Beach Fresh and Housing Long Beach, as well as a variety of freelancers who came to participate through writing and videography, among other means.

    After the preliminaries—a few icebreakers, a few assessments of assets, and the identification of issues—attendees broke into four or five brainstorming groups. That’s where the action happened.

    People got to know each other. They aired out concepts for a better Long Beach. At least 75 were recorded, shared and eventually combined under more expansive umbrellas.

    Categories included the attraction and retention of talent, quantifying important digital technologies and media to increase access and information sharing, the engagement of artists in activism and community, increasing civic and community engagement, identification of new spaces to move community forward and bridging socio-economic gaps.

    Montgomery and Galvez had recently been focusing on a grants writing cycle for ArtX to fund creative projects, which they presented to the local Knight foundation. The Knight Cities Challenge was also in the back of their minds. Later, Galvez and Allen met at a Long Beach Arts Council meeting and the Knight Cities Challenge came up again. The challenge had a hard deadline of Oct. 27, so they decided to dive into this opportunity to bring these two groups, artists and activists, together.

    The Long Beach Community Foundation is excited about artists and activists coming together in this way. It provides charitable services to encourage philanthropy and strengthen nonprofits to effect positive change and improve the quality of life for greater Long Beach. It has also signalled its support.

    “There were so many great ideas and I see more potential for innovative collaboration,” Galvez said.

     

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  • Copeland Gives Back with Charity Master Dance Class

    By Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaug, Editorial Intern

    Misty Copeland, principal dancer at New York’s famous American Ballet Theatre and national role-model to countless aspiring young women dancers who’ve been told they just weren’t right to make it—particularly dancers of color—will be hosting a master dance class at the place she began to conquer those obstacles.

    From the stage of the Warner Grand Theatre, in front of a live audience, Copeland will lead 50 students through 90 minutes of the movements, knowledge, art and inspiration that have translated into her success.

    Tickets to the master class set for Dec. 21 at 5 p.m., are $40 and $25—but $10 less for anyone who purchases tickets to San Pedro City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker at the Warner Grand, which Copeland performed in as a young girl. Proceeds go to San Pedro City Ballet’s DancED Steps Up, which provides local public schools with a wider variety of dance instruction.

    Copeland will also be the centerpiece and fund-raising engine at a post-class reception, where tickets are $350 a piece and again benefit DancEd Steps Up.

    While Copeland is now one of the world’s best-known and most-talented dancers, her first lessons were humble. They started when she tried out for the drill team at Dana Middle School. Even there, Copeland’s talent was obvious. The coach, Elizabeth Cantine, appointed her team captain and after working with her for a bit, suggested that Copeland take classes at the local Boys & Girls Club.

    There on the basketball courts, Copeland began to learn the arts of ballet. She felt rather self-conscious about it, according to the account of her first ballet class that appeared in Rivka Galchen’s profile in the New Yorker.

    “I was so embarrassed,” Copeland told the magazine. “I didn’t know anything the other girls in the class knew; I thought I was doing everything wrong.”

    Later, however, that changed.

    “One day it just clicked,” Copeland said. “I began to understand what it was.”

    In that same profile, Copeland emphasized that she remains a student. As she returns to the site of her beginnings as a dancer to teach this master class, that’s a key to understanding who she is.
    Time: 5 p.m. Dec. 21
    Cost: $15 to $40
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St. San Pedro.

     

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  • Dear Censured, Robles Faces Recall Effort

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    Following what Carson City Clerk Jim Dear’s lawyer, Bradley Hertz, called a “kangaroo court,” the Carson City Council censured the controversial former mayor at its Oct. 20 meeting by a unanimous vote.

    At the same meeting, Raul Murga, the president of a group of Dear’s supporters, notified Mayor Albert Robles that proceedings to recall him had officially begun.

    Dear did not attend the council meeting where he was censured. He also refused to be interviewed by the private law firm that the city retained to investigate city employee complaints against Dear.

    Hertz pointed out that the investigation authorized by the council did not derive from any criminal or civil proceeding. He alleged that most of the case against Dear was hearsay from witnesses who did not testify under oath.

    City Manager Ken Farfsing insisted the city council was obliged to take “reasonable” measures “to protect city employees” from Dear after several of them accused him of “harassment’ and “racial animus.”

    Hertz dismissed the complaints as “grudges.”

    The case against Dear was laid out during a regular meeting of the Carson City Council by Maria Aarvig, a private lawyer hired by the city—authorized by the council—to conduct the investigation and present its findings.

    Aarvig quoted 16 accusations from her interviews with city employees. Those statements convinced Aarvig that Dear had violated the city code of ethics through his “attitude of racial disparagement” and “undeserved criticism of black employees.” Aarvig determined that Dear had allegedly further violated city procedures because he contacted staff members personally rather than through department heads and because he “engaged in personal attacks…on a personal level.”

    Six witnesses, some who are current city employees and others who are former employees, testified against Dear at the council meeting, including former Treasurer Karen Avilla, Sheri Repp-Loadsman, Debbie Green, Regina Ramirez, Yolanda Chavez, Sylvia Rubio and Assistant City Manager Cecil Rhambo. As the specifics of their complaints were explored, the ambiance inside council chambers got emotional.

    “I found his demands unethical and illegal,” said Rhambo, who recounted several incidents he said he had witnessed—among them Dear’s requests that staff’s confidential medical records be sent to him, that he wanted to sit on the city council dais even after being elected city clerk and that a patio be added to the clerk’s office.

    Rhambo, who is African-American, also accused Dear of addressing him as “young man” or “young boy” during an argument at City Hall.

    Rhambo said that on one occasion Dear refused to travel to Orange County for a meeting about plans for a stadium unless he was driven by Monette Gavino, a city employee at the time. Rhambo alleged that Dear’s behavior created “danger of sabotaging” the city’s plan for an NFL stadium.

    Avilla said Dear yelled at her while she served as city treasurer, then “retaliated” against her by cutting her department budget and attempting to reduce her position to part-time. She further claimed Dear “allowed the city treasury to be used by his friends.”

    Repp-Loadsman said many people had been fired when Sam Ghaly was briefly the city manager during Dear’s tenure as mayor. She fretted about what would happen to some people’s jobs if Dear became mayor again.

    Green accused Dear of “bullying” Lisa Berglund in a dispute over a council agenda item on April 15, when tensions were high in City Hall after a close election. She said that after Dear “threatened” to call the Daily Breeze about Berglund’s conduct, Green—not Berglund—vomited.

    Ramirez, the supervisor of the Carson Community Center, wept as she said she “felt intimidated” and “I attribute this climate to Mr. Dear.”

    When Chavez was interviewed she told Aarvig that she is Hispanic—and that she was offended because Dear once called her a bean-counter. During her testimony at the council meeting Chavez wept as she recalled the time Dear asked her if the office of the former City Clerk Donesia Gause, had been fumigated. Gause is African-American. Chavez added that she lives in fear of harassment or intimidation from Dear.

    Rubio, also weeping, said she feared Dear would run for mayor again. She complained that Dear was “constantly bad-mouthing” Robles. “I don’t know why Dear singled me out to yell at me about Robles’ incompetence,” she sobbed.

    Chavez was still crying as she insisted that she never told Robles what Dear had said about him—that she had shared it only with colleagues —but that Dear “forced” her into his office “and he yelled at me.” Additionally, Chavez charged that Dear “made” city staffer Joy Simarago cry and “forced” her to leave a council meeting.

    Chavez also rather bizarrely alleged that Dear somehow “threatened” the local sheriff’s captain, Chris Marks. Then Chavez went on to accuse Dear of having “different personalities” because sometimes he was angry and sometimes he smiled.

    Hertz said Dear “categorically denies all charges,” expressing doubt about the dependability of the testimony gathered by Aarvig and the value of her presentation at the council .

    “He (Dear) cannot control another person’s interpretation,” Hertz said. “He cannot control other people misinterpreting things that were not his intent.”

    Hertz charged the outcome of the hearing was pre-determined,º a “kangaroo court.”

    The meeting also featured a lengthy debate among Hertz, Soltani and council members about whether or not Dear’s constitutional rights were being violated.

    Eventually, after voting unanimously to censure Dear, the council made five recommendations to staff. Those recommendations will be considered at another council meeting.

     

     

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  • LB Considers Minimum Wage Hike

    Opponents, Supporters Want Study Scrutiny

    Photo by Phillip Cooke
    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
     
    San Pedro resident Rosa Casarrubias has worked as a waitress at the Long Beach Westin Hotel for nine years. Thanks to Measure N, a local ballot referendum approved in 2012 to raise the minimum wage for Long Beach hotel workers to $13 an hour, Casarrubias earns $13.78 an hour. But the 45-year-old mother said it’s not enough.

    “The cost of living has changed,” Casarrubias said in Spanish. “Things are now much more expensive than before…. I [still] have to worry about how to pay the rent, gas, electricity.”

    Aside from such day-to-day living expenses, Casarrubias also has her daughter’s incidental expenses as a college student. Casarrubias says there are many other families with similar or worse situations, which is why she is advocating another increase in the city’s minimum wage.

    In June, the Los Angeles City Council voted to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. In July, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to do the same in the unincorporated areas of the county. In September, Long Beach announced that the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. would conduct the community review process for the Long Beach Minimum Wage Study, which the Long Beach City Council approved on Sept. 15.

    “Right now we aren’t really talking about it much,” said Lawren Markle, a spokesman of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. “It’s best for now to wait for the economists to produce the study.”

    The Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. has attended three of six public study forums thus far to observe and listen to public comments.

    So far, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. has met with the Economic Development Commission (the group that is supposed to provide council members with recommendations about the possible wage hike) at a Mayor’s Roundtable and at the Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting on Sept. 29, Oct. 5 and 29, respectively. The corporation will issue its report for public comment after the Oct. 29 forum. The report will include a section that captures feedback provided at each public meeting.

    “The scope of the study includes a review of prior nearby and relevant studies and other literature regarding minimum wage policy, a review of best practices of other municipalities that have implemented minimum wage policy, a review of the economic environment and socio-economic conditions of Long Beach, a review of the potential movement of jobs and workers across municipal boundaries resulting from a minimum wage policy, and a survey of a random sample of at least 600 businesses to understand business response to a minimum wage policy,” said Juan Lopez-Rios, the manager at Long Beach’s Economic and Property Development Department.

    A similar report is Long Beach Rising: A City that Works for Everyone, which was commissioned by The Campaign to Raise the Wage. Rusty Hicks, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, is a co-convener of the Campaign to Raise the Wage.

    The report maintains that the gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Long Beach would have stimulus impacts for the region. It states that Long Beach has 81,300 residents working in Long Beach and other cities, including 22,300 residents who are working and have family incomes below the poverty levels. More than 54,000 workers employed in Long Beach will be affected by increases in the minimum wage.

    The reports states that:

    • The most affected workers will be in the restaurants, retail trade, education, transportation and warehousing, and health care.
    • The stimulus will create about 3,186 new jobs, including 1,006 in Long Beach.
    • The strongest impact will be in Long Beach’s lower income neighborhoods, with total earned income increasing by as much as 4 percent in neighborhoods with the most low-wage workers.
    • More than 74 percent of low-wage Latino workers will be affected by the wage increase, followed by younger, female and African American workers.
    • Added income from a $15 minimum wage will help more than 6,500 workers with jobs in Long Beach rise out of poverty by 2020.

    “The essential thing the minimum wage is doing is keeping more dollars in the local economy,” said Dan Flaming, one of the report’s co-authors. “Low-wage workers, because they spend money immediately… create much more stimulus than higher income families, who have pretty high savings rates.”

    This creates a demand for workers to meet the demand of additional consumption, Flaming said. The mix is about 70 percent full-time and 30 percent part-time jobs. Some mom-and-pop business may close, but about the same amount of businesses may surge. While there will be some job losses, the employment growth will be positive, he said.

    Still, the Long Beach business community is nervous about the process of the study. Many are advocating caution and scrutiny.

    “As this process moves forward, we remain committed to protecting our members and businesses from any type of ordinance that puts them at a competitive disadvantage,” said Jeremy Harris, senior vice president of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce at a Sept. 29 Economic Development Commission meeting. “We understand there is momentum for increasing the minimum wage around the region and parts of the country. However, momentum alone should not be the reason to enact an ordinance.”

    Business leaders would like the study to reflect Long Beach, rather than other regions. Other factors to consider include the impact of payroll tax and employer contribution increases to Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and disability insurance.

    Dustan Batton, public policy manager at the Los Angeles County Business Federation, agrees.

    “Copy and paste policy is not the way to go,” Batton said. “Both city and county adopted mirrored ordinances that were originally drafted for out of state cities…. Input from the business community is crucial when developing a minimum wage ordinance, as businesses are the ones that will live or die from the decisions made.”

    Harris said that because Long Beach borders other cities, which may not increase their minimum wages, business may consider moving out or not expanding into Long Beach.It is important to define a small business and employees must mirror Long Beach, he said. Also, “How will a minimum wage ordinance impact nonprofit jobs?” he asked.

    Matt Peterson, owner of Legends restaurant and a member of the Belmont Shore Business Association board, worries about the cost of enforcement.

    “Doing that enforcement takes dozens, hundreds of additional staffers,” said Peterson at the Sept. 29 forum. “I don’t know where that money is going to come from.”

    Concerned about the threat of increased costs and inflation, Peterson said he wants any movement to increase the minimum wage to proceed carefully.

    “If people want to get paid more it’s going to cost more in goods and services,” he said.

    Though Flaming acknowledges that restaurants will feel a minimum wage increase the most, he said the effect on most other industries will be 7 to 8 percent increases in operating costs, which could be passed on without much impact on consumers.

    “Overall, the increase in operating costs is closer to 1 percent across the board for all industries. It will benefit workers a lot but it will not have a significant overall impact in what consumers pay” he said. ”

    He said the $15 in 2020 will be worth about $13.56 today. The level of pay for a living wage varies depending on family size and number of people working. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology puts out a living wage calculator with an iteration for Los Angeles County, which Flaming used (found at http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/06037).

    Based on its calculations, a living wage for Los Angeles County is:

    Household Living Wage
    2 Adults (Both Working) $9.76
    1 Adult $12.44
    2 Adults (Both Working) 1 Child $14.01
    2 Adults (Both Working) 2 Children $16.02
    2 Adults (Both Working) 3 Children $18.73
    1 Adult 1 Child $25.72

    “Inflation will have taken a bite out of it but it will still be a lot more than a lot of workers are being paid,” Flaming said. “This will be a living wage, or close to it, for many households but will fall short for some households.”

    Francisco Abdul Estim also supports the minimum wage increase. The 52-year-old banquet waiter said that even his $13.80 wage, does not afford him enough money to spend time with his wife and two children, who still live at home, or to go on vacations.

    “Vacations are very important for all families, no matter how poor they are,” he said. “The needs are great, because one has to work more hours.”

    However, he would like some assurances to come with a new ordinance. When Measure N passed there were some negative impacts that seeped down to workers. Personnel at his work are expected to work more “to account for the increase” in minimum wage and in many occasions they are penalized by having their hours being cut, he said.

    “Instead of it helping us how we hoped, it had bit of negative impacts, because there were never any protections for us,” said Estim, who has worked at the Long Beach Westin Hotel for 26 years.

    “We need the legal protection that says, ‘Raising the minimum wage to the worker doesn’t mean they should cut hours or augment an overage of work,’ because then we’ll be worse off.”

    Casarrubias agrees, but said that there are lessons to learn. She said that when measure N passed managers at the hotel said it wasn’t something good because they would have to raise the cost of the rooms and food and they were going to lose clients.

    “If you think about it, these companies don’t lose absolutely anything,” she said. “Measure N passed and they started to cut our hours but raised the cost of food and rooms. So, I don’t understand how they have been affected. On the contrary, they have benefited…. I hope there are new laws that enforce [the minimum wage law].”

    Flaming said that one of the benefits of having a city minimum wage is that there is a legal basis for local enforcement of labor law.

    “Right now, workers are dependent on an understaffed division in the state department of Industrial Relations for protection, and often they don’t get help,” he said.

    “Both the LA city and county minimum wage ordinances and the ordinance proposed for Long Beach have strong enforcement provisions for protecting workers against wage theft such as being paid less than the minimum wage, not being paid for all hours worked, or not being paid overtime rates when working overtime. This applies to informal workers as well as formal workers. None of the provisions of these ordinances are dependent on workers being unionized. Everyone gets these protections.”

    A Mayor’s Roundtable is scheduled for 12 p.m. Nov. 17 at Admiral Kidd Park, 2125 Santa Fe Ave. in Long Beach. An Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Bay Shore Library, 195 Bay Shore Ave.

    The Economic Development Commission was originally scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 24 to arrive at its final recommendations. However, the group recently asked Mayor Robert Garcia to extend that deadline until some time in the first quarter of 2016, citing concerns about the “unintended consequences” of a wage hike.

    The full Long Beach Rising: A City that Works for Everyone Economic Roundtable report is available at: http://economicrt.org/publication/long-beach-rising/

     

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  • Beach City Grill Re-Opens:

    The Culinary Journey Continues

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine & Restaurant Writer

    Beach City Grill, the iconic restaurant in San Pedro, will finally re-open its doors at the end of October.

    The grand re-opening will be a two-day event from 4 to 11 p.m. Oct. 31 and will continue on from 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1.

    Originally opened in the 1980s by a well-loved member of the community, Larry Hodgson, Beach City Grill has been a staple in the San Pedro restaurant scene for decades. After Hodgson experienced some health issues several months ago, Beach City Grill closed its doors. Out of respect for his privacy, hardly any information was shared with the press or the rest of the community. Many wondered if the doors would ever open again.

    Enter Stewart Smith, a school teacher with Los Angeles Unified School District for the past 12 years. His lifelong dream has been to open a restaurant connected with the Hodgson. He purchased the restaurant at the beginning of October. Smith, eager to keep the integrity of the eatery, has opted to keep the same menu and same friendly faces we all know and love. Expect much of the same fare and international comfort food that has made Beach City Grill so unique.

    Hodgson, who spent time in South America in the Peace Corps, fell in love with tropical atmosphere and the robust, full flavored cuisine of the area. Many of his signature dishes were unlike anything we had experienced in San Pedro. Hodgson will still be around. He is currently training the new chef, Charles Romo, and he will still be making all of his signature desserts.

    And who can forget those famous Cajun sweet potato fries? Exactly! See you this Halloween, folks. I’ll be the first in line.

    Venue: Beach City Grill, 376 W. 6th St, San Pedro

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  • Life Pays Off for the Man Who Chased the Money Fish

    By Greggory Moore, Contributing Reporter

    John Cox navigated choppy seas from childhood to the premiere of his one-man show, The Money Fi$h, in Hollywood. But without the difficulties of the long voyage he never would have gotten at all.

    At 13, Cox was already sure he was heading for nowhere. Struggles with an abusive stepfather and a mother unable to provide a solid foundation left him disaffected enough for the latter to bring him to a psychologist. But as Cox tells it, after she rattled off a litany of things wrong with Cox, the psychologist asked her to step outside so he could talk with Cox alone.

    “’Your mom will probably never bring you back here,’” Cox recalls him saying. “’So I’m going to tell the truth, son. You seem like a really tough kid, but there’s no easy way out of this situation you’re in. But one day it will end. So for the next five years, you’re going to have to be strong. Then one day you’re going to turn 18, and you can go do whatever the hell you want and make a better life for yourself.’

    “When you’re a kid, you think that shit’s forever. But after he told me that I went home and look[ed] around my room and thought, ‘Five years? I can do five years.’”

    There weren’t many bright spots in those five years, although during his senior year his English teacher proclaimed that Cox had a gift for writing, a gift he shouldn’t ignore. But Cox wasn’t ready to hear it.

    “I was a punk kid,” he says. “I was like, ‘What am I going to do with that?’ […] All I knew was working with my body, working with my hands.”

    The quickest way out of his former life was the military. So after graduating from Torrance’s South High School, Cox covered up a     childhood foot injury in order to enlist in the army. He made it through basic training without serious difficulty. But the injury began to catch up with him during the intensive training he underwent as an airborne ranger. After two years he received a medical discharge, not that he minded by then.

    “I was stationed in Seattle with a group of good ol’ racist boys from the South,” he says. “They hated me because I was Hispanic. And after a year of being with them, I hated them, too.”

    Cox remained in Seattle for a year, working as a waiter until the brother of a woman he was dating clued him in to how much money he could make as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. With no better idea of what to do next, he crossed the border.

    Based on what he had endured in the military, Cox was confident that the life of a fisherman would be a breeze.

    “I went out [to sea] cocky, believing that nothing could beat me,” he says. “Next thing you know, I’m out there on the Bering Sea in winter time with 40-foot swells and I’m seasick. Three weeks in, after working 20-hour days, I was mentally and physically broke. I had never felt so low in my life. I had to rebuild myself. I told myself I would never get cocky again. Cockiness kills.”

    It was then Cox found a humility that would prove invaluable to his personal growth, opening him up to a series of mentors who over the ensuing four years would help shape the person he was to become.

    “Their words resonate with me to this day,” he says. “Stuff that I learned on that boat helped me make this crazy thing [The Money Fi$h] a reality.”

    One of those mentors was Kim, a marine biologist who came on board during his final year at sea.

    “She blew my mind, “ Cox says. “She opened my mind to a whole new world of possibilities.”

    Within a year she was his wife.

    Glimpsing this new world of possibilities moved Cox closer to leaving the old world behind. So after a four-month stretch in which he caught a serious lung infection, was nearly killed and saw a comrade die, it was time to begin the next phase of his life.

    “I felt I had become this person who was giving his life away for money,” he says. “Eventually what happened is I outgrew the boat.”

    Shortly after quitting the fishing business, he and Kim moved to San Pedro, where they opened a coffeehouse they would operate for “three long, hard years” before throwing in the towel.

    “We lost everything, everything, every penny I made on the boat,” Cox says. “The IRS was after me and everything.”

    In need of money, Cox landed a gig as a longshoreman. But he soon became discontent with a life of nothing but physical labor. He yearned for a creative outlet.

    “I wasn’t happy,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t doing anything that was me.… My wife said, ‘You’re a creative person. You’re always putting together creative stories. Don’t you realize you do it naturally?’”

    So Cox enrolled in community college, where he began to take writing and acting classes. Before long he was landing roles in plays and short films.

    “As soon as I stepped into that world, it fit like a glove,” he says. “At first I thought theatre was something for weak-minded people. I was turned off [by my conception] of all the flamboyance. But then I realized how crazy it really is. It’s really hard to step in front of people and do that! It gave me the same rush of being alive as when I was on the Bering Sea or preparing to jump out of a plane.”

    It also provided him with clarity he had never before experienced.

    “It’s like the 405 is crowded at 5 o’clock, but then I step on stage, and all the cars are pulling off the road, and it’s totally empty, and I’m just driving along,” he says.

    But because Cox was “casualing” as a longshoreman (he had not obtained a full-time position and the flexibility that comes with it) he found himself in a kind of limbo, unable to fully pursue his artistic passions.

    Finally, after more than a half-decade on the job, Cox became a full-time longshoreman and began to undertake the project that would become The Money Fi$h.

    He first wrote a series of short pieces documenting individual stops on the journey of his life. Eventually he saw all this work as of a piece, an opus on which he would need to focus the whole of his artistic efforts in order to realize fully. He stopped acting entirely and for years poured himself into its realization.

    That realization came later than he expected. Earlier this year the Hudson Theatres decided to world premiere The Money Fi$h. A director was chosen; a set was built; and a lighting concept was created. But one month before opening, Cox insisted on doing a rewrite.

    “I did a reading, and an LA critic who was there said, ‘It’s good, but it’s too long. It’s going to be two hours, [not including] intermission, and you’ll get killed on reviews,’” Cox recounts. “I drove home, and I said: ‘I have to rewrite it. I gotta cut it and start it from Alaska and refer back to the [earlier moments]. I’m not going down like this. I’ve put in too much time to go down because it’s too long.’ It was an act of desperation.…Everybody was freaked out. My director, my producer was scared. They said, ‘It’s too late.’ I said, ‘The hell it is.’”

    After a sleepless week, Cox completed—for real, this time—the artistic work of his life. The Money Fi$h opened on Oct. 1. When asked how it feels to be at this point after all this time and life, he cannot hold back the tears.

    “Everything in my life that happened—my abusive childhood, military training, going to Alaska, all the bullshit—brought me to this point and gave me the strength to make it through,” he says. “I felt like everything was against me to make it happen, you know? It’s like [the world is set up] to make you push your dreams aside and follow what other people [say you’re supposed to do]. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Up until weeks before [opening], I didn’t see it happening. And then when I thought it might happen, I didn’t see it happening the way I hoped it would, at the highest level that it could happen…on every level. You hope it will be this magical experience that people will find entertaining.…Everything in my life, everything that I’m about, was coming towards that moment.”

    Not surprisingly, the theme of The Money Fi$h is the theme of Cox’s life.

    “I was a guy who came from nothing,” he says.

    “No one gave me a damn thing, and I was a stupid, punk kid. But I went out there on this boat and I found my way. Instead of being cocky, I started listening to people that I respected.… I learned how to constantly change and grow. You don’t [necessarily] know who you are. You might be living one way and not know that you’re someone else. Live to learn and discover.… All along the way there were people who offered their love to me, mentorship, and I took it, and I moved up.… And eventually what happened was: I outgrew the boat. I said, ‘My life’s bigger than this boat. I need to go find my true self.’”

    Now, he finds himself onstage in Hollywood, playing out the story of his life for all to see. Where it goes from here, only time will tell. But in this life, John Cox is at sea no more.

    The Money Fi$h plays at the Hudson Theatre (6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood ; hudsontheatre.com) Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Nov. 22.

    Details: themoneyfishplay.com.

     

     

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  • Do Not Feed the Pigeons (or the Homeless)

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

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • China Shipping Mitigation

    Port’s Failure Reignites Calls for Fundamental Change

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

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

    —Bob Dylan Memphis Blues Again

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

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

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

    The Source of the Compliance Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    PCAC: The Missing Factor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Failures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Comment Letter Seeks Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The letter also warned against unfounded claims of infeasibility:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Similar Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Hoffa Signals Ongoing Escalation of Port Truckers Strike

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Now he’s confident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Shipping Container Kills Cyclist

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

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

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

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

    Man Stabbed to Death

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

    Long Beach Human Trafficker Arrested

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Port Awarded EPA Grant for Zero-Emission Tractors

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

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

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

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

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

    Garcetti Announces Goal to Double Affordable Housing Production

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

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

    IBEW Local 11 Endorses Jeannine Pearce for Long Beach City Council 

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

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

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

    O’Donnell Endorses Malauulu

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

    Vivian Malauulu announced that Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell formally

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

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

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

    Trustee Irma Archuleta Announces Campaign

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

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

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

    State Senator Isadore Hall

    State Senator Ricardo Lara

    Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis

    Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia

    Long Beach City Councilmember Lena Gonzalez

    Long Beach City Councilmember Steve Neal (Ret.)

    Long Beach City Councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga (Ret.)

    Long Beach City Councilmember Roberto Uranga

    Long Beach Community College District Trustee Jeff Kellogg

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

    Long Beach Community College District Trustee Doug Otto

    Long Beach Unified School District Boardmember Megan Kerr

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

    Rancho Santiago Community College Trustee Lawrence Labrado

    Long Beach Port Commissioner Carmen Perez (Ret.)

    Long Beach Planning Commissioner Erick Verduszco

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

    *Titles uses for identification purposes only

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

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

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

    Hahn Reiterates Call for Scanning at Ports

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Congresswoman Hahn’s Amendments to Improve Highway Bill Pass Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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