• Just FAITH Lives Up to Her Name

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Singer-songwriter, Just FAITH, has been capturing fans far and wide, one stage at a time.

    She performed at a fashion show and the Lighthouse Festival in 2014. In 2015, she performed at the Bully Prevention Extravaganza.

    This past month, she was the opening act for the Mary Jane Girls, a 1980s band launched by rhythm and blues funk legend, Rick James, at the Gaslamp in Long Beach.

    At age 13, she already has a long list of accomplishments. She released her first EP at 10 and then an album in May 2015. Her song, Ripples & Rapids reached No. 1 on Indie Music Charts in July 2015.

    Just FAITH’s title track, Home Sweet Home, was nominated for best Christian song by Hollywood Music in Media and is making rounds on more than 20 satellite radio stations. She has also been in the top 10 for local rock charts since December 2014 (out of more than 200 artists for San Pedro and more than 330 for Long Beach), where she earned No. 2.

    She is working now on a full length rock album, to be released later this year.

    Just FAITH defies categorization by drawing inspiration from a range of musical genres, from Christian music to rock to hip hop. This young lady has a full, developed voice, reminiscent of Bjork. When she’s used her voice to sound more gravelly, she’s been told she sounds like the pop artist, Pink.

    But Just FAITH is just being true to herself.

    Her music has a powerful sound that is distinctly her own. It does not have a trace of pop-engineered sounds. On a track titled, Nametag, Just FAITH comes through with clear, beautiful harmonies and wide range

    Just FAITH began writing songs at nine years old, drawing inspiration from her lived experiences. Her songs are filled with messages of hope, perseverance and encouragement—a feature she credits to her faith.

    “God influences me in my writing and gives me the words to sing every time,” FAITH said.

    Just FAITH is a representative of the next generation of artists who blend their artistry and faith. There is a growing diversity and versatility in Christian music, which has increasingly been breaking into the pop charts. This genre has grown in support. It even has its own music festival called Joshua Fest in Quincy, Calif. More than 50 bands play at this annual event.

    Some of these crossover artists are the ones who have inspired her most, including, Skillet, RED, Flyleaf, Manafest, Lecrae, and NF.

    Just FAITH said she has been listening to Skillet since she was a baby. Skillet, RED and Flyleaf are Christian rock bands. Manafest, Lecrae, and NF are rappers.

    “These artists inspire me because their lyrics are so deep and their music is so powerful,” Just FAITH said. “They touch on topics that not a lot of people talk about.”

    Just FAITH, who is a fan of Greek mythology, said many of her new songs contain references from fictional stories such as the Percy Jackson & the Olympian series.

    Nico Di Angelo,  a fictional character in Rick Riordan’s  Percy Jackson & The Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series is referenced in a new song called, This Place Isn’t Made for You.  He is the demigod son of Hades and mortal Maria di Angelo).

    “I tell his story through the eyes of Percy Jackson,” Just FAITH said. “I talk about Nico Di Angelo because I understand how he feels when he wants to push everyone away.”

    This (feeling) is also explained in another one of her songs, Stand Out In the Rain, she added, where she talks about her own experience.

    The messages of hope Just FAITH conveys in her songs have the straightforward thinking of a young person. She talks about stopping to enjoy the moments and to notice the little things in life.

    She is wary of materialism and believes the capacity for change is unlimited.

    “It is exciting when I create the tracks for my songs and see all the different pieces come together,” Just FAITH said. “I enjoy the writing process, though sometimes there are challenges.”

    Just FAITH cut her first EP, The Beat, when she was 10 and her first album, Home Sweet Home in 2015.

    She felt many people did not understand her musical direction. So for her new album, she came into the studio with music and lyrics and the tracks mostly laid out.

    Many of the instrumentals are from tracks she laid down at the Boys and Girls Club in San Pedro, with help from an employee there who has a degree in music production.

    “In my newer songs, I used more sounds that are eerie and vintage in style, mixed with edgier rock than [in] my first album, which I am very excited about,” Just FAITH said. “I write songs to smile to, songs to cry to, and songs to dance to.”

    Still, Just Faith aims for her music to touch and to change people. One of the ways she wants to make her mark is in bullying prevention.

    This past year, Just FAITH’s team raised money to put on the Warner Grand Theatre event called the Bully Prevention Extravaganza.

    She performed with a live band and between numbers, Just FAITH spoke on the meaning of her songs and how they relate to bully prevention. Just FAITH’s team got the community involved and local businesses sponsored tickets for the extravaganza that they gave to schools.

    “I love performing my new songs because I feel they represent more of who I am,” Just FAITH said. “I just debuted two of my new songs Take a Look Around and Trailblazer when I opened for the Mary Jane Girls. I had the most amazing time and just got lost in the songs because I love them so much.”

    Just FAITH is looking forward to working with her band to learn new music and have more performing opportunities. She will be performing on May 21 at Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s elections and Los Angeles Public Safety Summit at Point Fermin Park.

    Just FAITH was invited to perform at Joshua Fest 2016. Several of the bands she mentioned as inspirations will be performing there also.

    As her name implies, if you just have faith you can do anything.


    Details: www.JustFaithMusic.com, www.ReverbNation.com/JustFaith and www.youtube.com/c/JustFaithMusicOfficial


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  • Joe Buscaino, Saving San Pedro: ‘Cease and Desist’

    By Kevin Walker, RLn Contributor
    On April 5, District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino and founders of the Facebook group, Saving San Pedro, were dealt a cease-and-desist letter, requesting a halt to “defamatory statements” against local homeless people.

    The letter, filed by lawyer Frank Grant on behalf of San Pedro resident Brynn Utovac, named Saving San Pedro founders Joanne Rallo and George Palaziol, group member Frank Nolan and Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

    Utovac, whose life experience includes periods of homelessness, said Saving San Pedro is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 14th amendment.

    Among her chief concerns are photographs of local homeless people—some, she contends, may not be older than 18—taken by Saving San Pedro members and posted on social media.

    “We don’t know if these people are minors,” Utovac said. “These photos could have a long term damaging effect.”

    Amy Gebert, a spokeswoman for Councilman Buscaino, said that the councilman had not seen the letter and that his staff is awaiting advice from the city attorney before issuing a response.

    Gebert runs social media for the District 15 office. She says Buscaino belongs to 94 Facebook groups, but emphasized that the councilman has little to no control over those groups, including the Saving San Pedro page.

    “On the pages we control we maintain a very high community standard,” Gebert said. “The councilman can’t control the Internet.”

    Buscaino’s office does moderate the Facebook page for Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Watch, as well as a page for the district’s Spanish-language constituency.

    Saving San Pedro was formed in late 2015 in response to growing homeless encampments in the Harbor Area. It has more than 4,000 members on Facebook, including Buscaino. However, the group’s attendance at the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meetings  rarely amounts to  more than a handful of people.

    Buscaino has been public in his support of Saving San Pedro and has placed one of its leaders on his Homeless Task Force. This disturbs Utovac, who sees the organization as a hate group, promoting discrimination against the area’s homeless.

    “Joe [Buscaino] is protecting people with established residences, that is the group he is interested in,” said Utovac about a potential violation of the 14th Amendment by the councilman.

    Utovac also pointed to heated comments left on the Saving San Pedro page when news broke about the cease-and-desist letter; one of those comments seemed to provide a general description of her residence.

    “We don’t hate anything,” said Palaziol. “She’s just trying to garner attention from something negative in our community.”

    San Pedro’s homeless, like that of the rest of the city, has been on the rise for at least two years. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority the neighborhood is home to several encampments, most of which are near the U.S. Post Office on Beacon Street.

    Saving San Pedro has made a habit of documenting the activity at these encampments, which they say are magnets for crime and drugs, yet no evidence nor solutions were offered to the area’s neighborhood councils. Palaziol sits on the Coastal Neighborhood Council even though his residence is within Northwest San Pedro boundaries.

    Utovac claims that the group’s practice of taking and posting images of local homeless is likely to impede their ability to get a job in the future, especially in fields related to the law.

    Palaziol is unsympathetic.

    “Tough shit if you can’t go to law school,” he said. “If you get caught doing something in public, you have to deal with the consequences.”

    Palaziol argues that one of the page’s primary functions is to report and shame people for public misbehavior and law breaking.

    “Social media is a doubled-edged sword,” he said. “It’s not the 1950s.”

    The city attorney has until April 18 to respond to Utovac’s cease-and-desist letter.

    For his part, Palaziol, who is in the process of turning Saving San Pedro into a 501(c)3 nonprofit, seems unlikely to comply with Utovac’s demand.

    “If she wants to sue, then sue,” he said.

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  • Activists Defeat SCIG

    Court Strikes Down BNSF Railyard Project

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On March 30, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode voided plans for BNSF’s off-port railyard, Southern California International Gateway, SCIG. His decision was based on violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.

    The decision brought to a halt—at least for now—a project with a 50-year lease. The project has been in a formal planning process since September 2005. The decision brought to a halt—at least for now—a project with a 50-year lease and a formal planning process that goes back more than 10 years. But the fierce grass roots opposition BNSF faced every step of the way also has a long history. The judge’s ruling, which was announced shortly before Earth Day, validated a decades-long strategy of self-education and self-empowerment by low-income communities of color that echoed environmental justice struggles across the country and around the globe.

    “This is a people’s victory,” said Jesse Marquez, executive director of the Coalition for a Safe Environment, a key community-based plaintiff organization. “This is a court victory that involves residents of the Harbor Area who 15, 20 years ago started to raise the red flag that there was a connection between port pollution and public health.”

    “The project was literally the definition of environmental racism,” said Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, another key plaintiff.

    The eventual decision had been expected all along, he said.

    “I think it’s very validating for our community leaders who [have] been active in this for so long,” Lopez said. “So, we’re very proud of the work that folks put in.”

    “It’s a vindication that all the arguments we were making in the public policy arena really had substance behind them, and were justified, because the information and arguments we’re making were based on a clear understanding of the project,” East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice co-founder Angelo Logan said. “BNSF and the port were really spinning the project in public, and the court reviewed the information, and found that our claims were accurate.”

    “Our prayers have been answered,” exclaimed Pastor Alfred Carrillo of the Wilmington Apostolic Faith Center. “As a pastor I have struggled for years on how to console my church members when they come to me crying about their children having to be rushed to the emergency room at hospital because their child could not breathe and was having a life threatening asthma attack.”

    “We knew all along that they were misrepresenting the environmental impacts,” said Morgan Wyenn, a Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer. “We never had any doubt. The [environmental impact report] just really did not make sense in a lot of ways…. It’s great to know that all that hard work paid off, and that now there will be some changes by what the port does.”

    The judge’s order voided key decisions by the Port of Los Angeles: its March 7, 2013 certification of the project’s environmental impact report, followed by its “Site Preparation and Access Agreement and Permit” with BNSF and by the Los Angeles City Council, and its May 8, 2013 approval of the port’s actions. Two other EIR-related documents approved by the port were also voided.

    “We are disappointed,” both POLA and BNSF stated separately.

    BNSF was disappointed, “because the decision appears to delay a nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure.”

    The port stated that it was “disappointed with the court ruling that delays or deprives the region of many environmental benefits and both ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach of important rail infrastructure.”

    But it was the very inadequacy of the plan’s environmental protections compared to harms that lay at the core of the ruling.

    “There isn’t one public school or child care center in the harbor that can cope with the amount of air pollution from the ports, trucks and the railroad industry now,” California Kids IAQ Executive Director Drew Wood said. “How can we expect them to deal with hundreds of tons more of toxic air pollution annually from the BNSF SCIG Facility?”

    In fact, Wood told Random Lengths that indoor air pollution—both in homes and schools—is the most overlooked threat of all.

    “There isn’t one building [in] all of Southern California in the worst polluted areas that is properly dealt with,” he said.

    The SCIG would only add to an already highly toxic environment.

    “The whole area was an oil field a 100 years ago and then homes were built on that land,” Wood said. “So you have gases permeating to the surface, and into the homes, and buildings, and then you have the outside air to contend with as well.”

    In short, children nearby the SCIG are already sorely in need of environmental protection—as they have been for generations. Responding to the judge’s decision, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben called it “a body blow” to Southern California’s economy. But it’s the actual bodies of real children who would suffer even further, if the judge had not ruled as he did.

    “The order makes it clear to me that especially when a facility is going to be built in an area that will impact so many lower income communities of color, and is right next to schools, and playgrounds, and daycare centers, that special effort really has to be made to analyze the health impacts of such a project,” said Andrea Hricko, USC professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine.

    The off-dock railyard, four miles from the port, would have handled more than a million containers a year that are now trucked to its Hobart Yard facility in Commerce—25 miles away. The gains in time, efficiency and reduced air pollution would have been substantial, proponents argued. But from field hearings 10 years ago to the court proceedings just concluded, critics charged that the plan sacrificed the well-being of those vulnerable communities closest to SCIG, including school children and a homeless veterans service center, while improperly ignoring the full extent of its impacts to the region as whole. It also fails to ensure it would keep improving with new technology.

    A key question was whether containers handled at SCIG would replace those at Hobart Yard, or be added to it. The EIR simply ignored any analysis of Hobart on the assumption of replacement only, much as the port has previously defined projects narrowly, even in piecemeal fashion, to avoid dealing with the full range of their impacts.

    “They never really analyzed what was going to happen at Hobart,” Wyenn said. “They just said that other things might happen there, but they claimed those other things aren’t caused by the project… And the judge was like, ‘No! No! No! The fact that you have this extra space is because of the SCIG project and we need to analyze what would happen at the SCIG and what would happen at the Hobart Yard.’”

    “I think the Hobart analysis was cheating, to get to a desired result, and the court called them on it,” NRDC senior attorney David Pettit added. “We told them back in 2005, ‘This thing needs to be built on dock,’ and if they had listened to us, it would be up and running right now.”

    Whatever the motivation, ignoring Hobart violated CEQA. Relatedly, the EIR also ignored the “cumulative impacts” of SCIG along with another planned railyard nearby, Union Pacific’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility —another CEQA violation. The EIR also fell short on specific issues of air quality impacts, greenhouse gases, noise impacts and transportation impacts.

    One of two key air quality failings concerned a mitigation measure, MM AQ-9, “Periodic Review of New Technology and Regulations.” The purpose of such a measure is to ensure that newer, cleaner technology continues to replace older, more polluting systems. But the judge found that “as drafted, the measure has no real ability to require mitigation. It could leave outdated technology locked into a major project for half a century,” and thus found that “MM AQ-9 is inadequate as a mitigation measure.”

    “We are pleased with the court’s decision today,” said William A. Burke, chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board. “Communities in the surrounding areas are already highly impacted by air pollution from the ports and other activities…. This is a public health victory for all the residents and others who go to school and work in these areas.”

    This case marked the first time the AQMD had sued to block a project under CEQA. The California attorney general also intervened in the case, along with the City of Long Beach and its school district—an unprecedented alliance of public entities opposing such a project.

    But the heart of the opposition came from residents in the communities and organizations that had formed to protect them. This represented the culmination of a decades-long process of community self-education and self-organization, Marquez pointed out.

    “We were ground zero 15 years ago, 20 years ago,” Marquez said. “We didn’t have answers to many of these questions, in fact, at that time, we weren’t even sure what kind of questions we should ask.”

    They didn’t even know the words to form the questions. In 2001, Marquez recalled, the port launched a proposal to build a wall 20-feet tall and 1.4-miles long in Wilmington. The purpose behind it was port expansion: a six lane diesel truck highway, a railroad track extension and expansion of the TraPac container terminal further into Wilmington. The community push-back immediately gave birth to Marquez’s organization and eventually resulted in the Wilmington Waterfront Park, instead of a long concrete wall. That same year also saw San Pedro home owners launch the China Shipping lawsuit, as well as the emergence of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice. The Long Beach Alliance for Children With Asthma was also being formed, and a partnership between public health and environmental scientists at UCLA and USC, formed in the 1990s, began reaching out to work with community groups under the leadership of Andrea Hricko.

    But it was the public relations firm that first pushed the wall proposal that introduced Marquez to the word “mitigation.” Once he learned its meaning, he eagerly advanced from simply objecting to project harms to proposing alternative solutions in ever-growing detail.

    “My first public comment, was only 6 to 7 pages long, [but] when it comes to the BNSF SCIG project—now 15 years later—my public comments range from 30 to 50 pages long,” Marquez said.

    And that was just the EIR.

    “When it came to our presentation to the downtown city LA City Council, I submitted over 3,000 pages of documents to support our public comments, because we know if later on we were to file a lawsuit, having all these documents there, having all our detailed public comment submitted, they would help our case go forward,” Marquez said. “It’s a tribute to our communities and our environmental justice organizations, and other groups, where we do research, where now we are in a chess match. We can checkmate the port and almost everything that it’s proposing to do with a better proposal.”

    Opposition to SCIG specifically started a decade ago.

    “There was a lot of concern because of the location,”  Lopez said. “If it was adjacent to schools, emergency housing for homeless veterans, parks, and other housing…. So community members spent a lot of time in our organization and others spent a lot of time building up an understanding of what the proposed project was, about the potential issues, the air quality impacts. And so, I think that something that probably isn’t really seen is the amount of community leadership that built up over the last decade.”

    Thus, the whole movement has gone through a progression similar to what Marquez described—from objecting to harmful projects, to becoming advocates for specific clean technology alternatives, to pushing for systemic rethinking. Now, Lopez sees a real window of opportunity for the mayor and port executive director to break with the pattern of past mistakes that they had no role in creating.

    “Hopefully they’re not invested in someone else’s mess,” Lopez said. “I think they’ve been very quick to distance themselves on the China Shipping issue [11 neglected mitigation measures], and say, ‘Oh you know, this was past leadership’s mistake.’ And so, we hope that they take the same approach on this project, saying, ‘This was past leadership’s mistake. Let’s get this right this time. Let’s look at community—focused partners and really get to work on this.’”

    “The port really needs to figure out how it’s going to deal with both near dock and far-away container movement,” Pettit noted. “That’s implicated at China Shipping, as you know, because of the port’s failure to comply with the [liquified natural gas] mitigation measure, and now it’s directly implicated in SCIG, which also had an LNG requirement in it … I’m sure the folks at [Union Pacific] who want to expand the [Intermodal Container Transfer Facility] are also looking at that.

    “My own view is that the days of transporting containers by diesel power from the port to near dock railyard, I think those days are over, as they should be…. And, the port and the city need to recognize that, and move to a zero-emission system to get boxes from the port to the nearby rail yards. And, that applies to China Shipping, and also to SCIG, and also to ICTF.”

    Indeed, the entire state policy structure is moving toward a zero-emission freight system model, driven primarily by global warming concerns, but reinforced by public health and mortality impacts as well. Industry is fighting back, but their position is untenable, Marquez argues. This is because it’s built on lies that are being publicly exposed.

    “When I took a tour of Europe, I went to the Port of Rotterdam and found out that for the last 80 years-plus they’ve always used electric trains there; so there was no train exhaust pollution coming out of electric trains there,” Marquez said. “But yet, the POLA, the Port of Long Beach and even representatives in different government agencies would tell us, ‘Oh, there’s no other alternative.’ Well, we began to realize they lied to us.”

    On March 8, BNSF issued another statement blasting the decision, calling it “a major loss for both ports, the local community and the region,” but it was a claim without substance, as Andrea Hricko noted.

    “BNSF is continuing to claim the same benefits of this project that they’ve been claiming for 10 years, but they can’t document those benefits,” Hricko said. “They cannot document that the air is going to be better. They cannot document that there’s going to be less traffic on the roads. And the judge is saying, ‘Your document isn’t able to show that and we need it to be re-analyzed.’”

    What happens next will take time to unfold. There will be more proceedings before the final judgment is issued, after which an appeal may be filed within 60 days. But those who sued are hoping that a more thorough rethinking process takes hold instead, one that finally shifts into a more holistic, long-term perspective.

    “If you look at China Shipping, SCIG and TraPac, they do look like they were planned by three different entities, without knowing that the others were there,” Pettit said. “It’s definitely a piecemeal approach and I think that that has hurt the port because they haven’t been thinking big picture about how to move the boxes when they show up on the docks.”

    The need to refinance the Alameda Corridor, which we reported on in this past issue, is yet another consequence of this piecemeal pattern.

    Pettit sees two major lessons for the port in all this.

    “Lesson No. 1 is just be upfront in the environmental documents and if the project is going to cause problems, then confront them and figure out how to deal with them, rather than pretending they’re not there,” he said. “Secondly, is the vision problem, is looking ahead, and well, looking back at all the health problems the port has contributed to, and looking ahead to new technology…. It’s time to make a change. And I think the port leadership and the city need to step up and do that.”

    “We’re looking forward to participating with the city and the port in a real comprehensive plan,” Logan said.

    After more than a decade, community members can’t wait to get started.


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  • When Enough Isn’t Enough:

    Campaign 2016

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    It has been five years and a few months since the young people of Egypt rose up at Tahrir (Liberation) Square to protest and ultimately depose Hosni Mubarak’s regime 18 days later.

    This was an unexpected but long overdue consequence of repression in the Middle East that has fueled other upwellings of discontent. The discontent has woven its way through Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Turkey. That discontent then transitioned into the Occupy movement in Europe and here.

    Some of those same voices can be heard in the Umbrella protests in Hong Kong in the face of Chinese repressions or in Miramar’s pro-democracy movement. This is a global, universal uprising for human rights and it’s been a long time coming.

    The underlying specifics in each of these countries are unique, but the thread of  overarching inequality and political domination by moneyed political elites runs through them all– including here in America.

    Some will even argue that it is U.S. economic domination that is the greater cause of the global corruption and greed. Others, as Naomi Klein did in her book, The Shock Doctrine, see the cause as the result of specific free market economic policies put into play during the Cold War and the expansion of global capitalism.

    Whatever your take on all of these world-wide protests, the source of the current discontent expressed on both the right and left in the current U.S. presidential campaign is the same: growing economic inequality, greater awareness of corruption (think Panama papers) and an increasing sense of powerlessness by the many, while moneyed elites hide their assets in offshore accounts.

    The politics that created this discontent stemmed from Milton Friedman, the Chicago School of Economics guru, whose monetary theory of free markets underpinned President Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down economics” policies 35 years ago. Friedman is also responsible for promoting such policies as the all-volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, the abolition of medical licenses, the negative income tax and school vouchers.

    Increasingly, since the Great Recession of 2008, there has been a critical reassessment of Friedman’s monetary theory on the left and a gut reaction to its unequal results on the mostly white, working class on the right.

    The result is Sen. Bernie Sanders on one side exclaiming, “enough is enough,” and Donald Trump on the other tapping into a distorted bit of nostalgia by saying “Make America Great Again.” The underlying cause of the dissatisfaction is the same for both sides, but their prescriptions for the ailments are a million miles apart. The 2016 election results will have universal repercussions and will resonate down to the smallest of neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

    This leaves me with some unsettling questions:

    • Can we equate the rise of the Islamic State’s anti-Christian violence and extremism in Syria to the anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment and violence of the Christian right and neo-fascists in America and Europe?
    • Aren’t the Christian and Muslim extremists and neo-fascists linked to the same kind of global economic inequalities that divides the 99 percent from the 1 percent?
    • Aren’t these the same disparities that cause economic and cultural exclusion, whether it’s Los Angeles street gangs battling for turf and dominance or immigrant Belgian terrorists resorting to violence as the final solution?
    • Though the tactics and targets are different, aren’t the underlying causes the same?

    I am unsure at this point about drawing conclusions. But I believe all of these universal uprisings are connected. They are connected to all of us.

    When I hear Sanders exclaim, “enough is enough” I am drawn to that as an inclusive statement that encompasses all of the above. It has a universal appeal that in the end just might lead to a global effort for universal economic reform and make Wall Street bankers and tyrants squeal as their monopoly on the game is broken and divided more equitably.

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  • LA VOIX HUMAINE @ Long Beach Opera

    The human voice is a compelling means of connection, especially when it’s all you have left. That is the situation for Elle, the sole onstage character in La voix humaine, in relation to her cheri. Recently separated, he telephones her one last time to say goodbye and arrange the retrieval of his belongings. Her real-time side of the phone conversation is the sole scene in Francis Poulenc’s operatic adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s play of the same name.

    Such a conceit runs the obvious risk of being terribly boring. And I’m not going to lie: there’s not a lot in Cocteau’s plot that inspires. The only twist (if you can call it that) is that Elle comes to realize that her cheri is now someone else’s. If La voix humaine is to work, it must be on the backs of the music and the performance.

    Naturally, music is a matter of taste, and personally I can’t imagine anyone listening to La voix humaine at home on the stereo the way you might La bohème (although in the interest of full disclosure, you won’t hear that on my stereo, either). More than half of it probably qualifies as recitative—the necessary sin of the art form—and there isn’t an aria in earshot. In other words, the music probably doesn’t carry its fair share of the weight.

    But there’s nothing not to like in the performance. Suzan Hanson, a Long Beach Opera mainstay, always manages to make opera singing look easy, and her combination of command and power manages to impress even when the material doesn’t. Even so, it’s her acting that keeps us engaged. Elle’s emotions run the gamut from forgetful reverie to abject misery when the reality of her situation comes back to her, emotions often arrested in midsentence due to the many losses of connection across the telephone line (a reasonably effective metaphor).

    Despite playing the sole character, Hanson is not alone onstage but is accompanied by pianist Kristof Van Grysperre, another LBO regular—and with good reason. The jagged nature of Poulenc’s score relies upon a synchrony between vocals and piano, and here the two performers animate La voix humaine as one.

    Before intermission attendees are treated to an undercard of short pieces by Poulenc, then by some Erik Satie, all delivered by some combination of piano, cello, viola, and Robin Buck, LBO’s vocal utility player. While the Poulenc pieces offer some highlights (particularly by violist Seulgee Park), it was Satie’s work, especially “Three Distinguished Waltzes of a Jaded Dandy” (with a title like that, it has to be fun, right?) that provide the evening’s greatest delight.

    Along with a program that is likely to provide you with at least a couple of novel experiences, Long Beach Opera continues its tradition of site-specific performances by staging La voix humaine, et al., in the subterranean section of the Federal Bar, which for the purposes of this show stands in for a café or salon where—in my mind’s eye, at least—these works might have played in the early-20th-century Paris that birthed them. A light meal is included with the performance, along with the respectfully quiet clanking of silverware. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill night at the opera.


    (Photo credit: Keith Ian Polakoff)

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  • New Faces Vie For Council Seats In April 12 Elections

    Long Beach voters in even-numbered districts will have to choose from a plethora of candidates this year. Long Beach City Council facing off in the April 12 election.

    District 4 Councilman Daryl Supernaw, who was elected in 2015 after Patrick O’Donnell became an assemblyman, was not opposed this year.  However, 10 candidates are campaigning for Districts 2, 6 and 8.

    What’s at stake is the leadership and representation of distinct city areas, from downtown Long Beach, where much of the city’s dollars are focused, to culturally diverse areas such north Long Beach and Cambodia Town, which have issues concerning quality of life and public safety.

    Some candidates are newcomers vying for a seat on an equal, yet influential, playing field. Others are fiercely challenging incumbents.

    There has been recent outrage surrounding a controversial mailer sent out by the Long Beach Citizens for Good Government, a PAC that has contributed to the campaigns of both Wesley Turnbow and Joen Garnica.  Both candidates are supported heavily by local businesses in their districts.  Incumbents Al Austin and Dee Andrews both face the challenge of reestablishing their platforms against newcomers, while gaining support from state senators and Mayor Robert Garcia.

    District 2

    When Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal announced she would not seek a third term as a write-in candidate for District 2, three candidates stepped up to represent a district that includes the Port of Long Beach, the East Village Arts District and coastal neighborhoods as far east as Redondo Avenue. They are Joen Garnica, Eric Gray and Jeannine Pearce.

    Name: Joen Garnica

    Experience: President of East Village Association, vice president of Promenade Area Residents Association, director of Downtown Residential Council, president of Garnica Interiors Inc.
    Issues: Building community, protecting quality of life and growing local economy
    Background: Garnica has worked in District 2 for more than 12 years as president of Garnica Int- eriors Inc., an interior design firm on The Promenade in Downtown Long Beach.   Her endorsements include the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee.
    “I am running because I’ve been committed to my community for years.  That commitment to community is what drives me to serve,” said Garnica in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.


    Name: Eric Gray

    Experience: President of Downtown Long Beach Residential Council, president of ITO Solutions
    Issues: Economic development, quality of life, public safety, mobility, arts and culture, historic preservation, homelessness, LGBTQ community, music and entertainment, parking improvement and senior citizens
    Background: Gray helped revamp the Pine Avenue business district as co-founder of the Historic Old Pine Avenue Business Association.  Former Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster has endorsed him.  He currently is President of ITO Solutions, a software and hardware company.
    “I believe that a candidate like myself needs to balance business, labor and community, and I believe I am the best candidate to do so,” said Gray in a candidate statement to PADNETtv.


    Name: Jeannine Pearce

    Experience: Director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, former director of Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community
    Issues: Building a healthy community, protecting the environment, promoting a thriving local economy and strengthening local democracy.
    Background: Pearce has held multiple positions as a community leader in outreach programs. She has worked with Mayor Robert Garcia as a member of his transition team. She was recently endorsed by Rep. Janice Hahn.
    “I’ve worked to make sure that working families can put food on their tables, to make sure that the youth have healthy neighborhoods and ensure that our economy is growing and thriving,” Pearce said in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.

    District 6

    The Sixth District encompasses neighborhoods in the central part of Long Beach, including the area around Long Beach Polytechnic High School, parts of the Cambodia Town and Wrigley areas.

    Councilman Dee Andrews is seeking a third term as a write-in candidate. His challengers are Robert Harmon, Erik Miller and Josephine A. Villaseñor.

    Name: Dee Andrews

    Experience: District 6 Councilman
    Issues: Employment opportunities, unemployment, youth tutoring and youth mentoring and improvements in public safety and infrastructure
    Background: Andrews’ key endorsements include the  Long Beach Police Officers Association, Long Beach Firefighters Association and the Teachers Association of Long Beach.  He was elected in 2008 and in 2012.
    “Sometimes they overlook the central area and this is why I ran for the Sixth District council position to make sure that they do the same share they do for the City of Long Beach…and this is what makes me so proud to be a part of that situation,” said Andrews in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.


    Name: Robert Harmon

    Experience: Surgical technologist for Kaiser Permanente, project co-manager of Cambodia Town Square and International Marketplace Project
    Issues: Public safety, promoting cultural heritage, leadership, economic justice and dignity, opportunity and job creation, and community improvement
    Background: Harmon’s career includes work as a surgical technologist, engineer and president and CEO of his non-profit organization, Top Gun Supercarrier.  He also has a military background and pursued bringing the USS Ranger aircraft carrier to Long Beach.
    “I’m running because, for me, it is a call of duty,” said Harmon in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.


    Name: Erik Miller

    Experience: Director of Operation Jump Start and former Long Beach Gang Reduction Intervention  and Prevention, GRIP,  Taskforce Chairman.
    Issues: Community outreach, youth development and mentoring
    Background: Miller is a community leader and gang intervention specialist.  He said he wants to provide safer neighborhoods through more police and gang reduction.
    “I’m tired of seeing crime ridden, violent streets in the Sixth District.  It’s time for a change and I’m here to tell you I can be that change,” said Miller in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.


    Name: Josephine A. Villaseñor

    Experience: Member of Long Beach CERT
    Issues: Connect police department and fire department with community, public safety, gang intervention, and homelessness
    Background: Villaseñor started the Wrigley Community Watch and continues to be active in numerous neigh- borhood organizations.
    “Our district has been left in the dark, and I want to bring light back to our district,” said Villaseñor in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.


    District 8

    Councilman Al Austin is seeking a second term. Laurie C. Angel and Wesley Turnbow are his challengers.

    The Eighth District includes the Bixby Knolls and Rancho Los Cerritos areas, as well as part of North Long Beach

    Name: Al Austin

    Experience: Councilman for 8th District, staff representative for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO.
    Issues: Public safety, infrastructure improvement, community building, economic and job development, and leadership
    Background: Austin was elected in 2012 to Long Beach City Council.  Since taking office, he has promoted public safety and the commercial corridors revitalization in his district. Mayor Robert Garcia, the Long Beach Police Officers Association, and the Long Beach Firefighters Association have endorsed him.
    “This election is about progress and we have the opportunity—[by] re-electing me—to continue the great progress we’ve had in the Eighth District,” said Austin in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.

    Name: Laurie C. Angel

    Experience: Business manager for Academic Technology Services at Cal State University Long Beach, former senior financial analyst for the Orange County Transportation Authority
    Issues: Finance and business, quality of life, and public safety
    Background: Angel has worked for the Orange County Transportation Authority, as well as for California State University, Long Beach.
    “I’m an active community member and I have every intention of ensuring that our residents have the best quality of life possible and that they’re well represented,” said Angel in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.


    Name: Wesley Turnbow

    Experience: Chief executive of EME, Inc. Issues: Business and finances, leadership, police and education
    Background: Turnbow has been president of metal and finishing shops. He received support from local businesses.
    “I want to reconnect our communities with the city hall,” said Turnbow in a candidate statement for PADNETtv.



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  • APLA Provides Another Resource for LGBT Health Care

    APLA Health and Wellness is bringing a fresh approach to health care in Long Beach.

    APLA provides health care and HIV/AIDS education and prevention services with a focus on serving lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders and people living with limited income. In February, the organization opened a Health and Wellness Center on the St. Mary Medical Center campus.

    APLA will share the same floor with another nonprofit that serves people living with HIV/AIDS, the Comprehensive AIDS Resource and Education, C.A.R.E. Program. For more than 30 years C.A.R.E has provided health services for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. The majority of its clients are also low-income. According to C.A.R.E., in 2015, it served  more than 1,000 blacks and Latinos.

    Although both facilities provide HIV/AIDS-related health care, each fulfills a distinct role.

    “The use of primary care as a means of HIV prevention is sorely needed,” said Miguel Gutierrez, the APLA director of health care operations in South Los Angeles County. “That will be the APLA center’s main strategy in Long Beach.”

    The rest of the APLA center’s strategy will include HIV testing, evaluations to receive Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, STD screening and treatment, and assistance with health insurance enrollment.

    Employees of the C.A.R.E Program underscored that their clinic has an extensive amount of specialized services designed to improve the lives of HIV-positive patients. The program offers HIV medical and dental care, psychiatric and hepatitis-C treatment, counseling and case management, and a food bank.

    APLA and C.A.R.E. Program also differ in their funding. The C.A.R.E. Program is funded by grants from the county, federal and state governments, and private donations. APLA also receives grants and private contributions; however in addition, the APLA is a federally-qualified health center, FQHC. With FQHC status,  APLA collects increased reimbursements for caring for underserved patients covered under Medicare or Medicaid. Being an FQHC is highly beneficial for health clinics serving these types of patients, because it has historically not been easy to collect these payments.

    “Not every [health clinic] has the same grants, and our FQHC funding is helping the APLA complement the other clinics in the community,” Gutierrez said.

    The Long Beach Health Center and the C.A.R.E. Program agree that being on the same campus will be convenient for people seeking HIV/AIDS care, especially if people aren’t sure which clinic would meet their needs. Both clinics will make it clear that the APLA is better suited to treat the causes of HIV/AIDS, while C.A.R.E. Program is better suited to treat the effects of HIV/AIDS.

    “We [The Long Beach Health Center] have already begun referring HIV-positive patients to C.A.R.E. We have a great deal of respect for them,” Gutierrez said.

    Multiple attempts were made to get an official statement from Dignity Health, which owns St. Mary’s Medical Center, regarding any formal collaboration with the APLA center. Dignity Health did not respond by press time.

    The APLA center’s own collaboration efforts extend beyond the C.A.R.E. Program.

    “Providing excellent culturally competent care is a community effort, and we are working with other key partners,” said Craig E. Thompson, the chief executive officer of APLA Health & Wellness. Specifically the APLA is collaborating with the Children’s Clinic, The Center and the Long Beach Health Department.

    “We are making the effort to engage the community,” Gutierrez said. “It takes time, but we’ve been well-received so far.”

    The APLA center’s facilities include an exam room, a treatment room and staff space. Operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The center will expand in the coming months. Once additional construction is complete, there will be a laboratory and phlebotomy room, counseling rooms, a four-chair dental clinic and more space for patient reception and staff. Patients interested in Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP, will need to be evaluated with a counselor before the medication is approved for them. The center is expected to be able to serve about 4,000 patients per year. Services are  free or on a low-cost, sliding-fee scale.

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  • James Republic Offers Casual Fine Dining

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine Writer

    A lot of restaurants in Los Angeles boast a “farm-to-table” concept.

    Instead of grimacing every time you hear the term being overused (and it is, often), ask yourself, “What constitutes an actual farm-to-table restaurant?”

    Just because a joint claims to be serving fresh fare doesn’t necessarily mean it’s pulling in boxes of organic produce after a trip to the local farmer’s market. Restaurants that work with local farms, and are inspired by seasonal produce and sustainability, are true farm-to-table eateries.

    IMG_0850James Republic in downtown Long Beach epitomizes that concept and also makes the fine dining experience much more tangible for guests. The restaurant opened three years ago. It is the brainchild of Chef Dean James Max, owner of a slew of restaurants. He also is the head of a team of culinary consultants eager to help other restaurateurs bring their concepts to fruition. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps you’ve heard of Jeremy Ford, a chef who came up in the ranks under Max and just won the most recent season of Top Chef on Bravo TV.

    Although the caliber of food at James Republic is celebrity chef style and status, don’t brush it off as an experience you may find difficult to assimilate or even afford. That’s hardly the case. The new trend in fine dining is starting to shy away from that stuffy suit-and-tie existence. James Republic takes food seriously but the staff is lively, upbeat and eager to have you try nearly everything on the menu.

    Patrons navigate the menu through shareable plates, a concept that I thoroughly embrace. I find it hard to commit to one dish; I’d rather try a little bit from everyone else’s plate. As one can imagine, this causes serious problems on most of my first dates.

    The menu changes daily — something that takes time and careful planning by chef and staff. While it’s important to stay true in quality and service, the Executive Chef David MacLennan also stresses the importance of pushing dynamic and interesting menu items that are truly inspired by seasonal produce. Don’t come in and ask for strawberry jam in the winter. Strawberries don’t grow in December. Just because you can find them in the grocery store doesn’t mean you should be eating them now.

    A new addition to the James Republic team is the general manager, Brad Burbich, who was a recent acquisition from Manhattan Beach Post — a restaurant that revels in the top tiers of casual fine dining in Los Angeles. Eager to elevate the dining experience, Burbich explains that embracing local food and farms isn’t a relatively new concept but it’s important to be creative about what you serve.

    His passion and knowledge for wine pairs nicely with the coastal California cuisine that James Republic serves on the daily menu. The wine list is unique, mostly local to California and features small, family-owned operations with lower productions but a higher attention to detail.

    March 20 was one of the highly anticipated chef’s table dinners, which I had the pleasure of attending. The Dinner Bell, as they call it, is a quarterly communal dining experience meant to ring in the new season of menu changes with as much zest and passion as one could pile onto a plate. Guests sit at one long table, implementing a pass and share system that’s reminiscent of a Sunday, family-style dinner. There were several courses served with wine. Everything was perfectly executed. Highlights from the evening included crispy calamari with Peruvian sweet potato and a lamb barbacoa dish served in a cast-iron skillet with cauliflower puree, curry and mint.

    I will say, the one dish that had everyone floored was the grilled Persian cucumbers, with a mint and pistachio puree topped with tart feta. I’ve been trying to recreate this dish for a week, but then again, I’m hardly a master chef.

    James Republic is open seven nights a week for dinner. They also have an awesome dollar oyster Happy Hour during the week and a brunch on the weekend.

    Details: http://jamesrepublic.com


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  • Animals Rule: Breaking the Chains of Confinement

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Prisons exist all around us. It is possible to wander past a prison and not even realize it exists.

    In the heart of the Harbor, there exists a little-known site, right on Harbor Boulevard, where prisoners are released from solitary confinement on a regular basis. Animals Rule is an animal rescue group operated by volunteers and managed by Stephanie Crawford, the owner of Creative Pet Supply.

    Each week fortunate dogs and cats are adopted into loving homes. Formerly abandoned and neglected animals find comfort with families seeking to grow their own families through the unconditional love of a pet.

    Lokie, a pure-bred German shepherd, had a particularly rough start to his life. Through a stroke of fate, Lokie was saved in the effort to rescue a small bichon frise named Niño.

    “We were closing one Saturday and a customer came in asking for a tie-out cable,” said Crawford.

    Crawford was immediately alerted to the request because tying down dogs is illegal in Los Angeles. During the conversation, she found out that the man was a customer at a mechanic shop in Wilmington. He was concerned about the small dog who kept escaping from the mechanic yard. Crawford asked if she could talk to the owner of the shop. Astoundingly, the owner agreed to let her visit the shop. She found not one, but two animals chained to a wall.

    Lokie was living a hopeless life, chained to the end of a 25-pound chain. Nuzzled in between a wall and a truck was his living quarters. He slept and lived in his own urine and feces his entire life. He had never been bathed. Lokie sat at the end of the heavy chain with his head cocked to one side. Visitors to the yard believed that his neck was broken from the weight of the chain and feared that he may be vicious. Lokie had never had human contact. He had never walked any further than the 3-foot chain would allow.

    “He could only turn around and sit down,” Crawford said. “He was never off that chain. As he turned the chain cranked around his neck and caused his head to turn to one side. I asked them to remove the chain and they said it was rusted and could not be removed.”

    After many attempts to remove the chain Crawford was ready to ask her husband to bring bolt cutters, but one worker finally unscrewed the bolts holding the dog. When the chain dropped to the ground, Lokie simply sat and looked at his rescuer.

    “All I could do was cry,” Crawford said.

    As the dog began to walk she noticed a limp. On Lokie’s first veterinarian visit, an x-ray was taken that showed no serious hip damage, but the muscles on one side had atrophied from sitting on cold concrete. Lokie also had blood bulbs and blisters on his elbows from the concrete. After a few weeks, those began to heal.

    “Now, because he gets out twice a day he runs and jumps and each day he gets better,” Crawford said. “Today, you can barely tell that he had those problems.”

    Animals Rule has created a wide network of relationships to assist with the rehabilitation of their rescue animals. In addition to the many volunteers, foster homes and veterinarian care, K-9 Companions in Corona helps with the reintegration of their animals. K-9 Companions specializes in dog training, as well as training individuals who want to become professional animal trainers.

    “They have trained several dogs for me before,” Crawford said. “I took him out there to have him assessed to find out what kind of training he will need, how long it will be and how much it will cost. He passed with flying colors. On April 9 he will be going into training and they will work with him for three weeks. Our goal is to be able to train him to walk and respond to commands so he can eventually be adopted.”

    According to the Humane Society, it takes about three months for a dog, who has lived his entire life on a chain, to learn how to play and chase a ball because they have been so traumatized.

    The training will cost about $1,500. Today, Lokie is like a toddler, who jumps and plays and craves attention, but does not know how to sit and stay put. His gentle temperament provides a glimpse into his potential as a family pet. When he is finally adopted he will require new owners who are committed to his progress towards becoming a faithful companion.

    Niño and Lokie are together now in the safe environment of the kennels at Animals Rule, but they will soon find new homes and the love they were denied.

    It is easy to see how the cost of rescuing animals can run up quickly. Funding for the nonprofit organization is raised through their website and through tax-refundable adoption fees. With a small staff of volunteers, Animals Rule finds homes for about 200 animals each year. There are four full-time volunteers and another five who volunteer on a part-time basis.

    To volunteer or donate to Animals Rule call (310) 832-9929 or visit animalsrule.org. Foster homes that house and assess a dog’s temperament are especially needed.

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  • Human Error Caused LA Oil Spill

    By Mike Botica, Editorial Intern

    On the morning of March 31, watchmen for the U.S. Coast Guard received reports of an oily-water substance leaking from a holding tank on the Vopak Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.  

    POLA did not want to comment on the matter, stating that such comments would be handled by the Coast Guard.

    Coast Guard representative, Sondra-Kay Kneen, said investigators believe that the spill took place the previous night, but conditions were too dark to make a report until hours later.  

    This was the second oil spill at the port in almost three weeks. The prior spill was reported on March 13 at Berth 198 in Wilmington. The Coast Guard reported that a faulty pipe on the Istra Ace was the culprit in that spill.

    Another spill also took place at the sister Port of Long Beach, where oil water leaked from a well this past January.  Over 2000 gallons of oil water were spilled onshore at the Port of Long Beach, and an unknown amount was released into storm drains.

    The March 31 oil spill happened after a breach that took place when, TULA, a Mexican oil and chemical tanker ship that was docked at the Vopak Terminal, was carrying large quantities of bunker fuel. Keen reported that most of the oil was contained on the pier.

    According to sources close to Vopak Terminal, who asked their names not be used for this article, an unidentified subcontractor didn’t turn a valve properly, causing the leak of at least 20 gallons of bunker fuel into the POLA.  

    This was confirmed by another Coast Guard spokeswoman Andrea Anderson, who said the spill was due to an open valve that leaked an oily-water mixture into the harbor.  

    Updating previous reports from the Coast Guard media/press, Anderson reduced the spillage from initial reports of around 95 percent to 75 to 80 percent contained on the pier, before cleanup efforts began.

    Oil spill response organizations, such as the National Response Corp., worked to clean the spill using oil skimmers and absorbent pads with the help of the Coast Guard.  

    The Coast Guard specifically used oil containment booms to clean the spill from the harbor.  A court order precluded the tanker ship from leaving the harbor. However, TULA was allowed to depart from POLA April 4, once the spill was fully contained.

    It is on its way back to the Lazaro Cardenas harbor in Mexico.

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