• A New Climate Of Responsibility: New Developments Undermine Old Assumptions

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    The climate is changing. March marked the 11th straight month in which a global average temperature measure was set. But the climate of opinion is changing as well. Dramatic shifts are under way in how to grapple with the climate change threat.

    In April, more evidence emerged about the oil industry’s early knowledge that global warming was real, before it switched into public denial mode.

    We now know that warning signs were seen as early as the 1950s. Such evidence that has already lead to the opening of an FBI investigation, as well as state-level investigations announced by a coalition of 17 attorneys general in late March.

    Also, in April, a federal judge allowed a landmark lawsuit to proceed against the federal government for discriminatory violations of the rights of youth and future generations by permitting and enabling fossil fuel use, leading to climate change.

    The suit alleges that “failure to prevent the present and looming climate crisis constitutes a breach in the government’s basic duty of care to protect plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights.”

    It, too, relies on early knowledge, dating back to a 1965 White House report warning of “irreversible climate change.”

    “We need a paradigm shift,” said Julia Olson, co-counsel on the suit. “We can no longer continue with a fossil fuel-based energy system and protect the fundamental rights of young people and future generations.

    “Fifty years ago, the U.S. government warned that apocalyptic change would result from continuing to burn fossil fuels. Twenty-five years ago, an office of Congress and the U.S. EPA called for decarbonizing our economy and quickly transitioning off of fossil fuels. These warnings and plans have been largely ignored.

    “Instead, the U.S. government has acted in collusion with the fossil fuel industry to continue promoting, subsidizing and approving a fossil fuel-based energy system. By endangering these young plaintiffs, they are infringing on their fundamental constitutional rights.”

    The suit, organized by Our Children’s Trust, which Olson heads, was filed on behalf of 21 plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, on August 12, 2015, International Youth Day. Leading climate scientist James Hansen was also party to suit, as guardian for future generations.

    “The federal government has known for decades that CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels was causing global warming and dangerous climate change,” said Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez, a 15-year-old plaintiff from Boulder, Colo., and youth director of Earth Guardians, another party to the suit.

    “Despite knowing these dangers, Defendants did nothing to prevent this harm. In fact, my Government increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to levels it knew were unsafe.”

    “The 21 plaintiffs have sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, property and public trust resources,” Olson explained. “Their claims are rooted in ancient legal traditions and the historical traditions of our nation. For instance, the founders of our nation wrote about the need to protect the land not just for present generations, but for future generations. The Preamble of the Constitution establishes its purpose to secure the blessings of liberty for our posterity, not just one generation of Americans.”

    On Nov. 12, the fossil fuel industry asked to intervene in the case, calling the lawsuit “a direct threat to [their] businesses,” and they were added as defendants on Jan. 14. On March 9, Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal district court in Eugene, Ore. heard oral arguments on the motions to dismiss by the government and the fossil fuel industry. And on April 8, he handed down the ruling denying those motions and allowing the case to proceed to trial.

    “If the allegations in the complaint are to be believed, the failure to regulate the emissions has resulted in a danger of constitutional proportions to the public health,” Coffin wrote in his opinion.

    At the same time, new information about early oil industry climate change knowledge further erodes their pretense of innocence and reveals striking parallels with their ongoing resistance smog regulation, which has contributed to the premature deaths of thousands in the Harbor Area alone.

    This past September, Inside Climate News broke the story that Exxon’s own research had confirmed the role of fossil fuels in global warming going back to the late 1970s, a decade before it reversed course and began leading the attack against the science and against taking action to prevent global warming.

    In late December, Inside Climate News revealed that others in industry knew as well, collaborating in task force with the American Petroleum Institute to monitor and share climate research between 1979 and 1983.

    Then, just this month Inside Climate News reported on documents uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law, which pushed the dawn of insider oil-industry knowledge back into the 1950s and 60s. The documents also show oil industry blame-shifting and reality-denying response patterns dating back to the 1940s, when smog first emerged as a public health crisis, with similar responses to both types of pollution problems.

    The story about Exxon was most dramatic. Beginning in July 1977, and more broadly the next year, Exxon senior scientist James F. Black alerted the company’s top management to the threat posed by global warming, about which there was “general scientific agreement.”

    He warned of average global temperatures increasing by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius and up to 10 degrees Celsius at the poles.

    In a written summary he said that “man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

    In August 1979, Exxon custom outfitted a supertanker to sample carbon dioxide in the air and ocean along a route from the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf, budgeting more than $1 million in three years for the project. The next year, it assembled a team of climate modelers to investigate fundamental questions of climate sensitivity to the carbon buildup it knew was underway, even hiring some team members from academia, who saw Exxon as doing cutting-edge work.

    “By 1981, Exxon scientists were no longer questioning whether the buildup of CO2 would cause the world to heat up,” Inside Climate News reported. “Company researchers had concluded that rising CO2 levels could create catastrophic impacts within the first half of the 21st century if the burning of oil, gas and coal wasn’t contained.”

    The researchers were not alone.

    “At the outset of its climate investigations almost four decades ago, many Exxon executives, middle managers and scientists armed themselves with a sense of urgency and mission,” Inside Climate News noted.

    But that sense of urgency and mission did not survive the Reagan era, especially after an global oil glut depressed revenues and lead to deep cut-backs, including the research department. By the time Congress was ready to have serious hearings in 1988, Exxon was ready to lead the opposition.

    The broader industry-wide story, published in December, focused on a task force set up by the American Petroleum Institute, along with the nation’s largest oil companies, which was set up to “to monitor and share climate research between 1979 and 1983, indicating that the oil industry, not just Exxon alone, was aware of its possible impact on the world’s climate far earlier than previously known,” Inside Climate News reported.

    “It was a fact-finding task force,” the former Director James J. Nelson told Inside Climate News. “We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions.”

    Like Exxon, they even went so far as to contemplate shifting to new non-carbon energy sources. But after Nelson left the American Petroleum Institute, “They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists,” he said.

    Thus, the American Petroleum Institute’s shift toward political opposition apparently preceded Exxon’s by a few years.

    The most recent revelations, contained in a collection of documents spanning half a century at smokeandfumes.org (a website connected to the Center for International Environmental Law)  pushed industry awareness back even further.

    As explained on the website, the documents “offer compelling evidence that oil executives were actively debating climate science in the 1950s, and were explicitly warned about climate risks a decade later (meaning 10 and 20 years earlier than Exxon and American Petroleum Institute’s activities previously reported.

    “Just as importantly, they offer glimpses into why the industry undertook this research, and how it used the results to show scientific uncertainty and public skepticism,” the website noted.

    But there’s another very important story here as well, especially for Los Angeles area residents. The documents also reveal how closely the industry response to global warming followed a pattern of earlier responses to the emergence of smog as a public health concern. Indeed, the term “Smoke and Fumes” was the name of a committee formed in late 1946 by executives from the Western Oil and Gas Association, in response to a front-page story on the industry’s role in creating smog — a problem that had been virtually unknown prior to World War II. Several years later, the Smoke and Fumes Committee was taken over by the American Petroleum Institute, and the earliest industry global warming research was one of the topics it dealt with. From early on, there was a close relationship between the American Petroleum Institute and the Stanford Research Institute, which conducted much of the early research into air pollution.

    A 1954 document, “The Petroleum Industry Sponsors Air Pollution Research,” exemplifies many of the early questionable attitudes that continue to this day. It paints a picture of the average citizen unaware of the gradual build-up of smog, suddenly realizing things have changed. “And when he does, the chances are that he is inclined to place the responsibility for the change solely on industry or its management.”

    But management “is merely a group of men … basically no different than the average person … they, even as you and I, like to live in pleasant surroundings which have adequate supplies of clean, clear, water for drinking, sanitary and recreational purposes and lots of good old-fashioned clean, clear, country air for breathing.”

    So how can they be to blame? In fact, as the title suggests, these men have been on the job protecting us for decades, as it goes on to explain. Smog? It can’t possibly be their fault.

    A section titled Panicky People began by stating “The worst thing that can happen, in many instances, is the hasty passage of a law or laws for the control of a given air pollution situation,” and went on to state that “passing a law is, in many cases, the wrong way to start about solving an air pollution problem.”

    In particular, the paper went on to argue that it was mistaken to regulate oil refinery pollution, as the newly created Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District was set up to do, because it’s smog-formation theory was unproven and auto exhaust was more likely the culprit, according to work done at Stanford Research Institute.

    Of course, the smog-formation theory was sound, and auto exhaust was but another source of smog, which also originated from the fossil fuel industry. In short, the oil industry pattern of denial and blame-shifting was well established, buttressed by a false presumption of superior scientific understanding—a pattern that persists to this day, in regard to everything from global warming, to smog, to specific site hazards like Rancho LPG.

    Shifting back to the subject of global warming, the industry was similarly at odds with developing science in the 1950s. The theory of global warming, first proposed by Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1896, had received additional support from the work of British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar in the 1930s and 40s, documenting a decades-long increase in global temperatures, correlated with rising fossil fuel use. However, there was widespread skepticism, particularly given the possibility of rapid oceanic absorption of carbon dioxide. Advances in radiocarbon dating helped make more accurate modeling possible by the 1950s, which lead to contrasting published views from Roger Revelle and Hans Suess of the Scripps Institute, who foresaw significant increases in atmospheric carbon, and H. Ray Brannon, of Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil).

    A landmark 1957 paper by Revelle and Suess found that oceanic absorption was significantly limited, and thus, “human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past” by rapidly “returning to the atmosphere and oceans the concentrated carbon stored in sedimentary rocks over hundreds of millions of years,” so that “in coming decades we conclude that a total increase of 20 to 40% in atmospheric CO2 can be anticipated.”

    However, Brannon believed that rate of carbon cycling was much slower. Explaining the points of agreement and disagreement, the Smoke and Fumes website says:

    [T]he Brannon paper provides the earliest indisputable evidence we have yet found of oil company knowledge of climate science and climate risk. Significantly, the Brannon report acknowledges not only rising levels of atmospheric CO2, but also the evident contribution of fossil fuels to that increase. In acknowledged disagreement with Revelle, however, the Brannon paper suggests that CO2 would be retained in the oceans much longer before returning to the atmosphere, which would delay by decades or centuries the impact of fossil fuel emissions.

    By 1968, however, Stanford Research Institute scientists Elmer Robinson and R.C. Robbins produced a final report to the American Petroleum on Stanford Research Institute’s research in the sources, abundance, and fate of gaseous pollutants in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide.

    In it, they warned that “there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe,” including “the melting of the Antarctic ice cap” and “a rise in sea levels.”

    More specifically, “If 1,000 years were required to melt the Antarctic ice cap, the resulting 400 foot rise in sea level would occur at a rate of 4 feet per 10 years. This is 100 times greater than presently observed changes.”

    The report was, in effect, a complete vindication of existent global warming science, as the Smoke and Fumes website sums up:

    Not only does the report acknowledge the link between rising atmospheric CO2, the risk of climate change, and that fossil fuels are the most likely culprit, it affirms that the underlying science is sound, and that the most important research needs were in technologies to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Yet, the industry managed to find a way around it, playing up the uncertainties, which the report had noted, but not dwelled on, and even hastily commissioning a “Supplemental” report from Robinson to conform to the industry’s desired line.

    These are just some of the highlights, and there are more documents yet to be discovered and fully explored.

    A great deal of internal documentation is being sought by various attorney generals. Exxon is fighting them every step of the way. But the existing record is already utterly damning: the oil companies knew of the civilizational threat they were courting, at least possibly as far back as the late 1950s, and as a virtual certainty by late 1960s.

    The size and scope of this historical record is staggering, given that published documents are only the tip of the iceberg. Which is why the joint efforts of multiple state attorneys general are such welcome news.

    “Every attorney general does work on fraud cases and we are pursuing this as we would any other fraud matter,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on March 29, announcing the multi-state alliance. “You have to tell the truth, you can’t make misrepresentations of the kinds we’ve seen here…. The scope of the problem we are facing, the size of the corporate entities and their alliances, the trade associations and other groups, is massive and it requires a multistate effort.”

    Exxon has pushed back, claiming that the investigations are politically-motivated violations of its First Amendment rights, but Schneiderman dismissed the claim brusquely.

    “The First Amendment, ladies and gentlemen, does not give you the right to commit fraud,” he said.

    Yet, while Exxon, along with its industry allies, is prepared to go to war with the government on one front, the industry has joined with the government in fighting the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit, for the obvious reason that government inaction has been benefiting it for decades.

    Even as Stanford Research Institute’s 1968 final report is an early smoking gun on the industry side, a 1965 report of President Lyndon Johnson’s Scientific Advisers, Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, is an early smoking gun on the government side.

    It contained an extensive discussion of the problem of global warming, and warned that anthropogenic pollutants, including carbon dioxide, threaten, “the health, longevity, livelihood, recreation, cleanliness and happiness of citizens who have no direct stake in their production, but cannot escape their influence.”

    The failure of government action on climate change echoes similar failures to protect against environmental harm that Harbor Area residents have been fighting against for decades. And, the grounds for action are similar as well—the public trust doctrine.

    “The public trust doctrine, rooted in Roman law, is prevalent in legal systems across the globe,” Olson said. “It provides that one of the most central purposes of government is to safeguard those resources vital for human life, so that they may not be impaired by one generation at later generations’ expense. And as trustee, government must be loyal to all generations, and citizen beneficiaries, not just a few monied interests.”

    Back in the late 1970s, Exxon researchers believed that they had to do excellent scientific work in order to have credibility in public policy debates. A decade later, that assumption was gone. All that mattered was the money to push whatever argument the oil lobbyists wanted to make. But that climate of opinion has finally begun to change and not a moment too soon for the fate of us all.

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  • Candidates Vie for SD 35 Seat

    Compiled by Lyn Jensen, Reporter

    California’s 35th Senate District includes San Pedro, Wilmington, North and West Long Beach, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, the west side of Carson, Torrance, Gardena, Compton, Lawndale, Lennox, Inglewood and Hawthorne.

    All eligible voters are encouraged to inform themselves about the candidates and remember to vote in the upcoming June 7 primary.

    Steve Bradford

    Steve Bradford, Democrat, Former Assembly

    I’m not a politician, I’m a public servant,” Steve Bradford likes to say. He’s received Rep. Janice Hahn’s and Isadore Hall III’s endorsement to fill the open Senate District 35 seat.

    He was the first African American elected to the Gardena City Council, where he served 12 years. He was then elected to represent Assembly District 51 in a 2009 special election, which followed a full term beginning in 2010. After redistricting, he was elected in 2012 to AD 62. He helped pass 42 bills during that time. He served as chairman of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color.

    In a Feb. 10 interview Bradford told Random Lengths he’s running because of his commitment to public service, especially in regards to unresolved issues and unfinished business he left in Sacramento.

    He said the most important issues are employment (“making sure we go back to work”), quality of education and reform of the criminal justice system.

    Details: www.stevenbradfordforsenate.com

    Warren Furutani

    Warren Furutani, Democrat, Former Assemblyman

    In 1987, Warren Furutani became the first Asian American elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. In 1999, he was elected to the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. He went on to serve three terms in the state assembly.

    Born in San Pedro and reared in Gardena, he is a fourth-generation Japanese American.

    On a Feb. 8, during an interview with Random Lengths News, Furutani said he’s running because he has “unfinished business” in Sacramento. Primarily he’d like to do more to restore technical and vocational education, which he sees as a way to rebuild middle-class jobs. He’d also like to do more to address services for the poor and elderly—especially homelessness—and the environment.

    During his time in the assembly he played a major role in preserving public pension reform. “I believe in public employee pensions,” he said.

    His campaign office is at 610 S. Centre St., San Pedro.

    Details: www.warrenfurutani.com

    Isaac Galvan

    Isaac Galvan, Democrat, Compton City Council

    Isaac Galvan is the first Latino member of the Compton City Council, serving District 2. At 26, he’s also the youngest Compton council member.

    He graduated from Garfield High School and then studied business at Santa Monica Community College,” his website states. “Since elected in 2013, Isaac has made great progress in helping create thousands of new jobs by bringing in new housing and commercial developments, as well as refurbishing streets, parks and public facilities.”

    Los Cerritos News recently reported that shortly after Galvan was elected in June 2013, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Office investigated his ties to Pyramid Printers and its owner Angel Gonzalez. Reportedly Galvan was employed by Pyramid but Gonzalez (who was convicted in 2002 of sending out misleading campaign mailers) was also recently hired as Galvan’s assistant.

    Galvan’s campaign site says he runs his own graphics and printing brokerage firm but nothing about Pyramid or Gonzalez. Galvan did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

    Details: www.galvanforsenate.com

    Charlotte Svolos

    Charlotte Svolos, Republican, Schoolteacher and Former Torrance Commissioner

    California Senate District 35

    Interviewed by Random Lengths News in early April, Charlotte Svolos explained that although SD 35 isn’t a Republican district, she considers herself more of a moderate.

    I don’t take a hard line on traditional values,” she said. “I’m more a fiscal conservative, more libertarian.”

    Although she’s not held elected office, she said she’s run for the Torrance City Council and served as a Torrance social services commissioner.

    My appeal is to people of both parties,” She added. “I’m for representing smaller government and small businesses. California is not a very business-friendly state.

    Torrance does an excellent job of getting money directly to the classroom,” she also said, arguing that her experience as a Torrance Unified School District special education teacher gives her the background to realistically cut administrative costs in education.

    Details: www.svolosforsenate.com

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  • SPHS Students Show their Stuff

    Lady in the Hat  By Jack Paramore-Kemph. Courtesy Photo
    By Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaug, Editorial Intern

    Good art can be found anywhere: museums and empty lots, high-end hipster joints and concrete pavement, even the San Pedro High School gym. That was the site of the 2016 San Pedro Art Show on April 28.

    Student Joshua Lopez, one of the artists in the school’s annual art show tried to describe one of his photos.

    “One of the best photos I’ve taken was in a desert,” Joshua said. “I was at the top of a hill near dusk. When these racers, the quads or whatever, came by. I would leave the shutter speed [on the camera] open for a while as they went and the lights would go into these streaks. They’re like cars basically. And, by leaving the shutter speed on it exposes more light, so when you get the picture out it looks like it’s day but [with] these streaks of light through it … it just looked like a giant river of light inside the desert.”

    Joshua’s thought-provoking and inspiring description rather captures the essence of the San Pedro Art Show. It’s a higher caliber of art, perhaps [more] than many people might be expecting from a teenager in an urban public school.

    LopezJoshuaPhotoCubism

    “Photo Cubism” By Joshua Lopez. Courtesy photo.

    Jack Paramore-Kemph, another student, described his work.

    “I was at Catalina Island over spring break and I met this girl on the express boat,” Jack said. “It was her birthday and I took her portrait over at Emerald Bay. I took it in black and white, reflecting her glasses and a very large hat. Seeing it all, it was very inspiring.”

    In that same vein the works they produce don’t always feel safe. Sofia Seria-Hernandez, known by most as Ash, is yet another artist in the show who tends to epitomize it.

    “My favorite piece would probably have to be The Face of Rage,” Ash said. “I haven’t even finished it yet, but it’s a sketch in pencil that shows the face of rage of a man…. Growing up I didn’t understand people’s emotions and I still don’t. I don’t understand how people feel about things, so drawing what I see people feel is how I understand things.”

    Joshua, Jack and Ash shared their thoughts about people who underestimate their work because they are high school students.

    “A high school art show is a good way for students to represent their artwork and to represent San Pedro High School because our student work represents the students as people and our future generation on this community,” Jack said.

    Ash believes the art show is a vehicle to understand youth expression.

    “You can actually express so much through art because you don’t have to use words, so it’s easy because it comes from you,” Ash said. “Everything we are is put into that art show. So, when you go to the art show you’re really seeing the pieces of the different kids. That’s all them, right there.”

    Of course, being underestimated is not the only obstacle young artists face in reaching people. Due to the process of gentrification in this area, many people have come to see art as being a byproduct of hipsters moving into the community, and thus tend to associate it with the forces that are steadily driving them from their homes. As such, it is not surprising that many people in the community tend to treat art with some disdain, even seeing it as an enemy.

    “Well, both in the community and our culture, the image of art has kind of been filtered into this idea of a very posh, high-end museum,” Jack said. “This just isn’t true … I embrace being the enemy or the outlier or the outlaw. I just keep doing what I’m doing. I do it for myself and it’s just a byproduct if people like my work or are inspired by it.”

    Ash elaborated on art’s usefulness.
    “I’d say that anything anyone is good at is practical, no matter what it is,” she said. “Artwork is actually very difficult to do and a lot of work goes into it, just like any other job.”

    There is another reason why people should attend the show.

    “Well, you never know how good art is until you see it,” Joshua said. “From my personal view, art is objective and you never know whose art is going to be good or bad, not that any art is bad. You should give it a try and go to the art show and show support to the arts we do have here at Pedro. It kind of means a lot to some of us and it helps us get a couple critiques on our artwork and it just helps us grow as teenagers and young adults.”

     

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  • Carson’s Growing Pains: Delays in Construction Project Hamper Businesses

    By Christian L. Guzman, Editorial Intern

    The Carson Street Master Plan Implementation Project is part of a broad effort to revitalize the City of Carson. However, unforeseen obstacles have lengthened it, frustrating residents and impacting businesses.

    The project encompasses a 1.75-mile section of Carson Street between the 110 and 405 freeways. Plans call for widened sidewalks, bicycle parking, public art installations, new traffic lights, a new recycled water pipeline and a redesign of the front of Carson City Hall.

    Carson Street is the city’s flagship street,” said Carson Mayor Albert Robles. “[This project] will increase pedestrian traffic. We want Carson Street to make the best impression … on surrounding communities.”

    But the city’s implementation of the project has not made a good impression on the businesses along Carson Street, which also provides access to two major freeways and Carson City Hall.

    For most of the time, since construction began more than seven months ago, the four-lane street has been reduced to just one lane in each direction. This reduction has greatly increased traffic congestion. Many drivers are avoiding Carson Street rather than suffering through long drive times.

    Our sales have dropped 30 percent since the construction started,” said Lance Matsumoto, manager of Back Home in Lahaina. “People don’t come in for lunch because they only have half an hour and don’t have time to deal with the traffic. I have to use a side street to get to work.”

    Carson government officials are aware of these issues. They’ve been working with architects and contractors to phase the construction in a way to minimize inconvenience. But the construction crew has repeatedly found objects and infrastructure in the ground beneath Carson Street, which has extended the project’s time line.

    Carson was provided with a substructure map by Los Angeles County years ago,” said Gilbert Marquez, a Carson engineer. “It was not up to date. There are utility lines present under Carson Street that weren’t on the map.”

    The designers originally planned for the recycled water line to be installed at a depth of 42 inches. However, due to the extensive presence of utility lines, workers have been forced to dig deeper. The recycled water line must be installed at 7- to 8-feet deep. The line is one of the central components of the Carson Street project. It will provide recycled water to the new landscaping along the sidewalk. Tripling the installation depth has added much more work.

    Additional delays have been caused by the discovery of cement and contaminated soil under Carson Street. Construction workers had to break the cement before they could continue their original work. An environmental team was hired to transport the soil.

    The obstacles have pushed back the completion date of the project by several months. The original completion date was October 2015. The most recent report on the project revised the date and estimated it at January of 2017, according to the city. Costs have increased by about $1 million. At this time, the total is more than $17 million.

    Business owners are not happy.

    City officials maintain that the city is carrying out construction in the most productive way possible. Robles said Carson Street businesses will benefit from increased economic activity after construction is finished.

    The businesses are not happy. They have mixed feelings about the future. They are afraid property rates will increase and, as a result, they will be pushed out of business.

    It would be nice to reap some of those benefits in the future, but we have lost a lot of revenue,” Matsumoto said.

    Mayor Albert Robles is hoping that businesses and residents appreciate Carson Street’s new infrastructure and forget the disruptions.

    We’re excited to see improvements, including [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant sidewalks and drought tolerant landscaping,” Robles said. “It will better represent Carson and increase business from outside the city. We’re hoping to spread [revitalization efforts] to other areas of Carson next.”

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  • LA Ordinance to Reduce Harbor Area Pollution

    By Christian L. Guzman, Editorial Intern

    This past Earth Day — April 22 — Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a new law called Clean Up Green Up.

    Its purpose is to improve air quality in Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington, which are disproportionately affected by pollution.The air in those areas subjects residents to asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer. With a population that is more than 85 percent Latino, Wilmington is a poignant example of a community unjustly affected by industry and its pollution.

    These areas have been impacted by environmental racism,” said Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. “Clean Up Green Up is setting a new tone for the city.”

    Clean Up Green Up is a pilot program. Its regulations will apply to more than 1,000 businesses in the three aforesaid neighborhoods. Clean Up Green Up was introduced by the Los Angeles City Council in 2011. Since then, the city’s planning department drafted the details of the legislation, with input from community workshops in the three neighborhoods listed above.

    Environmental groups see the law as a step in the right direction, but also one that should have happened earlier.

    Clean Up Green Up has very basic environmental standards,” said Alicia Rivera, Community Organizer in Wilmington for Communities for a Better Environment. “They should have been in practice by the city already. But it will make a difference.”

    Air pollution will be reduced for Wilmington residents in two major ways. First, buffer zones, also known as “green” zones, will be placed near freeways and industrial businesses such as auto shops, refineries and hazardous waste facilities. New and expanding industrial businesses must now have health impacts assessments performed and obtain conditional use permits. The businesses will mitigate pollution in part by using landscape buffers and enclosing certain equipment. Existing facilities will not be affected unless they expand their operations.

    The second major component of Clean Up Green Up is an ombudsperson who will help businesses adapt to the new regulations. The ombudsperson’s responsibilities will include educating business on how to operate more efficiently and identifying funding programs to support the businesses new operating procedures.

    Environmental organizations are encouraging the City of Los Angeles to expand the program to include other neighborhoods.

    We are still fighting to improve public health,” Rivera said. “We need stronger standards.”

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  • *** RLn Calendar of Events *** April 28 – May 21, 2016

    ENTERTAINMENT

    April 29
    Reverend Tall Tree
    Stompin’, shufflin’ and hollerin’, Rev. Tall Tree plays blues and American roots in the tradition of Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 29
    Cost: $20 to $30
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/ReverendTallTree
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    The Mad Reckless
    Ridicula Imitatio Productions is proud to present their newest show, “The Mad Reckless.”  Ladies grind together the glamour of sexy burlesque with the high energy of modern dance.
    Time: 9 p.m. April 29
    Cost: $10 to $20
    Details: http://longbeach.harvelles.com/
    Venue: Harvelles, 201 E. Broadway, Long Beach

    April 30
    Circus of SinCircus of Sin
    Fire dancers, contortionists and aerialists machinate in this Femme Fatale cabaret.
    Time: 9 p.m. April 30
    Cost: $15 to $25
    Details: http://longbeach.harvelles.com
    Venue: Harvelles, 201 E. Broadway, Long Beach

    April 30
    Bruce Baker and The Altered Presence Band
    The trio will be performing many new originals, standards, and other surprise features.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San PedroBruce Baker

    May 1
    The Jonathan Rowden Group
    The critically acclaimed Jonathan Rowden Group will be premiering new music from their upcoming 2016 album sequel to their Downbeat magazine reviewed debut album Becoming.
    Time: 4 p.m. May 1
    Cost: $15
    Details: (310) 519-1314; http://alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    May 1
    DylanFest
    Andy Hill and Renee Safier, along with their band, Hard Rain, have taken their unique sound and multi-instrumental skills to venues large and small. They are presenting the 26th Annual Bob Dylanfest.
    Time: 12 to 8 p.m. April 30
    Cost: $10 to $35
    Details: www.andyandrenee.com
    Venue: Torrance Cultural Art Center, 3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance

    May 7
    Zhena Folk Chorus
    The women of Zhena Folk Chorus sing in the fascinating languages of Eastern Europe, lullabies, rain chants, songs of secret spells and of dreams in new lands.
    Time: 8 p.m. May 7
    Cost: $20 to $25
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    May 8
    Violinist Linda Wang, Pianist Robert Thies
    Linda Wang began her career at the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. Robert Thies is the director of Chamber Music for the European American Musical Alliance in Paris.
    Time: 2 p.m. May 8
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 316-5774
    Venue: Rolling Hills United Methodist Church, 26438 Crenshaw Blvd. Rolling Hills Estates

    May 14
    Arturo Sandoval
    The great trumpet legend can burn through an Afro-Cuban groove, tear up a bebop tune, soar over a Mozart concerto and sooth the soul with a luscious ballad.
    Time: 8 p.m. May 14
    Cost: $30
    Details: www.carpenterarts.org
    Venue: Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach

    May 21
    Long Beach Pride Festival
    The annual Pride festival will feature Neon Trees, Ricky Rebel, Saxiual Deviants, and Alexx Mack.
    Time: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 21, and 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 22
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.longbeachpride.com/parade
    Venue: Shoreline Drive, Long Beach

    COMMUNITY

    April 30
    The Green Prize Festival
    This festival highlights urban farmers, green chefs, live entertainment, artists, green technology, environmental organizations as well as education through workshops, demonstrations and guest speakers.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.greenprizefestival.com
    Venue: Admiral Kidd Park, 2125 Santa Fe Ave., Long Beach

    April 30
    The USS Liberty Incident
    The Iowa Lecture Series presents The USS Liberty Incident.
    In 1967, an American ship – USS Liberty • GTR – came under fire by Israeli Air Force jet fighters and Israeli Navy torpedo boats. In the end, 34 crew members died and 171 were wounded. According to Israel, the attack was a case of mistaken identity. This presentation tells the Liberty’s story from the point of view of an American crewman who was there.
    Time: 3 p.m. April 30
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.pacificbattleship.com/event/detail/574
    Venue: USS Iowa, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

    May 1
    Angels Gate Cultural Center Open Studios Day
    Join Angels Gate Cultural Center for its annual spring arts and community celebration. This is a free family event that brings together music, dance performances, craft workshops and demonstrations from our community classes and community partners.
    Time: 12 to 4 p.m. May 1
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 519-0936
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    May 6
    Hahn’s Annual Senior Briefing and Luncheon
    Seniors are invited to join Rep. Janice Hahn for an interactive forum, luncheon, and health and resource fair.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 6
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://Janicehahn.eventbrite.com
    Venue: Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson Street, Carson

    May 7
    Berning Man at the Beach
    Come join in the fun at the first Berning Man at the beach! This is a family friendly event with free hot dogs. Bring wood to Bern and a dish to share with others if you want. Voter registration will be available.
    Time: 5 to 9 p.m. May 7
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/berningman
    Venue: Cabrillo Beach, 3401 Stephen A. White Drive, San Pedro

    May 14
    5th Annual West Coast BBQ Classic
    Grill masters from around the country will gather at the Queen Mary’s Waterfront Events Park to compete for the title of West Coast’s BEST BBQ. The West Coast BBQ Classic will bring together Southern California’s most accomplished Champion Pitmasters.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 14
    Cost: $35 to $40
    Details: www.queenmary.com
    Venue: Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

    May 30
    Tea by the Sea
    Celebrate the beauty of the lighthouse and its gardens by having a cup of tea with friends and family.
    Time: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., May 30
    Cost: Free
    Venue: 807 W. Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro

    THEATER

    April 29
    Urban Rez
    Playwright Larissa FastHorse serves up a feast of culture with a side of satire in Urban Rez, Cornerstone’s seventh play in The Hunger Cycle.  Urban Rez becomes a hotbed of chaos when guests are presented with an opportunity that could change everything – federal recognition.  This potentially lucrative offer threatens to upend familial bonds and relationships, as community members are confronted with the insidious and absurd task of figuring out who’s out and who’s in.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 29, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. April 30, and 2 p.m. May 1
    Cost: $5 to $30
    Details: http://cornerstonetheater.org/urbanrez
    Venue: 1439 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles

    A Walk in the Woods
    Lee Blessing’s brilliant and funny play of ideas, based on a true event, seems more timely than ever. Nearing the end of the Cold War, a pair of arms negotiators — a clever, cynical Russian and an idealistic young American — meet in the woods outside Geneva to explore the obstacles their countries face on the path to peace. There, they debate politics, life and the future of the free world.
    Time: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 13
    Cost: $46 to $54
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/ictawalkinthewoods
    Venue: International City Theatre, 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach

    H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
    The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival® & CthulhuCon™ promotes the works of H.P. Lovecraft, literary horror, and weird tales through cinematic adaptations by professional and amateur filmmakers, panel discussions, author readings, gaming, art, and sometimes live music.
    Time: 6 p.m. April 29 through May 1
    Cost: $15 to $80
    Details: www.hplfilmfestival.com
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Wine in the Wilderness
    First performed in 1969 on WGBH-TV in Boston, Mass., as part of the series “On Being Black,” “Wine in the Wilderness” is set at the tail end of the 1964 Harlem, New York riots. Bill Jameson, a middle-class African-American artist, is completing his masterpiece, a three-part series of paintings of African-American women based on his perceptions: the young black girl as innocence, the beautiful African queen as the ideal black woman, and lastly, the uneducated and poor black woman that society created. He needs a model to complete the final portrait, and his friends believe they have the perfect model in a woman named Tommy Marie. However, when they meet Tommy and get to know her, each receives a harsh, yet well-deserved awakening.
    Time: 8 p.m. April 29 and 30, 2 p.m. May 1
    Cost: $15
    Details: (310) 243-3588; www.csudh.edu/theatre
    Venue: Edison Theatre, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    April 30
    Lysistrata
    Lust, power struggles, and loyalty test both genders in this raucous trip into the past, proving some issues never change.  Well, in ancient Greece, a young lady named Lysistrata devises a plan to do just that.  Her solution?  Withhold the one thing men care about more than killing the enemy – sex.  In this earliest of comedy dealing with the war between the sexes, the women of Greece go on a sex-strike until a peace treaty is signed.

    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays; April 30 through May 28
    Cost: $27
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org/show/lysistrata/
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    Mayday! Tales of Love and other Emergencies
    Celebrate the lusty month of May with delicious stories read aloud, outside, under the stars. Snuggle up with your honey under the night sky for spellbinding storytelling suitable for all lovers and lovers of literature. Featuring works by O. Henry, Alice Walker, Bret Harte, Dorothy Parker, W.B. Yeats and Irwin Shaw.
    Time: 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. April 30
    Cost: $10
    Details: https://angelsgateart.org
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    Web Series Mæry Queens Premieres in Long Beach
    This Long Beach-based dramedy explores the relationship dynamics within a gay group.  Attending the premier will be most of the cast and crew, as well as prominent figures in the gay community in Long Beach.
    Time: 7:30 p.m. April 30
    Details: (562) 439-6343; http://www.maryqueenswebseries.com/
    Venue: The Silver Fox, 411 Redondo Ave., Long Beach

    ARTS

    April 28
    Student Art Show
    Support San Pedro High School students at their spring open house reception.
    Time: 5 to 8 p.m. April 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 560-3042
    Venue: SPHS Historic Gym, 1001 W. 15th St., San Pedro

    May 5
    San Pedro Art Walk
    On the first Thursday of each month, the artists, entertainers, and business people of San Pedro celebrate the arts with an evening of open galleries, studios, street vendors, and live entertainment in the San Pedro Art Culture Entertainment District.
    Time: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 5
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.1stthursday.com
    Venue: Downtown San Pedro, between 4th and 8th Sts., San Pedro

    Surface Tension
    In May, Michael Stearns Studio 347 presents artist John Hillis Sanders in an exhibition titled Surface Tension.
    John Hillis Sanders’ career as an artist spans over five decades. His original works reflect his movement within mediums spawned by necessity and concept. The work continues to grow and alter using space as inspiration. Sanders’ recent work is about using paint to develop a surface of color, tension, and texture on steel.
    Time: 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through May 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 400-0544; http://johnhillissanders.com
    Venue: Michael Sterns Studio, 347 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    El Camino Student Show 2016
    Works by art and photo department students, in all media including: painting, drawing, digital media, sculpture, ceramics, design, photography, jewelry, printmaking, and more.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; 12 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 660-3010
    Venue: El Camino Art Gallery, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance

    May 7
    Skyline
    Using emerging patterns, silhouettes and lines of 3-D sculptures, curator Ben Zask created an installation where the main gallery of South Bay Contemporary gallery becomes unified as a skyline. Zask is focused on sustainable practice in sculpture, thus the majority of sculpture will be constructed of found materials and mixed media. Art preview during the May 5, during San Pedro First Thursday Art Walk. An artist’s reception is scheduled for May 7.
    Time: 4 to 7 p.m. May 7
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.southbaycontemporary.org
    Venue: Loft Galleries, 401 S. Mesa St., San Pedro

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  • The Whole Enchilada

    How Mexican Cuisine Conquered the USA

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Ask an Angelino, Latino or not, about their favorite taco truck or tamale guy and they will give you an answer.

    Just looking at my pantry, I am able to identify at least three different food items connected to Mexican cuisine. And, when I type “Mexican restaurants” into Google Maps for any Los Angeles zip code more than 20 restaurants pop up.

    Those of us who have been of drinking age for more than just a few years, can probably recall more than just a few nights of drunken debauchery involving Mexican food and liquor. All of these experiences are as American as a pizza.

    With Los Angeles being Los Angeles, we don’t just want the most authentic Mexican cuisine. We want the most authentic Mexican food combined with the most authentic Korean, Thai, Indian or any other of the many communities represented in Los Angeles.

    This complete assimilation of Mexican cuisine into the American culinary palate is what’s been on my mind as we close in on Cinco de Mayo weekend — the non-Mexican holiday that only Americans seem to celebrate.

    Gustavo Arellano

    Author, columnist and editor Gustavo Arellano signed copies of his book, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” File photo

    I called OC Weekly editor and ¡Ask a Mexican! columnist, Gustavo Arellano, to make sense of it all. Especially considering that he wrote the book on the subject: Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.

    “All Americans love Mexican food,” Arellano said. “All of them. Mexican food is so inculcated into our diet that you can hate a Mexican but still eat at a taqueria.”

    Living in a giant media market, with the diversity of Los Angeles, it feels as if we are at the center of world.

    Arellano called Los Angeles a crossroads of the world, before explaining how he once made a list of the 10 most important cities in the history of Mexican food in the United States. San Antonio was No. 1 because of the many innovations made there. Los Angeles came in second.

    “But in the last 30 years, Los Angeles just whipped the ass of San Antonio,” Arellano said. “Not only do you have more media attention here, because it’s bigger city, but you have more immigrants coming to Los Angeles. And, those immigrants start getting copied by other folks, Korean BBQ tacos by Roy Choi of Kogi, Oaxacan food and Mexicali has gotten really big … They first get popular in Los Angeles and get a lot of attention so things start to get spread around.”

    The most well-known example is Juanita Foods of Wilmington, the local Latino food producer. It was founded by George De La Torre Sr. and his nephew, Albert Guerrero, in 1946—first as a fish canning business, then into menudo canning factory. Juanita Foods’ product lines have grown significantly. The company was also mentioned in Arellano’s book.

    “Juanita Mexican Foods first made their case with menudo,” Arellano explained. “But you can only sell so much menudo, you want to branch out and diversify into other food stuff.”

    Mexican food has also become a part of American comfort food as companies like Maywood-based Tapatio hot sauce, which struck a partnership with FritoLay to make Tapatio flavored Fritos and Tapatio flavored Doritos.

    “To me that’s not just capitalism. Capitalism meaning you try to make more money for your business,” Arellano explained. “It’s about knowing that you have a populace that is open to other foods than what they have been buying from you for so long.

    “Juanita Foods may not be as big as Frito Lay, but there’s a great story about a Japanese-Latino during a time when anti-miscegenation laws were in existence. Juanita Foods is Wilmington’s contribution to Mexican food in the United States. The thing for me is people in Wilmington know the story, but the rest of California, let alone the rest of the United States, don’t know [Juanita Foods’] story.”

    Arellano quoted Chicano scholar Americo Paredes to define Mexican cuisine and culture as it travels far from its geographic and temporal origins:

    “The influence of Mexico doesn’t cease at the Rio Grande. Wherever there is something even minutely Mexican, whether it’s people, food, language, or rituals even centuries removed from the original mestizo source, it remains Mexican.”

    I was reminded that even as newer immigrants bring their customs and foods, and become a part of the patchwork quilt of the United States, we still remain American.

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  • LB Hotel Workers Sue for Wage Theft Violations

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On April 19, Long Beach Renaissance Hotel workers filed a class action lawsuit for multiple forms of what amounts to wage theft. This included denial of rest breaks and overtime pay, being forced to do unpaid prep work and not being reimbursed for expenses.

    “It’s very common in the hotel industry what’s happening at the Renaissance Hotel,” said Michael Morrison, the lead attorney who filed the suit.

    “You’ve got mostly immigrant and low-wage earners, who [are] basically being subjected to what’s called ‘off the clock work.’ That means that they’re working and not being paid for that time that doesn’t appear in their time records, even though the company knows that they’re performing this work.”

    But there are more issues involved than state law violations regarding rest periods and meal breaks.

    Elizabeth Castillo

    Long Beach Memorial nurse Elizabeth Castillo spoke about the poor health conditions of female hotel workers during a June 16, 2015 rally.

    “There’s problems with them complying with the Long Beach municipal code,” which provides for five sick days a year, Morrison explained. “The company is taking the position that they’re only entitled to three sick days, because that’s what California provides.”

    The suit also includes an unfair business practice charge. When a company breaks the law by underpaying workers, it gets an unfair edge against its competition, too, which California forbids. But if no one is punished, the practices tend to spread.

    “So this, in the broader sense, is a good idea to sue these hotels about these violations, because it may make other hotels think twice about doing the same thing.” Morrison explained.

    There are three named plaintiffs, each representing a sub-class of workers with specific kinds of complaints in common: banquet subclass, housekeeping subclass and food service subclass.

    For example, the complaint alleges, “housekeepers are required to work off-the-clock daily. Specifically, housekeepers are required to come in to work anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before the start of their scheduled shifts to prepare the materials they will use to clean service rooms. However, housekeepers are not compensated for their work.”

    Nor are they reimbursed for cleaning supplies and protective gloves purchased because management fails to provide them. They are also expected to clean a set number of rooms daily, often working unpaid overtime in order to meet their quotas.

    “Members of the banquet subclass are routinely not provided with rest periods or compensation in lieu thereof as required by California law,” another sub-class example in the complaint noted. “Banquet workers cannot take rest breaks, in part, because there is no one available to relieve them of their duties.”

    This means that their work is intentionally structured to deprive them of their breaks. Nor are they compensated for these stolen break periods. Similar intentional understaffing is involved in depriving the food service sub-class of rest and meal breaks as well.

    “We have another lawsuit—that just like this [one] against the Westin Hotel—the violations are shockingly similar between the two,” said Morrison, when asked about the broader situation in Long Beach as a whole. That suit was filed this past August.

    “The only thing we can guess is it’s not just hotels, there is incentive for employers to cheat employees out of money, because it saves them money,” he said. “But the hotel community, I think, is particularly vulnerable, because most of the people are immigrants.”

    There’s independent confirmation of this. A 2014 Department of Labor report on minimum wage violations in California and New York found an estimated 334,000 monthly violations from one data source and 372,000 weekly minimum wage violations from another, both representing more than 3 percent of covered workers, with lost income running from $22.5 million to almost $28.7 million per week.

    The report found that, “In California, non-citizens are…approximately 1.6 times more likely to suffer from a minimum wage violation.”

    While other forms of wage theft are more difficult to track, there’s every reason to believe immigrant workers suffer from them as well.

    “So there’s a language barrier, there’s also a fear of essentially going up against the powerful corporate entities,” Morrison said. “We think it’s the type of workers, the low-wage earners, they’re being victimized because they can be victimized, and so this is in part a class and race issue in addition to just the balance of power between employees and employers.”

    Workers at both Renaissance and Westin are involved in a unionization struggle with UNITE HERE! as well.

    “We’re not involved in the union effort, but we do want to see changes in the hotel … more importantly, and something that the union can’t do, we’re suing for back wages, money that they’ve already earned and not been paid,” Morrison said. “So, it’s about improving future conditions; it’s about fairly compensating people for the work they’ve done, and the money they’re entitled to.”

    There’s clearly more involved than just this one hotel.

    “We see this link to the broader struggle,” Morrison said. “We have essentially a working poor here in America. People are actually working full time, doing the responsible thing, and yet they barely or cannot make a living.”

    Low wages are one part of the problem, wage theft is another.

    “Legal solutions are imperfect, you also need political solutions. You need economic solutions,” Morrison continued. “You need pressure from other parts of society on these hotels to make sure that they’re paying their workers correctly.”

    It’s a huge struggle, but it’s moving in a promising direction.

    “Long Beach in the last few years has become a very progressive city in terms of advancing workers’ rights…you have seen municipal ordinances, you have seen the increase in minimum wage; and they want to increase the minimum wage even further,” he said. “They want to have protections for women as well…So, I think Long Beach could be a model in the future.”

    At least it’s a future that’s starting to become imaginable, one battle at a time.

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  • The Changing Face of America

    The new urban pioneers, slavery on the high seas and Trump

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    San Pedro is once again waiting at the threshold of another round of redevelopment and speculation, based upon the Port of Los Angeles’ commitment to waterfront development and the “about-to-be-signed” lease on Ports O’ Call Village, newly minted as the “San Pedro Public Market.”

    This anticipation can be seen from table at any of the growing number of sidewalk cafes, as the demographics shift from boomer to millennial. This new generation of residents are seen walking their dogs with plastic bags at the ready to scoop-the-poop, stepping past homeless people sleeping in the doorways of closed storefronts. These millennials are the new urban pioneers staking claims in the urban cores across America.

    In San Pedro, they are camped out in the newer downtown lofts and condos along 7th Street—drawn by the “buzz” surrounding the “cool” local art scene—that are also affordable compared to the rest of metro-Los Angeles, not forgetting to mention that it’s also close to the ocean, though that may not be the case for long.

    This new generation isn’t affected by the stories of a crime-ridden, drug-addled downtown San Pedro. It also isn’t affected by the presence of a homeless community. This aspect of San Pedro’s downtown core has always been exaggerated. For at least a generation, locals have used this perception as a reason to avoid enjoying San Pedro’s arts and culture scene.

    Joseph Wambaugh in his 2012 novel, Harbor Nocturne, goes into some detail explaining these native prejudices on everything and everybody residing below Pacific Avenue. His account, in many ways, reveals the struggles of retail businesses and their correlation to the high commercial vacancy rates here. This, even as rents escalate in the surrounding housing market of the business district.

    Whether any of the current re-branding will change the old prejudiced perceptions as reflected in Wambaugh’s book, the thought that tourism will breathe new life into the local economy via social media is still a gamble.

    The economic analyses pointing to tourism as the way forward after dramatic middle-class job losses following the collapse of the fish canneries makes it seem that it was all an inevitable conclusion of Reaganomics and free trade.

    Yet, one small piece of truth about the global fishing industry slipped out in the media this past year. The AP Wire Service recently won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative series that exposed the use of slave labor on the fishing boats and shrimp processing plants in South East Asia.

    Their award winning and, I might add, courageous investigation helped free some 600 enslaved fishermen on these pirate boats. It also traced these products all the way back to local supermarkets—among them Safeway and Albertsons. It’s almost inconceivable that this could be happening today. But then, I think of the violent intolerance of ISIS and the kidnapping of young women by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The world is much less civil than we sometimes imagine.

    Still, the loss of these types of jobs from the domestic market and the increased competition from companies using cheap (or free labor) overseas has in the end transformed the economies of hundreds of communities across America. These changes in the global economy, to some extent, explains the backlash represented in the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

    If we don’t find a way as a nation to create good paying jobs here, there is little chance of expanding the local retail economy, which would employ more workers and, in turn, would bring more money into more hands.

    I would hasten to say that it is hard for any industry to compete against slave labor and that this might just explain why the majority of catches from our harbor are shipped overseas for processing, saving up to a dollar a pound.

    How is that possible, you might ask, when we have had local fish processing in the harbor for well over a century? This might lead some to read more closely the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal that the Obama administration has been negotiating, to see if there is a “slave labor” exclusion in fish processing.

    If you want an explanation of the root cause of the rise in homelessness in America—look no further than the price we pay for free trade and supporting businesses who use slave labor abroad—and perhaps the price of shrimp.

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  • Anguish & Obsession:

    An American Love Story

    In Anguish, the model is bound with her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded with police tape. Courtesy photo.

    By Melina Paris Contributing Writer

    Huss Hardan knew that not everyone was going to find Anguish & Obsession: An American Love Story palatable.

    In fact, he even warned potential spectators that the exhibit includes the kind of “mature” content that might make people with milder dispositions uncomfortable.

    At the April First Thursday Artwalk in San Pedro, Hardan noticed that a few people walked a few feet into huZ galleries — where the exhibition is on display — then turned around and left. Hardan’s theory is that people with milder dispositions tend to be offended by the political statement and not offended by the nudity.

    The images in Anguish & Obsession: An American Love Story express the abuse of power, fetishistic obsessions that some have with firearms, the disastrous consequences of such obsessions and the danger of militarized police.  Hardan believes that some people do not want to acknowledge that bad things happen to people, often because they are in a privileged position. He references a subset of people who tend to be white, wealthier and very isolated. He says they don’t want to know there is political and social strife going on that doesn’t affect them.

    “People who actually bother to come to galleries want to see it,” Hardan said. “You always want a reaction but the reaction was, they did not consider the message, read the statement, or ask what it was about.”

    The space inside of huZ galleries is open, clean, and black and white. The feel of the exhibit is minimalist, grasping and slightly sterile –that is, until you see the photos. The exhibit is organized as two halves: the left with digital black and white photographs and the right comprised of photographs taken with 15-year-old expired film.

    Yellow police tape was woven through the exhibit and each print was displayed in steel frames and hung from silver chains.

    He was surprised to get such a positive response, especially from the younger crowd. He expected the split between younger and older to be wider. Anguish and Obsession — An American Love Story is beautiful and disturbing, artistic and inspired, brave and playful, and dangerous and painful.

    For the exhibit, Hardan created a hybrid style from Helmut Newton and “Weegee,” a 1930s and 40s photographer named Arthur Fellig. Much of Weegee’s work depicted realistic scenes of crime, injury and death. By tuning his radio to the police frequency, Weegee often arrived at a crime scene ahead of the police. This gave him the nickname after the Quija board, the popular fortune-telling game.

    Helmut Newton, a widely imitated photographer, was known for his provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos.

    Hardan explained that initiating this hybrid created much more of a high contrast shot so it makes the photographs much more impactful. Subtlety wasn’t the idea here.

    The titles of the photographs on the left side also served as thematic concepts: Photograph, Seduction, Obsession, Realization, Anguish and The Slaughter of the Innocent.

    The titles on the right side include: Prelude, The Innocent, the Frenzy, The End of Seduction, Repose and Regret, The Denial Within, Opening Pandora’s Box and The Slaughter of the Innocent.

    The focal point of all of the prints is a model of African descent and a military-style automatic assault rifle. The result is an exhibit that intentionally, or not, delves into race, gender and gun politics.

    In Seduction and Obsession, Hardan captures beautifully composed photos of the model draped with white linen in bed with a gun. The photos have a high-gloss magazine quality. In Seduction, the model looks quite pleased and in charge, even playful by facing away from the gun, almost as if she is teasing. In Obsession, she looks directly at the gun as one would towards a lover. She and the weapon are both under the sheets, closer.

    The Realization and Anguish regret and pain are articulated. It doesn’t feel any more as if the composition is just about the model and the firearm. In Anguish, the model is bound with her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded with police tape. In the final photograph the model appears as if she were fatally shot, as she futilely clutches her stomach to keep from bleeding out.

    The exhibit’s right side continues the narrative with the Prelude by starting at the beginning but as a negative photograph. The sheets are black instead of white, with silver edges, as is the gun.

    From The Innocent to the End of Seduction, the imagery are slight variations of the exhibit’s left side before ending with a reflection of Slaughter of the Innocent as a negative photograph.

    Hardan’s intention in the way he composed his photographs in the exhibit are readily apparent. His juxtaposition of these images are curious. Particularly in the print titled, Repose and Regret.

    The artistry of the whole image with two ghost-like forms under the main photo grabs attention, more so than the visually intensified emotional consequences of the photos. It’s easy to become distracted with the beauty and execution of the photograph, instead of the emotional effects it portrays.

    Hardan wanted the model for this exhibit to be a black woman. His model was incredible, he said because the photos were shot in the pitch black studio.  First the lights were on to get focus, then with all lights off he took the shot in the dark with a flash.

    “It is amazing that her facial expressions are very natural,” Hardan said. “You need someone who is very strong willed for this and very comfortable with themselves. She is not a shy person. You need that to have a message.”

    He also chose to have a black model because of the things that are happening to black people. “They are happening far more,” Hardan said. “Abused would be a word, when you just look at things like the incarceration rate, when the crime bills are written specifically to address minority crimes.”

    This exhibit is about the obsession of whatever system takes advantage of you. Hardan cites the political system as an example, with incarcerated people losing the right to vote. He wrestled with the fact that a convict served their time, but still serves it — forever. With our incarceration rates, this removes a huge segment of the population. Prisons are for profit. So it’s a business. Then, convicts surely are taken out of the voting pool.

    You also see abuse of power when the person seems to be a willing participant. But then, you can see where it turns, the person has been almost suckered in and is then abused. The dynamic changes, they become a victim and they lose their rights.

    Hardan’s depictions provide the pieces of the puzzle that is our obsession and its potential effects on us.

    There will be a closing reception May 5 and the exhibit will be showing until the last week of May.

    Gallery hours: 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sunday, through May 31.
    Details:huZgalleries.com
    Venue: huZ Galleries,  341 W. 7th St., San Pedro

     

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