• Just Transition to Green Jobs at POLAHS

    Photos by Robin Doyno

    About 45 people attended a meeting about “Just Transition” to green jobs, Aug. 19, at the Port of Los Angeles High School in San Pedro.

    The meeting, organized by South Bay 350.org included people from neighborhoods stretching from Palos Verdes to Long Beach and the beach
    cities to San Pedro.

    POLA students presented some of their signs in preparation for the Labor Day march where the Just Transition movement shall have a contingent marching.

    The 350.org presentation showed quite clearly that the technical prowess was available to greatly slow climate change if we can muster the political will.  The discussion of true clean energy that is affordable and offers good, green jobs to the energy sector was coupled with the dire health statistics of our Harbor area and South Bay children.

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  • Locals Vent about Homeless at Coastal SPNC Meeting

    Homeless encampment on Palos Verdes Street in San Pedro. Photo by Adam Adame

    No Solutions in Sight, Only Rumors

    By Ivan Adame, Contributing Writer

    Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council hosted a full house Aug. 25 at the Elks Lodge’s bungalow.

    The purpose of the meeting was to hear the public’s opinions regarding homelessness in San Pedro. For more than 90 minutes, about 25 members of the public from all over San Pedro spoke civilly about a variety of concerns, including public safety concerns, the public perception of homelessness and the behavior of advocates on both sides on social media.

    Several speakers brought printouts of exchanges on Facebook in order to call out specific people.

    But the most commonly brought up issue that evening were concerns that the proliferation of homeless people in San Pedro was due to them being transported by local charities.

    “If they want help, get back on that bus and go to Long Beach or go back to where you came from,” said one speaker. “We’re willing to take care of our own, but shouldn’t have to take the burden of neighboring communities.”

    “If you move them from San Pedro to somewhere else, that’s because their problem is not solved,” said another speaker. “If we move them, then it will be the next town and the next town and the next until someone can brainstorm what to do with them. But they are human beings. [They] could be anyone here, you know, tomorrow. I would implore people to think of that first, [then to find] a solution.”

    However, despite the popularity of this conspiracy theory during the meeting and in social media, there isn’t any substantial evidence to support claims that homeless people are being bussed to San Pedro.

    “I’m not aware of any [buses],” said Richard Hildebrandt, director of Christian Care at Mary Star of the Sea parish via phone at a later date.

    “If I were aware of any, I would be talking to those agencies that would do that. I can’t imagine them doing that. It’s wrong. [I think] these people who are saying that are making it up out of whole cloth.”

    The public comments were followed up by a Q-and-A from two former homeless people, along with Shari Weaver of Harbor Interfaith, and Sgt. Catherine Plows, who is in charge of Community Relations for the Los Angeles Police Department Harbor Division.

    Plows said that Harbor Division has two officers and a car dedicated to quality of life matters, establishing relationships with the local homeless.

    “The reason I say ‘establishing relationships’ as opposed to arresting homeless, is that we don’t really get anywhere [by arresting],” Plows said.

    Plows said that it comes down to a simple cycle: continually ticketing homeless people, knowing that it will lead to a warrant, an arrest and a weekend in jail only to be back on the streets to do it again. It is a waste of time and resources.

    “What’s the definition of insanity?” Plows asked rhetorically. “Doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same result…. My hope is with meetings like this… something will actually get done. “

    In her research, she has cited cities like Olympia, Wash. and Houston, which have built tiny villages.

    “These are all public-private partnerships that cost a lot of money,” Plows said. “It’s something to consider.”

    Concluding the meeting, neighborhood council President James Dimon said that this won’t be the last meeting of its kind and that he expects to build a larger forum with a larger crowd.

    “We’ve learned a lot from both sides,” he said. “The important experience is to understand what is really going on because [at first,] I was the ‘put ‘em on a bus and get them out of town’… I was the first to admit it. I got involved… I started to educate myself… as I’ve gone down this road, my opinion has changed. I tell you, we’re going to solve this problem. Working together with this community is the only way that works.”


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  • CBP Seizes More Than $8 Million Worth of Cocaine in Tires: RL NEWS Briefs Aug. 26, 2015

    CBP Seizes More Than $8 Million Worth of Cocaine in Tires

    SAN PEDRO — On Aug. 22, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than 424 pounds of cocaine at the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport complex.

    The cocaine packages, with an estimated street value of $8.08 million were concealed in a shipment of tires from South America.

    CBP officers detected the drugs during an enforcement operation using non-intrusive inspection technology, which is like an x-ray that can detect anomalies in containers, such as unusual density or shapes.

    Officers identified an inconsistency within the images. When they opened the container they found three large bundles with 170 brick-sized packages of cocaine.

    Port’s New Sponsorship Policy to Broaden Outreach

    LONG BEACH — On Aug. 24, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted to update the Harbor Department’s sponsorship policy.

    The Harbor Department provides sponsorship funds to local groups for community functions and events to help inform residents about the Port of Long Beach.

    Going forward, community groups will be asked to submit their sponsorship funding requests during two defined application periods each year. The first call for applications will be Sept. 1 through Oct. 2, 2015. The next call will be in March 2016.

    The scheduled twice-a-year call for sponsorships will give stakeholders a clear process to follow and help in their planning, and a way for the port to evaluate where its funding will have the greatest impact.

    Details: www.polb.com/sponsorship

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  • Community Meeting: RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS Aug. 25, 2015

    Aug. 26

    Community Meeting

    We will be having our monthly community meetings next week.
    The meeting will include a budget presentation.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26
    Venue: Orizaba Park., 1400 Orizaba Ave., Long Beach

    Aug. 26

    West Division Forum

    Join Cmdr. Smith at the West Division Leadership Forum. A Long Beach Police Department, gangs detective will give an overview on gangs. Spanish translation will be available.
    Time: 6 p.m. Aug. 26
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 570-3461; Jose.Vazquez@longbeach.gov
    Venue: Long Beach Police Department, West Division,1900 Atlantic Ave. 2nd floor

    Aug. 27

    Central SPNC Outreach Committee Meeting

    Join Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s Outreach Committee meeting.
    Time: 6 p.m. Aug. 27
    Details: www.centralsanpedro.org
    Venue: Happy Diner, 617 S. Centre St., San Pedro

    Aug. 27

    Social Entrepreneurial Pitch Lab

    August Pitch Lab features social entrepreneurial concepts and innovations! For this month’s event, we have the following expert panelists ready to provide our pitching innovators with quality feedback
    Time: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/PitchLabs
    Venue: WE Labs, 235 E. Broadway, 8th Floor, Long Beach

    Aug. 27

    Citizen’s Police Complaint Commission Meeting

    If you wish to address the commission, a “speaker’s card” may be obtained before the meeting; five minutes of time is granted, unless extended by the commission.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27
    Details: (562) 570-6892
    Venue: City Council Chambers, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    Aug. 29

    The Growing Experience

    Come out to The Growing Experience Urban Farm to help with the installation of its Urban Food Forest Project.
    The Growing Experience Urban Farm will be teaming up with So Cal Contractors & Remodeling to install shade structures, tend to fruit trees and lay walkways for the Food Forest.
    Come prepared for the sun with sunscreen, a hat, close-toed shoes and water.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 29
    Venue: The Growing Experience Urban Farm, 750 Via Carmelitos, Long Beach
    Aug. 31

    North Division Commander’s Community Meeting

    Residents and business owners are invited to join Long Beach Police Department North Division Cmdr. Rudy Komisza for a community meeting.
    Topics of discussion will include:

    • Crime trends in your neighborhood
    • Learn how to stay safe and not become a victim of crime

    Arthur Cox from the City of Long Beach’s Graffiti Removal Program will be the special guest speaker.
    Time: 6 p.m. Aug. 31
    Details: (562) 570-9827
    Venue: Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
    Sept. 3

    Community Discussion on the Homeless

    As Los Angeles struggles with the epidemic of homelessness, Councilman Buscaino would like to bring the community together to discuss the issue, offer perspective and answer questions.
    Three accredited panel members will give information and offer their perspective on the issue.
    Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 3
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/HomelessForum
    Venue: Warner Grand Theater, 478 W. 6th. St. San Pedro

    Sept. 10

    Water, Power Rates Request Community Meetings

    The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is proposing a five-year rate action that seeks modest water and power rate increases each year based on the following key principles: replacing aging water and power infrastructure; transforming water and power supplies; improving customer service; and keeping rates competitive. You are invited to the following community meeting to learn about the rate proposal and to get answers to your questions.
    Time: 6 p.m. Sept. 10
    Venue: Wilmington Senior Center, 1371 Eubank Ave., Wilmington
    Sept. 13

    Nutcracker Auditions

    The Peninsula School of Performing Arts will be hosting auditions for The Nutcracker to be performed at the Norris Theatre on Nov. 20, 21, 28 and 29.
    The performing arts school is looking for gingersnaps (children ages 5 to 7 years old) at 9 a.m., for mice soldiers and clowns (children 7 to 10 years old) at 10 a.m., party scene boys and girls, and angels (children 10 to 13 years old) at 11 a.m., and more advanced roles at 12 p.m.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sept. 13
    Details: pspsdance@gmail.com, www.pspadance.com.
    Venue: 2325 Palos Verdes Drive West, Palos Verdes Estates

    Harbor Brass Quintet

    Harbor Brass is a California South bay Brass Quintet looking for help with rehearsal space and music.
    The Harbor Brass is a California  South bay Community Brass Quintet. The group is comprised of experienced members of several local wind ensembles and orchestras.
    Your support will help pay for music and rehearsal space for the next year.
    Details: www.facebook.com/HarborBrass

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  • Man Killed in Long Beach: RL NEWS Briefs Aug. 25

    Man Killed in Long Beach

    LONG BEACH — Officials identified a 23-year-old man, who was shot and killed Aug. 23 near Pacific Coast Highway and Pine Avenue.
    Long Beach Police Department officers say the shooting may be gang related. Witnesses said Andra Berero arrived at liquor store, where an altercation took place between two groups of men. Berero had just gotten out of his vehicle when he was struck in the upper torso. He was pronounced dead at the local hospital.

    Anyone with information should call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.


    Long Beach Reaches Agreement with Labor Union

    LONG BEACH — The City of Long Beach has reached a tentative agreement with its largest labor union – the International Association of Machinists.
    The tentative agreement provides a non-pensionable, one-time payment, equal to 3 percent of the employees’ base salary from the 12 previous months. It does not include any ongoing obligations.
    The Machinists membership is set to vote on the agreement Aug. 31. If approved, the agreement would go before the City Council for final approval on Sept. 1.
    The agreement extends the current contract for a one-year period, retroactively from Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015. It is the third amendment to the Machinists agreement, originally approved in October, 2007. The Machinists represent about 3,500 city employees who provide Long Beach residents with core city services, including trash collection, library services, water and gas utilities, public health services, and many more.
    The one-time cost of the agreement in fiscal year 2015 is $1.9 million in the general fund, which will be funded by the general fund surplus. impact to special funds, such as airport, harbor, water, gas & oil, etc. totals $3.8 million.
    For details about the city’s labor organizations, visit www.longbeach.gov/hr and click on “About Us.”


    Garcetti Signs Directive to End Traffic Deaths in LA

    LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 24, Mayor Eric Garcetti launched an initiative calling for city departments to pursue a goal of eliminating traffic-related deaths by 2025.
    The program, called “Vision Zero,” is based on the fundamental principle that traffic deaths can be avoided through strategic, data-driven approaches to engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation and community engagement.  Adoption of the Vision Zero policy is a key facet of the Livable Neighborhoods focus of Mayor Garcetti’s Sustainable City pLAn.

    Mayor Garcetti signed the 10th executive directive of his administration, ordering multiple city departments to report back by Dec. 1, 2015 with specific recommendations for measures that would immediately reduce traffic-related deaths in Los Angeles by 20 percent by 2017. The directive also calls for the formation of a Vision Zero Task Force, as well as an Executive Steering Committee, led by city agencies in coordination with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, which will work on proposals to eradicate deadly accidents on Los Angeles streets by 2025.
    Citywide, 44 percent of persons killed or severely injured in traffic collisions are walking or using a bicycle. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable, making up 30 percent of all people killed or severely injured while walking or using a bicycle. Vision Zero will focus efforts on improving safety on street segments with the highest numbers of life-threatening collisions.
    Details: visionzero.lacity.org  

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  • Bottle Stabbing Suspect Arrested: RL NEWS Brief Aug. 24, 2015

    Bottle Stabbing Suspect Arrested

    LONG BEACH — On Aug. 19, Long Beach Police Department officers arrested 50-year-old Enrique Pina Carrillo of Long Beach in connection with the Aug. 18 murder of 21-year-old Junior Jimenez.

    Jimenez was struck with a bottle during brawl then stabbed multiple time with the broken bottle.

    The incident took place at about 9 p.m. on the 1100 block of East 10th Street in Long Beach.

    Jimenez was taken to a local hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries and died.

    Detectives tracked Carrilo down and arrested him in the 800 block of E. Pacific Coast Highway at about 8:19 p.m. Aug. 19.
    Detectives are still investigating the motive that started the fight. The preliminary investigation leads detectives to believe Jimenez and Carrillo were associates. Carrillo is being held at the Long Beach Jail on $1 million bail.
    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org


    Officers Save Heart Attack Victim’s Life

    LOS ANGELES — On the afternoon of Aug.17, Sgt. Robin Petillo set in motion a successful effort to save the life of a man involved in a traffic collision after he was no longer breathing and his heartbeat was undetectable.

    Petillo was driving southbound on the 110 Freeway approaching the 405 Freeway when she encountered a five-car collision that had just occurred. Stopping to render aid, she noticed an unconscious male driver who was trapped in his vehicle. Immediately, she requested an ambulance and tried to pry open the door of the badly damaged car. Unable to open the door by herself, she was finally successful with the help of three unidentified people at the scene and was able to approach the injured driver still inside his car.

    Unfortunately, she determined he was not breathing and did not have a heartbeat; so she immediately administered chest compressions while waiting for help to arrive. In a short time, three additional officers arrived at the scene and were able to remove the man from his car. They also administered more chest compressions, along with rescue breaths, for about 10 minutes until an ambulance arrived.

    According to the American Heart Association, about 92 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching a hospital.

    The driver was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he was revived and underwent a successful emergency surgery, after which he was placed in an intensive care unit. Dr. Rohit Sharma, a physician involved in the surgery, believed the officers’ actions that day literally saved the victim’s life.


    Catholic Priest Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Woman

    LOS ANGELES – On Aug. 24, a Catholic priest was sentenced to six months in federal prison and six months under home confinement for touching a woman’s breast, inner thigh and groin on an overnight cross-country airplane flight.

    Marcelo De Jesumaria, 46, formerly of Lake Arrowhead and who currently resides in the high desert community of Valyermo, was sentenced this morning.

    De Jesumaria was found guilty in May by a federal jury of abusive sexual contact, a federal felony offense that carries a statutory maximum sentence of two years in prison.

    The evidence at trial showed that De Jesumaria was on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 2014 when he moved to the last row of the aircraft after asking a flight attendant if he could “sit next to his wife.” De Jesumaria took the middle seat, between a male in the window seat and the victim in the aisle seat. The victim slept through much of the flight, but she was awakened when she felt De Jesumaria’s hand on the top of her left leg near her groin, and then she felt him wrap his arm around her body and grab her breast. For a period of time, De Jesumaria had a tight grip on the woman, but when the grip relaxed, she got up and went to the bathroom. The victim used a call button to summon a flight attendant and reported that De Jesumaria had been touching her inappropriately.

    The flight crew reseated De Jesumaria in the front of the plane in a seat between two male passengers, according to the testimony at trial. The captain of the airplane requested law enforcement meet the plane after it landed at Los Angeles International Airport. FBI agents subsequently interviewed De Jesumaria, who admitted that he enjoyed “cozy flights” with women.

    The victim spoke at today’s sentencing hearing and described the “fear, frustration and anxiety” that the crime has caused. She said she is reminded of the “ordeal” every day, in part because she must regularly travel on airplanes for her job.

    In papers filed in relation to the sentencing, prosecutors wrote that De Jesumaria’s “testimony at trial provided numerous bizarre explanations for his conduct and blamed the victim.” They wrote that De Jesumaria testified that he considered his touching of the victim was “consensual because she did not reject his touches and he interpreted her silence, because she was asleep, as ‘coyness.’”

    The case against De Jesumaria was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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  • Review: Charles Bukowski – The Laughing Heart

    SPIFF’s Entertaining 6-hour Tribute Honors San Pedro’s Most Enduring Literary Figure

    By Ivan Adame, Contributor

    “Buk’s dead,” said the poet RD Armstrong, also known as “Raindog,” bluntly while on stage during the San Pedro International Film Festival’s 95th birthday tribute to Charles Bukowski. The words seemed to teeter between bewilderment and amazement at Bukowski’s continuing influence. It has been 21 years since Bukowski died in San Pedro.

    Like him or not, Bukowski remains appealing to readers because of his depictions of sex, alcohol, poverty, and endurance with — or without — those things. They can be fleeting working-class portraits for some, or affirmations for others.

    Much like one of his few acknowledged influences, Ernest Hemingway, Bukowski had gained an eccentric persona which may have run contrary to him.

    For Harbor Area locals his appeal would be very difficult to question. Downtown San Pedro is simultaneously within arms-reach of art, booze, and poverty.  In other words: it’s all still here, and not very much has changed.

    Much like some spiritual, literary retreat, the 6-hour long, Aug. 17 sold-out tribute Charles Bukowski – The Laughing Heart was attended by Bukowski’s friends and fans, all bundled together at the Grand Annex. They were fittingly surrounded by the sweaty summer heat and the lingering smell of alcohol.

    The event comprised of several poetry readings, a live presentation, a lively panel discussion, and several film screenings, all of which were a testament to Bukowski’s enduring influence.

    The film adaptations of two poems, “Love is a dog from hell” and “Nirvana” were brief and vivid. However, Bent Hamer’s 2005 feature adaptation of the novel, Factotum, was neither brief nor vivid. No matter how intentional its perpetual slackness was, the feature could not save itself from tedium. It has a few redeeming, deadpan moments, but Bukowski’s prose style was poorly translated into film.

    Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez read from his own poetry, and concluding with Bukowski’s ever-popular “So You Want To Be A Writer.”

    Poet and Cal State Long Beach professor, Gerald Locklin, read his published account of Bukowski’s funeral. He told an amusing anecdote about the specific location where Bukowski vomited at the college’s parking lot.

    Guest poets Raindog, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and Michael C. Ford read from their own work, working from common Bukowski themes.

    One of the poetry highlights belonged to Raindog, who read a sardonic and autobiographical poem about a cashier at a Long Beach supermarket who, by dumb luck, asks if he’s familiar with Bukowski. After telling her that “Me and Buk go way back,” she gives him a discount on his jar of peanut butter. “At last my association with Bukowski is paying off,” he said.

    Another highlight of the readings belonged to poet Alexis Rhone Fancher, whose high-octane erotic poetry provoked cheers from the audience.

    Sue Hodson, curator of The Huntington Library and Art Collections, presented highlights from its acquisition of Bukowski’s manuscripts, letters, and literary and pornographic magazines, some of which contained rare glimpses into his talent as a cartoonist.

    Also during the presentation, Hodson drew parallels from Bukowski poems to that of Walt Whitman.

    “They’re very much of one mind, even if they’re a century apart.”  Hodson said.

    During the panel, each of the panelists gave their own insights as to how Bukowski was perceived by the academic and literary establishment. While Michael C. Ford believed that the academics patronized him as “the poet laureate of skid row,” Hodson believed that he took it in stride.

    “He was proudest of a letter that came to him from some inmates in some prison in Australia who said that his book was the only book that got passed from cell to cell,” Hodson said.

    While it was fun, stimulating, and educational, the day-long Charles Bukowski –The Laughing Heart was a moving tribute to the poet, capturing much of Bukowski’s complexities as a person, while asserting that his work is very much alive in our local and literary character.

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  • California Confidential:

    The Price of Justice

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Imagine coming out of your favorite coffee shop to find a bunch of witnesses surrounding your freshly sideswiped car, telling you the driver who did it just drove away.

    That’s what happened to ACLU lawyer Jessica Price after returning to her 2005 Acura from a local Starbucks in North Hollywood on May 11, 2014.

    “This guy just hit it and flipped off the witnesses,” Price said.

    Fortunately, one of the witnesses took down the license plate before he disappeared. Unfortunately, Price soon learned, the driver’s license plate was afforded “confidential status” by the State of California.

    Vehicles with confidential license plates conceal the addresses of local, state or federal employees, their spouses and their children. State law allows police officers, state public defenders, district attorneys and judges to request that their address be kept confidential.

    By late June of last year, Price’s insurance company, Bristol West Insurance Group, discovered the vehicle that hit her belonged to a Los Angeles Police Department officer. Five months later, Price’s insurance company told her the driver not only had confidential plates, but was uninsured at the time of the collision.

    One LAPD spokesman said he couldn’t believe this would be something one of the department’s own would do.

    “If that is true, I can tell you one thing, that person should not be a police officer,” he said.

    Another LAPD spokesperson, Norma Eisman, said situations involving accident reports are treated like any other accident report. In the case of hit-and-run collisions, Department of Motor Vehicles records are available and Internal Affairs gets involved.

    When Price reached out to the LAPD, she was told the officer whose car hit hers had applied for confidential status while working for the Long Beach Police Department a few years before. Therefore, the LAPD’s hands were tied.

    Her request that the LAPD cooperate with her insurance company and provide the name of the officer whose vehicle was involved was denied because the LAPD said a prosecutor needed to first investigate the issue.

    Six months after the collision, Bristol West told her it was referring the case to its litigation department.

    By December 2014, Price had reached out to Long Beach City Manager Patrick West. However, she wasn’t given any information about the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run, so she filed a complaint. Her complaint was answered two months later. The Long Beach City Attorney rejected her claim, stating that “neither the city nor employees were liable” because the “employee involved was no longer an employee of the city since 2007.” This was a catch-22 situation.

    In February 2015, the insurance company said it was forwarding the $1,632 case to a collection agency.

    Price was told this “happens whenever we can’t find insurance information.” The collections file is still open and the company is still trying to reach the officer. The problem is that collection agencies are legally not allowed to contact a person at his or her place of employment. The collection agency told her that if it were unsuccessful, the file would go back to the insurance company, uncollected.

    Around that time, LAPD Officer Fernando Cuevas, who was identified as the owner of the vehicle that sideswiped Price’s car.

    This past May, the California DMV responded to a Public Records Act query from Price stating that there were, at the time, an estimated 150,184 vehicles registered in the Confidential Record Program.

    Price contacted Random Lengths News and told her story. Both the LAPD and the LBPD were contacted about their policies regarding these situations.

    The DMV stated it was only able to give out 2014 and 2013 statistics. According to the DMV, as of Jan. 2, 2014, there were 489,233 driving records with address confidentiality. There were about 8,313 agency name variations. As of April 12, 2013, there were 360,058 vehicle records with address confidentiality and about 11,000 agency name variations. This is nearly a 36 percent increase in just one year.

    “Insurance companies have access to the current registration record, with addresses on file,” read an email from Artemio Armenta, a DMV representative. “If the registered owner has address confidentiality on file, they will get the name of the employer (for example: LAPD, SD Superior Court, etc.)

    “Insurance companies may submit their inquiries to the DMV through their requester code.”

    LBPD explained how it handled confidential license plates:

    “This is managed by our Accident Investigation and Traffic Detail,” said Megan Zabel, a spokeswoman for the department. “There is a DMV form that eligible employees can fill out, and it is submitted by the police department to the DMV. If they meet the criteria within the law, then DMV will grant confidentiality. This is done on a voluntary basis, only if the employee wants it. They are not required to have their plates confidential.”

    The department will send notice to the DMV if an employee with confidential plates has been terminated or has been convicted of a crime, but the law states that they get to keep the confidentiality for up to three years to allow time for an appeals process. If an employee retires or resigns from the department in good standing, the law allows them to keep the confidentiality indefinitely.

    “If an employee moves from one law enforcement agency to another (what we usually refer to as lateraling to another agency), the employee should re-submit a request through the new employing agency so it reflects on their DMV status where they are employed, but either way, they are still entitled to the confidentiality,” she said. “The DMV record will reflect the name and insurance carrier of the individual; it only conceals the individual’s home address.”

    Zabel explained that if a hit-and-run accident occurred within the Long Beach jurisdiction and the reported license plate turned out to be the confidential plate of an LBPD employee, then a criminal and internal investigation would be launched.

    “I can only speak to what would happen in Long Beach,” Zabel said. “The Accident Investigation Detail would handle the criminal investigation into the hit-and-run. Internal Affairs would handle an internal personnel investigation if it is believed an employee was involved in any kind of misconduct (being involved in a hit-and-run accident would most likely be considered misconduct).” But the consequences of such an investigation. After all, driving without insurance and leaving the scene of an accident are both against the law.

    The process is different if the accident happens in another city, because Long Beach would not be in charge of the investigation.

    The California Department of Insurance said it could not comment on the matter because there could be variables, referring back to law enforcement.   Price’s insurance company also was called, but no one has responded to repeated calls.

    In the end, because of confidentiality rules the insurance company and collection agency are not able to get the driver’s license suspended or take him to court, because they only release the address of an employer and the name of the insurance company, but not other relevant information such as date of birth.

    The other problem is at least two LAPD officers share the name of Fernando Cuevas. Without the cooperation of either the Long Beach or Los Angeles police departments, it’s nearly impossible to find out the exact number of Southern California officers named Fernando Cuevas.

    At this point, Price’s only course of action is to sue every officer in the LAPD named Fernando Cuevas, and let the courts decide which one of them is hiding behind a badge and abusing the privilege of confidential license plate protection to avoid paying up for scraping the driver’s side of Price’s car while it was parked outside a Starbucks.

    Meanwhile, her insurance company has paid out $1632, of which she has paid a $1,000 deductible.



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  • Activists Want To See New Zero Emissions Plan Strengthened

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In mid-July, the Port of Los Angeles released its draft Zero Emission White Paper, soliciting comments before consideration by POLA’s board, originally scheduled for Aug. 20, but now postponed until September.

    “While we’ve made great strides in reducing emissions and greenhouse gas emissions over the last decade, the Port of Los Angeles continues to look for new opportunities to further cut pollutants, especially greenhouse gas,” said Chris Cannon, POLA’s chief sustainability officer and director of environmental management, in a press release. “We think zero emission technology in key operational sectors has strong potential to help us achieve these reductions.”

    According to the white paper, POLA “is committed to expanded development and testing of zero emission technologies, identification of new strategic funding opportunities to support these expanded activities, and new planning for long-term infrastructure development.”

    In addition, “By 2020, the Harbor Department hopes to have facilitated testing and development of up to 200 additional zero emission vehicles at the Port of Los Angeles, and to have these vehicles evaluated using a standardized testing protocol developed in partnership with a regional stakeholder group.”

               But a group of 10 organizations concerned with port pollution, environmental justice and global warming issues drafted a detailed comment letter, not only urging more intensive action, but a whole different framework for moving forward, including a timeline of for achieving 100% zero emissions by 2030.

               “Advancing zero emission freight technologies at the Port is one of the most important environmental challenges this Harbor Commission will need to achieve,” Said Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez, principal drafter of the letter. “We need a bold, smart vision, and we hope the Harbor Commissioners will direct that when this is presented to the Commission.” As the letter explains:

    “The current approach simply takes a stab at what staff thinks is politically feasible and sets targets from there. This paradigm must shift to the following framework. First, the Port should set a goal of zero emission equipment powered by renewable energy port-wide by 2030. Second, staff should explore how to get there for all terminals. For some types of equipment, subsidies may be the strongest options. For others, it may make more sense to do port-wide programs. The plan must include timelines, benchmarks, and other guideposts to be effective. Finally, the plan should include a comprehensive infrastructure planning component”

    Other signatories include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, Coalition for a Safe Environment, San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners Coalition, and East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice. These are many of the same folks who first pushed the ports into the clean air era in the first place, so their perspective carries a good deal of weight.

    “The largest port in the nation must recognize that it has the largest obligation to push for this change, plan for this change and implement this change,” said Kathleen Woodfield, who signed the letter as San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners Coalition vice president. “If the port is reluctant to acknowledge this obligation, timelines will continue to be abandoned and rewritten, goals will continue to act as tools for expansion but not change, and community health will continue to be abused by the port’s statements of overriding considerations.”

    In addition to calling for a new framework, other major points the letter makes involve considering life cycle emissions for all equipment; considering a wider range of means to push zero-emission technology, including the use of port-wide tariffs and leases; developing turnover plans where zero emission technologies are now available, and having more frequent board updates (every six months rather than yearly), as well as “a stakeholder process that includes ample representation from community groups and environmental groups.”

    The letter also suggests considering the hiring of an outside consultant to aid in the project, and recommends developing a robust legislative and regulatory priority list and committing resources to push for them.

    “The port needs to move into the driver’s seat by lobbying for zero emissions regulation both on a state and national level and stop using the lack of such regulation as an excuse for inaction,” Woodfield added.

    “Overall, we are deeply supportive,” the letter read. “We fully endorse the White Paper’s conclusion that ‘zero emission container movement technologies show great promise for helping to reduce criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions in the future.’”

    It went on to note that “Transition to zero emission technologies is the now the well established consensus goal across the State,” citing a July 17 executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as the California Air Resources Board’s “Sustainable Freight” document from April.

    Brown’s order directs relevant state entities to “develop an integrated action plan by July 2016 that establishes clear targets to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system.”

    This freshly-declared broad unity of purpose provides hope that, rather than faltering, as has happened in the past, the port can be moved to strengthen its efforts to achieve a zero emissions system.

    On the plus side, the organizations praised POLA’s broad view of driving concerns:

    “We are pleased that the White Paper anchors the discussion of this important modernization effort in three main objectives: 1) reducing toxic health risk from Port operations; 2) reducing harmful criteria pollutant emissions (i.e., NOx, SOx, VOC, PM); and 3) reducing harmful GHG emissions.”

    But they expressed deep disappointment that “significant commitments to push zero emission equipment” that were included in POLA’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan were dropped from the 2014 update. Specifically cited was the dropped commitment to “[i]ncrease zero emission truck trips to and from the Port to 50% including 100% of the trucks to and from the near dock rail yards through the development of an action plan to be completed by 2014.”

    They called for both the reinstatement of those interim commitments, along with a longer-term commitment to 100 percent zero emissions by 2030.

    Next, they argued that “near-zero” emission technologies shouldn’t be allowed to divert attention from the larger goal. They reject the white paper’s rationale that “health-related benefits are likely attainable on a larger scale, at lower cost, and within a much shorter timeframe” via “near-zero” technologies and therefore are worth prioritizing. They point out that this approach is inconsistent with another assessment in the white paper that, “[e]conomies of scale may eventually lower the prices for zero-emission equipment, but for large-scale production – and the consequent lowering of prices – to occur, a market must develop.”

    They continued, “Overall, a two-phase investment approach of moving to non-hybrid, ‘near-zero’ emission equipment now will likely only distract from developing the equipment necessary to ultimately resolve the problems the Port seeks to tackle,” particularly since “There is no technology overlap between non-hybrid combustion technologies and zero-emitting technologies.”

    “The white paper should reflect a real sense of urgency and a meaningful plan for moving to zero emissions technology starting now, not sometime in the future,” Woodfield said. “We have outlined opportunities for immediate change that the port should start implementing without hesitation.”


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  • Oil Companies Gouge for Billions in Profits, Seek to Lay Blame On Greens

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Global warming threatens life on the planet, driving unprecedented mass extinctions of species, as well as rising human death tolls.

    Laws and regulations meant to combat global warming threaten the bottom lines of fossil fuel companies, which is why it’s not surprising that oil companies have been organizing to fight back. What is surprising is that they have managed to keep a deceptively low profile, for such a powerful industry.

    This past year, oil companies tried to argue that new global warming cap-and-trade regulations, which were taking effect Jan. 1, 2015, would constitute a hidden tax of 76 cents per gallon. However, the impact turned out to be miniscule. Oil companies have extracted almost $5 billion in excess profits from California drivers in the first six months of this year alone, more than $200 per driver, according Golden State Gouge: The Summer of Record Refining Profits, a report from the Santa Monica-based public interest group Consumer Watchdog, which was released at an Aug. 5 press conference.

    “The Golden State is getting gouged,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said. “The California experience in gas prices is historically unprecedented.”

    One simple observation drove the point home.

    “Crude prices are now below $45 a barrel,” Court noted. “The last time gas prices were at $4 a gallon, crude prices were over $100 a barrel.”

    The report is just the latest in a series not only detailing how oil companies are gouging California consumers, but also drawing attention to how they were trying to use these price hikes to shift blame onto global warming regulations. While oil companies and their allies try to portray the issue as “big government” regulation versus the free market, billionaire financier, philanthropist and environmental advocate Tom Steyer, who also spoke at the press conference, stressed how far California’s oil market diverges from what a free market is supposed to do, and how necessary it is for government to act, when markets are broken.

    “If you spend a lot of time in markets, there is a theoretical idea of a perfect market, where you have unlimited competitors driving the price to the marginal cost, so there’s an economic idea in people’s heads,” Steyer said. “And the further you get from that economic ideal, the less well the market is functioning. In this case this is a market that is functioning horribly. It is very far from our idea of the way the capitalist market is supposed to work. A capitalist market is supposed to work to the advantage of consumers, to deliver goods and services in the best way at the lowest price. That’s just not happening.”

    As for what to do about it, the broad answer was equally clear, Steyer suggested.

    “This is a traditional function of government going right back to Teddy Roosevelt, in the early 20th century, when he was trying to break up the trusts,” he said. “There’s something going on where the citizens of California are being disadvantaged, and we believe their elected officials are perfectly positioned to find out what’s going on, and represent them.”

    Steyer referred to the price gouging as “highway robbery,” and not without reason. According to the report:Watchdog-California-drivers-being-gas-gouged-on-unprecedented-scale-in-2015

    • California drivers paid $1.2 billion extra for their gasoline in July alone, the most ever recorded, compared to U.S. average prices;
    • Refiner margins (the amount refiners receive for each gallon of gasoline) reached a record high of $1.61 in the second week of July. More than triple their average margin of 48 cents per gallon;
    • According to the California Energy Commission, the refiner margin has averaged $1.05 per gallon since the price spike began in February, double their 48 cent per gallon average margin;
    • In the second quarter of 2015, Chevron made $731 million in profit on their United States refining. This was an increase of $214 million, or 41 percent over the same quarter last year;
    • Valero’s California profits were 11 times higher in the second quarter of 2015 than the same quarter in 2014. The company made $294 million, up from $24 million.

    But “highway robbery” pales beside something even more nefarious, intended to preserve the robbers’ hold on all of us in perpetuity: an attempt to use the skyrocketing prices to shift the blame onto environmentalists and government regulators who are leading the fight against global warming, as part of the oil industry’s ongoing covert war against climate change action.

    This past November, behind-the-scenes details began leaking out in a story from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Leaked: The Oil Lobby’s Conspiracy to Kill Off California’s Climate Law.” Climate activists had gotten their hands on a PowerPoint deck with slides and talking points created by the Western States Petroleum Association, which BusinessWeek described as evidence of “a highly coordinated, multi-state coalition that does not want California to succeed at moving off fossil fuels because that might set a nasty precedent for everyone else,” BusinessWeek added. “The PowerPoint deck details a plan to throttle AB 32 (also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) and steps to thwart low carbon fuel standards (known as LCFS) in California, Oregon, and Washington State.”

    A key part of the plan is the creation of an array of phony grassroots (aka “astroturf”) groups with names like Oregon Climate Change Campaign, Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy, and AB 32 Implementation Group, which BusinessWeek noted, “are made to look and sound like grassroots citizen-activists while promoting oil industry priorities and actually working against the implementation of AB 32.”

    The deck also previewed Western States Petroleum Association’s plan for an ad campaign warning that the cap-and-trade program for gas and diesel, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, would constitute a “hidden” gas tax that devious politicians were trying to sneak past consumers.

    The next month, in December 2014, Consumer Watchdog provided a much more comprehensive view of this deceptive propaganda war in a report, Pump Jacking California’s Climate Protection: The Threat Of Oil Industry Influence and Market Manipulation. It combined a discussion of conventional corrupt political practices — $70 million in campaign contributions and $36 million in lobbying from January 2009 to September 30, 2014 — with the novel aspects employed by the oil industry.

    “In addition to unprecedented lobbying and campaign contribution expenditures in recent years, California’s oil companies are likely to use their extraordinary power over the gasoline market to artificially inflate gasoline prices as a way of driving political pressure against the new legal obligations refiners will face beginning in January 2015,” Pump Jacking warned in its executive summary. “The main finding of this review of oil companies’ tactics and strategies is that California’s state officials must be on high alert for such price manipulations and warn the oil companies that they will be immediately investigated and prosecuted for cut-backs in gasoline production that drive up price.”

    In the months since, Consumer Watchdog has issued a number of reports further exposing the workings of these market manipulations.

    On March 24, Consumer Watchdog released Price Spiked: How Oil Refiners Gouge Californians on Their Gasoline, which went into detail about how a small group of refiners manipulate prices — a problem identified as far back as 1999.

    The report noted, “when California’s Attorney General formed a gasoline pricing task force that identified market consolidation and limited inventories as causes of prices spikes.”

    The report went on to note, “California is an isolated gasoline market where consolidation has left 14 refineries producing a special, environmentally friendly blend of gasoline (CARB gasoline), and gasoline supplies on hand are far lower than the nation’s reserves. This leaves the market vulnerable to price spikes whenever there are refinery outages or accidents.”

    A follow-up report, Refining Profits: How Californians Get Fleeced at the Pump, released on May 5, shifted focus from the up-and-down of prices that consumers paid to the cumulative results seen in the quarterly profits of oil companies.

    For example, it noted, “On a recent call with investors, Chevron General Manager Jeff Gustavson admitted why the company did so well in the first quarter of 2015, ‘Margins increased earnings by 435 million driven by unplanned industry downtime and tight product supply on the U.S. West Coast.’ His statements reflect how refiners such as Chevron find it profitable to keep low inventory on hand and make large sums of money when the state encounters refinery problems.”

    Then, on June 30, Consumer Watchdog’s Wholesale Gasoline Market Analysis burrowed into the details of how refiners used “their contractual leverage over branded stations to charge gas prices that are 30 cents higher than what unbranded stations pay”—that’s 30 cents per gallon of pure excess profit. This compared with a national average price difference of 5 cents the week that the report was released, according to the industry standard Lundberg Survey.

    Two weeks later, Consumer Watchdog drew attention to another wrinkle: California refiners were exporting oil during a period of limited supply and price volatility.

    “Oil refiners have kept the state running on empty and now they are sending fuel refined in California abroad right as the specter of low inventories in the state drives huge prices spikes,” said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. “There is no good reason for the latest outrageous run up at the pump other than oil refineries manipulating inventories to drive gas prices artificially high.”

    All this lead up to the Aug. 5 release of “Golden State Gouge.”  Price gouging and market manipulation are far from being a new phenomenon — the oil industry has always been rife with collusion, influence peddling, market manipulation and the like — but these manipulations have been particularly intense.

    “This is an unprecedented price gap with America and it’s an unprecedented price gouge,” Court told Random Lengths. “The tactics of oil refiners range from withhold supply, exporting, leveraging their branded gas station contracts for higher prices on the street.  This is a nightmare for Californians who face four refiners who control 78 percent of the market and have pulled every trick in the book to gouge Californians.”

    “Oil refiners see Californians as their sugar daddies,” Court said, when asked to summarize what the full sweep of reports tells us. “The historic second quarter refining profits from California at Tesoro, the second largest refiner, the 1100% profit increase in California refining profits at Valero, and Chevron’s refining unit having its best first half of the year ever, with 54% of its refining in CA, should show Californians they are being stalked by profit needy predators in the oil industry who are making up from Californians what they are losing on crude oil elsewhere.”

    As for what California’s public officials should being doing, Court said, “California’s elected officials need to force oil refiners to be more transparent, open their books and show us why they are running this state on empty and what their plan is to fill up our tank.”

         So far, he said, “There’s been little done by the political establishment, except hearings in the state senate and a little interest from the attorney general on the issue of how oil refiners are leveraging their branded station contracts to drive up prices at the 85 percent of stations that are branded to keep gas prices artificially high when imports do come into this market.”

    Court added, “There’s been more tough talk than usual from the Senate, but no action to date. Hopefully we will get a bill introduced and moved in the next month, working on it right now.” 

        Finally, when we asked what’s next, Court responded, “If legislation doesn’t succeed, we are prepared to go to the ballot with Tom Steyer and others who want to put this question to Californians. Until then, we are all just victims of the market power oil refiners have exerted because 4 control nearly 80 percent of the market.”

        Steyer expressed a similar outlook at the press conference.

    “What’s going on is not right,” Steyer said. “If the legislature and the courts will not act, I believe the citizens will have to take matters into their own hands. We are determined to find a way to independently hold big oil accountable for these outrageous gas price. Nobody in LA, or anywhere in California should have to sacrifice their hard-earned living, while the well companies are multiplying their profits. Either there is something nefarious going on here, or the structure of the market itself is unacceptable. In either case, we need to fix the problem.”


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