• China Shipping NOP, POLA’s Failed Mitigations

    Draft Supplemental EIR Admits to Lack of Compliance with Legal Settlement

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    The Port of Los Angeles likes to call itself “America’s premier port” and claims it is strongly committed to developing innovative strategic and sustainable operations. It likes to call itself the model of “green port technology” even as it facilitates some $290 billion in trade per year as of 2014. Clearly, POLA and the Port of Long Beach are the largest most productive ports in the nation. Together they are also the single highest producing source of air pollution in the entire Los Angeles basin.

    What is little remembered is the lawsuit filed by attorneys Gail Ruderman Feuer (the wife of the current Los Angeles City Attorney) and Julie Masters of the Natural Resources District Council on behalf of several Harbor Area activists against the port’s China Shipping environmental impact report 13 years ago—a lawsuit that resulted in a $65 million settlement.

    Documented in the Amended Settlement Judgment section of the decision is a long list of environmental, cultural and aesthetic mitigations to be accomplished and reported on by both POLA and China Shipping. They have failed to do so since 2011.

    The California Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in the NRDC’s favor in this case, finding that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA, in failing to address “any site-specific environmental issues related to the China Shipping project.”

    As part of its decision, the court stayed a number of China Shipping terminal improvements including: the last 200 feet of the first wharf, erection and operation of four 16-story cranes, operation of the first wharf and construction of the later phases of the project, until the port and city prepare an environmental review of the project’s impacts in full compliance with CEQA.

    Compliance with this judgment was to be reported at least annually in the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRPs).

    The port says that it has made great strides in meeting its clean air goals and standards, yet after this newspaper filed a California Public Records Act in September of this year, it was revealed that the port has failed to produce any MMRPs dated more recently than April 2011. So it may be impossible for them to verify these cleaner air standards.

    Curiously, this curtailment of the MMRPs is around the time that the port under the leadership of Geraldine Knatz disbanded the Port Community Advisory Committee, which after the China Shipping settlement was used to oversee and inform the public as to the progress of port mitigation on this and other terminal operations.

    Without the pressure of public oversight, the port obviously failed to perform its mandatory reporting. The port continues to deny the relevance of or need for any public oversight and has preferred to hold closed door meetings with neighborhood council presidents, local chamber of commerce directors and their plus-one guests. That plan has clearly backfired on them. A port community advisory board would have clearly caught their non-compliance much earlier and brought it to the attention of the Harbor Commission.

    It has also been revealed that the port failed to include the court-ordered mitigation and reporting requirements during their latest lease renegotiations with the China Shipping Co. over berth 97-109. Now in the current Notice of Preparation in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) the port is claiming that these mitigation and reporting requirements are “infeasible”.

    The port is clearly at fault here and now it is attempting to backtrack and cover up the evidence of its non-compliance. Why these mitigations weren’t written into a long-term lease in the beginning is anyone’s guess at this point. Ever since the port responded to my public records request and issued a Notice of Preparation, the port has instituted a gag order preventing staff or anyone else at the port from speaking to the press.

    Part of the problem is that the port self- certifies its own environmental impact reports. This has historically been a problem here, since their reports are rarely subject to critical review. And in the absence of the PCAC, there’s scant public oversight on compliance.

    Even worse is that the port has only given the public 12 days between the Oct. 7 public scoping meeting and its arbitrary Oct. 19 deadline to respond to the SEIR. This is hardly enough time for the neighborhood councils, public agencies or the NRDC to respond. Clearly that deadline needs to be extended by 120 days.

    The current rework of the SEIR that should concern everyone is that the port is backing off a list of critical environmental goals that include: greenhouse emissions, air quality, transportation/traffic, noise pollution and something called “mandatory findings of significance”.

    Of these, the air quality and transportation categories are probably the most immediate concerns to area residents, even though there is both a state and national mandate to combat greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming.

    Under the air quality section of the NOP, three of the five issues raised were marked as “Potentially significant impact.” These include: full compliance with alternative marine power (electric plug in), vessel speed reduction; liquefied petroleum gas powered yard tractors and liquefied natural gas powered drayage trucks and emission standards for berths 121-131 and 97-109.

    The failure to comply with the original EIR means that not only dirtier air quality for the seven communities surrounding the port and for the workers in the harbor but has an even harsher consequence for those neighborhoods that directly abut the port.

    Because of the missing mitigation monitoring reports it is not entirely clear exactly what mitigations the port has fully accomplished and what they have not, for instance what is the status on these issues:

    • Traffic mitigation plan: The port is required to complete and implement traffic studies for China Shipping and the entire Port by expedited dates in the agreement.
    • Port-wide policy changes: As part of the settlement, the Port has adopted resolutions setting forth two new Port-wide mitigation policies:
    • The Port will require the purchase of only clean, alternative fuel yard tractors for all new leases and “significant” renegotiations of existing leases.
    • The port will now only grant permits for new or replacement cranes if they are “low-profile,” subject to a showing of their feasibility.


    Though the port is pinning their argument on the “feasibility” of the requirements, I suspect that the real issue is that China Shipping is trying to wrangle its way out of having to pay any further monies toward mitigation connected to this lease. It is also rumored that China Shipping is going to be merged with another state owned shipping company, COSCO.

    The port’s failure to meet transportation and traffic mitigation goals is another example of the conflict between the traffic needs of local citizens and the future growth of port operations along with the development of the waterfront, designed to turn the Harbor Area into a tourist attraction.

    This failure to meet the transportation and traffic mitigations will only continue to grow as the port regains its pre-2008 container volumes and annual trade surpasses $290 billion per year.

    Even with the current expansion of the 110 and 47 freeway connectors, how does the port expect to expand tourist traffic to the San Pedro and Wilmington waterfronts while at the same time exponentially expanding container traffic on the same freeways? The port makes no effort to address these congestion issues or include the possibility of a light rail connection.

    One of the other unforeseen and unaccounted for issues not mitigated in all of this is the eviction of some 50 homeless people living along the parts of the freeways that are being expanded. This is the human face of the port’s disregard for the consequences of their actions on the surrounding communities or the lives of those impacted by port expansion.

    In the end, this Supplemental EIR is an attempt by the Port of Los Angeles to renegotiate the terms of its Amended Settlement Judgment by self-certifying a new one without going back to court or allowing for adequate time for considered response from the communities affected. They are avoiding holding China Shipping accountable for its part in the failure to protect harbor area citizens from further environmental harm.

    Gene Seroka, the executive director of POLA, has claimed that this is a corrective action and is the consequence of the previous administration’s failure to act, but much of this would have been avoided with more—not less—citizen oversight, which is one mitigation that should be permanently written into the new Supplemental EIR.

    Read More
  • Conscious Eating

    By Gina Ruccione, Restaurant and Cuisine Writer

    Oct. 11 was the 2nd Annual Sustainable Seafood Expo at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. If you didn’t get a chance to stop by it should definitely be on your radar for next year.

    As many of you know, I’m quite obsessed with food. Any chance to sample amazing dishes from some of our favorite, local chefs and seafood purveyors is an opportunity I would never shy away from. I was able to get my hands on almost everything but we’ll come back to that.

    I try not to just shove food in my face. I’m actually very interested in any discussion regarding food and lately the conversation about sustainability kind of gets me going. We all need to be more conscious about what we put in our mouths and sometimes what comes out of our mouths.

    Unfortunately, the American stereotype in other countries around the world is that we lack a fundamental cuisine. We’re a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities so it’s easy to find any other cuisine: Italian, Japanese, Mexican — we even have Ethiopian, but I don’t see anything that is inherently “American.” Other than Dodger Dogs and In ‘n’ Out Burger, we’ve just sort of plowed through life consuming anything in abundance or — dare I say, “supersized” — and somehow over the years American consumerism became synonymous with American cuisine. That’s why we need to be talking about sustainability; we consume and waste too much. Folks, let’s be honest: that’s embarrassing.

    But enough of my ranting, let’s talk about the snacks.

    Whole Foods did a Spanish-style gazpacho that was absolutely perfect. Featuring Barramundi (think sea bass) with thick bacon and cilantro with crusty sourdough bread. I’ve spent the whole morning scouring the Internet for that recipe.

    Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra from Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes did his take on a sort of deconstructed taco with a roasted rockfish and carrot skewer with cumin and lime yogurt and Cotija cheese crumble. It was an absolute perfect bite—even though I had three.

    New to the event this year was the Exclusive Chef’s Table, a sustainable seafood dinner by Chef Paul Buchanan of Primal Alchemy, based in Long Beach. The dinner, which immediately followed the Expo, was family style and served outside of Crafted. Tickets needed to be purchased in advance, but I would say it’s safe to assume this will be a repeat component of the event for years to come. Buchanan partnered with Community Seafood in Santa Monica, a grassroots community supported fishery that focuses on sustainability.

    The menu included three passed hors d’oeuvres a kombucha pumpkin soup, Persian cucumbers with house smoked salmon and dill aioli, tasting spoons with laughing bird shrimp curry with Kaffir lime oil. Dinner included paella with Santa Barbara shrimp, mussels, and yellow fin tuna that was actually caught off of Long Beach. Next there was a halibut in a lemongrass marinade with red quinoa and grilled scallions. Dessert included a pluot cobbler with Chantilly cream.

    I have absolutely no problem with ANY of that.

    I’d say the whole event was a success. The Sustainable Seafood Expo helps educate us in an interesting, albeit palatable way. We are able to make thoughtful choices about not only what is right for us but also for the environment. Many of us have a hard time sitting through lectures, or maybe that’s just me — but I did enjoy listening to the prestigious featured panelists all of whom are incredibly passionate about seafood sustainability. And I’m passionate about people who are passionate — so pair that with a beer and some great food and that’s actually not a bad Sunday fun day.



    Read More
  • CENSORED! Ten Big Stories News Media Ignored

    Even in the era of ubiquitous social media, when a small news outlet can create a story that goes viral, some of the biggest news of the past year never reached most of the public.

    By Tim Redmond, Editor and Chief of 48 Hills

    When Sonoma State University professor Carl Jensen started looking into the news media’s practice of self-censorship in 1976, the Internet was only a dream and most computers were still big mainframes with whirling tape reels and vacuum tubes.

    Back then, the vast majority of Americans got all their news from one daily newspaper and one of the three big TV networks. If a story wasn’t on ABC, NBC or CBS, it might as well not have happened. (more…)

    Read More
  • Toberman Reunion and the Challenge of Recovering Forgotten Memories

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    A year ago, Executive Director and CEO Linda Matlock told me that Toberman was planning a reunion of sorts.

    It’s happening on Oct. 24. The event is intended to be both a fundraiser and an opportunity to celebrate the children who have matriculated through Toberman since the 1930s.

    Matlock described the event back then as a legacy event. She organized a staff to search the archives for children who matriculated through Toberman since its relocation to San Pedro in 1937. (more…)

    Read More
  • The Coming Full Circle of a ‘90s Musical Protégé

    I’ve been told that San Pedro has been a place where the famous or the infamous — from artists to war criminals — come to lay low. I always assumed it was a tongue-in-cheek assessment. Then last summer, I met Rion Michael.

    At first he was simply our office’s new next-door neighbor. I usually saw Michael in the afternoon, when I was leaving for lunch and he was sitting on his porch braiding his hair. We always exchanged salutations. Eventually, Michael asked if I worked at the newspaper on the corner.


    Read More
  • U.S. Reaches Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: RL NEWS BRIEFS, 10/7/2015

    U.S. Reaches Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

    On Oct. 5, The White House announced the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement— an agreement 10 years in the making. Described by the White House as a new an improved NAFTA, only it includes several more countries in the Pacific Rim and great deal more labor and environmental protections, this agreement will intensify the nation’s gaze towards the East and serving as check on China’s growing power in the region.

    The agreement, which includes Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Japan, eliminated tens of thousands of tariffs on American made products and open more of Asia’s markets to American agricultural products.

    The White House in their released fact sheet said the agreement is “the largest expansion of fully-enforceable labor rights in history.”

    According to the White House, the TPP will result in “the largest expansion of fully-enforceable labor rights in history” by renegotiating NAFTA and including the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively. They claim that the agreement will prohibit child labor and forced labor and set requirements for acceptable work conditions such as minimum wage, hours of work, and safe workplace conditions.

    They also said that the TPP will have “the highest environmental standards of any trade agreement in history…” by upgrading NAFTA standards by “putting environmental concerns at the core of the agreement and making those obligations fully enforceable,” by cracking down on ozone depletion and improving energy efficiency. Among their projected goals is to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, logging, hunting and fishing.

    The TPP will include new rules for internet commerce, claiming lower costs, less spam and cybercrime. The agreement bans “forced localization” which had required U.S. businesses to place their data, servers, research facilities and other necessities in other countries in order to access those markets.

    Also, the TPP will discipline state-owned companies in other countries, which are often given preferential treatment, to ensure that they compete on a commercial basis and that the advantages they receive do not have an adverse impact on American workers and businesses.


    Construction Alert: Month-Long Nightly Lane Restrictions on Wilmington Ave. & 223rd St.

    Starting Oct. 8, contractors are scheduled to have nightly lane restrictions surrounding Wilmington Ave. and 223rd St. intersection, due to construction. The construction will take place week nights starting Oct. 8 and is anticipated to finish at the end of the month (tentatively Oct. 31). Traffic signals will be on flashing mode during the more severe lane restrictions. This way, traffic will continue through the intersection as well as make left or right turns without the need of detouring traffic.

    During construction businesses and local resident access will be maintained at all times. The public can expect noise and vibrations from back-up alarms, work crews and other construction related equipment and activities. Flaggers will be on site when necessary to allow access to traffic. Water trucks will be used to minimize dust. Construction activity schedules and closures are subject to change.


    Governor Signs Plan to Reduce Recidivism of Mentally Ill Offenders into Law

    On Oct. 3, Gov. Brown signed bill Senate Bill 621, which aims to reduce recidivism by providing diversion programs to non-violent mentally ill offenders.

    The bill clarifies how the money in the state’s mentally ill offender crime reduction grant is spent, allowing it to be used by counties to use on said diversion programs.

    “Too many people with mental health needs are taken to jail as a first option,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who sponsored the bill. “This bill will help make clear that counties can apply for special grants to pay for diversion programs for the mentally ill. This will save tax dollars and help those in need become more self-sufficient and stay out of jail.”

    The bill did not receive a single no vote in the legislature.

    Every year, more than two million adults with serious mental illnesses are sent to jail. They are more prone to have longer stays in jail, and are three times more expensive to incarcerate and are at a higher risk of being incarcerated again than those without mental illnesses.


    Governor Signs Law To Encourage Public-Interest Legal Practice

    Gov. Brown signed into law a plan that will use unclaimed funds in lawyer trust accounts to encourage lawyers to pursue jobs in the public sector, allowing low-income Californians to have greater access to equal justice.

    Senate Bill 134 will fund the Public Interest Attorney Loan Repayment Program, which uses unclaimed funds that have been transferred to the state general fund after being held for three years. It encourages newly graduated lawyers with student debt to pursue work in the public interest, as the pay is often lower than in private practice.

    Lawmakers of both parties have described the new law as an innovative revenue source. A similar program in Oregon has collected more than $500,000 since 2010.

    “Every year, thousands of young lawyers graduate from law school with a desire to launch their careers performing public service,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who authored the bill. “Faced with skyrocketing education costs, however, more and more of our finest legal minds are opting to instead go straight into private practice.”

    The repayment program was created years ago to help repay the student loans of attorneys who agreed to practice in certain public-interest areas, but the program had gone unfunded. The Student Aid Commission will administer the program by establishing eligibility and selecting participants eligible up to $11,000 for four years of service.

    “Too often we grant rights without providing the tools to make those rights real. Here is a creative way to ensure those rights,” Hertzberg said.


    POLA and POLB to Update Clean Air Action Plan

    Environmental teams from both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach will hold a joint community workshop open to the public on Oct. 14 to gather input on the next update of the Clean Air Action Plan, also known as CAAP.

    The workshop will be held from 3-5 p.m. at Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington. The workshop will include a presentation outlining the scope and timeline of the update, as well as an interactive dialogue with attendees. The plan is considered by the port a “living document” and has since been receiving input from their stakeholders.

    The CAAP, adopted in 2006 and has since been updated in 2010, has reduced air pollution from ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft that operate in and around the ports.

    Since adoption, levels of diesel particulate have dropped 82 percent, oxides of nitrogen have dropped 54 percent and oxides of sulfur have declined 90 percent.


    California Passes Law Which Protects Elephants, Rhinos

    On Oct. 4, Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 96 into law, banning all trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn in the state.

    California joins two other states, New York and New Jersey, in passing a statewide ban on ivory and rhino horn. New York and California respectively hold the first and second highest amounts of trade in ivory.

    “Californians have fired a warning shot across the bow of all those who knowingly sell, buy or traffic in illicit ivory and rhino horn in the state,” said David Thomson, who is a chairman from the African  Wildlife Foundation. “The protection of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife cannot and should not be the sole domain of field-based conservationists and rangers… we need our courageous leaders in Washington, and Beijing, in Dar es Salaam, as well as Sacramento, to take ownership of this issue and give rangers and conservationists much needed support.”

    According to the African Wildlife Foundation, as many as 35,000 African elephants and 1,215 rhinos were illegally killed each year due to a growing demand in countries such as China, Thailand, and the United States for use in statues, art, and jewelry.

    Read More
  • TE San Pedro Rep Illuminates Joan Of Arc

    By Stephanie Serna, RLn Contributing Writer

    As I arrived at the entrance to Theatrum Elysium San Pedro Repertory, where I was finally about to experience for myself the “powerfully moving” production of Joan of Arc, I suddenly had a doubt.

    “Is this the theater?” I inquired as I stood in a back alley watching two young men set up a snack table inside a concrete courtyard surrounded by a locked wrought-iron gate. A small dog appeared and ran to greet me through a slat in the gate . (more…)

    Read More
  • President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama introduced Pope Francis to their family pets Bo and Sunny in the Blue Room following the State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 23, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Pope Francis Visits America

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama introduced Pope Francis to their family pets Bo and Sunny in the Blue Room following the State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 23, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…. whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

    Matthew 25:35-40


    “Is the Pope Catholic?” Newsweek asked in its cover story headline. “Of course he is,” they answered in the much smaller subhead. “You just wouldn’t know it from his press clips.” But that says more about the national press than it does about Pope Francis.

    Yet if the world is flooded with too-facile stories, images, explanations and descriptions, Francis is eager to engage it at all levels and remain seemingly unperturbed by how readily he is misunderstood or misrepresented.

    On his flight from Cuba to Washington, when reporters asked about the Newsweek headline and “about comments, mainly from the United States, claiming the pope is a communist,” as the Catholic News Service put it, Francis replied, “I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” adding, “I follow the church and in this, I do not think I am wrong.”

    Broadly this is true, though an analysis from Religion News Service did identify two areas in which Francis has advanced church teaching—but not taken a new direction: calling for “global abolition of the death penalty,” and affirming a “right of the environment.”

    Providing context, the website of the U.S. Conference of Bishops describes “Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching.”

    While several of these have been focused upon narrowly and selectively and construed rigidly in recent decades—most notably, “Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” and the “Call to Family, Community, and Participation”—others have de-emphasized, if not largely neglected, especially in the public sphere: the “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable,” “The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers,” “Solidarity” and “Care for God’s Creation.”

    While an increasingly politicized church hierarchy has contributed to a much narrower view, particularly here in America, the vast majority of what Francis has said and done is simply a matter of restoring a more balanced emphasis.

    The church has always advocated for immigrants, for example, and Francis did so again at the White House on Sept. 23, but not in partisan terms. “As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families,” he said.

    He spoke similarly to Congress the following day. “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” Francis said. “I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”

    What’s really set Pope Francis apart is not doctrine, but his pastoral emphasis, reaching out to engage in a spirit of service, which has been so strongly echoed in the enthusiastic welcome he has received—both in the world at large, and here in America with this trip. There also is the fact that he’s the first pope from the global south, where the majority live much like the earliest Christians, when Christianity was the religion of the Roman Empire’s underclass.

    Perhaps his first act alerting the world to these aspects of his papacy came just two weeks after it began, when he washed and kissed the feet of a dozen inmates in a Holy Thursday ritual at a juvenile detention center, including Orthodox and Muslim detainees, as well as two young women, “a remarkable choice given that the rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his male disciples,” as the Associate Press commented. Popes normally perform the ritual at St. John Lateran basilica, washing the feet of 12 priests, representing the 12 disciples. AP added:

    [T]he Vatican released a limited video of the ritual, showing Francis washing black feet, white feet, male feet, female feet and even a foot with tattoos. Kneeling on the stone floor as the 12 youngsters sat above him, the 76-year-old Francis poured water from a silver chalice over each foot, dried it with a simple cotton towel and then bent over to kiss each one.


    Still, it was a pastoral act, not a signal of changing doctrine. Like the rest of the Catholic hierarchy, Francis has insisted that the subject of women priests is off the table, and his unquestioned orthodoxy on the subject illuminates the real limits and extent of his fresh thinking.

    The vast majority of the pope’s trip to America reflected his pastoral orientation. His visit to the overcrowded Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, in particular, underscored his attention to ministering to “the least of these,” while the large public masses embraced the whole body of the church. He began his speech to the inmates by telling them:

    I know it is a painful time, not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society ‘condemned’ to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own.

    Francis further stressed the importance of rehabilitation programs:

    It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.


    Francis also spoke out to warn against the kinds of mistaken thinking which lead supposedly more elevated people astray.

    “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism,” Francis said in his speech to Congress. “This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.” He went to add:

    There is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.

    When Francis turned to talk about the environment, as many on the religious right feared he would, he significantly undercut their hysteria over his supposed “Marxism.”

    “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good,” Francis said, quoting from his encyclical, Laudato Si. “This common good also includes the earth,” he continued, “a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to ‘enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.’”

    He went on to say, “I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.’”

    In that speech to Congress, Francis employed the uplifting framework of citing four great Americans who “shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people”— Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Day, the radical founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, is a particularly complex and compelling individual for Francis to cite. His orthodoxy in refusing to reconsider women priests stands in stark contrast to the long history of female saints, a history that Francis implicitly seemed to invoke.

    “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints,” Francis said. Day is now in the process of becoming a saint herself, with the unanimous support of American bishops—in sharp contrast to how she was perceived during her lifetime, and despite the fact Day famously said, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

    After that canonization vote, Larry Purcell, executive director of the Redwood City Catholic Worker House, told Catholic San Francisco, “I am concerned that the canonization process will sanitize her life and will not emphasize how categorically she opposed the empire of the United States and how the empire is expanded and maintained with massive military might,”

    Francis shares much in common with Day, including at least some measure of her pacifist orientation. “Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world,” he told Congress.

    Unfortunately, the majority in Congress seem ill-prepared to listen, despite his tireless efforts to engage with everyone. They seem to have need of Francis, even more than the inmates of Curran-Fromhold.




    Read More
  • Homelessness State of Emergency Gets Optimistic Response

    By Kevin Walker, Contributing Reporter

    Los Angeles leaders recently declared a homeless state of emergency, pledging $100 million in aid toward housing assistance, shelters and other services.

    The number of homeless people living in LA rose by 12 percent between 2013 and 2015 and now stands at more than 25,000.

    The majority of these, about 17,000 people, are classified as “unsheltered” by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. These people live outside on city streets or in cars and recreational vehicles due to a shortage of shelter space.

    The increasing size and visibility of the city’s homeless encampments have been a wake up call to neighborhoods that have traditionally seen the issue as a problem for Skid Row. San Pedro, which sits on the southern end of the 110 Freeway next to the Port of Los Angeles, is one of these neighborhoods.

    Since 2013, the number of homeless living in the Harbor Area, which is comprised of San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and Harbor Gateway, has risen to about 1,500 people—a 25 percent increase since 2013. Between 300 and 400 of these people live specifically in San Pedro.

    “The key word is ‘noticeable,’” said George Palaziol. “There’s been an increase in the visibility. We had the homeless here [before], they just weren’t visible; they would go and hide.”

    Palaziol, who is part of a new San Pedro Homelessness Task Force formed by Councilman Joe Buscaino, says the sharp rise in his neighborhood’s homeless population is due in large part to the clean-up of nearby Ken Malloy Harbor Park.

    “Once they cleared them out [of the park], where do these people have to go?” he said. “San Pedro seems to take the brunt of it because we have all the services.”

    Palaziol welcomes the city’s state of emergency declaration.

    “I think it’s about time,” he said. “This money is going to be a huge help.”

    But where exactly should that money go? Palaziol says he wants funds directed toward existing service providers in San Pedro, but resists the idea of building more shelters in the neighborhood.

    “I would definitely like to see that money go towards building something near San Pedro, not necessarily in San Pedro,” he said. “Another place would be like opening the welcome mat to more homeless people.”

    His position is at odds with homeless advocates like Nora Hilda, founder of the group Helping the Homeless in Need San Pedro, who expects to see new facilities built in the neighborhood.

    “There will be one [shelter] in San Pedro,” Hilda said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right property and moving everyone on to it.”

    She says that sheltering the homeless in unfamiliar neighborhoods is often so isolating that they will return to living on the street in areas where they feel at home.

    While no official plans for new homeless shelters or facilities have been announced for San Pedro, Hilda’s comments are in line with recent statements made by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. During a recent appearance on the KPCC radio show Airtalk, Garcetti stated his support for a decentralized approach to helping the homeless.

    “People want to stay in the communities where they are, even if they’re homeless,” said Garcetti. “We need to give them the services where they are.”

    Garcetti called for an additional $100 million every year towards the building of permanent supportive housing, a service that some homeless advocates say is essential to getting people off the street in the long term.

    Karen Ceaser, a longtime homelessness advocate in San Pedro and a former caseworker at the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row, says that permanent supportive housing along with a “Housing First” strategy is the city’s best bet if it intends to get a return on its investment.

    “Provide housing, then you provide services—right on site,” she said. “It’s way cheaper to do that then have them [the homeless] call emergency services.”

    The strategy is being credited for a 15 percent drop in San Jose’s homeless population and a 72 percent decrease in the state of Utah.

    James Preston Allen, president of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, expressed support for the emergency declaration, but advised City Hall to listen to its neighborhoods.

    In a draft letter to the mayor and city council, he urged them to use “the advice and energies of the seven neighborhood councils who have formed homeless committees” and to “fully consider the consequences of under-funding such an initiative.”

    Where exactly Los Angeles will get the $100 million is still unknown, as is how the money will be used. To homeless advocates like Ceaser and Hilda, however, the declaration is a sign that City Hall is finally dealing with the reality of homelessness in Los Angeles.

    “You can’t escape it; it’s everywhere,” Ceaser said. “It’s long overdue.”


    Kevin Walker is a staff reporter for Neontommy.com at USC’s Annenberg Media Center


    Read More
  • It’s Time to End the Homeless Crisis

    Garcetti, Buscaino, Pope Francis and the Moral Imperative

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

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

    Mayor Eric Garcetti recently stood on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall flanked by seven city councilmen to announce a plan to spend $100 million addressing homelessness as a “state of emergency.”

    Significantly missing from this line up was Councilman Joe Buscaino of Council District 15, who after hosting his own forum on homelessness just weeks before on Sept. 3, announced the creation of his new “San Pedro Community Homelessness Taskforce.” The forum was a reaction to a very small motion on a Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council agenda that called for “supporting tiny homes” and calling for its own forum on homelessness. Buscaino’s meeting trumped the neighborhood council’s forum date by just 10 days.

    Even though the homeless issue is a citywide—even county and nationwide—crisis, Buscaino focuses only on one part of his district: San Pedro, which has only some 376 persons without shelter, even though there are 1,544 in the entire district. This very narrow focus on the “unintended consequences of the simple act of offering food to the homeless, which may enable an individual to continue a negative spiral of substance abuse and illegal behavior,” shows a deep lack of understanding of both the causes and the cures, even ignoring Garcetti’s call for treating this as a “state of emergency.”

    The problem with Buscaino’s approach of outlawing the practice of giving food to the homeless, unless “additional services” are provided, is that it doesn’t address the districtwide problem of providing immediate shelter. The other problem with his approach is that his new panel is made up of political supporters with no background on the issue with exception of Shari Weaver of Harbor Interfaith Shelter.

    Like his White Point Landslide taskforce, these select few are not obligated to hold public meetings or to make their proceedings transparent to the public. Moreover, their charge does not include critiquing the city’s existing policy on homelessness. That means it’s unlikely there will be any questioning of the rationale or logic of the law enforcement policy of evicting homeless encampments.

    This last issue of forced evictions, you may recall, is the very crux of why we have so many homeless people visibly encamped in the public domain.

    Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, made a historic appearance before the U.S. Congress and reminded our national leaders of something most of us learned as young children: The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12).

    This rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.

    With these few sage words, Pope Francis reminds us all of the moral imperative of caring for our less-fortunate neighbors without shelter.

    It’s advice that good Catholics like Councilman Joe Buscaino and others in our community might heed in relation to Francis’ call, “To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”

    These are powerful words that just might guide both the San Pedro Taskforce on Homelessness and the Los Angeles City Council to act swiftly and humanely.

    While I do not share Pope Francis’ religion, I do applaud his faith in humanity and his courage to speak that truth in the halls of power and privilege.

    Yet even Garcetti knows the complexity of solving the homeless issue, as he told the Congress of Neighborhood Councils at its Sept. 26 conference “there is no one fix to solving this problem.” However, he does express his belief in the moral imperative to act, promising $100 million in the coming year as a down payment.

    What I find unacceptable is that in this country, which is the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, has the capacity to put a man on the moon in a decade, is the leader in technological innovation and agriculture, doesn’t have the money, talent or ideas to solve this most basic human condition.

    We lack the political will to do what is morally, legally and now spiritually the right thing to do. What we do have is a bunch of people who want to blame the victim and argue about the nature of the problem. We have a councilman who believes the problem is a law enforcement issue rather than a state of emergency that needs and demands swift and decisive action.


    Read More
  • 1 77 78 79 247