• POLB, POLA Cargo Count Slides in February

    Cargo terminals in February at the Port of Long Beach moved 20.1 percent fewer containers than the same month this past year due to congestion issues that all West Coast seaports face.
    A total of 413,114 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containerized cargo were moved through the port in February. Imports were recorded at 204,462 TEUs, a 24.7 percent decrease. Exports fell 22.9 percent to 110,711 TEUs. Empty containers saw a decline of 3.9 percent to 97,941 TEUs. With imports exceeding exports, empty containers are sent overseas to be refilled with goods.
    The congestion issues that worsened in February played the biggest role in the cargo declines, just as they did in January, which had seen an 18.8 percent drop from the same month last year. However, the outlook is more promising. By the end of February, a tentative new contract for dockworkers was announced, federal regulators granted permission for Long Beach and its neighbor the Port of Los Angeles to collaborate on congestion relief, and private chassis fleets in the region agreed to pool their resources.
    This past year, against which 2015 is being compared, was the third-busiest year in port history with a total of 6.82 million TEUs.
    For all the latest monthly cargo numbers, click here.
    For more details on the cargo numbers, please visit www.polb.com/stats

    POLA Container Volumes Decrease in February

    February cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles decreased 10.2 percent compared to the same period this past year.

    The decline was due to terminal congestion and supply chain challenges during labor negotiations. A tentative agreement between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was reached on Feb. 20, 2015.  Current and historical data is available at www.portoflosangeles.org/maritime/stats.asp

    Imports dropped 10.7 percent, from 284,812 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in February 2014 to 254,225 TEUs in February 2015. Exports declined 10.3 percent, from 146,925 TEUs in February 2014 to 131,806 TEUs in February 2015. Combined, total loaded imports and exports fell 10.6 percent, from 431,738 TEUs in February 2014 to 386,031 TEUs in February 2015. Factoring in empties, which fell 9 percent,  overall February 2015 volumes (502,663 TEUs) declined 10.2 percent.

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  • Beam Me Up, Wolfgang

    By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

    Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio is a comic singspiel about Turks and Christians.

    Written more than two centuries ago, Abduction is about rescue and redemption and a Moslem leader who is more merciful than his Christian counterparts. This all is told in spoken word and delightful tunes, and in a fanciful setting that has been adapted to all kinds of productions.

    The Pacific Opera Project’s Abduction played for one weekend at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. While many would assume that it was the first time that the production was transformed into a Star Trek episode, they’d be wrong.

    Pacific Opera Project co-founder and artistic director, Josh Shaw, did it originally at the Southern Illinois Music Festival in 2014. He got the idea from the work’s slightly fantastic plot, renamed the characters (the Moslems became Klingons, the rescuers a starship crew) and shortened and changed the text to fit a 2-hour production.

    The result was a comic masterpiece, even if there wasn’t quite as much Mozartean music as there usually is. It wasn’t the full opera but we’d bet even Mozart, if he knew Star Trek, would have enjoyed it.

    The opera, on a set that mirrored the modest sets of the earliest Star Trek episodes, starred tenor Brian Cheney as Capt. James T. Belmonte, a swaggering and charming Star Fleet captain in the mold of Capt. James T. Kirk, beaming down to rescue his kidnapped beloved Lt. Constanza (the delightful Shawnette Sulker) on a planet inhabited by Klingons.

    Chief among them is Phil Meyer as Osmin, every bit as annoying and funny as a Klingon as he is in other versions as a noisome Turk. Meyer dominated every scene he was in, singing with real power and being both threatening and very funny. Osmin is a dark character, but you have to laugh at him.

    Belmonte is aided by Mr. Pedrillo, the bright Robert Norman, who sings his heart out in pursuit of Blondie (Claire Averill) who, dressed in harem clothes, is desired by Osmin but is feisty and independent and more than a match for her persecutor. Gregg Lawrence is Chancellor Belim, a speaking role invested with much dignity.

    Stephen Karr conducted the still-substantial score with skill, and managed to keep up with the stage antics. (Folks in the audience were surprised they recognized the opera, which is featured in the film Amadeus.) Still, the opera was much easier to understand if you were a Star Trek fan.

    Pacific Opera Project is a young company, but they have found a way to make opera accessible. Their next production, Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, set for May 14 through 23 at the Ebell Club of Highland Park, should be another exciting event. They are also doing Verdi’s Falstaff in September and Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma in November.

    Details: (213) 739-6122; info@pacificoperaproject.com

     

     

     

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  • LB District 4 Voters Face Tough, Similar Choices

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    The special election to replace Patrick O’Donnell on the Long Beach City Council is just around the corner.

    Three District 4 candidates are vying to convince voters that they are the best choice for the job to replace O’Donnell, who assumed office in the California Assembly in December. Herlinda Chico, Daryl Supernaw and Richard Lindemann are in the winner-take-all race that culminates April 14.

    Chico and Supernaw ran for office in 2012, but O’Donnell, who was termed out, ran for reelection as a write-in candidate. Chico withdrew from the race and Supernaw stuck it out. Though Supernaw won the primary, O’Donnell won the write-in election.

    This time around he said he is tweaking his approach to his campaign.

    “In 2012, I did not mail out a single flier,” Supernaw said. “I just walked the district. This time I’m doing mailings. While walking is a good experience, you can’t get everybody.”

    Not having to run against an eight-year incumbent also makes a difference, he said. In 2012, O’Donnell also had the support of both political parties and labor unions.

    “I was based on keeping partisan politics out of this and still am,” he said. “I did not list any endorsements. I opted not to do that.”

    Lindemann, who described himself as a “dark horse” during a February forum, declined an interview with Random Lengths News, saying only, “I don’t think so.” The newcomer is running a self-funded campaign. He said he didn’t want to cater to self-interest groups such as unions.

    “I understand who I want to represent, not who I’ve been paid to represent,” said Lindemann, during the Feb. 24 forum that was hosted by the East Anaheim Street Business Alliance at the Long Beach Playhouse. “I’m not taking any donations for my campaign, because I don’t work for unions or PACs or any other groups.”

    The comment did not fall on deaf ears. Chico, who does list her endorsements and has a prominent endorsement from the Long Beach Police Officers Association, called it “union-bashing” in her closing remarks.

    Chico is cognizant that not everyone considers the police union endorsement positive support for her campaign, particularly in light of national demonstrations against brutality.

    “I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine who has issues with law enforcement and what I tried to explain to him [that it] was my experience,” said Chico, in a subsequent interview. “I have never had one negative encounter with law enforcement. It just hasn’t happened. I don’t know what it is like to be harassed the way he says that he’s been harassed or made to feel a certain way. But I can tell you that I listened to him. I need to hear his perspective and his experiences.”

    In terms of public safety, Chico said she believes community engagement can make a lasting impact.

    Chico said she would like to model the work of former District 9 Councilman Steve Neal. He identified leaders in his community and asked them to take charge of their blocks through neighborhood associations.

    But jobs and bringing in development are essential long-term fixes. No only are there vacant lots, but there are also vacant warehouses that could be developed. In her conversations with community leaders, Chico said she believes Bixby Knoll is an exemplary model.

    Supernaw also said he sees potential for economic development in District 4 and throughout the city. He believes Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia’s revitalized economic development department is a step forward. He would like to include corporate partnerships, such as naming rights, as a form of revenue stream.

    “It gets others involved and just a lot of name recognition,” Supernaw said. “Long Beach seems to have a lot of untapped potential.”

    Defining that potential must come with a clear understanding of district-specific issues.

     

    West Side Story

               While District 4 is a cornucopia of people, there is a clear social, economic and ethnic divide between the east side and the west side of the district. The east side (east of Redondo Avenue) is more affluent and predominantly more concerned with quality of life issues, such as increased street repair and noise pollution. The west side, which includes a large Cambodian and Latino community, also struggles with poverty, affordable housing and public safety.

    Supernaw, who boasts of being a lifelong District 4 resident, said he’s advocated for the west side over the years.

    “We need to put more resources into where the challenges are,” he said.

    Chico agreed. She said she’s been meeting with Cambodian leaders. She would like to seek funding for community centers and support a business improvement district in the area. She also would like to address the aging water infrastructure in the city.

    “I’d also look at possibly getting some interpretation devices to make it a little bit more welcoming,” Chico said. “We have Khmai speakers. We have Spanish speakers. Those are things we have to look into to attract and engage and make it welcoming to everybody on the west side.”

     

    Airport Noise Ordinance

    Recent news that JetBlue is seeking to provide international flights to and from Long Beach sparked concerns of new lawsuits and the reopening of an established ordinance that brought some measure of peace between the airport and the surrounding residents.

    JetBlue has stated it has no interest in changing the city’s strict noise ordinance, but other situations may arise. Other airlines may want to do the same and that may result in a very litigious battle.

    “We want to make sure that if JetBlue is the only one that is occupying those slots right now and they get to expand to international flights, that we are not going to have other airlines saying, ‘Hey, we want some of those flights, too,’” Chico said.

    “We just have to be careful. I am not saying an absolute ‘no’ but we have to be very careful and look to the people who have been dealing with this for a very long time. We have fantastic staff members who know the history of the airport. So, our city prosecutor Doug Haubert, Mike Mayes, they have done a fantastic job.”

    Supernaw, whose wife was on the original HUSH (Homes Under Stress and Hazard) group that got the noise ordinance in the first place, agrees.

    “I would like to defer to our experts,” he said. “What I am hearing now is that there are some issues. There are some inherent threats with bringing the international flights forward.”

    Other questions constituents are asking the candidates include their positions on the utility user’s tax, living wages ordinances, arts as a means to economic development, medical marijuana regulation, community meeting schedules and affordable housing ordinances.

    “It’s important that we select someone who is a good reflection of the entire community,” Chico said.

    “I have a strong business background,” Supernaw said. “I have presented … on three occasions to the city on new ideas for revenue streams.

    Click hereto read a highlighted transcript of the Feb. 24 forum.

    Click hereto read a highlighted transcript of an interview with Herlinda Chico.

    Click here  and flip to page 17 to read an article profiling Daryl Supernaw in March 2012.

     

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  • Klaus Center Opens With Anticipation, Controversy

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    In 2008, a group of creative visionaries gathered informally and discovered that they shared a vision for the arts and economy in San Pedro. Recently, their vision came to fruition with the opening of the Marylyn and Chuck Klaus Center for the Arts in San Pedro.

    The 4,000-square-foot, two-story center opened March 5, during the First Thursday Art Walk in downtown San Pedro with its façade flooded with neon blue light. The space will provide a permanent home for the Marymount College fine arts program.

    The new center complements the existing Marymount 6th Street facilities, which include the waterfront campus on the first floor of the Park Place building at 222 W. Sixth St., and the Arcade Gallery in the Arcade Building up the street. Also part of the Marymount campus is a music program housed at San Pedro High School’s Olguin campus.
    The combined facilities located in the historic district of San Pedro provide undergraduate and graduate students with instruction, internships and a cultural connection to the already existing creative corridor downtown. The hope is to enable students to connect with the deeply rooted arts community while interacting with galleries and artists during First Thursday Art Walk events.

    The seven-year journey began with the vision of having an art college in the heart of San Pedro. Developer and property owner Gary Larson found early inspiration on a visit to Savannah, Ga.

    “I had been very interested in the preservation and restoration of downtown San Pedro” Larson said.

    Larson visited many local sites in his search of a city that had successfully integrated arts and education with economic revitalization. None of them seemed to fit the existing climate in San Pedro, until he came upon the model of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Savannah, an Atlantic fishing community, has much in common with San Pedro.

    “The thing that immediately caught my attention was the private effort between the school and the local businesses,” Larson said. “They started with one building and grew from there. It is a decentralized campus that is integrated with the community.”

    Larson met local arts educators and it became apparent that they had found a formula that was working for them. He saw potential for translating that vision to San Pedro.

    At the time, Marymount was still a two-year school. But they were already in the process of upgrading to a four-year college.

    “The university in 2008 was busy becoming a four-year school” said Michael Brophy, Marymount California University president. “By 2010, the college had grown so quickly it was clear that [it] needed to establish itself on 6th Street, particularly for the graduate programs.”

    Initial planners included Gary Larson and Marylyn Ginsberg, founder of the Grand House restaurant, The Whale & Ale and Grand Emporium. Ginsberg is a local arts patron. Also included were:
    Peter Roth, president of the board of directors at Angels Gate Cultural Center; Beate Kirmse, gallery owner; Alan Johnson, president of Jerico Development; and Linda Grimes, arts manager of the Waterfront Arts District, among others.

    “The really exciting thing about having Marymount on 6th Street is that it is much like having Alta Sea (the marine research center) on the waterfront,” said Johnson, who is also a university board trustee. “Gary Larson and I used to say that San Pedro feels like a college town… too bad we don’t have a college.”

    Brophy and Marymount University have arguably transformed downtown San Pedro into a college town. On any given day there are about 600 students in the four-block downtown area. The hopes are for the creative and economic impact to be felt in the near future.

    Last week Otis College for the Arts released its 2015 Report on the Creative Economy. It states that the creative industry is responsible for one in seven jobs in the Los Angeles area. Many examples of economic revitalization can be found in formerly distressed local regions. The Santa Ana Art Walk is a glimpse of what is possible in San Pedro. The placement of the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art is an impressive addition to that arts district.

    But in the midst of the excitement, there is controversy. Cultural arts philanthropists Chuck and Marylyn Klaus generously provided the funds that made it possible to acquire the property. Initial plans include classrooms and offices for professors, with donors’ names on the building. But at the opening ceremonies, Chuck Klaus released a strongly worded statement of concern, that these contractual obligations have not been met. His statement makes it clear that he expects a timeline for the fulfillment of these promises.

    “I have known Marylyn for years,” developer Alan Johnson said. “She has been behind the scenes doing a lot of heavy lifting for our town. Downtown San Pedro owes a debt to her.”
    Hopes are that this controversy will be resolved soon.

    In the meantime, expect to see the Marymount shuttle running through the streets of San Pedro. The shuttle clocks 1,800 miles a month moving 600 students around downtown, and they will be here for a long time, helping to transform the San Pedro arts district.

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  • LA Harbor International Film Festival Features Live Burlesque

    By Ivan Adame, Editorial Intern

    The L.A. Harbor International Film Festival has announced its roster of films for its 12th year, taking place at the Warner Grand Theatre April 9 through 12. Among them is the 1962 musical Gypsy, which will be preceded by a live, adults-only burlesque show.

    The Academy Award-nominated film stars Natalie Wood, Rosalind Russell and Karl Malden, and is based on the memoirs of real-life burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee. The film will be projected in its original 35mm format. In tribute to Lee, the burlesque performers Ruby Champagne and Glama Sutra will perform before the screening April 11 at 7 p.m.

    “Seeing a film in a ‘movie palace’ like the Warner Grand Theatre is a rare and wonderful experience that speaks to the origin of the art form. It’s not only the quality of projection retaining the integrity of film, it’s about the ambience, the architecture, the historical meaning,” said Stephanie Mardesich, the festival director. “With the addition of the live ‘tease’ to compliment Gypsy, we expect to have a great audience response.”

    Other films announced include The Red Pony and The Magnificent Seven, recent documentaries Life on the Line and Becoming California, as well as a series of award-winning short films via NewFilmmakers L.A.

    The Red Pony is part of the “Read the Book, See the Movie” educational outreach program, while the screening of The Magnificent Seven is in association with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs’ The Big Read. Both films will be preceded by discussions about the books associated with them.

    General admission for each show will be $10, and $8 for seniors and students, with exceptions.

    Details: www.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, visit www.laharborfilmfest.com.

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  • FilmLA Interrupts San Pedro Businesses

    San Pedro Community is Burdened by Sidewalk and Curb Closures
    By Crystal Niebla, Editorial Intern

    San Pedro has been invaded by the film industry.

    FilmLA notices were posted on the windows of local businesses and homes on March 6, reserving sidewalks and street parking on Pacific Avenue, 11th and Mesa streets.

    “Today, for example, [the film production] harmed [my business] a bit because people did not come, because they used the parking,” said Oliva Avila, owner of Oliva’s Beauty Salon on Pacific Avenue, in Spanish. “But it was only one day—for a little while. If you take two or three days, then, yes, it will greatly affect us.” (more…)

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  • Elected for the Second Time,Local 13 President Olvera Looks Inward and Ahead

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor, Photo by Phillip Cooke

    On the morning of the first Thursday in March, Bobby Olvera was multitasking—typing emails, preparing bullet points for that night’s union meeting and taking brief calls—while paying attention to the news on the flatscreen TV from the ILWU Local 13’s downtown San Pedro office.

    It was just eight days before Local 13’s elections, and it was in this context that the Local’s president spoke at length with Random Lengths News about the union’s future, its internal struggles, and its 21st century evolution.

    Reflecting on his first term as president, Olvera spoke of his union’s successes, such as establishing greater use of social media and digital communication to keep the union informed.

    “If the worst thing they have to say right now about me on social media is that I wore a Pendleton,” he said, referring to a string of Facebook comments about a shirt he wore to the Feb. 23 press conference. “If people see me in a suit, it would have been, ‘oh, look at Olvera trying to look big time, now he wants to wear a suit.’”

    “If that’s the worst that could be said about me, then you can also say I wore steel-toed work boots with that Pendleton,” he said.

    The Local’s membership has since returned Olvera to the presidency with a 55 percent margin of victory. With the election turnout being roughly 39 percent, that doesn’t mean he was completely happy with the victory.

    “When I made vice president four or five years ago, the runoff [victory] was like 66 percent,” Olvera said. “I’m a pessimist… Less than 40 percent of the membership voted and I got 60 percent of that. So when you do the math, that’s 18-something percent of the 1,600 out of the 6,000 that got me 66 percent.

    “I’m glad to be here. I serve faithfully. But that in and of itself should be a telltale sign to the union we’ve got to do something.”

    The president-elect said he’s been preaching for probably five or six years about changing the way the Local conducts its elections.

    “That’s … one of those changes that make people say, ‘whoa.’ Is it because of tradition? Yes,” Olvera said. “Because, if 5,800 show up to vote, some people may not get elected anymore.

    “I’ve told people a thousand times, if 80 percent of our membership showed up to vote and I lost, I would be happy… I wouldn’t care who got elected.
    “We’ve made a lot of achievements this year as a Local outside of the contract [negotiations],” Olvera said. “Like TraPac. This is the first time anywhere in the world, [a] labor union has taken on an automated terminal and prevailed the way we did.”

    Olvera was referring to the Port of Los Angeles and TraPac joint venture in deploying a fully automated terminal that would replace much of the work crews that would unload cargo containers off ships.

    His first term as president has been nothing but eventful, punctuated with failed recall elections of union officers, media battles with the Pacific Maritime Association, and rumor control after outbursts from a Web publishing critic of the union. And if that weren’t enough, Olvera took on the task of ushering a traditionally tightlipped union into the 21st century by communicating with the membership through social media, text messages and e-blasts, while hiring a public relations firm to communicate its message to the media.

    Olvera replied to questions about whether contract negotiations were really held up by a single arbitrator and whether Teamsters and troquero critiques about their exclusion from the contract talks were legitimate by saying that it wasn’t personal, “it’s just a process to change the system.”

    He said that no other union gets to have a say in its negotiation with its employer. These questions didn’t require Olvera to even look up from his computer screen. But when asked about the Port of Los Angeles’ recent congestion relief announcements, Olvera was fully engaged.

    Rollout of Improvements since Tentative Agreement

    The Port of Los Angeles announced, in quick succession after the tentative agreement, the rollout of the gray chassis fleet that would serve as a pool of interoperable truck-trailers to improve the flow of goods at the terminals. Eleven of the 13 container terminals at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, as well as the off-dock rail yards, are expected to participate.

    The other announcement was the establishment of a container free-flow operation that allows TTSI drayage truckers to “peel off” cargo containers from big box shippers such as Walmart or Target after they have been placed in a block off the ship. This change was aimed at reducing port congestion while efficiently delivering import loads to retailers and other large shippers.

    Olvera sees these advancements as a good thing, but also sees the improvements as just one step in the right direction, or rather a correction of an attempt to sabotage the contract negotiations in the first place.

    “I think when we look at some of the changes that have happened just in the past few days and weeks… I think everybody recognizes that when the shipping lines and Marine Terminal Operators divested themselves of their chassis, it was purely a move to violate our jurisdiction and take away our work,” he said. “It turned around and bit them in the butt.”

    Olvera is given to deploying military terms in describing the logistics of moving cargo, perhaps because of his service as a Marine.

    “We have record volumes,” he said. “e have a backlog. We need as many assets on the deck, on the ground as possible. We need boots on the ground.”

    “The addition of tens of thousands of chassis from these chassis companies [that] have been holding them hostage inland… in the yard unused, will most definitely help the process. When we’re talking about peeling off cans, no matter how many truckers you have, no matter how many plans you put forth, the root issue is how you discharged the cans and how they are loaded in China or wherever they are coming from.”

    To remedy that aspect of the goods movement chain, Olvera believes that more has to be done to impress upon the shippers and big box carriers at most of the world’s major ports to organize their cargo in the most standard and efficient way possible.

    “If you only have four or five cans on a ship, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “When you’re bringing 150 to 200 cans and they’re kind of scattered, that means that they are going to be scattered throughout the yard.”

    “We have 25,000 cans in the yard. Having them scattered here, there and everywhere doesn’t make for an efficient operation. So when we talk about peeling cans off, there’s a step before we can even get to that. The big box carriers, the marine terminal operators and all the other stakeholders all need to reach out to the shipping lines overseas and have them stow the cargo basically in groups.”

    Olvera repeatedly said he couldn’t speak on any of the details of the tentative agreement, but he did make special note of some of the peculiar dynamics of some of the actors in the negotiations.

    When asked which member of the Pacific Maritime Association were the bad actors during the negotiations, Olvera answered carefully. “I think, and I also hope, that a lot of the marine terminal operators and other PMA member companies that aren’t on Forbes Top 10 realize that democracy is a good thing.”

    Olvera believes that the PMA’s board of directors is a balance of power that favors companies with commanding market shares, and that those certain large companies have monopolized either power on the PMA’s board of directors or tried to monopolize work on the entire West Coast.

    “A lot of smaller marine terminal operators, a lot of independents that aren’t part of the supergiants, like SSA, they suffered at the hands of some of the big boys,” Olvera said.

    “I hope they take a good hard look at the way they do business and realize that being dictated to by mega-companies on the West Coast isn’t good for their company. It’s not good for the industry. Our workforce and our industry have a lot of links in that chain. There are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on us. I would hope the PMA makes some changes.”

    Beefs from Without

    Olvera spoke at length about dealing with critics from both within and outside of the union, and the Local’s adjustment to staying in control of their messaging, rather than allowing the Pacific Maritime Association and others within or outside of the union doing it for them.

    Perhaps the biggest thorn in Local 13’s side has been Jim Tessier and his website longshore-labor-relations.com. When asked about Tessier, Olvera replied, “I have a very clear opinion of the man,” in a tone suggesting he was expecting this question and steeled himself for it.

    On his website, Tessier identifies himself as a “longshore labor relations consultant” who’s a “proud member of the SEIU 775NW, healthcare division in Seattle, Wash. Other than that, his resume includes various roles with the PMA as an administrator of ILWU/PMA labor agreements covering Locals in the Pacific Northwest.

    After leaving the PMA, Tessier went into business as a consultant representing longshore workers with grievances against the union in front of coast arbitrators. He fashions himself as a kind of muckraker journalist, uncovering and reporting on the Local’s alleged misdeeds, and editorially going after specific union officials for alleged instances of corruption. For the past several months, Tessier has been Olvera’s most virulent and persistent critic.

    “I think he’s mad at the world,” Olvera said. “If you go through, chronologically, his website, you’ll see at times in last few months where he would attack somebody, then he’s cheering them on.”

    “It used to bother me, Olvera said. “ Like, aw man, this guy is talking shit and I want to reply to everything.”

    Olvera cited an example from about two years ago in which Tessier reported that he was on the run from the federal government for going AWOL.

    “The Marine corps is still looking for you. You got thrown in the brig dog. I heard you got thrown in the brig,” Olvera said, recalling the reports from friends and colleagues that read the post.

    “Man… I got all mad. I went home and got on the web. Kansas City is the repository for records and I started writing, I need a copy of my DD Form 214 (Discharge Papers and Veterans Separation Documents). I … had it sitting there next to my bed. He puts this out and I happen to see his co-conspirator on this website and I just happen to mention to him, ‘oh yeah I just picked up my DD-214 because I hear somebody is saying I was dishonorably discharged, I’m AWOL and on the run from the government.’ So that never hit the website. Other things did. It just became comical to me,” Olvera said.

    In reply to whether he thought Tessier is an agent provocateur, Olvera quipped, “an agent of chaos and anarchy.

    “I wouldn’t doubt that, but I have no proof of that. One of his co-conspirators likes to put out these cartoons depicting rank-and-filers and officers, or just members at large, depicting them in dresses and suggestive sexual innuendo.”

    Olvera was reminded that the cartoons came out during the union election period. He admitted that was the case, but said it still played itself out later on. Longshore worker Eric Aldape was effectively suspended for two years from the fallout of the cartoons and the fight.

    Aldape is probably best known for reports about being involved in a fist fight with the previous Local 13 president, Chris Viramontes.

    Tessier’s website got recognition after he began posting blogs reflecting Aldape’s critique of the union’s equalization rules–rules that balances the amount of hours worked by Steady longshore workers (workers hired, trained and retained by the employer through Dispatch Hall) longshore workers out of the Dispatch Hall (otherwise called Hall men).

    Aldape was also vocal about allegations of union officials using their position to benefit their personal business interests. In interviews with Random Lengths, Aldape said he ran for elected office at the time to tackle these issues from the inside, utilizing an internal media campaign featuring brief editorials and biting political satire cartoons highlighting the issues he was concerned about.

    These posts gained Tessier a platform to write about a host of other issues and critiques unrelated to Aldape. To Olvera, they may as well be joined at the hip.

    “That’s what they are,” Olvera continued, in reply to whether he considered Tessier an agent provocateur.

    “[They’re] criticizing and dragging people through the mud. It’s just that he’s all over the map.”

    Olvera noted that a coast administrator judge recently ruled against Aldape “pretty severely.”

    Division of the Hall Between Steady Men and Hall Men

    With Tessier’s website and Aldape’s advocacy for the hall man notwithstanding, Olvera has thought deeply about how to heal the perceived separation of steady men and hall men in light of vitriolic rhetoric on the issue within the union.

    “I think that the larger the percentage of your workforce that becomes steady, the greater the challenge for the union as an entity to communicate, reestablish and maintain of not just loyalty, but participation,” Olvera said. “But when the rubber hits the road, our steadies are good union men and women. Regardless the amount of steadies we have, everybody is on the same page.”

    Olvera suggests that union utilization of technology and a greater push to provide more and better training will help erase some of the division between the steadies and the hall men.

    “Paper bulletins in the hall don’t work anymore,” Olvera said. “That’s why you must have the email blast and have different means…the website and different ways of communicating with our membership.

    “I hear it all the time, ‘aw man I can’t stand steadies,’ and some will say, ‘I love my company. I’ll never go back to the hall.’ But the beauty of our union is that union members have that choice. You have the right to go steady or not go steady.”

    Olvera also believes that some election reform could help heal the rift between steadies and hall men.

    “I think the way we do our election is in dire need of change to increase participation,” he said.

    The president doesn’t believe mail-in ballots are good for the union, but he said there has been some discussion of utilizing mobile polling stations at the terminals during both the day and night shifts. To keep up with technology, he said those stations could be linked to the Local’s computers so that the voter totals could be tallied in real time instead of days and weeks after the election.

    “If we don’t try, if we don’t experiment or explore the options and try to make a change again, we’re going to miss the boat,” he said.

    Olvera tells the membership and other observers to stay tuned. He believes the longshore workforce is going to grow.
    “Coming out of these negotiations—and I can’t speak to what is and what isn’t contained in the contract—but I think the employers and the industry recognizes that there is a need to invest in the workforce,” Olvera said.

    “We need better training. We’re still training guys on cranes the way we trained them 25 years ago. We’re training guys on top-handler equipment… it’s like teaching someone accustomed to driving an automatic to drive a stick shift.”

    Olvera likened this nation’s approach to goods movement to the way it’s managed its education infrastructure.

    “We’re still the best in the world, but I think we’re at that point where we say we’re still the best in educating and teaching our kids, but we didn’t invest the money in the school systems, the teachers, and the schools and the supplies for the kids,” he said. “And so we saw the whole world pass us by. Now look at where we are. No matter how much money or the lottery or whatever we do for education, we’re so far behind the eight ball that it’s going to take us generations to get us back to where we once were and that’s if we get the capital investment and legislative support we need for schools.”

    Olvera said sometimes you have to flank your opponent.

    “I don’t want to say by hook or by crook, but you can only beat your head against the wall for so long on an issue,” he said. “You gotta provide a way to where the men and women that trained on equipment have an expectation they’ll be paid on that equipment and that comes from work coming into the hall. Not by having an abundance of steadies and the leftovers get sent to the hall. The better trained and the better able we are to provide a high quality trained worker, the better we position ourselves for the future.”

    Olvera said at the time all would become clear in a couple of weeks.

    “You’ll understand because when everything becomes public, you’ll understand what I was leading up to.”

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  • The Persistence of Memory

    Nostalgia for a Past that No Longer Exists

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Nostalgia hangs over this harbor area like overcast clouds on one of those days that brings a chill off the Pacific Ocean near Sunken City. It lingers for a time around the quaint Weymouth Corners shopping district like Mayberry, from the old Andy Griffith Show and then drifts down the stair-steps of Vista del Oro to the historic district of San Pedro.

    At certain moments, I think that parts of this town are stuck in a time capsule, like the brick storefronts on 6th Street or the façade of the Warner Grand Theatre. They’re throwbacks to Art Deco and this town’s boom time in the pre- and post-World War II eras.

    Other times, I imagine the sounds of the thousands of workers who trekked down this street to cross the main channel to the fish canneries, shipyards and docks. The old ferry is gone. The shipyards are diminished and all the canneries have moved offshore except for one.

    San Pedro’s once mighty fishing fleet, at one point the largest on the West Coast, is now relegated to catching sardines and squid—profitable for the few remaining boats—but not like in the glory days of tuna fishing.

    And the once gracious Catalina Steamer, now a rusting, decaying wreck in Ensenada Bay, is but a memory that only a few still recall.

    The dreams and memories of yesteryear abound. William Faulkner, in reflection on such things said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.” If you’ve ever read anything by Faulkner, you’d know that’s probably one of the shortest summaries on the subject he ever penned.

    All of this brings me to the point of why I’m writing today about our incessant struggle to address the present and our challenge of imagining the future. It seems like every time this community is confronted with anything new, like a plan for the waterfront, improving Gaffey Street or even rebranding something old, we get our feet stuck in this thing called “the past.” By the way, I don’t think this is just our problem. It’s a problem that is shared with any place that is older than the city of Irvine.

    As Americans, especially those born in California, we have this constant sense that we can reinvent ourselves, our places and perhaps even our histories. To some extent it seems true. Think of Hollywood and its dream machine.

    Yet, here in the San Pedro Bay, with our reliance on global trade and a blue collar work ethic, reinvention here seems harder than in most places. Here, the anchor of our past is shackled to the bow of our memories.

    Unlike many other places in Los Angeles, or the rest of this state, that regularly bulldozes its past, San Pedro has ardently clung onto its history with museums, monuments and some fervent preservation.

    Yet, most of what we think of this historic past is wrapped up in some form of childhood memory, myth or half-truth about the “good ol’ days.”

    What I have often observed is much of what we are confronting now is not much different than what our predecessors dealt with. Many historic solutions to waterfront access for example, are applicable today. Does anyone remember the viaduct that connected the lower part of 14th Street to where the commercial fish market is today? It was a direct link for the workers to get to the fishing boats.

    The same could be said about the old routes of the Red Cars connecting the port to downtown Los Angeles and beyond, or the Terminal Island ferry. All of these things are lost but not forgotten in our pursuit of some uncertain future.

    Yet, the San Pedro Harbor Area is an anomaly in California in that the memory of its past surpasses any desire of erasure. Typically, such places only realize belatedly how much was actually lost.

    By comparison, San Francisco never gave up its trolley cars and preserves its grand Victorian architecture. Venice preserved its canals and Santa Barbara its Mission District.

    We have what’s left of our historic downtown and the adjoining Vinegar Hill Historic Preservation District—a district that was recently expanded after years of study. What lies in store in the future of our waterfront? How will this harbor community, so distant from the epicenter of Los Angeles political power, connect to both itself and the vast metropolis to the north?

    I’m not so sure that the great minds of our day have any better solutions to the problems of the present than our ancestors did in theirs. The difference, however, is that they didn’t have a historical perspective or even a single foot in the past. After all, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat mistakes.

    Others will just look back with a pining sense of nostalgia, while some will look at the past as a tool to create the future. Beware of those who tell you, “Don’t look back.”

     

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  • From Selma to Ferguson

    Racial Progress Does Not Just Happen, it is the Product of Struggle

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    The weekend of March 7 and 8 marked the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., the day that a planned march of 600 people from Selma to Montgomery was met with a wave of police violence—including the billy club beating of future Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

    The day shocked the nation and prompted the introduction and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the first comprehensive effort in almost a century to enforce the voting rights of blacks (as well as other minorities) originally guaranteed by the 15th Amendment in 1870. About 100 Congress members were in attendance, including 23 Republicans, none of whom had signed on to co-sponsor Lewis’ Voting Rights Amendment Act, designed to repair much of the damage done to the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013.

    A few days earlier, on March 4, the U.S. Department of Justice released its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri, which found a revenue-driven pattern and practice of racist policing, including systemic violations of the First and Fourth amendments. Although Ferguson’s mayor, James Knowles III, initially disputed the report, saying “[t]here is probably another side to all of these stories,” a wave of resignations soon followed, including Ferguson’s city manager, John Shaw, Police Chief Thomas Jackson and Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer.

    In combination, the two events starkly illustrated America’s intractable inability and unwillingness to live up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all, particularly where African-Americans are concerned. While great strides have been taken in brief bursts from time to time, not only are the ideals still out of reach, but our progress toward them remains uncertain at best. It is commonly reversed in daily practice in the absence of sustained organizing and constant vigilance.

    “We’re a country that lurches back and forth. We’re lurching backwards now,” said Bob Moses, a legendary voter registration leader in 1960s Mississippi.

    While many were eager to commemorate Bloody Sunday’s 50th Anniversary, few were willing to celebrate it, and the Justice Department’s Ferguson report vividly illustrated why.

    “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the city’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs,” the report stated. “This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing.”

    The report followed the filing of a class action lawsuit in February, charging that Ferguson and nearby Jennings both ran debtors prisons, which have been illegal in America for almost two centuries. Lawyers filing the suits charged that “[p]eople are held in jail as a means of coercion to get them to pay fines, with police and jail officials arbitrarily changing the amount of fines to coerce family members or friends to bring enough cash to satisfy the amount owed.”

    Moreover, although it’s extreme, Ferguson is hardly unique, as dozens of other municipalities in St. Louis County engage in similar practices. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited the example of Erwin Rush, 50, of St. Louis, who “has been trying to climb out of traffic court debt for 20 years,” and currently owes more than $4,500 to six municipalities.

    Extortion Racket

    “The city budgets for sizeable increases in municipal fines and fees each year exhorts police and court staff to deliver those revenue increases, and closely monitors whether those increases are achieved,” the DOJ report states in a summary section titled “Focus on Generating Revenue.”

    It added that “City officials routinely urge Chief Jackson to generate more revenue through enforcement.” For example, “[I]n March 2013, the finance director wrote to the city manager: ‘Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5 percent. I did ask the chief if he thought the PD could deliver a 10 percent increase. He indicated they could try.’”

    Unsurprisingly, the report adds, “Ferguson police officers from all ranks told us that revenue generation is stressed heavily within the police department, and that the message comes from city leadership. The evidence we reviewed supports this perception.”

    Turning the police department into a de facto extortion ring is bad enough, but of course, it has terrible spillover effects as well, and it’s spelled out in the next section, “Police Practices:”

    This culture within FPD influences officer activities in all areas of policing, beyond just ticketing. Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority. They are inclined to interpret the exercise of free speech rights as unlawful disobedience, innocent movements as physical threats, indications of mental or physical illness as belligerence… The result is a pattern of stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    With this kind of everyday institutional baseline, Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown might almost seem inevitable—given long enough, these sorts of attitudes were bound to have such an effect. But the pervasiveness of such arrogant, paranoid and illegal attitudes and behavior arguably only makes it more difficult to assign individual responsibility to Wilson, which is part of the reason he was not charged with a federal crime.

    Still, the lack of provable, specific, racist intent on Wilson’s part does nothing to alter the cultural and historical significance of killing an unarmed black youth, which remains rooted in the logic of total white institutional control of black bodies, for which slavery remains the prototype. We can see this logic played out in another example cited in the report.

    The report notes that “[E]ven relatively routine misconduct by Ferguson police officers can have significant consequences for the people whose rights are violated,” as it introduces the ordeal of a 32-year-old African-American man whose “crime” was simply sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a public park. An officer demanded his Social Security number and identification, accused him of being a pedophile (there were children in the park!), ordered him out of his car for a pat-down, and asked to search his car—all without any reason at all. When the man objected, citing his constitutional rights, he was arrested at gunpoint and charged with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code, including a charge of “making a false declaration” for giving the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), a charge for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was parked, and other equally ludicrous charges. As a result “he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.”

    Echoes of History

    The role of police in controlling, regulating, and extracting wealth from African-Americans has changed form over time, starting with the earliest slave patrols, the origins of Southern law enforcement institutions, but some features recur in different forms generations and even centuries apart.

    On MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, highlighted one such parallel—the ongoing game of keep-away between different government bodies to protect who would get to keep the black wealth they had plundered.

    “This is the efficiency at its best,” Muhammad said of Ferguson’s system. “They said, ‘We’re charging people with as many citations as possible, and we’re going to make sure that it’s municipal violations, because we don’t want to send these people into the state system, because we will lose revenue.’”

    This practice, one way or another, dates back as far as the end of slavery, he noted.

    “In the state of Alabama in the decades following the Civil War, county regulators, county officials, competed with state officials as to whether black people would be charged to serve on the chain gang, which would serve the needs of the county, versus convicts’ leases which would serve the needs of the state.”

    But it didn’t end there.

    “They also have perverse incentives in Alabama running right up to the days of the 1960s and Selma, where the sheriffs were incentivized, along with law enforcement and deputies, to be paid based on how much activity they engaged in arresting people,” he noted. “So, the long arm of history is crashed into the present in terms of what’s going on in Ferguson.”

    True to form, one response from Missouri lawmakers has been to propose a law that would cap how much money municipalities can get from their courts, redirecting the excess into state coffers.

    Voting Rights and Wrongs

    Meanwhile, the Selma remembrance itself was profoundly marred by the ongoing undermining of voting rights, facilitated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder, striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which Rep. Lewis called “a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act,” and by the ongoing refusal of congressional Republicans to pass any sort of fix which would hold jurisdictions with a history of violations to stricter scrutiny. This has cleared the way for an unprecedented rise in voter suppression laws, largely justified by the nonexistent problem of voter fraud, which even the Justice Department under George W. Bush could not manage to find more than a handful of prosecutable cases of in eight years of trying.

    “From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 49 states (Idaho is the lone exception),” investigative journalist Ari Berman wrote just before the Selma remembrance. “Half the states in the country have adopted measures making it harder to vote.” Berman is the author of the forthcoming book, Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights in America. A 2013 University of Massachusetts study of proposed restrictions from 2006 to 2011 found that “proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments.” There was a “dramatic increase in restrictive legislation that actually passed in 2011,” following widespread GOP gains in controlling legislatures after the 2010 midterms.

    Although the Voting Rights Act has enjoyed strong bipartisan support through four reauthorization votes (1970, 1975, 1982, 2006), most recently passing 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House, the GOP has lurched sharply to the right racially since the last reauthorization, particularly after Obama’s election in 2008. As a result, Rep. Lewis’ compromise Voting Rights Act Amendment, which only partially restores Section 4, has only 11 GOP co-sponsors in the House and none in the Senate—in sharp contrast to the unanimous vote for a bill honoring the foot soldiers of the Selma movement. As mentioned above, none of the 23 congressional Republicans who came to Selma had signed on to co-sponsor Lewis’ amendment.

    The disconnect between honoring heroes of the past while opposing everything they stood for could not have been more stark.

    “I just want some accountability,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. “I want to know that everyone who showed up here today to have their picture taken on the bridge next to the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement is ready to support a new Voting Rights Act. Every one of them.”

    Berman, reporting from Selma, held out a glimmer of hope. “A number of Republicans I interviewed expressed a newfound openness on the issue after spending time in Alabama with Lewis,” he wrote in The Nation. But only one of those he cited, Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from upstate New York, explicitly said he would sponsor the Voting Rights Act Amendment when he returned. Others merely expressed a willingness to consider it. Unsurprisingly, some Alabama Republicans remained clearly opposed.

    The lack of movement should not be surprising in light of how things work in Ferguson. As long as one group can be cut out of power, they will naturally be cut out of consideration. For decades now, Republicans have depended on keeping some small shred of respectability alive when it comes to race. But after the 2010 midterms, that effort and that era seem gone for good. With gerrymandering to secure safe House districts, low voter turnout in midterms, and sweeping new voter-suppression laws for presidential election years, the GOP looks to be digging in to build yet another incarnation of white America pretending to be all of America.

    Historically, the only way to challenge that polished illusion is to break through its superficial display of competence, control and calm. That’s what the Civil Rights Movement did, over and over and over again, including 50 years ago at Selma. It takes a spectacular, shocking event to move the country’s conscience, but such events can be years in the making. Bob Moses explained this on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show:

    Basically, there were a few young people who came out of the sit-in movement, who decided they really didn’t want to live in the country unless they could change it. And so it was 24/7, it was not anymore about a career, or even family, it was about doing the work to change the country. But it was work it was done outside of the media. So it was work that laid the groundwork for the big media events.

    Diane Nash, another student movement leader of that era, amplified what Moses said:

    It is not possible to have a mass demonstration in the movement without that door-to-door organizing, door-to-door—person-to-person education. And that’s what it would take, at this point, really organizing. I see the young people now, a few years ago in the Occupy Movement, and now in the Hands Up Movement, and I say they are on the right track.

    We citizens of the country had better not leave what needs to be done up to elected officials, because they will not do it. Citizens need to take the interests of this country into our own hands, learn how to use nonviolence and do it. I like to say, suppose we had waited for elected officials to desegregate lunch counters and public accommodations. We would be waiting right now. As citizens, we need to do what needs to be done.

     

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  • Marilyn Forever Brings the Star to the Warner

    By John Farrell, Curtain Call columnist

    The Warner Grand in San Pedro was built for movie premiers.

    In its long and sometimes illustrious career, it was home, at least for a few hours, to some big Hollywood celebrities.

    But as far as anyone can figure out, Marilyn Monroe was not one of them.

    That will change March 21, when Long Beach Opera presents Marilyn Forever, an opera by Gavin Bryars with a libretto by Marilyn Bowering, at the Warner Grand. There will be a second performance on March 29 at 2:30 p.m.

    This is the work’s U.S. premier. It comes only two weeks after it was performed in Adelaide, Australia at the Adelaide Festival. It had its world premier in Victoria, British Columbia in 2012.
    The Long Beach Opera is having two women play the part of Marilyn–soprano Jamie Chamberlin as the on-stage Marilyn, and mezzo-soprano Danielle Marcelle Bond as the off-stage, introspective Marilyn.

    That’s a change from the other productions, a change in concept for this production by artistic and general director Andreas Mitisek. Bill Linwood is conducting the nine-piece orchestra and jazz combo, whose bass player is composer Gavin Bryars.

    “This opera is a blank slate of sorts,” Mitisek said in a phone interview. “It’s the kind of production we often do, where we have to create a new work from just the score and libretto. That’s why we have two Marilyns–Jamie Chamberlin as the starlet Marilyn, and Danielle Marcelle Bond as the private one, the one alone in her bedroom, the one who is often overlooked in this story.”

    Marilyn Monroe’s life story is public domain. We know she was not just the platinum blonde trope she played in her iconic films, but was raised by a mentally ill, single mother. Married at 16, she was a successful model before becoming a film starlet. Though she played a “dumb blonde” often enough, she was actually an intellectual. She was also a lonely person who never found the affection and love she needed. Her early death, which some believe to have been a suicide, carved her legend in stone.

    Bryars approached this work through the poetry of Marilyn Bowering, whose lyrical take on Monroe is heard in English in the opera. Bryars’ score is a mixture of jazz tunes, played on stage by a trio, and a sad, noir-like musical appreciation of Monroe’s lonely life.

    “Our approach to this work is different from others,” Mitisek said. “We use a live camera on stage, since this was all about film. It is a fun way to play Marilyn as she is being filmed and [it] also gives us a chance to focus on details. We blend live performance with the live feed.

    “This is a poetic approach, a way to shine an emotional light on aspects of her life that were important to her, especially her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller. Everyone wanted to be with  her but she never found anyone she wanted to be with.”

    Tickets range from $29 to $160. Performances are March 21 at 8 p.m. and March 29 at 2:30 p.m.

    Details: (562) 432-5934; www.longbeachopera.org
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre
    Location: 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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