• Remembering John Trudell’s Legacy

    John Trudell Feb. 15, 1946 – Dec. 8, 2015

    By Paul Burton, Guest Columnist

    “We are a spirit, we are a natural part of the earth, and all of our ancestors, all of our relations who have gone to the spirit world — they are here with us. That’s power. They will help us. They will help us to see if we are willing to look. We are not separated from them because there’s no place to go — we stay here. This is our place: the earth. This is our mother: we will not go away from our mother.” – John Trudell

    Activist and poet John Trudell died Dec. 8 at age 69 at his home in northern California after a long battle with cancer.

    Indian Country Today reported:

    “John Trudell left Turtle Island to join the spirit world. The influential Native philosopher touched many throughout Indian country and beyond.”

    His family said in a statement:

    “His wishes are for people to celebrate life and love, pray and remember him in their own ways in their own communities.”

    Many will remember Trudell as an eloquent and insightful poet who had a successful career as a spoken word artist and actor beginning in 1986. Others, will recall the Santee Dakota activist’s longtime dedication and activism for American Indian sovereignty, human rights and the environment. Trudell’s voice was so powerful that the FBI compiled a 17,000-page dossier on him that included a memo noting, “He is extremely eloquent, therefore extremely dangerous.”

    Rich man’s war
    Central America bleeding
    wounds same as Palestine and Harlem
    Three Mile Island in El Salvador
    Pine Ridge in Belfast
    Rich man’s war
    the poor, starving for food
    starving for land, starving for peace,
    starving for real.

    John Trudell was born on Feb.15, 1946 in Omaha, and lived on the Santee Reservation in northern Nebraska as a youth. His mother was of Mexican Indian heritage and his father was Santee. Trudell quit high school in 1963 and, like many Native Americans at the time, joined the U.S. military; he served in the Navy during the early years of the Vietnam War, from 1963 until 1967. Trudell joined the group of Native Americans who had occupied Alcatraz Island in November of 1969 and used his training in radio broadcasting to become a spokesman for the newly formed Indians of All Tribes through reports on Radio Free Alcatraz. The occupiers asserted their rights to The Rock under terms of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie signed between the Lakota and U.S. Government, which said that federal property abandoned by the U.S. would revert to the Indian Nations. In his speaking engagements over the years, Trudell often reminded listeners that treaties signed between sovereign nations under international were the supreme law of the land and the basis for claims and actions by Native American groups. These included the occupation of the Wounded Knee village in 1973 by the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Trudell served as a spokesman for AIM from 1973 until 1979.

    John Trudell and family

    John Trudell, his wife Paiute-Shoshone water rights activist Tina Manning, with two of their children. File Photo

    In February 1979, he suffered an unimaginable loss when his wife Tina, children Ricarda Star, Sunshine Karma, Eli Changing Sun, unborn son Josiah Hawk, and Tina’s mother Leah Hicks-Manning, died in a fire at the Manning’s home in at the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada. The fire occurred around the same time that Trudell burned an American flag at a demonstration at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. While Trudell and others suspected that the fire was deliberately set by enemies of Trudell and the Manning family (who were also activists) in government or local law enforcement, the cause of the fire was not determined.

    “It left me even angrier than I was — and I was never too calm to begin with,” Trudell told the New York Times.

    Trudell dealt with the tragedy, in part, through writing poetry.

    “I didn’t even know what reality was… then these lines came into my head and something said don’t stop writing,” he said in the 2005 documentary, Trudell. “I started to write my lines—they’re called poems but in reality they are lines for me to hold onto, my hanging-on lines, it was real to me, it was a parting gift from Tina.”

    In 1982, Trudell recorded some of his poems, with Native American traditional singer Quiltman backing him on drum and voice. They released the cassette album, Tribal Voice in 1983. Trudell connected with well-known activist musicians at the time when he was speaking at anti-nuclear rallies, including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson.

    trudell printIn 1986, Trudell met guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, a Native American (Kiowa) bluesman who had played in Taj Mahal’s blues band in the late 1960s, recorded with Browne, and played in the super group George Harrison put together for the 1973 Concert for Bangladesh. Legend has it that Davis heard Trudell speak at the drug and alcohol rehab center for American Indians, Eagle Lodge, in Long Beach, and said he wanted to set Trudell’s poetry to music. Davis produced the AKA Graffiti Man album, released as a cassette in 1986, featuring a mix of blues, rock, country rock and funk — and some of Davis’s most beautiful playing. Bob Dylan had the album played for his audiences before his concerts and called it the best album of the year.

    The Graffiti Man Band played several shows in Long Beach in the late 1980s — at Bogart’s and even the legendary Hollywood on the Pike, as well as at Cal State University Long Beach. Those turned out to be among the last shows played by Davis, who died in 1988, losing his battle with heroin addiction. With the group, and solo, Trudell performed his spoken word at many benefits for Native American, environmental, and other causes, and continued to do so even as his spoken word and acting career took off. He appeared in the 1992 feature film Thunderheart and the Sherman Alexie-penned film, Smoke Signals in 1998. Trudell also worked with Thunderheart director Michael Apted on the documentary film about the case of Leonard Peltier, Incident at Oglala. Trudell did many speaking engagements, poetry readings and interviews to raise awareness of the Peltier case.

    He re-released AKA Graffiti Man on CD in 1992, as well as many other collections of his spoken word backed by Davis, and later the group Bad Dog, featuring guitarist Mark Shark. Albums include But This Isn’t El Salavdor, Heart Jump Bouquet, Children of the Earth: Child’s Voice, Crazier Than Hell, and most recently, Wazi’s Dream.

    trudell hempstock 2013

    John Trudell, who was suffering the effects of cancer, talked about hemp as earth medicine at the Portland Hempstalk on Sept. 7, 2013.

    Trudell was also an advocate for cannabis and hemp; he co-founded Hempstead Project Heart with Willie Nelson in 2012 to advocate for legalizing growing hemp for biofuels, food and clothing.

    “He was John Lennon, the son of Crazy Horse, Dylan of the urban rez, the rez rez, the world rez,” wrote Native American poet Joy Harjo, in a tribute published on the Indian Country Today website.

    John Trudell cited John Lennon as one of the songwriters who influenced his writing, and paid tribute to Lennon in the poem God Help and Breed You All (for John Lennon), included on the 1986 AKA Graffiti Man album. That Trudell “walked on” on the 35th anniversary of Lennon’s assassination brings to mind his words that connect several themes that run through Trudell’s poetry:

    In bed for peace
    in love with a Japanese woman
    hated by an international YMCA ex-Jesus freak
    who blew him off the stage that Martin dreamed about
    how the CIA didn’t say anything
    hoping no one would imagine psychiatric head doctor connections
    or Manchurian candidates
    war maker’s behavior modification master plan
    killing men of peace.”

    Also at the core of Trudell’s work was the spirit of love; from Rich Man’s War:

    thing is, it has to do with heart.
    we have to understand what hearts are for
    before we can get back to heaven or paradise
    or the power in OUR MIND.

    John Trudell will be missed by those of us who had the honor to know him, and the many, many people who were enlightened and touched by his words, his work, and his spirit. For information about Trudell’s albums and books, check www.johntrudell.com.



    • Paul Burton was active with the Indigenous Resistance Resource Network in Long Beach from 1985 to 1994, and helped organize poetry readings, concerts, benefits and speaking engagements featuring John Trudell, and through Trudell was able to meet and shake the hand of the great Jesse Ed Davis.

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  • Two Juveniles Arrested for Carjacking in SP: RL NEWS Briefs Jan. 5, 2016

    Two Juveniles Arrested for Carjacking in SP

    SAN PEDRO — On Jan. 5, Los Angeles Police Department officers arrested a juvenile, whose age has not been confirmed, and a 14-year-old boy in connection to an armed vehicle robbery in San Pedro, Lt. John Jenal, a spokesman with the LAPD said.

    The arrests were set in motion at about 5:45 a.m. on the 900 block of West 13th Street. Two suspects wearing ski masks approached a man leaving his home and demanded his car keys at gunpoint. The victim, who was unharmed, handed the keys to his gray, Nissan Versa to the suspects.

    Undercover police found the two suspects driving the car at 9:35 a.m. near Pacific Avenue and Santa Cruz Street, and when officers in a marked vehicle attempted to stop the car the juvenile suspects tried to escape.

    The officers’ pursuit led to the 14-year-old’s home on the 200 block of West 11th Street, where family and the other suspect came out. The 14-year-old barricaded himself in the home as several officers surrounded the neighborhood. By one estimate from LAPD there were possibly 100 officers involved including 20 or more SWAT officers, LAPD Harbor Division detectives and patrol officers, Port Police with Los Angeles Fire Department back up.

    A crisis team was called and the suspect surrendered at 2:25 p.m.

    Police are investigating the possibility that the suspects may have been involved in a similar carjacking at about midnight in Wilmington.

    Man Found Dead at Point Fermin

    SAN PEDRO — The man who died after jumping from a cliff at the 800 block of Paseo del Mar on New Year’s Eve has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner Department as 40-year-old Rosendo Herrera Jr. 40, The coroner found multiple blunt force injuries and ruled the death to be suicide.

    LB Gets FlyAway Service

    LONG BEACH — Traveling to and from LAX got a lot easier for Long Beach residents as of Dec. 30, 2015.

    Long Beach Transit began its new FlyAway bus service from Long Beach to LAX. Hourly service will be provided from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily from the Long Beach Transit Hub at First Street and Long Beach Boulevard. The fare is $7 one way, and for every adult fare, two children age five or under can ride for free.

    Long Beach has its own airport, but because it is a small airport, travels sometimes must go to LAX. With traffic and the expense of shuttle services and parking, getting to LAX can be a challenge for some.

    Hahn Voices Support for Raiders’ in Carson

    CARSON — On Dec. 30, 2015,  Rep. Janice Hahn, released a statement calling for NFL owners to bring the Raiders back to Los Angeles from Oakland for the second time. The Raiders returned to Oakland in 1994.

    Hahn’s statement came on the same day Oakland officials announced that a deadline set by the league for a stadium financing plan would not be met. However, the league has not submitted a formal plan.

    “I urge the NFL owners to vote to move the team back to Los Angeles and into a new stadium in Carson,” Hahn’s statement read. “Carson is ready to welcome the Raiders with open arms.”

    The city recently renamed a street near a proposed stadium “Stadium Way.”

    The Carson City Council also unanimously approved a building moratorium in December for the property near the site. The Raiders and the San Diego chargers have offered a cost sharing proposal in Carson to build the $1.7 billion stadium.

    Local politicians support a stadium because it may foster thousands of jobs and increase tourism, though there’s extensive literature debunking the idea it’s a worthwhile investment economically.

    Inglewood’s former Hollywood Park site also is being considered to house a new stadium for NFL teams.

    Garcetti Nominates New Planning Director

    LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 4, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the nomination of Pasadena Planning Director Vince Bertoni as the new head of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning.

    Bertoni comes to the department with more than 25 years of planning experience – including a previous stint at the Department of City Planning.

    Bertoni has served five years as the Pasadena’s Planning and Community Development director. During that time, he successfully managed Pasadena’s city planning program through a General Plan update, a comprehensive visioning process that happens just once every 20 years.

    Before joining the City of Pasadena, Bertoni served as deputy planning director in Los Angeles, where he oversaw the adoption of 16 historic preservation overlay zones, new guidelines for the Broadway Historic District, a bicycle master plan and a Hollywood community plan.

    Bertoni also has held lead planning posts in the cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Malibu, and he serves as a member of the California Planning Roundtable.

    In his new position, Bertoni will lead the maintenance and execution of Los Angeles’ General Plan — the comprehensive framework guiding development and infrastructural growth across the city. He will play a crucial role in helping to facilitate smart infrastructural growth, while also working to protect the character of Los Angeles’ neighborhoods.

    Bertoni succeeds outgoing Planning Director Michael LoGrande, who is leaving the position after more than 18 years of service to the department, including six as its head. During his time there, LoGrande helped successfully approve more than 50,000 residential units in Los Angeles and more than 20 mixed-use projects. He also launched a comprehensive rewrite of the city’s 1946 zoning code. Under LoGrande’s leadership, the Los Angeles adopted its first Mobility Plan 2035, multiple community plans and transit oriented development plans across the city.

    Bertoni’s nomination for general manager of the Department of City Planning will now move to the Los Angeles City Council for confirmation.

    Brown Appoints Harbor Area Resident to the California Advisory Commission on Special Education

    SACRAMENTO — On Jan. 4, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced reappointment of Mariano Sanz to the California Advisory Commission on Special Education. Sanz, 53, has served in that position since 2012. The Long Beach resident has been a school counselor for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District since 2001. He served as a school counselor for the Long Beach Unified School District from 1994 to 2001 and for the Paramount Unified School District from 1990 to 1994. Sanz was an elementary school teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District from 1987 to 1990. He is a member of the Harbor Regional Center Board of Trustees. He earned a master’s of science degree in school counseling from National University and a Master of Science degree in school psychology from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Sanz is a Democrat.


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  • Little Fish Theatre Gears Up for Big Season in the Small Pond of San Pedro

    By most any measure, the Little Fish Theatre is small. It’s a true black box, with only 65 seats. It’s located in a community whose 12 square miles has the lowest population density of any part of Los Angeles.

    But this little theatre company isn’t allowing such limitations to minimize its vision for 2016, as the Little Fish Theatre will stage nine full-length plays, along with a pair of collections of shorts that will bookend its busy year.

    Opening 2016 will be a Little Fish tradition, “Pick of the Vine,” the company’s annual selection of short plays. Culled from over 650 submissions received from multiple countries, patrons will be treated to 10 very short plays (between seven and 15 minutes each) that the company promises will answer some of life’s rarely-asked, fascinating questions, such as: How far will we go to make sure our children have every advantage in life? What is the kindest way to handle road-kill? How to cope if one simply can’t engage in small talk?

    The season’s first full-length offering will be the West Coast premiere of Rich Orloff’s Domestic Tranquility, a comedy about a nice, normal suburban, 1950s family whose lives are turned upside down by three escaped convicts with bad table manners. Think Desperate Hours, but funny. And while you’re thinking about film (which you are if you’ve seen the Humphrey Bogart film just referenced), next up is Sleuth, Anthony Shaffer’s 1971 Tony Award-winner that a year later was adapted into the Michael Caine/Laurence Olivier whodunit you’ve inevitably stumbled across on TV sometime in the last quarter-century.

    Speaking of the Tonys, then comes Table Manners, one-third of the tripartite farce about “aristocrats behaving badly” during an ill-planned adulterous weekend at a country house whose 2008 Broadway adaptation won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play. And the Tony-winners keep coming with The 39 Steps, which captured two Tonys for its Monty Pythonesque adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller.

    Okay, so Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House didn’t win a Tony. All this comedy about an aspiring comedian from Brazil more interested in coming up with the perfect joke than in house-cleaning for two married doctors (a story the New York Times calls, “Fresh, funny [and] imbued with a melancholy but somehow comforting philosophy”) did was become Pulitzer finalist. Then comes another Pulitzer finalist, Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn, a 2012 play about two women who covet each other’s live that the New York Times says “illuminates how hard it can be to forge both a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life in an era that seems to demand superhuman achievement from everyone.”

    Then comes The How and the Why, another play focusing on a pair of women, in this case two brilliant, driven biologists confronting issues of womanhood in science and in nature. The How and the Why is written Sarah Treem, an Emmy-nominated writer/producer of House of Cards and The Affair.

    Little Fish kicks fall off by staging Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a brilliant reimagining of the lives and careers of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and fellow composer Antonio Salieri, a less gifted contemporary driven to destroy Mozart as a way to strike out at God for bestowing such genius on a man so boorishly undeserving. Three years before Amadeus won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, it won the Tony for Best Play. But you’ve never seen it on stage, right?

    Onetime Academy Award nominee Michael Weller’s What the Night Is For, about a pair of ex-lovers meeting for dinner after 11 years, caps off the full-length plays for the season, but Little Fish closes out the year with A Very Special Holiday Special, a comedic collection of holiday shorts by Mark Harvey Levine, whose work has been chosen for several “Pick of the Vines,” including among those slated for 2016.

    Associate Artistic Director Suzanne Dean says the season is heavy on comedy because that’s what Little Fish patrons tend to prefer, but that all of this season’s offerings explore “our common humanity and provide the opportunity to see ourselves in new light.” She also notes that, as a pendulum swing from a male-dominated 2015 season, the 2016 season features three full-length plays written by women and driven by female characters, while additional works have women as central characters. Dean says the season also “taps into stories that embrace the perspectives of multiple generations.”

    The Little Fish Theatre is located at 777 Centre St., San Pedro, CA 90731. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at (310) 512-6030, or by text (424) 226-6030. Visit at www.littlefishtheatre.org for more information, including season subscription packages of “anytime tickets” and a dinner-and-a-show combo with The Whale & Ale, San Pedro’s superb British pub.

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  • Activists Urge Council to Restore Port Oversight

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Plaintiffs in the China Shipping lawsuit accused the Port of Los Angeles of breaking the law and called for new oversight structures to be put into place at a city council committee meeting on Dec. 15.

    They spoke of reinstating the Port Community Advisory Committee, PCAC, or a similar independent entity to ensure the port’s future compliance with its legal obligations. The committee was investigating the port’s long-secret failure to enforce 11 mitigation provisions contained in the environmental impact report, which allowed the China Shipping terminal to expand. It met in closed session to discuss its options after hearing public comments and testimony.

    The port’s failure to meet clean truck obligations alone “has put the port in the position where it’s looking at maybe $200, $250 million liability,” said David Pettit, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which represented those plaintiffs. “They’re looking at another may be $75 million liability to come up to snuff on the yard equipment,” he added, as well as other costs from unmet past obligations “that could be another $50 or $100 million.”

    “What transpired is in fact criminal,” said Janet Gunter, one of three initial China Shipping plaintiffs. “It was [an] executive director of a public agency that willfully violated a court mandate.”

    “There is no doubt in my mind that the PCAC [environmental impact report] and Air Quality subcommittees would have discovered the China Shipping failure to meet the EIR mitigation measures,” said Chuck Hart, president of San Pedro Peninsula Homeowners United, a China Shipping plaintiff. “Therefore it is reasonable to assume PCAC’s demise was necessary to pull off this conspiracy—and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a conspiracy, from the highest levels of the city government to the lowest. It cannot happen again.”

    It was not just a conspiracy of silence, Andrea Hricko, a professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, pointed out.

    “Officials from the Port of LA, including Geraldine Knatz and Chris Cannon, including the mayor of Los Angeles regularly made comments after 2009 implying or specifically stating that China Shipping was meeting all of its mitigation measures,” she said.

    “Locals used to joke that the port only listened to San Pedro and Wilmington residents if we sued them,” said port activist Peter Warren. “Turns out the port doesn’t even abide by court-approved settlements and EIRs.”

    “We are committed to seeing that something like this never happens again,” POLA’s Executive Director Gene Seroka told the committee, but said nothing about how to ensure that — particularly after his tenure ends.

    “The noncompliance and withholding of information and violation of the court-approved settlement is so egregious that I would urge the plaintiffs to seek appointment of an overseer or receivership for the Port of Los Angeles with regard to compliance with all environmental laws and court approved settlements,” Warren said.

    “This is not the first time the Port of LA has ignored laws,” Gunter pointed out. “Until this agency is properly reprimanded, the port will never feel the pressure to actually follow the laws set down for it.”

    She urged the council members “to call for a criminal investigation by the federal government for this agency,” in order to demonstrate “your genuine concern about such a flagrant disregard of the law.”

    “When you conspire to violate state law, that’s a crime,” Pettit said. “When Ms. Gunter says that crimes have been committed, I think that’s not a wild statement.”

    What’s more, there was good reason to suspect a much larger problem, and the NRDC was beginning to examine other agreements.

    Beyond that, “The solution I think we need is some kind of public oversight,” Pettit said. “Experience has now shown that the port frankly can’t be trusted to manage these mitigations it’s agreed to under [California Environmental Quality Act, the law governing environmental impact reports], and that we need to go outside the port, whether it’s PCAC reconstituted or some other outside body. I think to restore the credibility to the port and avoid what may be a storm of litigation for the city and the port, there needs to be some kind of outside oversight and transparency.”

    “A knowledgeable community committee with financial support to hire experts such as the EIR committee under PCAC must monitor the future agreement at the very least,” Warren said. “These meetings need to be Brown Acted [subject to state open meetings law], and the port should provide all necessary monitoring information as well as financial support, as with PCAC, to hire experts.”

    For a cost of less than $100,000 a year, when PCAC was dismantled, the port could have avoided liabilities more than a thousand times that today.


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  • Crisis, Conflict, Resolution

    Public-Interest Journalism Key to Saving a Diverse and Vibrant City

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    In every crucible where there are actors with competing interests, there is conflict. Without conflict there can be no resolution, let alone an end to a crisis. Random Lengths has played critical and important roles in most of the crucibles that have transformed the Los Angeles Harbor Area in the past 35 years.

    The first crucible, which proved momentous in this paper’s history before it was even founded, occurred on the night of Dec. 17, 1976.

    At the time, I had just moved into a new place I rented on 32nd Street, overlooking Cabrillo Beach and the West Channel, just a half mile from berth 46 at the Port of Los Angeles.

    My friend Patrick was setting up my stereo in time for my birthday party. As he tinkered with the sound system, a glimpse out a living room window facing the bay caused him to excitedly call me over.

    “Wow, James, you’ve got to come see this!”

    He said it with such intensity that I immediately ran to see what he was witnessing.

    Outside, across the channel was a ball of fire rising above a dark column of smoke, hundreds of feet into the sky as a Liberian oil tanker, called the S.S. Sansinena, exploded.

    As light travels faster than sound, we stood there in awe for several seconds before we were hit by the concussion of the explosion.

    All of the windows of my new apartment were turned into glass shards, barely missing my face as I ducked for cover. It was a night indelibly etched into my mind without having to go to the emergency room.

    The ship was built in 1958 and had just discharged its cargo of crude oil into the tanks of Union Oil that were once located at 22nd Street and Harbor Boulevard. The Sansinena was taking on ballast and fuel when the massive explosion split the ship in half and obliterated multiple port buildings.

    The blast shattered windows for miles around and triggered a fire that spread across the dock and in the water around the tanker. The L.A. Fire Department soon arrived on the scene to contain the blaze and rescue the survivors—casualties included six dead, three missing (but presumed dead) and 46 injured.

    The Coast Guard investigation later concluded that the incident was caused by flammable vapor buildup on the deck of the ship. The ignition source was never identified.

    This happened just three years before the first edition of Random Lengths hit the streets in December of 1979. The front-page headline of that edition read: “GATX Chemicals Endanger Harbor Area Residents, Government Shields Conglomerate in Effort to Bypass Zoning Regulations.”

    Another crucible was when the port’s attempt to raze Knoll Hill in order to expand berths 97-102 during Mayor Richard Riordan’s administration—berths now occupied by China Shipping terminal.

    The port’s continued purchase of property on this small knoll overlooking the main channel near the Vincent Thomas Bridge portended the hill’s ultimate demise. This was to be just another one in a long line of port excavations of small hills of San Pedro to accommodate port industrialization.

    An off-the-record phone call by a harbor commissioner tipped me off to the coming crisis precipitated by an impending action by the Harbor Commission board.

    The loss of one more hill to port expansion and the further encroachment of industrial port operations with its air pollution on the community was just the last straw for some activists.

    The acting port director, Bruce Seaton, responded to community concerns with an “aw shucks- let’s go have some Busy Bee sandwiches” approach, and was seen as patronizing and was rebuffed.

    Only after a community forum—sponsored in part by this newspaper—did port staff began to realize there was significant community opposition. Private meetings were set up, but devolved when it became apparent that the port was bent on bulldozing its way through the hill and the community. The community responded with a lawsuit.

    The San Pedro Home Owners Association, lead by Janet Gunter, Andy Mardesich and Noel Park with the help of the Natural Resources Defense council alerted the community and sued the port and won a game-changing appeal. That one major victory over the industrial expansion of the Port of Los Angeles ended what one harbor commissioner, John Wentworth, termed the “100-year war” with the community.

    From that first story on the toxic GATX storage facility for petroleum products to the battle over the Port of Los Angeles petroleum coke export terminal to this story and most recently the redux of the China Shipping terminal dispute and settlement, Random Lengths has been on the side of the community reporting on the issues that affect this area the most, and in the process, giving voice to hundreds of community activists who have fought for years, often decades, to have economic and environmental justice issues settled, redressed or significantly mitigated.

    These storylines started the 35-year editorial trajectory of this publication, going from reporting on the crisis to covering the ensuing conflicts, addressing issues of environmental injustice and the Port of Los Angeles’ responsibility of maintaining as sacrosanct local residents’ connection to their waterfront.

    Along the way, Random Lengths has stood fast to its principles of free speech, open government and protecting the rights of the greater harbor area community. This has not ever been an easy job.

    Also, on the front page of that inaugural issue was the paper’s mission statement, which read in part:

    “What you read here you are not likely to find in other local newspapers, for we are not afraid of being controversial. On the contrary, we are committed to promoting an open dialogue on the important questions concerning our community [and] unlike other papers, we invite your participation, and in fact we depend on it.”

    With the distance I now have from the writing of that mission statement and from my memory of having been at the masthead of this publication over the ensuing years, I can say with confidence that we have stayed true to that mission.

    The Los Angeles Harbor Commission meeting on Dec. 17 is a crucible that brings Random Lengths full circle.

    The Saving San Pedro’s Waterfront group, made up of local realtors, led by John Papadakis, is critical of Jericho Development and Ratkovich Co. The developers signed a 55-year lease with the port. It only develops 150,000 square feet of Ports O’Call Village.

    During the public comment period, Papadakis remarked before the commission that, “This century began…with two great mayors in Richard Riordan and James Hahn…both had hearts of true servants when they adopted the Bridge to Breakwater promenade plan and began to plan and build it.

    “They understood that our greatest resource our waterfront must be used to create prosperity, not poverty,” he said. “That the sea signifies life not the bringer of environmental crimes; that the people are the true owners and have the right of primary access to the water line, the highest and best use of the public shores that all people must economically benefit from the use of the waterline—not just one industry.”

    Papadakis continued his scathing remarks. “This, the wealthiest port in the western hemisphere is housed in the only seaside slum in America,” he said. “That is a civic crime, commissioners. You’re crucifying this community on the iron cross of the cargo industry, by the orders of so-called leaders who are really public cannibals feeding on the dying carcass of the Harbor Area—for shame—by violating emission standards by intentionally choosing a deficient and unproven development team for the prime commercial opportunity at Ports O’ Call.”

    Harbor Commissioner Dave Arian shot back. “It’s hard to sit up here and listen to this crap,” Arian said. “You live up there on the hill and you’re the slumlord in this town.” He then went on to say that, “If you want a fight, you got one and so do all you realtors.”

    These remarks are reminiscent of those reported in the Daily Breeze almost 8years ago in an article titled “Revised L.A. Port plan derided at meeting” staff writer Donna Littlejohn wrote, “At last. It appears that the Port of Los Angeles has finally found consensus on its latest waterfront plan revision. Nearly everyone hates it.”

    She proceeded to explain, “The new, scaled-down version unveiled at a public meeting this week drew scathing criticism, raising questions about the future of the 5-year-old dream of recreating San Pedro’s west channel with commercial and recreational uses.”

    This continuing to echo what Papadakis envisioned as the grand “Bridge to Breakwater” plan.

    This clearly sets the stage for the next conflict to come as the plans for the Ports O’ Call development have not been discussed publicly for over two years. It also brings into focus the decades-long debate over the future of the Los Angeles waterfront that we have covered from the very beginning and brings some things almost full circle. The crisis of conflict continues.



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  • An Irregular, Not Quite Random, Retrospective

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor, and Erik Kongshaug, Former Editor

    Thirty-five years is an eternity in the news business.

    When Random Lengths was launched, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, there was no cable news, no Internet and no text messaging.

    People were distracted the old-fashioned way: Politicians lied to them and newspapers printed the lies as facts. This is where Random Lengths came in, taking aim at those lies, one at a time.

    The pace and volume of those lies have increased dramatically since then, requiring more thoughtful and diverse responses. Sometimes it’s shining light on a neglected or hidden story. Sometimes it’s setting the record straight about very public proceedings—from neighborhood councils and the Harbor Commission to the state legislature, the Congress, even United Nations conferences, like the recent climate change “Conference of Parties” in Paris. Sometimes it’s reporting from an unexpected perspective, showing things in a whole new light. Sometimes it’s taking a very familiar subject, story or point of view and discovering something more. Sometimes it’s being right up to the minute, as new developments cast old certainties into doubt. And, sometimes it’s recovering history, putting old stories—whether familiar, forgotten or even hidden—together in new ways. This is the reason for this retrospective.

    From the beginning, Random Lengths has stepped quite consciously in the footsteps of muckraking author Upton Sinclair and his populist paper, Epic News. Sinclair funded and wrote that historic newspaper to wage his political campaign to “End Poverty in California” (EPIC); the founders of Random Lengths began with a $2,000 donation from liberal candidate Jim Stanbery, then a resident of Point Fermin. Stanbery was running to replace the powerful, conservative Los Angeles District 15 Councilman John S. Gibson. Stanbery, a young liberal in the Kennedy mold, was a far cry from the more radical Sinclair (who was only narrowly defeated in the race for governor of California in 1934). However, he forced Gibson’s only runoff race ever in 1977 and symbolized to the five original editors, the first real chance for a change from the political conservatism that dominated our district for decades.

    For decades more, however, the conservative climate reigned supreme. Then, after a local change at the state level in 1998, city representation finally shifted back to moderate liberalism, even as the federal government veered to the extreme right with the stolen national election of 2000.

    Now, after 35 years, the legacy of those original Point Fermin activists has come full circle. Today, those same Point Fermin activists who created Random Lengths in the late ’70s are middle-aged San Pedro homeowners like generations before them. But they are “activist homeowners,” who have begun to push California’s traditionally self-centered, “not-in-my-backyard” politics of vested self-interest towards genuine social and environmental justice. Early in the past decade they sought out the Natural Resource Defense Council and won a groundbreaking legal victory: community empowerment over the global economy through direct community mitigation of the expansion of the China Shipping container terminal at the foot of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, near Knoll Hill.

    But recently it’s been discovered that the Port of Los Angeles lied to everyone about the mitigation measures, failing to implement 11 of them (see “Activists Urge City Council To Restore Port Oversight After China Shipping Debacle,” p. 3). What can or will be done to remedy this breach of trust—and violation of law—remains to be seen, but it underscores the never-ending nature of the struggles we’re engaged in, the need for constant vigilance, for questioning, for skepticism, for courage in challenging bland assumptions as well as outrageous lies.

    The First Thread of Issues with the POLA

    Random Lengths was born immediately following the Port of Los Angeles’ December 1979 completion of its Port Master Plan. It drew a metaphoric line in the landfill of port expansion with its lead article, “GATX Chemicals Endanger Harbor Area Residents.’’

    The detailed article drew public attention to a mis-zoned chemical tank farm on Crescent Avenue. Random Lengths investigated and the Harbor Department was admonished for disregarding the tank farm’s volatile and toxic chemicals.

    Spearheaded by activist Bea Atwood, the fight over the tank farm’s removal took a decade; the fight over the toxic cleanup took another decade. Most of the following decade found the site embroiled in conflict over the nature of waterfront development, questioning whether the development should be community serving or corporate serving. A 16-acre park was opened on the site—significantly smaller than previously promised in the “Bridge-to-Breakwater” planning process—on Jan. 10, 2010. Nonetheless, it was a regionally significant park. The lesson was simple: miracles can happen—after 30 years of struggle.

    In December 1988, the Port of Los Angeles released its dutifully corporate-friendly “Plan 2020,” which called for the construction of Piers 300 and 400. It also called for creating the infrastructure for the Alameda Corridor intermodal railway. This time, Point Fermin activists, headed by the late Greg Smith, took on the port in the planning stages. Not by accident, the month Plan 2020 was released, Random Lengths started publishing two issues per month, and began to assess global issues more systematically, always within a local context— issues involving South America, the Pacific Rim, the geopolitics of petroleum, and such ominous acronyms as NAFTA and GATT.

    The coal and petroleum coke facility next door to GATX was another local issue involving global forces. Before Kaiser was closed in the late 1990s, the Los Angeles Export Terminal, LAXT—created through Plan 2020—had surpassed by tenfold Kaiser’s toxic payload. Beginning in 1996, through Random Lengths’ uncompromising coverage of the LAXT as a multi-national experiment in government privatization, the community forced the construction of domes to cover the coke piles and their easily airborne particulates. LAXT soon went belly up as East Asia soon found its own coal reserves.

    Meanwhile, the port abandoned the earlier promise of Pier 400 as “energy island”— relocating hazardous liquid bulk facilities as far away from residents as possible—with the opening of the Maersk container terminal instead. When the Alameda corridor was completed in 2002, its promise of local community jobs remained empty, its safety and toxic mitigation were still suspect and the dream of reducing future truck traffic had vanished behind clouds of diesel fumes. Almost immediately, far-sighted activists started saying that it needed to be fully electrified—the first such call for a zero-emissions system that’s since become a statewide policy goal, yet remains elusive on the ground.

    Inspired by the example of activists organized around LAX expansion plans, the heirs to Greg Smith’s legacy—like June Burlingame Smith and Noel Park—got all mayoral candidates in 2000-2001 to commit to forming what became the Port Community Advisory Committee, PCAC, in the specific form chosen by the winner, James Hahn. Soon it was given additional responsibilities flowing from the landmark 2002 California Appeals Court victory overturning the port’s approval of the China Shipping Terminal. This combination finally lead the port to begin seriously addressing the problem of port-generated air pollution.

    However, it listened far less attentively after Antonio Villaraigosa defeated James Hahn’s bid for a second term as mayor. Villaraigosa pledged to go even farther than Hahn’s “No Net Increase” plan, which produced the first comprehensive analysis of port pollution problem, and expanded the effort in partnership with Port of Long Beach, producing the Clean Air Action Plan, CAAP, adopted in November 2006. However, Villaraigosa simultaneously undercut the citizen involvement that originally drove the process. His new harbor commission immediately stopped receiving direct reports from PCAC and began a long slow process of undermining, dismantling and eventually disbanding PCAC. This, at the very time the port was privately violating the China Shipping agreement PCAC was intended to oversee (see story, p. 3).

    However, activism didn’t disappear. A broad-based coalition challenged the approval of Trapac’s terminal expansion in December 2007, eventually resulting in a community benefits agreement, based on the LAX expansion model. In addition, as the CAAP was being formulated, the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports emerged to advocate on behalf of forgotten and disposed truckers misclassified as “independent owner-operators.” The coalition included a wide array of local, regional and even national organizations—environmentalists, labor, community activists, public health advocates, people of faith and others. It was part of coastwide effort, matched by another East Coast coalition. The initial effort to protect and empower truckers through the CAAP was thrown out by the courts. But a broader national effort building on labor law, strongly supported by the Teamsters Union, has built a powerful movement, which has grown rapidly in the past few years. The movement has had hundreds of legal victories and an escalating series of short-term strikes, which is strongly reminiscent of the 1934 birth struggles of the ILWU—even before it was an independent union. Not surprisingly, no other publication has told the story of this struggle quite the way that Random Lengths has told it.

    Finally, waterfront development has been a key port-community issue since 2000, both in San Pedro and Wilmington. Since it ties together two different threads, we deal with it below in the thread of issues with the land.

    The Second Thread with Municipal Issues

    Within its first few issues, the original editors of Random Lengths had to decide whether to remain a sectarian political publication or to engage more broad-ranging political discussions from a non-sectarian viewpoint—the path they ultimately chose, which Random Lengths has followed ever since. From Stanbery’s 1980 “Neighborhood Associations Drive,” to the emergence of the inter-community 15th District Community Coalition candidacy in 1996, to the complicated legacies of a contradictory secession attempt, compromised charter reform and the watered-down-but-still evolving neighborhood council system that shapes district politics, Random Lengths has kept local news first and foremost as the honest measure of the health of local electoral democracy.

    Random Lengths was launched at the start of the primary season that swept erstwhile California Gov. Ronald Reagan into the presidency. When George Bush, The First, took over in 1988, Random Lengths, in its new biweekly format, began covering deeper political issues—the Iran-Contra scandal, the Lockerbie airline bombing, and the first Iraq war—in a distinctively critical manner. Setting aside the corporate media fixation on President Bill Clinton’s sexual pecadillos, Random Lengths, instead, probed his bombing of Sudan and the geopolitics of NATO’s bombing of Kosovo. After 9/11, we documented the misinformation and concealed abuses leading into and through the second Iraq war of George W. Bush, which ultimately gave birth to ISIS, devoting countless pages to an eclectic mix of skilled, original analyses and information that never surfaces in the mainstream press. From Hurricane Katrina onwards, Random Lengths News has repeatedly probed different ways global warming is already threatening our lives — particularly in terms of prolonged droughts, wildfires and rising sea levels. And, in multiple other cases—from malathion spray, to the CIA-crack connection, to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment; from the Savings and Loan crisis, to the Walmart-driven union-busting of the local supermarket strike—history has justified the paper’s conclusions.

    In its early issues, this paper sharply criticized conservative pro-business Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who succeeded John S. Gibson in 1981, yet her office maintained open lines of communication as befitted a public servant. Such was not the case with her similarly-minded successor, Rudy Svorinich Jr., who finally beat her in 1993. By the mid-1990s, Svorinich’s office took the unprecedented measure of refusing to provide any public information press releases to Random Lengths, the Harbor Area’s only community newspaper, while also refusing to return our phone calls. That actively obstructionist impasse continued until Svorinich was termed-out of office. His subsequent defeat in a run for state office was brought about to some degree by our never-ending scrutiny, documenting his frequent evasions of direct and open democracy.

    With the turn-of-the century election of Janice Hahn to the council office and her brother, James, to the mayoralty, Random Lengths’ again had a decision to make: return to its initial position as a sectarian political publication or continue with its independent, non-sectarian point of view. Staying true to its original mission statement, Random Lengths chose the latter. But it was also forced to sharpen its critical acumen, to adjust to the increasing complexity of participating in whatever direct democratic empowerment was in store—not only criticizing abuses of power but also praising the responsible exercise of reform whenever it emerged.

    These two poles of engaged critique were already seen regarding Janice Hahn’s first elected service on the Elected Commission for Charter Reform. Random Lengths praised her initial efforts for a proportionally elected, legally empowered neighborhood council system, then chastised the new charter she ultimately supported for its evasion of direct democracy, for its backroom deal to bypass the voters and create a disempowered version of the neighborhood council system that the electorate had once mandated Hahn to create. The various strengths and weaknesses of the neighborhood council system have been frequent subjects for similar critiques ever since, including its evident failure to fill the gap left by PCAC’s disbanding. Similarly, during Hahn’s first term, the paper covered the long efforts of the politically stymied Harbor Area secessionists and later that decade it covered efforts to restrain downtown-centric power, including a proposed charter amendment cutting back city council pay scales.

    Random Lengths also repeatedly reminds its readers that the Harbor Area’s largely Latino, mainly immigrant majority must be included in political debates, beginning with the very emergence of issues to be debated, not only within the neighborhood council system and in Los Angeles’ municipal government as a whole, but increasingly in other Harbor Area communities. Random Lengths has remained critical of the continuing inequities faced by Wilmington, Harbor Gateway and Watts in their smaller-scale economic development projects. Since 2000, we have also paid increased attention to Carson and Long Beach, communities in which Latinos and other minorities still struggle for equitable treatment on many fronts. Attention to labor struggles of mostly Latino hotel workers in Long Beach and truck drivers at both ports has been reinforced by broader coverage of endemic wage theft in the low-wage economy regionwide, and the fight for a $15 minimum wage over the past several years.

    The Third Thread: Issues with the Land

    Publisher James Preston Allen has said, “If you want to see a good San Pedro street fight, just hold a meeting on land use!”

    Inextricably bound to issues of port expansion and of city governance, local land use issues lie at the heart of why Random Lengths was first created. The Byzantine legal interconnections between apparently isolated battles over this or that piece of public property over the past 25 years are mind boggling.

    They have been further complicated by the decommissioning of military property following the Vietnam War, which included Angels Gate and White Point Parks, and properties related to the Long Beach Naval Station’s closure. Since late in the Richard Riordan administration, land-use conflicts have repeatedly erupted around waterfront development, both in San Pedro and Wilmington.

    Although the port had created a brand-new master plan when Random Lengths’ first issue appeared in 1979, the community of San Pedro had no such plan for itself, thanks to business forces (working through Councilman John Gibson) who ensured that San Pedro’s General Plan hadn’t been updated since 1962. Random Lengths began with a land use “revolution’’ among Point Fermin neighborhood residents, who were determined to create a San Pedro land use plan democratically at a grass roots level. The fact that the public Cabrillo Beach was not destroyed by the port’s expansion of its marina and has now been restored as a community center is just one direct result of their efforts. Although the “San Pedro Plan’’ became a campaign issue in 1981, with all candidates—including Flores—favoring it, it was never allowed to come to legal fruition.

    Nonetheless, the grassroots structure of the “revolution” remained in place, and each time a new issue sprang up, Random Lengths has been there to put it back into its larger context. The survival of any open spaces or low-income housing through San Pedro’s development frenzy in the 1980s and 1990s is largely due to the information and analyses Random Lengths has steadfastly provided.

    From the eviction of Park Western residents in 1980 to the foundation of the Angels Gate Cultural Center in 1981, to the marina and the battle over Navy housing at White Point, to the so-called “Pedro 2000” plan to eliminate the Rancho San Pedro housing project, to the struggle over Taper Avenue housing, to Recreation and Parks’ eviction attempts at Angels Gate and Hernandez’s Ranch on the basis of a “master plan’’ that never was, to the port’s “eminent domain” at Knoll Hill and its first scuttling of the Pacific Avenue corridor redevelopment project; from John S. Gibson Field, to Joan Milke Flores Park, to Svorinich’s unrequited efforts to get a park or a field or a something named after himself, the story remained the same.

    While much improved during Janice Hahn’s tenure, no community generated general plan for San Pedro yet exists. As one result, the endless struggles over waterfront development have seen more twists and turns than any street on the Palos Verdes peninsula. Since planning began during Riordan’s last year in office, there were more versions of plans and public processes than anyone could keep track of—except for Random Lengths.

    Something approaching a community generated general plan emerged in response to the port’s waterfront environmental impact report: the Sustainability Plan originally supported by the Sierra Club, the TraPac Appellants, two neighborhood councils and the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce. The port’s intransigent opposition eventually reversed the chamber’s support—once again sacrificing local business interests for outside mega-corporations—most notably, the cruise ship industry.

    When the final EIR was approved in September 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, the controversial outer harbor cruise terminal was already an obsolete economic fantasy, while the far more resilient Sustainability Plan hadn’t even been seriously considered. Economic reality killed off the port’s worst excesses, but no coherent replacement was allowed to emerge. The severely scaled-back nature of the Ports O’ Call redevelopment project, made public this past year, is symptomatic of the diminished possibilities, as was the suspension of the Red Car Line in September 2015, after 12 years in service.

    Wilmington’s waterfront development had a much slower and torturous start, beginning with organizing against the expansion of the TraPac terminal and proposed erection of a shielding wall. This organizing saw the birth of Communities for a Safe Environment, and the emergence of its founder and executive director Jesse Marquez as a passionate, knowledgeable and incredibly detail-oriented advocate for environmental justice. His activism has taken him to the highest levels of global deliberations on port-related policies. But it took the entire Wilmington community pulling together, plus the election of Antonio Villaraigosa, to not just halt the original expansion plans, but to create the 30-acre Wilmington Waterfront Park, which opened in June 2011. Another significant Wilmington development is the 3-acre Wilmington Marina Parkway, financed with China Shipping mitigation funds, which opened in 2014.

    Finally, local concerns about the dangers of the Rancho LPG facility surged to the surface again following the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion in 2010. From re-examining the error-plagued process that allowed it to be built without permits in the 1970s, to exploring the legislative and regulatory history that allows this danger to persist to following activists’ efforts to have it closed or relocated, Random Lengths has explored this public threat from every angle—aided especially by the expertise and experience of retired oil industry consultant Connie Rutter. It’s a struggle reminiscent of the decades-long tank farm fight. Five years on, it’s only just begun.

    The Final Thread: Civil, Human Rights Issues

    Random Lengths’ commitment to the local preservation of civil rights was crucial. Coverage of port expansion, local government and land-use struggles didn’t degenerate into narrow-minded NIMBYism.

    The headline of the Fall 1980 edition of Random Lengths read: “Violent Clash At Peck Park: Citizens Demand Investigation of Police Misconduct.”

    In an unprovoked sweep, the Los Angeles Police Department, wielding batons, attacked 85 to 100 mostly young Chicanos assembled to socialize and watch a baseball game. Since then, our vigilance on behalf of civil rights has taken many forms, fighting against discrimination based on race, class, or gender in familiar forms, as well as newly emergent ones, such as the environmental racism evident in the disproportional impacts of port pollution on communities of color, of refineries in and around Wilmington and Carson, and related off-port impacts in communities of color up the 710 Freeway and Alameda Corridor and out the Inland Empire.

    The newspaper has both covered and given voice to the emergence of environmental justice as an organizing framework for building a better world for all.

    Its vigilance has focused on a wide range of specific struggles. Examples include our coverage in defense of the Ralph M. Brown Act open meetings law, where publisher James Allen was threatened with arrest, and demanding the uncensored distribution of the newspaper at the San Pedro Hospital or at City of Los Angeles public buildings. It has supported the ILWU’s proud tradition of standing in solidarity, defending the rights of others, such as the ILWU’s right-to-work stoppages staged in solidarity with Australian dockers and in opposition to the Iraq War. It’s also vigilantly supported other workers facing much harsher odds. There was the months-long union-busting lockout of grocery workers. There was the decades-overdue struggle to organize hotel workers in Long Beach, working for poverty wages and suffering wage theft after decades of municipal subsidies to the tourist industry of hundreds of millions of dollars. There are the broader efforts of the last few years to raise the minimum wage and empower low-wage workers, in fast food and other industries. These later efforts dovetail with a more specific struggle of port truckers misclassified as “independent owner-operators” to preclude them from union organizing, while facilitating hundreds of millions of dollars of wage theft.

    Abuse of police power has been a recurrent concern, from mass illegal arrests and police violence in Seattle at the World Trade Organization in 1999, or the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles the following year, to the May Day police riot in MacArthur Park in 2007, and police suppression of the Occupy Movement in 2011. But they also include individual violations, such as our coverage of the unjustified arrest of Derrick Evans, here in San Pedro, which finally prompted his release. They also include the multiple arrests of witnesses to the police murder of Roketi Su’e in north Long Beach. Aspects of both mass and individual violations merged with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., which fueled the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Also, over the past decade or so, our vigilance has focused on the struggle for equality, especially as expressed within the Long Beach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

    Random Lengths has always affirming that “an injury to one is an injury to all,” viewing local, regional and national events through the greater human lens of civil and human rights.



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  • The Epic: A Homecoming Show

    By Melina Paris,  Music Columnist

    The show started one hour late.

    Maybe it was jet lag from a just-concluded world tour or that he was on crutches. Yet, the moment saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his 29-piece band hit the stage, the audience’s frustration vanished. The Dec. 10 party, at Club Nokia, was on.

    I’m reluctant to call the assortment of talent assembled in support of  Kamasi “his band” because, as he has explained, the eight core musicians — known as The Next Step — are his early childhood friends. They grew up together in South Central Los Angeles. Each one of them has  projects, but they frequently come together to play events. Kamasi was a significant part of albums released by Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar this year.

    This collective is more a gathering of bonded musical souls, which is evident on Kamasi’s record, The Epic. Hearing them come together live is a spirit-raising musical elixir. It’s a free expression of sound and energy embodied in jazz but traversing through funk, rock, acid jazz, classical and global music. It is performed by some of the best young musicians in Los Angeles.

    The eight-piece string section — violins, violas and cellos — was led by multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer and producer, Miguel Atwood Ferguson. Behind them was an eight-voice chorus, one of them coming from Nia Andrews. The stage was also populated with a disc jockey, drummers Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr., Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner on electric bass, Miles Mosely on upright bass, Brandon Coleman on keyboard, Cameron Graves on piano, Ryan Porter on trombone, Rickey Washington on sax and flute, Dante Winslow on trumpet, and the vocals of Patrice Quinn.

    And, those crutches? Washington offered a cartoonish account of the event then  afterward, he joked, “That sounds better than ‘I tripped and fell on a cobblestone street.”

    Washington propped his leg on a stool as he opened with “Change of the Guard,” one of 17 songs on his new recording, and it sounded just like the record, enhanced times 10. The audience signaled approval with bopping heads and raised hands.

    Despite the number of instruments making music, the mix allowed each player to be heard distinctly, especially Washington. Anyone who’s heard him knows how his horn can pervade a room. He blows so powerfully the music seems to course through you. But his is not just a loud horn. Washington’s sax has a large, beautiful tone. His projection is vigorous, potent and intense,  somehow grabbing more of your attention, although you thought you had given it to him fully.

    Backed up with not only an orchestra but a chorus felt like riding ocean waves, buoyed by beautiful chords, scales and changes filling the atmosphere.

    Henrietta Our Hero followed. Patrice Quinn has a voice of velvet. Washington wrote the song for his grandmother, and this rendition featured his father, Rickey Washington, on flute. Quinn captures the deep respect this composer has for his elder as she sang,

    Can I tell you a story 2593754_orig

    Of a lady, so near
    From her battles alone with love.
    Had no armor, no weapons,
    No desire to flee.
    But a power so deep inside,
    Brings life to us all
    Henrietta our hero shining fearless and bright
    Can you see her?
    Her light is here.

    This band of players is generous, openly sharing the spotlight. Cameron Graves on keyboard followed with his own number called, The End of Corporatism. The funky number blended orchestra, synthesizer and vocals starting with powerful staccato beats. It morphed into a psychedelic vibe reminiscent of Edgar Winters’ Frankenstein then transformed again into exotic sounds, as if the band were speaking another language, foreign, funky and free, and entirely as one.

    A masterful combination closed the first set. A live DJ spun with a bass and clap as the band provided a back beat of rousing funk. Floating above it all, a crystal clear, passionate, flamenco stylized viola was featured.

    This is where tonal vibrations arise from the stage. In our interview this summer in RL, Washington described moments like this, of freedom that The Next Step has when they perform together.

    In the second set, special guest Terrace Martin on alto sax joined the band, performing For Free off Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

    Washington took a moment to talk about To Pimp a Butterfly. He remarked on how blown away he is by all of his friend’s talent right before featuring a wickedly funky solo with Miles Mosely on upright bass. Mosely, using his hands on the bass this time, transformed that upright into a rough and raw electric guitar.

    This was followed by The Epic’s The Magnificent Seven opening with a long interlude from both drummers. Austin on the right, Bruner on the left played simultaneously, first in a call and response followed by perfectly timed synchronization. We were immersed in surround sound, as if the two were one amazingly powerful set of drums.

    Closing with the beautiful number, The Rhythm Changes, Washington began with a solo, Graves followed on piano. Quinn’s vocals radiated the captivation expressed in this song. The lyrics soothe and inspire. If one wonders what or who Washington is talking about in this number, could it simply be, the rhythm?

    Our minds, our bodies, our feelings
    They change, they alter, they leave us
    Somehow, no matter what happens
    I’m here.
    The time, the season, the weather
    The song, the music, the rhythm
    It seems, no matter what happens
    I’m here.

    Details: www.kamasiwashington.com

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  • New Seafood Restaurant to Open in the Old Papadakis Taverna Building

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    There have been a few restaurants to grace us with their presence since the Papadakis Taverna closed in 2010. We’ve seen them come and go under abrupt and sometimes even tragic circumstances, so it’s about time we see a little life at the corner of 6th and Centre Street. Maybe it’s time for that space to embrace something that does well in San Pedro—seafood.

    Enter Greg and Yunnie Kim Morena, a Santa Monica-based couple who together have more than 30 years of entrepreneurial ventures between them. Their most recent venture was inthe takeover of SM Pier Seafood, a mainstay and seafood staple on the Santa Monica pier.

    Kim Morena  took the helm from her parents, who first opened the restaurant the 1977. Her parents, who emigrated from Korea, arrived in the United States with hardly any money and managed to lease a space on the Santa Monica Pier. They got in just in time. It was only a couple years before that the pier was at the brink of being shut down, but only to be replaced by a bridge leading to a man-made resort island. With unwavering protests within the Santa Monica community, the proposed bridge idea was soon shut down.

    After taking the helm, the Morenas changed the name to The Albright in reference to the nautical Albright Knot, which symbolizes tying together two generations of a local, family-run business.

    The Albright now remains the longest running restaurant on the Santa Monica pier.

    This spring the couple plans to open Pappy’s—a seafood restaurant boasting a fresh, locally sourced fare and craft beer, which should prove to be an exciting addition to San Pedro’s dining scene.

    So, what can we expect from Pappy’s? If it’s to be anything like The Albright, think rustic-chic fish house; a perfect combination of a low-key atmosphere with high-quality design making it both upscale yet approachable. This would no doubt suit downtown San Pedro quite well.

    And what’s with the name Pappy’s? Fun fact and I’m glad you asked. Here’s a little bit of history: Popeye the Sailorman was supposedly inspired by spinach-chomping and rather aggressive sailor, who used to hang around the Santa Monica Pier. Just recently The Albright acquired the license for Popeye. Both Popeye’s father and John Papadakis, the long time owner of the San Pedro property, share the same nickname–Pappy.

    Details: http://thealbright.com/

     Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. You can visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com.

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  • Star Fisheries Workers Strike before Christmas

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor


    About 30 Star Fisheries’ drivers represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 572 went on strike a minute after midnight on Dec. 18.

    Steve Badger, the Teamsters Union Local 572 business representative, called the strike. He said that the union workers have been working without a contract for 22 months, mainly because of the company’s proposals to stop paying pension benefits altogether. The company also wants to force workers to pay $400 to $600 per paycheck towards their health insurance and provide only a 35-cent per hour wage increase in a two-year deal. (more…)

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  • Two Shipping Giants Might Merge

    By Richard Knee, Maritime Reporter

    A possible merger of two cargo-shipping titans whose container ships call at the Port of Los Angeles has maritime unions fearing job losses, and exporters and importers worrying about service-quality levels, but no one contacted for this story has said definitively whether they would ask government regulators to block the deal.

    Ownership consolidation in the shipping industry has been occurring over the past several decades. And while vessels in most of the world’s trade lanes are still sailing with less-than-full loads, the concentration of industry control into fewer and fewer hands increases the ease and likelihood of market manipulation.

    France’s CMA CGM and Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. announced jointly on Dec. 6 that the former would acquire the latter if APLantitrust authorities approve it. Neptune Orient Lines’ container ships operate under the APL brand; APL used to stand for American President Lines, the Oakland-based company that Neptune Orient Lines acquired in 1997.

    CMA CGM also used to be two shipping lines: Belgium-based Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement and the French carrier Compagnie Générale Maritime.

    Neptune Orient Lines’ acquisition of APL included U.S.-flagged and -crewed ships, which Neptune Orient Lines/APL continue to operate under the 19-year-old Maritime Security Program enabling them to haul U.S. government-impelled shipments. At least one union, the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, based near Baltimore, fears that CMA CGM would remove some or all of the nine vessels that Neptune Orient Lines/APL has enrolled from the program.

    Representatives from both companies were silent on the question, as they were on whether they could guarantee that a merger would not result in a deterioration of service quality, though CMA CGM did say it planned to keep the APL brand alive.

    International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots president, Don Marcus, said there are 60 Maritime Security Program-enrolled ships. U.S.-flagged vessels carried about 90 percent of the government-impelled cargo during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, from which “APL made a fistful of dollars,” he said. “It’s unknown if CMA CGM would have a commitment to the MSP,” he said.

    The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots “very well might” launch or join an effort to persuade regulators to prevent CMA CGM from swallowing Neptune Orient Lines, he said. The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots is part of a maritime labor alliance with the National Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, the longshore and “a few other” unions, he said. Neither of the longshore unions could be reached for comment.

    There’s an inter-union spat involved as well. Marcus said APL recently informed the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots that it was replacing one Maritime Security Program-enrolled ship with one whose officers and crew had different representation.

    Representatives of two exporter-importer organizations said they were monitoring developments surrounding the proposed merger but neither said whether his group would fight it.

    The National Industrial Transportation League is “watching developments in the liner industry with great interest,” President Bruce Carlton said. Based near Washington, the league lobbies on behalf of U.S. producers and retailers, which rely on all transportation modes to move their goods.

    “There are no plans at the moment to organize a campaign against this or any other merger or acquisition, but we will be looking at measures of market share, market concentration, and so on with an eye on any potential negative impacts on competition,” Carlton said.

    Peter Friedmann, executive director of organizations representing exporters and importers of agricultural products, and West Coast freight intermediaries, said those companies “benefit by competition and choices” but acquisitions are normal in the existing dynamic business environment.

    Friedmann, who is based in Washington, has played a major role in shaping regulations governing the liner shipping industry. The groups he heads are the Agriculture Transportation Coalition and the Pacific Coast Council of Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder Associations.

    Representatives for the shipping lines sent terse e-mails that essentially amounted to “no comment.”

    Neptune Orient Lines spokeswoman Pamela Pung said that company “at the moment” had nothing to add to an announcement to the investment community confirming that merger talks were in progress.

    CMA CGM spokesman Tristan Bourassin said it was “not possible to provide this level of operational details at such an early stage of the process. Further communications will be made in due time.… CMA CGM attaches strong importance to its quality of service and expects to enhance it by drawing upon the best practices of each group.”

    Richard Knee is a freelance journalist in San Francisco. He writes extensively about the freight sector.

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