• Jim’s Burgers No. 2 Gets Fresher Ingredients

    • 08/24/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Cuisine
    • Comments are off

    By Katrina Guevara, Contributing Writer

    On a Thursday at noon, two restaurant cooks grill a steak under a cast iron press, chop onions and fulfill dozens of orders from a new menu they had to learn after 10 years of working at the place. The cashier takes the orders from a line made up entirely of men. A longshoreman fills his cup with horchata from the soda fountain after ordering his lunch.

    Jim’s Burgers No. 2 was originally a family franchise founded in the 1970s. It expanded to more than 20 branches in Southern California from Gardena to La Mirada. This was the second one, thus the No. 2 in the name.

    It’s at a prime location, says Marc Gold, one of its new owners. Big rig trucks continuously pass by. There isn’t another food place within a half mile. And, it’s right across the street from a forthcoming Longshore Hall.

    After making sure Jim’s Burgers could serve any customer by being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, Gold and business partners Greg Gomez and TC also wanted to pay tribute to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The burger joint displays photos of an old warehouse, bridges and several landmarks to remind the many patrons of their roots.

    Gold said the true story behind Jim’s Burgers revival is about a Mexican, an Italian and a Jew who walked into a restaurant and saw a future: a true diversity team.

    The trio repainted the building, renovated the outdoor seating area and swapped out the old ingredients for quality choices. The onion rings and fries are freshly prepared. The hot dogs are now choice Hoffy dogs, known for their natural casing and “snap” when you bite into them. According to the National Hot Dog Council, Los Angeles residents consume more hot dogs than any other city (more than 36 million pounds), beating out New York and Philadelphia.

    Some of the diner’s remnants are the vintage signs, employees and patrons. The renovated diner offers the same breakfast burrito from 1979 with cheese, ham, bacon, sausage and hash browns.

    Gold, an investigator at a law firm, has a keen eye for data and observing the habits of his customers. He notices the relish falling off from a Hoffy dog and remarks less condiments can be put on the menu item. He also said the former owners of Jim’s Burgers claimed they sold four hot dogs a day, when it only added up to four a month on reports. His goal is to sell a thousand dogs by Labor Day. Gold used to work as a magician on cruise ships as a teenager, so his taste for good food came at an early start. And, it does seem like he has worked some “magic” in turning this restaurant around.

    .

    Gold approaches two women in ILWU uniforms and discovers they both ordered his pride and joy: the Hoffy dogs. He asks if he can take a photo of them to post on social media.

    Gold thought opening a restaurant would be all tasting and eating with friends, but he said it is also about working 20-hour days, looking through cameras and managing the social media accounts.

    A few new menu items include the giant avocado bacon burger called the “LB 206” and a half-pound burger called “Berth 126.” Most items run less than $10. Items like the “Crane Operator” nachos are just $11.95. Gold said he wants everyone to have a fair meal at a fair price.

    Gold said some people count sheep to sleep, but he counts onion rings. Gold believes he was at the right place at the right time when investing in this location.

    It’s only a matter of time before the new Jim’s Burgers No. 2 wins over the hearts and stomachs of everyone who passes through this East Wilmington location.

    Jim’s Burgers No. 2 is at 1601 E. Anaheim Blvd. in Wilmington. The diner is open Mondays to Fridays from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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    Charlottesville and the Shattering of America

    • 08/22/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Baynard Woods, Baltimore City Paper Editor-at-Large

    Two middle-aged men, one black and one white, were walking up a street in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia yelling at each other. It was a moment of relative normalcy in a day otherwise defined by mayhem.

    Both men use the phrase “born and bred” to define their relationship to the smallish Southern college town, nestled in the hills in the politically contested state of Virginia.

    The white man, Ed Knight, was wearing a Confederate flag bandana around his head.

    “You, with that stupid Confederate flag, talking about history,” the black man, George Steppe, said. “You don’t know nothing about no history. Only thing you know is hate.”

    “This is our history and it should not be destroyed,” Knight said of the statue of Robert E. Lee in the park, where an alt-right Unite the Right rally had been scheduled.

    Knight supported the rally that brought hundreds of armed racists and fascists to his home city on Aug. 12. It also brought hundreds of anti-fascists, some of them armed with sticks and shields as well, pledging to defend the city from right-wing terror. Now, after hours of bloody battle during which they remained largely passive, riot police were breaking things up, pushing Steppe back, inching forward behind their shields. Knight walked alongside with a sign reading, “Make C-Ville Great Again.”

    The chaos started the night before, as the Nazis and other racists gathered for the 21st-century version of a Klan rally—a Klanclave of khaki and tiki torches. At one point, a group of the white supremacists surrounded a group of counterprotesters, throwing punches and torches.

    Within minutes of arriving in town on Saturday morning, we saw the first of many fights.

    White supremacists with helmets—some German World War II-era—white polos, sticks, an assortment of flags, and homemade shields marked with the insignia of the racist group Vanguard America chanted at a smaller crowd of counterprotesters.

    “You can’t run, you can’t hide, you get helicopter rides,” they said, a reference to far-right governments in Argentina and Chile in the ’70s and ’80s that threw leftists from helicopters to “disappear” them.

    The racists began to march forward and the anti-racists tried to block them. After a swirl of violence and swinging sticks, three of the counterprotesters were left with bloody faces—the racists seemed to target women’s faces with their sticks—and the racists, who also took some heavy blows, ran away as the cops finally rolled in and began setting up a barricade.

    Over the next several hours, this same pattern continued to play out: Another fight broke out every few minutes as a new faction of the right marched in its crazed Tom Sawyer armor toward the park.

    The park was filled with every variety of racist you can imagine, from the Nazi biker to the fashy computer programmer. They were almost exclusively white and male. The anti-fascist activists who packed the streets were predominantly white but there were far more women and people of color opposing the Nazis. Otherwise the two opposing armies seemed to be of roughly equal size. The fights were swift, chaotic, and brutal.

    The two sides launched bottles and tear gas canisters back and forth as state troopers stood and watched, slack-jawed. At one point, as a few bottles whizzed by him in quick succession, a trooper perked up enough to pull out his phone and record some of the mayhem.

    When the police declared the assembly illegal before it even began and told everyone to leave, it forced these groups together. Right-wing militia types wielding assault rifles and wearing MAGA patches on paramilitary uniforms roamed through the crowd. Guys with pistols seemed to keep their hands on them, ready to draw at any moment. It felt like something horrible would happen.

    Then, as the various groups became separated, it seemed like the rumble had largely ended.

    “I’m glad no serious gunshots rang out. I was threatened with a gun, though. Police wasn’t around when a guy pulled up his gun up on me, though,” Steppe said, around 12:30 p.m.

    Steppe and Knight both seemed to think that it was the end of the day.

    The racists, who had not been able to hold their rally, were trying to regroup at another park a little further from downtown. Eventually, as a state of emergency was declared, they decided to leave—some of them even suggested hiding in the woods.

    Antifa burned right-wing flags in a park and then marched through the city; two groups converged on Water Street at around 1:35 p.m. It felt triumphant. They had driven the racists out of town—or at least those from out of town.

    About five minutes later, as they marched through the streets, it sounded like a bomb exploded as a muscle car, which police say was driven by alt-right member James Alex Fields, sped down the street and plowed through the march and into other cars. Fields then threw the weaponized car into reverse, fleeing from the scene of terror.

    Bodies were strewn through the road. Street medics, marked by red tape, delivered first aid while waiting on ambulances to arrive. Activists held Antifa banners to block camera views of the injured.

    The alt-righters were nowhere to be found. Trump meandered through a speech in New Jersey in which which he condemned violence on “many sides.”  

    He did not use the words “white supremacy” or “terrorism.” He did not say the name of Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed in the terror attack. He did not offer support to the 19 others who were hospitalized or prayers for those who were still in critical condition.

    Fields, who was photographed earlier in the day with the same Vanguard America shield we saw when we first arrived in town, was arrested and charged with murder.

    I am writing this later the same night as the attack and I won’t to pretend to know what it means for our country. The racism is not new. The argument Steppe and Knight were having in their hometown could have happened any time in the last 50 years. But the way the battle over white supremacy was being waged around them was new, and Charlottesville was not ready for it. None of us are.

    When that gray car slammed into those people, it shattered a part of America, or at least the illusion of it. I don’t know what that means yet, because it shattered something in me, too.

    Additional reporting by Brandon Soderberg

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  • Fleet Week’s Questionable Benefits

    By Chris Venn, Member of San Pedro Neighbors for  Peace and Justice

    The arrival of Fleet Week in San Pedro from Aug. 29 to Sept. 3 raises the question of what effect military spending has on society and on our democracy.

    With thousands of sailors in San Pedro along with visitors from Southern California, some local businesses reported that sales increased significantly during Fleet Week and are expecting an economic benefit this year.

    Many communities have become dependent on this spending and the glorification of war and the military budget which Fleet Week represents.

    The budget for fiscal year 2017 will not increase but the military budget is proposed to increase by $53 billion. This money will come directly from social programs that are important for the health and well-being of our communities.

    Fifteen years of bombings and war have not led to peace in Afghanistan, Iraq or the countries that are a focus of U.S. military action. Bombing campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria do nothing to address the reasons for violent extremism and do a great deal to radicalize the people being attacked.

    What will happen to our society with greater and greater military spending? Experience from other countries and history is unequivocal. The build-up of the military has severe consequences on civil liberties, democracy, veterans and youth who join the military because there are few options. Most importantly, foreign policy and economy increasingly dependent on the military drive up the likelihood of war.

    A May 9, 2017 study by the Friends Committee on National Legislation indicates that:

    • Further increasing the Pentagon’s budget is fiscally irresponsible.
    • Pentagon spending rose sharply after 9/11, increasing more than 40 percent in 10 years.
    • Even after Congress instituted a cap on federal spending, the $600 billion Pentagon budget is still at or near the levels of the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
    • The build-up of the military does not decrease but rather increases the threat of war.

    In 2016, U.S. taxpayers paid $57.52 million for Department of Defense each and every hour. The military receives $3,979 from the average California taxpayer, according to National Priorities Project (www.nationalpriorities.org). To date no amount of Pentagon spending has appreciably affected the disappearing job market.

    “For every $1 billion spent on the military 11,000 jobs are created, for every $1 billion spent on education 26,000 jobs are created,”  according The Job Opportunity Cost of War (http://tinyurl.com/JobOpCostofWar).

    Diplomacy and peace through means rather than the militarism which has permeated our society is our only recourse.

    The pen is mightier than the sword.

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  • Columbus Day: A Legacy of Tyranny

    • 08/18/2017
    • Zamná Ávila
    • News
    • Comments are off

    #SomosIndigenas #IndigenousPeoplesDay

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    On Aug. 8, Councilman Joe Buscaino released a letter urging constituents to attend the Aug. 22 Los Angeles City Council meeting and oppose what he called a “misguided proposal” to replace references to Columbus Day in official city documents with Indigenous People’s Day.

    In that letter, Buscaino chose to wrap Columbus in the value cloth of willful immigration and diversity. He even goes so far as to say,  “Columbus, or Columbia, is no longer about a man … it is now a universal theme.”

    As a first-generation Chicano of indigenous Mayan ancestry, I find Buscaino’s call for action deeply troubling.

    Buscaino argues that Columbus Day “recognizes the beginning of a worldwide immigration to America.” Crediting Christopher Columbus with  opening the door for Europeans to immigrate to the Americas isn’t unreasonable. But crediting him with the diversity of our country? That’s not only myopic, but irresponsible. Columbus Day does more than just celebrate immigrants coming to the Americas for a better life; it glorifies a legacy of tyranny, the greed of which brought death and cruelty to a continent. For people of indigenous ancestry, Columbus not only symbolizes the colonization that came from this encounter but also the injustice that still reverberates in the generational hearts of Native Americans.

    After “discovering” the so-called “New World,” Columbus left 39 men there when he returned to Spain. They helped themselves to the local native women until Columbus returned with 1,200 more soldiers, who continued where the original 39 left off–raping, pillaging and torturing. The Spaniards found this (morally) easy to do because they considered the natives subhuman.

    Christopher Columbus allowed his men to use the natives as dog food.

    The mistreatment of indigenous people during Columbus’ voyages is well-documented in letters from passengers and crew members. The correspondence describes how native people were captured and pressed to work in gold mines to the point of exhaustion. Those who resisted or refused were tortured or gruesomely murdered. Failure to produce at least a thimble of gold every three months was punishable. The violators’ hands were cut off and tied around their necks, then left to bleed to death. Some 10,000 indigenous persons died during this time.

    Columbus was significantly involved in setting up the slave trade that sold girls — as young as nine years old — for sex.

    Letters and diaries of soldiers under Columbus’s command document the standard practice of feeding their attack dogs the body parts of indigenous people. Even the tossing of living babies to the dogs was documented.

    If Columbus Day “is no longer about a man,” as Buscaino suggests, why not create a celebration about a people? Italian American heritage is something to be celebrated. Why equate Italian Americans with such a ruthless mercenary?

    In the 241 years since the birth of the United States and almost 525 years since Columbus reached the Caribbean islands, thousands of Italians and Italian Americans have made their mark on American culture. Perhaps those Italian and Italian descendents would be of greater influence and relevance to Italian-American heritage and pride.

    Buscaino said he believes that “recent news events highlight the need for racial and ethnic harmony.”

    In the days following his letter,  James Alex Fields, Jr., an avowed white nationalist, drove his car into a crowd of anti-white-supremacy demon- strators. The protest and counter-protest, a demonstration comprised of white fascists and the Ku Klux Klan,  followed the decision to take down the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who has become an icon of the far right.

    Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and several people were injured.

    What Christopher Columbus represents and what Gen. Robert E. Lee represents aren’t that far apart.

    If Buscaino truly believes in the importance of teaching, “young people about the contributions of all cultures,” then let’s start with a reality check and look at the man he wants to celebrate. The impacts of colonization and Columbus are still felt by natives across the two American continents.

    Indigenous people face mass incarceration, poverty, land stripping, exploitation of natural resources, violence against women and children, failed education, housing issues, inadequate health care, suicide, and culture and language death, among other issues.

    It is easy for people of privilege to ignore history and the suffering inflicted by centuries of injustice, conveniently using fear about the dissolution of a culture to maintain the status quo.

    It astounds me that a councilman — who was only able to give one instance of his accomplishments (a pool in South Los Angeles) during his State of the District — has decided to use his energy to urge constituents to counter the council’s progressive move, instead of focusing on authoring meaningful ordinances that would improve the quality of life for his district’s residents.

    I urge the councilman to rethink his stance. I support his call for constituents to attend the Aug. 22 meeting, but in support of the proposal to eliminate the celebration of a historical monster. Also, the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on Indigenous People’s Day on Aug. 30. Continuing to celebrate Columbus Day is misguided. Ignoring the realities of our history is lazy, insensitive and privileged, and the refusal to remove these references that no longer reflect our values is problematic.

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  • Rancho’s Hidden History Sheds Light on Public Safety Threat

    • 08/18/2017
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Rancho’s Hidden History Sheds Light on Public Safety Threat

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    “Mistakes are a sign of action and movement, and are necessary and inevitable in business,” said RJ Munzer, long-time CEO of Petrolane, in a 1979 interview in Nation’s Business. “But living with mistakes is a sign of stupidity.”

    San Pedro’s Rancho LPG facility — built by Petrolane in 1973 — strikes some as a perfect example of what Munzer was talking about, despite whatever Munzer himself might have thought about the facility.

    Initially built to receive about 50 million gallons of liquified petroleum gas annually via ship, Rancho only received two shipments, totaling less than 12 million gallons. It would never function as originally intended or as its environmental impact report described.

    The first shipment was the only one from Sonatrach, Algeria’s state-owned oil and gas company, which had signed a nine-and-a half year contract.

    The second, following the Sansenia explosion, required an escort of two fireboats and a complete shutdown of the port. Aroused public pressure blocked construction of an anticipated prime customer, a companion mixing plant in Wilmington designed to process propane with air to dilute it so it could substitute for natural gas. Still, Munzer was a lifelong salesman and LPG was what he sold best. But a salesman may not be the best judge of public safety.

    Built at a time of stunningly lax regulations — without either a building permit or an environmental impact report (one was completed just as construct finished) — it has repeatedly been kept alive by bureaucratic inertia, despite sharply increased evidence of risk and failures to comply with regulations. Ever since the 1984 San Juanico disaster near Mexico City, which killed more than 500 people and injured more than 7,000, the dangers of LPG transport have been undeniable, yet they’re still systematically ignored.

    Hidden Origins: Nixon’s Secret Plan Casts Local Shadow

    Why does San Pedro have an ultra-hazardous LPG facility in the first place? Munzer is one key factor. But another is Richard Nixon, who made the Algeria connection possible. According to documents uncovered by Marcie Miller, who served on Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council from 2009 to 2013, a case can be made that the facility is a bizarre offshoot of Richard Nixon’s infamous “secret plan” to win the Vietnam War, which he promised to voters in 1968.

    He didn’t actually have a plan to win the Vietnam War, but he hoped to end it less ignominiously with a strategy to divide the forces of similar national liberation struggles across the globe; one such struggle won Algeria’s independence from France in 1962. Nixon’s 1972 trip to China openly epitomized this approach. But a great deal more was hidden, including a secret effort to woo and influence Algeria — a participant in the Paris Peace Talks. This centered around initiating liquified natural gas and liquified petroleum gas imports as documented in once-classified documents from the White House, CIA and U.S. Department of State.

    “There was a flurry of activity [from] 1969-70: ‘How can we win favor with the Algerians?’” said Miller, summarizing what she had found. “The best way would be to infuse a new government with lots of money in return for something.”

    That something, she suspects, included the San Pedro LPG terminal and Nixon’s involvement helped hurry the process with minimal oversight.

    The interest in liquid natural gas (primarily methane) is central in the documents, given the relative size of the markets involved. But the San Pedro and Algeria LPG connection was publicly announced at the time, just a few months after the LNG deal. What wasn’t known was the hidden geopolitical side of the story.

    “Options open to the U.S. to increase its influence and prestige in Algeria are few,” a February 1967 CIA memo began. However, prospects gradually improved, despite a break in diplomatic relations following the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War in June of that year.

    “[Algerian President Houari] Boumediene has categorically stated that his primary interest is in economic development,” said National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in a memo to Nixon in October 1970. “He is anxious to have greater access to U.S. energy markets, capital resources and technology, and commercial ties with the U.S. have flourished even in the absence of diplomatic relations.”

    In June 1971, Kissinger wrote a memo supporting the Sonartach LNG deal.

    “It would improve relations with Algeria while reducing the Soviet influence and strengthening elements within Algeria who favor closer ties with the U.S.,” he wrote.

    The following March, Kissinger continued.

    “While the Algerians have not abandoned their philosophical positions on such issues as the Palestinian revolution and Vietnam, Boumediene’s pragmatic interest in developing Algeria has made possible a foundation for relating to the U.S. in areas — primarily economic — matching Algeria’s needs,” he wrote.

    On April 3, 1973, the Washington Post had reported a $1.7 billion deal for Algerian LNG from Sonatrach. The deal included the transportation of one billion cubic feet of liquified natural gas within 25 years. Then, on June 21, 1973, the Los Angeles Times announced that Petrolane would purchase about 500 million gallons of LPG from Sonatrach for as much as $40 million within a nine-and-a-half-year period. But neither deal worked out as planned. The LNG deal floundered, resulting in a massive lawsuit, as Algeria repeatedly increased the cost of its product in the wake of the oil crisis and the following geopolitical turmoil. The LPG deal, as noted above, only produced a single six-million-gallon shipment. But at the time the deals were conceived, they were central to altering United States-Algeria relations. Ripples were felt throughout North Africa and the wider oil-producing world.

    A wide range of other issues float through the declassified documents — everything from a proposed $60-plus million air defense system deal with Raytheon to concerns over Algeria having given asylum to Timothy Leary, who the Algerians said had just “dropped out of the sky,” and who worried them as a potential influence on their youth. But the LNG project clearly played the central role.

    Other Factors

    Three other factors loom behind Petrolane’s creation of the LPG facility: the unique nature of the LPG business as a niche product in the oil and gas industry, Petrolane’s spectacular growth record — both in its core business and elsewhere — based on seeing itself primarily as a sales company and the tremendous growth of the oil and gas sector in California within the previous decade.

    As explained in the 2003 book, The Story of LPG, that story “began with a problem, an unstable transportation fuel, continued with a disaster, the Hindenberg crash in 1937 and then developed with the efforts of a few enterprising individuals who had the vision to see its commercial possibilities.”

    The early disasters remain as warnings.

    Munzer had the same sort of enterprising vision that helped launch the industry in the first place, always looking for new ways in which LPG could be used or sold. Replacing distribution via cylinders with customer tanks that could hold several months’ supply was an early source of Petrolane’s growth, for example. Turning LPG into a common auto and truck fuel was a particular long-term obsession for Munzer.

    But he wasn’t just wedded to LPG. Petrolane never had a formal growth plan according to Munzer. “Instinct and desire, those were the things that moved us,” he told Nation’s Business in 1979. “In the early 1960s, we realized we could really sell anything if it fit the locations in which we were operating. Our base was marketing; we understood that function, regardless of the product.”

    In the early 1960s, the Los Angeles Times began publishing annual lists of California’s top 100 companies. In 1963, Petrolane was ranked 82nd in the state, with sales of $29 million and $2.3 million in profits, roughly 1 percent of top-ranked Standard Oil of California, with sales of $2.25 billion and profits of $313.8 million. Two other oil companies made the top 10 that year.

    The next decade saw California’s oil and gas business boom, but excesses and dangers came into focus as well. Smog-fighting intensified as a Los Angeles concern and the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill ignited the modern environmental movement, giving rise to Earth Day and spurring a wave of state and federal laws. Petrolane increasingly promoted LPG as an ecofriendly alternative. In a 1971 Los Angeles Times story, “Petrolane Reaps Profits as LP Scores Hit with Ecology Buffs,” Munzer predicted that LPG would account for 3 percent of all auto fuel in the United States by 1975 — a dramatic increase over the (unverified) 1 percent figure he cited as then current.

    By 1973, the number of oil and gas companies in California’s top 10 had grown to five, including the top three slots. But Petrolane grew even faster: more than twelvefold in sales and almost sevenfold in earnings by 1973. It ranked 37th, with sales of $352.8 million and $15.9 million in profits, while the top five oil companies totalled $21 billion in sales and $1.5 billion in profits.

    At the same time, Petrolane’s holdings had diversified significantly. Operations expanded from 17 states along with British Columbia and Mexico in 1963 to 47 states, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and western Europe in 1973. By that time, Petrolane’s holdings included a “fleet of 61 vessels worldwide for offshore exploration and development, a services division providing directional drilling and surveying services, as well as 51 Stater Brother supermarkets, 26 Mark C. Bloome tire centers, 14 drug stores, and three department stores in a joint venture.”

    Petrolane’s “Green” Fantasy

    Stater Brothers grew rapidly under Petrolane’s ownership, but the tire centers relate directly to our story. When Petrolane made a $30 million offer to buy the tire center chain in January 1972, the Los Angeles Times prominently reported that “ecology-minded motorists will have more facilities where they can have their cars converted from gasoline to propane gas … the fuel conversion facilities would be installed at some of the 22 Mark C. Bloome tire and automotive accessory outlets in Southern California, according to R.J. Munzer, Petrolane chairman.”

    There were three reasons this was an audacious, if not hare-brained scheme. First, LPG conversion kits cost $400 compared to $300 for LNG conversion (and are still seen as problematic today); second, the lack of refueling stations (Petrolane had opened five such stations, including one in Los Angeles, which could work for fleet sales — its initial market niche — but not for individual drivers); third, LPG’s particularly dangerous properties.

    “I would never ride in an LPG-fueled car,” retired oil industry consultant Connie Rutter told Random Lengths News, summing up her safety concerns.

    Still, Munzer saw it as a huge potential market and he was nothing if not a salesman. His attitude permeated Petrolane’s thinking. The after-the-fact environmental impact report for the LPG facility made a characteristically dramatic and wildly unrealistic claim:

    “If all local cars and trucks were equipped with propane combustion equipment, air pollution from motor vehicles would be reduced by 50 to 75 percent in the air basin,” the environmental impact report stated.

    That appeal apparently resonated with public officials at the time. But grassroots environmentalists were unmoved and so was the marketplace.

    At the same time, the extremely primitive EIR paid no attention to any potential for explosions. Nor did it foresee anything like the current operations. It describes the project as composed of three elements: a marine unloading arm, an underground pipeline and a storage and distribution terminal facility, containing no discussion of rail operations at all, much less of safety considerations.

    “Petrolane planned to receive LPG by ship, blend it with air in another plant in Wilmington, then send it out by truck to customers who were affected by an expected natural gas shortage in 1972,” Rutter summed up.

    Petrolane apparently began with the assumption that no EIR would be needed. But on Sept. 21, 1972, the California Supreme Court ruled (in Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors) that government agencies must file EIRs before approving significant private developments. On Oct. 4, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles County Supervisors passed a motion directing the development of county procedures and placed 14 pending conditional use permits on hold. Petrolane’s project was apparently already underway. Its EIR was not completed until the project was done, with no public review process. As noted above, it did not secure a city building permit either. Rather than revisit and correct any flaws, they have been repeatedly treated as sacrosanct and even compounded over the years.

    The most recent example of this involves the State Lands Commission. Corresponding with Rhys Williams, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, one of three board members of the State Lands Commission, homeowner activist Janet Gunter referred to the evidence Miller found.

    “There has never been any environmental impact review that responds to this LPG operation as it exists today,” Gunter wrote.

    She pressed for the commission to get the Port of Los Angeles to provide “a rationale and a justification for the high risk exposure and potential liability that faces the public and the State from this site and its rail use.”

    “You’re asking the commission to exercise jurisdiction that it does not appear to hold, in my opinion,” Williams wrote in response.

    But Miller has also turned up evidence that the commission had a much more hands-on understanding of its role and responsibilities in the 1980s and 90s.

    For example, a calendar item from May 9, 1996 states: “Section 10 of Chapter 29 requires that the commission approve all new contracts; and all amendments to existing contracts entered into by the city as tidelands trustee for, among other things, the processing of gas from the Long Beach granted tidelands.”

    Given this view of oversight responsibilities, the commission would surely seem to have jurisdiction over operational changes that legally require a new EIR, as has happened at Rancho and Petrolane over the years. Activists will be making that argument with renewed force when SLC considers an informational item on Rancho at its Aug. 17 meeting —with a satellite video-conference meeting site at Ports O’Call Restaurant. While many of the details in Rancho and Petrolane’s history remain obscure —if not completely hidden — enough is now known to see how past patterns continue to repeat — and how government officials have repeatedly failed to correct past mistakes.

    “Mistakes are a sign of action and movement, and are necessary and inevitable in business,” Munzer once said. “But living with mistakes is a sign of stupidity.”

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  • Grand Performances Breaks Boundaries

    • 08/18/2017
    • Melina Paris
    • Culture
    • Comments are off

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Across cultures and time, humans have had an appreciation of and connection with dance. Language does not limit dance. There are no boundaries to it; it only requires an open mind and imagination. Grand Performances recently broke the boundaries of imagination.

    In No Side Now: Dance that Abandons Boundaries on Aug. 4 at Grand Performances, four artists’ visions and works are connected into a cohesive and stunning production. The pieces drew on movement styles from broad sources including street dance, studio practices and girlhood games.

    Choreographer Milka Djordjevich’s Anthem questions contemporary dance’s tendency towards neutrality, authenticity and the desexualization of the female body. Four women costumed in pants performed a dance that began, although fluid in form, with restraint. They danced in unison in lines and circles repetitively.

    They moved switching their hands back and forth, from their frontal regions where their hips and thighs met and then back onto their buttocks. This was the dance’s foundation. It escalated to rhythmic chest patting, hand clapping and paddy cake with alternating partners. The dancers tackled multiple contradictory tasks, embracing the performance of invented female persona. Their continuous movements amplified the dance with increasingly elaborate configurations. Anthem ultimately transitioned into full-blown jazz dancing vivacity complete with an original score by Chris Peck.

    Micaela Taylor’s Popmadness

    Micaela Taylor with her company, The TL Collective, have a reputation for precision and a distinctive movement style that blends contemporary dance with theatrical hip-hop.

    Much of this piece was fueled by sharp techno and synth-rich music. But it had a whole lot of soul, too. The dancers’ bodies were precision instruments, yet they embodied liberation. It was a performance, the energy of which you couldn’t take your eyes off.

    They created a synthesis of shape, line and gesture. Popmadness was alive with popping and jazz dancing, character-driven theatrics and ferocious funkiness. The dancers were simultaneously robotic and sensuous while personifying the inventiveness of a new generation of dancers in a world of complexity and opportunity.

    Amy O’Neal’s Opposing Forces: Solo Remix

    This solo piece re-examines Amy O’Neal’s most recent group work, Opposing Forces, developed in collaboration with a company of b-boys.

    After enjoying a multi-city U.S. tour, O’Neal altered her original choreography. It went through an evolution toward self-mastery. The piece originally confronted fears of the feminine in the masculine world of break dance via a solo that travels through the complexities of physical, cultural and creative power.

    O’Neal hit the stage all in black and her face covered with a hoody. She stayed close to the ground for much of the performance. The screen behind her illuminated the dark stage with two rays of light forming an “X” and then, purple haze with soft pink in the center.

    With mind-blowing skill, O’Neal captured the full gamut of dance. She moved seamlessly between balletic effervescence and technical jazz — Broadway hallmarks. She even presented a subtle encapsulation of post-modern and flowed right into isolation, hip-hop and breaking.

    Her movements coupled with her black clothing made O’Neal serpentine — a black cord of energy traversing different landscapes.

    d. Sabela grimes Electrogynous

    A description of d. Sabela grimes’ works offers a look into the depth of his piece, Electrogynous:

    d. Sabela [grimes’] … interdisciplinary performances reveal physical and meta-physical efficacies of Afro-Diasporic cultural practices. His AfroFuturistic dance theater projects consider invisibilized histories and grapple with constructed notions of masculinity and manhood, while conceiving a womynist consciousness.

    Electrogynous could be a theatrical work with its dramatic clarity.

    The five-person troupe, choreographed by d. Sabela grimes, entered a dimly lit stage. They wore strings of electric lights around their necks like nooses. One dancer repeated, “I.”

    The powerful entrance pointed to the range and depth of what was to come. The piece covered far-reaching past and future of black identity, expressed through soundscapes, video and spoken word. It countered historically imposed notions of femininity and masculinity.

    The poetry was as astounding as the dance.

    She be darker than her silhouette’s
    God’s home brew, ocean of soul
    hair full of Coltrane notes.

    The finale was performed to a remix of Bob Marley’s Exodus. This powerfully expressed piece was a narrative. They danced under a pyramid, through sparring movements into elegant kinetics exemplifying a hard fought and spiritual journey to the lyric, “wipe away transgressions” to “move,” fusing hand claps, deeply funky hip-hop and jazz dancing.

    The end of the performance was highlighted with a few words from a performer expressing a self-awareness through a source of higher power:

    “I come. Eternal harvest reaper of no things grim. I, self-law and master, bear witness to the evidence of language, independent of words.”

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  • Pacific Cine Waves

    • 08/17/2017
    • Kym Cunningham
    • Culture
    • Comments are off

    Carceral, Colonial Trauma Take Center Stage

    By Kym Cunningham, Contributing Writer

    On Aug. 25, the Carson Community Center will host Pacific Cine Waves, showcasing a selection of films created by Pacific Islanders.

    The event aims to positively affect communities through storytelling and the arts.

    “Our mission is to support Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers,” said Francis Cullado, executive director of Visual Communications — the first American nonprofit dedicated to empowering Asian Pacific communities by challenging perspectives in the media arts. “If nobody is going to tell our stories, we have to tell our stories ourselves.”

    The event is a collaboration between Visual Communications, Films by Youth Inside, known as FYI Films, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

    Although Visual Communications usually participates in events that feature and support East Asian communities, the creation of Pacific Cine Waves is meant as a stepping stone so that the organization can branch ou, both in terms of perspective and location. Through this free event, Visual Communications hopes to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the media arts world.

    “I don’t want our audience to be just Asian/Pacific Islanders,” Cullado said. “We want to be very inclusive…. It would be great if … all of the different media groups … were working together and making those impacts together.”

    To accomplish this goal, Visual Communications teamed up with director Alex Muñoz of FYI Films, a classically trained filmmaker who has been teaching his trade to incarcerated youth in Los Angeles County — the epicenter of the American carceral epidemic — since 2000.

    Giving Incarcerated Youth a Voice

    Originally intended as a single lecture at the formerly named California Youth Authority, Muñoz’s program snowballed into an accredited eight-week course now featured in several locations, including Los Angeles County, Guam, Hawaii and Ute Mountain. Muñoz’s program specifically focuses on incarcerated youth — most of whom have not had adequate educations. The industry training provides them with a future beyond prison cell walls.

    “FYI empowers youth affected by the juvenile justice system to improve their lives and become self-reliant,” Muñoz said. “Through media literacy and the creative story-telling process, youth find their voice and gain valuable skills that are transferable to all areas of their life.

    “The youth deserve the opportunity for self-examination…. They always make films based on their own personal or immediate past. When they look at their own lives being played on the screen, they realize that they matter.”

    Muñoz’s program has had a ripple effect, impacting not only the lives of the youth but also those of their families and the community as a whole.

    “California [youth] recidivism rate is about 80 percent,” Muñoz explained. “Ours is about 15.”

    Muñoz told a story about two mothers who had struggled with addiction throughout the childhoods of their now-incarcerated sons. After watching the screening of the movie that detailed the devastating effects of parental addiction, these women checked into rehab programs within the same week.

    “The films are … brutally honest,” Muñoz said.

    Hard Improvisation

    But providing these youth with a voice wasn’t easy.

    “This is a population that is so underserved and so overlooked,” Muñoz said. “It took me a while to really figure out [how to teach them]. I couldn’t teach it USC-style because a lot of the youth are subliterate. So, I had to kind of shape the curriculum and make it their own.”

    Despite their lack of formal training, Muñoz said that these youth are incredibly innovative, coming up with ideas like bungee cams and suspended cameras that swing around the trunk of a tree. The youth also work to make these films their own, developing lingo that centers around their shared experience of incarceration as well as improvising all of their own lines.

    Born Fo’ Bang, directed by FYI Films Hawaii Youths tells the story of a Hawaiian youth who refuses to beat up a haole as part of his gang initiation. His older brother threatens to ex-communicate him from the gang and his family. Photo courtesy of Alex Munoz

    “They take ownership of the medium,” Muñoz said. “The first day I give them their cameras, they always aim back at the surveillance cameras.”

    Perhaps even more impressive, Muñoz said, was the rational and harrowing grasp these youths have of their own social positionality, viewing themselves — as one of his students put it — as “expendable.”

    “This is a really fragile population and we’re not doing enough: we’re not rehabilitating them; we’re just punishing them,” Muñoz said. “The more I worked with incarcerated youth, the more I realized that some of the kids were incarcerated because they stole baby formula, because they were a teen father and couldn’t afford it, or they stole a bike. It seemed somehow unjust to be incarcerated for 10 months for stealing a bike from someone’s backyard…. The system is changing for the better, but the odds are stacked against them.”

    Muñoz uses FYI Films, in part, to rebel against the prison industrial complex, the multifaceted societal systems in place which make the future of time and unpaid labor in prison almost a guarantee for many American youth of color.

    “Hollywood needs to do more to empower young people of color from disadvantaged communities,” Muñoz said. “For me, they radicalized cinema…. The youth have kind of formed their own genre. It’s kind of like neo-ethnographic realism…. It’s made me more excited about filmmaking.”

    Guam’s Colonial Trauma

    Muñoz has taken this radicalized notion of what cinema can be back to his father’s home country of Guam. Since 2010, Muñoz has worked with incarcerated youth in Guam, attempting to heal some of the trauma inflicted under hundreds of years of Spanish, Japanese and American colonial rule.

    One of Muñoz’s films to be shown during Pacific Cine Waves, Guam is Crying, weaves together elements of political violence and creative fantasy in demonstration of the terrible ramifications of American foreign policy on the island.

    “During the Iraq War, Guam was losing more soldiers a month than each state in the country,” Muñoz said.

    Strategically, Guam is important to the United States as a military base. Indeed, the U.S. military occupies 48.5 percent of the land. This also makes Guam a target for countries such as North Korea, leading the residents of Guam to live in perpetual fear of impending war.

    Similarly, the residents of Guam are subject to the bizarre limitations of being citizens of an unincorporated U.S. territory rather than a state. They can nominate, but not vote for the president and it takes four Guam residents to equal a single “mainland” resident in terms of delegates. Muñoz’s films seek to address the denial of civil rights and liberties associated with American neocolonialism.

    “We have a lot of repressed pain,” Muñoz said. “We are in crisis and we’re still traumatized.”

    Looking Towards the Future

    In addition to providing an avenue for Pacific Islander filmmakers — such as Muñoz — to showcase how identity politics informs storytelling, organizers are hoping to expand the impact of Pacific Cine Waves to outside of Pacific Islander communities.

    “Los Angeles is very diverse but still very segregated,” Cullado said. “[Pacific Cine Waves] is about connecting with people we haven’t connected with before … and sparking something…. This is just the beginning.”

    Organizers hope that City Hall takes note of this event, projecting an annual film festival with government funding and sponsorship.

    “This is very personal,” Cullado said. “I grew up in [the] West Long Beach-Carson area. This is my hood. This is my community. My daughter goes to school across the street.”

    Muñoz agreed, viewing his work as his way of giving back to his community.

    “Artists always have to give back,” Muñoz said. “They have to do what they can to enhance their community and to contribute to the advancement of a safer … more productive and peaceful society.”

    As the current political turmoil shows no signs of abating, it is necessary for Harbor Area communities to come together under art’s restorative powers. On Aug. 25, Pacific Cine Waves will debut its first Pacific Islander cinema night  at 7 p.m. in the hopes of creating an atmosphere of understanding in the place of biased judgement. RSVP for this free event by Aug. 21 at http://pacinewaves.splashthat.com.

     

     

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  • Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty

    • 08/17/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    Charlottesville, white supremacy and Columbus —And you think it can’t happen here?

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Who would have thought that a Civil War statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee would become the violent focus of hatred and the rallying point for white supremacists and neo-Nazis at this point in American history? Didn’t we bury the last of that conflict decades ago, along with the last living veteran of our bloodiest war? Not really. As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.”

    As Americans, the one thing you can always count on is our love of arguing amongst ourselves — particularly when it comes to politics and national symbols.  But the adoption of Confederate symbolism by the racist white extremists of this country is more than just a disagreement over history.

    It is a troubling reoccurrence of the unsettled issue of America’s “original sin”— slavery. As such, it is an onerous reminder, not only of slavery’s bondage and subjugation, but also of the oppression that has continued over the years. We cannot afford to look upon this from an ahistorical perspective.

    The rise of Jim Crow laws after reconstruction, the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan 50 years after the war and the continued racism confronted in the Civil Rights era are all still part of this on-going struggle over this central issue of American identity — freedom, equality and liberty.

    The curious thing about the majority of these Confederate memorials, as catalogued by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is that most of them were erected between the 1890s and the 1920s, well after the war’s end and mostly in Southern states, but oddly, even in some Northern ones too.

    The number of Confederate statues grew again  between the two world wars in which the participation African American workers in the labor market and the military were seen as a threat by the white working class; and grew more in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement.

    These were not just historical monuments of a long-lost cause, but a reminder by some Southern whites that the past was not dead. We should not be surprised then that white nationalists now embrace these statues, supported by neo-Nazis and promoters of the alt-right who swear allegiance to Donald Trump.

    Southern California is not immune to this racism. In fact, we have our own sordid history involving the KKK,  racial property discrimination, prejudice and oppression of people of color. Today, there are two prominent alt-right figures in the White House, and they come from Southern California.

    Back in the 1920s a large contingent of the Klan, whose headquarters were just west of the current San Pedro Library, marched down 12th Street in their white robes to break up the union hall of the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies as they were called, primarily because they were the first integrated union.

    The IWW was the precursor to the ILWU and were the ones who coined the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all.”  The Wobblies had their heads beat in, were often tarred and feathered and then dumped out in the desert, if not arrested for violating the Criminal Syndicalism Act — a law enacted during WWI to suppress opposition to the Great War.  This law was not revoked until 1967.

    Still if you think that the kind of racist rally held in Charlottesville this month couldn’t happen here in the City of Angels, think again. We have plenty of our own home-grown hate groups, although most might deny it openly. Still, they are here in our neighborhoods (79 groups in California alone) and they pop up in our social media and at neighborhood councils.

    And then there is our very own naive Los Angeles city councilman, Joe Buscaino, who recently put out the call for his supporters to come and support his objection to changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day (see Random Letters, p. 9).

    Now, I haven’t thought very much about Columbus Day, and for most of my life I probably thought of it like St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo — days that we’ve mostly all adopted as being a part of American melting pot.

    Yet, on closer inspection, the adoption of Columbus Day unfortunately coincides with timing of the resurgence of Confederate statuary in America.

    It was first adopted in 1905 and then made a national holiday in 1937 because of the Knights of Columbus lobbying Congress. As national holidays go, it seems to be an also-ran kind of celebration, since at least six states don’t recognize it.

    Yet, this day is celebrated throughout the Americas but with some drastically different interpretations. In Uruguay, Columbus Day is celebrated as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity). In Belize, it’s Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas). Other Latin American countries celebrate it as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race).  All of these takes the emphasis off of the man who got lost looking for a western route to India and initiated the enslavement and near genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.

    I’m sure that Buscaino didn’t learn that piece of history in his American history class at San Pedro High. Yet, he’s calling for us to embrace cultural diversity while embracing Columbus! Kind of like how San Pedro boosters embrace the term but with the aim of bringing more white people to the San Pedro waterfront. Does Columbus not represent the same kind of human repression as Lee’s statue?

    Buscaino’s understanding of diversity has a curious twist to it. He makes the case for keeping the day, yet there’s no other national holiday that is dedicated solely to one ethnic group. So perhaps the City Council should rename Columbus Day “Discovery Day” and let Buscaino celebrate Italian Day with Chianti and pasta any time he likes?

    In The End

    We, as people of a free nation, must be ever vigilant in protecting our freedoms against the “Unite the Right” white-nationalists, who as in Charlottesville or any place else  rise up and threaten the freedoms and liberties of our citizens. It is up to this generation to set this right as generations before have struggled against even greater oppression.  And, we must let it be known that there are actions and speech that step too far, that cross the line between one’s right to protest and another’s right to be free from oppression and abuse—a subtlety that the current occupant of the White House doesn’t get.

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  • Community, Sailors Flock to Fleet Week

    • 08/17/2017
    • Christian Guzman
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Christian Guzman Community Reporter and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Hands down, Fleet Week is one of the armed forces most far-reaching marketing tools to restock its volunteer ranks with young recruits.

    The military pageantry of Fleet Week serves as reminder that there are still opportunities in which they use the latest equipment and technology aboard naval ships and aircraft carriers. It’s one of a number of ways the five branches of the armed forces (possibly six if  the Space Corp is formed) get to maintain their cool factor.

    On Labor Day weekend, thousands of Harbor Area residents and visitors will be drawn to the Port of Los Angeles to tour ships and meet the sailors and crew members from American and Canadian Navy ships.

    The ships will start docking at the Los Angeles Harbor on Aug. 29, and the tours will go from Sept. 1 to 4. The names of the six vessels that will dock will be announced 10 days prior to the beginning of Fleet Week.

    “We will offer a wide range of activities engaging multiple audiences,” said Jonathan Williams, president of the Los Angeles Fleet Week Foundation, which is leading the production of Fleet Week. “I believe Los Angeles [will host] one of the premier Fleet Weeks across the country.”

    Williams is also the CEO of the USS Iowa nonprofit and the president of the San Pedro Business Improvement District, both of which directly or indirectly benefit from the Fleet Week event.

    San Pedro hosted Fleet Week for the first time in 2016; about 200,000 people attended. The budget for the foundation is about $400,000. Williams said the rest of the costs for Fleet Week are covered by monetary and in-kind sponsorships; sponsors include the Annenberg Foundation, Comcast NBCUniversal, the Bob Hope United Service Organization and Yelp.

    U.S. and Canadian militaries also will demonstrate equipment, answer questions and provide live entertainment, while service members tour San Pedro and other parts of Los Angeles.

    The City of Los Angeles, the U.S. Marines and Navy, the Canadian marines and navy, the Battleship Iowa, San Pedro PBID and the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce are major partners in producing Fleet Week. The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce will be providing volunteers to direct both service members and visitors to restaurants, shops and tourist attractions.

    “There is a lot of pride among our businesses [in hosting Fleet Week],” said chamber President Elise Swanson. “It’s great public relations for this community as a visitor-serving destination.”

    Visitors will have to face added traffic issues due to ongoing construction on Harbor Boulevard. But Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations at the Port of Los Angeles, expressed optimism.

    “The port is working with California and Los Angeles [Departments of Transportation] to get people here efficiently,” Sanfield said. “We’re anticipating a little more of a challenge [this year, but] … we’ll have additional traffic controllers during the event.”

    There will be several parking locations along the waterfront and in downtown San Pedro and  complimentary shuttles will ferry visitors to Fleet Week activities. The recently unveiled LA Metro Bike Share will also have bicycles available.

    Successfully getting people around town is key to repeating the first Fleet Week’s commercial success.

    Locally, civic leaders see Fleet Week as an economic opportunity for merchants to beat last year’s numbers.

    “That week attracts approximately 250,000 visitors over the Labor Day weekend,” Swanson said. “That’s a huge economic input. They’ll be visiting the Iowa, eating at restaurants and staying at hotels.”

    “Many businesses said that the first Fleet Week was their best weekend in their history,” Sanfield added.

    The port and the Fleet Week Foundation want to build on that this year.

    Besides stimulating the local economy and providing entertainment to people, an important goal for Fleet Week is facilitating positive interactions between service members and civilians. This past year, service members volunteered at nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, and they are expected to do so again.

    But looking at the event within the context of impending war, Fleet Week takes on more urgent meaning: We’re hiring!

    The Anti-War Perspective

    “Fleet Week is a glorification of the military and a tool for recruitment,” said Chris Venn, member of San Pedro Neighbors for Peace and Justice.

    He added that the outreach to youth in the South Bay and in Long Beach has been frighteningly effective. But Fleet Week also provides an opportunity for dialogue, Venn said.

    Local activist Rachel Bruhnke said she wants to counter the military commercialization the Fleet Week represents. Bruhnke is a member of Code Pink, an organization that seeks to redirect global resources away from war and into health care, education and sustainable jobs. She is working with Venn’s group to produce Peace Week.

    “[We can’t just] celebrate and dance in the streets to the U.S. military when our [wars] have led to extreme chaos and suffering of millions of people … and to increased insecurity, surveillance and bankruptcies at home,” Bruhnke said. “Peace Week will build and celebrate local peace economies to ensure that our communities are putting social needs over militaristic greed.”

    Peace Week will occur simultaneously with Fleet Week. It will include a press conference at Liberty Hill, an Art Build and pizza party at Machine Art Studio, peace leaflets around downtown and a memorial at San Pedro’s Municipal Building.

    Bruhnke added that some of the business owners are not entirely in favor of the military aspect of Fleet Week.

    “It’s economic chemotherapy for some — [effective but drastic],” Bruhnke said. “Imagine what the American people could do if there was a 50 percent decrease in U.S. military spending? With all that money —  imagine all of the creative, community-oriented solutions in health, education, the arts, the environment, small town business support. It would be a boon for America.”

    Taken together, Fleet Week and Peace Week will offer the heterogeneous Harbor Area a variety to celebrate or advocate for.

    For details on Fleet Week visit www.lafleetweek.com.

    For details on Peace Week visit www.codepink.org/lapeaceweek2017.

    Zamná Ávila contributed to this story

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  • Spay/Neuter Wars:

    • 08/17/2017
    • Kym Cunningham
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Dog Owners Enter the Ring at Local Dog Parks

    By Kym Cunningham, Contributing Writer

    There is a war going on in Long Beach, a war fought in the most unlikely of places: the dog park. It can be seen in the nervous sizing up of new dogs when they enter the metal gates, as their owners unlatch harnesses from bellies. It is a war often fought only with stickers, flyers and sharpened glares as pets are corralled into opposing corners of a dust-covered park. But on occasion, these hostilities bubble up into angry words that boil in the unrelenting sunlight: “Fix your dog!”

    On March 17, 2015, Long Beach passed an ordinance requiring that all dogs over the age of six months be spayed or neutered. The law was slated to go into effect in October of 2015. Now, more than two years after the law was passed, the required de-sexing of the Long Beach dog community remains no less controversial.

    Based on the population of Long Beach, General Manager of Long Beach Animal Care Services Ted Stevens estimates that more than 100,000 dogs live within city limits, about 50,000 of which are registered with the city. Half of these registrations are not current. Animal Care Services, also known as ACS, has registrations for 1,400 unaltered dogs within Long Beach, although Stevens estimates that the number of unaltered dogs who actually live in Long Beach is close to 11,000.

    Knocking on Doors

    The spay/neuter ordinance is largely enforced via door-to-door canvassing by Animal Care Services workers.

    “We’ll pick an area, and we’ll generally try to target areas where we have more expired, or what we call temporary, licenses — licenses that are out of compliance,” Stevens said. “We’ll run a report in our system, which will print out all of the animals in that area that we know about…. On those houses, we’ll specifically go up and knock; try to make contact. If they’re not home, we’ll leave a door hanger. We’ll try to work with them to get them in compliance. We can sell them a license on site or we can give them the information to mail it in.”

    For houses in which the dog is both unregistered and anatomically whole, ACS workers will issue warnings and vouchers for free or low-cost de-sexing, attempting to educate residents so that they can get in compliance with the Long Beach ordinance. ACS generally allots a two-month window for residents to spay or neuter their dogs, after which they begin to issue fines.

    “[Door-to-door canvassing] is one of the ways in which licensing can be enforced, as well as one of the ways in which to help reduce the ongoing problem of over pet population,” said Deborah Kopit, CEO and operations manager of the nonprofit Healthcare & Emergency Animal Rescue Team, or HEART.

    HEART provides, among other services, low-cost spay/neuter clinics in Long Beach.

    “It also often provides an opportunity to pet owners to become further educated on responsible pet ownership and provides resources for them to obtain vaccinations, microchips and spaying/neutering,” Kopit said. “Unfortunately, the ratio of pet owners in every county far outweighs that of canvassing officers and the manpower available within many of our cities has been reduced or eliminated for licensing canvassing due to lack of funds for these agencies.”

    Considering that more than 85 percent of unaltered dogs are unlicensed within Long Beach, the task of door-to-door canvassing seems an insurmountable challenge, the kind that begs the question, Where do you even begin?

    An (In)/Effective Ordinance

    In this age of fake and Twitter-inspired news, it is only reasonable to begin with the facts. But in America, even these seem up for debate. Part of the controversy concerning Long Beach’s de-sexing laws stems from conflicting evidence in both ACS data and scientific research.

    Most organizations, including the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, argue adamantly for the wholesale desexing of American pets. And when faced with the overwhelming and heartbreaking numbers — about 7 million homeless animals enter American shelters every year, less than half of which are adopted — it absolutely makes sense to desex every pet.

    However, when these numbers are localized or when these pets are individualized, the validity of the practice becomes much less clear.

    While Animal Care Services proclaims its progress with a record year of low dog impounds and euthanasia in 2016, these numbers cannot necessarily be linked to the city’s de-sexing mandate. From 2011 to 2016, dog impounds by the City of Long Beach Animal Care Services steadily decreased, as did the number of dogs euthanized since 2012. Indeed, 2015 itself saw the greatest drop in dog euthanasia — down by 40 percent since 2014. Considering the desexing laws had only been in place since October of that year and that this substantial decrease did not continue but rather returned to its normalized rate, it seems faulty reasoning to directly link this ordinance to a profound decrease in dog impounds and euthanasia.

    However, the first six months of 2017 witnessed a substantial decrease in the number of dogs euthanized, although the number of dogs impounded remained at a similarly steady rate of decline. From January to June of 2017, ACS euthanized almost 65 percent fewer dogs than it had in the first six months of 2016; around four percent of the dogs it impounded, which was down from almost 11 percent the previous year. It remains to be seen, however, whether this downward trend in the rate of euthanasia will continue in the latter half of 2017.

    While dogs enjoy their playful day at the park, many owners spend their time there feuding about whether dogs should or should not be desexed. Milo and Cooper modeled for this photo. Photo by Raphael Richardson

    Stevens said that pit bull (a generic term used for any of the bully breeds) or chihuahua mixes make up almost half of the dogs that are impounded and euthanized.

    “The number of pit bulls impounded over the last few years has averaged around 20 percent,” Stevens said. “For chihuahuas, it hovers around 25 to 30 percent.”

    Although Stevens said that the majority of the animals that are euthanized or impounded are not fixed, it seems a tenuous claim to link the spay/neuter ordinance to the annual decrease in impounded and euthanized dogs.

    “[The ordinance] is just one more tool,” said Stevens. “Our goal is obviously always to work with the people and get them in compliance, not necessarily heavy-handed enforcement. We really reserve that when we need it.”

    Taming Wild Urges

    Along with the lack of clarity concerning desexing’s relevance to the number of homeless or euthanized dogs, the touted health benefits associated with pet desexing remain unclear.

    However, many pet healthcare groups and organizations, HEART and the Humane Society among them, vehemently argue for the overall health benefits attached to pet desexing.

    “’Fixing’ pets often ‘fixes’ problems relating to behavioral and health/safety issues,” Kopit said.

    Multiple studies corroborate the assertions of both Kopit and the Humane Society that a desexed pet is a healthy pet. In 2013, Banfield Pet Hospital released the State of Pet Health Report which showed that unneutered dogs are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car or bitten by another animal due to their propensity to “roam” to find a mate.

    “Neutering male pets will help stop them from reacting to the ‘call of the wild’ when they smell females in heat,” said Kopit. “This in turn will help prevent them from wanting to escape from their own yards or homes to react to that sexual drive and will ultimately help prevent them from being hit by cars, injured or killed in fights with other animals, or simply lost or stolen. Animals can contract sexual diseases, as can humans. So, when pets don’t mate, the risk of such disease is gone. Dogs and cats can contract other diseases through close contact with other un-vaccinated pets. Thus, by reducing the risk of unsupervised contact, you are reducing the risk of the spread of other diseases as well.”

    Neutering in particular has also been linked to curbing undesirable behavior, such as urine-marking and aggression.

    However, it is also important to note that these are traits usually linked to testosterone, a hormone whose appearance is not limited to the testicles of male dogs.

    Studies have shown correlations between neutering and the prevention of testicular cancer as well as between spaying and breast cancer and pyometra — a uterine infection that must be cured via emergency spay. For females, pregnancy itself can often be fatal. In both males and females, de-sexing has been linked to a reduction in the risk of perianal fistula — a painful skin disease in which infected boils surround the dog’s anus.

    Scientific Grey Area

    For every fact that seems to advocate pet desexing, there is a similar detractor. In females, early spaying can lead to incontinence and an increased risk of urinary tract infections, which is especially important considering organizations like the ASPCA claim that dogs can be desexed as early as eight weeks old.

    A study completed by UC Davis in 2013 found that allowing some of the reproductive hormones to flood the dog’s system — most of which are within the dog’s sex — can be beneficial to that animal’s future health. The study found that golden retrievers desexed before one year of age had increased risk of hip dysplasia and torn ligaments due to uneven bone growth, which could be tied to an imbalance or disruption in their reproductive hormones as a result of desexing. These dogs were also found to be four times as likely to develop bone cancer.

    Most opponents of pet desexing argue that it leads to obesity and lethargy, which then dramatically increase the likelihood that the pet will develop joint disease, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Except in some cases of hypothyroidism, however, desexing is not to blame for weight gain; rather, overeating and lack of exercise are the true culprits. A desexed dog often needs less food and more exercise than its intact counterparts, usually less than it was fed before the surgery. Many pet owners do not realize this, leading to a false correlation between desexing and obesity-related health complications.

    All About the Owners

    In looking at the varied findings from different studies, it is difficult to say whether desexing is healthier or more harmful for dogs, and in many ways, the health benefits seem to correlate more to the specific breed or individual dog than to vast generalizations. As such, it seems at the very least misguided to force owners to desex their dogs.

    But the ordinance might not have ever been put in place to promote the health of dogs. Rather, proponents of this bill, among them Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, stressed its importance in promoting responsibility among Long Beach pet owners. And so, it would seem that the true argument behind this ordinance lies not in the health of the animals but in the doubt of their owners’ relative capacities to care for their pets.

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