• Tongva Allies With Homeowners to Fight Plains All American

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On June 14, John Tommy Rosas, tribal administrator for the Tongva Ancestral Tribal Nation, filed a notice of public nuisance against Plains All American Pipeline.

    The notice was related to the April 19 Santa Barbara oil spill. The Tongva Ancestral Tribal Nation’s traditional lands encompass the Los Angeles basin, from the offshore islands to as far inland as Redlands.

    “Due to your negligence on May 19, 2015, you created a disaster,” states the letter that the Tongva Nation’s legal representative, Anthony Patchett, wrote.

    It goes on to cite some well-known aspects of the disaster—the leaking of 101,000 gallons of crude oil, two state beaches closed, a fishing ban and the deaths of hundreds of birds—but it also notes that an oil slick “stretched down the shoreline of California, and entered the Tongva/TATTN tribal waters and tribal coastal areas including wetlands of the Tongva Ancestral Territorial Tribal Nation in Marina del Rey.”

    The concern with Plains was not new, Rosas explained.

    “I’ve been fighting with Plains and obstructing their permits, and continuations of their impact on our land for six or seven years now,” Rosas said. “They’ve been a constant problem.

    “We have serious concerns about all this oil production offshore, the impacts, the fracking, it’s all been an issue forever… It impacts land, it changes the integrity of the land.”

    And, that clashes with deeply held spiritual beliefs.

    “So we have a duty to do what we can do, no matter who’s controlling the land,” he said. “We still fight for the earth and fight for the animals for the environment and for the future generations, no matter who they are.”

    The Tongva tribe has a unique legal role to play, Rosas argued.

    “We have international law rights that have to be honored and so the oil spill violates local state and federal law, but it also violates international law, that only we have the standing on,” he said.

    Ocean protection is becoming increasingly important for a variety of reasons, and the Tongva, who have been here for 8,000 to 10,000 years, have the most long-standing interest in such protection locally.

    The oil in Rancho’s pipeline actually belonged to ExxonMobil. When ExxonMobil applied for an emergency permit to move its oil by truck, while the pipeline was being repaired, the Tongva spoke up right away.

    “I said we object to this,” Rosas said. “I’m not trying to take credit but they denied their permit.”

    The letter also referenced Plains’ mismanagement at Rancho LPG. Patchett explained that the letter was a first step, which could be followed up with the filing of a lawsuit. Five days later, Patchett sent a letter representing Rosas, as well as San Pedro Peninsula Homeowner’s United, requesting a public hearing regarding Rancho’s operations from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. The request is specifically for an administrative nuisance abatement proceeding, as provided for by the municipal code. The letter requests a hearing “to determine if under Section 12.27.1 LAMC Rancho LPG:

    1. Jeopardizes or adversely affects the public health, peace, or safety of persons residing or working on the premises or in the surrounding area, or;

    2. Constitutes a public nuisance, or;

    3. Has resulted in repeated nuisance activities.

    This represents a new line of attack that’s never been tried before, so it remains to be seen what will come of it. But it’s not the only action being taken in the aftermath of the latest Plains disaster.

    “We’re also submitting petitions to the EPA,” Patchett said, “But that’s not finalized yet.”

    “Rancho, we just feel that’s an inappropriate place,” Rosas said. “We also have tribal and cultural resources there. I think they damaged one of our Indian village sites and we don’t know what’s going on there. They haven’t consulted as required by law, they haven’t let us do monitoring.”

    This opens up yet another new legal front.

    “We’re not just wanting them to correct what’s been done, and remediate, but we want those tanks out of there,” he said. “They’re just like big bombs waiting to go off. I just think it’s in an inappropriate place. I think it hasn’t been done right. The regulatory government agencies have let them retroactively keep that plant there. If they tried to do that now, they wouldn’t be allowed. So, I don’t think they should be able to do that.”

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  • #LoveWins: LGBTQ, Allies Celebrate Nationwide Marriage Equality in Long Beach

    The U.S. Supreme Court Declared Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Legal in All 50 States

    By Crystal Niebla, Contributing Reporter

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer leaders and allies joined nationwide celebrations after the Supreme Court historical ruling legalized marriage for same-sex couples in all 50 states on June 26.

    More than 200 of the LGBTQ community and its allies—LGBTQ supporters who are heterosexual and/or cisgender people—gathered outside the Long Beach City Hall, hearing community leaders speak about the court’s decision. Earlier that day, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who is openly gay, raised a rainbow flag over the Civic Plaza as a symbolic gesture of victory for equality.

    Garcia, who has been with his partner for seven years, said that the same-sex marriage ruling was “uniquely important [and] American” because it represented the equality all should have.

    “We know now that we are equal as anyone else, and our opportunities as a hopefully future-married couple, will be accepted no matter where we go, and that’s really special for all of us,” he said.

    At the rally, Long Beach Law law Audrey “Stephanie” Loftin, with her wife, Rebecca Birmingham, explained the legalities of the Supreme Court ruling. Same-sex marriage fell under the liberties and protections granted the Fourteenth Amendment, Loftin said. However, she said the ruling “did not describe what marriage is.”

    Following the court’s 5-4 vote decision, President Barack Obama made a statement on the progress in equality the U.S. has made.

    “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments,” Obama stated. “Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

    Although marriage for same-sex couples is now legal nationwide, many of the civic leaders said that there are still issues that the LGBTQ community must tackle, such workforce discrimination and high rates of homelessness. According to U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, between 20 to 40 percent of the nation’s homeless population consists of LGBTQ youths.

    Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, #NotTooProudToFight trended on Twitter—a hashtag that urged that the discrimination toward the LGBTQ community is heavier for people of color because they experience intersectional forms of prejudice.

    “I think it’s about building a momentum that remind us of how interrelated these [issues] are,” said Katie Cox, who identifies as queer. Cox held a sign with her friend that illuminated the conversation.

    “One of the reasons that I think gay marriage has had so much popularity … is that it doesn’t fundamentally challenge [issues] like systemic racism in this country,” Cox said. “I think that a lot of my friends of color who are LGBT feel alienated because they don’t include an intersectional perspective…”

    Thadeo Kimble, 34, of Long Beach, who identifies as transgendered man and volunteers at the Long Beach LGBTQ Center, said he felt the ruling made the LGBTQ community voice stronger but other forms of stigma need to be solved.

    “When we have moments like this, yes, we have to celebrate, but there’s still much more to fight for. Everything’s under an umbrella,” Kimble said. “It’s going to take time and every voice will be heard.”



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  • LBPD Focus on Public Relations at Town Hall Meeting

    By Diana Lejins, Contributing Columnist

    Hiring practices, promotions, diversity and community engagement were the focus of a June 11 town hall meeting that the Long Beach Police Department hosted at Church One, in the northern part of the city.

    While promoted as a gathering to address the recent killings of two unarmed young men, only the last 20 minutes were allowed for the more pressing and controversial issues.  Crammed into those precious few moments were racial profiling, use of force policy, officer-involved shooting and police accountability or transparency.

    The entire strictly-controlled encounter appeared to be more of a public relations outreach rather than what should have been an honest and sincere dialogue with the community.

    The Victims

    Hector Morejon, 19,  was allegedly trespassing when Officer Jeffrey Meyer shot him on April 23. The teen’s autopsy report has been withheld pending further investigation. The family has stated that they do not believe the LBPD can fairly investigate its own.

    “The police department cannot investigate itself,” said Ruben Morejon, Hector Morejon’s brother. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest.  It should be turned over to the Department of Justice.”

    Feras Morad, who weighed about 120 pounds, was exhibiting erratic behavior after consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms and jumping through the glass of a second-story window on May 27.  The 20-year-old honor student and nationally-recognized debater was shirtless, without any weapons, and bleeding from multiple wounds. Sources said that at least three firefighters were on the scene along with Officer Matthew Hernandez, who shot Feras.

    Morad’s cousins, Kareem and Hassen Morad, made impassioned pleas for change.

    “The use of lethal force was not justified on my unarmed cousin,” Hassen Morad said. “I’m asking you to ensure that no family has to endure the hell that my family has experienced as a result of  this tragedy…. The question I pose to every member of the police department is this — imagine your son or daughter in the same situation — how would you want the officer called in to react?  Every victim of lethal force is a loved one to somebody out there.”

    Several medicinal marijuana advocates connected the shootings to the lack of compassion and zero tolerance mentality that is pervasive in the LBPD. They expressed concerns about the number of marijuana and other non-violent offenses that have landed “people of color” and persons with mental illnesses in the prison system disproportionately. The irony of the situation is that those with PTSD and other mental problems could be helped with medical cannabis, serving to prevent these types of outcomes.

    The organization “Black Lives Matter” also made their presence known with T-shirts and passionate, pointed speeches and questions.

    Public Relations Paid by Taxpayers

    Because of recent events, the LBPD reportedly is in the process of hiring a public relations firm to enhance its image.  If the LBPD cleaned up its department, mandated excellence, compassion and honesty from all of its officers and actually made changes in attitudes towards all members of the community, they wouldn’t need to hire an expensive marketing firm at taxpayer expense.  That money would be better spent on individual body cameras that could better protect the officers and the public.  These cameras could also effectively monitor and help to ensure quality of service.
    About the Author:
    Diana Lejins is a seasoned journalist and photographer, focusing mainly on civil rights, animal welfare, environmental and disability issues.

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  • Cruising for the Blues, Looking For The Light

    By B. Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude

    Before I could cross 6th Street, I had to make a quick trip to see what that righteous music that was pulling me down the block on yet another Third Thursday in San Pedro.

    An energetic music happening was taking place with Soul Shot on 6th and Mesa streets. The group was burning the corner up with a free concert of your favorite rhythm and blues grooves. Delivering such way down deep funkiness, you could not help but smile and shake your bones.

    One song as an example that Soul Shot played, was Bill Withers “Use Me Up.” That tune had a Latin funk feel so infectious that everyone was floating from the energy. This band has been part of The San Pedro scene for a while, one that if you haven’t seen,  you should. Here is an example of a band who doesn’t just play covers, they embody the original. Soul Shot will be back at 6th and Mesa for another funk fest of soul classics on the next First Thursday, July 2.

    Three performance venues were having quite the scene on June 18.

    Off The Vine, Wine Shoppe and Lounge has presented quality music acts almost since they opened their doors. In November of 2013 owners Michael and Alie Koth first presented local artist and musician Mike Rivero, who is the founder of the Cuban salsa group, Calle 6. Rivero kicked off this long running series of live shows  with a solo performance in November 2013. Other upcoming shows include San Pedro favorites: the soulful Chad Bishop and the rock outfit Twenty Eyes.

    My mission on Third Thursday was to catch Dave Widow and Friends at Off The Vine. On this night the surprise friends were Joe Puerta and Burleigh Drummond of the band Ambrosia. This was a Dave Widow date I didn’t want to miss out. I was not disappointed in the least.

    This current relationship between the veteran acts began this past summer. Dave Widow had his longtime friend Joe Puerta, along with keyboardist Christopher North played a date at Alvas showroom. Joining the band that night was veteran session percussionist Alvin Taylor in what was a sell out show.

    This led to Dave Widow and The Line Up opening for Ambrosia at the House of Blues in Anaheim. On that evening, a jam ensued with the Grammy-nominated rock group (three of the original members are from San Pedro) who invited Dave Widow up to play with them.

    On this Third Thursday, a very full room at Off the Vine waited in anticipation and was served some serious blues-rock. Dave Widow played songs from his CD Waiting For The World To End and random covers to everyone’s satisfaction. Throughout the two sets Widow maintained that soulful blues feel and tone, while the music went in new directions with Drummond and Puerta laying down the groove.

    The energy between the players and the audience was palatable.

    “I had a great time playing for a helluva enthusiastic crowd, in this oasis of joy at Off The Vine,”  Puerta said. “My old comrade, Burleigh jumped head first into the fray and kept the joint rockin’. Dave was inspired to new heights and I enjoyed keeping that groove flowing and growing.”

    “It was a fun show, I really enjoyed playing with Joe and Burleigh,” Widow said. “Those guys inspired me to a higher level in the second set. I felt we were playing off each other like we were all-as one”

    Like all great players, the three men listened to one another finding their personal voice in a musical conversation that spoke volumes to those listening.  For that moment in time, it was perfect.

    “One thing I know for sure, blues is the truth,” Burleigh Drummond said of the evening. “I had a great time playing with my bandmate Joe Puerta and the impressive Dave Widow the other night at Off The Vine. The Blues was well served that night. I sincerely hope to do it again soon”

    One of the many patrons who filled Off The Vine that night was Jim Wasti, owner of Jim’s Car Service on Pacific.

    “I was right in the front and couldn’t believe how good it was,” Wasti said. “I’m a big fan of Ambrosia and have been following Dave’s music for a while. It was one of the best shows I’ve been too.”

    The Whale & Ale an old English pub and restaurant is nestled in the heart of the Art District at 7th and Centre streets. This establishment has also has had some very fine entertainers over the years. On this particular Third Thursday, owner Andrew Silber had saxophonist Benn Clatworthy playing the be bop style of jazz to a receptive crowd. Clatworthy will be returning to The Whale & Ale July 18. Coming up on First Thursday is the outstanding Barry Anthony’s six piece Dixieland band.

    Across the street is Godmothers Saloon run by Sandra Marchioli.

    “We are now having live music seven nights a week,” the owner was proud to announce.

    This venue is the spine of the community music scene. Bringing diverse local  favorites like Americana artist Cliff Wagner & Old #7 or rockabilly performers like Deke Dickerson, as well as local favorites Seatbelt and classic rock cover bands.

    However, blues is a staple here, recently Marchioli has brought the tremendous talents of Candye Kane, White Boy James and The Blues Express, The New Blue Revolution, The Mighty Mojo Prophets, Henry Carjaval of Rod Piazza’s Mighty Flyers. Making Godmothers a regular stop for a mix of other blues talents.

    On June 20, Dave Widow played a second inspired show this time at Godmothers with Joe Puerta of Ambrosia and New Orleans drummer-vocalist Chris Couchois. The group scorched the room with fiery covers and originals, including Ambrosia classic “Holding on to Yesterday.” Dave Widow and Friends will return July 19. I can’t wait to see who will be playing on that date.

    All three of these fine establishments are part of the downtown scene whether it is First or Third Thursday, or any other day of the week, downtown San Pedro is the place to be.

    Off The Vine
    600 S. Pacific Ave., Suite 103, San Pedro
    (310) 831-1551; www.offthevinewines.com

    The Whale and Ale
    327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Godmothers Saloon
    302 W. 7th St., San Pedro
    (310) 833-1589

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    The Farm to Door Food Delivery Service

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    We all have guilty pleasures. Mine happens to be watching the Food Network for hours on end and then trying to recreate lavish dinners for my friends and neighbors. It’s a process that can take days on end — especially if I’m trying to plan a Game of Thrones-themed dinner with six courses and a wine pairing.

    Needless to say, this can put a slight strain on both my stomach and my wallet. Actually, “slight strain” is an understatement. I’d be lying if I told you that I have never spent an entire paycheck at Whole Foods. That being said, there is a way to eat fresh, eat well and eat with ease without throwing down wads of cash.

    Enter Terra’s Kitchen, a new farm-to-front door food delivery service, which brings the finest ingredients and chef-designed recipes right to your door.

    Essentially, it’s everything you need to cook great-tasting meals at home. Their goal is quite simple: bring back family dinner night with less hassle and at a fraction of the price.

    Here’s how it works: Go to their website and choose from their menu of seasonal recipes. Unlike some of their competitors, Terra’s Kitchen allows you to swap out or remove recipes. Next, experiment with different cooking techniques and flavor profiles you wouldn’t typically try at home, like chicken with sugar pea and radish salad, or skirt steak with chimichurri and sweet potato fries. Menus are constantly evolving and they only use the best ingredients.

    Then, just wait for your delivery.

    Terra’s Kitchen sources their produce and meat from local purveyors and then preps and portions everything for you. Everything is delivered in a refrigerated vessel with step-by-step, foolproof recipe cards. All you have left to do is cook and enjoy.

    If that doesn’t make your life easier, I don’t know what will.

    Gina Ruccione is a self-proclaimed food critic, has traveled all over Europe and Asia, and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. You can visit her blog at http://foodfashionfoolishfornication.com.

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  • Grassroots Fighter Seeks Seat In Congress

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In April of 2014, Common Cause and the ACCE Institute released a report, “Big Oil Floods the Capitol: How California’s Oil Companies Funnel Funds Into the Legislature.”

    The No. 1 recipient identified was State Sen. Rod Wright, who subsequently resigned following an unrelated criminal conviction. The No. 2 recipient, Isadore Hall III, was the assemblyman who replaced him in a low-turnout special election this past December.

    Now, Hall wants to take his oil-drenched politics to Washington, as the anointed successor to Janice Hahn, who’s running for the board of supervisors. But, while other political insiders have bowed out of the race, he’s now got a very serious grassroots environmental crusader running against him: Hermosa Beach Mayor Pro Tem Nannette Barragan, fresh off her leading role in the March 3 landslide 3-to-1 defeat of “Measure O,” which would have opened up Hermosa to oil drilling for decades to come.

    On April 14, Equal Pay Day, Barragan made her announcement.

    “I’m excited to announce that I will be running for Congress and I am glad to do it on a day that clearly illustrates how much more work needs to be done to make sure that everyone is treated fairly,” Barragan said. “I have always and will always be an advocate for women, families and equal rights. Ensuring women get paid the same as men who do the same work will be a pillar of my campaign.”

    Although living outside the district, Barragan is a Carson area native, born of immigrant parents. She has family in Wilmington and San Pedro as well. “I’m about to move back home, coming back to Pedro,” she said.

    Fighting for, protecting and inspiring working class families like the one she grew up in is a common thread connecting almost every issue Barragan touched on in a recent interview, from raising the minimum wage to protecting children’s health from a polluted environment.

    “In the district, where I come from, the median income is about $44,000, and only 60 percent graduate from high school, and 10 percent go on to college,” she said. “So, I just tell people I’m one of the 10 percenters who beat the odds… I was able to go to college, and I’ve got, I achieved, the American dream. Now, I’m coming home to make sure that others have the same shot at the American dream. So, for me it’s a very hopeful story.”

    The day she announced, Barragan got formal support from Blue America PAC, which supports progressive Democrats. It was announced by influential progressive blogger Howie Klein, Blue America’s treasurer, who also indicated support to come from RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic party’s environmental caucus, and executive director of Climate Hawks Vote, dubbed “a superPAC on a shoestring,” which won 11 of the 17 races it endorsed in 2014, its first active cycle.

    “The contrast between Nanette and her opponent couldn’t be clearer,” Miller said. “One has a proven track record fighting big oil and winning, the other sides with big oil.”

    These seemingly small deeds have since been followed with endorsements from nearby Congress members Linda Sanchez (D-CA 38) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), both of whom have previously represented portions of the district, as well as two Arizona Congress members, Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva, and three more from Texas: Joaquín Castro, Rubén Hinojosa and Filemon Vela, as well as BOLD PAC, the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She’s also been endorsed by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, South Gate Vice Mayor Bill De Witt and Carlos Alcala, the Chicano Latino Caucus chairman of the California Democratic Party.

    If it sounds like it’s shaping up to be a black-Hispanic struggle, that may reflect networks of initial support, but a peek beneath the surface reveals something more troubling. In addition to oil money, Hill and Wright were also neck-and-neck near the top of recipients of tobacco money, which was once strictly off limits for Democrats.In August, the Sacramento Bee reported that Hall was one of six Democrats cited taking more than $20,000 in tobacco money in recent years.

    “All of them represent districts with high poverty,” the Bee noted, “Smoking is more prevalent in poor communities—nearly 28 percent of adults who live below the poverty line smoke, compared with 17 percent of adults who are at or above it, according to data from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

    In short, the real interests Hall represents are directly threatening to the black community. At the same time, Barragan has a track record of working across racial lines. As a student at UCLA, she had an internship at the Clinton White House doing outreach to the African-American community.

    At first, she could not believe it when a UCLA career center advisor urged her to apply for internships in D.C.

    “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ My parents are immigrants from Mexico, I have no political ties.”

    When the Supreme Court rejected her, it confirmed all her fears, but then the White House accepted her.

    The result “was a turning point in my life,” Barragan said. “I saw so many people that looked just like me, so many people that had my story. They didn’t have the political ties, they also came from humble beginnings. And for me, that was really motivational, and inspired me to say, ‘Look if I work hard, I too can do anything that I want.’”

    As a result, she ended up “serving as a facilitator between the president and any African-American organizations,” she said. “Working on a lot of issues that affect a lot of people of color and minorities, and other areas as well… people like Martin Luther King III, and Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.”

    But that was only a beginning.

    “I loved it so much that I went back in 1999, to work for the NAACP on the hill, to do legislative policy, working on health care policy for the NAACP,” she said. “One of the areas was racial health disparities,” which was an issue being highlighted by the Surgeon General at the time.

    Barragan’s awareness of those disparities clearly influences how she sees the public health side of environmental justice issues, as she made reference to the “toxic tour” conducted by Communities for a Better Environment.

    “It’s pretty startling to hear the members, to see that children are dying of cancer before they graduate from high school. To me that’s just unacceptable.”

    Even without a guided tour, air pollution impacts in the district are unavoidable, Barragan noted.

    “We see children who walk around with inhalers,” she said. “It’s a public health crisis.

    “How do we attract businesses to come in bringing cleaner, greener jobs?” she asks. “How do we make that change?”

    On June 10, Climate Hawks Vote announced its endorsement of Barragan. It explained the endorsement in part by recounting a telling bit inside the drama that’s usually completely hidden from voters:

    Last week during a critical vote on a fracking bill, state legislator Isadore Hall III was sitting on the sidelines and chillin’ with his friends at Western States Petroleum Association as the vote count seemed to stall at 19 (it needed 21 for passage). He told them his voting strategy—he would abstain so as to not cast the deciding vote, but if two others voted for it he’d have to go along so as to not hurt his reputation with the greens. Fortunately for Hall’s entirely undeserved reputation, two others voted yes, so he cast vote No. 22.


    Miller said they hoped the early endorsement would help cut through the fog.

    “I wanted to make an early endorsement, much earlier than usual—the primary is a year away—because I’m really excited about Nannette,” Miller said. “And, partly because I wanted to try to get the word out among the national folk that this race presents a clear, classic difference between a big oil-funded politician, who is very much part of the machine, versus somebody who is an outsider, fresh-faced and is right on all the policy issues.”

    While Hall wrapped up a lot of early endorsements, Miller said many are having second thoughts.

    “I have already started to talk to both elected officials who regret their endorsements, and Democratic club people who regret their early endorsements,” she said.

    It’s not just oil and tobacco interests that have raised questions about Hall.

    In late November, the Los Angeles Times reported that Hall was “facing criticism from competitors for his use of campaign funds to pay for expensive dinners, limousine rentals, luxury suites at concerts, and trips to resorts in Maui, Ojai and Pebble Beach.” Hall reportedly called them a political necessity in the race. “Hall said he has to raise and spend money to introduce himself to those he hasn’t represented in the past.”

    All that money did not buy very many votes, however. Hall did well enough to avoid a runoff election, winning almost 18,000 votes for 55.9 percent. But in the 2012 general election, Wright garnered more than 10 times as many votes, while the badly-beaten Republican tallied three times as many. Now, Hall is trying to use that paltry turnout, purchased in part through lavish spending, to lay claim to a congressional district in which most people have never heard of him.

    Barrragan doesn’t expect to outspend Hall, only raise enough to get her message out and mobilize grassroots support, as she did in the fight against Measure O. She began that fight as an outsider, ran for city council, won, and over time, mobilized such strong support that the council as a whole moved from formal neutrality to outspoken opposition to the drilling plan. And that grassroots connection remains primary for her.

    “We’re proud of the endorsements we’ve received,” she said, “But for us, this is going to be about focusing on people in the district, not the insiders and special interests, but doing what the people of the district want.”


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  • Keeping the Mic Live and Open

    By Charles Lamont, Guest Columnist, and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    In what seems like a new addition to San Pedro’s already rich cultural smorgasbord, the open mic scene in San Pedro is a growing phenomenon with at least five venues every week.

    The original open mic scene started at the old Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse back when it occupied the building where Niko’s Pizzeria now stands. At least that’s the way Owen Tirre remembers it. Tirre, has been running the open mic at the Wigwam for several years.

    There are a great number of talented players in San Pedro, but they are fragmented into pockets of players and may never cross paths. The open mic scene is the place where they might meet and play together — creating phenomenal music on the spot. And, the people who return frequently to perform improve noticeably each time.

    The wooden, open ceiling structure and wide open spaces looks and feels like a barn. With a mini seashell stage and a microphone artist of all sorts step to the stage to play original music.

    Many performers seem to fit a type: long haired, fedora wearing artists of age 50 or better. Their music almost always defaults to folk by virtue of their acoustic guitar, but their lyrics come from well-lived lives that come from travel, experience and wiry humor of going through it all, whether bad or good.

    Tirre sees the local open mic scene as a place where artists can play unfettered by the demands of live entertainment venues.

    “A venue was needed for performing artists, poets and spoken word performance artists such as Randy Stodola,” said Robert Brandin, who helps run the open mic at the Wigwam. “The beginners and the performance artist types need a place to start out where the audience is supportive… For many seasoned performers who have stopped playing, the open mics are the way back to playing once again.”

    Stodola is a professional artist who fronted punk bands the Alley Cats and the Zarkons during the 1980s and early ‘90s. After a long hiatus, Stodola has reemerged at various venues from Hollywood to San Pedro. The open mic scene is where he tries out material on where he performed music he hasn’t played in a long time.

    “If you play original music, where do you play in the Harbor area?” Brandin asked. “Bars want mainly danceable cover music.”

    Indeed, there’s an over-abundance of talent in this town and too many venues either requiring artists to pay to play or play covers, providing little opportunity for artists to try new material on live audiences.

    At least at an open mic, there’s a stage and willing ears. But the thirst is deep in San Pedro.

    When Tirre began experiencing burnout earlier this year, he nearly stopped hosting them until local artists Brandin and Richard Sauers picked up the slack with some much needed energy.

    “I like the vibe and the space we created for people to come and do their thing,” Brandin said. “We’ve seen people blossom as a result of having a place to play. Without the availability of a performance place, many players would not have regained the confidence to play again.”

    It’s hard to say whether the growth of open mics in San Pedro is an isolated phenomenon. Long Beach still has lots of open mic venues such as Viento y Agua and 4th Street and Vine.

    It has been my experience that things sometimes just come together at open mic night. The vibe is just right, the combination of performer and audience is just right and the magic just happens.

    Other times it can be awkward or embarrassing but it’s all about the people — the performer and the audience. It couldn’t happen without an accepting and supportive audience.
    Venue: The Royale Hotel, 238 W. 10th St., San Pedro
    Time: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Mondays and Saturdays
    Details: (310) 832-5225

    Venue: The Redmen’s Lodge/Wigwam, 543 Shepard St., San Pedro,
    Time: 6:30 p.m, Wednesday
    Details: Redman’s Lodge on Facebook

    Venue: Sacred Grounds, 468 W. 6th St., San Pedro
    Time: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays
    Details: Sacred Grounds on Facebook

    Venue: Off the Vine, 491 W. 6th St., #103, San Pedro
    Time: 7 p.m., Every other Thursday
    Details: Off the Vine on Facebook

    Venue: The Corner Store, 1118 W. 37th St., San Pedro
    Time: 3 p.m. First Sunday Ukelele Hootenany; 3 p.m. Last Sunday
    Details: The Corner Store on Facebook

    Venue: Old Torrance Coffee and Tea, 1413 Marcelina Ave., Torrance
    Time: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays
    Details: http://otcoffeetea.com/

    Venue: The Crest Sports Bar and Grill, 1625 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance
    Time: 7 p.m., Thursdays
    Details: http://thecrestsportsbarandgrill.com/

    Venue: Viento y Agua, 4007 E. 4th St., Long Beach
    Time: 7 p.m. Thursdays
    Details: www.vientoyaguacoffeehouse.com

    The Wigwam and The Corner Store are mostly unplugged. There’s a mic and speaker system at Sacred Grounds.

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  • Pope Francis Speaks Out on Climate Change

    ‘Hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor’

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In 1891, Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum, examined the suffering of the industrial working class, endorsed labor rights such as the freedom to form unions, and laid the foundation for Catholic social justice doctrine and activism that continues to this day.

    On June 18, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical, Laudito Si’ (“On Care For Our Common Home,”) which could potentially rival Rerum Novarum in terms of its sweeping impact on human affairs.

    “Our house is going to ruin, and that harms everyone, especially the poorest,” Pope Francis said, on the eve of releasing Laudato Si’.

    The theme of interrelated social and ecological harm runs throughout the document.

    “[W]e have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor,” it states. “Mine is therefore an appeal for responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: Till and keep the garden’ in which he was placed.

    “I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which follows the church’s social doctrine.”

    The Archdiocese of Los Angeles sent out an email in support of the encyclical, saying, “Today, Pope Francis called on world leaders and everyday people to come together to tackle climate change.” He urged people to “echo the Pope’s call for climate action! Call on world leaders to reach a meaningful climate agreement in Paris.”

    The encyclical completely undercuts the climate denialism prevalent with the GOP, which is often camouflaged in religious hand-waving. Typically, the two Catholics running for president, Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, both sought to wave off the encyclical, as if it were a random office memo.

    “I hope I’m not, like, going to get castigated for saying this in front of my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” was Bush’s response.

    “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality,” Santorum said.

    But scientists have applauded the document, which is actually deeply rooted in Catholic social theology, and does not hesitate to label current economic practices as sinful—precisely the sort of “theology and morality” Santorum purportedly was asking for.

    Indeed, the first several pages take pains to situate Laudato Si’ within the context of earlier church teachings, papal encyclicals and other statements. The encyclical takes its name from a passage from St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, Laudato si’, mi’ Signore”—“Praise be to you, my Lord,” which continues, “through our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.”

    After quoting that passage, the encyclical continues:

    This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.


    Turning to more recent social teachings, the encyclical first draws a parallel to Pope St. John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris, which, “not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace…to the entire ‘Catholic world’ and indeed ‘to all men and women of goodwill.’ Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet.’”

    The encyclical then goes on to specifically cite environmental concerns, starting with Pope Paul VI in 1970 and 1971, and deepening with St. John Paul II, citing his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis. That text states “He warned that human beings frequently seem ‘to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.’” He goes on to cite several works of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

    In short, one framing purpose of the encyclical is to stress that it is not a departure from earlier church teaching, so much as an emphasis on our altered human circumstances.

    From without, however, it was seen by some as most significant that this encyclical came from the first pope from the Third World, and also that it shared a great deal in common with the largely Third World-based climate justice movement. Author and journalist Naomi Klein, who has chronicled the climate justice movement for years and has been invited to speak at an upcoming Vatican conference on the encyclical, made this point on Democracy Now! On June 18:

    A lot of the language of the climate justice movement has just been adopted by the pope—I mean, even of phrases like “ecological debt.” The pope is talking about the debt that the wealthy world owes to the poor. I mean, this is a framing that comes originally from Ecuador, from the movement against drilling in the Amazon. And, you know, this is a phrase that was never heard in mainstream circles until just now, actually. I mean, I’ve never seen such a mainstream use of that term.

    Klein also pointed out that it was not just climate deniers who were criticized by the encyclical:

    I think that it’s too easy to say that this is just a challenge to Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush. Frankly, it is also a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to large parts of the green movement, because it is a rebuke of slow action. It very specifically says that climate denial is not just about denying the science, it’s also about denying the urgency of the science. The document is very strong in condemning delays, half-measures, so-called market solutions. It very specifically criticizes carbon markets, the carbon offsetting, as an inadequate measure that will encourage speculation and rampant consumption.

    Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, which has coordinated global days of climate protests, said the encyclical was “Neither liberal nor conservative—but definitely radical.” More specifically:

    [T]he heart of the encyclical is less an account of environmental or social destruction than a remarkable attack on the way our world runs: on the “rapidification” of modern life, on the way that economic growth and technology trump all other concerns, on a culture that can waste billions of people. These are neither liberal nor conservative themes, and they are not new for popes: what is new is that the ecological crisis makes them inescapable.


    As the encyclical says, “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet.”

    But it does not intend to be a message of despair. A primary drafter of the encyclical, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, on the morning of its release at the Vatican, said, “Pope Francis has a positive outlook for the possibility to change tack on the environmental issue. Humanity says Pope Francis still has the capacity to work to build our common home. Human beings are still capable of intervening positively.”

    “This is really the first Third World encyclical,” Nathan Schneider, a columnist with the Catholic weekly, America, told Democracy Now!

    “[T]his is coming from a pope who was shaped in really significant ways by economic crises during the Cold War in Argentina and being in the middle of a battleground between the First and Second World powers. It was drafted by a cardinal from Ghana,” he said.

    “So this is coming from the side of the world that we don’t normally hear from. And it’s very much in line with things that popes have been saying for decades, you know, going back to Paul VI, then John Paul II, Benedict XVI. So, a lot of the content is actually not so new for Catholics.”

    Considering that Christianity was originally the religion of the Roman Empire’s underclass, it is only fitting that such a cry now be heard.


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  • The Problem with Cock

    ‘Cock’ Wrestles with Identity, Stereotypes

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    In a time when Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal top the list of social media posts, it is easy to see how issues of identity take center stage in today’s society.

    Cock, a play by Mike Bartlett, aims to challenge identity in our culture, in which the human experience is continuously simplified in an attempt to place people in boxes and label them according to various indices.

    “It’s a universal thing; it’s people getting trapped in their labels and feeling that they are representative, more than individuals,” explained director Gregory M. Cohen, who recently brought the theatrical production to The Studio at the Long Beach Playhouse.

    While aspects of Cock are funny, it could hardly be considered a farce. Its efforts to be comical seem to reach only a segment of the audience.

    “Stand over by the fake door!” exclaims the main character at the beginning of the play. Somehow, some people found that breaking of the fourth wall funny because the production had a minimalistic setting. But its effect was both positive and negative.

    On one hand, the actors and their audience were able to concentrate on the language and the acting, which is a good thing. On the other hand, the minimalism — evident not only by the lack of many fixtures on the stage, but also by transition from scene to scene through light dimming — made the play’s time transitions difficult to follow.

    “This is the kind of show that an audience is going to catch up to” Cohen said of the play’s nonlinear structure. “The first few scenes are (just) kind of trying to figure out what’s going on. Then, they’re going to realize that we are skipping through time and then going backwards.”

    Cock, set in London, centers on the life of John, played by Leigh Hayes. Having established a long-term relationship with his male partner (played by Evan Battle), John finds love in the arms of a woman (played by Lexington Vanderberg) during a brief breakup. What ensues is essentially a cock fight for his love.

    Battle said he found things in his own life that helped him relate to the character he played. His character was consistent and emotional, almost to the point of being over-dramatic. However, anyone with experience in relationships knows that some of them are just as passionate.

    “I liked that there is something in it for everyone,” Battle said. “You don’t have to have experienced exactly this to find something in it that you can relate to.”

    The language in the play tries to stay true to its setting, and the actors do an excellent job using British accents.

    “We talked about making it American and we felt that the language was so important to the show. It had to be British… but like I said, it’s universal,” said Cohen, adding there is very little punctuation and no stage direction.

    “Cock” is British slang for “nonsense,” as well as an American missive referring to male genitalia. But it also alludes to the personal struggle the main character faces in the pen, or cock-fighting ring, of his own identity.

    Often weak and insecure, John is the embodiment of a male chicken, juggling the love of two people and too afraid, or too unwilling, to chose one. He is fickle and weak — characteristics that Hayes, a thinly-built, young man­—adroitly conveys in his performance. What’s frustrating about Cock is that there are points in the play when you think John reaches a pinnacle of growth and strength, but quickly reverts to being a spineless twerp, who is unable to take responsibility for his own persona.

    Throughout the play, John is asked to define himself, to take a label, but again and again, he fails to take a stand.

    “Be yourself,” advises John’s female lover (none of the character in the play except John have a name).

    “I have absolutely no idea who that is,” is John’s reply.

    “You are being selfish. I think you need to figure out what you are, fast,” John is chastised by his male partner’s father. “It seems to me you’re confused. Who are you?”

    “I don’t know what I am!” seems to be John’s flaccid response every time.

    John’s responses and demonstrated character flaws make you wonder whether the play is counter-productive in its intentions. While it exposes its audience to yet another spot in the sexuality spectrum, which is good, it also runs the risk of furthering stereotypes about people who do not conform to monosexuality (either heterosexual or homosexual, but not both).

    “It’s a possibility, but I feel that it’s more toward this character’s personality overall,” Hayes, who plays John, opines. “He’s just someone who doesn’t want to deal with conflict.”

    Hayes, a method actor who drew from his own experience to bring out the character’s emotion, believes that John knows what he wants but he’s too afraid to do something about it.

    “He feels that you can’t choose who you have sex with, in terms of sexuality; it’s not a choice. But I think somewhere deep inside he knows that love, you can chose,” Hayes said. “It comes down to how you feel about a person.”

    To accentuate this point, Cohen clarified that the play is not about bisexuality.

    “It’s about someone in a damaged relationship, searching to complete [himself] in another relationship,” Cohen said. “So, the sexuality is a side issue.”

    “The way that the play conveys this message, I feel that it will speak to a lot of people,” Hayes continued. “It really opens people’s eyes to knowing what really goes on in the coming out process, what really goes on with finding one’s sexuality and what really goes on loving someone so much to the point where you break those barriers.”

    Cock is at the Long Beach Playhouse through July 11. Tickets range from $14 for students, $21 for seniors and $24 for adult general admission. The play contains some nudity and language that may be offensive to some people.

    Tickets are available at www.lbplayhouse.org, or by calling (562) 494-1014.


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  • If You Have a Hammer, Every Problem Begins to Look Like a Nail

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Our fertile subconscious minds conjure up curious images to deal with unresolved conflicts. A friend of mine once recounted waking from a dream in which she collected all the hammers in her house before going to bed so as to protect herself from burglars breaking in during the night. I sometimes think our city leaders have the very same dream and solve problems the same way.

    The Los Angeles City Council has a toolbox full of hammers to address the city’s multitude of problems. Nowhere is this more evident than how it chose to solve the growing number of homeless encampments this past week when it reduced the amount of advanced notice authorities have to give before removing personal possessions of the homeless.

    The number of people without shelter in Los Angeles County rose by 12 percent over the past two years to 44,359. Somewhere close to half of those reside in the City of Los Angeles. And, about 300 of those reside in San Pedro.

    The cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach both have 19 laws on the books targeting the homeless. In their wisdom the city councils have made it illegal for both the rich and the poor to sleep in public parks or anywhere else outdoors.

    Overall, there are some 200 laws and local ordinances criminalizing homelessness in California. The state legislature passed a new version of Penal Code Section 647(E), a misdemeanor charge for sleeping inside of buildings, public or private without permission. This anti-lodging law was made harsher when the penalties were increased to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine if caught doing it twice—as if a homeless person could afford to pay this.

    All of this hammering on the poor seems crazy in light of the barrage of stories published by Los Angeles Magazine expounding on the idea that Los Angeles is on the verge. There are billion-dollar hotels going up near LA Live; there are competing NFL stadium proposals in Carson and Inglewood; a billion-dollar restoration effort of the Los Angeles River; and at every new Metro light rail station new market-rate housing is being erected.

    Yes, Los Angeles is on the verge of becoming divided and unaffordable for working class Angelenos. All while real estate prices soar and foreign capital builds yet another skyscraper hotel.

    Recently the California Supreme Court ruled that San Jose could impose its affordable housing zoning codes on new developments. For Los Angeles, this is a nail worth pounding—staunching the loss of affordable working class housing as previously low-income neighborhoods become gentrified. This should be an immediate priority for the city council to hammer down before passing any more ordinances outlawing sleeping on park benches. In other words, how about providing some lumber in which to hammer those nails.

    This, of course, is not our city’s only dysfunction. In in the words of departing Deputy City Mayor Rick Cole, “[The city] is designed not to work.” That Los Angeles annually spends $100 million on the homeless—$80 million on just policing—is an astounding figure and one of the prime examples of how Los Angeles is designed not to work.

    If Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council aim to make Los Angeles the sustainable city of the future, then investing some of this $100 million into permanent housing for the homeless must be made as high a priority as the efforts to make the LA River look pretty again.

    In the meantime, the city cannot arrest its way or evict its way out of the growing problem of homelessness. Let’s find some vacant property where we can set up some bathrooms and showers, provide social services, and let them camp out in peace.

    Whatever happened to Ted Hayes Jr.’s Dome Village concept for housing the homeless?

    On Aug. 31, 2006, Hayes announced that the residents of Dome Village were being evicted and that domes would be auctioned off online. Residents were given until that October to get out and move into traditional homeless shelters. At the time, they hoped to recreate Dome Village elsewhere in Los Angeles with the proceeds from the auction. Perhaps it’s time to build a few more domes?

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