• Hahn Calls for Budget that Returns Harbor Maintenance Tax to Ports

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — On March 24, Rep. Janice Hahn continued her efforts to have Congress increase the amount of Harbor Maintenance Tax revenue returned to the nation’s ports during the debate on the Republican budget resolution and earlier during time set aside for one-minute speeches.

    She noted that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund now has a surplus of about $9 billion because for years only about 50 percent of the tax on shippers collected at the nation’s ports was returned to the ports.

    Hahn gained bipartisan support this past year for her amendment to the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, which set targets for annual increases in the usage of the trust fund, leading to 100 percent use by 2025.  Since then she has worked to ensure Congress meets those targets.

    Hahn yesterday filed an amendment to the House Republican budget resolution to meet the Water Resources and Reform Development Act targets, but the Rules Committee did not allow it to be considered.

    Hahn stated the budget is a matter of priorities and choices, and she stressed the value and necessity of investing in ports.

    Recently, Hahn and Louisiana Republican Rep. Charles Boustany sent a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 86 Representatives calling on increased appropriations to meet the targets Congress passed into law last year.  Many of the signers are members of the Congressional PORTS Caucus, which Hahn co-chairs.

    The Congressional Progressive Caucus proposed an alternative budget that incorporates Hahn’s proposal to fully meet the targets for harbor maintenance funding established in the 2014 Water Resources and Reform Development Act bill.

     

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  • RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: March 24, 2014

    March 25
    Coastal SPNC Special Meeting
    Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council is hosting a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 25, at the San Pedro Elks Lodge Trailer.
    Details: website
    Venue: San Pedro Elks Lodge Trailer
    Location: 1748 Cumbre Drive, San Pedro

    March 25
    Joint San Pedro Committees to Talk about Anderson Senior Center’s Future
    The Committee on Homelessness and the Recreation and Parks Committee will host discussion on a possible future utilization of the Anderson Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. on March 25 at the Think Café in San Pedro.
    The meeting will discuss reports from LAPD, the Recreation and Park Department on current issues in and around the park, uses of the park’s facilities, homelessness in the park and other proposed uses for activating public access to the park and its facilities.
    Venue: Think Café (Patio)
    Location: 302 W. Fifth Street, San Pedro
     
    March 25
    Community Vision Committee Meeting
    The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council will have a meeting, at 6 p.m. March 25 at San Pedro City Hall, to discuss several topics, including minimum wage, mobile/portable showers for the homeless and the city establishment of sidewalk and curb repair fund.
    Details: (310) 732-4522
    Venue: San Pedro City Hall (Room 452)
    Location: 638 S. Beacon St., San Pedro
     
    March 28
    West East Side Community Association Neighborhood Cleanup
    Volunteers are need in cleaning up neighborhood trash from 8 a.m. to noon on March 28 in Central Long Beach. All cleaning materials will be provided.
    Details: (562) 570-2895; cleanlongbeach@longbeach.gov
    Location: 1758 Gladys Ave., Long Beach
     
    March 30
    Harbor Commissioners Discuss Contract Project Extensions
    The Port of Long Beach’s Board of Harbor Commissioners will cover a variety of new business at 6 p.m. on March 30 at their administrative offices in Long Beach.
    Some of the new business topics will include contract extensions for public ads and other port-related projects.
    Details: http://polb.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=18&event_id=1078
    Venue: Harbor Department Interim Administrative Offices
    Location:  4801 Airport Plaza Drive, Long Beach

     
    April 2
    Alcohol Awareness Month
    The South Bay Communities Creating Change is hosting a media event, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. April 2, to kick off this year’s observance of Alcohol Awareness month. The event will highlight the public health issue of underage drinking.
    Details: (323) 293-6284
    Venue: Gardena City Hall (Council Chambers)
    Location: 1700 W. 162nd St., Gardena

    April 4
    Map Your Neighborhood Workshop
    COPE Preparedness is offering a free workshop that explains “Map Your Neighborhood,” from 9 to 11 a.m. April 4 at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center. “Map Your Neighborhood” is a FEMA endorsed nine-step program that teaches communities how to work together and be self sufficient for the first 72 hours following a disaster.
    Details: (310) 982-1180
    Venue: Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro
    Location: 1300 W. 7th St., San Pedro

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  • Random NEWS Briefs: March 24, 2015

    Long Beach Appoints New Planning Bureau Manager

    LONG BEACH – Former acting director of the Economic and Community Development Department for the City of Inglewood Linda F. Tatum was recently named planning bureau manager for Long Beach Development Services.

    Tatum’s appointment is effective immediately.
    Prior to this appointment, Tatum was responsible for overseeing the Inglewood’s planning, building and safety and code enforcement divisions; and managing developments, including the reopening of The Forum by Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project.

    She previously held the positions of planning manager for Culver City and senior planner for the City of Santa Ana.
    Tatum received her masters of science degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University Tallahassee. She has instructed at California State University, Fullerton, and is a member of the Site Visitor Pool for the Planning Accreditation Board for the American Institute of Certified Planners.  She also is a 2014 Planner Emeritus Network Award Honoree.

     

    Reward Offered for Henry Solis

    LOS ANGELES – A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered by the FBI for information leading to the arrest of Henry Solis.

    Solis is wanted for his alleged involvement in the murder of a man in the downtown district of Pomona, on March 13, 2015.

    In the early morning hours of March 13, Solis and the victim became involved in a physical altercation in downtown Pomona. Solis allegedly pursued the victim on foot and shot him multiple times, killing him.

    On March 17, the Los Angeles County Superior Court obtained a warrant for Solis’ arrest for murder. On March 19, a federal arrest warrant was issued by the U.S. District Court, after Solis was charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

    Solis is a 27-year-old Caucasian man. He is 5’9” to 5’10” and 185 to 190 pounds. He has black hair, brown eyes and may be wearing a full beard. He has moles on his right cheek and on the top left of his nose. He should be considered armed and dangerous and a suicide risk.

    Anyone with information as to his whereabouts is urged to contact the Pomona Police Department tip line at (909) 620-2085.

    Details: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/murders/henry-solis/view

     

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  • POLB, POLA Cargo Count Slides in February

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

    POLA Container Volumes Decrease in February

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

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

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

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  • Beam Me Up, Wolfgang

    By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

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  • LB District 4 Voters Face Tough, Similar Choices

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    West Side Story

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Airport Noise Ordinance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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  • Klaus Center Opens With Anticipation, Controversy

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • LA Harbor International Film Festival Features Live Burlesque

    By Ivan Adame, Editorial Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • FilmLA Interrupts San Pedro Businesses

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

    San Pedro has been invaded by the film industry.

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

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

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

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor, Photo by Phillip Cooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rollout of Improvements since Tentative Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Beefs from Without

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Division of the Hall Between Steady Men and Hall Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Olvera said sometimes you have to flank your opponent.

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

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

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

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