• Food: Science or Sense?

    By Lori Lynn Hirsch Stokoe, Food Writer and Photographer
    On Feb. 22, scores of food aficionados convened at the Ports O’ Call Restaurant in San Pedro to discuss and debate “Food: Sense or Science?”

    Do we eat with our mouths or with our minds? And is eating—both a basic necessity and one of life’s great pleasures—still fun? Food is one of today’s most fervently discussed topics, ’round the clock, from the mass media of television and radio, to the Internet and bookstore shelves. In asking “Food: Sense or Science?” the purpose of CULINARIA Query 2015 is to examine the place food currently has in our collective consciousness and to reconcile eating, feeling and information.

    In the Query & Lecture Series: “Food: Sense or Science?” Philip M. Dobard, vice president, SoFAB Institute served as moderator of the discussion. Panelists included  Noramae Munster, certified raw food chef and culinary director, Ports O’Call Waterfront Dining, Joshua Goldman, mixologist, sommelier and restaurateur; partner, Soigne Group; managing partner, Brilliatshine, James L. Melikian, president, The Popcorn Man, and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, senior editor, Chilled Magazine; editor-in-chief, SoFAB Magazine; Author, Gin: A GlobalHistory; and co-author, The 12 Bottle Bar, and (yours truly) Lori Hirsch Stokoe,www.tastewiththeeyes.com food writer, food photographer, recipe developer, and caterer.

    SoFAB is a nonprofit cultural enterprise. It documents and celebrates the food and drink of all cultures through exhibits, programming and a range of media. SoFAB is growing into the nation’s most comprehensive cultural institution studying food and drink.

    What is it about food that we have become so obsessed with, and how is this fascination manifesting itself in our culture? Can we simply appreciate a tomato? Or must we know if the seeds are of an heirloom variety, if it is organic or grown locally?

    Dobard began by acknowledging how food had brought all of us together in the room, and asked the panel to consider if all processed food was bad for us. When a lettuce leaf is picked, then washed and brought to market, it has indeed been “processed.” And that masa which is made into corn tortillas is processed, but again, not necessarily bad.  Goldman explained the difference between “naturally grown” processed foods – such as ingredients made from seaweed versus items like unnatural additives used to prevent colors and flavors from separating in popular sports drinks.

    Are we overthinking food? Dobard asked. 

    “We have lots of information regarding the food we eat, but may not necessarily be making the best choices available to us,” Munster said. 

    She also talked about the 80/20 rule applying to food choices, suggesting that by simply making healthy choices 80 percent of the time it could help lead to better overall health.

    The subject of organic food was discussed in detail—a big dilemma being its cost. Solmonson made the case that while some families may want to make healthier choices, they are not able to make it happen when it comes to the family budget. Others in the audience believed a non-organic apple from the 99-Cent Store is equally as nutritious as a much more expensive organic apple from Whole Foods Market. Melikian emphasized that more nutritional information needs to be taught in schools, while healthy food choices need to start at an early age at home.
    We discussed what is commonly called “kid food,”–when parents may be eating a healthy dinner, yet serve hot dogs, grilled cheese, or delivered pizza to their children – believing that their children would not eat “adult food.” Could the healthy foods that adults are eating be prepared in a way that would be irresistible to children? Solmonson added that every parent’s dilemma is how to add as many vegetables as possible into the child’s diet.

    Farmers are not producing the tastiest vegetables, but the most profitable, Goldman argued, resulting in kids’ lack of enthusiasm for fresh vegetables. He also says it doesn’t necessarily need to take more energy to prepare fresh vegetables. We can teach simple techniques to put something delicious and nutritious on the table. For example, place fresh carrots in a plastic bag, add butter and spices and pop it in the microwave for a healthy, tasty, fresh veggie side dish in minutes.

    “When it comes to nutrition, is there information overload?” Dobard posited.
    Solmonson believes the Internet and smart phones have had a huge impact, but the problem may be that not all the information available at our fingertips is correct. Often the most popular opinion goes to the top of the Internet search, but unfortunately it may contain false information about the food. Goldman suggests the Internet is a fantastic tool, but one must take the time to research to be certain that the source is reliable.

    The panel discussion ended with a question-and-answer session during which the audience shared stories of family health and history and opinions of the panel’s remarks. It was a lively couple of hours, with interesting debate and discussion, a diverse and passionate panel, and different perspectives on food culture.

    Ports O’ Call Waterfront Dining offered a complimentary buffet of appetizers including copy cat In-N-Out burgers made with vegetable protein instead of beef, and sushi, pea and mint crostini, truffle mac ’n’ cheese cups and more. The bar featured a tart “skinny margarita” made with agave nectar, as a toast to National Margarita Day. Solmonson capped off the event with a spirited lesson on gin and its history, and a tasting of three very distinct styles of that distilled liquor flavored with juniper and other botanicals.

    “We can either look at food as poison or look at food as medicine,” Goldman said. 
    Everyone seemed to agree that we make our own choices, and in spite of big corporate marketing and manipulative advertising, we live in California, a land of plenty – and it is indeed up to us to make informed decisions about our food, nutrition and health.

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  • Torrance Refinery Explosion:

    A Sharp Reminder of Externalized Costs

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor
    On Feb. 18 at about 8:50 a.m., an explosion sent flames and ashes into the sky at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance.

    Four workers were injured by the blast and 14 Torrance schools initiated “shelter in place” procedures, keeping their students indoors. CalTech researchers said that the blast was the equivalent of a 1.7-magnitude earthquake.

    A Feb. 25 update report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District stated that the blast “blew off sections of the electrostatic precipitator, venting the fluid catalytic cracking unit, and released spent catalyst into the air which deposited it in the neighborhood on top of cars and homes and other areas around the refinery.”

    The good news was that nobody was killed. Moreover, the AQMD reported that there was no detectable air pollution impacts of the kinds that it normally monitors.

    “Our air monitoring didn’t show an increased air pollution exposure to residents following the explosion,” said AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood.

    In addition, the update report stated that all the asbestos detected afterwards was confined to within the refinery.

    Still, ExxonMobil was needlessly—even foolishly—tight-lipped, and unresponsive to public concerns, in the eyes of Connie Rutter, a retired oil industry consultant, who worked as a refinery environmental officer before establishing her own consulting firm.

    “It just seems to me that the best policy is honesty, even if that puts the company in a bad light,” Rutter said. “The issue with the ash should be handled by clearly naming what it is and hazards associated with it.”

    The bad news is that the direct negative consequences of the explosion—the first wave of externalized costs imposed on the broader community—pale in comparison to the indirect costs, most notably the sharp increase in the already-rising gas prices statewide (a 42-cent increase in one week, compared to 52 cents over the previous three weeks combined). Those, in turn, pale in comparison to the costs of business-as-usual in the oil and gas business, which amount to at least $1,400 per person per year, primarily in health-related costs, according to academic research. In Los Angeles County, according to a 2008 study led by California State University Fullerton economist Jane Hall, twice as many people die annual from air pollution than die in traffic accidents.

    Chaos and confusion dominated the immediate post-blast response, and led to fierce criticism on social media and at a community meeting on the night of Feb. 20. Almost 200 people attended. While some public criticism was directed toward the Torrance Fire Department, the lion’s share of anger and blame was directed toward ExxonMobil, which appeared to be both ill-prepared and uninformed.

    Most notably, ExxonMobil had failed to act immediately to activate two aspects of the Torrance Community Warning System, which it has authority to initiate “if an incident at the refinery warrants immediate community notification.”

    First, the community sirens used to alert residents within a 1.2-mile radius of the refinery to shelter in place; second, the Crenshaw Street Barriers, similar to railroad barriers, used to prohibit traffic between Del Amo Boulevard and 190th Street on Crenshaw Boulevard.

    At the meeting, ExxonMobil’s refinery manager Brian Ablett—just three months on the job—tried to shift blame onto the city of Torrance.

    “The communication is generally not from us, it’s from the city,” he said.

    That much is true—but with an emphasis on “generally.” As explained in a document posted on the refinery’s website, the overall, multifaceted warning system is run by the city. But a note at the bottom specifically cites these two safety provisions as being in ExxonMobil’s hands when immediate notification is required. Ablett further obscured the truth—if not outright lied—when he added that the siren system (which is tested once a month, but was not activated in response to the explosion) was also not operated by ExxonMobil. “It’s the city’s response system, it’s not ours.”

    It’s unclear whether Ablett was lying, uninformed, confused himself, or knowingly deceptive. But it is clear that ExxonMobil as a whole was not on top of things operationally.

    “Honestly, I’m not at all surprised that happened,” Torrance City Councilman Tim Goodrich said at a council meeting the following week. “How many close calls is ExxonMobil willing to have before we have one we’re really going to regret?”

    Indifference to such impacts is commonplace in the oil industry, with only few exceptions, Rutter observed. Exxon had a long history of high-handedness and indifference to the public before its merger with Mobil, epitomized by its response to the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Mobil had been more image conscious, as the creating sponsor of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre.

    “Mobil seemed to act as if once they done that, they didn’t have to do anything more.” Rutter noted. Although “not blatant as Exxon,” Rutter said Mobil “pretty much had the attitude, ‘Hey we’re here to refine oil, you people need gasoline, let us alone.’”

    Buying off the political system is where the industry excels, as illustrated by another recent development. On Feb. 27, the New York Times reported that ExxonMobil had reached a settlement agreement with the state of New Jersey, paying just $250 million in an 11-year-old suit, which initially asked for $8.9 billion in damages for pollution damage to wetlands from two refineries dating back to the 1870s.

    The surprise announcement came just as a ruling was expected from the judge in the case—as the Times put it, “Exxon’s liability was no longer in dispute; the only issue was how much it would pay in damages”—and was immediately denounced by environmental advocates.

    “This is an outrageous abuse of power by the administration selling out the environment and the taxpayers of New Jersey,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told Bloomberg News. “This is a complete giveaway to corporate polluters.”

    But David Sirota of International Business Times drew attention to two key factors: First was ExxonMobil’s contributions of more than $1.9 million to the Republican Governors’ Association since Chris Christie first ran for governor in 2009.

    “That includes $79,000 during Christie’s 2009 campaign and $200,000 during his re-election campaign in 2013,” Sirota reported. “It also includes $500,000 when he chaired the organization during the 2014 election cycle.”

    Second was the fact that a previous Christie-appointed Attorney General, Paula Dow, was a former Exxon lawyer.

    But even if ExxonMobil had paid that $8.9 billion settlement in full, it would only be a fraction of the worldwide externalized costs of the industry on an annual basis. The 2008 study by Jane Hall mentioned above found that “almost $22 billion” would be saved annually in the South Coast Air Basin “if federal ozone and PM2.5 [fine particle, aka “soot”] standards were met,” plus almost another $6 billion in the San Joaquin Valley. Thus, the routine externalized costs of the oil and gas industry far outshadow the acute damages seen in incidents like the Torrance refinery explosion, or even major lawsuits like the one in New Jersey.

    Bringing those massive figures down to Earth, the average health costs per person from air pollution probably remain around $1,400 annually for local residents, despite significant improvements in air quality throughout the past 30 years. While pollution levels locally have improved significantly since 2005 and 2006, when the 2008 study’s data was collected, a followup study lead by Hall, comparing that study with an earlier one in 1989, found little net change in per-capita health impacts.

    “The core point is that enormous progress has been made in reducing pollution,” Hall said. “But new scientific research that indicates a broader array of impacts, and impacts at lower concentrations, along with larger populations in more polluted sub-regions, means that there are still large numbers of significant adverse effects on health in the region.”

    There are no studies that comprehensively capture all the externalized costs of the oil and gas industry. Hall’s studies are typical of how most similar studies are done. They only capture differences in externalized costs between current levels and some future target. In her case, that means full compliance with the Clean Air Act, hence the title of her 2008 study: “The Benefits of Meeting Federal Clean Air Standards in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Basins.” Specific itemized benefits listed in the report include:

    • 3,860 fewer premature deaths among those age 30 and older

    • 3,517,720 fewer days of reduced activity in adults

    • 1,259,840 fewer days of school absence

    • 2,078,300 fewer days of respiratory symptoms in children

    • 466,880 fewer lost days of work

    The AQMD uses a similar comparative process in evaluating its repeated air quality management plans. These are produced every five years or so, issuing a socioeconomic report several months after the main plan is produced. The last two air quality management plans were in 2007 and 2012, and another is due out next year. The 2007 plan was projected to produce $200 billion in savings, almost $12 billion annually through 2024. Industry costs for new pollution control measures were projected to range from $2.0 to $2.7 billion per year, with benefits topping $14 billion.

    “It’s always easy to quantify [industry] costs,” explained Dr. Elaine Chang, AQMD deputy executive officer for Planning, Rule Development and Area Sources, about covering that report. “We’re trying to quantify the benefits as well. We can see the ratio [of benefits to costs] is 7 to 1, so society is bearing the costs of not internalizing the economic costs of polluting.”

    According to the 2007 report, “The $14 billion includes approximately $9.2 billion for averted illness and higher survival rates, $3.6 billion for visibility improvements [a factor in real-estate values], $966 million for congestion relief, $204 million for reduced damage to materials, and $18 million for increased crop yields.”

    In that report, the lion’s share of impacts were clearly fossil fuel based—congestion relief would apply regardless of the fuel source. The 2012 report involved a much different policy mix, so its projected savings, $10.7 billion, included a much larger share of congestion relief—$7.7 billion. Because the policy mix has such a strong impact on the cost savings produced, air quality management plans are a less accurate gauge of overall costs than the kind of comprehensive studies that Hall has produced. Still, they make the same broad point—the annual externalized costs of fossil fuels dwarf the costs of any headline-grabbing disaster, and thus deserve serious public debate and action.

    This point only becomes more pressing as we add the growing threat of climate change costs—already being felt via increased costs due to extreme weather, from hurricanes to heatwaves and droughts. Toward this end, a 2014 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, “Driving California Forward”, found savings of $10.4 billion by 2020 and $23.1 billion by 2025 from two California programs, the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the savings in transportation fuels under the state’s cap and trade program.

    The report broke these savings down as follows:

    Air pollution and

    public health

    Reductions of PM2.5, NOx, and SOx impacts will clean up California’s air and reduce harm to Californians. This can save $6.0 billion from PM2.5 and $2.3 billion from NOx and SOx.

    Energy security

    Reducing California’s reli- iance on imported energy and insulating the state from energy price fluctuations can save up to $6.9 billion, while also reducing gasoline and diesel consumption by 33.1 billion gallons between 2010 and 2025.

    Climate change

    Cutting climate change pollution will reduce the social cost of carbon by a cumulative $7.9 billion between 2010–-2025.

    In short, this report suggests that public health costs from transportation fossil fuels are only about one third of their total externalized costs. That would equate to more than $4,000 per person annually in the Los Angeles area, based on Hall’s earlier work. It’s something to think about while waiting for the next oil company disaster to strike.


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  • Gaffey Street Improvement Project Moves Ahead as Public Opposition Wanes

    The final Gaffey Street workshop moves ahead to the drafting stage without much strife
    Ivan Adame, Editorial Intern

    San Pedro residents may not get all they want in the when it comes to plans to make improvements on Gaffey Street — namely decreasing the travel time from 5th Street to the 110 Freeway and preventing the homeless from sleeping on the bus benches.

    However, community members may get a safer, public transit friendly and more visually attractive corridor.

    On Feb. 26, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative hosted the third and final community workshop to draft the Gaffey Street Conceptual Plan. The plan aims to improve the safety, efficiency and aesthetic profile of Gaffey Street as part of Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative.

    Community members were asked to provide additional feedback on the improvements. Reducing traffic at the terminus of the 110 Freeway was still a primary concern, but both the Department of Transportation and RRM Design Group say that due to zoning, land use and funding constraints, little can be done about it in the immediate future.

    Among the ideas proposed that night were installations of bulb-outs: curb extensions designed to lessen the time it would take to cross a street. These are to be built from 6th Street to 10th Street.

    Other proposals include a transit plaza that would be near the Vons on 13th Street, in which vending kiosks could be used for quick shopping. Also, there are plans for all of the bus stops along Gaffey Street to be furnished with bus shelters.

    “We want to make transit easy and comfortable to use,” said Tony Keith, assistant designer from the RRM Design Group.

    Keith then asked the public to not let the issue of homelessness stunt progress of a greater public transportation.

    “You don’t deny all of us using bus stops because we have a homeless issue,” Keith said. “You don’t solve the homeless issue necessarily, but you address the homeless issue … the goal of this is not to turn Gaffey into a better freeway, but to turn Gaffey into a better place for the community to use.”

    When the public looked over the plans, feedback was recorded by writing and sticking Post-It notes on the displays. One public suggestion for bus stops was to use individual chairs or loveseats at odd angles instead of benches, saying it “prevents sleeping,” and “encourages social behavior.” Another suggestion was for no advertisements on benches.

    There seemed to be a split opinion on whether or not to keep the palm trees in the area, with an equal amount of feedback written for and against keeping them.

    Gale Noon, a San Pedro resident reviewing the display, was concerned about the rotting of old palm trees.

    “I’m fine with getting rid of them and putting more native or more Mediterranean stuff,” Noon said.

    Sue Castillo, Land Use chairwoman for the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, said she would like the plan to explain how public art can be incorporated into the project.

    “[A good place] to put public art is bus stops,” Castillo said. “Because bus stops need to be made to feel like a cool place…. We need more people to travel by bus.”

    Given the nearly-volatile public response of the past two meetings — concerning road-dieting, which the city refuted — there was little opposition to the plans on display. James Dimon, chairman of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, said he believes this meeting was a positive step forward.

    “This community needs to … stop door-stopping the [city’s efforts] to spend funds to beautify our community,” said Dimon. “The city listened to what the community wanted… the objections you heard tonight were very limited.”

    However, funding to implement this project isn’t completely secure. It will be funded in fragments. Smaller elements of this project — referred to by several of the speakers that night as “low-hanging fruit”— can be funded and implemented quickly. But it may not be possible to secure funding for everything in a given year. Specific items can take from six months to anywhere between five and eight years.

    As of now, the project was eligible to apply for $1.7 million via Metro’s Call for Project fund, Kate Mayerson, program director for the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, said. The project members are also advocating for businesses and property owners along Gaffey Street to form a business improvement district to produce more funds.

    “As long as the community keeps advocating for this project to be funded, we’re going to do this in phases; we’re going to do it in pieces,” Mayerson said. “But we’d rather start small and work up towards the big ticket items than to do nothing at all.”


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  • AmeriCorps, PV Land Conservancy Partner for Community Day

    By Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaug, Editorial Intern
    AmeriCorps recently partnered with Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy to restore and renovate the White Point Nature Preserve.

    The project, White Point Community Day, was conceived originally by AmeriCorps while visiting the area. AmeriCorps  is a government-sponsored program engaging adults in intensive community service.

    During its eight-week visit to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and surrounding areas, AmeriCorps committed to working with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy to restore habitats, maintain trails and lead field trips. One of its goals was to host a large community event. Public outreach liaison Katherine Wallace said she noticed there was much work to be done around the preserve.

    AmeriCorps got together with the conservancy and began to organize the event. With AmeriCorps members providing the much-needed extra labor, they would be able to do a large-scale renovation and beautification of the preserve. But AmeriCorps also wanted to reach out to the community.

    “Why should we do all the work ourselves when we can get people in the community to volunteer and help us?” asked AmeriCorps member Isaiah Broomfield. “So, from there came the idea of ‘community day.’”

    The workforce will be comprised mostly of volunteers, with AmeriCorps members training, coordinating and supervising them. One of the main things they will be doing is removing tumbleweeds, which block paths and get in the way of hikers. They will also be weeding the demonstration gardens and will perform general beautification around the preserve.

    This is the third time Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy  has partnered with AmeriCorps. The groups plan to continue their relationship for many years to come.

    Broomfield said some of Americorps’ future projects will also be working in Long Beach with Urban Community Outreach to feed the homeless.

    “Wherever there’s a need, that’s where we’ll go,” he said.

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  • Cargo on the Move

    There’s an Agreement, but a Ratified Contract is Still Weeks Away
    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
    From the deck of USS Iowa on Feb. 23, ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera said to the states buried in snow on the East Coast, “Your goods are on the way.”

    Olvera said the Local’s 7,000 workers are committed to working seven days a week and around the clock to get the cargo onto store shelves.

    But in the case of the Southern California ports, that’s three months of port congestion to get through. And, the agreement is just a tentative one until the membership votes on and approves the contract.

    In the coming weeks, negotiators will meet with 90 delegates representing all the locals on the West Coast to review the contract. The Pacific Maritime Association will do the same with its membership.

    The delegates are able to make a recommendation. After reviewing the contract, it is mailed to the rank and file of the ILWU membership, which will then have the opportunity to  discuss the contract with fellow members. Then, a secret ballot will be conducted to approve it.

    In the unlikely scenario that the membership votes against the contract, it would be sent back to the negotiators to iron out the differences.

    However, there are other rays of light at the end of the tunnel. On March 1, three companies that own most of the chassis serving the Port of Los Angeles activated a “gray chassis fleet” of truck-trailers in an effort to improve the flow of goods.

    The landmark agreement among Direct ChassisLink Inc., Flexi-Van Leasing Inc. and TRAC Intermodal will give terminal operators and trucking companies at the twin ports more flexibility in obtaining chassis. Chassis are the wheeled trailers used by trucks to haul cargo containers.

    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 two remaining marine container terminals use their own equipment, but could opt to participate in the future.

    Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach chief executives Gene Seroka and Jon Slangerup—both of whom have backgrounds as transportation executives—applauded the agreement in a jointly-released statement.

    “This is a historic agreement that will help our ports overcome a major challenge that has played a significant role in the congestion we’ve experienced,” said Slangerup, a former president of FedEx Canada.

    Seroka, former president of Americas at APL Limited, called the agreement, “a major step forward in addressing the congestion issues that have challenged the San Pedro Bay cargo flow in recent months.

    “The gray chassis pool, along with other initiatives underway to improve efficiencies, will help our marine terminals move effectively toward restoring cargo flow through this important gateway.”

    “Chassis imbalance”—a phenomenon created by pools of non-interoperable chassis—was identified as the culprit of the congestion at the ports. The new agreement will allow more than 80 percent of chassis in service at the ports to be used interchangeably.

    The agreement creates a new chassis supply model from each of the three pool operators overseeing the daily logistics of 81,500 chassis. The pools will remain commercially independent, with each chassis provider competing for business and setting its own leasing terms and rates. A separate third-party service provider will manage billing and other proprietary information.

    Another ray of light appeared in the Feb. 27 edition of the Journal of Commerce. It reported that the Port of Los Angeles was teaming up with terminal operators and harbor drayage company, TTSI, to launch a container free-flow operation also aimed at reducing port congestion, while efficiently delivering import loads to retailers and other large shippers.

    TTSI serves a core group of beneficial cargo owners, like Walmart,  Target and Best Buy that take control of their imports at the port of entry. Together, beneficial cargo owners generate a critical mass of imports each week.

    Four marine terminals that handle imports from beneficial cargo owners—APL, APMT, Yusen Terminals and West Basin Container Terminal—unload these imports from the vessels and stack them in a block. TTSI truckers “peel off” the containers from the block and take them to the Pasha yard in the Port of Los Angeles.

    Either TTSI or other truckers take the loaded containers to the beneficial cargo owners’ distribution centers in the region. The drivers then pick up empty containers at the distribution centers and return them to the harbor.

    This closed-loop operation offers the benefit of reducing congestion at the marine terminals by draying off 400 to 500 containers a day as soon as the import loads are discharged from the ships.

    This results in quicker turn times for truckers without running into jurisdiction issues with the ILWU.

    Improvements in the movement of cargo at ports are stacking up every day. It’s still a question as to whether these improvements will steer the ports away  from the congestion issues they experienced in the past nine months.

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  • Fractured Perspectives

    From the Waterfront to Gaffey Street and Beyond
    James Preston Allen, Publisher
    I am thinking today about the famous Paleolithic cave paintings in Altamira, Spain.  I think about the exquisite images of extinct steppe bison, horses and deer, then wonder if the cave dwellers of that era had the same problem we have today discussing our environment.  I mean did they sit around the cave and argue about how many bison there were and how they would be depicted?  Was it as contentious as, say, the Gaffey Street Conceptual Plan or the Waterfront Development meetings? (more…)

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  • The American Dream is Still Possible

    Recent Union Contract Negotiations at Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach Show How
    By Robert “Bobby” Olvera Jr., Longshore Worker and President of ILWU Local 13

    A recent story aired by National Public Radio affiliate KPCC about the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13 (ILWU, Local 13), during contract negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), called us the union that sustains the “American Dream” in San Pedro and the greater Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor area.  The truth is, all Americans deserve what we have achieved for our communities and our families. (more…)

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  • Shooting Puts Body Cameras in Spotlight

    Police Commission President Showcases New Technology at Fashion and Tech Show
    By Katrina Guevara, Contributing Writer
    Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck probably didn’t expect to demonstrate the effectiveness of body cameras so soon after the department implemented them.

    On March 1, a video posted on Facebook of officers killing a homeless man in downtown Los Angeles went viral, just four days after LAPD officers modeled wearable cameras at Bixel Exchange’s first Fashion and Technology Salon at The Reef in Los Angeles.

    The LAPD said officers were responding to a report of a robbery when a man tried to fight them as they approached. During the struggle, according to the LAPD,  the man, later identified by the name “Africa,” reached for an officer’s gun, prompting police to open fire.

    The officer and a sergeant involved in the shooting were both wearing body cameras. It’s been reported in the Los Angeles Times that the body camera footage supports the events depicted in the video captured by a bystander.

    The police department’s policies regarding the devices and access to their footage is still being finalized. However, Beck said he does not want to publicly release the recordings unless required to do so for court proceedings.

    The city hopes to fully deploy the cameras by summer 2015.

    Days earlier, Sgt. Jason Ligouri modeled Axon, a video recorder developed by Taser International, on his shirt uniform, reportedly the same model used to capture the March 1 shooting.

    The Axon recorder is a camera box that can be mounted onto a uniform shirt, belt or pockets. The lens has a 130-degree field of view with retina low-light technology. The device can be turned on with the press of a button, in which the footage directly uploads to Evidence.com, a digital evidence management website run by Taser. Officials can view their recordings via a Motorola cell video viewer. The officers will be required to turn it on while they’re on duty.

    “Video is important, but it is just one piece of investigation,” Ligouri said.

    Ligouri has been a supporter of the camera for the past seven years. He said many officers have taken the initiative to use their own tape recorders while on duty.

    The LAPD would not use Axon until a policy is finalized and officers are properly trained. As of March 3, it’s not clear what body camera was used to capture the shooting.

    In the wake of massive demonstrations against police shootings of unarmed men of color nationwide, many hope the introduction of wearable technology will bring a measure of transparency.

    In January of 2014, KPCC radio reported that the department raised $1.3 million from individual donors, including Steven Speilberg, Casey Wasserman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, as well as organizations like Occidental Petroleum and the Dodgers.  The department expected to raise the money in 9 months, but instead the money was raised in 58 days. An Axon body camera costs $399 per unit, according to Taser International’s website.

    “[Axon body is] transformative for law enforcement in America,” said Soboroff about pitching the idea to financial backers.

    The LAPD litigates more than $100 million in lawsuits a year, said Soboroff. The cost of the cameras, which is one-hundredth the cost of lawsuits, could help minimize litigation and unwarranted citizens’ complaints.

    In 2013, Rialto police chief and police foundation fellow William Farar, published a study that found in the one year his department utilized the body cameras, the number of complaints against officers in that San Bernardino County city fell by 88 percent. The use of force by officers fell by more than 60 percent.

    Chief Farar’s study began February 2012, and ended in July 2013. The New York Times reported in a story about Farar’s study, that within a year, the use of force by officers fell by more than 60 percent.

    “If officers have on a body cam, it would have slowed down their thinking,” Soboroff said. “Such events as what happened to Eric Gardner would have deescalated [with a body camera].”

    The police department and city have the right to record arrests and accidents, among other incidents. Arrest logs, calls for service logs, statistics, crime and accident reports are available under the California Public Records Act.

    Recording incidents regarding domestic violence and juvenile victims must follow regulations under the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Details: www.bixelexchange.com and www.lapdonline.org/.

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  • St. Patrick’s Day Shenanigans Hit the LBC

    By Mick Haven, Contributing Writer

    Looking for something different than seas of green beer this St. Patrick’s Day?

    Here’s Random Lengths News’ alternative guide to getting your drank on in Long Beach.

    Yeah, so what if St. Patrick’s Day is another hijacked holiday like Cinco de Mayo, providing an excuse to get plastered (like most of you need one)? We’re here to tell you where the liquor’s at.

    Consider the Irish Sandwich: a pub crawl starting at Clancy’s and ending at O’Connell’s; a dive-bar option to the Belmont Bore pub crawl. That’s so cliché and yesterday.

    Start at Clancy’s on Broadway and Los Alamitos (try a Moscow Mule; not very Irish, but it comes in a copper cup), head to the V-Room on 4th and Los Alamitos, then cross the street to the Stache; slide down 4th to the Red Room, then Fern’s; stumble ever onward to Ashley’s and the Pike, and finally pour yourself into O’Connell’s.

    Sure, Clancy’s Irishness stems solely from a name, and O’Connell’s is only as Irish as the green paint and green neon sign make it. The former offers the aforementioned Moscow Mule and reasonable prices on stiff drinks, and the latter provides a good place to end because the bar is, indeed, a dive. Meaning O’Connell’s is like the last-ditch babysitter your parents employed when you were a wee lad or lassie: your septuagenarian, alcoholic aunt.

    Mercurial as hell, one day she’s proffering a bowl of chocolates while regaling you with tales of when she was turning tricks with sailors at the original Pike post-World War II and you’re yucking it up together. But the next time you two hang, with her crazy mutant booze strength she grabs your ear, twisting it so violently you’re thinking surgery to reattach it, while the index finger on her other hand jackhammers against your thoracic cavity till you’re sure her fingertip is going to punch through, spearing your heart on the end of her boney digit. All because you were being loud, talking in a normal voice while her migraines flared up.

    So you should expect stiff drinks and the ability to go in the parking lot out back, empty your guts, come back in and refill them with more cheap booze. That’s all you should expect.

    Continuing with the cheap booze motif but heading to 2nd Street, Murphy’s above Belmont Athletic Club offers Cheez-Its in bowls and the whole Hall of Hops around-the-world-in-70-beers-green-card-passport deal. St. Patrick’s Day might be a good time to see how many countries you can see from a bar stool. Plus, there are all the other bars in the Shore if you want to get away from good deals on liquor and free snacks.

    And now for a couple of completely different options:
    First, why crawl when you can ride? Besides Uber and Lyft, another option allows you to avoid crawling or drinking and driving: The Big Red Bus, a double-decker from England.

    Big Red Bus has two events planned. Both involve joining other revelers while Big Red ferries the lot of you to three Irish pubs. The trip on St. Big Red Bus Patrick’s day starts at Dogz Bar & Grill on 2nd in the Shore. There is also a trip the Sunday before that starts at the Tilted Kilt.
    The cost is $30 for either trip.

    Speaking of the Kilt, you don’t go there for the booze, although the reasons you do also start with B-O-O. Drinks ain’t cheap and the food ain’t all that good. But there’s a reason the Kilt’s getting swole in the breastaurant niche while their gorilla of a rival shrivels a little more every year. Kilts are way sexier than dolphin shorts and support hose. Unless you’re Richard Simmons.

    Next, how about some water with your whiskey? The Queen Mary is putting on its annual Shamrock ‘N’ Roll on St. Patrick’s Day featuring live music from a number of Irishy bands. The only bummer is that it ends at 11 p.m.

    The event costs $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Parking is $5. Only people 21 and older will be admitted.

    Isolated on the corner of Anaheim and Termino, The Red Leprechaun serves interesting food if you’re into adulterating your booze with food. The place serves Irish-fusion, gastro-pubbie fare along with craft beers and  live Irish music.

    As for the rest, with Irish sounding names, interchangeable décor, Guinness on tap and Jameson in a bottle there is The Auld Dubliner, E.J. Malloy’s (multiple locations), Gallagher’s, Shannon’s (multiple locations) and K.C. Branaghan’s—and almost certainly other equally generic examples—all fit squarely in the middle of American Irish pub-land. So, there’s mosdef an offering in your neighborhood. Sláinte!

    Details: (562) 888-2870
    Venue: The Big Red Bus

    Venue: The Queen Mary

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  • RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: March 3, 2013

     March 4
    NWSPNC Budget and Finance Committee Meeting
    The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council will host a budget and finance committee meeting, at 5 p.m. March 4 at Taxco Restaurant, to review and approve Neighborhood Purposes Grant Applications.
    Details: (310) 732-4522
    Venue: Taxco Restaurant
    Location: 29050 S. Western Ave., San Pedro

    March 6
    Blood Drive
    The American Red Cross will have a Bloodmobile Unit set up, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 6, at San Pedro Mental Health Center.
    Details: (310) 519-6100
    Venue: San Pedro Mental Health Center
    Location: 150 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    March 7
    EVA Social Saturday
    The East Village Association will host its monthly Social Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Thai District in Long Beach.
    Venue: Thai District
    Location: 149 Linden Ave., Long Beach

    March 14
    Open House for Western Avenue Design Guidelines
    The cities of Rancho Palos Verdes and Los Angeles have teamed together to develop design guidelines to improve the Western Avenue Corridor Vision Plan for residents, businesses and visitors. There will be a public open house, at 10 a.m. March 14 at the Peck Park Community Center, to see the work in progress, ask questions and provide feedback.
    Venue: Peck Park Community Center
    Location: 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro

    March 14
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream Auditions
    Youth theater company The Troupe will host auditions, from 12 to 2 p.m. March 14, for their upcoming production of  A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
    Details: pedrotroupe@gmail.com
    Venue: The Troupe Theater Company
    Location: 619 S. Mesa St., San Pedro

    March 20
    SPCC Leadership Series
    The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce will present the 2015 Leadership Series with Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell at 11:30 a.m. March 20 at Ports O’Call Restaurant.
    Details: (310) 832-7272
    Venue: Ports O’Call Restaurant
    Location: 1200 Nagoya Way, San Pedro

    March 23
    Call for Artists to Design and Paint DOT Utility Boxes
    The San Pedro Chamber and the San Pedro ACE District Committee are seeking artists who wish to participate in the Public Art Program in the San Pedro ACE District, Spring 2015.
    In collaboration with City Council District 15 and Clean San Pedro, Inc., the Chamber and ACE District Committee have selected five DOT Utility Boxes for custom painting by artists.
    Submissions are due March 23, 2015. The District Design Advisory Panel will select five submissions. Boxes will be painted the week of April 27.
    Details: (310) 832-7272

    April 2
    Alcohol Awareness Month Event

    South Bay Communities Creating Change will host a media event, at 10 a.m. April 2 at the Gardena Council Chambers, to kick off this year’s observance of Alcohol Awareness Month. There will be elected officials, health professionals, law enforcement, youth and community leaders of the South Bay to present local and regional data and provide testimonies.
    Details: (213) 304-1394
    Venue: Gardena City Hall
    Location: 1700 W. 162nd St., Gardena

    April 14
    Long Beach City Council Special Election
    There will be a Special Municipal Election to fill the vacant 4th District Council seat on April 14. The qualified candidates are Herlinda Chico, Daryl Supernaw and Richard Lindemann.
    Details: (562) 570-7479


    Pier T Detour March 7-9

    Pier T Avenue from Ocean Boulevard and Terminal Island Freeway (SR-47/SR-103) will be detoured to Pier S Lane via New Dock Street from 4 p.m. March 7 through 6 a.m. March 9. This closure affects Port of Long Beach traffic headed to Pier T.
    Nightly Closures of Southbound Harbor Scenic Drive
    Southbound Harbor Scenic Drive from the southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway is closed nightly through April 17. All traffic heading to Piers F – J at the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, cruise terminal and waterfront businesses will be detoured to the Pico Avenue (Piers B – E) exit.
    GDB Replacement Project Work:
    Southbound Harbor Scenic Drive Closure
    Type of Work: Full street closure
    Area of Work: Southbound Harbor Scenic Drive from the southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway will be closed nightly. All traffic headed to Piers F – J, the Queen Mary, cruise terminal and waterfront businesses will be detoured to the Pico Avenue (Piers B – E, Terminal Island) exit.
    When: Through April 17, the nightly closure schedule is: Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Friday through Sunday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday, and 5 a.m. Monday.
    Eastbound Pier S Lane Closure
    Type of Work: Lane closure
    Area of Work: Eastbound Pier S Lane is closed through April. Flaggers are present from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily to direct both directions of traffic. Outside of these hours and on weekends, only westbound traffic is allowed.
    When: Ongoing through approx. late-April
    Pier D Street Lane Closure
    Type of Work: Lane closure
    Area of Work: There are alternating lane closures on Pier D Street. Flaggers are present to direct traffic.
    When: Daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through approx. mid-April
    Southbound Harbor Scenic Drive Lane Closure
    Type of Work: Lane closure
    Area of Work: The inside lane of southbound Harbor Scenic Drive is closed from the southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway to Ocean Boulevard.
    When: Ongoing through approx. late-March

    Northbound Pico Avenue Lane Closure

    Type of Work: Lane closure
    Area of Work: A short stretch of northbound Pico Avenue is reduced to one lane between the westbound Ocean Boulevard off-ramp and Pier D Street.
    When: Ongoing
    Pier T Avenue Ramp Closure
    Type of Work: Ramp closure
    Area of Work:  The Pier T Avenue on-ramp to westbound Ocean Boulevard is closed. The entrance to the detour route along Pier S Lane is approximately 300 feet from the former westbound on-ramp at the Pier T Avenue/Pier T Lane intersection.
    When: Ongoing through mid-2015

    SB I-710 Freeway to WB Ocean Blvd. Connector Closure
    Type of Work: Freeway connector closure
    Area of Work: The southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway to westbound Ocean Boulevard connector is closed through 2016. The detour for traffic headed to Terminal Island and San Pedro is southbound Pico Avenue to westbound Ocean Boulevard. Follow detour signs for “Terminal Island.”
    When: Ongoing
    Westbound Ocean Blvd. Lane Reduction
    Type of Work: Lane closure
    Area of Work: Westbound Ocean Boulevard from downtown Long Beach is reduced to one lane approaching the Gerald Desmond Bridge.
    When: Ongoing
    WB Ocean Boulevard to SR-47/SR-103 Intersection Lane Closure (Caltrans)
    Type of Work: Lane closure
    Area of Work: The dedicated right turn lane for northbound Terminal Island Freeway (SR-47/SR-103) from westbound Ocean Boulevard is closed. Access through the intersection and northbound Terminal Island Freeway is maintained.
    When: Ongoing until approx. May 2015

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