One Vote, Your Vote

In 2008, the nation came out in record numbers to vote during the presidential election. All across the country, voters lined up for hours to exercise their right to vote and the change that many hoped for happened.

Among the many questions that have been asked during this presidential campaign, one in particular is whether or not this is the change the nation expected. After all, unemployment is still hovering at 8%, gas is at $4.50 per gallon, food prices continue to rise, median incomes are lower, and in general our economic recovery continues at a snail’s pace. The government is more divided than ever and it seems as if the extreme sides of each political party are holding the rest of the country hostage. It is now in our hands to decide whom we send to Washington and Sacramento to change the gridlock that is so desperately needed.

Our decision is for us to determine which presidential candidate has the best policies, right approach and clearest vision to solve our nation’s problems. At the core of the debate is what the role of government should play in our daily lives. An example of this debate is that of trickle down economics vs. trickle down government.

One side argues that tax cuts provide businesses the opportunity to invest and create jobs, provides more money in our pockets that enables personal spending and in the end increases tax revenues. The other side believes in leveling the playing field, distribution of wealth and deficit spending to help stimulate the economy. What has transpired is that neither approach seems to be the sole answer to address our economic issues.

For example, although the Bush tax cuts provide a little more cash in our paychecks it did not appear to help grow the economy and the Obama stimulus package hasn’t created the millions of jobs that were promised. The answer resides somewhere in the middle of these two fundamental philosophies in order to turn our economy around. Our decision is to vote for the candidate that we believe can reach across the aisle to restore the belief in America and move our country forward.

Looking to California, propositions again make up the bulk of the November ballot. In many cases, it’s the propositions that we have approved over the years that have created new fees and increased our taxes. Many Californians question whether or not the state really needs more tax revenue or should focus on doing a better job managing the tax revenues it already receives along with working to bring new businesses back to our state.

Case in point, with the state’s parks department operating in the red, Governor Brown had planned to close a quarter of California’s natural attractions over this past summer. Generous donations from businesses, private citizens and cities allowed the parks to remain open only to find out later that $54 million in park revenues had been hidden in separate trust funds over the past ten years. This was not only embarrassing but also created a breach of trust with the taxpayers. Such a lack of trust with our state government’s ability to make sound financial decisions, balance the state budget and allocate proposition monies as promised may be a key factor on whether or not this year’s propositions get passed.

In the end, it is our duty to elect those who we believe represent our core values and will make decisions with the best interest of the nation and/or state in mind. We must do our homework when it comes to voting on the propositions so that we make an informed decision. Together we can put the country on the right track. After all, “we the people” determine the direction of the United States of America and one vote – your vote – can and will make a difference. So make sure to vote on November 6. spt

Dressing To Impress Without The Stress

Chris and Alena Castillo with their two children, Tyler (right) and Krista (photo by John Mattera)

There’s a new spot in town where fashionistas can pick up designer threads and accessories for a steal: Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique.

Mannequins dressed to the nines line the shop windows on Western Avenue before Summerland, where owner Alena Castillo opened for business this July. In three months, she’s built an enthusiastic base of customers and consigners, followings on social media and has earned glowing reviews.

“I opened the store July 1 with 600 items, and now we have over 4,000,” says Castillo, a San Pedro native and casual longshoreman. After working her way up through management at Nordstrom and the Gap, the wife and mother of two realized her dream of opening a consignment shop in her hometown.

“I always knew I wanted to open up a store, and one day I was at a consignment store in Redondo Beach and I thought, ‘Gosh, San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes really needs something like this,” she says. “I really think this is something our town has needed for so long. I always had to drive out to the Galleria or Del Amo and now with gas prices, hopefully people can come here, and they’ll get a great deal too.”

With the business guidance from her uncle and help from her husband and high school sweetheart Chris, Castillo started planning, found a location, put out a call for items on Facebook, and made Finders Keepers a reality.

“It’s been so far, so good, every month it’s gotten better. It’s been all word of mouth,” Castillo says. “I already have regulars.”

Staying on top of trends gets expensive, and consigning offers a return on purchases that were investments, or nice items worn only once or twice. At Finders Keepers, consigners get 50 percent of the profit from their items, or 60 percent in store credit. Castillo says about half opt for store credit.

“We have over 150 consigners and every single item in the store is from somebody that lives in San Pedro or Rancho Palos Verdes,” she says. “So many people that used to consign at places in Redondo now come here because it’s more convenient and it’s closer.”

Castillo looks for quality, name brand and designer clothes, shoes and accessories that are new or gently used. The store carries mostly women and kids’ items, but does have a rolling rack of men’s clothes. She also has a plus size section.

“I would say we specialize in our denim and our dresses, the selection is killer,” Castillo says. If customers have specific requests, she’ll call them when one comes in.

For an idea of prices, designer jeans usually go for $50 or less. Recently, someone snagged a pair of brand-new Christian Louboutin shoes for $140. But if Alexander McQueens, Marc Jacobs handbags and True Religions aren’t your style, there’s an entire back room of items for $10 or less.

“I think people come here to find items that are somewhat trendy, but are a good basic,” Castillo says. Her selection offers versatility that works for all ages. When the store first opened, a 20-year-old came in and bought a jacket consigned by a 55-year-old woman.

“If you want something trendy you’ll go to Forever 21 and spend $10 on a top, but the items here are different because they’re name brand, so they’re better quality,” Castillo says. “Maybe they’re a brand or style someone wouldn’t usually buy, but because of the price, they’re more likely to try it on here.”

Once a month, Finders Keepers hosts an after-hours wine and cheese social usually coinciding with a sale. The store also carries handmade jewelry crafted by Lynn Links, a nearby resident battling cancer, for whom jewelry-making is cathartic. Her pieces, specializing in stone and shells, are very popular.

A first-time business owner herself, Castillo comes from a family of San Pedro retailers. Her grandparents owned the Kitchen Shop at Ports O’ Call Village in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“If I was to say thank you to anybody, it would definitely be my husband. He’s made this happen and he’s been my biggest fan. My mom has been very supportive and I have some friends that helped me open,” Castillo says. “For being open for three months, a lot of positive things have happened so far and it can only get better, I’m very optimistic.” spt

Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique is located at 29619 S. Western Ave in Rancho Palos Verdes. For more information, call (310)521-1969.

Hahn’s Bi-Partisan Congressional Caucus

A rollercoaster of emotions might be the best way to describe Janice Hahn’s entry into the United States Congress.

When she first announced her intention to run, many political pundits framed Janice as the underdog in the primary with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen expected to get a majority of the Democrats’ votes and Republican Craig Huey getting GOP ballots. However, Janice took home the most votes in the primary election and was well on her way to a run-off victory over Huey when life intervened.

On the day before the election, Janice’s mother Ramona Hahn passed away. The next day Janice was elected to Congress. On election night, I recall being in a long line of people who first offered Janice their condolences and then their congratulations. With tears in her eyes she accepted both sentiments graciously and began her work representing our district in Congress.

However, Janice had barely arrived in Washington D.C. when it was announced that her district had been re-drawn and she would be forced to run against an incumbent, Congresswoman Laura Richardson in the 2012 election.

With only one in ten Americans approving the work of Congress, one might wonder, why go through all the trouble to get elected?

Much of the disgust with Washington stems from the belief that the politicians have put party before country and the dysfunctional gridlock that has been created prevents our nation from moving forward out of two wars and the Great Recession into a better future. Janice would not disagree. “When I got to Congress I found myself in the middle of a very partisan, toxic environment that did not lend itself in any way to facilitate efforts by Congress members to work across the aisle. It was more of a team sport, us against them,” she says. “People want us to find a way to put aside our partisan bickering for the good of the nation.”

One of the criticisms that I occasionally would hear people whisper against Janice when she was our councilwoman was that she wanted to please everyone and was too concerned with building complete consensus before making decisions. Janice acknowledges that she always strived to build consensus, in fact she takes pride in it. “I think I was known for being able to work with environmentalists, labor, business, and neighborhood councils to figure out what we have in common to get things done,” she says.

I believe that it is precisely Janice’s great quality: to be able to listen to opposing points of view that might allow her to provide the type of leadership that the American people know we require.

She’s already begun that work in her very first year in Congress. Janice, a Democrat, and Ted Poe, a Republican from Houston, co-founded the bi-partisan PORTS Caucus to raise awareness among their Congressional colleagues about the importance of the nation’s seaports. “Surprisingly, in 112 congresses the subject of our nation’s seaports really had not been elevated to a level that I thought was appropriate considering the economics of our ports and the job creations of our ports,” says Janice. She adds, “I wanted to find something that I could do in a bi-partisan way when I reached across the aisle and asked Ted to consider forming the caucus. He said yes and we now have over 80 members of Congress that are part of the caucus.”

The PORTS Caucus has already given Janice a platform to promote the issues of our Harbor Area. Bi-partisan issues that the caucus advocates include strengthening port homeland security from terrorist attacks, pushing transportation bills that include necessary infrastructure improvements around the ports, creating grants to incubate small business start-ups that create green technology solutions for port pollution, and the creation of a national freight strategy.

The work has already begun to make its mark. President Obama recently created the first-ever White House task force on ports to create a future ports strategy and target infrastructure investments that increases the competitiveness of America’s ports. This task force can pay huge dividends for the continued economic strength of our community and is precisely the type of issue that our elected officials can work on in a bi-partisan manner to speed up our nation’s recovery from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

Janice may have had a bumpy road into Congress, but it is my hope that she enjoys a long ride as our representative. On November 6, I urge you to vote for Janice Hahn as our Congresswoman. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com

Ace In The Hole

Terry Katnic (center) surrounded by his Ace Hardware staff. (photo by John Mattera)

Since the introduction of big box, do-it-yourself stores, such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot, the landscape of the American hardware store has changed.

Although independently operated hardware stores and pure hardware chains continue to find a healthy niche, the big do-it-yourself stores have dominated revenues. That didn’t stop or deter Terry Katnic from coming out of retirement and following his dream.

Katnic, in August of 2011, opened one of San Pedro’s newest, most dynamic small businesses, and he opened it under a name that everyone could recognize — Ace Hardware.

Located at 2515 S. Western Avenue, previous home of Hollywood Video, South Shores Ace Hardware is a business Katnic said he couldn’t be “prouder of.”

“The first year was hard, it was a daily struggle,” he says. “But now we are established, people, the community know we are here — and things lately have been going right.”

Katnic celebrated Ace Hardware’s one-year anniversary on August 23. He says in a community like San Pedro, “anything is possible.”

“We are getting a lot of support from the community,” he says. “People come in and say, ‘We are so happy you’re here!’ This is the key to opening a successful small business, it is all about the community you are serving.”

It’s also about location.

In this area of town, Katnic says, there hasn’t been a hardware store for years.

“There was a hardware store on this side of town for 25 years, but the economy took its toll and they had to close their doors,” he says. “It left a hole, and it was something that not only I, but the community noticed.”

When Hollywood Video closed its doors, Katnic knew it was now or never.

“I literally watched the ‘Closed’ signed go up at Hollywood Video and I knew it was my opportunity to put in a hardware store,” he says. “This is a great location, an amazing building and it couldn’t have been a better opportunity.”

A second generation San Pedran, Katnic knows exactly what goes into the opening and success of a small business. Previously in the auto parts distribution industry, Katnic spent 30 years working across the Los Angeles area serving six stores. He sold his interest in the business in 1998, and his professional career took a turn.

Katnic, who wanted a change, obtained a license to sell both life and health insurance. He says it was a great choice, as it made “life easier, and was not as demanding as my previous line of work.” It was a career Katnic says he was proud of, but the entrepreneur in him wasn’t done.

Ace Hardware, Katnic says, has been another life change. He works on average 80 hours a week, and that’s at the ripe age of 60.

“People asked me all the time if I was out of my mind,” he says. “But I love it, I am a hard worker, and I am always up for a challenge.”

Katnic says he is a part of a franchise that he is proud of – he is 100 percent owner. The company, Ace Hardware, operates as a co-op.

He says from the beginning he has been impressed with Ace Hardware – and as his business has turned one, he is an even bigger fan of the company.

“The J.D. Power award for Highest in Customer Satisfaction has been won by Ace Hardware for the last six years,” he says. “We really cater to people, to our customers. My employees don’t just disappear and hide, they work with the customers.”

He continues, “In addition, the logistics are amazing, the company employs 900 people. There are 4,400 stores in America, all independently owned. They give us the plan, but we are all entrepreneurs.”

But he says starting a business takes time and patience.

“It’s a learning curve, an undertaking, starting a new business,” he says. “It’s a commitment to sign a lease, but I never had doubt or fear – I never doubted that this would be a successful business and that is the mindset you have to have.”

Although very happy with his decision, and the success his store has had in the first year, Katnic knows that he needs the continued support of his community to make his store ever lasting.

“Sometimes people forget that in this hard economic time, I took a huge chance,” he says. “The end result is that I employ 10 people. I opened this convenience hardware store for myself and for the neighborhood. I believe in Ace Hardware and I want the community to believe in me.”

At the same time, Katnic recognizes and is overwhelmed with the support he has received.

“This community has been tremendously supportive, and without that support this store isn’t open,” he says. spt

South Shores Ace Hardware is located at 2515 S. Western Ave., Ste. 101. For more info, call (310) 833-1223 or visit www.southshoresace.com.

The Future Of SP Skateboarding

Congratulations to the San Pedro Skate Association for its role in creating the very first skate park in our community a decade ago. The Channel Street Skatepark has become a treasured asset for skateboarders in San Pedro, and is used by hundreds of skaters every week.

California is the birthplace of skateboarding. The sport began to receive worldwide attention in the late 1970s, when a group of skateboarders from Venice, known as the Z-Boys, began using empty swimming pools to practice new tricks and hold competitions. The pools – many emptied due to a severe drought – were almost always on private property, and the skateboarders usually did not have the permission of the property owner to use them. Skateboarders also used other existing infrastructure – plazas, planters, stairs, ramps and railings, on both private and public property.

In a city severely lacking adequate park and recreation space, it’s not surprising that youth began to look at the endless miles of concrete and urban sprawl as their own private playground.

The lack of dedicated facilities for this quickly growing sport led to an often-contentious relationship between property owners, police and skateboarders, contributing to the sport’s reputation as an underground counter-culture activity.

However, as skateboarding grew in popularity and became more mainstream, policy makers and elected officials began to recognize the need for dedicated skateparks, to allow skateboarders a controlled environment to engage in the sport, without trespassing on private property. This also allowed for the implementation of rules to reduce the risks involved in the sport, such as requiring the use of helmets and protective pads as a condition for using the parks.

Next summer, we will be opening a brand new skate park at Peck Park in San Pedro, and my office is working on building a new skate park in Watts. Today, skateboarding is unquestionably a mainstream, legitimate sport and, as a former Senior Lead Officer at LAPD, I would much rather kids be honing their skills at the skate park, as opposed to vandalizing property with graffiti, breaking into cars or experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Skateparks facilitate the art of maneuvering a board in one fashion, but as many of us are aware, some skaters use their boards in other fashions – including riding them down steep and hilly streets; a newer specialty of the sport, known as downhill skating, or “bombing.”

While I respect the fact that being able to maneuver a skateboard at speeds in excess of 40-mph, takes lots of skill, talent and guts, running red lights, stop signs and mixing it all with moving vehicles is a recipe for disaster.

This is why I have been so vocal about putting an end to it.

My actions enacting an ordinance banning reckless skateboard bombing does not mean that I do not recognize the fact that many of our young skaters have a need and desire to participate in this sport, which is growing in popularity. In fact, there is a worldwide sanctioning body – the International Gravity Sports Association – that has established rules and guidelines, and arranges competitions all around the world.

As your elected representative in the City of Los Angeles, I constantly strive to represent everyone in our district and everyone in our community. Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to give back to the young boys and girls who feel I have taken something away from them, and there is no way I can pass it up.

A group who wishes to hold a downhill skateboarding competition in San Pedro this spring has approached my office, and I am proud to support their efforts. The event would close Gaffey St. from the lookout point down to Paseo Del Mar, creating a temporary closed-course for all skaters to enjoy, while providing safety and emergency resources to create the safest and most fun environment.

I understand that there will be a few members of the community who will argue that sanctioning this event sends mixed messages. However, I have consistently stated that I am not against skateboarding, I am against reckless skateboarding.

By providing downhill skateboarders a closed course, where they will not be sharing the road with automobile traffic, requiring liability waivers, and implementing safety precautions like requiring protective gear, lining the street with hay bales, and having first aid standing by on-site, we hope to reduce most of the potential risks.

I don’t believe holding this special event encourages reckless skateboarding any more than the Long Beach Grand Prix encourages reckless driving. In fact, it provides a unique opportunity to reach out to young skateboarders, and educate them on the new ordinance, as well as the importance of wearing helmets and protective gear.

Creating smart public policy is often about striking an appropriate balance between two important, but contradicting positions. In this case, it’s about finding the balance between ensuring public safety and protecting personal liberty. I believe my skateboarding safety ordinance did that by requiring that skateboarders obey the same rules of the road as motorists and bicyclists follow, without banning them on public streets altogether, as many had advocated for. Similarly, I believe this downhill skateboarding event strikes that same balance.

As a parent, I understand the desire to protect kids from any activity that could bring them bodily harm. But, we have to recognize that we can never make this world as safe for them as we would like, and that government can never replace the role of parents, nor should it attempt to. The best we can do is to reduce and minimize risk, and hope that by providing necessary education and safer alternatives, kids will make smarter decisions on their own.

For Love Of The Game

Shelley Smith, photographed at San Pedro High School (photo by John Mattera)

It’s November, the heart of college football season, and for Shelley Smith, that means no rest, several flights in-and-out of LAX and every Saturday spent at a different football stadium across the country.

But it’s not just college football that keeps Smith from curling up on the couch to the latest blockbuster hit, it’s also Thursday night NFL games, pre-season NBA games, the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal and the continued lockout talks of the NHL strike.

It’s these precise reasons though, that get Smith out of bed each and every morning, well these and her daily trips to the local San Pedro gym, Hey Day Fitness, where she can talk sports without the pressure of a camera in her face.

Smith loves her job, and she loves it because “no single day is the same.”

Smith joined ESPN in 1997 and quickly became one of the leading ladies in sports journalism. She has climbed the ranks and has had great success in doing so, including four Sports Emmys, one of which she received in 1997 for her segment on Magic Johnson as part of an ESPN production on AIDS and Athletes.

But she didn’t start at the top. For Smith, having an interest and passion for journalism started at a young age. But back then, it was an interest in breaking news and features, she hadn’t even considered a career in sports.

A Denver native, Smith attended the University of Nebraska, where she majored in journalism and political science. During her time at Nebraska, Smith wrote for the college newspaper and through this came an opportunity for lunch with an alumnus, who happened to be the sports editor at a major newspaper in Denver.

“In college I thought I wanted to go into news or features reporting,” she says. “That all changed when the editor called me and offered me a gig in the sports department.”

Smith shooting a story on the “most dangerous golf hole in the world” along the DMZ in South Korea for ESPN in 2009. Smith originally covered the golf course in 1988 for her very first Sports Illustrated story. (photo by Dylann Tharp)

The editor took notice in Smith, and she never looked back. Now a sideline reporter for ESPN, Smith is an award-winning journalist and author of three books, with a fourth — Al: The unauthorized biography of Raiders owner Al Davis – on its way. But she says it’s been a constant challenge, and she has always set out to outwork and out prepare her peers.

“You make your own luck in this field by working hard,” says Smith. “If you are well prepared and work harder than anyone else you can make up for what you lack in talent. It is really about taking the extra time and getting it right, but don’t get me wrong, I have been lucky to be in the right place at the right time a couple times.”

Case in point, the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Smith was in Seoul covering the Olympics for Sports Illustrated when word broke that Canadian Ben Johnson would be stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for steroids. Upon hearing the news, Smith, along with a photographer, raced to the airport, where Johnson would soon be boarding for a flight to New York – Smith got on that flight, sat with Johnson for 45 minutes and conducted the first one-on-one interview, an exclusive.

“When I got on that plane I knew it would be my big break,” she recalls. And it was.

The Ben Johnson exclusive is arguably Smith’s biggest story ever – and she says she will never forget the rush of it all.

“I knew it would be the biggest story I would ever cover,” she says. “It was the middle of the night, a double-decker plane, and I knew I was sitting on something huge. It was the greatest feeling in the world to get off the plane with hoards of reporters waiting for Johnson’s arrival and walk past them knowing I already had the story.”

This was just the start for Smith, who was offered a position with Sports Illustrated in 1989, and six months later was asked to make a move to the West Coast from New York.

“When I was in college, we print journalists thought broadcast journalists should be in the drama department,” she says. “We thought we were the only serious journalists – so when I accepted the position at Sports Illustrated in 1989, I had reached my destination, I was a writer and that’s what I wanted.”

Upon arriving in California, she made her home in San Pedro.

“I loved San Pedro,” she says. “The air was clean, it was a affordable and it didn’t seem like big, splashy Los Angeles.” Smith’s daughter, Dylann Tharp, was three at the time, and she wanted her to grow up in a good community.

“It was important, with all the traveling I do, to have a place to come home to,” she says. “A place to exhale – I have stayed in San Pedro ever since.”

Tharp, now 26, was a fixture on working road trips. Smith remembers various all-star games where Tharp would sit on the floor next to her and play with Barbies while Smith covered the game – so much so, that Tharp began to interact with the players and would later track them down for her Mom.

“I took Dylann with me a lot,” says Smith. “She grew up with Charles Barkley essentially – they are still good buds. She was with me on the NBA or NCAA tournament trail and also went with me to all the bowl games.”

“There is a photo above my fireplace where Barkley is holding her at the Minnesota All-Star Game, after chastising me for using my kid to do all my work, my producer said, ‘Does she know Shaq?’”

Tharp, after graduating from San Pedro High School, captained the University of Oregon soccer team and in 2007 was named to the Pac-10 second team. She majored in art and communications at Oregon, and is now living and working in Los Angeles.

Since Smith joined ESPN in 1997, she has recorded hundreds of articles and reports on topics ranging from the Olympics to the O.J. Simpson trial. She has covered Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, the BCS national championship game, the NHL Stanley Cup, golf and tennis championships, ski racing, weightlifting, boxing and motor sports.

“I’ve always wanted to write stories,” she says. “Making the transition to ESPN was difficult, it was a lot of training – hair training, make-up training, where to stand training, voice training — but I love it, I love being a sideline reporter. I love my job, and I love even more that everyday presents a different challenge — no day is the same.”

In addition, she is the co-founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation newsletter, serves on various committees for The Boys & Girls Club of San Pedro and is a volunteer writer for many charity organizations, including the Serra Project, which provides homes for AIDS victims.

Smith plans on walking the sidelines for sometime. She loves that her weeks can range from USC football, to Lakers basketball, to baseball and the NFL.

“I am writing a book on Al Davis, which is the hardest thing I have ever done,” she says. “But I have also found a new passion for jumping on stories. I love my job, I love it all. Everyday is different, the sports world is always changing, and something is always happening.” spt

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Vote Your Heart

It’s all coming to an end soon.

I know this particular issue’s shelf life is much longer than the lead up to the presidential election, but it’s tough to shift focus on anything else these days. Especially since I’m writing this column on the eve of the third presidential debate.

I mean, I could write about some of the great fall television shows premiering this month, or some of the amazing films coming out for awards season. (Go see The Master, it’s amazing!) Or maybe I could write about the new street paving on Gaffey St. and Western Ave. and how interesting it was to navigate those streets without any street lines for a few days.

I could also recap the day when the Space Shuttle Endeavour flew right over our homes last month on its final flight. I could easily write about all of that.

Maybe you’d want to read about my thoughts on the Channel Street Skatepark, which celebrates its ten-year anniversary this year. I could write about how inspiring it is to see a project built with the blood, sweat and passion of a group of guys who just wanted a cool place to skateboard – permits and permission be damned – and how that spirit is so symbolic of what San Pedro is all about.

I could also write about the eight developers who have thrown their hats into the ring to (finally) renovate Ports O’ Call. Oh wait, I wrote about that last month. Never mind. (But seriously, eight developers! How cool is that?)

I could write about a number of subjects this month, but I know it would fall on deaf ears and blind eyes because all anyone is talking about at the moment is the presidential election, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So in regards to the election, rather than force an ideology upon you and arrogantly tell you who you should vote for, all I ask of you to do – the smart and savvy readers of this magazine – before you enter the voting booth or fill out the absentee ballot, please do your homework on the candidates and the issues, and vote what you feel is right.

In other words, vote your heart.

Don’t let the partisan television pundits, newspaper editors, celebrities or strangers in the coffee shop sway you one way or the other. Take the time to look up the facts and do your homework. Information has never been easier to access and disseminate. By doing so, you may discover that you have stances on issues you never knew you had because you never took the time to learn about it. Well, now’s the time.

So on Tuesday, November 6, no matter who your choice is for president or what propositions you are in favor of, the most important right you have as a citizen of this great country of ours is to let your voice be heard in the voting booth.

So please, get out and vote. The worst thing you can do is stay home and be silent.

In Memoriam

On a more serious note, I’d like to extend my condolences to the Perkov, Blaskovich, Agisim and Greenwood families. In one week’s time, we lost four beloved San Pedrans – Tony Perkov, owner of Ante’s Restaurant; Dr. Jerry Blaskovich, the beloved dermatologist; sea chantey singer Geoff Agisim; and former LAUSD School Board member and Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council founder, John Greenwood. Each one of them made our community a better place and touched the lives of so many. San Pedro owes all of them a debt of gratitude. They’re all going to be sorely missed.

Lastly, I want to send a special message of thanks to all our San Pedro veterans. It’s because of your hard work and sacrifice in defending our freedom that we are able to have this crazy election circus in the first place. Thank you.

 

Until next month…

Joshua Stecker
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, San Pedro Today

ON THE COVER: From Renegade To Legit

Professional skateboarder and Channel Street Skatepark regular, Robbie Russo, shows off his moves. (photo by John Mattera)

Cars and semi-trucks rumble overhead, while traffic through the busiest corridor of the Port of Los Angeles roars by at street level. Approaching the area underneath the 110 Harbor Freeway, the hum of traffic lessens. Replacing it are the sounds of wheels and wooden boards grinding against concrete and metal. The grittiness of the area seems contradictory to the sounds of teenage chatter, laughter and hands slapping other hands as skaters glide past each other. This is the Channel Street Skatepark.

Ten years ago, it seemed an unlikely location, but today it’s an obvious choice. “Skateboarding is loud,” says Andy Harris, one of the founders of the Channel Street Skatepark. “This is the perfect spot. No one is bothered by the sounds of skateboarding.”

There are no houses in the vicinity, and it’s behind a strip mall of businesses. “We don’t even hear them,” says John Bagakis, general manager of Big Nick’s Pizza, one of the businesses in the strip mall. “They’re good kids, and they come in and buy slices, and ask for water on hot days. We ask them not to ride on the sidewalks or inside the plaza, and they’ve been pretty respectful of the rules.”

Although the location is perfect, it didn’t always meet everyone’s approval. Harris, Robbie O’Connell, Bill Sargeant, Robert Yamasaki, Scott Smith and Gabe Solis were some of the local skaters who saw the desolate area as a shining gem. The group had no permits and had not created a non-profit. The land was owned by Caltrans, who had not given permission. But after fruitless years of trying to get the city to build a skatepark, they decided to go down the do-it-yourself path. The inspiration came from San Diego.

“We went down there and saw the skatepark at Washington Street and we were like ‘Wow, we have the same setup,’” says Harris. “So we came back to this spot, and started building bumps.”

The Washington Street Skatepark is a series of smooth concrete humps and bowls, and looks similar to what the Channel Street Skatepark is today. When they started building small bumps, no one noticed. When they got a concrete truck down there, it was a different story.

“They all showed up at the same time,” says Harris. “Harbor Department and the Department of Building and Safety were down here and just told us, this is all going to be torn down.”

But instead of listening or calling it a wash and just walking away, they fought.

“It’s the idea that you’re doing something that is beneficial,” says Harris of why he wouldn’t give up. “There’s no way this is going away. It’s for the kids in town.”

Andy Harris (front row, second from right) with the old and new guard of the Channel Street Skatepark. (photo by John Mattera)

Harris called Janice Hahn’s office, who at the time was the Los Angeles City Council member serving the 15th District, which covers San Pedro. Caroline Brady-Sinco, who worked for Janice Hahn, worked with Harris to keep the park open, even driving to San Diego to see the Washington Street Skatepark that inspired them. Brady-Sinco’s efforts worked.

“Next thing you know, the Harbor Department says we’ll put up a chain link fence,” says Harris.

Even though officials threatened them with closure, they firmly believed they would find a way to keep it.

“It’s an asset,” says fellow founder, Robbie O’Connell of the skatepark. “It’s for the little kid learning how to skate and the old crusty guy still skating after 25 years.”

Hahn’s office asked that they create a non-profit for the skatepark, which they did, called the San Pedro Skatepark Association. This way people and businesses can donate money and supplies so that the entire building cost isn’t borne by the founders. When asked how much money they spent out of pocket, Harris shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t even want to know,” he says.

The First Day - clearing debris under the 110 freeway. (photo by Andy Harris)

Thankfully, tax-deductible donations are now possible. Supporters like Pasha Stevedoring & Terminals has donated close to ten thousand dollars of rebar.

“We have so much rebar in there, good luck tearing it down,” jokes Harris. “If anything ever happens in the world, I’m taking cover there. It’s like a fortress.”

The park has grown from a few bumps in 2002 to about 8,000 square feet of smooth concrete humps and bowls. The outside walls are decorated with paint and mosaic tile art, much of which was done by the same skaters who are spending every afternoon at the park.

“We bring awareness to the kids and give them a sense of ownership,” says Harris. “It’s not about ‘this is mine,’ this is everybody’s.”

Harris is a longshoreman now, but before that he was a substitute teacher. It’s not surprising when seeing the connection he makes to the kids that visit the park. As he pulls up in his car, skaters come over one by one to slap hands and say hello. There is a tangible respect among all of the skaters, regardless of age.

One older man comes by holding a broom, says hello to Harris before walking away to finish sweeping areas of the skatepark.

“That’s Alfie,” says Harris. “Before he skates, he sweeps. We take care of this place. We don’t own it and we don’t want any reason for the city to ever say we don’t take care of it.”

Over the years, the number of skaters has multiplied. With the growing numbers is also a wide variety of age.

“When I was a kid, there weren’t any dads who skateboarded with their kids,” says Harris. “Now, on Saturdays here, it’s like mommy and me.”

There is one day that sticks with Harris, in which he realized that their little skatepark-that-could they had built was becoming a real, full-blown skatepark.

“It was the day when we were just working on the park and a minivan pulled up, and a mom dropped off a whole carload of kids,” says Harris. “I mean, they’re dropping their kids off under a freeway.”

Many parents view the park as a safer place for their kids to skate, rather than the car-filled streets of San Pedro.

Wooden framework is installed to shape the skatepark. (photo by Andy Harris)

Channel Street Skatepark will have to close down in the spring of 2013 for a full year. At that time, construction will be done on the 110 Freeway, forcing the park’s closure. Because of the community’s need for a safe place for skaters, a new skatepark is going to be built in Peck Park on Western Avenue. The estimated cost of the project is between $750,000 and $1 million with the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks funding the bulk of it with some money coming from the Tony Hawk Foundation. The Northwest Neighborhood Council, along with the San Pedro Skateboard Association, has been meeting with Recreation and Parks architects on design elements.

John Mavar, former vice president of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council, hopes the park will open in about a year and a half.

“This park is so important,” says Mavar. “We need to provide another location for the kids who skate, the same way we provide basketball courts or baseball diamonds.”

Officials are beginning to see having a skatepark as a necessity. Ten years ago, Harris and his friends couldn’t get anyone to listen to their pleas, but today, they’re helping to plan out a new skatepark. Not a do-it-yourself skatepark, but one paid for in large part by the city, permits and all.

Concrete is poured as the Channel Street Skatepark becomes a reality. (photo by Andy Harris)

The Channel Street Skatepark may have begun as just a place to skate, but it’s blossomed into something much larger. Harris’s next step is looking into liability insurance. It’s a far cry from where they started: just a few guys building skating bumps on illegal property under the freeway.

As Harris says, “We went from renegade to legit.” spt

For more information about the Skatepark or how to donate, visit the Channel Street Skatepark Facebook page.

A Tour a Ghost Would Die For

There is nothing more synonymous with the month of October than pumpkins and a good ghost story. If you think about it, ghost stories are just histories that capture the imagination and excite the listener. And a ghost is just a memory that has taken on a life of its own.

I was looking out the window from the historical archives on the sixth floor of the municipal building when it dawned on me that I was looking out at the biggest ghost in all of San Pedro. There is no greater specter in all of the town’s history than that of Old Beacon Street, ‘the most dangerous four blocks in the whole world’ according to Walter Winchell, a street with a reputation and a legend so large that it continues to haunt the land it stood on far beyond its very existence. Any ghost would die for that kind of fame.

I’m very excited to be giving the ghost of Beacon Street its due this month with a proper tour, as well as a tour of some not so famous haunts with ghosts of their own.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of San Pedro history; it’s kind of my thing. Apparently, it’s a lot of people’s thing these days and there are more opportunities than ever for you to get a taste of it.

The historical society has become a powerhouse of programming in the last year. I find myself looking forward to their First Sunday series every month. And have you seen the fabulous window displays that they’ve created downtown as part of their Windows Into the Past project? There is a window at Williams’ Bookstore, the upholstery shop, the Grand Vision Foundation and the USS Iowa Welcome Center.

Beautiful exhibits in an outdoor museum in honor of San Pedro’s 125th anniversary next year. They’re turning the windows out so fast that they’re nearly unveiling one every First Thursday. If you haven’t been down to see them, I highly recommend you make a point of going down there soon.

While walking tours of San Pedro are definitely my business, I don’t hold the patent on them. There have been a couple of really interesting tours and groups that have gone through town lately. Last month, Robert Inman, author of A Guide to the Public Stairways of Los Angeles led a four-hour trek through San Pedro, stating that San Pedro was his favorite neighborhood in Los Angeles. On the same day, the Black Rose Society also led a tour of some of the important sites in labor history located in town.

There are so many different ways to see San Pedro and even more perspectives to see them through. I have dozens of ideas for tours rolling around in my head and I’m going to keep rolling them out as I get them together. I’ve decided to feature a different themed tour in addition to my normal six tours every month. I have also planned a very special food tasting tour of five eateries in downtown on October 6.

It is my mission to give you every opportunity to truly experience all that San Pedro has to offer. For more information on my tours, please visit my website at www.towneetours.com. spt

Why We Get Fat in the Fall

October is upon us and with it brings another holiday season. Everything will come in “pumpkin spice” or “gingerbread,” jars of mini-size chocolates and cookie trays will abound. The break room will be filled with cupcakes, the bake sales wafting fresh-baked aromas that taunt us, and supermarket aisles will overflow with economy size bags of individually wrapped sugar bombs.

Time to batten down the hatches! We got a storm coming called Hurricane Holiday Weight Gain!

According to a New York Times article, the average holiday weight gain can be as high as five to ten pounds by the New Year. But the trouble isn’t the weight gain, necessarily. One report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that holiday weight is often not lost in the spring. In fact, the average person (and keep in mind, the “average” person is now overweight) who gains a few pounds this season will not lose it… unless they do something about it.

You shouldn’t resign to the statistics and accept that weight gain is collateral damage of the season. You can and should do something so that you can finish the year with some good memories and none of the fat.

So why do we gain weight during the holidays? Is it because we’re inside roasting chestnuts as opposed to being outside? Is it because we eat too much and move too little? There are a few reasons but here’s a surprising truth: You don’t gain weight because you eat too much. You gain weight because at this time of the year, you eat food that triggers your body to store fat.

Sugar and refined carbs – It’s not groundbreaking news that sugar makes us fat but few understand why. From October to January there’s an abundance of breads, pastries, and sweets. When you eat these foods they enter the bloodstream as blood sugar. This triggers your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin directs traffic, it determines where your food goes: to the muscles, liver, or fat cells depending on where it’s needed. If it’s not needed, it goes into storage (i.e. abdominal fat). This is generally a smooth process in sensible diets but when you eat sweets, there is a huge influx of sugar into your bloodstream, much more than your muscles or liver require, so insulin has to get it out of your blood storing it as fat. Quite simply, your body stores fat easily when you consume refined carbs and sugar. So knowing this what can we do?

Set Some Boundaries – For the next three months, sugary food will be everywhere: at work, your child’s school and at parties. Most of it will have sprinkles, and well-intentioned people will be trying to send you home with baskets of it. Decide ahead of time when you will indulge. Eating what you crave doesn’t become worrisome until it becomes habitual. My advice is reserve confections strictly for special occasions.

Start Resistance Training – Resistance training increases your muscle, which means more fuel can get stored there and not as fat. This is why people who regularly exercise tend to not gain weight during the season, and if they do, they bounce back quickly. Their bodies have higher demands for food and less need to store it. Don’t think exercise gives you license to eat terribly but understand your body either uses or stores energy. Give it reasons to use it.

Stop Approaching Your Health and Fitness as Seasonal – As a trainer, I’ve noticed the yearly cycle seems pretty consistent from year-to-year for a certain segment of people. They generally eat better and exercise in the spring only to fall off the wagon come winter. Health is not a place we can arrive at and then neglect. We have to constantly nurture it.

I’ve put together a Holiday Guide to staying lean with workouts and grocery lists. Email me at ricky@heydaytraining.com if you’d like to receive it. spt

Ricky Magana is an Elite Fitness Coach and co-owner of CrossFit Heyday (220 8th St. Downtown San Pedro). He can be reached at ricky@heydaytraining.com.