The Eighth Terminal

Last month, I had the honor of being appointed a Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner by Mayor Eric Garcetti and confirmed by the L.A. City Council. The purpose of the Harbor Commission is to oversea the management and operation of the Port of Los Angeles. The confirmation hearing actually took place on my birthday and was a great way to start off what turned out to be an extraordinary day and awesome experience for family, my friends and me.

Becoming a Harbor Commissioner provides me the opportunity to do what I love and that is representing San Pedro on an even broader scale. For those who have followed my columns over the past three years you have become accustomed to my passion for this town and where I believe we need to focus in order to secure our economic future for generations to come.

When my grandfather Domenic Costa came here in 1920, and my father in 1956, they both saw a waterfront at very different stages of development and transition, so being given the opportunity to help frame the waterfront for future generations to come is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. In fact, I welcome the challenges in front of my fellow colleagues and me on the Harbor Commission.

My appointment finalized Mayor Garcetti’s commitment of appointing three of the five Harbor Commissioners from San Pedro. The other two local commissioners are David Arian, the commissions Vice-President, who was appointed back in 2010, and newly appointed commissioner, Patricia Castellanos. Commissioner Arian, a former ILWU International President, has been a fixture on the waterfront as a union worker and labor leader. In addition to Commissioner Castellanos’ role as commissioner, she serves as deputy director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), a leading policy, advocacy non-profit, where she oversees the organization’s efforts to advance economic development strategies that lead to better jobs and an improved environment.

As I prepared after my appointment hearing at City Hall, I began reviewing the capability, capacity, and strategic objectives of the Port of Los Angeles. The Port consists of seven terminals that import and export over 40% of the world’s cargo into the nation. For every one job the port creates an estimated 10 jobs are created regionally. So, staying competitive in the global economy is critical to our economic future. That means we must find ways to increase our efficiency and continue to build the required infrastructure that differentiates us from other ports across the country.

Another key element is the opportunity to redevelop Port’s O’ Call and the extended waterfront to the outer harbor where the Lane Victory sits today. In order to do so, we must think about this segment of the waterfront as the Eighth Terminal. If we prioritize this development as we do all the other terminal developments, then we will develop a world-class waterfront in our lifetime, not in a generation, but today.

The question is will we collectively embrace change? Will we embrace new out-of-the-box ideas or will we stubbornly hold on to nostalgia for the way things were rather than what they can be? My focus and hope is that we will all have an open mind and raise our expectations on what “can be” not “what was.” This does not mean we should eliminate our historic past, but rather integrate it with something new.

And we should think big. San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the Baltimore Harbor are great examples of what dreaming and thinking big looks like. We in San Pedro need to start thinking as big – if not bigger – than they did because we represent the waterfront for Los Angeles, one of the greatest cities in the world.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife Carolyn for her love and support, Councilman Joe Buscaino for his advocacy and finally our new Mayor Eric Garcetti for giving a Pedro Boy the opportunity to represent his hometown on the Harbor Commission and work to influence generations to come. This is our opportunity to build a world-class waterfront together for a new generation. As the expression goes, it’s time to go big or go home, San Pedro. spt

Anthony Pirozzi can be contacted at apirozzi@yahoo.com.

Our Creative Corridor to a Stronger Economy

Last spring, on a local campaign stop, Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked for ideas on boosting San Pedro’s economy. He cited the usual harbor-related stuff you’d expect, but then he added another point that pleasantly surprised me; make San Pedro one of the creative corridors that exist in Los Angeles.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy – “The creative industries are a major player in the regional economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in annual sales revenue.” Being creative is big business in L.A. and San Pedro has many of the necessary elements to be poised for making good on the mayor’s idea.

Much of the talent is already here. As a local filmmaker, I’ve personally collaborated on numerous projects with San Pedrans. As a matter of fact, I’m even developing a TV idea with San Pedro Today’s own Joshua Stecker (how many of you knew Joshua freelances for entertainment publications such as The Hollywood Reporter?) Our partner, Matt Misetich, manages Script Pipeline, a company that discovers and connects writers from all over the nation with Hollywood’s top producers and managers.

My greatest local collaboration to date was with San Pedran, Chris Burke, and his partner, Jared Cotton, on Bloody Thursday, a PBS documentary film that chronicles how West Coast longshoremen fought to win the ILWU. The film garnered us an Emmy, which has allowed us to go on and do numerous other projects.

It’s probably apropos that my first meeting with Chris was at San Pedro Brewing Co. because he and Jared just premiered a show called Brew Dogs for the new Esquire Network about a pair of hilarious Scottish brewers that travel America in search of great craft beer. And SPBC is at the center of numerous scenes in my documentary, A City Divided, about the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry, which premieres on Fox Sports in November. (And btw, Misetich has an office above SPBC, which seems to be fast becoming the center of the creative universe).

A great thrill in making Bloody Thursday was having a song in the film performed by Mike Watt. Ask almost any alt-rocker about San Pedro and they’ll tell you that it’s Watt’s hometown. Watt, the bassist in Iggy and the Stooges, was in the Minutemen, a seminal punk band at the forefront of a rock revolution that allowed musicians to control their own career fate with a do it yourself (DIY) ethos, which exists to this day. In fact, San Pedro’s Recess Records, headed by Todd Congelliere, has for over 15 years kept our town on the punk map with its DIY approach to promoting music.

However, punk isn’t the only form of music that’s emerged from San Pedro. For example, 2003 SPHS grads proudly watched the Grammys last February as one of their classmates took home a trophy. San Pedro’s Miguel Pimental won a Grammy for Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” and electrified the audience when he performed the song in a live duet with Wiz Khalifa.

In addition to all of the great talent that’s already here, I’m also heartened by the numerous opportunities that exist for local youth to help build our creative corridor. Marymount is constructing a state of the art production facility on 6th Street that will attract film students from all over the world. The Boys & Girls Club features an amazing studio that allows its members to record music, shoot short films, and create animation and 3D projects. San Pedro City Ballet nurtures the talents of young dancers and includes prima ballerina Misty Copeland as an alumna. And the Warner Grand Theatre is home to youth theatre company Scalawag Productions and Encore Entertainers.

We often discuss linkage between our downtown and the waterfront as a key factor in a sustainable economic future for San Pedro. I would propose that we also begin to include linkage between our local talent, youth and the creative industries of Los Angeles as a key strategy in developing San Pedro into one of the prosperous creative corridors that make L.A. the entertainment capital of the world. spt

A Single Working Mom, A Collective Working Force

The port town of San Pedro is rich with local history, especially labor history as it relates to the docks. An important new chapter in this city’s local, labor history was recently begun as long-time resident Julie Ann White Brady broke through the proverbial glass ceiling to become the very first female officer elected to one of the most prominent labor locals in the harbor, the eminent Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). This is significant because in the local’s 79-year history, no woman has ever graced its membership as an elected officer. Though few, including Brady herself, have tried.

Last September, Brady, 54, lost her first attempt at office when she ran against a six-year incumbent for the title of Health Benefits Officer. Losing by an impressive and mere 27 votes out of a total of 2,745 votes cast was not bad for anyone running against an incumbent, regardless of gender. It was her first time running for one of the top four executive offices, even though she had previously been elected to numerous, less prominent roles, most notably Chief Dispatcher, an office which she held for more than four years. Rather than being discouraged to run again, Brady stepped up her campaigning efforts and focused her sights on the vice presidency, an office no other woman had ever attempted to reach.

“When I was on the Membership Committee, I worked very closely with the Vice President,” says Brady. “I would attend a great deal of LRC’s [labor relations dispute meetings] with the VP and in my head I always thought the VP position would be my dream job.” Brady was privately asked not to run for vice president by an officer at the time. She took that as a sign that it was time to challenge the status quo. Her tenacity to fight against the odds of being a woman in an industry dominated by men earned her an overwhelming 1,780 votes to beat out her male counterpart’s 881 votes in an unprecedented local landslide in the bid for the vice presidency this past March. “A huge part of the membership has already put their trust in me and I’m committed to doing the work they direct me to do,” she says.

Brady, a divorced single mother of three, credits her late, ex-father-in-law, Chuck Brady, for mentoring her and inspiring in her the desire to serve the union of which she is so proud. She fondly recalls endless hours during her early union years spent eagerly listening to the elder Brady’s union stories.

Her life on the waterfront began in 1997 as an identified casual worker, after a 20-year career as a former customhouse brokerage agent with just a high school diploma and some college. She was formally registered with Local 13 in 1998 and immediately began serving various committees and volunteering for numerous union causes. Brady quickly navigated through the local’s rank and file as a dedicated union sister, all the while establishing a solid reputation for being a hard worker.

Her favorite hands-on job is that of heavy equipment operator such as Side Pick/Top Handler or Transtainer, which require rigorous Skill III certification, the highest there is and second only to crane operators. Her favorite position within the union is that of dispatcher. “As a dispatcher, you are directly in the hub of everything going on,” says Brady. “The dispatch hall is the heart of the local and that is where I love to be.”

Outgoing Vice President, Bobby Olvera, Jr. commends the membership for electing Brady on her merit. “These are exciting times for our local, and Julie’s win shows how progressive we have become. She is a magnificent asset to this union and has always been valuable in all capacities. She will be a great officer, regardless of her gender, because of her highly qualified skill set and strong sense of unionism.”

Brady, whose children are 20, 18, and 17, has encouraged her family to serve the ILWU with her. She has lived in San Pedro for 22 years, and jokes that raising kids in this city among relatives and friends who also work on the docks means that Brady family gatherings are spent talking “ship” with the kids. Her children grew up with firsthand knowledge of the machinery, the dynamics within the dispatch hall, and the politics of the union. They have all volunteered at countless union events and supported other unions at rallies and strikes.

When not directly serving the union, Brady and her children enjoy walks with their dogs and dining at local restaurants. This working mother admits that she put her hobbies on the back burner for some time during the election, and she looks forward to simple things like riding her bike after work and possibly taking a sewing class.

“I was so proud to take that oath of office in front of my family and the membership,” recalls Brady. She was sworn in as Vice President on Thursday, April 4, during the local’s monthly membership meeting. “It was a very exciting day for me. At the meeting, I was thrilled to greet everyone who congratulated me. It would make me proud to serve this membership and in the coming months, to gain the trust of those members who don’t believe a woman is capable of doing an officer’s job.”

Economists define the ‘glass ceiling’ as the unseen, yet unreachable barrier that keeps women or minorities from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements. While the labor industry is hardly considered corporate America, Julie Brady being elected an officer of one the most powerful labor unions in the country, at the nation’s most vital twin ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach quite certainly is history in the making. spt

The Real Tax On America’s Middle-Class

July 4, October 31, December 25, January 1… All of these dates conjure up warm memories of great times with family and friends. The antithesis of these dates is April 15, when, for a majority of Americans, the biggest emotion being conjured up is dread. Nobody likes paying taxes. Period.

For most of his time in office, one of the biggest battles that President Obama has fought is his campaign (as part of a deficit reduction plan) to expire the Bush era tax cuts for America’s wealthiest 2% back to the rates that this group paid during the Clinton administration. Although 98% of the nation would not be paying the increased rate, the battle was fierce for one very simple reason: we all hate paying taxes and the idea of increasing rates for anyone is repugnant to us.

However, what if I told you that for a large number of America’s middle-class there is a huge tax being taken out of their weekly paychecks that most threatens our economic strength in the 21st Century? What is that large tax? It is the reduced size of the paycheck itself. America’s middle-class is increasingly being paid less at the expense of corporate profits. The value of corporate citizenship has been replaced by an almost fanatical obsession with the size of the Dow Jones industrial average.

Consider this from a November 2012 Time magazine article on Bill Gross: He states, “Over the last several decades, companies have taken profits at the expense of individuals. A lot of people aren’t being paid enough to spend. How can you have a sustainable recovery in an economy that’s 70% fueled by consumer spending when 90% of the income gains since the recovery began have accrued to the top 1%?”

I’m sure at this point in the column my fiscally conservative friends are rolling their eyes and making snarky comments about Jack touting the words of Western European socialists. Well, what if I told you that Gross is an Orange County Republican and is the world’s largest bond investor?

Let’s consider what Gross is saying. 70% of our economy is reliant on consumer spending, but 90% of the income generated is going to only 1% of the population, which begs the question, who will buy all the stuff that the 1% profits from when the bubble bursts and the middle-class can’t afford their products any longer? That’s a very real concern – as experts of all political stripes have come to realize. Slate magazine quoted former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan as saying about income inequality, “This is not the type of thing which a capitalist democratic society can really accept without addressing.”

How do we address it? Let’s take a look at a local example: What would happen to many San Pedro restaurants, drycleaners, chiropractic offices, and other small businesses if many of their ILWU customers lost their jobs and they could no longer earn enough to afford their services? It would not be a pretty picture.

In 2014, the union will be renegotiating their contract with the PMA. One of the key bargaining issues will be automation. Just like in the 1960s when containerization emerged as an issue, in this decade, the goods movement industry is at a crossroads with the issue of automation. And just like containers replaced a line of workers unloading a ship with their bare hands, automation will again change the industry.

The jobs that were lost by the ILWU to containers were gained back in new technology and increased productivity, and today the ILWU is as strong as it ever was. This must be the model for the future. As man-hours are lost to automation, the new jobs in technology, maintenance, repair, and operations must be kept in our community as good paying ILWU jobs.

The alternative is another “wages tax” where yet another group of American middle-class workers get a huge chunk taken from their incomes in the never-ending quest for higher corporate profits. And who will ultimately pay for those profits? All of us (especially small businesses) as these private sector “taxes” continue to suck money out of our economy and erode the quality of American life. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Shutting Down The Ports Leaves Everybody A Little Bit Poorer

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to know times are tough. The nation’s economy has reached critical mass. California is just a tax hike away from bankruptcy. Los Angeles is on the verge of collapse. And a glance at downtown San Pedro makes you think maybe the Mayans were right after all. How bad is it when a tattoo parlor is replaced by a real estate agency with foreclosure lists taped on the windows?

The recent strike by ILWU clerical workers has revealed just how tenuous is San Pedro’s one link to prosperity – the Harbor. A relatively small group of workers shut down Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, all in an effort to save a handful of future jobs. How much it cost shippers is debatable (according to one source, the $1 billion-a-day figure was totally bogus) but whatever the figure, it’s small solace to the thousands of workers who lost a week’s pay days before Christmas.

The clerical workers may have made their point, but they certainly lost ground in the public relations war. In these tough economic times, anyone making $40 an hour can’t expect much sympathy from the typical man on the street, especially when that man or woman may be unemployed.

Technology changes everything, in most cases simplifying tasks that inevitably cost jobs; it cost me my job after 32 years in the newspaper business. It’s the price we pay for progress. The ILWU continues to struggle with this fact, even as competition grows more intense in a global economy. Fortunately, that same technology often creates entirely new areas of employment, just as containerization took longshoremen out of the hold and put them in UTRs or in front of computers.

Time for a GPS

An ancillary issue to the port strike, according to veteran Los Angeles business journalist Mark Lacter (www.laobserved.com), was the media coverage. In his words, “It was pretty bad – frankly, some of the worst local business reporting I’ve seen in a while.”

He blames it on the failure of the media to ask the big questions, and explains it this way: “Very few reporters have a handle on these questions because news organizations have next to no presence at the ports. Shipping, you see, is simply too much of a hassle to cover. Sources are uncooperative, the industry itself is extremely secretive and nearly impossible to follow, the stories aren’t all that exciting, and, don’t laugh, San Pedro isn’t easy to get to. So aside from rewriting port releases and covering Harbor Commission meetings, it’s basically ignored – until there’s a strike.”

We’re not laughing, Mark.

Food Trucks

The ongoing controversy over food trucks at San Pedro’s First Thursday Art Walk is ridiculous. The facts: 1.) The food trucks are attracting people to First Thursday who otherwise would not be there. You don’t think they’re coming for the art, do you? 2.) Therefore, the food trucks are not taking money away from local restaurants and unintentionally or not, are adding to the foot traffic that the artists would not normally get.

So everyone involved should reread the opening paragraph, quit their yapping and be thankful the food trucks are coming at all. I look at those trucks as an extravagant fad that in this economy won’t be around much longer anyway.

‘Suffer the Little Children’

It wasn’t hard to imagine the horror that was visited upon Newtown, Conn., a few weeks ago. My wife teaches kindergarten in L.A. Unified, and I spend a lot of time in her classroom helping out. Our granddaughters, ages 5 and 4, attend school here in San Pedro.

In April 2007, I wrote a poem in response to a similarly monstrous act of evil that took place at Virginia Tech. Five years later, it remains just as relevant. It’s titled “The Devil Walks Among Us.”

The devil walks among us, without the horns and tail.
He’s there without our knowing, in a mansion or in jail.

He’s even in our churches, in the halls of government.
He seems so kind and gentle that you think he’s heaven-sent.

But he’s also on the corners, in the darkened alleyways,
Stalking future victims as a lion hunts his prey.

He hides among the briars of our memories and our fears.
Take a glance o’er your shoulder the next time you see a mirror.

He haunts us in our nightmares, stirs the terrors that run deep.
Wakes us trembling, drenched in sweat – there’s no sanctity in sleep.

In our loneliness he festers like a wound that will not heal,
Always looking for a new way to maim, destroy and steal.

He glares from deadened eyes upon a world he despises
As he plots against creation, glad for all that terrorizes.

On the campus, at the workplace, on a crowded bus or plane,
At a mall or busy market, he wants to drive us all insane.

You won’t know when he strikes – evil doesn’t show its hand –
Just a longing to dishearten, to bring pain to every man.

He stares out and captivates us from the shimmering tubes at home,
Seduces and reduces us, especially when we’re alone.

Beware the great deceiver as he’s often draped in light.
If he catches us off guard, he knows we won’t put up a fight.

But to those who know his schemes, old Wormwood has no punch.
He can do great harm to flesh, but our spirit he can’t touch.

Though he roars and shakes the world, we stand firm like Aaron’s rod,
For while others quake and falter, we have the armor of our God. spt