Happy 125th Birthday, San Pedro!

So I know, I’m still on probation.

I have lived in San Pedro for twenty-two years, and raised three adult children here – but next to so many of my friends and neighbors who have generations of history in San Pedro, I know I still count as a newcomer.

But for me, San Pedro is truly home.

When I was little, my father used to bring my brother and I down to Pedro to ride the old ferry to Terminal Island and back, years before the bridge was built, and to have dinner at Olsen’s. During the war, my father had served as a pilot bringing in the ships to our harbor and he loved bringing us back to this historic and vibrant port community.

I knew this was the place I wanted to raise my children. It is the town where my son, Mark, attended middle school at Dodson, where he played in Eastview Little League, and where he grew up to teach at POLA High School.

I take great pride in my adoptive hometown and it is an honor to wish San Pedro a happy 125th birthday and celebrate with all San Pedrans.

Our town is the picture of diversity. It is home to Croatian, Italian, and Mexican communities going back generations. From Mary Star of the Sea, to Temple Beth El, to St. Peter’s Presbyterian, this is a town that has embraced all faiths. It is a town of proud traditions that date back decades and bring us all closer in every passing year. Even I put away my embarrassment and don a swimsuit every January 1st for the annual Polar Bear Swim at Cabrillo Beach.

I love the San Pedro identity: small town feel, big city pride.

And I could not be prouder of the privilege I have had representing San Pedro for the last decade.

I was proud to serve alongside my brother in the City Council during his time as Mayor of Los Angeles. He was the first mayor to live in San Pedro and together we worked to make sure that the Los Angeles city government worked for our town that had long been underserved. We started the overdue project to revitalize the waterfront and breathe life into our tourism industry. We encouraged investment in downtown San Pedro and the development of new lofts and locally owned businesses. We understood the importance of the port to our local economy and worked to ensure the port remained the source of good paying jobs but didn’t come at the expense of the health of our children.

Now, in Congress, I am continuing the work that I started. I founded the bipartisan Congressional PORTS Caucus that brought the conversation about ports to the forefront and is now 82 members strong. I am fighting to ensure that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach get the funding they need and deserve to stay globally competitive and secure. My own son, Danny, is a casual longshoreman: the future of the port is the future of my family. (As long as he has a good job, maybe he won’t move back home!)

Every week, when I leave my house in the early morning darkness and roll my suitcase out to my car to go fly to DC, I turn and look out over the port, over the Vincent Thomas Bridge, over the homes of my friends and neighbors. I take a deep breath of this community, so I can bring San Pedro with me to the nation’s capital. And there, in the first blush of dawn, I start to count down the hours till I am back with you again. spt

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