California Governor Signs First-in-the-Nation Legislation to Create Taskforce to Study Reparations, to Make Recommendations on Reparations for Slavery

11 Oct

As the people of California and the nation confront their history regarding race, California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, signed Assembly Bill 3121, the first in the nation, which will create a nine-member task force to study and make recommendations on slavery and its reparations for descendants of slaves.

The Governor, in part, said, according to a press release, “As a nation…. (o)ur painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions.”

Shirley N. Weber, Assemblywoman of 79th District authored A.B. 3121; photo taken from the the Assemblywoman’s website.

The bill was authored by Democrat Assemblywoman Shirley N. Weber, representing the 79th District. Weber, the chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said, according to the same press release, “California has historically led the country on civil rights, yet we have not come to terms with our state’s ugly past that allowed slaveholding within our borders and returned escaped slaves to their masters.”

Also, according to the California Globe, the Assemblywoman said, “After emancipation, California and local municipalities allowed or even actively pursued discriminatory practices akin to those found in the South to deny former slaves and their descendants access to housing, quality education, employment, fair wages, voting rights and the practice of professions.”

Republican State Senator Brian Jones, representing the 38th District, opposed the bill.  Jones, who is the chair of the Republican State Senate Caucus, argued, on Friday, Oct. 2, in a radio interview on KUSI radio, San Diego, that it was inappropriate for California to pass the bill because the issue was a national and not a state issue. The state senator said, “My ancestors didn’t own slaves. Many Americans’ that are alive today families did not own slaves.”

Five members of the taskforce will be appointed by the Governor, two by the Senate pro Tempore and two by the Assembly Speaker.

Democratic State Senator Steven Bradford, representing the 35th District and vice-chair of the CLBC, before the Governor’s signature in an interview with the California Globe, said, “If the 40-acres-and-a-mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires” and added, “I hear far too many people say, ‘Well, I didn’t own slaves, that was so long ago.’ Well, you inherit wealth — you can inherit the debt that you owe to African-Americans.”

Legal adviser Richard Weaver, in an earlier California Globe interview, addressing some of the legal challenges regarding who should receive reparations, said, “It’s a legal minefield. If it’s ‘all black people,’ does that include an immigrant who came over from Ethiopia in 1993? Does it cover mixed race people? What percentage until they can’t? How can they prove it? Do they have genealogy that traces it back? What’s the approved method? There’s hundreds of other questions that would pop up too.”

Taryn Luna, in her Sept. 30 Los Angeles Times story, pointed out that Southerners brought slaves to work in their gold mines in 1848 during the gold rush, according to the California Historical Society and slavery was allowed after California joined the union  because of a legal loophole, that in 1852 California passed its own fugitive slave law, that until 1863 California had its own laws forbidding African-Americans from testifying against whites in court and that as recently as last year Sausalito Marin City School District received the state’s first desegregation order in fifty years.

Long Beach Expands Open Streets Initiative Along Pine Avenue from 4th to 5th Street

26 Sep

Long Beach expanded its Open Streets Initiative, according to a press release of Friday, Sept. 25, to provide Covid-19 support for local businesses along Pine Avenue from 4th to 5th Street, beginning on Friday.

Photo of Pine Avenue from 4th to 5th Street, looking north; Photo by Barry Saks, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020

The closure to vehicular traffic will provide outdoor space for dining and other approved services. This Open Streets closure is in addition to the closure on Pine Avenue from 1st to 3rd Streets.

Mayor Robert Garcia said, “Open Streets, and particularly the innovative use of Pine Avenue, has been incredibly exciting to watch take hold. Businesses are thriving outdoors and it’s been a great experience for diners and our restaurants in these spaces.”

In addition to the Pine Avenue closures, more than 100 parklet locations have been installed throughout the city, providing businesses with an outdoor space to provide physically-distanced services. 

“With its concentration of businesses and restaurants, Downtown needs as much outdoor space as possible so business can thrive and residents have safe access to services,” First District Councilwoman Mary Zendajas said. 

Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce said, “It’s been exciting to see Pine Avenue come back to life with the installation of Open Streets.” “The expansion of this program is a welcomed development with the opportunity to create diverse and vibrant corridors.”

While vehicular traffic on Pine Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets will be prohibited, 4th Street and 5th Street will remain open to through traffic.

Andy Sanchez, who is 21 and works at Kress Market at 443 Pine Ave., said, “It will be interesting to see where it goes, to see if it will help business.” Sanchez, who said he’s going to a technical school to become an auto mechanic, added, “I think it shows like the shift in culture…Pine Avenue has a certain meaning that it carries with it now, it’s kind of the idea of the shops and the culture of people coming out to support the businesses and each other.”

Marked loading and delivery zones have been established throughout the area for curbside pick-up.

“As always, DLBA (Downtown Long Beach Alliance) supports building a strong consensus among stakeholders, as was accomplished with those located on Pine Avenue between 1st and 3rd Streets,” President and CEO of DLBA Kraig Kojian. “We will continue to communicate and collaborate with our partners and monitor the reactions from establishments located within this section of Pine Avenue.”

The Open Streets Initiative was approved by the City Council in June 2020 in response to State Health Orders closing indoor dining and other businesses due to Covid-19. On Sept. 15, the City Council approved the closure of Pine Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, providing additional space for businesses along the corridor to operate.

 

Mayor Robert Garcia Announces Covid-19 Mobile Clinic to Serve Immigrant, Undocumented Community

22 Sep

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, by email, announced Tuesday, Sept. 22, that partnering with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the first of its kind, serving as a model for California and the nation, a Covid-19 mobile clinic will serve the Latinx, immigrant and undocumented communities.

The mayor reminded the reader his mother died of Covid-19 and was an immigrant and health care worker. 

He said, “She knew how hard it was for the undocumented to get medical treatment.”

The email pointed out In California, 60 percent of Covid-19 cases are from the Latinx community, while it making up 40 percent of the population.

President Donald Trump Acknowledges COVID-19 Vaccine Not Available Widely Until April 2021, Provides Aid to Puerto Rico, Calls Mail-In Voting “Scam”

18 Sep

President Donald Trump, at a press conference on Friday, Sept. 18, acknowledged a Covid-19 vaccine would not be available widely in the United States until April 2021, contradicting himself from an earlier statement.

While the novel coronavirus originated in China, he continued to call the virus the “China virus,” a phrase some call racist. He also claimed falsely presidential candidate Joe Biden had antivaccine theories.

The president also announced $13 billion of aid was being sent to Puerto Rico to repair the electrical grid, although previously the president had said the island did not deserve any aid because of corruption. When asked by a reporter why the aid was not given three years ago, the president responded by blaming the Democrats. The president also later, when asked a similar question about why the aid was being provided now, added it was to return to Puerto Rico a pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Judy Woodruff during the PBS Newshour, a few hours later pointed out Puerto Rico is important to many voters in Florida.

Through the press conference he read from a prepared statement. Near the end of press conference when he responding to reporters’ questions, he claimed mail-in voting was a scam without providing any evidence. He tried to make a distinction between solicited and unsolicited mail-in ballots, like he has done before. When he declared the press conference over, a reporter shouted to him that if he won the election would he still consider mail-in voting a scam. The president ignored the reporter.

California Governor Announces Blueprint for a Safer Economy to Have Four Risk Tiers to Evaluate COVID-19

2 Sep

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced, as part of what he called, “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” on Friday, Aug. 28, through a City of Long Beach press release, four color-coded risk tiers, using the metrics of daily new cases per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate, defined as the number of positive test results compared to all tests administered.

Long Beach and Los Angeles are in the highest risk category.

Mayor Robert Garcia said from the start data will guide our re-opening. He added, “The statewide framework released by the Governor today makes it clear we are making progress.”

In a separate press release of the same day, the Governor said, “This Blueprint is statewide, stringent and slow. We have made notable progress over recent weeks, but the disease is still too widespread across the state. COVID-19 will be with us for a long time and we all need to adapt. We need to live differently. And we need to minimize exposure for our health, for our families and for our communities.”

The highest risk category is called “widespread” with a color of purple and is defined as more than seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of more than eight percent. The second highest risk category is called “substantial” with a color of red and is defined as four to seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate from five to eight percent. The second lowest risk category is called “moderate” with a color of orange and is defined as one to 3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate from two to 4.9 percent. The lowest risk category is called “minimal” with a color of yellow and is defined as less than one daily new case per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of less than two percent.

The State is revising the calculations for case and positivity rates, which may lead to differences in past data and shouldn’t be compared with previous numbers. The revised indicators will be on the City’s COVID-19 dashboard starting on Monday, August 31. Positivity rates and case rates will be assessed and updated every Tuesday. To move down to a lower risk tier, a county needs to sustain the optimal numbers for three weeks. If a county shows data placing it in two different colors, the stricter rules will apply.

The new tiers also dictate the reopening phase. While the State outlines what is allowed under each tier starting August 31, details regarding what can be open, and protocols for operation, are at the direction of the City Health Officer. Openings of new sectors or changes to current business operations should only occur following the issuance of revised Health Orders from the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

Remembering Sharon Cotrell

29 Aug

I first saw Sharon Cotrell in the late ‘60s at a meeting of the newly-formed Students for a Democratic Society in Long Beach, California. It was announced at the meeting she was going to be the secretary. That was the last time I saw her for several years.

Photo by Marlene Alvarado; Sharon Cotrell on Feb. 28, 2000, at an anti-Iraq war demonstration in downtown Los Angeles

The International Socialists had an industrialization policy, meaning it sent members, mostly ex-students from college campuses into industry.  One target was the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, where the IS members got jobs in trucking and warehousing. 

In trucking, rank-and-file organizing was happening nationally and in some locals in the IBT.  Nationally, a reform grouping called 500 at 50 was organizing. As the organization’s name suggested, it was demanding $500 per month at age 50 for retirees. 

In Los Angeles, IBT Local 208 wildcatted.  The local had a history of rank-and-file activism.  It was one local were members openly supported the farmworker organizing against the policy of the International.  At some time, the Communist Party had members in the local.

Meanwhile, while the IS couldn’t send hundreds of people into trucking, it sent a sufficient number to have a critical mass in several cities and one company, United Parcel Service, Inc.  The IS Teamsters started newspapers, whose audience were Teamster members, particularly, rank-and-file leaders. These newspapers gave voice to local dissidents and attracted them to the local newspaper. In a handful of cases, the IS was able to recruit some of the leaders.  In other cases, while unable to recruit the leaders, the IS developed long-term working relations with many of them.

After a national strike in which I can’t remember the year, the network of newspapers became what was known as Teamsters for a Decent Contract, which later became Teamsters for a Democratic Union.    

Sharon, the first woman to work in the warehouse at Sealand and a Shop Steward, was one of those handful of rank-and-file Teamster activists who were first recruited to the TDU and then socialism, meaning the IS.  Sharon and another member of Local 692, Bilal Chaka, which Sharon recruited to TDU, decided along with advisers from other locals, like Allen that they were going to initiate a campaign in the local to reform it..

Once the corrupt leaders heard of the campaign, Sharon’s life was threatened.  Sharon could not stay at her apartment.  During the campaign, Sharon lived with me.  So I got to know Sharaon and Bilal well.

Sharon not only risked her life but gave an enormous amount of money to support the TDU.  One time in her apartment, she opened up a desk drawer, in which were canceled checks she had given to the TDU.

 The TDUers along with another reform caucus took over the leadership of the local.  The thuggery was gone.

Because of a faction fight in the IS, it split.  One reason was the IS Teamster leaders tried to discipline an important worker leader Pete Camarata, in Detroit.  I left the IS and joined the faction Camarata was part of.  Sharon remained in the IS.  However, over time, she stopped being active in the IS.  Sharon and I remained friends, although we differed regarding the split.

While Sharon stopped being in a socialist group, she remained active in local politics in Long Beach, particularly the Democratic Party. In 1992, she was the campaign manager for Alan Lowenthal, who first ran for the Long Beach City and is now California’s 47th District Congressman.

Several years ago, Sharon was central to the formation of People for Palestinian-Israeli Justice, an organization in Long Beach and environs focusing on Palestinian Human Rights.

Some month back, Sharon called to inform me Bilal had died.  I let her talk and talk, which was unusual for me because I usually had little patience with her.  I can’t remember how many times I told Sharon, “Please, start with the most important stuff first.”  In any case, I let her talk, perhaps because I knew she would not be long for this world.

Sharon, I’ll miss you, like so many other people you’ve touched.  



Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia: COVID-19 Positivity Rate Drops

14 Aug

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced by email, on Friday, Aug. 14, the COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped from a high of almost 15 percent in mid-July to 10 percent in August to 8.6 percent now.

He admitted it “is still higher than where we need to be, but a sign of good of (sic) steady progress.”

He also said, “Hospitalization rates are also starting to come down.”

The email defined the COVID-19 positivity rate as “the percentage of people who test for the virus and come back positive.”

Trump Signs Executive Orders: for Payroll Tax Holiday; to Protect Renters, Homeowners; for Unemployment Benefits; to Address Student Debt

8 Aug

U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Orders, at a press conference, on Saturday, Aug. 8, for a payroll tax holiday, to protect renters and homeowners from evictions, to add $400 to unemployment benefits and to address student loan debt.

Before the expiration of the increased unemployment benefits, the unemployed were getting $600.

He continued to characterize the coronavirus as the “China Virus.”

He used the press conference to rail against the Democrats. He accused them of wanting “open borders” and wanting to “steal the election.”

These Executive Orders are most probably unconstitutional, according to legal scholars.

Green Party Chooses Howie Hawkins for Presidential Candidate; Angela Walker for Vice President

12 Jul

The Green Party, whose core values are peace, ecology, social justice and democracy, chose Howie Hawkins, a co-founder of the Green Party in 1984, and Angela Walker, who according to the Green Party website “describes herself as ‘a Fred Hampton, Assata Shakur socialist,’” on Saturday, July 11, at its National Nominating Convention to be its 2020 presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively.

Hawkins, according to the Green Party website, “has been an organizer … for peace, justice, labor, the environment, and independent working-class politics since 1967 when he got active … as a teenager” and defines himself “a socialist and believes in self-organization, independent political action, and international solidarity by the working class and oppressed people.”

Walker, according to the same website, ran as the vice-presidential candidate, along with Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik, who ran as president, of the Socialist Party USA in the 2016 election. She began, in the summer of 2017, working as a dump-truck driver, which she continues to do. She is an advocate for the rights of black, brown, the indigenous and LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) community.

The Hawkins-Walker domestic platform focus on the coronavirus emergencies measures for the duration of the crisis and other measures regarding an eco-socialist green new deal and an economic bill of rights; their foreign policy platform includes support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel, also according to the Green Party website.

The Green Party has 161 elected officials, almost all at the local level, according to its website.


Long Beach to Allow Live Public Comments by Phone at City Council Meetings

13 Jun

The Long Beach City Council has faced past criticism for what some consider the Council’s lack of transparency, even before the pandemic.  After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, to some, it was only further evidence, the Long Beach City Council used the pandemic to further its lack of transparency.

James Suazo, a member of the Long Beach Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, in April, said, “There has often been a pattern in my opinion with the Long Beach City Council about ways that public comment…could be stifled or limited in some way and we’ve seen this with efforts to shift around public comment before actual Council discussion items on critical or controversial issues or we’ve seen it in efforts the City Council has done to streamline meetings and say let’s just limit public comment overall so we can get through the meeting and not be here so late.  So, we’re seeing… now the excuse of…the coronavirus pandemic as a way to justify this limiting of public comment, not just for the media and to have control over that and the narrative, but to also limit the critical voices that are needed in a democracy more than ever right now.”

“I think that when you consider the pattern the city has followed to try to limit public comment and you see, we see, the available technology that is out there that other municipalities even smaller that Long Beach are using that actually engage people, that actually allow for meaning dialogue to facilitate processes.  There is no reason or excuse why we are using a basic teleconference service that drops and limits people’s from engaging and for a city of our size, there is no reason we should be limiting ourselves to this kind of process. So, my only conclusion that I can draw from that is that it is intentional.”

However, even before the coronavirus hit, the Council faced criticism when new rules for public comment began in August 2019.

Jason Ruiz, in his Sept. 11, 2019 story for the Long Beach Post, quoted East Long Beach resident Corliss Lee, who said, “Their idea about streamlining…they’re streamlining for who? (T)hey’re streamlining for themselves.  They blabber on endlessly up there and yet they don’t want to hear from the public.”

Also, the Long Beach Post, Aug. 12, 2019, quoted the Long Beach Reform Coalition.  It said, “Members of the public often watch the proceedings seated in the chamber and find themselves moved, in the moment, by what they see and hear, to queue up and have their say.  The loss of this long-standing civic right will represent the further eroding of the democratic process in Long Beach.”

This brings us to now.

City Clerk Monique De La Garza announced in a press release of June 9, beginning Tuesday, June 16, the Long Beach City Council will allow on agenda items live public comments by phone at its meetings.

Up to 20 people will be allowed to speak.  If nine or less, wish to speak, each person will have three minutes.  With the existing rules, if there are 10 to 20 people, who wish to speak, each speaker after the ninth speaker will have 90 seconds to speak.

“Telephonic comments will also be allowed for the first 10 speakers, up to three minutes each, who sign up (with the City Clerk) for non-agenda items,” according to the press release.

James Suazo, after the press release was issued, said, “The city clerk’s press release about allowing public comment by telephone is a great first steps (sic) towards restoring basic democracy at city council meetings during the pandemic.”

People, wishing more information or wish to sign up for the June 16 meeting, may visit City Clerk website at www.longbeach.gov/cityclerk.

People wishing to continue using eComment option, may do so by clicking here, http://longbeach.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.  Written comments may also be submitted by email to cityclerk@longbeach.gov.