Get Ready for the Doomsday Year

January 1, 2012

Not since 1000 AD has there been so much apprehension about the new year.

It’s the end of the Mayan Calendar, the lining up of the sun with the galactic core, the sun is entering a dust cloud in this part of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way.

Not to mention global climate change, war, earthquakes, tsunamis, pestilence, epidemics, erupting volcanos, bad haircuts, asteroids, comets, exploding calderas, high rents, and seven billion people crammed into this little planet.

But then again, maybe it’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, which means:

Harmony and understanding 
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation

 

The Beachhead’s wishes for the coming year include more power to the Occupy movement, the mind’s true liberation, a happy and free Venice, and a prosperous (in all ways) new year to all our readers and supporters.


This Year’s Boardwalk Ordinance

January 1, 2012

By Greta Cobar

A new ordinance regulating vending on the West side of Ocean Front Walk (OFW) is set to take effect in the next few weeks. It was signed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on December 16 and will take force after a 30 day posting on OFW.

It is intended to replace the resale of merchandise now taking place with performers and artists selling “inherently communicative” objects of “nominal value or utility.” The ordinance was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Council on Dec. 13.

Besides eliminating the lottery system of allocating spaces and getting rid of all resale merchandise such as clothes, accessories and toys, the ordinance also prohibits the sale of all types of jewelry, pottery, incense, oils and crystals. Doing henna tattoos, massaging and “the completion or other partial creation of visual art” are also going to be prohibited as soon as the ordinance takes effect. Items that will be allowed to be sold include paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, books, bumper stickers, buttons, audio and video recordings. There will be two spots designated for food distribution, and all spaces will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The first version of the current ordinance was drafted by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich on July 12 and as a result tens of Venice public meetings took place during the summer months to voice concern and give input to the downtown lawyers holding power over the ordinance. Venetians supported allowing handmade jewelry to be sold on OFW, asked that the First Amendment be mentioned, opposed artists being called “vendors” and the free speech zone divided into “designated” spaces. Sadly, the approved version did not incorporate any of the suggestions put forward by our outspoken citizens. Furthermore, there was strong community consensus against the proposed punishment for noncompliance. Disregarding community input, the final ordinance still threatens all repeat offenders with misdemeanor charges that carry $1000 fines and six months in jail.

This is the sixth revision of the Los Angeles Municipal Code 42.15, first introduced in 2004. The last revision, of 2008, established the lottery system of allocating the 205 designated spaces on OFW. It was deemed unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson in October 2010 on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.

For the past 14 months there have been no regulations imposed on the vending taking place on OFW. As a result long-term Venice artists were driven away by out-of-town merchants looking for a place to re-sell merchandise bought cheaply downtown.  Fights over spaces, people camping out all night to reserve spots and then sell them in the morning, and vendors claiming ownership of spots have been the norm on OFW for the past year.

Although five other versions of this ordinance have been dumped on Venice in the last eight years, every one of them was poorly enforced and for a short period of time. Those of us who have witnessed the shortcomings of the previous versions do not have high hopes for this one either.  Most seasoned Venetians expect enforcement to fade by summertime.

At the Dec. 15 Friends of the Boardwalk meeting Lieutenant Paola Kreefft stated that the LAPD does not have a plan to enforce the new ordinance going into effect at the end of January. According to Norman Kulla, who was also present at the mentioned meeting, signs announcing the changes have to be posted along OFW 30 days before the ordinance can be enforced. Kreefft plans to educate and warn the vendors of the changes before they take effect, but as of December 15 there was no plan to assign extra police officers to the tasks of education or enforcement.

Venice resident Stephen Fiske has a vision of appointing a team of ambassadors as informational advisors who would mediate minimal conflicts and aid with space management. “I see the boardwalk as a human stage of expression that needs management,” he said. His plan is to set up a team of individuals who are trained to be helpers and to ensure a positive experience for artists, tourists and residents with the ultimate goal of “getting rid of the danger in Venice,” he said. Although he currently has the support of the Boardwalk Merchants’ Association, the LAPD, numerous artists and performers as well as property owners, he is still in the process of finding sponsors to finance his program. His immediate plans are to put together a proposal with three budgets, from what is minimally needed to what would be adequate and finally to what would be ideal. Although all funds would be matched by city grants, the best possible option for the time being would be to raise enough money for a pilot program that would cover part of the boardwalk in order to test its effectiveness.

Stan Mohammed, who was also present at the Dec. 15 meeting, has run a successful anti-gang program in Venice since 2008 and can now provide, contingent on funding, the personnel to function as OFW ambassadors. According to him, the employees would be “trained Venice folks” serving as advisers and mediators. However, it all comes down to funding, as his anti-gang program was annihilated after only three months, when the funds ran out.

Although Fiske and Mohammed have a more strategic plan than the LAPD currently does, chances are that the higher-ups will continue to invest in their own police force. Community involvement and sovereignty have once again proven to be last on the higher-ups’ list, as the ordinance itself was dumped on Venice by downtown lawyers unfamiliar with the issues surrounding OFW. Venice was once again ignored and marginalized as an unwanted stepchild deemed too stupid to be able to take care of its own business. A new ordinance is needed, but not another failure in a series. If Venetians were allowed to manage their own business as opposed to taking orders from downtown, a lot less time and resources could be spent to produce an ordinance that suits our community and that could actually solve the issues on OFW.


Letters

January 1, 2012

 

  • The Venice Mummy – John D Ekstromer
  • Save the Venice Post Office – Tina Catalina Corcoran
  • Who’s Poisoning the Leaders of South America? – Bill Mitchell

———————————-

 

The Venice Mummy

Dear Beachhead,

Waaaayyyy back in the late fifties-early sixties, there was a bar on Lincoln blvd, just south of Washington. There was a hole scratched in the whited out window where kids could look through and see a wrapped up mummy. My friend and I used to check it out once and awhile, because that’s what kids do. Rumor has it that it turned out to be a murder victim, and was removed by the police.

I’ve been trying to find something on it, but so far nada. I’ve emailed a couple of Venice historians, but never received a reply. Sound like something you all might want to look into? It was supposed to have been a big story when it hit, but I was overseas then, so I lost out on the biggy. Just really a curiosity thingy.

Raised on Garfield Ave. for 15 years, I remember when McDonalds went up, and I bought 15 cent burgers back then.

My best friend got polio from the canals they lived on. The whole place smelled of oil and the marina was just s dream in someone’s head. Long time ago.

John D Ekstromer

 ———–

Save the Post Office

Dear Beachhead,

Your P.O. “Suspension” story, by Greta Cobar, made me stand up and cheer!! Right here in Blue Lake- “Thank You!”-I wanted to hop on the first Greyhound for the ride to Venice-to be there…yet-I was there-at the original screening of Feeding The Sparrows by Feeding The Horses in 1978-once again- I remember:asking “Where Have I Arrived?” Here, 33 years later- “HUMBOLDT” – Where I have arrived!

P.S: Beachhead, “THANK YOU”-ALL!

Love,

Tina Catalina Corcoran

————

Who’s Poisoning the Leaders of South America?

Dear Beachhead,

According to news reports, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has expressed his “suspicions” over the number of left wing Latin American presidents who have acquired cancer recently.

“It’s difficult to explain, at this point, what is happening to some of us in Latin America,” Chavez said. “It’s strange that [Paraguayan president Fernando] Lugo, [Brazilian president] Dilma [Rousseff], and then myself, and a few days later [ex Brazilian president Luiz Inacio] Lula [Da Silva] and now Cristina [Fernandez] have contracted cancer”.

Intriguing because it is true, the statistical possibilities/probabilities are beyond my deduction, what isn’t is history and knowing the criminal nature of the US power elite; it would be intellectually dishonesty to think otherwise. And this would be under a regime that states, “Nothing is off the table” and that as we know includes the use of nuclear weapons, so why wouldn’t smaller doses be covertly used to poison by food, drink, or directed energy beams. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Bill Mitchell

 


Arrests On Third Street

January 1, 2012

By Mary Getlein

The who, what, where, when, and why of it is! Who gathered long time residents of Venice, mostly artists. What? The LAPD showed up at 5:30 in the morning of December 17. Where? 3rd St.

Ibriham Butler heard a sound which was the sound of a tow truck operator, wrapping the chains around the van’s axle to tow it away.

Diane Butler was still I’m the car asleep and her husband, Ibriham, had to persuade the tow-truck operator not to tow the truck until Diane got out. Leaving Diane on the street, with her four dogs at 6am. It took $260 to get the van out of impound. The same thing happened to Jeff Hirsch, a Venice artist.

Ibriham Butler alerted other residents and most of them got away. They were yelling back at the police what a fucked up thing this was, to persecute harrass and steal their vehicles away from people at Christmas time.

Butler and Lisa Green were shaming the cops and telling them they made the wrong choice. Eventually, one police officer looked at Butler and said they were not going to do anymore towing. They handed out citations for height violations. The artists are all disabled and have disabled plates, which are supposed to be exempt from the seven foot height law imposed on vehicles.

I spoke to Butler later that day and he said his wife, Diane, was still upset about it. “They tow your van, and all your stuff is thrown together and upside down and who wants to wake up that way? It’s scary and frightening.”

As to why? Why? That’s what I want to know, these people, that they are picking on, they have been artists and musicians, for their entire lives. They are free spirits who have found a way to live without paying rent. Why is this so bad? So you step out of line and go to the other side of the tracks where no bills dog you around. So why? Don’t know/Don’t Ask?

L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl has done such a good job of “cleaning up” Venice of eccentric, different artistic types- one by one, over and over again. Google, Whole Foods, and the Movie industry types all want homeless people to disappear.

Once again, we are people, not cockroaches. Poverty is not a disease-sometimes it’s a lifestyle change, some people are happy living off the grid. It’s a threat to see people living “For Free.” It awakens an anger in all the 9-5 types, who cling to their jobs.

Why? Police up and down the coast of California have been harassing homeless people and taking all their stuff. It’s not just Venice, it’s also Fresno and other towns.

It’s an assault on the poor, which reminds me of the way the cops in the 1930s would harass homeless people. They would burn down their “shanty towns” and beat up people who were trying to escape. Homeless people are at-risk for violence inflicted upon them at any given time. Why does the L.A.P.D have to go out of their way to make people’s lives miserable?


Health Care Coming This Year!

January 1, 2012

By Roger Linnett

The following is part of a continuing series, summarizing the benefits that will go into effect in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Unless otherwise noted, benefits take effect as of Jan. 1. As in the previous article, benefits are categorized under three headings:

Increasing Access to Affordable Care

Accountable Care Organizations-   

Any patient who has multiple doctors probably understands the frustration of lost or unavailable medical charts, duplicated medical procedures or having to share the same information over and over with different doctors. ACOs are designed to lift this burden from patients, while improving the partnership between patients and doctors in making health care decisions.

Medicare beneficiaries whose doctors participate in an ACO will still have a full choice of providers and can still choose to see doctors outside of the ACO. Patients will have access to information about how well their doctors, hospitals or other caregivers are meeting quality standards in five key areas:

  • Patient/caregiver experience of care
  • Care coordination
  • Patient safety
  • Preventive health
  • At-risk population/frail elderly health

According to the analysis of the proposed regulation for ACOs, Medicare could potentially save as much as $960 million over the next three years.

Alleviating Disparity in Healthcare-

Not all Americans have equal access to health care. Low-income Americans, racial and ethnic minorities often have higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options and reduced access to care.  They are also less likely to have health insurance. The Affordable Care Act will help reduce disparities by making improvements in:

Preventive care  

1-Medicare and some private insurance plans will cover recommended regular check-ups, cancer screenings and immunizations at no additional cost to eligible patients.

2-New investments for community health teams to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and cancer.

3-New funds for home visits for expectant mothers and newborns to reduce Infant mortality and post-birth complications.

Diversity and cultural competency 

Health plans will be required to use language services and community outreach in underserved communities, particularly in Hispanic communities, which have high numbers of uninsured.

Health care providers for underserved communities 

Increased funding for community health centers, which provide comprehensive health care for everyone no matter how much they are able to pay. The new law will support 16,000 new primary care providers.

Improving Quality and Lowering Costs - 

1-For those enrolled in Medicare Part D, in 2012 the lower limit of the “donut hole” increases from $2840 to $2930, after that Medicare will cover 50% of brand-name drugs and 14% of generics until your total out-of-pocket cost reaches $4,550. Medicare then covers 95% of all further drug expenses until the end of the year.

2-The law institutes a series of changes to standardize billing and requires health plans to begin adopting and implementing rules for the secure, confidential, electronic exchange of health information, reducing paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduce medical errors and, most importantly, improving the quality of care. Effective October 1, 2012

3-The law also establishes a hospital Value-Based Purchasing program (VBP) in Original Medicare. This program offers financial incentives to hospitals to improve the quality of care. Hospital performance is required to be publicly reported, beginning with measures relating to heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, health-care associated infections, and patients’ perception of care. Effective October 1, 2012

4-The law creates a voluntary long-term care insurance program – called CLASS — to provide cash benefits to adults who become disabled. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius implementation of this program will be delayed,effective October 1, 2012

 

Insurance Company Accountability

Insurance discrimination will be banned, so people who have been sick can’t be excluded from coverage or charged higher premiums.  Women will no longer have to pay higher premiums because of their gender. New funding will be available to collect information on how women and racial and ethnic minorities experience the health care system, leading to improvements that will benefit these groups.

 

Information for this article was compiled from: whitehouse.gov., kaiserhealthnews.org., and healthcare.gov.     


Questions Persist As To US Arms Treaty Compliance

January 1, 2012

By Janet Phelan

Geneva, Switzerland — Questions concerning the compliance of the United States with the international treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, came to a head recently during the Seventh Review Conference of the Convention, which is being held now in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations.

The most recent compliance report, listed in the BWC catalogue as BWC/CONF.VII/INF.2/Add.1, has failed to quash concerns as to the reliability of statements made by the United States as to its compliance with obligations under the BWC.

The specific concerns focus on the United States’ lack of disclosure of a law which amends the prior biological weapons statute. The original statute is entitled the Biological Weapons Statute–Title 18 Chapter 10 Section 175 of the U.S. code. The amended law, which is entitled The Expansion of the Biological Weapons Statute (Section 817 of the USA PATRIOT Act) radically changes the legal culpability incurred by agents of the US government for violating the statute, granting them immunity.

While this most recent report submitted to the BWC by the United States does mention that the original law was indeed amended by the USA PATRIOT Act, The U.S. has once again failed to disclose the revolutionary nature of this amendment, and is instead persisting in reporting the text of the older statute without coming clean about the implications or even the wording of the amended version. The critical amendment to 175 literally removes U.S. agents from liability for violating legal prohibitions for possessing and transporting biological weapons. The implications are serious and deserve careful scrutiny.

Questions have also been raised as to whether or not the U.S. ever reported this legislative landmine on the CBM (Confidence Building Measures) Form E’s. The CBM’s mandate that state parties report the status of their labs, research projects and other matters of concern to the BWC. The form E mandates the disclosure of new legislation relevant to biological weapons and is considered to be politically binding.

Section 817 was passed along with the rest of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. What is publicly available for this time period reveals that the U.S. reported that there was nothing new to declare for both 2001 and 2002. This is revealed at the following link, on page 97 (http://bit.ly/sVwgOY).

United States Ambassador Laura Kennedy and the CBM unit of the U.S. State Department have been repeatedly contacted with questions as to whether the U.S. ever disclosed Section 817 to the other parties to the Convention. No response has been forthcoming. A United States delegate to the Seventh Review Conference, Chris Park, recently offered assurances that the requests for information about CBM Form E  had been received and were being researched. He also admitted that “there may have been an oversight.”

Here is the complete text of Section 817 of the USA PATRIOT Act, with the questionable subsection underlined: (http://bit.ly/tYv3S4).


The Last of the Red-Hot Potatoes

January 1, 2012

By Jim Smith

Old Venice traditions die hard. In this case, Cafe Benice, which was slated to close on New Year’s Eve. A crowd of us descended on it for one last bite of our favorite meal. When we arrived we learned that closing day had been extended to the following Wednesday, thanks to the landlord, Jose Bunge.

Heelan (Benice) was all smiles at seeing so many people who cared about the place. Also bearing up well were the staff, including Avery, Jina, Andrew, Josh, David, Keith, Leslie and Lattie.

Cafe Benice opened in 1985 at Pacific and Horizon, under an existing sign, “House of Teriyaki, Donut,” which became the de facto name of the restaurant, and was an immediate hit.

The Lafayette Cafe had just closed after years of serving Venetians with cheap, but good, food. The cook, Manuel, got hired by Heelan, and began whipping up some of our favorite dishes from the old Lafayette. Some of them were still on the menu at Cafe Benice 25 years later, including Huevos Rancheros and Veggie Rancheros.

Is this the end of an era? Without Benice it will be hard to find a cheap breakfast place near the beach (although her prices have steadily risen along with the rent). The two cafes, Benice and Lafayette, represent nearly 50 years of morning meals for Venetians.

Going to breakfast was a social event for a lot of us in Venice when it and we were poor. It was the place to meet other Venetians. There were no hot bars or nightclubs in Venice, only alky bars for the confirmed, and older, drinkers. Most of the restaurants were small and crowded. You had to converse with your neighbors at the counter or the next booth. There were no TVs on the walls, no laptops to hide behind, just the occasional Beachhead which engendered more conversation.

At one time – the 60s through the 80s – there were many choices for breakfast on and around Ocean Front Walk. There was Alex’s cafe with 50 cent breakfasts; Ammoon’s, which  also served falafels; Cheese and Olive, now C&O’s; Cleopatra; the Meatless Messhall; Suzanne’s Kitchen, and of course, Juergens.

Juergen Roscher, and his family, which included Mama, brother Gene, and the beautiful sister, Crystal, had a following that rivaled the Lafayette. In the late sixties, he started a hole-in-the-wall cafe across from the paddle tennis courts and under an old sign that said, “Da Driftwood,” which quickly became what we called the restaurant, as in, “Hey, let’s walk down to Da Driftwood.”

With an almost constant line out the door waiting to eat, Juergen knew it was time to move. The new place at 1611 Pacific – now occupied by Santinos – even had a dining room. A sign spilled over from the health food store next door, that read: NuPars. And Nu-Pars it was called. For a time, Juergen opened a more upscale (but not much) dinner restaurant in Hamburger Square, at Washington and Speedway. But the action was always at Nu-Pars. And still there was a line out the door.

Finally, the work got to Juergen and the rest of the family. It wasn’t easy feeding hundreds of hungry Venetians day in and day out. The Roschers called it quits in the early 80s. It was another sad day when we lost the best potatoes in the world. Does anyone know what happened to Juergen, Crystal and the rest of the family? Did they go back to their native Germany? Are they living nearby? The Beachhead wants to know.

It was 17 years ago that the H.O.T. moved to its current location at 1715 Pacific. The shabby building that once housed the Saucy Dog and, later, the Pelican’s Catch, was beautified with paint, art and repairs. Outdoor seating was added in the front, while the patio in the rear was mostly enclosed with tables seating around 50 people. Long tables in the restaurant proper seated more diners.

Full disclosure: My pal JD and I created H.O.T.’s first typeset menu for Heelan. I wish I had a copy of it. I remember the prices were stunning for their reasonableness.

As a vegetarian, I’m not qualified to give a culinary review of all the dishes at Cafe Benice. I do know that even for a vegetarian or a vegan, it’s hard to decide what to order. There are so many options, including omelets, potatoes, burgers, curry dishes, etc. My mouth is watering as I write this.

It’s no mystery why restaurants that only open for breakfast are disappearing from the beach vicinity.

Even in 1985, the Lafayette faced a tripling of its rent.

We’re living in hard times for many, who are unable to go out to eat. At the same time, rents keep rising.

Today, upscale restaurants litter the area from the beach to Abbot Kinney Blvd.

The search for breakfast-only places has had to move farther east around Lincoln Blvd., an area where we can find Maxwell’s, Cafe Buna, Cafe 50s (which also serves dinner). The Firehouse at Main and Rose has a breakfast-only room, but it’s attached to a bar, which probably pays the rent.

Let’s hope Cafe Benice rises from the dead, or a new Venice Hang-out for breakfast appears. In this long-term depression, we need it as much as ever.

If you have a nominee for best breakfast in Venice, please send us a letter.


Boats Parade in the Venice Canals

January 1, 2012

By CJ Gronner

One of the most adorable things you could ever do in Venice, California is attend the annual Holiday Boat Parade in the Venice Canals. This year was the 30th one, and I think it might have been the best yet. I say that because the mood of the boating participants and the attendants that packed every narrow sidewalk and bridge was sheer buoyancy … and there is no pun intended there. There were plenty of to-go cups in gloved hands (it was beach chilly), but even without that help, everyone seemed to be in stellar spirits as they cheered and caroled under the clear, full moon evening. The Epstein-Mayers hosted the pre-party I attended (Thank you, our gracious hosts!), and we got our group gathered and canal-side just in time to see the first boat sail by, poled along, appropriately enough, by some old-style gondoliers (and “Mr. & Mrs. Abbot Kinney” that I didn’t know). Perfect.

Right on their tail was a militant duck contingent bearing signs like “Duck-U-Py The Venice Canals” and demanding their just nest eggs. Venice always has a sense of humor, and we love it.

There was a fully-amped rock and roll band made up of both Christmas characters and Super Heros. This may just have been my favorite, for fun, enthusiasm and, of course, rock.

You can be as elaborate or as simple as you like in this parade, a big pontoon-type deal, or a single kayak for one, as long as you’re having fun.

The crowds lining the bridges and sidewalks shouted their approval the whole time, and the number of people only increased as the sun began to set. It was so pretty out, people were just gasping … locals and visitors alike.

Pop culture was well-represented, from vessels celebrating Barry Manilow (yes it was ) to Snoopy’s doghouse and the Starship Enterprise.

A darling little family of reindeer? More gondoliers? Fire people? were led by the exuberant patriarch in singing some rousing Christmas numbers, with the little kid barbershop quartet on the choruses. I thought I might explode from the cute factor. Happily.

Hanukkah was given many shouts out by the happy Rabbi in his Menorah/Dreidel (that spun!) boat. He was a big hit, especially with the kids shouting out for candy (chocolate gelt). It’s funny, the parade is like the new trick or treating, or Mardi Gras … kids seemed to expect the boats to throw out candy … Noted.

Even the dogs got into the act, as seen by this little reindeer dog, though his coat did say “Bark Humbug”. Hmmm.

Robin the Snow Queen sailed by with a real fire burning in the bottom of her boat. Very cool. It gave me ideas for the Viking Ship we plan to set sail next year.

The sunset turned the whole sky pink and the lights of the homes and bridges (and boats) began to twinkle in a breathtaking twilight you couldn’t even make up. Everyone looked beautiful … mostly because everyone looked so happy. Truly, even if it was just forgetting about regular life stuff and problems for the moment, and being present and appreciating life and fun and Venice and NOW, while we had it.

I think that’s because you couldn’t help but feel the HOLIDAY CHEER everywhere you looked, especially on this boat, with the coolest, happiest Snowflake Man (with his Christmas Tree friends on back-up vox) riling up the onlookers and getting them/us/me to join him in Karaoke Carols.

As the sky darkened and became more moon and star-lit, the boats wound their way around the canals, with more applause and cheers at every turn. The parade ended and the house parties around the canals began (though many looked not to be at home … are they crazy?! Those houses were MADE to be home on this night more than any other!),we paraded on foot back to our party, but not before being greeted and embraced and invited in by just about every friendly face you’ve ever encountered in town. Right up until this night, I hadn’t been feeling the holiday swing so much yet, with so many other things going on all the time, and time itself flying so fast. But then, as you see, the holidays were jump-started right in front of our faces!

The rowdiness eased into a full moonlight serenity after a while. We rode our bikes back through the canals later on, and I had to pause to soak up the simple loveliness of a Christmas-lit bridge with its reflection upon the water. I gave myself the moment for my own reflection, and with that, BANG! The Christmas Spirit was fully upon me. I’m feeling it! And I hope you are too.

With all the hubbub of the Season … remember to reflect. Appreciate. Have FUN!

 


Can we all just get along?

January 1, 2012

By Jim Smith

Rodney King, who uttered that famous question – “can we all get along?” – after being brutalized by police on video, would be proud of the unity displayed by many Venetians who have come together to save the post office. But lately, some discordant voices have complained that some of us are working with people they have identified as the enemy.

Here’s what’s going on. Back in October the Beachhead sponsored a showing of the film, Brush with Life about Edward Biberman, the artist who painted the mural in the post office lobby. Nearly everyone who was concerned and involved in keeping our post office from being closed and sold was there. The audience included Amanda Seward, who heads the Neighborhood Council’s task force on the post office; Mark Ryavec, founder of the Venice Stakeholders Association; Debra Padilla, executive director of SPARC (the mural project); Karl Abrams, chair of Venice Peace and Freedom; Linda Lucks, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council; Jonathan Kaplan, who works with the Los Angeles Conservatory; Suzanne Zada, head of the Biberman Estate; Jeff Kaufman, the producer of Brush with Life; and many more, including several Beachhead Collective members.

We proposed that the group continue to meet, and set a date for an initial coalition meeting, which most of the above attended. A short time later muttering began that we shouldn’t be working with certain members of the coalition, specifically Mark Ryavec and/or Linda Lucks.

Most of the fire directed at Ryavec was because of his role in having “no oversized vehicles” signs put up around Venice, and his presumed role in pushing Rosendahl and others to begin police towing of RVs.

The Beachhead has long argued that homelessness is a social problem, not a police problem, and that a solution must include housing, jobs, medical care, income, etc.

However, on the issue of saving the post office, Ryavec’s position corresponded to that of the Beachhead and the other members of the Coalition. He had the lawyer for the Venice Stakeholders, John Henning, look into the legal rights of Venetians to their post office.

The attorney filed an appeal, which the post office told us couldn’t be done, but which was accepted by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Several of us followed with our own appeals, which were also accepted. The USPS took the Venice Post Office off the market.

Without Henning’s appeal it might have been sold by now. Ryavec then secured the pro-bono involvement of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, one of the largest law firms in the country.

Meanwhile, other community personalities, who have not been involved in the effort to save the post office, began telling me that we should have nothing to do with Ryavec in the coalition. One person even told me that it would give him prestige (as if). Oddly, none of the naysayers have clean hands. One takes money from the Bank of America and other 1 percent corporations for his social service organization. Another gladly accepts food from Whole Foods Market, an $8 billion corporation that tried to torpedo Obama’s health care plan, does not believe in pensions for its employees, and hates unions.

Some people would say that it’s ok to wheedle money and sustenance out of big corporations, and maybe it is. But by the same token, shouldn’t it be ok to try to unite everyone in Venice around a cause with which we all agree?

We are living in the age of the 99 percent, an ingenious way of looking at the world. According to the 99 percent doctrine, we have more in common than we have separating us. This doesn’t mean that we have no divisions or differences of opinion, just that our differences with the ruling elite are much more profound.

I’m convinced that much of the division in Venice comes from our old friends in Los Angeles. They have a vested interest in keeping us divided so that we don’t decide to act in our own interest and rebel against the downtown oligarchy.

Even the hubbub with the RVs, which nearly tore Venice apart, can be traced to the city’s Dept. of Transportation which moved on its own to establish overnight parking districts. The resulting publicity made Venice a Mecca for RVs, who began making Venice their home. Attitudes on both sides hardened as the city bureaucracy and its elected officials took punitive actions against the hapless mobile campers. Today, we’re back to pre-frenzy numbers of people living in RVs, many of whom are long-time Venice residents.

No one in Venice benefited from this division among neighbors more than the city of Los Angeles which is more than happy to keep looting Venice of its tax revenue while giving little in return to compensate for the glut of tourists we welcome every day.

Greater unity in Venice is not impossible. It should be obvious to any impartial observer that the only beneficiary of old grudges alive among Venetians is the city of Los Angeles, which can claim that we are incapable of governing ourselves.

Since this is the month that we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., we should ask what he would do. A partial answer might be found in his quote: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Indeed, we’re all in the good ship 99 percent, now.


Fight to Save the Post Office Continues

January 1, 2012

More appeals were sent to the Postal Regulatory Commission in early December to save the Venice Post Office. It is not known at press time when the appeals will be heard.

Individuals in Venice and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher are handling the cases for our side. One of the issues is whether the sale of the Venice Post Office constitutes a closure that can legally come before the Commission or whether it is simply a relocation to the Postal Annex. Arguments from Venice are that of course the post office is being closed, and sold, no matter where the service is being moved. We are contending that the closure will cause irreparable harm to the historic building and the historic mural within, as well as to the Venice community which would lose its center of gravity.

The mural, painted in 1941 by renown artist Edward Biberman is now on a stamp (above), produced in Venice. The stamp which is legal first class postage is being sold at cost by the Save the Venice Post Office Coalition. Members of the Coalition have set up a table in front of the post office on several days a week, where they are collecting petition signatures against the closing and selling sheets of 24 stamps for $12. The price of a first class letter is increasing from 44 cents to 45 cents in January. Stamps can also be obtained by calling 310-396-2525 or emailing savevenicepostoffice@freevenice.org.


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