Fighting back against a faceless bureaucracy

March 1, 2012

By Jim Smith

Nancy Williamson lives a few blocks from the Venice Post Office. For the past 10 years she has visited the building several times a week.

“I’ve never gone into that building without looking up at the mural of Abbot Kinney, which I recently learned is called “The Story of Venice,” says Williamson.

When she heard about the plans to close the post office, Nancy was aghast. “Everything is changing in Venice, but I can’t imagine that building being anything but a post office,” she mused.

Instead of accepting the dictates of the postal service, Nancy started attending meetings of the Coalition to Save the Post Office. Soon she was going door-to-door handing out flyers, collecting petitions to save the post office, and attended rallies.

Before the Feb. 18 Rally, Williamson took posters to Abbot Kinney Blvd. merchants. “The local merchants, like Carol Tantau, put them up immediately. Those from out of town weren’t very interested,” she reports.

Williamson said that at the rally, people asked for blank petitions to take to their neighbors. By the end of the rally, the table staffed by Williamson and Emily Winters had been cleaned out of flyers and blank petitions. Even signs became souvenir items.

Does the United States Postal Service (USPS) care about how Venetians feel about their post office? Probably not. But they may care about a lawsuit announced at the rally to overturn the decision to sell our post office.

On behalf of our Coalition to Save the Venice Post Office, Washington Attorney Elaine Mittleman marched into federal district court on Feb. 22 to file a Petition of Appeal against the Postal Regulatory Commission, which refused to hear our administrative appeals opposing the sale.

Then on Feb. 27, a Venice delegation consisting of Amanda Seward, Jonathan Kaplan, Jed Pauker, Mark Ryavec, Emily Winters, Karl Abrams, Linda Lucks and Jim Smith, met with an aide to Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The result of that meeting was agreement that the Senator would be asked to request that the USPS include our post office in a “no sale” moratorium. That moratorium, which includes a number of post offices around the country, currently expires in May. It was created to allow Congress to find an alternative solution to the closures.

If Congress is still working on a bill in May, the moratorium may be extended. If Congress fails to act at all, then we will be back asking Feinstein to specifically exempt the Venice Post Office from closure and sale.

The same group is going to Senator Barbara Boxer’s office in downtown Los Angeles on March 5. Efforts are also underway to get Rep. Henry Waxman to step into the fray, since Venice has been redistricted into the Congressional area he is running to represent.

Congress has several post office reform bills in front of it. Most of them would release the USPS from the unheard of obligation to prepay 75 years of retiree health benefits in just 10 years. This heavy burden plus the decline in business activity in this depression has pushed the postal service into a multi-billion dollar deficit. Without this requirement, it would be making a profit, or at least breaking even.

Those who want to destroy the post office, as we know it, will likely fight these bills to the end. The hard-core right-wing politicos want to end nearly all public services, with the post office being a prime target. They would like to adopt the European model –which is strongly opposed by many Europeans – to close post offices and sell stamps only in grocery and drug stores. This model would allow FedEx and UPS to grab even more of the lucrative package business.

Meanwhile, postal management is beginning work on bringing a mini post office into the Annex. However, they are doing the work without first taking out permits with the city’s Building and Safety Dept. This could be dangerous for the public, since the old annex building may not be up to earthquake standards or other current safety requirements. It also is not handicap compliant nor does it meet the parking requirements of the Venice Specific Plan.  We would like to see the City Attorney’s office and our elected officials – Rosendahl, Waxman, Hahn, Feinstein and Boxer – demand compliance.

In addition, post offices have been hamstrung in their ability to make money. They are not allowed to compete in any way with corporations.

Some readers may remember when the Venice Post Office had a small copying machine which was convenient for making one or two copies before mailing a document. It was removed because it violated the no-competition rule.

There are numerous postal and communications services that our post office could offer, if it were allowed to do so. They include rental time on computers and printers, postcards, books and newspapers, coffee, copying services, pay phones (not everyone has a cell phone), stamp collecting services, writing tables, etc.

Here is a bold alternative to selling post offices and cutting back services proposed by Dr. Michael I. Niman, professor of journalism and media studies at Buffalo State College. Niman points out that the original purpose of the postal service was not simply to deliver letters and packages, but to deliver democracy. “The Founding Fathers realized that a large nation must communicate through media, and that privately funded media would skew the national debate toward the interests of the rich,” says Niman.

Today, the internet delivers messages for about 60 percent of the population. Why shouldn’t the postal service continue its mission in the new media? Unlike with postal mail, our communications via the internet are controlled by a few giant corporations. Why shouldn’t the USPS provide a postal internet that would bring broadband communications to all Americans, no matter where they live? And do it as a public service, not a profit-making business.

Of course, Wall Street would scream bloody-murder. But the Occupy movement has shown that it is not too late to millions of us to get out in the streets and change the country in profound and positive ways.

Whether it is saving the Venice Post Office or saving ourselves from rapacious corporations, it’s up to us.

See Professors Niman’s full article at:   


March 1, 2012
  •  No Curfew – Eddie Wall
  •  La Fortuna Market – Ty Allison
    • Anne Alvarez responds


No Curfew

Dear Beachhead,

As a proud member of the Venice community, I feel like the curfew law for the boardwalk/ beach is a horrible idea.  I completely understand why they are trying to pass this law.

I have been to the OFW at night many times, and it is a little bit of a shanty town of sorts, once the sun has set it almost becomes a homeless village. But putting a curfew on the boardwalk is not going to suddenly make the homeless disappear, in fact it will do the opposite.

Instead of sleeping on the beach and boardwalk, they will now be in the alleys and on our front doorsteps.  To be honest, when I see the homeless on the boardwalk at night, it actually puts a smile on my face to know that I live in a city that allows people the freedom to live however they like.

On another note, the homeless community is a key piece in what makes Venice an extremely unique place.  Without all these eccentric “crazy” people, Venice will just become another Huntington, Newport, or Laguna Beach.

I for one, do not want that to happen.  I know there are obvious downsides with the homeless as well; alcohol, drugs, etc… but sometimes you have to accept the fact that the world is not perfect, and making more and more laws is not the answer.

The other obvious fact is that it is our god-given right to go for a walk on the beach anytime we would like.

It’s nature! How can you make it a law that you can’t swim in the ocean past a certain time!  It’s ridiculous.

We need to stop laws that are literally going to take away our freedom.  To quote the article you wrote in the Feb paper “denying people access to the coast is denying part of your inheritance of this country.”

Eddie Wall


La Fortuna Market

Dear Beachhead,

I would like to speak to the writer who did the article about La Fortuna.

I have lived in a house a block away from there that we’ve had since 1983. The problem at La Fortuna has nothing to do with them being a Latino business. The problem is that they have again and again for years sold alcohol to intoxicated individuals who then impact the nearby residents. I’m surprised that the Beachhead would condone that.

This is not a gentrified neighborhood, it’s a working class neighborhood, many residents are normal people who have lived here for years if not decades.

You are accusing us of racism.

My neighbor behind us, Tara Aguilar, a single older nurse who has lived in her house for decades and has joined in the action against La Fortuna, is deeply offended by this as are we all.

The neighbor behind me and next to her is an 80-year-old Hispanic man who has been in that house for over 50 years and it is anything but gentrified.

We have no problem with La Fortuna other than the alcohol issue. If there is a problem in the neighborhood, shouldn’t the community be involved or do you want us silenced?

I would also like you to note that Gary Neville who took the picture is a developer who took over a number of buildings on Lincoln, forced out some small businesses, radically gentrified that building and skyrocketed the rents. Do your homework.

Ty Allison

Anne Alvarez responds: Thanks Ty for your letter: The research on the La Fortuna article consisted of what I learned from the Romos, LAPD , ABC,  their regular customers and supporters. According to ABC, “LA Fortuna has had their beer and wine license for over 32 years, and it has never been suspended or revoked due to sales to obviously intoxicated person,” LAPD has no arrest records pertaining to sales of alcohol to inebriated people associated with La Fortuna. My article was written based on these facts solely. As for Gary Neville? He is two doors down from La Fortuna and is familiar with their current situation, his input and time were quite helpful and appreciated. Everyone, regardless of their position in our community has a right to be heard, whether we like it or not!

Google says “No comment” to 5,000 Venice Employees

March 1, 2012

By Greta Cobar

When recently asked about the rumor that they plan to buy the building currently housing Gold’s Gym and increase the number of employees to 5000, Google’s response was “no comment.”

The Binocular building they currently occupy reportedly houses 450 employees, and they already own an additional 70,000 square feet of real estate in undisclosed Venice locations.

Thomas Williams, senior director of engineering at Google, stated at the September Venice Neighborhood Council meeting that he intends “to keep it under 1200 googlers.” However, recent communication with public relations people representing Google failed to sustain promises previously made.

What percent of their workforce is comprised of people who were living in Venice before working here for Google? Better yet, what percent of their workforce is women?

Metro Bus #733 Adds Stop at Abbot Kinney and Venice Blvds.

March 1, 2012

By Roger Linnett

When the Metro Rapid #733 bus line began last year it stopped at the corner of Venice Blvd. and Venice Way as did the Local #33. Then last fall the powers that be at the MTA decided to discontinue that stop for the #733. The result was that the #733 went from the Circle to Lincoln and Venice Blvds. without stopping in between, although the #33 continued to stop at both Venice Way and Abbot Kinney. However, only one of three buses that passed those intersections was a #33, causing riders to wait considerably longer.

This comes on the heels of the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus discontinuation of the #2 line in Venice and its partial replacement by the extension the #1 line. This reduced service through the heart of Venice to once each half hour. A lot of employees on Abbot Kinney Blvd. and local residents, who rely on public transportation, were forced to either wait an inordinate amount of time or walk to Lincoln for the #3 Blue Bus, or to the Circle to catch the #733.

Now, in their infinite, albeit glacial, wisdom the Metro powers have added a stop for the #733 at this major crossroads of our community. Since they rarely get an “Atta boy”, let the MTA know you appreciate their correcting this slight to Venetians at

Wild and Peaceful – The Ivory Queen of Soul

March 1, 2012

By Ronald K. Mc Kinley

Mary Christine Brockert, known as Teena Marie, was born in Santa Monica and spent her early childhood in Mission Hills. Later she moved with her family to Venice to live in a large house on Nowita Court.

Born on March 5, 1956 she was raised in Qakwood, nick-named “ghost town” because you go in alive, you come out a ghost. Brockert attended Venice High School where she joined the Summer Dance Production, and appeared in the musical “The Music Man.” She graduated in 1974.

Her distinctive soulful vocals caused listeners to believe she was African-American. Success in R&B and Soul earned her the title Ivory Queen of Soul.

She was the fourth of five children born to a construction worker, Thomas Leslie Brockert, and a homemaker Mary Anne. She was Portuguese, Italian, Irish and Native American.

Brockert took to singing naturally, developing a fondness for singing the songs of Motown.

Her parents listened to jazz and popular music, and her parents began sending her out on auditions when she was eight years old. She got her first acting role on “ The Beverly Hillbillies,” that aired October 21, 1964. She sang at the wedding of Jerry Lewis’s son when she was ten years old.

She learned to play piano under the tutelage of two nuns, as she was raised in a Roman Catholic household. She also played rhythm guitar, keyboards and congas. Her first band was formed with her younger brother Anthony, and a cousin.

In 1976 she was introduced to Motown staff producer of the Jackson 5, Hal Davis. This lead to an audition for a film about orphans being developed by Motown. The film failed, but Berry Gordy decided to sign her as a solo act.

Rick James, also on the label, turned down producing Diana Ross to work with Brockert. Her debut album “Wild and Peaceful” scored Brockert her first R&B hit “I’m a Sucker for Your Love” (#8 on the Black Singles Chart). Lady T was the name coined by Rick James.

There was no picture of her on the album. Many radio programmers assumed she was Black.

This changed when she performed her debut hit with James on Soul Train in 1979; she was the show’s first white female guest. She appeared eight more times, more than any other white act.

In 1980, on her second album, “Lady T,” her portrait appears on the cover. Also in 1980, she released her third LP “Irons in the Fire,” dedicated to her father. She handled all the writing and production, including horn arrangements and backing vocals, something rare at the time for female artists.

She had her first top 40 hit with the single “I Need Your Loving” (#37, #9 Black Singles Chart).

In 1981 she released “It Must be Magic” (#2 Black Albums Chart) her first gold record, which included her biggest R&B hit “Square Biz” (#3 Black Singles Chart).

In 1982 Brockert got into a battle with Berry Gordy over her contract. A lawsuit resulted in the “The Brockert Initiative,” which made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material for that artist.

She left Motown as the label’s most successful white solo act. Because of her, artists are able to move to another label and not be held back by an nonsupporting one.

In 1984 she released her biggest-selling album “Starchild.” It contained her biggest hit “Lovergirl,” released by Epic Records. It rose to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

She never married, but gave birth to daughter Alia Rose in 1991, they can be seen on YouTube singing together.

She was Godmother to Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona Gaye, and she also cared for Rick James’ son Rick Jr.

Lenny Kravitz posted a video in which he said Brockert had taken him into her home when he was struggling early in his career.

She suffered a Grand mal seizure a month before her death. Close friends said she suffered other seizures. She broke two ribs with the grand mal. She stopped taking Diazepam, for the seizures, because of the side affects, and took herbal medicines instead. She was so frightened of having another seizure when she was alone that she would have someone sleep with her at night.

The Saturday night of the day before her death nothing seemed unusual. Someone slept next to her.

Her daughter checked in with her around 1 PM Sunday afternoon. At 3 PM her daughter checked in again but could not wake her. She died in her sleep of natural causes according to the coroner.

She died the day after Christmas 2010. She was 54 years old.

Do we have Women’s Equality now?

March 1, 2012

Women’s Earnings as a Percentage of Men’s in 2009: 77%   (down from 77.8% in 2007)

Percentage of women in each group:

  • U.S. Population (2010 Census): 50.8%
  • U.S. Senate: 17%
  • House of Representatives: 16.6%
  • California Legislature: 28.3%
  • Los Angeles City Council: 6.6%
  • Venice Neighborhood Council Board: 40%
  • Free Venice Beachhead Collective: 64%

–compiled by Jim Smith  

You Probably Never Heard of the Most Influential Woman of the 20th Century

March 1, 2012

By Roger Linnett

What woman would you say had the biggest influence on 20th Century America?

Susan B. Anthony? Eleanor Roosevelt? Rosa Parks? Marilyn Monroe? Helen Gurley Brown? Gloria Steinem? Jacqueline Kennedy?

Not even close. Her name was Frances Perkins, and she changed the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Born Fannie Coralie Perkins in Boston in 1880 into a comfortable middle-class family, Frances graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902 and received her master’s degree from Columbia University in sociology and economics in 1910.

For several years in between she worked as a teacher and volunteer at settlement houses, most notably Hull House in Chicago. During this time, she learned first-hand about the dangers of factory work and the crushing poverty and desperation of working-class Americans.

A born politician, she was active in the women’s suffrage movement, and while working at the New York State Consumers’ League, was instrumental in getting the state legislature to limit the workweek for women and children to 54 hours.

A pivotal experience in her life occurred in 1911, when she watched helplessly as 146 workers, most of them young women, died tragically in the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire, leaping to their deaths from the upper-floor windows of the building because it had no fire escapes.

Perkins later said, “[it] seared on my mind as well as my heart a never-to-be-forgotten reminder of why I had to spend my life fighting conditions that could permit such a tragedy.”

In 1918, Perkins was appointed the first female member of the New York State Industrial Commission, and later became its chairwoman. In 1929, the new governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, appointed her the Industrial Commissioner of New York, the chief post in the state’s labor department.

Perkins helped put New York in the forefront of progressive reform, expanding factory investigations, reducing the workweek for women to 48 hours and championing minimum wage and unemployment insurance laws.

When Roosevelt became president in 1933, he appointed Perkins his Secretary of Labor, the first woman to attain a Cabinet-level post. She put her formidable energy into creating a safety net for a Depression-scarred nation, securing a remarkable array of benefits for American workers as one of the prime architects of Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”

Her first proposals as labor secretary included: immediate federal aid to the states for direct unemployment relief, an extensive program of public works, a study to establish a national minimum wage, legally limiting the maximum number of hours an employee could be made to work in a week, the abolition of child labor, true unemployment and old-age insurance, and the creation of a federal employment service.

And although they were considered radical programs at the time, Roosevelt accepted them enthusiastically.
The Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped to put thousands of unemployed Americans to work in the 30s, planting thousands of trees all across the country among other projects, grew out of a conversation she had with Roosevelt shortly after he took office.

She consistently supported the rights of workers to organize unions and to pressure employers through economic action. She was instrumental in the passage of the landmark Wagner Act, which gave workers the right to organize unions and bargain collectively.

One famous incident captured in a widely-circulated newspaper photo of the time, shows an indomitable Perkins marching with thousands of steelworkers trailing behind her.

Perkins also chaired the Committee on Economic Security, which developed and drafted the legislation that became the Social Security Act in 1935.

In 1938, Perkins worked to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which eliminated “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well-being of workers.” It also established the 40 hour work week and a maximum workweek for men and women, and for the first time a national minimum wage that started at 25 cents and increased to 40 cents over the next six years.

In 1939, the House Un-American Activities Committee brought an impeachment resolution against her after she refused to deport Harry Bridges, the head of the west coast longshoremen’s union. The impeachment charges were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.

After Roosevelt’s death she resigned as labor secretary, and President Harry S. Truman appointed her to the Civil Service Commission. In 1953, she left that post to assume a professorship at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

She died in 1965 at age 85. In 1980 the headquarters of the United States Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., was named The Frances Perkins Building in her honor.


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