News in Depth
Senator Dianne Feinstein Visits LB re Port Security:
Urges Greater Homeland Security Funding for PoLB/PoLA, Seeks Support For New Port Security Bills
Suggests Port/City/Others Help Shoulder Some Share Of Homeland Security Costs In Mutli-Tier Approach
Reiterates Her Post-9/11 Concerns About Proposed LNG Terminal in PoLB; Says Council, Under Mayor's Leadership, "Should Take A Position, One Way Or The Other, An Informed Position" On LNG Proposal
Will Introduce Bill To Prevent Eminent Domain & Exclusive Fed'l J'diction for FERC in LNG SitingSenator's News Conference Responses Re Multi-Tier Funding, Proposed LNG Terminal In PoLB
(Feb. 24, 2005) -- Calling the Long Beach-Los Angeles port complex "the highest in America in terms of vulnerability, in terms of threat and risk," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) met in LB with area officials who joined the Senator in supporting port security legislation that would allocate homeland security funding based on risk, strengthen current maritime security laws.
At a Port of LB news conference flanked by an array of officials including LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill, LB Police Chief Anthony Batts, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and Assemblywoman Betty Karnette...
...as well as Harbor Commission President John Calhoun, LB Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, LB Fire Chief Dave Ellis, LAPD Chief William Bratton, L.A. Mayor James Hahn, Sen. Feinstein urged support for two pieces of legislation regarding port security:The Port Security Crime Bill, legislation sponsored by Senator Feinstein and Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Joe Biden (D-DE), and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to strengthen existing law and create new crimes applying to ports and sea vessels. Among other things, "for the tens of thousands of people that work at port properties, there must be fraud proof IDs," Sen. Feinstein said.
The High Risk Initiative, legislation to be sponsored by Senator Feinstein and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) to ensure homeland security funding allocated based on risk rather than political and geographical factors. "It would make the allocation of funds based on vulnerability, threat of risk and the assessments that go with both of those, so that money goes where it can do the best job of protecting the United States of America."
Senator Feinstein noted the "huge investment of infrastructure, whether its container ships, or cranes, or people working on this Port, you recognize that the ports of America are the soft underbelly of our homeland security protection. 40% of all of the cargo comes in and out of the Port of Long Beach-Los Angeles."
She said, "The soft underbelly is the ability of someone to bring in, in a container, either a nuclear bomb or a dirty bomb, into a very large urban area, not only to wreck the port but to ruin the American economy and to kill perhaps hundreds of thousands of people at the same time."
At the news conference, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill said, "Each time anyone takes a helicopter and sees the density of this area and the size of these two ports, they are amazed." She indicated that the preceding roundtable discussion ran beyond its one hour allotted time because the group "had so much information that we had to cut everybody off. They didn't get a chance to finish [but] the things that we were sharing showed that this group was working together...the Sheriff, the cities, the ports, and it is a team."
L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca announced at the news conference, "I'm very pleased to say that in the way of sophisticated equipment concerning interoperability, that the Sheriff Department's interoperability scramble vehicle will be deployed here until the Port is able to acquire one of its own. This is an important ingredient to first responder coordination."
L.A. Mayor James Hahn noted that he expects the delivery of three interoperability vehicles for deployment in the area shortly.
Senator Feinstein said at the news conference:
We sit in the middle of a large urban area where a device, a dirty bomb, a nuclear bomb, something smuggled in on a container could do enormous damage. I really feel that this is the most singular and important point of contact to work to see that everything is done with respect to port security, that's in inter-operability of first responders [radio communication on a common channel so different entities can talk to each other]...We need to be sure that we have first responder inter-operability that is state of the art.
LBPD Chief Anthony Batts said, "We applaud the Senator for being a champion. She does have the support of law enforcement. She needs also the support of the community because those dollars are tough to get from Washington, D.C., so we need you to speak up as a community to get that support to ensure and continue our safety." LAPD Chief William Bratton likewise attended the news conference and urged support for the security initiatives.
Referring to LB-L.A. area officials with whom she met, Sen. Feinstein said, "This is just a wonderful team of people...I'm so proud to see the progress that's been made. There's a lot more that needs to be done, but this is truly the A-team of California."
Responding to a question from LBReport.com at a Port of LB news conference, Sen. Feinstein indicated she supports having a combination of entities at various levels -- a multi-tiered approach -- to shoulder some share of homeland security costs, including use of a container fee.
Likewise in response to a LBReport.com question, Senator Feinstein reiterated her previously stated concerns regarding a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in the Port of LB...and said that after looking at a forthcoming EIR and US Coast Guard report, "the [LB] City Council should take a position, one way or another, an informed position."
The Senator added, "I also do not believe that FERC should have eminent domain. [applause] I also do not that FERC alone should determine (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) the siting. The way it's always been done in California is a joint state-federal effort...I will introduce legislation to do that. Whether I'll be successful, I don't know, but to have FERC come in and use eminent domain in California is something that I find highly objectionable.
Asked by LBReport.com about a container fee, Sen. Feinstein said:
I'm really of the opinion that we need to get the best possible port security we can and not wait or blame the federal government with a half a trillion dollar deficit fighting a war, etc., etc.
And I think we have to look at a combination of different resources. Money from ports, money from the states, perhaps a small fee on containers.
I mean look out here at this infrastructure. The port director can tell you what these cranes cost, but I would hazard each one is between two and ten million dollars, and there are dozens. So there is a huge investment, let along the goods that are stored in all of these containers.
So my view is to put together multi-tiered financing for this, and we discussed it a little bit. Sheriff Baca is going to present a plan, come to my office I think it's next week, we're going to talk further about this.
During the roundtable discussion with local officials that preceded the news conference, Sen. Feinstein also suggested that city, port and other entities should help match or bolster federal homeland security funds. LB Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, who attended the roundtable discussion, described some salient points of the meeting for LBReport.com:
I think everybody agreed that inter-operability [radio communication between various agencies] is really critical, and what was interesting was they talked about it in the context of that horrible [Glendale] train wreck...There was a lot of discussion about that.
Everybody agreed upon [the need for] multi-year funding, but the sources of funding are a little bit contentious because she [the Senator] would like to see the city and the state help to provide a match for federal funding.
And I'm saying "excuse me, there's no way I could justify having fewer cops, for example, in the city to take care of 40% of the nation's trade. That's just not right.
During the news conference, LBReport.com asked Senator Feinstein about a proposed 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, proposed by a private firm to be built and operated in the Port of LB...noting that Senator Feinstein had voiced what she called post-9/11 concerns about the Port location during a Feb. 17 Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing on LNG (LBReport.com detailed coverage, with audio, click here). The Senator expanded on her views:
I did have a chance with Mr. [Thomas] Giles [Exec. VP/CEO Sound Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi subsidiary, project applicant] of the company to tour the property.
It is fair to say that I have had concern about in-harbor locations for LNG. They of course assure that it's safe [Senator smiles] and you know that it's done in many other areas, but this is post-9/11 and I think we have to look a little differently at the siting of all facilities.
The bottom line is this, that it's really the community that has to take a good look at this, and look at the Environmental Impact Reports, I think the Coast Guard is coming out with a safety report. Combine 'em all, and under the Mayor's leadership I believe the City Council should take a position, one way or another, an informed position.
I also do not believe that FERC should have eminent domain. [applause] I also do not believe that FERC alone should determine (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) the siting. The way it's always been done in California is a joint state-federal effort.
And after all of the investigations are done, they jointly form the convenience and necessity provisions that are necessary.
I will introduce legislation to do that. Whether I'll be successful, I don't know, but to have FERC come in and use eminent domain in California is something that I find highly objectionable.
Prior to the Port roundtable discussion and press event, Senator Feinstein addressed a luncheon aboard the Queen Mary, scheduled by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce and LB Education Foundation. A who's-who of local officials and business leaders filled the Queen Mary's Grand Salon to capacity. .
LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill received Senator Feinstein at dockside.
During her remarks, Senator Feinstein (who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee) said "the Ports of America are really the soft underbelly of this nation" and said:
We have 13 million shipping containers coming into American ports a year. 6 million of these are from overseas, and only 5% of them are inspected.
A dirty bomb, which every expert I've talked to expects at some point or another, would not only destroy this great port, and likely kill hundreds of thousands of people but it would impact our economy dramatically.
And the Long Beach-Los Angeles port is a prime target because of its size and its importance to our economy. 40% of our nation's cargo moves through this combined port...
Citing a recent Inspector General report, Senator Feinstein said that while ports are given sizable grants, crucial dollars are given to low risk areas "where the terrorist threat is either non-existent or extraordinarily loan [such as] St. Croix, Virgin Islands; Martha's Vineyard, and six locations in Arkansas..." She said this happens because "of the specific nature of representation in the Senate...where CA (bigger than 21 states and DC combined) has two representatives..and smaller states do too. "Those Senators of the smaller states learn to exercise their majority in the Senate, and the money gets divided based on political reasons rather than on reasons of risk assessment, and that's not the way to spend critical dollars."
Senator Feinstein said that she and Sen. John Cornyn (R., TX) will be sponsoring the "High Risk Homeland Security Act" that would ensure that "homeland security grants are based on risk and threat assessment, rather than on political factors." [applause]
Sen. Feinstein is currently co-sponsoring (with Senators Specter, Biden & Kyl) a Port Security Crime Bill that strengthens existing law and creates new crimes applying to ports and sea vessels.
Senator Feinstein said, "I'd like to ask you for your support of these bills. I know [Mayor] Beverly O'Neill will be there. I know [Congresswoman] Juanita [Millender-McDonald] will be there. I know [L.A. Councilwoman] Janice Hahn will be there. I need everybody to be there because we're fighting uphill, and the smaller states will not relinquish these dollars easily, so we've got to make the argument based on real threat and real need."
In remarks preceding the Senator, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill credited Senator Feinstein with facilitating the transfer of former federal property (including the former Naval Station and Shipyard) to the City of LB. "She was with us all the way, she made sure that the other members of the Senate knew what was going on because we were the hardest hit city in the United States...We had friends like Senator Feinstein, someone there, rooting for us, making sure that we did the right that, so we will all be extremely grateful in her work in helping us transform our city."
Given a standing ovation on her introduction, Senator Feinstein (a former Mayor of San Francisco) said of LB Mayor O'Neill, "You have one of the best [Mayors] in the United States. Appreciate her," drawing loud applause. She concluded her address by saying, "It's really great to see this city on a go...and I think our democratic system is very blessed by the tremendously fine leaders in this great American city."
Senator Feinstein called Social Security the number one issue before the Congress domestically...and criticized President Bush's proposal to privatize parts of the system for younger workers. "I am strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security," she said, drawing applause.
"The privatization proposal to date would weaken the solvency of Social Security by two trillion dollars. It would produce large increases in federal debt and it most likely would drive more future recipients into poverty. It would change the nature of Social Security from a guaranteed benefit to a guaranteed gamble," Senator Feinstein said.
The Senator also said that after a recent mideast visit and meetings with Israeli officials and the Palestinians' new leadership, "I was very heartened that this is a real window of opportunity and it looks like that is being borne out, and good things are beginning to happen."
Sen. Feinstein presented LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser with a check for $100,000 to help fund the District's High School Principal training program. "The key is to develop school site leadership teams, improve their educational data systems and in general to increase student performance and elevate the role of the principal in the school. I'm told LB will direct $2.4 million in matching, non-federal funds to support this initiative. I know Congresswoman Millender-McDonald [next to Mayor O'Neill, photo right] also helped with this. I'm very pleased as an appropriator to have been able to achieve this small amount of funding in last year's federal budget."
Senator Feinstein said LBUSD "is serving as a model for [school] districts throughout our state."
Among those we also spotted at the luncheon (caveat: not a complete list):
Councilmembers Laura Richardson and Bonnie Lowenthal.
Councilman Frank Colonna caucuses with Nancy Ahlswede of the Apartment Association, CA Southern Cities.
Also attending (not shown) Vice Mayor Jackie Kell and Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga
Part of the Port of LB contingent: Harbor Commissioner Mario Cordero and PoLB Exec. Dir. Richard Steinke. Also attending (not shown) Harbor Commission president John Calhoun and Commissioner Doris Topsy-Elvord [may have been others, couldn't see them all].
Also spotted (not pictured) LB School Board members Mary Stanton (Board president), Suja Lowenthal & Jim Choura. Likewise attending LB Water Replenishment District boardmembers Alan Robles and Norm Ryan
The luncheon was scheduled by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce and the LB Education Foundation, as part of a 2005 National Leaders luncheon series. The printed program listed the following table sponsors:
Apartment Assn, CA Southern Cities, Boeing, BP Products of North America, Inc.; Broadway by the Sea; CA Paralyzed Veterans Assn; CSULB; Cerrell Associates; Cerritos Chamber of Commerce; City Nat'l Bank; Community Hospital of LB; Construction Consultant Services; DENSO Sales California, Inc; DeVry University; Southern CA Edison; GAMA; Keesal Young & Logan; Lawrence Anderson Family; Lennar Corporation; LBCC; LB Memorial Medical Center; LB Water Dept; NCCJ; Paragon Steel; Port of LB (2); Rollins Nelson Healthcare Mgt Co; St Mary Medical Ctr; TABC; ThumsLongBeach Co.; Tredway, Lumsdaine & Doyle, LLP; Universal Care; United Parcel Service; Water Replenishment District; Westland Construction Co.
We also spotted a table for Sound Energy Solutions, the Mitsubishi subsidiary seeking Port and FERC approval to build and operate an LNG terminal in the Port of LB.
LBTV Channel 8 (the City Hall operated cable TV channel) brought multiple cameras, TV lights, a video switcher and crew to record the event...which will be telecast on cable channel 8 on the following schedule:
- Thurs. Feb 24: 7:30 p.m.
- Sat. Feb. 26: 10:00 a.m.
- Sun: Feb 27: 2:00 p.m.
- Thereafter for two weeks on the following schedule: Monday & Wednesday, 7:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturday from 4:30-5:30 p.m.