Congress Debates, Council Cowers, On Port Container Security Measures
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(January 9, 2007) -- One of the first priorities for Democrats now in majority-control of the House of Representatives is to take up a bill they say will close Homeland Security gaps left by the Republican Congress...including tougher inspection of cargo containers than Port interests wanted in last year's industry-backed bill.
Meanwhile, at potential ground zero in Long Beach, LB's City Council and Mayor are busy with more important things, like scheduling special Sunday meetings to brew up mainly self-serving items for a costly citywide special citywide election by which to raise their pay and increase their powers.
Simultaneously, city management has buried on today's City Council "consent calendar" (items that won't be discussed publicly unless a Councilmember or lowly taxpayer requetsts it) a proposal to extend City Hall's contract with a DC lobbyist -- who under a separate contract separately represents the DC interests of the Port of LB -- supposedly confined for city purposes to specific projects (our translation: projects consistent with what the Port wants).
E. Del Smith is an able, honorable advocate. For years, he has done exactly what the Port of LB wanted him to do and City Hall has let him do. He told LB's non-elected, non-recallable Harbor Commissioners that his office helped stymie legislation [authored by LB and Port-area Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-LB-PV)] that would have cleared away federal impediments (if any) to locally-controlled container fees for security matters. He was visible last spring at the Port of LB when Port officials blindsided LB Councilmembers, letting Port officials control input to key Congressmembers then drafting the Homeland Security bill's container measures. (A port official told us the miscommunication was an unintended bureaucratic foul-up.)
We challenge anyone to cite the publicly agendized actions by which LB's incumbent Harbor Commissioners publicly debated, discussed and voted to authorize any of these legislative policies that it then pursued using public money. And this took place under LB's current Harbor Commission, which sings Kumbaya to the Council but continues to do basically as it pleases.
And the City Council, which approves the Harbor Department budget, has let them get away with it.
Councilmembers are in some virtual reality if they expect voters will give them more pay and power while they fail to responsibly use powers we give them now.
Homeland Security issues that are seriously discussed across the country receive "code of silence" treatment in LB, facilitated by an outdated Charter provision that hands Port issues to non-elected, non-recallable Harbor Commissioners.
That's overdue for change...and if the Council votes to let the Port's DC lobbyist continue representing City Hall's DC interests, even restricted to specific items as city management now proposes, voters will have another reason to reject City Hall's proposed Charter changes. As currently brewing, those changes amount to a congestion of pay raising, Mayor/Council power grabbing, police ignoring measures...that resist giving the people real power over their Port (or guaranteed police levels, a separate reason for voters to reject the City Hall proposed Charter measures).
For reasons best known to them, Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and 2nd district Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, who represent the Port and Port-adjacent areas, cowered from even a modest reform offered by 8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich to give the public the right to appeal Environmental Impact Reports on Port projects to the Council for full consideration (not just possible re-referral to the Port potentates).
Instead of seeking more power for themselves, the Council should let the people vote on a Charter Amendment giving the people power over the people's Port...so as in Seattle-Tacoma, WA and Port Hueneme, CA the public can can elect (and in CA recall) Harbor Commissioners.
We are told that Mayor Foster and Councilman DeLong discussed Port-related Homeland Security matters on a recent trip to Washington, D.C. We believe this...but what policies did they advocate? Decided by whom? Voted by whom? When?
We regret that LB's Council majority has made itself superfluous in much of this...but thus far they have. Prove it yourself: What did LB's elected Councilmembers tell their taxpayer-DC lobbyist to do on the following legislation...which will be debated in Congress in the coming hours and days?
If House Majority Leader Pelosi, or Senators Feinstein and Boxer, or national news media ask LB's Mayor and Council leaders where they stand on this bill, what would they say? Would they refer the question to the Harbor Commissioners?
[begin pertinent text]
H.R. 1, "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 Recommendations Act of 2007" (Introduced in House)
SEC. 501. REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO ENTRY OF CONTAINERS INTO THE UNITED STATES.
(a) Requirements- Section 70116 of title 46, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
`(c) Requirements Relating to Entry of Containers-
`(1) IN GENERAL- A container may enter the United States, either directly or via a foreign port, only if--
`(A) the container is scanned with equipment that meets the standards established pursuant to paragraph (2)(A) and a copy of the scan is provided to the Secretary; and
`(B) the container is secured with a seal that meets the standards established pursuant to paragraph (2)(B), before the container is loaded on the vessel for shipment to the United States.
`(2) STANDARDS FOR SCANNING EQUIPMENT AND SEALS-
`(A) SCANNING EQUIPMENT- The Secretary shall establish standards for scanning equipment required to be used under paragraph (1)(A) to ensure that such equipment uses the best-available technology, including technology to scan a container for radiation and density and, if appropriate, for atomic elements.
`(B) SEALS- The Secretary shall establish standards for seals required to be used under paragraph (1)(B) to ensure that such seals use the best-available technology, including technology to detect any breach into a container and identify the time of such breach.
`(C) REVIEW AND REVISION- The Secretary shall--
`(i) review and, if necessary, revise the standards established pursuant to subparagraphs (A) and (B) not less than once every two years; and
`(ii) ensure that any such revised standards require the use of technology, as soon as such technology becomes available, to--
`(I) identify the place of a breach into a container;
`(II) notify the Secretary of such breach before the container enters the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States; and
`(III) track the time and location of the container during transit to the United States, including by truck, rail, or vessel.
`(D) DEFINITION- In subparagraph (C), the term `Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States' has the meaning given the term `Exclusive Economic Zone' in section 2101(10a) of this title.'.
(b) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out section 70116(c) of title 46, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) of this section, such sums as may be necessary for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2013.
(c) Regulations; Application-
(A) INTERIM FINAL RULE- Consistent with the results of and lessons derived from the pilot system implemented under section 231 of the SAFE Port Act (Public Law 109-347), the Secretary of Homeland Security shall issue an interim final rule as a temporary regulation to implement section 70116(c) of title 46, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) of this section, not later than 180 days after the date of the submission of the report under section 231 of the SAFE Port Act, without regard to the provisions of chapter 5 of title 5, United States Code.
(B) FINAL RULE- The Secretary shall issue a final rule as a permanent regulation to implement section 70116(c) of title 46, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) of this section, not later than one year after the date of the submission of the report under section 231 of the SAFE Port Act, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 5 of title 5, United States Code. The final rule issued pursuant to that rulemaking may supersede the interim final rule issued pursuant to subparagraph (A).
(2) PHASED-IN APPLICATION-
(A) IN GENERAL- The requirements of section 70116(c) of title 46, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) of this section, apply with respect to any container entering the United States, either directly or via a foreign port, beginning on--
(i) the end of the 3-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, in the case of a container loaded on a vessel destined for the United States in a country in which more than 75,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of containers were loaded on vessels for shipping to the United States in 2005; and
(ii) the end of the 5-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, in the case of a container loaded on a vessel destined for the United States in any other country.
(B) EXTENSION- The Secretary may extend by up to one year the period under clause (i) or (ii) of subparagraph (A) for containers loaded in a port, if the Secretary--
(i) finds that the scanning equipment required under section 70116(c) of title 46, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) of this section, is not available for purchase and installation in the port; and
(ii) at least 60 days prior to issuing such extension, transmits such finding to the appropriate congressional committees.
(d) International Cargo Security Standards- The Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is encouraged to promote and establish international standards for the security of containers moving through the international supply chain with foreign governments and international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization and the World Customs Organization.
(e) International Trade and Other Obligations- In carrying out section 70116(c) of title 46, United States Code, as added by subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary shall consult with appropriate Federal departments and agencies and private sector stakeholders to ensure that actions under such section do not violate international trade obligations or other international obligations of the United States.
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