Long Beach and surrounding cities had their share of news in 2012, from election-year politicking and budget troubles to a long-awaited airport renovation and . . .
Port strike: For the first time in a decade, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles saw a major shutdown of their terminals. In late November, more than two years of talks crumbled between clerical workers and their shipping and terminal employers, leading to a weeklong strike that shut down two-thirds of the nation's busiest seaport complex. The strike affected nearly every part of the supply chain and stranded shipments and forced ships to divert to other ports.
The strike ended the night of Dec. 4 when union and management officials reached a deal with help from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a federal mediator.
Middle Harbor deal: In April, Long Beach port officials announced a tentative lease agreement with Orient Overseas Container Line, the Hong Kong-based container shipping and logistics service company that will make the future Middle Harbor site home for the next 40 years. The historic $4.6 billion deal is expected to double cargo movement, create at least 14,000 permanent jobs, lower port-related pollution and potentially make the port the nation's busiest.
Projected for completion in 2019, the $1.2 billion Middle Harbor project will connect and upgrade two old shipping terminals and include upgraded wharfs, greater water access, more storage areas and an expanded on-dock railyard.
Port headquarters fight: After heated arguments, both publicly and privately, among Long Beach harbor commissioners and between port officials and City Hall, the port is expected to close escrow on the $14.25 million purchase of a former Boeing Co. building near the Long Beach Airport for its new temporary headquarters. The 350 port office staff members are expected to move into the temporary building in the next six to eight months, officials said.
Meanwhile, a permanent location to replace the aging and seismically unsound administration building is yet to be determined.
O'Donnell makes history: Long Beach City Councilman Patrick O'Donnell, a high school history teacher, made history himself this spring by becoming the first council member to beat term limits voters passed in 1992. In June, O'Donnell defeated business marketing consultant Daryl Supernaw in a runoff for the 4 th Council District.
To reach the runoff and earn a place on the ballot, O'Donnell squeaked through the April primary as a write-in candidate, coming in second among three candidates.
Lowenthal to D.C.: Alan Lowenthal, one of Long Beach's most well-known politicians, is headed to the U.S. House after winning the newly drawn 47 th Congressional District in November. Lowenthal, a Democrat who began his career on the Long Beach City Council and also served in both houses of the state Legislature, beat Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong.
Richardson loses: Weighed down by ethics investigations, Rep. Laura Richardson, a longtime Long Beach politician, lost her bid for a fourth term in a Democrat-on-Democrat contest. Richardson, running for the 44 th Congressional District, lost in November to Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro.
Most in the Democratic Party had thrown their support behind Hahn, and Richardson, a former Long Beach City Council member and Assembly member, struggled to compete in the race all year. Richardson's political clout took a hit in August, when she was fined $10,000 by the House Ethics Committee for coercing members of her congressional staff to work for her 2010 campaign.
Hotel wages measure: Measure N, which boosted pay for hotel workers in Long Beach, was hailed as a resounding victory for workers' rights when it passed with 64.3 percent of the vote in November. Hotels are seeing it as something else - a reason to eliminate rooms, raise room rates and even lay off employees.
City budget cuts: The Long Beach City Council passed $12.9 million in budget cuts in September, but staved off controversial reductions to parks, libraries, police and other services. Though some library, recreation and senior programs were saved, the cuts still transformed Long Beach's delivery of services, merging the South and West police divisions into a new Central Division, consolidating detective units, implementing a new paramedic service model and taking a Belmont Shore fire engine out of service.
New fire chief: In July, City Manager Pat West named Mike DuRee as the city's new fire chief. The 44-year-old is a fourth-generation firefighter in Long Beach and the family's second fire chief. The 18-year veteran succeeds Alan Patalano, who retired in March.
Redevelopment ends: The Long Beach Redevelopment Agency's 50th anniversary in 2012 was also its last after state lawmakers voted last year to dissolve hundreds of agencies throughout California to fill a multimillion-dollar budget gap. Cities relied on RDA funding to combat blight, build affordable housing and foster economic development, though opponents called it a slush fund for local government.
New airport concourse: After two years of crowded trailers and years of legal battles over concerns about noise and pollution, the Long Beach Airport on Dec. 12 officially opened its sleek, new passenger concourse. The $45 million concourse features two terminal buildings, 4,200 square feet of resort-style outdoor seating and more than 10,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space for local merchants, plus a new neighboring parking garage.
C-17 hangs on: Civic, international and Boeing Co. officials in July ceremoniously sealed the deal with the company's largest international C-17 customer to date. India ordered 10 C-17 s in a $4.1 billion deal, which are to be delivered in 2013 and 2014, extending the life of the assembly plant that employs more than 4,000 people in Long Beach.
Battle over SCIG: The $500 million, 153-acre Southern California International Gateway railyard project being proposed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe continued to be a source of controversy in the Long Beach and Wilmington communities. To help accommodate the rising demand in cargo, BNSF wants to build a facility that would let trucks load containers and put them on trains closer to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, but opponents say the project will increase traffic and health issues in West Long Beach and Wilmington.
Dog rescuer guilty: In a case that garnered national headlines and stirred vigorous debate about animal cruelty, Long Beach dog rescuer Bonnie Sheehan eventually pleaded guilty to 14 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and was given two years of probation. Sheehan, the founder of Long Beach-based Hearts For Hounds dog rescue group, was arrested near Memphis in January for attempting to transport 141 dogs and a cat across the country from Long Beach to Virginia in a U-Haul truck and towed van.
Football star exonerated: After nine years of being labeled a rapist, it took less than 30 seconds in a Long Beach courtroom for Brian Banks to be exonerated. In May, the former football standout at Poly High School walked out of court after a forcible rape charge was reversed, the result of his accuser recanting the accusations she had made as a teenager.
Gang arrests: In June, the alleged head of one of Long Beach's oldest and most notorious street gangs was arrested following a lengthy investigation into a series of shootings that included a 2009 killing. Police arrested a total of 16 suspected members of the Long Beach Baby Insane Crips gang, including its alleged leader, Sabrille Acklin, 29.
Education cuts: For K-12 schools, community colleges and public universities, 2012 was tough year of budget cuts.
Long Beach Unified saw another school closure, with more likely on the way. Facing a $20 million budget hole, the LBUSD this year voted to close James Monroe K-8 school in Lakewood.
At Long Beach City College, the Board of Trustees voted to lay off 55 employees and reduce contracts for 96 positions, in the largest round of layoffs in the college's history.
Saved by Prop. 30: It could have been worse. If Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax measure for education hadn't passed in November, more cuts would have been likely.
Cal State University students narrowly escaped another tuition increase of 5 percent following a double-digit hike in recent years. Anticipating an additional $35 million loss in funding if Prop. 30 had failed, LBUSD was considering shortening the school year, closing schools and eliminating programs in sports, music and art. Prop. 30 will also help stabilize funding and mitigate cuts at Long Beach City College, which was anticipating an $8.4 million loss in funding but is now working with a $2 million deficit.
Councilman resigns: Councilman Randy Bomgaars - who was the city's longest-serving council member at 24 years - resigned from the council in June to collect a higher pension, though his council term wasn't up until March 2015. Bomgaars' council retirement occurred concurrently with his retirement from his 40-year teaching position with the Bellflower Unified School District. His seat remains open until a March city election.
New park: Riverview Park, the city's fourth and largest park, opened in October on 16.2 acres at 10500 Somerset Blvd. It includes a walking path, bike trail and native plant garden and is adjacent to the west bank of the San Gabriel River.
Cerritos College board change: The November elections brought major change to Cerritos Community College, which saw four out of five Board of Trustees incumbents ousted under a new district voting system. The college in 2011 faced a lawsuit from a group of Latinos claiming the previous at-large voting system left Latino voters underrepresented, so the board changed its policy. In November the board saw a new face of diversity, with three Latino board members elected.
Sex offender ban: Registered sex offenders are forbidden from entering any city parks and several public facilities under an ordinance approved in August by the Cerritos City Council.
Quiet council election: With no challengers filing for the three open seats in the Lakewood City Council, incumbents Steve Croft, Diane DuBois and Todd Rogers were all reappointed. The council then canceled its March 5, 2013, election, saving the city $80,000 to $100,000 in election costs, officials said.
New police chief: Joe Stilinovich, a former Long Beach Police Department commander who served nearly 20 years in that department, became police chief of Seal Beach this month.
Sale leads to shooting: In what family members said was a Craigslist car sale gone wrong, three people were left dead and two were wounded at a family business and a nearby home in October. Downey police arrested and charged Jade Douglas Harris, 30, with three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. With special circumstances also filed, the case could qualify for the death penalty. Harris pleaded not guilty and is expected back in court in January.
Major development project:Tierra Luna which means "Earth Moon" in Spanish,is a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use development of shops, restaurants, a 16-screen cinema and professional and medical office space that the council approved in January. The project is being built on 77 acres near Lakewood Boulevard and Imperial Highway that Downey Studios occupies.
The development is projected to generate more than 3,300 permanent jobs, 1,200 of them in the office space, and $4.2 million annually in sales, property and hotel occupancy taxes.
New council face: A political newcomer was the big winner in November's Downey City Council election, along with two sitting councilmen. Alex Saab, the former president-elect of the Downey Chamber of Commerce, beat three opponents in the 5 th District, while Councilman Luis Marquez and Mayor Roger Brossmer also won.
New police chief: Capt. Carl Charles, a 22-year police veteran, was sworn in as the Downey Police Department's 10 th chief in December. He replaced Chief Rick Esteves, who announced his retirement in October.
Police shooting ruling: A Downey police officer acted lawfully in self-defense when he fatally shot a man mistakenly believed to be a robbery suspect in the back last year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in October. Officer Steven Gilley fatally shot Michael Nida on Oct. 22, 2011, as police were responding to a call that a woman had been robbed at a Bank of America ATM. Nida was fleeing the scene when he was shot.