Mendocino County Today: August 5, 2013

by AVA News Service, August 4, 2013

ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED for August 5th, Will Parrish’s trial is now slated for Monday, September 16th at 9am at the Mendocino County Courthouse. Will is being charged with 12 counts of Unlawful Entry, two counts of Resisting Arrest, and two other misdemeanors in connection with his 12-day occupation of the wick drain driver that CalTrans’ contractor, FlatIron, is using to drain and compact the soils of the Little Lake wetlands. Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of six months. The charges also relate to Will’s arrests on March 21st and April 2nd while taking action in support of The Warbler’s tree sit.

Under the charges, Will would also be required to pay financial “restitution” for damages CalTrans and the California Highway Patrol say they incurred as a result of his wick drain boom occupation and his other two arrests. This harsh and vaguely defined stipulation would set a dangerous precedent for handling of other Bypass protesters’ cases, of which it seems likely there will be more in the future.

The trial may take 3-4 days. Supporters are still being asked to write letters to Mendocino County District Attorney C. David Eyster.

Eyster had originally charged Will with three infractions. However, the requirement to pay an undisclosed amount of restitution was also included with these charges. Will would also have had to stay away from the Willits Bypass construction area for one year under the terms of “conditional probation.”

Under an infraction, the defendant’s case is presided over by a judge rather than a jury. Will was unwilling to accept the financial restitution stipulation and was also adamant about his right to receive a jury trial, so his attorney asked that Eyster re-file the charges as misdemeanors. Eyster responded by essentially “throwing the book” at him, filing entirely different charges rather than simply re-filing the original three infractions.

On Friday, Will joined an international day of action by conducting a one-day fast in solidarity with prisoners who are hunger striking to demand an end to solitary confinement and four other reforms in California prisons. He says the draconian prosecution of his case is one comparatively tiny expression of the same repressive incarceration system that has led the United States to have the world’s largest prison population, and which has fostered the human rights abuses in California prisons that have precipitated the hunger strike.

On Tuesday, August 6th, Will will speak in Fort Bragg in his first public presentation since being removed from the wick drain driver. The Warbler will also speak. More details to follow.

In other Bypass resistance news, Kim Bancroft, Maureen Kane, and Steve Keyes were released yesterday morning following an arraignment, without charges having been filed. They were arrested and held for two days after locking down to an excavator that has been removing soil from the hillsides in the proposed Bypass’ southern interchange area. They delayed the excavator’s work for more than five hours. About a dozen supporters came out to support their appearance at the Mendocino County Courthouse.

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THE US SUPREME COURT has ruled, the usuals (Thomas, Scalia, and the other clown, Alito) dissenting, that the early release of nearly 10,000 California inmates by year's end should go forward. Jerry Brown, as always talking left and acting right, and other state officials claim early release would cause a “safety crisis.”

WE KNOW a dozen inmates presently serving unreasonably lengthy sentences who, if they were released today, would not re-offend. And I know two other guys, sentenced to life without at age 19 are not the same men they were when they committed murder. People with direct personal experience of state and federal incarceration will tell anybody who will listen that roughly 20% of the people locked up for long periods of time should be kept locked up. They are irredeemable. But the 80% kept behind bars for periods out of all proportion to their crime, pose no threat to their fellow citizens.

A PANEL of three federal judges had previously ordered the state to cut 
its prison population by nearly 8% — roughly 110,000 inmates — by
 December 31st to avoid conditions amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.
 That panel, responding to decades of lawsuits filed by inmates, repeatedly
 ordered early releases after finding inmates were needlessly dying and 
suffering because of inadequate medical and mental health care caused by 
overcrowding.

COURT-APPOINTED experts found that the prison system had a suicide rate
 that worsened last year to 24 per 100,000 inmates, far exceeding the 
national average of 16 suicides per 100,000 inmates in state prisons.

DON SPECTER of the Berkeley-based Prison Law
 Office said Friday’s Supreme Court ruling underscores what inmates have been arguing for years, but that “conditions are still overcrowded, and the medical and health
care remain abysmal."

CALIFORNIA has already transferred thousands of low-level 
and nonviolent offenders to county jails where local officials — Humboldt County, for instance — have been forced into releasing some inmates early to ease county jail overcrowding. Mendocino County is running right at legal capacity.

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RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “The Act of Killing” focuses on two jolly, government-sponsored killers the Indonesian military deployed during the Suharto coup of 1965 to murder alleged communists. Perhaps as many as a million people were slaughtered, many of them ethnic Chinese, unaffiliated with communists. Some of the greatest massacres occurred on Bali, long synonymous among American lotus eaters as the ultimate good vibes destination. The Indonesian government still uses a fascist-type militia to suppress demonstrations.

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MORNING CONSULT, a healthcare media company, has commissioned an online poll from Survey Sampling 
International, Inc. which found a stunning 77% of the 2,000 registered voters polled want to see 
Obamacare's individual health insurance mandate delayed or tossed entirely. Only 11% agreed with the Obama administration's contention that 
fully implementing ObamaCare will lower 
their “total health care costs, such as appointment co-payments, monthly 
premiums, deductibles and drug co-payments.”

MEMBERS of Congress and their staffs, of course, have made their own deal with the White House to
 subsidize their enrollment in healthcare exchanges out of taxpayer dollars; Americans of ordinary means will struggle to pay between $300 and $500 a month for mandated health insurance under ObamaCare. If they don’t buy coverage, they’ll be fined via the IRS, although the House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would deny the IRS any funding to operate or enforce the health care law (!)


AMERICANS are supposed to enroll in 
the healthcare exchanges beginning October 1. Government employees are also supposed to enroll in the exchanges, which the
 White House needs to expand by many millions of Americans in order to make 
ObamaCare's math work.

POLLS INDICATE that more Americans than ever want the ObamaCare law repealed, and a majority disapprove of it. Get this: The ObamaCare call center hired part-time employees — denying them the very 
healthcare benefits they are promoting. The ObamaCare employer mandate has been delayed until 2015 after the 2014 midterm elections so this massive swindle won’t hurt Democrat electoral chances.

THIS LOOMING FIASCO was caused by Obama and the Democrats who invited the health insurance companies to write the “reform” legislation. Republicans, natch, like the free enterprise aspect of it but claim to dislike the compulsory parts, especially the use of the IRS as collection agent. Meanwhile, single-payer, the only feasible approach to mass healthcare, remains on the No Option table because insurance companies oppose it.

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THERE ARE SEVERAL fires burning in the very northern areas of Humboldt and another two in Trinity County, hence some smoke over Mendocino County today.

The Butler Fire, located on the Six Rivers National Forest, is located approximately 10 miles east of Somes Bar, California. Northern California Interagency Team 2 is managing the incident. The following closures remain in effect:

Highway 93 (Forks of Salmon Road) is closed at the Highway 96 intersection.

Nordheimer Campground is closed.

The land around the Salmon River is closed 300 feet from the high watermark between the confluence of Wooley Creek and the confluence of Nordheimer Creek.

Firefighters continue to prioritize protection of residences along the Salmon River. Fire reached the area of Morehouse Mine, where structures are threatened. As of Sunday morning, the fire lines were holding around those structures. The fire continues to burn mostly on the south side of the Salmon River in the area east of Butler Flat. Efforts to reach a spot fire on the north side of the river continue to be hampered by poor visibility and steep terrain. The fire was active around the perimeter yesterday and progressed across Lewis Creek (on the southern side) and into Grant Creek drainage (on the northeastern side). The fire is burning in the fire scars of the Hog Fire (1977). Difficult terrain, heavy vegetation, snags and poor access to the fire have continued to limit firefighting strategies. Crews are working today to open and utilize lines from the Somes Fire (2006).

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DENNIS O’BRIEN TELL US:

Dear Friends,

The Mendocino Environmental Center recently hosted a community radio forum with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and several local organizations. You can listen to the full two-hour show by going to http://www.sharejerusalem.com/files/Video/sfmimetroupecommunity.mp3 We discussed who we are, how we can work better together, and how we can better engage the public. All who attended and listened found it very inspiring. To support the work of the Center and it radio station, KMEC 105.1 FM, please become a member. For regular membership, send a check for $35 to Mendocino Environmental Center, 106 West Standley Street, Ukiah, CA 95482. Your check is sufficient for membership if it includes your address and contact information. Thank you very much for your interest and support.

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STUDY: NEW RAIL IS ‘HIGH COST, HIGH RISK’

By Daniel Mintz

A draft feasibility study prepared for the county’s Harbor District has identified several challenges to railroad development and deemed it to be a “high cost and high risk” venture.

Authored by the Washington-based BST Associates and the Portland-based Burgel Rail Group consulting firms, the draft study’s focus has disappointed rail advocates who believe imported manufactured goods are an important source of rail cargo.

The study only considers export of bulk goods such as coal, grain and iron ore, describing them as high volume, strong growth rail traffic commodities that “represent a key source of revenue to railroads.”

High cargo volume is described as a requirement for recouping investment, debt and operation costs of a new rail line. Developing an east-west railroad is estimated in the study to cost up to $1.2 billion. The cost of redeveloping the North Coast Railroad Authority’s unused north-south line from Windsor to Samoa is estimated at $609,000 in the study.

Etching an east-west rail corridor from here to the Gerber/Redding area and its connection to a national rail line is a challenging proposition due to the “extreme ruggedness” of the terrain, according to the study. The distance is about 100 miles but 200 miles of rail track would be needed as the route would wind and curve around slopes and mountains.

Three primary east-west route alternatives are outlined in the study, beginning in the Eureka/Arcata/Samoa areas and ending at Union Pacific railheads in the Redding/Gerber/Red Bluff areas.

The study questions whether rail development is economically feasible, as there are several existing West Coast port/rail connections.

“Humboldt County would face several competitive disadvantages relative to these other ports, including the need to cover the cost of constructing the new line and the lack of a rail distance advantage,” the study states.

It references a 2009 study sponsored by the Security National Company, which operates a shipping terminal in Fairhaven. Drafted by the UK-based Drewry Shipping Consultants firm, that analysis focused on imports of container (manufactured) goods and part of its executive summary is quoted in BST/Burgel study.

“This report concluded that ‘Under no foreseeable circumstances should Security National consider building a new container terminal at the port, without the prior contractual support of at least one shipping line, in the hope that ‘the lines will come when it is built’,” the study states.

Also included is this quote from the Drewry report summary: “The difficulty will lie in convincing the shipping lines that the Port of Humboldt Bay offers sufficient competitive advantages over Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Oakland for it to fully support the project before construction commences.”

Returning to its focus on exports, the study adds that “it is assumed that if Humboldt County were to attract a commodity that is not currently shipped through another West Coast port, it would most likely be destined for Asia.”

Coal is identified as the commodity that fits the assumption, as the amounts shipped from the U.S. have “risen sharply” in recent years. Corn and petroleum products are also named as high volume Asian export commodities.

Humboldt would have an export distance advantage over some West Coast rail-connected ports, such as the one in Coos Bay, but the study deems it to be insubstantial. Far greater is the basic advantage offered by other shipping hubs compared to Humboldt, according to the study.

“A critical advantage that all of these other ports have relative to Humboldt County is that the rail lines are already in place,” the study states. “In addition, most of these existing rail routes are capable of handling large volumes of heavy rail traffic, without the billion dollar-plus investment needed for an east-west route to Humboldt County.”

The draft study was presented to the Harbor District’s Board of Commissioners and an audience of railroad advocates and skeptics on July 25.

Brian Winningham of BST described various financing scenarios and said higher-interest borrowing may be more appropriate for a high risk project like rail development. Depending on the interest rate for financing, a north-south rail would need to move anywhere from 5.6 to 42 million tons a year of cargo and an east-west operation would need 11.5 to 100 million tons to cover costs, he said.

Winningham compared that with the “top export ports” of Portland, Oregon and Kalama, Washington, which each handle 10 to 12 million tons a year. “When you get up to some of the higher volumes, these are beyond what anybody on the West Coast does right now,” Winningham said of the Humboldt cargo estimates.

Commissioner Richard Marks said he attended a forum whose participants said they’ve been negotiating with the Wal-Mart corporation on importing its products to Humboldt’s port.

When Winningham said Humboldt would be competing with Oakland’s port – which he said has additional capacity – Marks pointed out that Humboldt has a two-day shipping time advantage when fielding imports from Asia.

But Commissioner Pat Higgins, a rail skeptic, said the expansion of Oakland’s port was government-supported and lower payback on borrowing would allow Oakland to “undercut” Humboldt if it came down to a bidding war.

Winningham said container volumes peaked in 2005 and there’s “new competition” from Canadian ports and even more will be introduced with the widening of the Panama Canal. “It’s a riskier business now,” he said, adding that ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach are also expanding.

The study cost $19,000 and was paid for by the California Department of Transportation.

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