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Mendocino County Today: September 29, 2012


BILLY NORBURY'S TRIAL for murder begins this Monday. Norbury, 34, is alleged to have shot and killed his Redwood Valley neighbor, Jamal Andrews, 30, the night of January 24th this year. Norbury is white. Andrews, black. Andrews was a well-known reggae musician whose many friends assume the shooting was racially inspired. DA Eyster has said the shooting occurred for other reasons while Norbury's attorney, Al Kubanis, seems to be arguing (1) that Norbury is crazy, and (2) Norbury was drunk and crazy at the time of the shooting. In July, Norbury changed his not-guilty plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge John Behnke is presiding.

COVELO O COVELO! Joshua Clayton Hanover, 24, was stopped in Covelo at 9:45pm Thursday night and soon under arrest when a tweek pipe, more than one baggie of crank and a locked and loaded rifle were found in his vehicle. As an indication of just how ho-hum routine these busts are in not only Covelo, but everywhere in the County, Hanover's bail was set at a mere $10,000.

YOUNG MALE DOG FOUND in Point Arena area. Please see attached photo of young pup found at the beach at Moat Creek yesterday (Thursday, 9/27) around 5pm. The dog has been given to Point Arena City Hall staff for safekeeping. Please contact City Hall if you recognize this dog! 882-2122. Thank you! — Hunter Alexander City Administrator.



There is good news regarding the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA). Its freight hauler, NWP, has been providing rail service to customers between Lombard (near Napa) and Windsor, since July 2011. Major shipments include loads of concrete ties and rail cars holding 1600 feet of continuous rail for SMART. But there is ample bad news. First, NCRA has awarded a “No Bid” contract to NWP that ballooned in cost and came in a year beyond the supposedly strict four-month deadline: In March 2010 NCRA was told that the 62-mile Lombard to Windsor repair project was substantially complete. All that was needed to pass inspection by the feds was a four-item “punch list” of repairs. It would cost less that $1 million and be completed quickly. Ordinarily this would require bidding, but in April NWP was awarded a contract to complete the work “at cost” by September 1, 2010. The award was “capped at $1.1 million.” By August the contract “cap” was increased to $1.9 million and the completion date became October 1, 2010. The feds inspected the line in January 2011 and allowed operations. Yet hundreds of thousands of dollars were supposedly spent on the “punch list” work for seven months after the inspection was completed. In October 2011 there had been no change to the August 2010 contract. Yet NCRA was presented with a summary of NWP’s expenses: $2.5 million. Then there is the Lease between NCRA and NWP: The initial Lease of September 2006 had the potential of handing the line to NWP for a century after NCRA spent over $60 million taxpayer dollars to repair the first 62 miles (out of about 310) and yet under the Lease NWP could conceivably not pay a dime to NCRA once trains were running. Some of the egregious provisions were deleted by a June 20, 2011 Amendment. But in October 2011 NWP demanded a reversal of those June 20 changes, plus new onerous provisions. For example, NWP had paid $20,000 monthly advance lease payments to NCRA. They were explicitly without interest and were to be credited to NWP once operations started. Suddenly, in October 2011, NWP demanded prompt repayment of all the funds and retroactive interest! NWP demanded that NCRA sell its Ukiah Depot property [the primary site for the new Ukiah courthouse — Ed] and that NWP have first rights to the proceeds to cover all of what NWP perceived as its due. NWP would loan NCRA operating funds until the Ukiah Depot sold, or July 1, 2012, whichever came first. The NCRA Executive Director stated, “A new track rental fee will be renegotiated prior to the disbursement of funds from the sale of the Ukiah Depot Property”. (The Ex. Dir. has refused to place the October 2011 Lease amendment on NCRA’s website.) July 1, 2012 came and went. However, no Depot sale had occurred and no new fee had been negotiated. NWP now refuses to pay NCRA for NWP’s use of the right-of-way. Meanwhile, NWP is seeking new funds to extend the line northward. Before proceeding further, NCRA should embrace both transparency and fiscal prudence. It should not expend additional millions of taxpayer dollars until it knows how, if at all, the public will benefit.

[Bernie Meyers is a Novato attorney who represents Marin County on the board of directors of the North Coast Railroad Authority.] (Courtesy,

GOVERNOR BROWN shot down open carry today when he made it a misdemeanor to display an unloaded firearm outside of a vehicle (with a bunch of exemptions for hunters and rural Californians). He also rejected a measure that would have required gun owners to report stolen or missing firearms to authorities within 48 hours of discovering them missing. The Governor also knocked down a wacky initiative that would have allowed police to fine parents $100 if their children were caught with bb guns in public places.

THE GOVERNOR also signed a bill that protects breastfeeding in the workplace. The bill was inspired by a 2009 federal Fair Employment and Housing Commission decision that found an employer who fired an employee for nursing her infant during her lunch break had denied that employee a right to a discrimination-free work place.

COMMENT OF THE DAY from Norman Finklestein talking about Occupy:


“A good political activist — yes, he or she has to be well read. I don’t think there’s any getting around it. You have to have some sense of history. The world isn’t an easy place; it’s not a transparent place. Trying to make sense of the economics is not an easy task. So you have to be well read. But no matter how well read you are you are never going to be successful in politics unless two things are obtained. Number one, you have to have deep roots in people. You have to be among the people. Politics is about moving people to act. That’s our politics. When you’re in positions of power or you’re at the levers of power — and there are many levers you have that don’t involve people — you have repressive forces, you have economic forces, you have lots of levers. When you are a people’s movement you have one thing. Your only asset is people. And you have to deal with real people. Not the people of your imagination. Not the people you wish people would be. But people as they exist actually out there in the real world. So you have to be among the people. Hear what they’re saying, know what they’re thinking, and then you’ll be able to figure out what is a realistic demand and what is not. Having said that I also think politics is a knack. It’s not something you learn in books and not necessarily something you are going to acquire by being among people. There is something to be said for this completely impalpable thing called good political instincts, good political judgment. I think Gandhi had very good political judgment. He knew the people, which he had to. But he also had good judgment. I think professor Chomsky has very good political judgment.”

BLASTING THROUGH: Inhabiting a world run on steam.

Steam-powered bicycles, cars and time machines? Coal-powered flying boats? How about an aerial rotating house? These developments clearly seem outlandish to us now. They're all examples of how people in the past imagined that the future would develop, based on the new technology they had on hand. After all, would the technology of our day--handheld devices that stream pictures and advise you where to eat dinner, computers that talk to their users and to each other, face transplants and cloned farm animals--be any more startling to our pre-industrial ancestors? Steampunk is a cultural movement that takes elements of the past, particularly the Victorian era, and weds it to a fanciful vision of a future that never came to exist. It incorporates fashion, design, literature, video games, and whatever else happens when idiosyncratic and often outlandish minds come together. It draws on the science-fiction scenarios of turn-of-the-20th century writers Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, authors of "Around the World in Eighty Days" and "The Time Machine," contemporary writers including China Mieville and Philip Pullman, as well as movies such as "The Wild Wild West" and "Brazil." True to its name, many elements of steampunk focus on what would have developed had technology not evolved out of petroleum extraction and the electric motor and instead continued to rely on the power of steam. Storytellers of our time have gotten all (excuse the expression) steamed up about this, producing dozens of novels where historical characters mix with fictional ones, nonhuman cyborgs roam the planet, and unstandardized, hand-tooled machines make every street corner look like an instant Kinetic Carnivale . One of the most popular of these fictions is Bruce Sterling and William Gibson's 1990 novel "The Difference Engine," featuring real-life Victorian inventor and computer visionary Charles Babbage, who, in this scenario, has successfully built and disseminated a steam-powered computer in 1855, thereby wreaking unintended havoc on an unprepared world. It is hard for any of us to be fully prepared for the world to come, given the dazzling changes that press upon us every moment. What's constant is the human imagination that activates to meet the challenge, spinning out what-if scenarios that bend the past and future together in unexpected ways some may find delightful and others bizarre. Stay tuned. — Roberta Werdinger

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