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Fall Follies 

We had a good time meeting last week with Steven Glazer, the public relations man retained by Eureka kazillionaire Rob Arkley to put forth his case in the now-infamous Avalon incident (see "Town Dandy," Sept. 13). We'd heard from KSLG's John Matthews — the first local to score an interview with Glazer, we believe — that the fellow actually serves as mayor of the East Bay town of Orinda when not flacking. That intrigued us. Then, when Glazer showed up and we embarked on the customary getting-to-know-you chat, we were even more astonished to learn that in the turbulent ’70s he had served as press secretary to then-Gov. Jerry Brown and embattled California Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird.

But Glazer was in town to talk Arkley, and we worked our way quickly to the point. Eureka City Councilmember Larry Glass, the alleged recipient of Arkley's shoves and "I will destroy you" threats, had gotten all the good press so far, Glazer said — he realized that. Now the Arkley family wished to tell its side of the story, so they retained his services. He had already worked with them in some unspecified capacity on the Marina Center, the big box-anchored development proposal that will be making its way before the City Council sometime soon.

Basically, Glazer wished to make the case that Glass was an asshole from way back, especially to Arkley's daughters. Though he could not discuss what happened that night at Avalon, he could say that this alleged rudeness to the Arkley daughters was what so exercised the father that night, when he met Glass face-to-face for the first time. He provided a statement from one of the daughters, to the effect that in their meeting with Glass, back when he was giving away "anti-Arkleyville" stickers in his shop, Glass had called the daughters "collateral damage" in his war with Arkley. (Glass told the Times-Standard that he didn't remember the conversation that way at all.)

Fine and good, we said, but it doesn't really cut to the heart of the matter, does it? The accusation on the table is that Glazer's client physically assaulted and verbally threatened an elected official. What of that?

Glazer said that Arkley had apologized for the incident, contra Glass' assertions. He then read a section of an e-mail that Arkley sent to Glass the morning after. Strangely, though, he would not give me a copy of that apology. He said that I should get it from Glass — that it was Glass' place to give it to me. It was then I realized that I was in the spell of some kind of master PR mojo that I didn't really understand. To me, it was like — Dude, you have information? Great. But I don't really feel a burning desire to play Blue's Clues with you.

But then the City of Eureka released the e-mail in question in response to a Public Records Act request from the Times-Standard. We were able to horn in on their work. You probably read the full e-mail in Wednesday's T-S.Suffice it to say that it did, in fact, say "[M]y apologies for last night." The e-mail also reiterated that from Arkley's point of view, it was all about the hurt to his family: "It is hard for me to express the pain and outrage that I feel when my wife and daughters are needlessly brought in, as you did."

For Glass, it wasn't enough. "'I'm sorry I pushed you, I'm sorry I dissed you, I'm sorry I called you a liar a million times,'" he said Tuesday. "None of those elements were there."

Regular readers of this space will know that we have an ongoing fascination with the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA), the public agency that owns the defunct railroad line between Humboldt County and the Bay Area. (See "The Squeeze," July 5. Or, hell, go all the way back to "Going Nowhere," May 29, 2003.) The railroad has been dead for 10 solid years, yet according to its backers it is ever on the verge of making its glorious return, establishing steady freight service between a deindustrialized Humboldt County and the national grid. Not only will this put hundreds or thousands of local people to work in high-paying jobs, backers say, it is the only possible way to put people to work in high-paying jobs.

A couple of months ago, we predicted that the second worthwhile and doable project to fall to the railroad dreamers — after the proposed Eureka-Arcata trail — would be on the south end of the line ("Town Dandy," July 19). For years, environmentalists and people fed up with traffic in Sonoma and Marin counties have been trying to institute commuter service, along with a pedestrian trail, on the dead right-of-way. But to put the issue to North Bay voters, advocates of the commuter plan — Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART — have to come up with a complete environmental impact report to satisfy the exacting residents of those wealthy neighborhoods. Such a report would have to take into account the NCRA's freight plans. Those plans, predictably, have been all over the map; they are bound by the railroad backers' hopes and dreams, rather than any solid data.

So by the time the SMART environmental impact report was published and SMART tax initiative was ready to go on the February ballot, the North Coast Railroad Authority had a completely different set of projections. This caused much outcry, down south. And so the Marin County Board of Supervisors held a hearing, and the City of Novato held a hearing and Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) dinked with pro-NCRA legislation heading through the state legislature, carving out a million dollars for additional track improvements in his district.

And then, last week, SMART announced that it would head back to the drawing board. It would take a few months to update its environmental impact reports with whatever projections the NCRA is putting forward this week, and cross fingers to hope they won't change again. Now the SMART tax is pushed back to the November 2008 ballot.

If there's one giant multinational corporation we wouldn't mind being enslaved by, it would be Google. Those twerpish Silicon Valley weirdos can have our money, bodies, souls, first-born, whatever, just so long as they keep pumping out the neato tools.

And now it seems that our feelings are reciprocal, at least to some degree. Last week the company quietly added Humboldt County to one if its up-and-coming products:Google Transit. Now you can go to the Google Transit homepage — search for it on Google — and get up-to-the-minute Humboldt County public transit information superimposed over a Google map. Just plug in the address where you are and the address where you need to be, and Google will plot your whole trip for you, using Redwood Transit buses and buses from the Arcata and Eureka transit systems. Good from Scotia to Trinidad and out to Willow Creek.

Humboldt County is the only rural area in the United States to get the Google Transit love. Interestingly, we're also the only place in which Google calculates your place-to-place using multiple transit services. The Bay Area Google Transit site only includes BART. Could be that the braniacs in Mountain View chose us as a simple test case for calculating public transit trips with transfers. Whatever. We have been blessed.

And now Mark Lovelace says that he's seen the Google Street View VW Beetle rolling around town. Haven't seen Street View? That's the Google project that takes photographs of every inch of the goddamn city, from every angle simultaneously, and puts them up on the web for all to see. Again, the only places to be street-viewed so far are the big cities; if the rumors are true, Humboldt will have again skipped the queue. Soon you'll be able to scan through Google's ginormous photo library, looking for your friends and neighbors engaging in embarrassing activities.

Serendipitously, this comes just as Arcata is again flipping over the question of whether or not to place security cameras on the Plaza. The City Council voted 3-2 last week to move forward with a Plaza-cam proposal, and now the civil liberties folks are fighting back. Too late, folks. You just got surveilled, Google-style.

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Hank Sims

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