.Letters to the Editor: Oct. 9, 2013

Willits Bypass

It is disappointing to see this very one-sided article about the Willits Bypass (“Bypass Mayhem,” Oct. 2). Many of us here in Willits are just thrilled that we are finally getting relief from all the through traffic on our Main Street. We are astonished and disgusted that Will Parrish and a handful of other extremists continue to fight the project, which is already 25% completed. The bypass will occupy just 200 acres out of a 7,500-acre valley. Thousands of acres will still be available for the agricultural enterprises that exist in Little Lake Valley. The protesters have accomplished nothing, other than adding millions in totally unnecessary costs to this project and turning a sweet, peaceful town into a battleground.

Parrish probably neglected to mention that he was initially only charged with an infraction. It was he who raised the stakes by demanding a jury trial, available only for misdemeanors and felonies. He got what he wanted—a bigger soapbox. But the evidence might not make him look like the hero he claims to be. One of the police officers that arrested him testified at a recent hearing that Parrish asked the officers to carry him because “it’s more dramatic that way.”

Last week’s cover article is a must-read. I appreciate the divergent perspectives of the Willits residents on this matter, but there is a much bigger picture here about the problems with the Willits Bypass and the tree-sitting by reporter Will Parrish and others in Mendocino County. It helps us understand why we are likely to see more such “direct action” here as conditions in the U.S. worsen.

Some “background,” as they say in journalism. Parrish writes for the Anderson Valley Advertiser. He has done some of the best research and writing about the bloated Sonoma County wine industry and how it rules our county. Rachel Dovey’s article appropriately compares Parrish to both 350.org‘s Bill McKibben and The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, the latter of whom assisted whistle-blower Edward Snowden in exposing the National Security Administration (NSA). Let’s also remember that another journalist, Thomas Paine, was key in starting the American Revolution with his pamphleteering. There is a long history of advocacy journalism and direct action by courageous writers. Why might one risk eight years in jail, as Parrish has? Because “the Willits Bypass destroys wetlands, kills Coho salmon and forever changes a valley,” as the cover reads.

Parrish has laid his life on the line, high up in those trees, and now faces a sentence of up to eight years in jail. This is the non-violent way that Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have pursued. This young man’s trial is scheduled to begin in November—he deserves our support.

I totally agree with Randi Covin, as I’m sure the majority of Willits does. Hopefully Will Parrish and all the other protesters that break the law will get the punishment they deserve. They have cost us taxpayers millions of unnecessary dollars.

Caltrans began by telling Willits government and businesses that the freeway would aid them by diverting excessive thru-traffic and Highway 20 volumes. Then it made no turn-offs in Willits. Then it insisted only four-lane freeways were its charge and solution, rejecting an at-grade, in-scale truck-route. Then it insisted traffic volumes would go up in 20 years, even though they have gone down in those 20 years. Now they have compromised a sensitive ecological area, bought up a quarter of the valley farmland, and overrun archaeological Pomo sites.

How could these foul deeds and lies occur? Because the big fish eat the small in the ocean of gigantic taxpayer robbery.

Thank you so much for the article extolling Will Parrish’s act of civil disobedience. Will is a hero. He is soft spoken, articulate, self effacing, dedicated and intelligent. So many of us on the outskirts of this struggle wish we had his courage. Future generations will shake their heads at this freeway to nowhere and wonder how we could have been so stupid and shortsighted. Thank you for bringing this battle to the attention of the larger public.

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