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Off The Record

THE COUNTY Personnel Director, Teresia Haase, who has hardly been here long enough for anyone to learn her name, cleaned out her desk last week. Reports say that she is taking a similar job for the City of Stockton at a cool $150,000, about a 60% increase in pay, making the rumor that she was forced out by CEO Carmel Angelo seem, well, overblown. There are a lot of unhappy employees in the County, mostly overworked and maxed out on their credit cards like every other dedicated American consumer. The CEO provides a convenient focus for the accumulated anger and uncertainty of the employees as they worry how they will make ends meet on 10 or 12% less money than they take home now. We understand the CEO will take on the duties of Human Resources Director, at least for the time being, as a salary saving measure.

DAN GJERDE is making no secret of his intention to run for Fourth District Supervisor. Gjerde has been on the Fort Bragg City Council for about a dozen years and has distinguished himself as a hard working public servant. Now that it seems likely that Supervisor Smith will face a credible opponent, it remains to be seen if she will still seek re-election. We understand that four years ago Gjerde, as much of Coastlib, worked hard to elect Smith, the only lapse in the young man's mental acuity that we're aware of. Smith said at the time that she was only interested in one more term. Now that Smith has reneged on her pledge, Gjerde seems to feel that he's no longer bound to support her. Gjerde's colleague on the FB Council, Dave Turner, has quietly removed himself as Smith's campaign treasurer, about as clear a signal as can be sent that he no longer supports Smith. It will be interesting to see if the pillars of Coastlib — clustered around the moribund Democratic Party's local cadre — remain loyal to Smith, who's not only a crook but appears to have mental health “issues.”

SHIRLEY GROVER, who spearheaded the Ukiah Valley Christmas charity effort for many years, died at her home April 28. A memorial service was held last Saturday at the Ukiah fairgrounds, a fitting venue given the many hours Shirley spent there working on the Christmas effort. She worked year round planning and organizing the Christmas effort and also worked year round as a part time employee at the fairgrounds office in return for hall rental for her annual Christmas event. Shirley “retired” from a dispatching job at the Ukiah Police Department about 20 years ago and then found her true calling as a talented organizer. Speakers at the memorial service included Sheriff Allman, Ukiah police chief Chris Dewey, former Ukiah police chief Fred Keplinger, former Ukiah mayor and school superintendent Charley Myers, Dr. Robert Werra, the medical director of the Ukiah Volunteer Hospice where Shirley also volunteered, and the good ladies of the Ukiah Soroptimists Club where Shirley was also a stalwart member.

GARY BALL died Sunday in Colorado, and immediately I get an e-mail saying, “I know you'll trash him like you did Richard Johnson but Gary Ball has died.” So here goes: Ball and his wife Betty were the ostensible co-founders of the Mendocino Environmental Center in, as I recall, 1988. Betty was the full time volunteer co-ordinator at the MEC while Gary, he said, worked as a bookkeeper to pay their personal bills, joining Betty at the MEC in the evenings and on weekends as they did whatever it was they did all day and into the night at 106 West Standley, Ukiah, an address law enforcement-convenient directly across the street from the County Courthouse. After the MEC began paying the Balls a monthly stipend out of zero visible resources, Gary joined Betty in working full time at 106's dingy premises. The Balls' primary focus was said to be forestry issues but, in the aftermath of the bombing of Judi Bari, they spent much of their time fundraising for Bari and, in my opinion, an opinion still not permitted on the PC Circuit, propagandizing and fundraising for the Bari defense, a defense co-written by Bari, her lawyers and the FBI, then hand-fed to “progressive” media at places like the severely dumbed-down KPFA and its outback sister stations in places like Philo and Garberville.

THE MOST EFFECTIVE local environmental work of that fraught period was done by people like the late Ron Guenther and Helen Libeu, to name two unsung heros of the forests, who relentlessly but much less glamorously than the “direct action” preferred by Earth First!, spent hundreds of tedious hours challenging timber harvest plans on technical grounds for no money and no glory, if your silly mug occasionally appearing on the front page of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat can be considered glorious. Judi Bari's legacy, strictly speaking, is thousands of acres of stumps, but she was a brilliant organizer who did manage to get an amorphous mass of fagged out old hippies, unaffiliated lefties, several hundred mental cases, and miscellaneous others marching in the general direction of sustained yield, drawing national attention to the corporate onslaught then underway on the Northcoast's forests as she went. After she was bombed, however, she became her own full-time cause.

ORIGINALLY from Colorado, the Balls returned there after Judi Bari's death in 1997. In Boulder, the Balls founded the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, from which they immediately denounced the right-on arson fire committed by the Earth Liberation Front that wiped out a particularly gruesome ski resort in an otherwise pristine Colorado forest. Betty Ball announced she'd help find the perps who any righteous peace and justice person would have immediately recognized as heroes of the environment.

SO, HERE'S what I think because, added up, the Bari-Ball interlude in Mendocino County makes no other sense. I think the Mendocino Environment Center was organized and funded by the FBI because the feds were under huge pressure from extractive industries, particularly Big Timber, to do something about the industrial sabotage Earth First! and Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were advocating. I think the FBI set up a 60's-style listening post at 106 Standley to monitor the comings and goings of potential tree spikers and tractor-decommissioners. The FBI, as some of us will recall had, in that same period, lured people close to Dave Foreman, a founder of Earth First!, out into the Arizona desert to take down a power line. The feds had run that crude attempt as a set-up of Foreman but, when it all shook out, the FBI, for an event they'd encouraged and done the logistics for, had to settle for a few lesser personages.

JUDI BARI'S former husband, Mike Sweeney, maintained his office at the Balls' MEC. He was writing recycling grants, he said, which he could have done at home but..... These days a pillar of bourgeoisie respectability complete with a big house in the hills west of Ukiah that he shares with Press Democrat reporter Glenda Anderson, Sweeney functions as Mendocino County's lead garbage bureaucrat. But in his youth, and well past it, Sweeney was a Maoist cult guy, a little red book guy, a communist of the nutball type. That's how he and Bari hooked up. She was an East Coast Maoist cult gal. By 1980 Sweeney, who had been a foot soldier with the Stanford-based, English Department-led Venceremos that would segue into the murderous Symbionese Liberation Army, had married Bari, moved with his new bride to Santa Rosa where he soon shot his neighbor's dog, blew up one of two hangars at the old WW Two air field not far from his home because he was irritated by weekend air traffic, sued developers for profit, and hassled his first wife, Cynthia Denenholtz, (another former Maoist who, when that fad ended, re-invented herself as an attorney) to the point where she had to legally restrain him. Sweeney doesn't sue me for saying these things because (1) he says I don't have any money to sue for, as if he couldn't sue me himself for an honorable dollar or, (2) if he does sue me my rich nephew will pay my legal bills, assertions the PC brigades seem to find plausible.

I THINK Sweeney was off limits as the primary suspect in his well-known wife's car bombing because he enjoyed federal affiliations all the way back to Stanford, and that since 1988 he'd been conveniently well placed in Ukiah during the run-up to Redwood Summer to snitch off people suspected of industrial sabotage. Hence his free pass on the attack on Ms. Bari, a “mystery” event that can be solved via existing dna which, of course, is stoutly resisted by Cherney and the rest of the Bari Cult who claim to have been searching for the bomber for 21 years now, out there with OJ and Scott Peterson looking everywhere for the true perps.

IF your significant other gets blown up in the middle of a major American city or in downtown Philo, you are automatically front and center as Suspect Primo. Not Sweeney. He got waved on through, and he's still getting waved on through by that utter fraud Cherney and Cherney's co-dependents at the FBI. Cherney has cleared a cool mil for himself not finding the bomber. He literally can't afford to find out who did it. Sweeney, a rich kid from Santa Barbara, has since simply reverted to his class roots which, politically are the kind of patrician liberalism prevalent on West Side, Ukiah. Amnesia County is the perfect place for Mike because you are whatever you say you are, and history starts all over again every day.

SO THIS GUY writes in to tell me that Ball has died, adding that I will undoubtedly “heap opprobrium” on him as “you did when he was alive.” Which I did not because I didn't have strong feelings about the Balls when they were at the MEC, a depressing dump of a venue I always avoided because it more resembled an out-patient clinic than a political headquarters. Nope, I saw the Balls as simply one more pair of lib labs who labbed more than they libbed. Betty, a rotund earth mother type swathed in mumus, was always bumblingly pleasant, but I found Gar supercilious and snide, not that I ever gave the dude much thought. In those heady days Sweeney seemed to be the only fully alert person on the premises, which he undoubtedly was, and he's another guy I don't have personal animosity for; in fact, I rather admire what Mike's managed to pull off here as Mendocino County's very own Dos Equis ad, “the most interesting man in the world.” And as Bari herself often said, “My ex-husband is the smartest man I know.” I'd say Sweeney's about half as smart as he seems to think he is, but how smart do you have to be to get over on The PC Gang?

JUDI BARI? I think she did what she had to do. I think if she'd ever publicly admitted the truth of the bombing, as she would do privately to documentary filmmaker Steve Talbot, both she and Sweeney would have gone to jail for a long time, and Sweeney, in retaliation, would have had a whole lot of interesting things to say about FBI ops in Mendoland. Which is why Bari is dead and Sweeney is saving the Ukiah Post Office when he isn't at work making nearly a hundred grand a year screwing up County garbage policy.

MENDOLIB is pretty much incapable of discussing controversial issues in an adult manner. Invariably, someone will say, “What do you have against Mike Sweeney?” Or, “Why are you trying to destroy Judi Bari's legacy?” The person who asked the latter was probably in pre-school drug rehab in 1990, but out there in Feebville, then as now, every question is reduced to personalities, and any opinion that violates the catechism, well, that's an opinion you just can't have if you want to be a “highly evolved human being who speaks truth to power.”

DA EYSTER'S new policy of allowing people charged with felony marijuana cultivation to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession if they cough up a $50-per-plant eradication fee to the cops, seems from here a lot better for the bustee than being dragged endlessly through the system. In addition to forking over to the badged camo buddies who've raided you, which might be a pill too bitter for lots of pot people to swallow, you can also get two years probation and community service if you buy in. 31 low-level growers have bought in, paying a little over a hundred thou to the Sheriff's Office.

DA EYSTER announced last week that Mike Geniella, formerly of the Press Democrat, will be handling relations with media slime, and will also function “as liaison between Eyster and other law enforcement agencies on media-related issues.” Eyster himself is pretty good at media, not that you have to be particularly fast on your mental feet to cool out Mendo media, but it simplifies things on both sides to have a go-to guy rather than place call after futile call to track down the individual attorney handling this or that matter.

SHERIFF ALLMAN, another guy who's also pretty good at beating back the jackals of the press, could also use a media guy. Budget restraints have the cops wearing so many different hats that Allman's media guy, Captain Kurt Smallcomb, can often be difficult to reach. Back in Sheriff Tuso's reign, the Sheriff's Department had Jay Miller talking to the media, and he was very good at it, pleasant and articulate. Geniella's the perfect guy for the DA's media relations job because he's also gentlemanly and articulate.

SPEAKING OF THE SHERIFF, he stopped in Tuesday morning on his way to Gualala, dropping a fresh loaf of truly excellent bread on us bread gourmets here at the paper. Not saying this just out of gratitude for a free fresh loaf of really, really good bread, but Sheriff Allman is shaping up as Mendocino County's most innovative top cop in many a year, as the Jail House Loaf he gifted us with Tuesday bears tasty witness. The Sheriff explained that the County Jail had been buying a version of Wonder, and what with the jail consuming many, many loaves a week at top dollar, the Sheriff went out and found a surplus oven back East somewhere and presto! magico! a bunch of guys at the jail were baking all the jail's bread, and all of it from organic grains garnished and supplemented by vegetables from the jail's garden. The Sheriff says of the baker's dozen who've mastered bread making while incarcerated only one has since re-offended. There you are. A major money saver, a baker's training program, and healthy food in all in one package!

FOR PURE WRETCHED EXCESS, the Ukiah City Council's 4-1 approval of $4 mil in redevelopment money for a new admin center for the Ukiah schools is simply indefensible, especially in a time of teacher lay-offs, and especially considering there's more than adequate desk space at existing school-owned property. Phil Baldwin was the only Ukiah solon to oppose this truly jaw-dropping gift of public funds to a small group of overpaid school bunglers who, given their pathetic job performances, ought to be driven naked and weeping clear out of town, not rewarded with pasha-like office space. This one's right up there in boondoggle quotient with the new Courthouse, the MTA bus barn, the new CalFire station here in Boonville, the Willits Bypass, and Paul Tichinin's annual salary.

MAN BEATER of the week: Ms. Brandy Starrett, 23, Ukiah. Brandy's a large woman of whom it would have been said in kinder times, “But such a pretty face.” We agree, but a little cold in the eyes, and it must also be said that Brandy looks like she could put a serious hurt on her man.

But did she?

Brandy's guy called the cops, so he must have had at least a red spot on his cheek as evidence the lady had put the whomp on him because the cops booked the Brandy into the County Jail with bail set at $25,000.

A READER WRITES: “The Tough Love vs. Spanking argument continues to defy resolution. Most of the American population thinks it improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have one of those moments. One method that I found effective is for me to simply take the child for a car ride and a talk. Some say it's the vibration from the car, others say it's the time away from any distractions such as TV, Video Games, Computer, IPod, etc. Either way, my kids usually calm right down. Eye to eye contact helps a lot too. I include this photo of one of my sessions with my son in case you or your readers would like to use the technique. (It works with grandchildren, nieces, and nephews as well.) No thanks necessary. Just want to be of any help I can.”


  1. May 11, 2011

    David Eyster’s hiring of a PR man reminds me of a much better policy of one of his predecessors: Norman Vroman.
    Norm would nearly always take calls and visits from any member of the public.
    It is routine to get frustrated by calls to the sheriff, one of the police departments or a probation officer, Their answers, if you make contact in the first place, are seldom forthcoming.
    Norm would listen carefully, discuss your concerns at length and come up with straightforward and usually satisfactory solutions.
    Hardly revolutionary behavior, but one I liked .
    Jim Armstrong
    Potter Valley

  2. Eric Sunswheat May 11, 2011

    During their time at the Mendocino Environmental Center, I believe I heard from one of the Balls, the explanation that they had received a 10 year grant from some foundation to run the MEC. When that ended amid the fluff with Redwood Summer Earth First and Judi Bari, Gary and Betty moved back to Colorado to take care of an elderly relative. The MEC under the non profit wing of the Cloud Forest Institute, hasn’t been the same without the Balls on an organizational level. Now KMEC 105.1 FM at the same location, has been a valuable addition in low power FM radio streamed on the Internet, depending upon one’s point of view.

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