Teamsters Who?: With all the fuss about the News-Press hard drives, hard news about the newsroom unionization seems to have faded like a week-old paper left in the driveway.

Just as the NP‘s attempts to get back its child-porn-ridden computer hard drive seem destined for on-going disputes in court and before an arbitrator, the union’s battle to get owner Wendy McCaw to the bargaining table looks like it’ll be quite lengthy as well.

Although the Teamsters are pressing the National Relations Board to set a hearing date for its prosecution of the paper for unfair labor practices – and to decide whether to seek a federal court injunction – there’s been no word so far.

In Superior Court Wednesday, Judge James Brown denied the paper’s request to get the hard drive back from police. He suggested that the paper take the issue up with the arbitrator who’s handling McCaw’s $25 million claim against ex-editor Jerry Roberts. He’s filed a $10 mil counter-claim against her. (Who says there’s not big money to be made from newspapers?)

Roberts is vehemently demanding a retraction of the NP‘s April 22 front page news story insinuating that he might have had something to do with the porn. The paper has 30 days to retract and thereby protect itself, to some extent, from a libel suit, attorneys say. “We’re hopeful that we’ll get a full retraction,” said Dennis Merenbach, one of Roberts’ attorneys. “We’ve had no communication from the News-Press,” Merenbach said in the Courthouse hallway after submitting the retraction demand.

And I’m hopeful that I’ll win the lottery, that my Aunt Elma will leave me $100 million dollars, and that my daughters will marry rich doctors.

Meanwhile, the News-Press – already hit by declining circulation stats – is apparently seeing cancellations from subscribers offended by the April 22 article that Merenbach called “a horrible smear” job on Roberts. Co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger wrote at least one former subscriber: “I am sorry to hear that you have cancelled your subscription to the Santa Barbara News-Press. It was especially distressing to read that it was Sunday’s story about child pornography found on a News-Press computer that influenced your decision. The article is not libelous; it is based on facts as presented in police reports and court documents.”

That doesn’t sound like a prelude to a retraction to me. Eyes are now on the FBI. Police and the DA’s office have closed their investigation and found no viable suspects after examining the hard drive. But the FBI – “in peace and war,” as the radio show used to say – with all its resources, just might be able to shed more light on who did what when, some feel.

As von Wiesenberger said in his letter, “Even if you won’t reconsider subscribing, you should follow the story, because the full story has yet to be aired.” Sadly, the News-Press hasn’t been printing anything like the full story so far. But it might yet, just as I’m likely to win the lottery, my Aunt Elma to make me rich, and my daughters to marry well.

Solstice Takes Work: The Summer Solstice workshop at 631 Garden Street kicks off Saturday with an open house from 5-8 p.m. And though the party includes salsa dancers, refreshments, and a no-host bar, from then on, its work. Workshop hours run Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 3-8 p.m., and weekends from noon to 6 p.m. Volunteers are instructed to wear closed-toe shoes.

Sue De Lapa

Fifi’s Food: Daughter Frances is not satisfied with the jarred baby food she spoons into granddaughter Brianna’s mouth. I found a solution: organic, frozen food with no preservatives, created by my neighbor, no less. Roxanna Bina was also dissatisfied with the commercial jars of goop – some of it two-years old by the time it leaves the jar – and decided to create her own. She’s been feeding son Felix, nearly 2, the stuff, and he’s thriving. So she’s started a business, using certified organic ingredients, under the name Fifibear’s Brasserie. (Fifi is Felix’s affectionate nickname.) It’s made in a state-certified kitchen here and available at Pierre LaFond Montecito, and Lazy Acres, where Roxanna will be giving a demonstration on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. Using the website, customers on the South Coast can receive free delivery. Roxanna is married to Emmanuel Itier, honcho with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Crosstown Rivalry: According to Sarah Sinclair, the new baseball dugouts at Santa Barbara High School will be dedicated on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at Eddie Mathews Field. The dedication will be followed by a baseball game between Santa Barbara High and San Marcos High. Mayor Blum will be there, ribbon-cutting and all that jazz.

Wow, 55 Years!: Mahlon Balderston will be pumping the pedals for the last time at the Unitarian Society before retiring on June 24 after 55 years there. He’ll be honored Sunday at the 10 a.m. service and at a reception to follow. He’s also a noted composer and his compositions will be performed. He’s a former Santa Barbara City College music instructor.

You can reach Barney at or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns for the Independent on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


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