Troublesome Pastimes

One local busybody collects letters from serial killers. Another attacks environmentalists. Guess which one's misguided.

Others, such as the one practiced by attorney Mary Ann Miles, need to be discouraged at every opportunity.

Miles' chosen endeavor seems to involve plaguing environmental groups by turning the fine print of their own process rules against them.

Somebody, please, teach this woman to crochet, collect stamps, or send letters to convicts.

San Francisco barrister Miles has led reporters from vaunted journals such as the San Francisco Chronicleand the Christian Science Monitor to believe that a recent lawsuit she filed to halt the striping of bike lanes around the city was the tip of an anti-cyclist backlash that's roiling San Francisco.

Miles' suit claims the city's plan to create a network of bike lanes didn't undergo sufficient environmental review. A judge halted the city from painting more lanes until he decides during coming weeks whether bureaucrats should first conduct further studies on the issue.

Whatever the suit's outcome, it seems clear that Miles is not involved in a backlash beyond her own longtime activity of lashing out at environmental activists with complaints about bureaucratic process.

Miles' San Francisco street-striping suit shares elements with a bizarre family drama with roots in Mendocino County involving people, in one way or another, connected to the legendary liberal muckraking Anderson ValleyAdvertiser newspaper, based in Boonville.

In Mendocino County, Miles sued the Sierra Club and individual environmentalists for libel. Efforts by Miles to depose leaders of the Club's Mendocino/Lake group, and demand detailed records from this group, caused them to speculate, falsely according to a San Francisco court, that she was mentally ill.

"The Sierra Club branch I asked for the records from, wrote this letter, which they did not send to me, which was sent all over the place, saying a bunch of false and libelous things about me. And the outcome of the lawsuit at the trial level was that the jury unanimously reached a verdict that the letter was false," Miles told me.

Though Miles was defamed by the Mendocino environmentalists, an appeals court last year reaffirmed a San Francisco court's ruling that Miles could not receive damages for libel because she'd become something of a public figure in Mendocino County.

In issuing his ruling last year, Justice Timothy Reardon wrote a detailed description of a dispute centered around the Advertiser with the paper's former cartoonist, Miles, and Robert Anderson, brother of the paper's publisher Bruce Anderson, lined up on one side, and local environmental preservation groups on the other, much like Miles' current suit against San Francisco.

Here, Miles is suing the city for carrying out environmentalists' goals of encouraging bicycle transport.

In Medocino County, Miles began demanding extensive records of the local Sierra Club group, one of several confrontations that included an attempt to unseat the group's executive committee. Her libel lawsuit came after the Advertiser published a letter about these activities that referred to her, without evidence, as a crazy person.

In court filings in the bike-lanes suit, Miles claims that her plaintiff, Robert Anderson, represents various heretofore unheard of San Francisco civic groups.

In Mendocino County, Robert Anderson was Miles' friend and comrade at arms in confronting the area's environmentalists, writing newspaper editorials on her behalf, and feuding with his brother, Bruce, in defense of Miles' anti-environmentalist crusade.

"Only someone who knows the people and events you describe in your latest front-page [Advertiser] attempt to destroy Mary understands what a liar and cowardly prick you are," Robert Anderson said at the time of the dispute.

The Chronicle and the Monitor may have been half right to label Miles' bike-lane suit part of some sort of backlash.

The problem is, it's unclear to me why Miles and Anderson keep lashing out the way they do.

Miles, for her part, sees no similarity between the two situations. "These two actions are completely unrelated," Miles said in a letter to SF Weekly.

Long before Miles began her battles with Mendocino County environmental groups, she was a cartoonist for the Advertiser known for violent, sexual imagery-infused drawings that a judge, reviewing Miles' libel case, declared "quite disturbing."

Miles' friend Robert Anderson had performed various duties at the Advertiser, including writing articles and columns. The beginning of the end of these happy connections came when local Sierra Club member Roanne Withers came to believe Miles took a hostile stance against them because the group had failed to adopt her view that a compost dump near Miles' home should be closed.

Robert Anderson, for his part, wrote an Advertisercolumn suggesting the Sierra Club wasn't doing its job on the dump issue.

Bruce Anderson then invited Withers to write a response, in which, according to the court ruling, she characterized a conversation she had with Miles as "frightening." Bruce Anderson also wrote a column criticizing his brother Robert's column defending Miles. Salting the wound, Bruce Anderson additionally wrote a sidebar claiming Miles was hostile to the Sierra Club.

After the articles ran, Miles began examining the management of the local Sierra Club group, which generally consisted of a few older folks meeting in living rooms. Research completed, Miles took action. She complained that the group was not holding proper elections. She filed a formal grievance about the group's election procedures, demanding its executive committee be ousted. Failing that, Miles sent a letter to the Sierra Club's national office demanding to see the group's internal records.

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Wow to know he actually got peole to listen is great. Thomas was an aweosme person with an amazing outlook on life. He is definately missed. Thank you for this story.

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