Jan. 26 — DJ, Band elections, Curt Kalk, etc.

It was an interesting day yesterday with the federal bust of 24 alleged Native Mob members, including at least two from Mille Lacs. As I’ve posted before, I met Dale Ballinger, Jr. (they call him DJ) at the courthouse a couple months ago and thought he was a nice kid. His attorney said the same thing about him. I’ve long known I’m a bad judge of character, but I still have this bad habit of liking and thinking the best about everybody I meet. I still think DJ might be a decent kid in the morning when he’s with his family and doing no wrong. Then booze, drugs, money, guns, bad associates start showing up, and all bets are off. I think the same is probably true about a lot of the people we write about in the paper. And it’s usually alcohol that turns a harmless person violent and crazy.

I’m assuming some of the other 18 who are charged in this indictment are from Mille Lacs. I have a chart somewhere with names of troublemakers and lines drawn between them showing the repeat offenders in the area from all the criminal complaints I’ve seen over the last few years. DJ and Damien Beaulieu are both on it, and I’m expecting that some of the others will be charged in this Native Mob bust.

I’m going to interview Tribal Police Chief Dwight Reed tomorrow to learn more about his department’s involvement in this whole thing.

My column, which took both the angling community and the Band chief executive to task for not facing reality, has received positive reviews so far. I got one email and two calls from folks associated with the Mille Lacs Band who appreciated my willingness to tell the uncomfortable truth.

The reviews may not be so good among the angling/resort community. I heard from one person connected to some of the folks on that side of the issue who think I may have caused some heart attacks.

This job would be a lot easier if (a.) I didn’t have any strong opinions or (b.) I could keep them to myself. Just like my natural inclination to like people, I have a natural inclination to look for reality under all the b.s. and communicate my conclusions.

Usually I get little to no feedback, so I’m left wondering if I’m public enemy number 1, or if there are folks out there who agree with me. It’s nice to hear from both supporters and detractors, but I rarely do.

The candidates for Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive and District 1 Representative will be starting to make their announcements and appearances in the Messenger. I’m excited to see who files and to cover the campaign. You could argue that this is the most unpredictable and important campaign for chief in the last 30-plus years. For 20 years, it’s been either Marge Anderson or Melanie Benjamin (with Herb Weyaus in the office of secretary/treasurer for much of that time). Before that Art Gahbow and his close associates ran things for a long time.

Now it’s totally up in the air. I haven’t heard if Marge is running, but folks I’ve talked to don’t think she will. It’s expected that both Herb and Melanie will file, though both have a lot of baggage — Melanie for pleading guilty to theft (albeit an Alford plea), Herb for leading the effort to remove Melanie and for other unpopular decisions and behaviors while he was secretary/treasurer.

Band members I’ve talked to fear there is a lack of good candidates and leaders waiting in the wings, but I’m hopeful that someone will come forward to lead the Band in a positive direction.

Secretary/Treasurer Curt Kalk called me the other day after reading a blog post about the rumors that government center computers were blocking the Messenger’s website. He told me that if that were true, he would make sure they were unblocked.

Turns out I had already heard before he called that computers were accessing the site. I still don’t know for certain if someone had actually blocked our site or not, but it should be working fine. If that changes, I recommend you call Curt.

I’m off to the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention today, but I’ll be back at the Messenger on Friday. Give me a call or send me an email if you have any comments about these issues.


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