The Flywheel

MEETING OF February 13th, 2009

The Early Childhood Mental Health Program

The Early Childhood Mental Health Program provides services to children from birth to 6 years who suffer from emotional difficulties, traumas related to parental abuse or neglect, or exposure to substance abuse and violence.

Arlette Merritt, the agency's executive director, will discuss the contribution ECMHP makes not only to these children and their families, but to all of us in west Contra Costa County.


MEETING OF February 6th, 2008

Welcome, Joke for the Day

Rafael Madrigal led us in the Pledge.
Bob Dabney asked for a moment of silence for peace and justice and hope for our new President (of the U.S.A., not Rotary).
John Nicol told a joke: What did the Scotsman do with this first fifty-cent piece?  Married her. 

Rotarians with Guests

Josh 2.0 brought his law clerk, Marco Garzon.
Alan brought Deborah Haley, an accountant in Point Richmond


  • Henry Mo announced a electronic waste drop-off, food drive and coat drive, all at Salesian High School the weekend of February 14 and 15.

Special Events

Two Who Am I speeches:

Laura Kuhn
  Laura is a graphic designed specializing in consumer packaging.  She was born in rural Connecticut, where her father was a professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Connecticut.  Her mother was also a chemist, but stopped working to raise the family.  Laura was the youngest of three kids.  She was always artistic, and eventually went to the Parsons School of Design in New York City.  Laura spent 10 years in New York City working as a graphic designer, and there she met her husband, also a graphic designer from the Parsons School.  In 1996, they moved to California to work in San Francisco and ended up living in El Cerrito.  Seven years ago Laura went to work for herself as a freelance designer.  She has no kids, by choice, and no regrets, although she reserves the right to have regrets in the future.

Gerald Hatchett
Gerald was born on an almond farm near Cache Creek, but grew up in a not-so-good neighborhood in Vallejo.  He worked at odd jobs since he was small to help his mother who was on welfare and raising Gerald and his 5 brothers and two sisters.  Gerald learned to box from Archie Moore, and as a youngster used to earn money sparring with sailors at Mare Island.  Gerald left home at 14 and moved to Berkeley where he was a hippie for a while (hard to picture).  At age 18, Gerald went to work for Levin Metals Co., where he still works 38 years later, although the company has changed names a few times.  Gerald started out cleaning toilets and now is Division Manager.  When the company moved to its current location, the neighbors were upset about the location, so Gerald went into the community to make peace.  Now, much later, the company supports the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council, Nystrom School and the Martin Luther King Community Center, and Gerald sits and the Boards of many community and charitable groups.  Gerald has 8 children of his own and 5 grandchildren.  Look for Gerald as the Easter Bunny at Nevin Park on April 11.


Jon took the mike, but there were no recognitions.
Happy and Sad Dollars:

  • Josh 2.0 was sad that he will miss the next 2 meetings because he’ll be vacationing in Spain.
  • George was happy because his clients haven’t lost any money.
  • Hank Covell was happy to be on his way to Puerta Vallarta, where Erle will have a drink waiting for him.
  • David Brown was happy that he will be going to Puerta Vallarta in time to bail Erle and Hank out of jail.
  • Gerald was happy about Black History Month.

Norm's Nonsense

"Strictly Business"

  - Computers can never completely replace humans. They may become capable of artificial intelligence, but they will never master real stupidity.

  - A programmer is someone who solves a problem you didn't know you had in a way you don't understand.

Raffle Results

Richard Alexander drew a white ball.


The Civil Grand Jury of Contra Costa County

Jim Ingeman, a native of El Cerrito ( his father is a past President of Berkeley Rotary), told us about the Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury.  Grand juries have existed in England since before there was a USA, and there has been a grand jury in Contra Costa County for 152 years.  The Grand Jury has 18 members and 6 alternates. 

To get on the Grand Jury, applications are submitted in March, and candidates are interviewed by a panel of five judges.  The names of 30 finalists are put into a drum and the names of jurors and alternates are drawn by lot.  Jurors serve for one year, but a few are are carried over for a second year to provide some continuity.  The Grand Jury, which has no staff, investigates government functions and finances.  The Grand Jury does have a budge of about $124,000, but is the only County department that has not used its entire budget allocation the last two years.  Jurors get paid $15 per meeting day and $0.55 per mile for travel.  The Grand Jury is required to inspect the jails every year, but other subjects are at the discretion of the Grand Jury.  Last year, the Contra Costa County Grand Jury investigated:

  • School cafeterias, and found that the Health Department was not conducting its required annual inspections, and that there were code and safety violations.
  • The Pleasant Hill Parks and Recreation Department, which lost a lot of pension money because a trustee managing the money was not bonded.
  • The Mount Diablo Hospital District, and questioned the need for its continued existence given that it no longer runs a hospital and doesn’t even provide the public education it promised to provide in the deal by which it sold its hospital.
  • Maintenance of waterways by the County, which were littered with junk.
  • Other Post Employee Benefits owed to former employees by the County, for which there is an unfunded liability of $1.7 billion.  In respone to this report, the Board of Supervisors promised to fund $20 million annually, but have not, in fact, done so, nor have they negotated any compromises of this obligation in labor negotiations.

So far this year, the Grand Jury has issued three reports:

  • That the County has botched labor negotiations by being ill-prepared for them.
  • That the Sheriff’s Volunteer Program is a jewel, employing over 500 volunteers and saving the County millions of dollars.
  • That Elder Abuse will be on the rise as the population of the elderly rises, and wondering from where will come the resources to deal with it.

The Grand Jury expects to issue seven additional reports later this year, which must remain secret until released, but at least one will report, essentially, that the County is insolvent.


- Rotating scribe Josh Genser