The Flywheel

This Week's Program: October 9th, 2009

Understanding Dreams

The Lovers, by Rene Magritte, 1928.

Dr. Sydney Metrick is known to many of us as the organizer of the highly successful Point Richmond Music Festival. But did you know she is also a therapist, growth coach and author?

Sydney visits us this week to discuss dreams, their imagery and interpretation. (Practice image on right.)



Last MEETING: October 2nd, 2009

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Vice President Alan Baer called the meeting to order and Bill Koziol dutifully led the Club in the Pledge of Allegiance. Acting Prez Alan asked for a moment of silence for the memory of life long Richmond Chamber staffer Barbara Obele whose funeral is also today.

Unofficial Club Sage Henry Kelman offered today’s thought: that the low member presence was attributable to (& given WCCUSD Bruce Harter’s program today) unpleasant memories of past WCCUSD Superintendent Gloria Johnston and “her” parcel tax which was a peck on the check for home owners but a potentially lethal body blow for the business community. (Unpleasant memories aside, your scribe thinks the low turnout was a tribute to Barbara Obele’s memory. Many of her Rotary friends attended her funeral on this day.)

Rotarians with Guests

Past President Big Erle Brown introduced his favorite Rotary guest and long term companion, Phyllis.

Sunshine Report

Bill Koziol observed that Rafael Madrigal, who was feeling ill last week is with us today. Good seeing you Rafael.  Bill also talked with David “K” Kuchenthal who is doing well and fishing all over Montana.


  • Rafael reminded the club that Oct 14 -17 we, and the other West County clubs will be hosting a delegation of Rotarian Firefighters from Monterey MX. The Mexican Rotarians will be hosted at our regular meeting on Oct. 16 and we will be joined by the other Wet County clubs.
  • On Oct 17 Mark Howe will take the delegation for a Bay sail which will end with a BBQ at his home at 5:30 PM at Brickyard Cove. The BBQ will feature, well, barbeque, so if Mark asks for help give him a hand.  Better yet, volunteer.
  • Mark also gave a brief update on The Ghosts of Shipyard III Halloween Fundraiser.  It’s coming along fine, will be held at the old General Services (windowless) Building by the Red Oak Victory and will include a wine sale and costume contest. The event has already gotten two corporate sponsors, a bank and an industrial property management company. Members were invited to participate in the planning meetings every Tues. at his office in Pt. Richmond. 
  • Acting Prez Alan reminded the members of the Home Front Festival this weekend including he USO Dance (Dance Chair Shelly Lau did a heck-of-a-job! If you missed the dance you missed something.), Tours of the USS Potomac, shoreline tours on the Sea Scout ship, etc. & etc.
  • April Jordon reminded the members of the club’s historic support for the teachers at Peres Elementary School with $100 checks for school supplies. April asked the members to contribute passing around a signup sheet. Treasurer David Brown then asked the members to cut out the middle sign up sheet and just give (or send) him a check, “re Peres Teacher Support”.


It was a brief ceremony but Acting Prez Alan recognized Bruce Harter’s club anniversary Sept. 29th. Bruce said he wished he could come to more meeting but he’s been busy (see Program) and would send a check for the Rotary Foundation and $100 for the Peres School teachers.

Happy and Sad Dollars

Today’s small group of Rotarians were Happy & Sad and had $$$ to prove it:

  • Bob Dabney had Happy $$$ for a visit just paid to his new 6 week old Grandson. If Bob said his name I missed it, but Bob did mention that in something of a reversal of roles his grandson ‘christened” Bob as Mr. D. relearned the fine art of diapering.
  • Sad $$$ were offered by Nick Despota as he was reminded by the entire ‘old dogs’ table (minus Herb) that he did not put out the “Flywheel is ready” notice.  In his own defense Nick said it was ready if you did not need a reminder to look at it.
  • Erle Brown had Happy $$$ as he and Phyllis just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary (congratulations again you two love birds). Erle said he isn’t going ask Phyllis what she wants to do any more for special occasions as he thought it would be fun to go to the mud baths at Calistoga. Phyllis thought it would be more fun to go to Ireland and the East Coast so Erle said he’d, “See us in November”.
  • PP & PDG Werner Schwarz had Happy $$$ given to him by his many relatives for his birthday as long as he no longer tells people which one it is. At least that’s what I thought Werner said.
  • Sid Chauvin had Sad $$ because it is Brigitte Bardot’s 74th birthday. Where does he find this stuff?

Norm’s Nonsense

A woman had given birth to triplet— quite an occasion in her small town so everybody came to see the babies. Of course, the local busybody, Mrs. Murphy, showed up to check them out. She said to the young mother, "My it's amazing that you have had triplets."

The mother said, "Yes, and you know that only happens once in 67,000 times." Rather taken aback, Mrs. Murphy replied "and when did you find time to do your housework?"

Raffle Results

Bill Koziol had his ticket drawn by Bruce Harter. Bill pulled the ‘free lunch’ ball.



Update on the State of District SchoolsWCCUSD logo

Our own Bruce Harter, Superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School District is today’s speaker, providing a program to bring the club ‘up to speed’ with the major elements in  the fast moving and generally disturbing changes that are taking place in the schools because of the economic downturn and State Budget Crisis.

Bruce  made sure that it is understood that the schools are still operational and that the Academy system at the high schools is graduating many students to the Ivy League and other top colleges in the country. The elementary schools continue continues to make progress in closing the performance gap that exists between Caucasian/Asia & Afro-American/Hispanic students. Bruce said the district is looking down the barrel of an authorized strike that can be called on 72 hour notice and that it is a “lose/lose” situation that he has done everything he can think of to prevent.

The teachers, all staff actually, has had to take pay reductions in the form of reduced work days and large in creases in the employee portion of health benefits, and there are no other options. The union claims the district is “hiding” $9MM+, but Bruce says it is not. This year, 2009-10 the district is in an approved deficit budget (approved by the county board of education). The really tough problem is that based on budget maneuvers made in Sacramento in the past two weeks the district will have to do another round of mid-year layoffs and cost cutting in the probable amount of $10MM +/-. Other important points Bruce made include:

  • You’ve hear that WCCUSD is “under resourced” and WCCUSD teachers have lower pay than many.  It is true. Under the state ‘revenue limit’ formula WCCUSD receives $834 per student less than average. (Ironically before the Serano-Priest ‘reform’ lawsuit of the early 1970s the old school district received more money per student than most because of the large Richmond /West County industrial tax base.)
  • The district has had to cut $39.5MM out of the 2009-10 district budget, $52.9MM in the past two years.
  • The two year average student attendance is about the same, but there are 142 less teachers.
  • Average class sizes are up although the district has been able to keep them at 19-21 in the K-2 primary grades with the larger class sizes shifted to secondary schools.
  • Like most large employers the district’s health care costs far outpace revenue increases and are a primary focus area for cost cutting and shifting.  The WCCUSD problem is aggravated by the fact that historically it has provided “for life” health care for its retirees.
  • In long term cost reduction, the district has imposed a “cap” on future retiree health care benefits which will dramatically reduce unfunded retirement benefits, about $45MM/year in the next 25 years. Aggregate retiree health care savings exceed $1B.
  • For those who say the WCCUSD administration is a money sponge Bruce compared his costs to the Bay Region school districts.  WCCUSD is 21 out of about 30 districts at $294/student or 5.61% of revenue.
  • Reductions in district employee pay include; Loss of five work days per year; Increase in employee portion of health benefits to $4,900/family.
  • Besides “below average” state revenue and healthcare/benefit costs, the WCCUSD budget problems continue to be aggravated by unique local work rules and the continuing ‘bankruptcy’ debt from 1991. (Your scribe notes that there never was a bankruptcy in the RUSD and that if there had been, this article would be a lot shorter.  The injection against the RUSD bankruptcy petition remains the worst ‘local political decision’ made in this writer’s tenure in West County).
  • Bruce’s final point is that none of this is “fair”, for students, for employees, for the community. It is also unavoidable in our current situation.

- Rotating Scribe, Jim Young