Westwood Rotary - a crowded September 12th

In a meeting jam-packed with information, we started in our usual manner.  That is, the Pledge came first - as it should. CLAWSON BLEAK (pronounced Blake, remember) allowed as how he had some prior remarks - which of course prompted PP ERIC LOBERG to cry out, "How long are they?" CLAWSON wisely ignored this minor interruption - no doubt considering the source from which it came - and then pointed out that our flag is a symbol of our wounded nation, which desperately needs our support.  It was a meaningful rendition, and we thank CLAWSON for his introductory remarks.

LENNY FRIEDMAN and GREGG ELLIOTT took us through You Are My Sunshine, and I must admit that the words did come back to me - though I noted that some at the head table were not so fortunate.  Prexy TED summed it up, "All I can say is WOW" - and all agreed it was well done.  PP HOMER NEWMAN gave the Invocation, first allowing us to sit down - an always appreciated move.  HOMER pointed out that the firemen and police officers at Ground Zero were just doing their job, what they were paid to do. He then noted that many in the room were involved with WWII, and asked everyone who had been in the service to stand up.  The majority did, to deserved applause.  

Prexy TED called on STU GILMAN to introduce the Visiting Rotarians, but STU had to report that there weren't none (which turned out to not be quite true).  Seems that BILL BLOOMFIELD Sr and Jr were both present, and Jr pointed out that the presence of dessert undoubtedly was the reason that PP RON WANGLIN showed up.  This in turn led to several members volunteering THEIR desserts to RON (which has almost never happened to YOE - and I will arm wrestle RON as to which of us likes (needs) dessert more - but I digress). Anyway, all this largesse elicited a fine for RON, of one hundred clams.  (Now that I know what extra desserts cost, I may subdue my public yearnings in this regard).  There were, however, several other guests.  LILLIAN KLIEWER had a Special Guest, Joe DiRobbio, who has an attorney service, and has just moved back to Westwood.  HENRY TSENG was with his wife of 69 years, Annie. PETER MORE introduced his wife, Shirley, and PP ERIC LOBERG brought along his daughter Kristen, plus Robin Gunn - both these young ladies work at Silver Lake Publishing, home of today's Speaker, James Walsh.

News, updates, 'for the good of the order': SLOSS VIAU, Chair of our clothing drive for the local Salvation Army transitional housing, will be providing donation receipts for those who have contributed.  PP JIM SUMNER, also known as the Senior Senator from South Carolina, gave the date of the annual WVRC Golf Tournament - it will be on October 21st, 0800 at Los Angeles Country Club.  JIM especially invited all new members to sign up, with either himself or PP STEVE SCHERER. DICK ROBINSON was asked what he had to celebrate, and he announced that he and Jessie had been married for FIFTY-FOUR years!  This cost him 108 bucks, figured at the usual rate - and his final comment was that Jessie didn't want any big announcement, since she didn't want anyone to know she was old enough to have been married that long.  (DICK, remind Jessie that she was only seven when you were married…) RUDY ALVAREZ noted that you can still participate in the drawing at the Celebration Dinner, which is scheduled for November 2nd, whether you attend or not. All you need to do is turn in the eleven raffle tickets you have received, and you will be billed for the $100 charge. There are some excellent prizes, so don't delay in getting your raffle tickets back to PP STEVE DAY.

One final reminder, for now - the Auxiliary Picnic is set for next Sunday, the 22nd, at the Siskels.  Plan on being there, and consult your invitation for what to bring, please.  Remember, it starts at 2:30, OK?

JIM BECHTEL came forward to introduce a brief presentation, which also had a video.  Jim has a daughter, Ellen, who is now twelve, and her survival these last seven years is entirely due to the care and skill of Dr. Jorge Lazareff.  Dr Lazareff is the head of Pediatric Surgery at the UCLA hospital, and he has operated on Ellen several times.  In addition, the videographer, Susan Milliken was present along with her daughter, Amber, who has had brain surgery performed by Dr. Lazareff - two specific testimonials to his competence as a physician.  The video showed the just-completed visit of a team of physicians, headed by Dr. Lazareff, who performed twenty eight brain surgeries in Guatemala, plus providing three nights of concentrated education for over one hundred  local physicians there. After the video, Dr. Lazareff spoke briefly, to thank the 'system' for making it possible for him to perform these and many other surgeries.  He was the lead surgeon in the recent separation of the conjoined twins at UCLA, and his team was composed of almost fifty specialists -he was also proud to report that every possible racial group was represented. The twins are doing well, and he expects them to be able to return to Guatemala within three or four weeks.  Dr. Lazareff will be returning to us for a full program soon - he's a real winner!

As co-chair of this quarter's Program Committee, PP STEVE DAY introduced our Speaker, James Walsh. James graduated from Amherst College, and currently lives in the Los Feliz area with his wife and four children.  He is the president and publisher of Silver Lake Publishing, and his topic was built around his third book, "$10 Billion Jolt" which of course refers to the energy crisis in California.

The genesis of the present problem was AB 1890 - that is, Assembly Bill #1890, which was supposed to promote deregulation in the energy field.  It was passed in 1996, when Pete Wilson was still Governor.  The whole area of deregulation is tricky, since there are both economic and political issues involved  - a bad combo, as it turned out. Deregulation as a concept appeals to almost everyone, since it should provide more competition and thus, lower costs.  However, even its historic inception was clouded, since starting in the 1950's and 60's, California was already paying 25% more than most other states for their energy.  

Deregulation is supposed to reduce government rules, which in turn will reduce costs.  However, to accomplish this rule reduction effectively you must have advocates who know what they are doing - and in the mid 1990's we had no such people.  Into this vacuum stepped the politicians.  Wholesale prices were set free, while prices the utilities could charge customers were capped.  This, in effect, guaranteed bankruptcy for the participating utilities - Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric.  Note that the LA Department of Water and Power was NOT a party to these regulations, which is why we, locally, actually had a surplus of energy during the crises.

The utilities realized what was going to happen to them, so they began a transfer of assets to their parent companies.  This worked, since the utilities knew the market would recover, but meanwhile they were actually protected. Blackouts were not only threatened, but occurred, in some cases.  These were staged, as bargaining tools.  Thus they not only got the public's attention, but also insured that the 'system' would be soon corrected.  We now are burdened with long-term contracts, raising the already high prices we were paying, by another 32 to 35%.

Q&A - GEORGE COX - Were the operators rewarded.  All the involved lobbyists came out ahead, of course - as will the utilities, down the road. GREGG ELLIOTT - What state office are you planning to run for.  None, but both Wilson and Davis are partly to blame, along with Assemblyman Freeman, the then-head of the Energy Committee in the State Legislature (He ain't with us no more). PP ROY BELOSIC -Is the public that ignorant. Yes, they don't realize how high the political and economic costs will become. YOE - Will we be able to break those long-term contracts.  We are trying right now, but it will take time.  DON NELSON - Is our current supply inefficient.  No, not really - but if you want to pick a villain, Gray Davis is your Darth Vader.  Prexy TED - If there was no shortage on the supply side, how could they raise prices so high.  Basically because bad laws were passed, creating false transactions.  What they did was illegal.  One missing piece was the need to provide for the State to come in when problems did occur.

Thank you, James Walsh - we all have to live with this mess, I guess.

Final reminder - we will be meeting next Thursday in the EVENING - so don't show up for lunch at the Bel Air Hotel, OK?

YOE, Ernie Wolfe