Clubs – Martinez Tribune https://martineztribune.com The website of the Martinez Tribune. Fri, 28 Apr 2017 17:17:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 Rotary Report: County ‘committed to Martinez’ https://martineztribune.com/2017/04/28/rotary-report-county-committed-to-martinez/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 17:17:37 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=7191 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune Federal Glover represents Martinez on the Board of Supervisors. He’s currently the Chair of the Board. Glover explained to Martinez Rotary that the County budget is in good shape, but there is no shortage of issues. One big issue is that Washington, D.C., is such a mess that …

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Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover, during a recent visit to Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover, during a recent visit to Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

Federal Glover represents Martinez on the Board of Supervisors. He’s currently the Chair of the Board.

Glover explained to Martinez Rotary that the County budget is in good shape, but there is no shortage of issues. One big issue is that Washington, D.C., is such a mess that no one knows what they’re going to do. In the meantime, the County is working on the waterfront, potholes and the homeless problem. Plus many others.

Supervisor Glover sees a revitalized waterfront as providing up to 18,000 new jobs. Plus lots of new recreation opportunities. To move people around will require fixing roads. He sees ferries coming. The BART extension to Antioch is almost done and will open soon. Keeping the urban limit line is a priority. So too is careful planning for the Concord Weapons Station land.

Supervisor Glover made it very clear that the County is committed to Martinez. He talked about the new County Building and new parking garage. These will anchor the East end of Main Street. The obsolete tall County Building at 651 Pine St. will be torn down.

The “new” (1944) part of the old jail will be demolished. The old jail dates to the first years of the last century. It was built with granite imported from Maine. The Board of Supervisors has given the old part of the jail a two-year reprieve. My take is that it will probably ultimately be preserved. Dean McCloud and Kris Carlock gave a summary of their activities on behalf of the old jail. Supervisor Glover made it clear that he is on top of the old jail issue, and respects the active – and effective – lobbying by Dean and Kris on its behalf.

Supervisor Glover has a Martinez office on the 4th floor of the County Building. His lead local staff person, Vincent Manuel, is accessible and knowledgeable. Contact the office at (925) 335-8200.

The future for Martinez looks bright! Thanks, Federal.

Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

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John Muir Land Trust – a Contra Costa gem https://martineztribune.com/2017/04/21/john-muir-land-trust-a-contra-costa-gem/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:28:51 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=7133 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune The John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) protects the environment and saves land in Contra Costa County. JMLT is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is protecting the places that make Contra Costa special. The Trust focuses most of it’s attention on the part of our county west of …

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By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

The John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) protects the environment and saves land in Contra Costa County. JMLT is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is protecting the places that make Contra Costa special. The Trust focuses most of it’s attention on the part of our county west of I-680. Currently it permanently protects about 3,100 acres. This figure is growing!

John Muir Land Trust Executive Director Linus Eukel at Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
John Muir Land Trust Executive Director Linus Eukel at Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

JMLT’s Fernandez Ranch is located off Highway 4 near Christie Road. Fernandez Ranch has lots of hiking and riding trails. The existing ranch will be extended to a total of 1,185 acres when the contiguous Franklin Canyon is opened to public use – which will happen within the next few months.

JMLT’s newest acquisition is the 604 acre Carr Ranch in Moraga. This success story is wonderful in two ways. It’s a beautiful property and it shows JMLT active in the southern part of the county (see www.jmlt.org/carrranch.html).

JMLT is getting kids – girls especially – out on the land. “Pointing to Success” uses Canogle.com’s cell phone app and GPS technology to give local information as one walks through landscapes (jmlt.org/mobileapp). The program is tied in with local schools and emphasizes “STEAM” – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. (I like the inclusion of art – it’s a big part of what makes life worth living.)

JMLT is working with kids who are aging out of the foster care program. It’s working with Morning Harvest Farm, a non-profit urban farm and culinary garden in Contra Costa County operating for the benefit of transitioning age (18-23) foster youth. The program will help these kids build self-esteem and prepare for careers.

Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

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Rotary Report: Martinez in a ‘sweet spot’ https://martineztribune.com/2017/04/14/rotary-report-martinez-in-a-sweet-spot/ Fri, 14 Apr 2017 19:40:12 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=7084 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. Martinez is in a sweet spot. So says City Manager Brad Kilger. Brad …

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By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

Martinez is in a sweet spot. So says City Manager Brad Kilger. Brad has it right. Martinez is definitely in a sweet spot.

Leanne Peterson of the Main Street Martinez organization, during a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Leanne Peterson of the Main Street Martinez organization, during a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

Brad and Leanne Peterson told Martinez Rotary about how downtown is changing fast – and for the better! The double billing occurred by accident. Leanne Peterson was our scheduled speaker; Brad is a prospective Rotarian who happened to show up. Synergism! The two interacted superbly, leaving the audience with a good feeling about how our town is changing.

To parse Brad’s quote a bit: Martinez is located within the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re in a place people want to be. We’re in a place with lots of jobs. We’re in a place undergoing a demographic shift towards young professionals. We’re in a place that has maintained its historic character; and a place with tradition.

Almost a decade ago the City Council passed an earthquake retrofit ordinance. Downtown buildings are largely brick, and are vulnerable to earthquakes. Fortunately, earthquakes have passed the City by; had a big one struck it could have wreaked havoc. The earthquake ordinance led to major changes. Some buildings were torn down. Some owners couldn’t do needed repairs and sold their buildings. Today, earthquake retrofit is either completed or underway. The incentive is great; buildings not retrofitted can no longer be occupied.

As older buildings are brought up to code, earthquake retrofit is not the only issue. Buildings must also be brought up to modern fire standards; they must meet ADA (American Disability Act) standards; they often need sewer and electrical upgrades.

Retrofit is expensive. But it’s worth it. Neat buildings and lots of foot-traffic means that rents will go up. That’s an unavoidable result of being in the right place at the right time. This can be tough on businesses which have long counted on low rents. But change is irresistible. Our brick buildings are expensive to fix up, but enormously attractive once the expenditures have been made.

The City of Martinez is in the process of recruiting for an Economic Development Director. The City is preparing to undertake a parking study in cooperation with the County. The County has committed to staying downtown. It’s going to take down the obsolete high-rise at 651 Pine St., and put in a structure between Escobar and Marina Vista. It will also build a two-level parking structure capable of holding about 300 cars. This will bookend the east end of Main Street. The parking study will focus on City and court needs, and how the needs to the City and the County mesh.

Leanne told us of some of the new businesses. Already in place are two coffee houses (States and Barrelista). Bar Cava sells wine and food – particularly Spanish tapas. Next door to Bar Cava, a yogurt place is going in. Saucie’s is about to become a classy pizza-by-the-slice place. The old Bow Rack building and the adjacent building a block off main street are about to become the home for two breweries: Five Suns microbrewery and Del Cielo. Citrus Salon is getting ready to move south across the street into the beautiful brick building formerly occupied by Rich Stahlberg photography. (Rich is still in business, at a different location.) Citrus’ present quarters will house “Mud Room.” The former Bank of America building has been sold and will probably become a restaurant. The former “Alley Cats” building is in escrow and will become a Greek restaurant. Lots going on! Things are changing by the day.

The days of empty downtown stores are almost behind us. Look for lots of young professionals and classy stores. Main Street revitalization is happening fast! Martinez’ beautiful brick buildings have long been a source of local pride. They’ve been at risk of falling down in an earthquake. Today they’re being fixed up. Main Street is getting revitalized. And it’s all happening right here, right now!

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Rotary Report: Bar Cava – a destination in downtown https://martineztribune.com/2017/03/10/rotary-report-bar-cava-a-destination-in-downtown/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 19:23:05 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6712 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. Bar Cava is bringing a “big city” feel to lil ol’ Martinez. Cory …

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Cory Katz (at left), and Nate Houston of Bar Cava, 718 Main St., Martinez. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Cory Katz (at left), and Nate Houston of Bar Cava, 718 Main St., Martinez. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

Bar Cava is bringing a “big city” feel to lil ol’ Martinez. Cory Katz and his mother Pat are the owners, Nate Houston is the wine expert, and Steven Jefferys is the chef.

Cory and Nate shared their enthusiasm with Rotary. They’ve got a great formula. They provide “a bit of Napa” and elegant food.

Cory says – correctly in my view – that “something’s happening in Martinez.”

Cory is pushing Bar Cava on places like Facebook and Instagram. His efforts are paying off. Customers are coming from places like Mountain View, San Francisco, Sacramento and Walnut Creek – and lots from Martinez!

Wine expert Nate Houston specializes in Spanish wines. Bar Cava also has lots of classy wines from throughout the world. If you’re looking to get into wines, you can have a glass from a wine selling for $100 a bottle. You may get hooked. Cory has installed a state-of-the art French wine preserving system using argon gas to keep the flavors in. Or you can have a way cheaper but still excellent Spanish wine selected by Nate.

You can eat spectacular fresh food prepared by chef Steven Jefferys. He uses only fresh ingredients; among them bread from Walnut Creek and specialty Brussels sprouts. He orders food each day, so it’s always fresh.

Cory talked about the process of getting permits. It’s complex! You need permits from the State Liquor licensing board,  from the health department, and a bunch of City permits. It took awhile for him to learn the ropes, but once he learned them he found the City easy to deal with.

According to Rotarian and City Councilmember Lara Delaney, who was in the audience, Martinez is about to hire two people to make life easier for businesses yet to come. That’s good, because the City has a bunch of newly reinforced buildings awaiting tenants. Among the rumored new businesses are two brew-pubs. Since brew-pubs are an early indicator of a town on the make, this is a very good sign.

Nate and Cory have lots of enthusiasm. They bring lots of expertise. Bar Cava is building on a formula that’s worked in a bunch of places. A long, deep building with beautiful old brick walls, a long counter and tables along the edges. Good food. Good wines. A great chef.

Visit Bar Cava while you can still get a seat! You’ll love it. If you wait a while, you’ll still get in but you may have to wait for a seat.

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Rotary Report: ‘Your car is a fishing pole’ https://martineztribune.com/2017/03/03/rotary-report-your-car-is-a-fishing-pole/ Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:53:00 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6677 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. A fishing pole with bait will sometimes catch fish. A car with bait …

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Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

A fishing pole with bait will sometimes catch fish. A car with bait – you’re the fish. Bad guys are breaking into cars all over town. You don’t want yours to be one of them. Police Chief Manjit Sappal told Martinez Rotary that bad guys look at lots of cars. They typically pick the most promising one. Think about running away from a lion – you don’t need to be faster than the lion; what you need is to be faster than the next guy.

Martinez police look in cars as they walk the streets. They see wallets, packages, purses. The worst thing to leave is keys. Hiding stuff away will help a lot. Better still is not to leave anything in the car at all.

Martinez police are starting to leave warning notes when they see bait. If you find a police warning note on your car, take it seriously.

Our police department is excellent. But it’s small. If one call comes in, they can and do respond to it. If three come at the same time, there’s little or nothing they can do. Better to not need to call them. Set up a block watch program. Be on the lookout for strange people. Be on the lookout for prowling cars. Be alert.

***

Homelessness is a huge problem in Martinez, in Contra Costa County, and everywhere. For many homeless, the best approach is to help them get a roof over their heads. For some, however, they’re so impaired that – in the words of Chief Sappal – “a front door is beyond their capabilities.” These folk are likely to stay on the street until they collapse.

The good news is that Contra Costa County is moving toward a County-wide data base of homeless people, and toward centralized contact points where the homeless can get help.

Sadly, our homeless problem isn’t going away any time soon. At best, it can be managed.

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Rotarians thanked Chief Sappal for his excellent newspaper columns. They’re well-written and informative. Communication between police and citizens is good and getting better. Police are citizens and they’re our neighbors. We’ll all be better off if we recognize this and help each other.

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Rotary Report: Martinez Senior Center https://martineztribune.com/2017/02/24/rotary-report-martinez-senior-center/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:08:51 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6611 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. The Martinez Senior Center is a magnet for seniors in our entire region. …

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Martinez Senior Center Supervisor Gina Lombardi Gravert (at left), with Barbara Turcios, who is active in the Center and a staunch supporter of “Meals on Wheels.” (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Martinez Senior Center Supervisor Gina Lombardi Gravert (at left), with Barbara Turcios, who is active in the Center and a staunch supporter of “Meals on Wheels.” (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

The Martinez Senior Center is a magnet for seniors in our entire region. There is stuff going on all the time. Nutritious meals are available five days a week. There’s companionship. There’s a Wellness Service Coordinator and a Nutrition Coordinator. “Seniors” include everyone over age 60.

Senior Center volunteers contribute to the community in many ways. Perhaps best known is the Pancake Breakfast. It takes place the second Sunday of each month.

Senior Center volunteers contributed almost 12,000 hours of service last year. That translates into about six person-years of work. Wow!

The Center has a dedicated Board of Directors, presided over by Larry Risner. Martinez Rotarian Shelly Pighin is First Vice President.

Membership is only $10 a year. Non-members are welcome to participate in everything.

The Center is supported in part by the City of Martinez. What a great thing for the City to do!

Seniors are vulnerable to isolation. Having a place to mix with others helps a lot. Rotary invited Senior Center Supervisor Gina Lombardi Gravert to tell us about her first year at the Center. One of her quotes stuck with me: At the Center, “I don’t feel alone.”

What else does the Senior Center do? Examples are legion: legal services, blood pressure screening, the Alzheimer’s Respite Program, tax preparation, County Connection tickets, access to the ADA para-transit service (County Connection LINK), poker, bridge, Mah Jongg and Pinochle. There’s a Driver Safety and Refresher course. And painting, sewing and quilting. And writing. There are lots of movies. And a bunch of physical and mental fitness programs. The list goes on and on.

If you haven’t stopped by at the Senior Center, you should. Walk in and ask for Gina. She’d love to show you around.

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Rotary Report: Get your Clipper card https://martineztribune.com/2017/02/17/rotary-report-get-your-clipper-card/ Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:48:35 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6560 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. Clipper cards are credit card-size gadgets that work on BART. The Clipper card …

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By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

Gina Zagotta during a recent visit to the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Gina Zagotta during a recent visit to the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

Clipper cards are credit card-size gadgets that work on BART. The Clipper card also works on most of the 25 or so agencies that move people around in the Bay area. Locally, this includes AC transit and the County Connection. But not Amtrak.

The Clipper card knows if you’re a kid or a senior. It prices the trip accordingly. It knows the discount on BART, on buses, on trolleys and on ferries.

They work at BART parking. For long term and airport parking, you still have to go on the Internet to buy your pass.

Clipper cards use something called “RFID” technology. The technology uses embedded electronics to send signals a few meters. Don’t punch holes in your Clipper card. If you do, it probably won’t work anymore. Do leave your Clipper card in your wallet when you enter BART. The reader doesn’t mind if the card is buried deep in the wallet. It’ll still be read.

Don’t worry too much if you lose your Clipper card. A phone call will get it replaced, complete with whatever balance you had on it. There will be a few delays, but the replacement card will arrive. I lost mine – and I learned how good the replacement process is.

Our Rotary speaker, Gina Zagotta, is a local; a Martizian who helps BART get the word out. She’s got a great job and she knows her stuff.

Some side-comments, from my point of view:

There’s a trade-off between where you live and the cost of transport. The further you live from where you work, the more the commute will cost. You pay in both time and dollars. Divide the total time you spend commuting and earning the money to pay for it into the distance you travel. That’s your actual average speed. If you commute by car, you spend time in traffic. If you commute by BART, you probably have to stand up a bunch. Taking into account the time spent earning the money to pay for transport, your overall average speed may be just a few miles an hour. Commuting is expensive in time, money, and stress. Better perhaps to get a near-by job and to live in a smaller house. That’s what lots of young folks are doing. It’s why the market for small town-houses and apartments is booming.

That said, Gina’s got it right: if you’re taking public transit, Clipper cards are a good idea. If you don’t have one, get one.

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New Martinez Rotary inductees … https://martineztribune.com/2017/02/10/new-martinez-rotary-inductees/ Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:23:54 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6524 City Councilmember Lara DeLaney (second from left), and Martinez Unified School District Superintendent CJ Cammack (fourth from left), are the newest members of Martinez Rotary. DeLaney was educated at UC Santa Cruz and received an advanced degree in policy from the University of Chicago. She loves tennis and skiing. Cammack graduated from St. Mary’s College …

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City Councilmember Lara DeLaney (second from left), and Martinez Unified School District Superintendent CJ Cammack (fourth from left), are the newest members of Martinez Rotary. DeLaney was educated at UC Santa Cruz and received an advanced degree in policy from the University of Chicago. She loves tennis and skiing. Cammack graduated from St. Mary’s College (Yay Gaels!). His sport is rugby. Pictured from left: Janet Kennedy, DeLaney, Rotary chair Denny Horack, Cammack and John Searles. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

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Rotary Report: Alternative education thriving in Martinez https://martineztribune.com/2017/01/20/rotary-report-alternative-education-thriving-in-martinez/ Fri, 20 Jan 2017 22:36:40 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6337 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. Principal Lori O’Connor is rightly proud of the Vicente-Martinez High School and the …

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Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Principal, Lori O’Connor, at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Vicente Martinez and Briones High School Principal, Lori O’Connor, at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

Principal Lori O’Connor is rightly proud of the Vicente-Martinez High School and the Briones Independent Study School. They have great programs. They’ve just moved into their new building at 925 Susanna St., at the corner of Susanna and Brown streets.

The new building replaces the obsolete Continuing Education space on Alhambra Avenue. The Martinez Board of Education gets A-plus marks for enthusiastically supporting both the new building and the education program.

Both schools are designed around the needs of students with special issues. Both schools are fully accredited. Students earn a WASC diploma. WASC is the accrediting commission for schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It has the mandate of assuring that educational institutions meet high standards. It’s relied upon by the California Department of Education.

Vicente Martinez is a continuation high school. Students attend one advisory period and five class periods each day. Upon completion, they earn a WASC certified diploma.

At Briones, students do most of their work at home. They meet with a teacher for one hour per week and must complete 25 hours of course work each week. Completion of the Briones curriculum also leads to a WASC diploma.

The two schools are designed with the students’ special needs in mind. Classes are small; teacher attention is large. In addition to direct education, students get emotional and social support and counseling.

Some students take courses at Diablo Valley College (DVC). They receive double credit for college courses.

Field trips are an important part of the curriculum. Students can follow various career pathways. For example, careers in mental health, computers or culinary arts. In the culinary arts curriculum they can participate in meal preparation and serving at Loaves & Fishes, or at the DVC cafeteria.

The schools are adept at obtaining external support. For example, they have an intervention grant from Contra Costa Mental Health.

The folks at Briones and Vicente Martinez Schools love their program and their new building. They’d love to have you visit. To schedule a visit, contact Principal Lori O’Connor at loconnor@martinez.k12.ca.us. You’ll be impressed!

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Rotary Report: Cold War memories https://martineztribune.com/2017/01/13/rotary-report-cold-war-memories/ Fri, 13 Jan 2017 19:08:51 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=6290 By PAUL CRAIG Special to the Tribune NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org. Gene Ross loved planes as a child. He loves them now! He learned …

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Gene Ross was the featured speaker at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Gene Ross was the featured speaker at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary Club. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

By PAUL CRAIG
Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit www.martinezrotary.org.

Gene Ross loved planes as a child. He loves them now! He learned to fly early on. During the Cold War in the 1950s he served in the U.S. Air Force. His main job was driving gasoline tankers to refuel bombers. His first fuel tanker was a KC97, designed before WWII. Among other factoids, he told us its four engines had a total of 224 spark plugs, all of which had to be regularly changed in the Alaskan cold.

Later he flew KC135s, which are based on the Boeing 707. These giant four-engined aircraft weighed in at 100,000 pounds empty. When fully loaded with jet fuel, their weight hit 300,000 pounds – 150 tons. Heavy! The fuel weighed about twice the empty plane.

Taking off with a full load of fuel was always an adventure. The planes were loaded to the limit, and barely made it using the full length of three-mile-long runways.

Sometimes a senior officer – who’d long forgotten how to fly well – would come along. This put Gene into a junior position. He told some hair-raising stories. One time the senior guy pilot started the plane in a turn that would have taken them off the runway. Gene grabbed the controls from him. The guy tried to turn Gene in for insubordination. Gene’s crew vouched for him.

Gene's KC135. The photo is signed by his crew. (COURTESY / On File)
Gene’s KC135. The photo is signed by his crew. (COURTESY / On File)

Gene supported B52 bombers which were part of “Operation Chrome Dome.” Hydrogen bombs were kept on-station just outside the Soviet Union, 24 hours a day. Scary times! (Check out Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr Strangelove” to see how scary those days were! They were sure scary for me.)

At first Gene was stationed in Alaska. Later, with faster planes, he was stationed in the States next to long-range missiles. They were on the front lines of the Cold War – thankfully long over. Gene and his wife Marge lived an exciting life!

Later Gene served as a flight instructor, teaching Air Force pilots how to fly on instruments. What a life!

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