2016 Youth Appreciation Day Winners – 5/24/16

Eight students from eight local elementary schools were selected by their teachers and principals to be recognized by the Point Loma Optimist Club at Youth Appreciation Day.  The day started with a celebratory breakfast at the San Diego Yacht Club, with family, friends, teachers, principals and Club members.  These students were recognized by their schools for contributing to a better school and classroom environment.  The Optimist Club of Point Loma awarded them with a framed certificate and $200 in cash for their optimism, leadership, initiative and responsibility.  We are very proud of our 2016 Youth Appreciation Day Winners and congratulate them for their achievements!

Hailey Hendricks from Cabrillo Elementary
Natasha Perez from Dewey Elementary
Andie Isidro from Loma Portal Elementary
Rita Johnson from Ocean Beach Elementary
Julia Peavey from Silver Gate Elementary
Catalina Castro from St. Charles Borromeo
Stephanie Rodriguez from Sunset View Elementary
Blaze Ackerman from Warren Walker School

2016 Youth Appreciation Winners, with their families, friends, teachers and principals at the San Diego Yacht Club

2016 Youth Appreciation winners, with their families, friends, teachers and principals after a celebratory breakfast at the San Diego Yacht Club

Tuesday, May 10th

‘Tis the political season!  The Primary Election is June 7th.  We will selecting candidates for the upcoming General Election in November.  The “talk” is all about the presidential candidates and their polar positions.  There are many more races on this June ballot, one of them being for US Congress, the 52nd District, which encompasses much of the San Diego coastal areas.

Pres Ken and Candidate Denise Gitsham

Pres Ken and Candidate Denise Gitsham

Denise Gitsham is running for the Republican party slot in the 52nd District Congressional primary.  Denise visited with the PL Optimists this morning and presented a vision of leadership, focused on problem solution.  “I believe in lowering taxes, local control, and a strong defense.  I am pro-business and favor energy independence,” she told us.

Denise worked with the George W. Bush campaign for president and the confirmation committee for Chief Justice John Roberts.  “I learned that campaigns are a lot of fun, but then you have to do something!  I am a solution oriented person.  I want to get things done.”

Ms. Gitsham is a lawyer.  She graduated from Georgetown University Law Center, worked for the US Department of Justice and a prominent international law firm, K&L Gates.  Today, Denise runs her own small business, promoting San Diego’s Innovation Economy.

From her immigrant family roots, through her adventures in political campaigns, law school and owning her own business, Denise has developed a passion for leadership and problem solving.  “There are people who really love politics.  But, we shouldn’t be electing politicians.  We need to elect leaders and problem solvers.  That is why I am running for Congress!”

In today’s heated campaigns, where blame is more important than problem solving and where extreme idealism is more important than consensus building, it is so refreshing to hear a candidate focused on getting things done.  The PL Optimists thank Ms. Gitsham for visiting with us this morning and we wish her well with the Primary Election.

Tuesday, May 3rd

President Ken thanks Graham Bloem for describing the "Shelter to Soldier" organization.

President Ken thanks Graham Bloem for describing the “Shelter to Soldier” organization.

Our guest speaker at this morning’s breakfast at the San Diego Yacht Club was Graham Bloem, founder and head trainer for the “Shelter to Soldier” organization.  After 15 years as a professional “for profit” service dog trainer, he became inspired to start this 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2012 after seeing the beneficial interactions between dogs and soldiers returning from the battlefields of the Middle East.  His organization’s mission is “saving lives two at a time” … redirecting dogs to work-focused lives, and providing a healing service to traumatized veterans beyond what medical treatments can provide.  For further information on Graham and his inspiring work, please visit their www.sheltertosoldier.org website.

See you in “Havana” Saturday evening for this year’s Golden Grand!

Our next breakfast meeting will be on the following Tuesday, 10 May.

Tuesday, April 26th

On June 7, 2016, California voters will be asked to cast their ballots in the Primary Election.  That leaves the candidates with only 6 more weeks to get out their messages!

This morning, the PL Optimist Club heard the message from Mayoral candidate, Ed Harris.  Ed is a former member of the Optimists Club and a former Councilmember, representing District 2 in the City of San Diego.  He currently is working as a Lifeguard Sergeant and dive team supervisor.

Pres. Ken and Candidate Ed Harris

Pres. Ken and Candidate Ed Harris

Ed is running for Mayor of San Diego.  His focus is on “Progress, not Politics”.  He believes the two biggest issues facing San Diego are public safety and infrastructure improvements.  “We should be bonding right now,” he said, “interest rates are low!  We should be fixing our $2 billion problem, before it becomes a $4 billion one.”

Ed also wants to make working at the SD Police Department attractive again.  He blames the loss of officers on a non-competitive compensation package.  “The Sheriff is having no problem hiring officers.  This is not a national problem, it is a local issue.”

Ed also told us he is not in favor of the San Diego Charger proposal for a new downtown stadium and convention center expansion.  He prefers the Citizens Plan and believes that plan would allow the Chargers to bring the stadium downtown, but “they would have to pay their own way”, instead of building a new stadium on the money raised through increasing the transit occupancy tax.

We appreciate Ed Harris visiting with us this morning and sharing his goals for the job of Mayor of San Diego.  More information on Ed’s campaign can be found at www.EdHarrisForMayor.com.  Good luck with the election, Ed.  we’ll be watching the results!

Pres Ken and Mark Roonin

Pres Ken and Mark Roonin

Also this morning, the Club welcomed a new member.  Mark Koonin is a Point Loma resident.  After a career in the apparel business, Mark is moving into a more entrepreneurial role.  “I want to have more control over my schedule and be able to spend more time with my wife and three children and giving back to our community,” he told us.  We think that is a great idea and welcome Mark to the Optimist Club of Point Loma.

Tuesday, April 12th


SD Youth Symphony: "Music education empowering young people."

SD Youth Symphony: “Music education empowering young people.”

This morning we were enlightened by Mr. Wade Sherman, External Relations Director of the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory.  Their core purpose since its creation in 1945 has been to inspire students to develop performance skills and character through music education, with an ultimate 10 year goal of making music education available and affordable by all students ages 8 to 25.  Mr. Sherman provided an inspiring story of their “Community Opus Project” … how bringing music into 2 Chula Vista schools for 65 students in school year 2010-2011 has now blossomed into 3000 students in 18 schools … thus achieving their 10 year goal in 5 years.  They have a library of over 800 instruments for those in need, and are provided funding by charitable organizations so that the program is no cost to participants.

President Ken thanks our guest speaker, Mr. Wade Sherman.

President Ken thanks our guest speaker, Mr. Wade Sherman.

Beyond music, the successes of the Opus program include improved test scores, increased parental involvement, higher school attendance (which also equates to increased Title 1 funding),  and reduced disciplinary actions.  Some of our club members at breakfast this morning were involved with the SD Youth Symphony as students in years past, showing that the symphony’s programs are far reaching (and effective!).

Tuesday, April 5th

Pres Ken and Debra Erickson

Pres Ken and Debra Erickson

Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!  And elephants, and zebras, and bison and monkeys and snakes … the list just keeps growing!  And just imagine, it all began with a roar!

Ms Debra Erickson, the Director of Marketing for the San Diego Zoo stopped by the PL Optimist breakfast this morning to provide an update on the featured activities of San Diego’s favorite attraction.

“On September 16, 1916, Dr. Harry Wegeforth and his brother Paul were driving past Balboa Park” according to Debra.  “They heard a lion roaring, and were drawn to a small zoo exhibit.”  This was a left over exhibit from the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.  “Harry turned to his brother and said half jokingly, wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo!  You know … I think I’ll start one.”

Dr. Wegeforth’s plan was to create the best zoo in the world.  His dream was to build a zoo without bars.  He wanted the animals to be seen in a more natural setting.  This began the San Diego Zoo’s reputation as a leader in innovation.

Debra told us of some special people in the history of San Diego, who stepped forward to support the new zoo.  Ellen Browning Scripps was a major benefactor of the Zoo, donating $9,000 to build the first fence around the zoo property in 1921.  She also donated funds to build the first grotto style exhibit for lions in 1923.  Also in 1923, John Spreckels donated the funding for two elephants and their exhibit space.

100 years old! Really!

100 years old! Really!

Today the Zoo is known for creating the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, started by Dr. Kurt Benirshke (1980).  The Zoo is an international leader in the art and science of endangered species reproduction with the noted success of the California Condor, the Arabian Oryx, rhino breeding at the Wild Animal Park and many other species.

A special website on the history of the first 100 years of the San Diego Zoo can be found here.  The San Diego Zoological Society has over 600,000 members.  The operations of the Zoo, the Wild Animal Park and the research center costs over $250 million per year.  After 100 years of operation, the Roar of the lonely lion can still be heard loud and clear.  Not just in Balboa Park, but around the world because of the dream of one man, Dr Harry Wegeforth.

Tuesday, March 29th

At this morning’s breakfast meeting at the SD Yacht Club, we welcomed and inducted new member Jon Colby who originally hails from Oregon.  We were also very pleased to have Mike Hansen, Director of Land Use and Environmental Policy for the City of San Diego, as our guest speaker.  Mike brought to us his unique inside view of City Hall, sharing with us some of the things he’s learned while working in the public realm of city government.

"Thank you!" to our guest speaker Mike Hansen, Director of Land Use and Environmental Policy for the City of San Diego.

“Thank you!” to our guest speaker Mike Hansen, Director of Land Use and Environmental Policy for the City of San Diego.

President Ken welcomes new Optimist Jon Colby, as fellow member Vince reads what being an Optimist entails.

President Ken welcomes new Optimist Jon Colby, as fellow member Vince reads what being an Optimist entails.

Tuesday, March 15th

(Click here for a quick slideshow of the event.)

The Ides of March is a notorious day for leaders of ancient Rome.  It is famous for intrigue, deceit and backstabbing.   Luckily, the future leaders of San Diego practice far more civility, good deeds and optimism.  This was quite obvious and the Annual Point Loma Optimist Club’s Oratorical Contest held this morning.

Led by Club Member Dan Williams, eight outstanding students from Correia Junior High wowed the capacity crowd at the San Diego Yacht Club breakfast meeting.  They each spoke to the audience of teachers, parents, family members and Club members for 4-5 minutes on the topic of:  “How my best brings out the best in others”.  The students were coached in public speaking by their teachers Keri Clark and John Snedden. A panel of three judges, including Jill Curtiss, Mike Carleton, and George Beall, had a very difficult time choosing their top three contestants. After a long deliberation, the judges awarded:


First Prize to Jordyn Duby                  Second Prize to Ila Komasa, and                   Runner Up recognition to Tristan Stafford.

Jordyn Duby

Jordyn Duby

Ila Komasa

Ila Komasa

Tristan Stafford

Tristan Stafford













According to Jordyn, she is “small but mighty!” Jordyn believes hard work and an ambitious nature brings out the best in her. “I don’t let others bring me down. The only thing that really matters is how I feel about myself!” By being her best, Jordyn inspires those around her to be better.

Ila has a passion for performing. She believes the best performances come from the leading performers doing their best. “This encourages each performer to do their best.” Ila has a passion for Irish dance. Many Irish dances are group performances, so judging is done based on how well the group performs. “Leading by example brings out the best in our team!”


Tristan Stafford has a favorite quote from newsman Charles Karult, “Good teachers know how to bring out the best in their students.” Tristan has a life-long friend with minor speech impediment. Tristan and his friend are “study buddies”. “I believe by helping my friend with his studies, he has become a better student,” he told us.

The other speakers included Tristan Cooper, Zack Greene, Isaiah Gabriel, Breegan O’Hearn and Fiona Byrne. Each of them spoke eloquently about their passions and what brings out the best in their friends and family members.

The passion and maturity of all the student contestants was quite impressive. Public speaking seems to come natural to them. They are poised and relaxed in their presentations. They speak with a natural rhythm and a polished delivery. The Point Loma Optimists want to thank all the students who participated in this year’s Oratorical Contest and wish them well with their future endeavors.


Dan Williams, contestants and family

Dan Williams, contestants and family

Tuesday, March 8th

He is a veteran prosecutor, a recognized leader and honored prosecuting attorney.  Now he wants to be the next City Attorney for San Diego.  His name … Robert P. Hickey.

Mr. Hickey (Bob) visited with the Point Loma Optimist Club this morning.  He shared his credentials and vision for the elected position of San Diego City Attorney.  Bob is a local, graduating from Poway High School, UCSD and USD School of Law.  He is also a  proud Point Loma resident!

Pres Ken and Robert Hickey

               Pres Ken and Robert Hickey

Bob has received many endorsements for his campaign, including those of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Sheriff Bill Gore, Supervisor Ron Roberts and the San Diego Police Officers Association, to name a few.  He is one of five candidates for the June primary election.

“I see three primary roles for the City Attorney.  Managing civil lawsuits brought by or against the City.  Prosecuting criminal cases against misdemeanor offenders.  And, providing legal advice to the Mayor, City Council,  and City departments,” he told us.  Managing a department of 140 attorneys is a big job.  Protecting the City and moving it forward is Bob’s biggest goal.

The passage of Prop 47 reduced penalties for certain non-serious property and drug offenses.  This action moved the prosecution of these now defined misdemeanors to the City Attorney’s office.  “There has been a 10-15% increase in the amount of misdemeanor cases handled by the City Attorney’s office,” according to Bob.  “We need to increase our staffing to handle this increase and adjust our procedures to effectively handle this new workload.”  Bob has a proven track record of case management and successfully managing attorneys.

As for advising the Mayor and Council, Bob would like to focus on making San Diego a more friendly and efficient place for businesses to work.  “The City Attorney’s job is to implement the wishes of the Council and Mayor.  I look forward to working with them.”  The Point Loma Optimist Club thanks Robert P. Hickey for the visit and wishes him good luck in the upcoming election.


Tuesday, March 1st

You found a piece of property.  It looks like a great deal.  You think you could create a wonderful neighborhood and maybe even a place for the local grocery store.  You want to be a California developer!

Well, maybe you should talk with Attorney John E. Ponder, from the firm of Sheppard Mullin, about your big dreams, before cashing in all your retirement accounts.  John visited with the PL Optimists this morning to talk about his work.

Mr. Ponder has been practicing real estate law in California since 1980.  He has worked on some of the largest real estate developments across the state, and some much smaller projects, maybe even the one behind your back yard.  He specializes in assisting land owners through the myriad of local, state, federal and special district laws and regulations.  He is an expert in the processing of environmental impact documents, such as the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.  Throw in some California Coastal Commission jurisdiction, maybe an historic district overlay, or and Americans with Disability Act issue, or a wetland with state and federal species present, and you haveyourself a typical development nightmare scenario!

Pres. Ken and Attorney John Ponder

Pres. Ken and Attorney John Ponder

Mr. Ponder provided a bit of insight and “behind the curtains” look at the processes involved in typical California real estate project.  “Over 20% of the cost of new homes in California can be directly attributed to government regulation and processing,” he told us.  “And, once the process is completed, then the real fun, the litigationn over the handling of the process, begins!”


His clients are diverse and their property issues are unique.  The entitlement process for each is challenging.  It begins with the local jurisdiction and existing community members.  Then, you are never quite sure where you will be headed, because each property has its own individual hurdles to overcome.  “It’s never a dull moment, when you are dealing with California real estate law,” he said.

So, do you still want to be a California real estate developer?