Bill West (also praying for Mary Jo)


Angeline East’s husband Robert. Bob is glad to announce that 30 year anniversary with Angeline happened on February 3
Megan Dunleavy – Southwestern PA Domestic Violence Services


  • Bill Price announced that Mary Jo Podgurski is recovering at home from cancer surgery.  She had a slight set back that was addressed at the hospital, and is now doing as well as can be expected.  Please think about her and maybe send her a card.
  • Brandi Miller thanks all for their donations towards the Trivia Night that will happen on March 3rd. She is still gathering raffle items and looking for volunteers. Brandi also apologizes for all the emails (no problem!)
  • Bill Price was collecting raffle ticket stubs and cash for Dorothy T.  Next Tuesday will be the last day to submit them.
  • Next Tuesday is also the scheduled day for Gene Steratore’s visit.  
  • President’s Night is scheduled for June 11 and the Community Pavilion.  Betsy West is in charge and looking for help.  The stairs and electrical work will be completed, or nearly completed, by then.  The floor will be completed sometime after June 30.

Happy Dollars

  • Susan Priest – is always happy to be lazy and that winter clothes aren’t required . . . today
  • Angeline East - $3 is equal to $1 for each decade of happy marriage to Bob.
  • Bill West - $2 because they are headed to Florida to see nephew inducted as Circuit Judge after Governor’s nomination.  They also get to see their grandson.
  • Bill Allison - $40 for each year of Rotary membership and thanks to Mike Pecosh for the card.
  • Jim Uram and Lars L also thank Mike P for the cards.
  • Tom Drewitz – informs us that one can now advertise on the web page.  The page now has 3 ads and it would be nice to have more!  I think he said they are free!
  • Tripp Kline – thanks Rachel Lazosky for the $10 parking ticket he received while serving as witness in trial with Rachel’s husband John.  Things went well and the walk to the parking authority office was pleasant.(?)
  • Rachel L – thanks to Tripp for contributing to a good mood for John at dinner tonight
  • Susan Priest – also a thanks to Bob Hollick for a donation(?) and he will be presenting to Rotary at some point soon.

Presentation: Cuba Trip

Bill Allison recently participated in a trip to Cuba that was organized by Kathy Sabol and Susan Key, immediate past president of the Washington County Bar Association.  He had high expectations and they were exceeded due to the great work of Kathy and Susan.
The days began with morning lectures given by professionals such an economists, professors and ex-pat lawyer, a historian and others.  They also participate in tours of such places as art museums, Old Town Havana, architectural highlights and Ernest Hemingway’s home (where he lived for many years).  The reading list that Bill used as preparation was very helpful.  Local attorney Gary Stout recently wrote an article about the trip that was published in the OR and another is coming soon.  Bill agrees with 99% of the content and commentary in Gary’s first article.
As a short history, Cuba became a US colony as a result of victory in the Spanish American War of 1898. The result was basically a colony run by corporations.  Even with that, things were OK until the arrival of dictator Batista, who was extremely corrupt and harsh towards the poor people of the country.  The country was also a haven for US mob bosses that initially planned for a Las Vegas type city outside of Havana.  For these reasons, Bill feels that Fidel Castro’s revolution was initially a good thing.  
Bill labels Cuba’s legacy as one of hope and frustration.  On the good side, Cuba has among the best healthcare and education systems in the Caribbean.  There is no grinding poverty.  Everybody gets the basics, but the level of prosperity is low.
On the negative side, many things seem to be put on hold.  Three quarters of the island’s food is imported, the building are in a dilapidated state.  Much of this occurred after the revolution because most of the wealthy left Cuba. Poor people from the country moved into the rich homes but had no means to maintain them.  Nothing has been done to support housing and infrastructure.  
The rigid central authority and stifling of democracy lead to a dysfunctional economy in which good jobs are scarce and folks in the tourism industry earn much more than engineers, doctors and other professionals.  Many professionals supplement their official income, at about $100 per month, with jobs as tourist guides.
An interesting prospect for the future, is a new Constitution that is being written.  It sounds promising that the document will intend to provide increased political and economic freedom through such policies and economic liberalization and decentralization, but many questions exist. For instance, how my power is the government willing to yield.  And who will interpret the Constitution given that the judiciary is not independent.
The people of Cuba are very friendly and engaging.  They are often engaged in an economy that works around the edges of the official economy, which means that they are just rearranging the existing pie, but not really getting a bigger pie. 
Cubans are proudly nationalistic, but they still love the USA and especially our TV shows, which could help to break the socialism.  As long as they don’t challenge the state, they are largely left alone.
Cubans do feel a sense of the bitterness towards those that left after the Castro revolution.  They see those that left as try to disrupt Cuba and other places in South America.  The well-funded and focused activities of the emigrants are analogous to the those of the NRA, in Bill’s opinion.  Just as many Americans are in favor of some sort of reasonable gun control, most are in favor of some normalization of relations with Cuba. Many corporations would like to be active in Cuba and even see that was a way to nudge the country in a more prosperous direction.   Bill hopes that the die-hards in the US and Cuba will pass on and allow Cuba to proper.
As a final point, Bill addressed the ‘sonic’ attacks on foreign diplomats.  This appears to be focused on Americans, but others such as Canadians have experienced it as well.  A recent article in The Atlantic magazine was very informative and pointed out that nobody seems to know the source of the attack that has even led to brain damage in some cases.  Bill pointed out that Havana is one of the most surveilled cities in the world and it’s hard to believe that the government is not aware of the source. All there seemed honest in their discussion of the subject, expect of one professor that seemed to be a government hack.   All the speculation even includes the possibility that a dissident group is responsible in order to sow discord.

Question Time –

Tripp – Who wrote the new Constitution?  Bill A – the Congress
Susan Priest – Why must they import so much food?  Bill A – Not a priority
Jim Uram – are the cigars safe? Bill A – heard that they should be frozen before smoking, so maybe not
Bill Messler – Does the gov’t limit tourism?  Bill A – No, they are building huge hotels.  That being said, government red tape in the form of the visa controls, and other means, make it hard to travel.
Ken Baker – what about the music?  Bill A – Fabulous!  A visit to a music academy was a highlight.  And the food was wonderful as well.
Of course, must also talk about the 50’s era cars that had been maintained in such good form. Another highlight was a convoy through Havana.  Bill’s ride was a pink ’53 Chevy convertible.
Bob Wicker – is there any Rotary in Cuba?  Bill A – No, but a Rotary would be a sign that the government is becoming more tolerant.
Mike Pecosh – Are they remnants of the USSR?  Bill A – not so much anymore.  The effects of the Soviet withdrawal were devastating to the economy.  Bill  told the story of the architect that learned to speak Russian in school and then learned English from the Russians.  He now speaks English with a Russian accent.  
Joe Manning – what about the currency and how did they buy things?  Bill A – they couldn’t use credit cards due to US gov’t regulations. There are two currencies, one for locals and one for tourists.  Seems that the tourists pay more for everything.
With this Bill’s excellent presentation was concluded.  Bill Price then told us a quick story about a relative, by marriage, that left after the revolution.  Because his family was close to Cuba, he has always had to take extraordinary measure to protect himself.  He has become a prominent medical profession and will never return to Cuba.
We thank Bill for his interesting and informative presentation.
Bill Messler - Winner
Bob Wicker
Washington Rotary
We meet Tuesdays at 12:00 PM
W & J College, The Commons
60 S. Lincoln St.
Washington, PA  15301
United States of America
VenueMap Venue Map

RI Theme 2018-19

Upcoming Programs

Feb 12, 2019
Feb 26, 2019
Hitler and the Hapsburgs
Mar 05, 2019
Literacy work in Haiti
Mar 26, 2019
Writing the Nonnie Books
View entire list

Upcoming Events

Board Meeting
Feb 19, 2019
Club Assembly
Feb 26, 2019
Trivia Night 2019
Mar 08, 2019
Betsy and Bill West
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services The Preferred Realty
724-747-9703  Cell

Executives & Directors

Vice President
Club Service
Assistant Treasurer
International Service
Vocational Service
Community Service
Assistant Secretary
Public Relations

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Member Birthdays
Erin Jones
February 23
Angeline East
Bob East
February 3
Join Date
Bill Allison
February 1, 1979
40 years
James Uram
February 1, 1987
32 years
Kenneth Baker
February 1, 1976
43 years
Mike Minder
February 2, 2018
1 year
Ellen Hough
February 9, 2016
3 years
Tripp Kline
February 10, 2004
15 years
John Hopper
February 16, 2017
2 years
Lisa Moore
February 17, 2009
10 years
Russell Hampton
National Awards Services Inc.