A day removed from Groundhog Day I am kind of thinking this year Punxsutawney Phil coming out of hibernation is doing more than just revealing that there are six more weeks until Spring. I believe this little groundhog is also predicting only six more weeks until we get out of this COVID funk allowing us to meet in person. Then we can convert to our Bakersfield Breakfast Rotary meeting in-person at Yard House for our morning breakfast norms. Well, we will see. Until that time President David Spalinger is kind enough to allow us to take up meeting space for our Wednesday morning meetings at his business, Skyline Cabinets. Thanks, Prez. We would also like to shout out a special thanks to Dan Johnson and Temo Lopez for setting up all the sound and audio-visual needs so that our meeting provided video and sound needs for the morning’s attendees and those that visited via ZOOM. By the way, whoever was responsible for arranging the three floor heaters to be set up near our tables to keep us toasty, I am your biggest fan.
 
Past President Jerry Starr started things off with our Invocation asking for blessings for our first responders as well as our political leaders. President Dave really gave Jerry double duty as Jerry and Past President Carol Smith were drumming up raffle ticket sales. Past President Denise Haynes led us in singing America the Beautiful.
 
Past President Cheryl Scott had the pleasure and the qualifications to introduce our Featured Speaker, Golden Empire Transit CEO Karen King. Cheryl, a Golden Empire Transit alumnus, tells us Karen King presides over GET with a vast amount of previous job experience which she obtained during her lengthy career in public transportation services prior to her arrival in Bakersfield. As Karen took the stage via Zoom, she shared that at GET they are focused toward the future and there is light at the end of the tunnel…, they just have to find the tunnel.
Karen tells us GET acquires much of their budget funding through state resources which originate through taxation and various other assessments. Secondly, and to a great degree, bus fares which she defines as, “ridership” make a big part of their revenue. And it is because of a substantial reduction in ridership, as much as 60%, that their budget has had to become drastically reduced. She said this has impacted personnel, as well as the accessibility to traditional city-wide bus services. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen as many buses traveling upon our city streets as I had pre-COVID. It is simply the cause of COVID that GET has fallen upon difficult times and Karen says, even when we get on the downside of the effects the pandemic has had on bus services, the damage to GET services will still be evident.
 
Karen reports their Board of Directors has actively explored a number of alternatives to rebrand the company of the last several months. It is through countless board meetings that GET’s future will undoubtedly include attention towards providing specialized ridership in 3 particular service areas called “On-Demand”. One of those service areas is the RIDE Program. Started three years ago, RIDE serves as a competitor to such transportation services like LIFT and UBER. Competitive in pricing to chauffeured services, GET RIDE enables either single persons or groups transportation to destinations “on demand”. Non-hospital transportation is another service area allowing those who are in need of transportation to get to medical appointments. The third service is a proposed disabled person transport service. These persons who have no other means to get to school or work would find their transportation needs fulfilled by access to this service.
 
All of these services are certainly needed and through GET perhaps they can fill a void. A hybrid of these services Karen includes, may be seen in mixed passengers representing all three services riding on the same bus to get to their destination. One may ask how in the world will GET be able to manage the logistics of various routes and modes of transportation all in one bus? Karen is optimistic that through advanced computer software GET dispatchers and riders will enjoy better efficiency. The implementation of the new software is expected in April of 2021 and is tabbed as the first of its kind in America to be in service.
 
Another daunting budget item for Karen will be the anticipated purchase of zero emission green energy buses. The buses are to be propelled by hydrogen fuel cells. To convert all of GET’s fleet to the new green buses has an asking price of $100 million. No, this not a typo…
 
If that is not enough to get you to cry at the moon, GET is currently in negotiations with representatives of the California High Speed Rail Project in regards to a property acquisition. Yes, GET as we know it… I actually see their offices out of my office window, is slated to move to allow room for the forthcoming high-speed rail. Therefore, any and all plans having to do with land permits and use of a hydrogen cell fueling station on their grounds will have to meet local and state regulations at their new locale. Karen said a prospective property site has been determined, but she would not disclose until some details are worked out.         
 
them back with confidence in using GET once again. Needless to say, Karen and her staff at GET literally have a tough “road” ahead, but we are confident that with proper planning GET will once again enjoy their status as a critical part of Bakersfield’s transportation services. Karen uses a quote from business entrepreneur Richard Branson that, Business Opportunities are a lot like buses, there’s always another one coming…
 
We would like to support GET and express our gratitude towards Karen for spending her morning with us at Breakfast Rotary. For more details as to the ongoings at GET visit the website at:     www.getbus.org/get-a-lift/
**Announcements Announcements**
 
Just one BBRC wedding anniversary to behold and that would be Connie and l Bensusen. Congrats to the both of you. I would like to add, lately I have noticed a number of Connie’s beautiful paintings on display on social media. I never knew she had such talent as an artist. The Beacon Clue is, what does Connie do that is beautiful? See, there are people in our club that possess wonderful gifts.
President Dave, summoned Carol Smith to the podium. Geez, Prez she just got her wings as a full-fledged member, are you gonna clip them? No, The Prez actually had a little gift for Carol. You see, Carol had been on social media too, where she mentioned a vandalism in her neighborhood. Apparently, draped toilet paper was used to deface the front of a home. The Prez thinking that the vandalism prank had been done to Carol’s home did what any decent man would do for a classy lady like Carol…he presented Carol with a roll of her own special toilet paper. Yes I know, but he wrapped it all fancy for her.      
 
For those who dawned masks during the meeting, there was a little competition for who had the most creative mask. Jerry Starr had an American Eagle with the Stars and Stripes mask. How do you beat that! A winner of Conundrum from the Prez.
 
The Beacon Clue for last week was how many years Past President Jackie “Queen” Maxwell has been a member of BBRC. The answer…24 years. The Prez first took a strike at Past President Mike O’Doherty to see if he knew the answer of this week’s clue. He didn’t so FINE! Karen Bonanno future Breakfast Rotary Club President was asked and with a $10 regret, she could not come through with an answer. Then David Perkins was tasked with correctly answering the clue. C’mon man, you know he reads The Beacon. Yes, he correctly answered the clue and the crowd went wild! Good job David.
 
The Prez sadly announced that the “in real life” annual Rotary International Convention and RYLA Conference for our Interactors have pivoted to virtual events. More information is coming on both.
 
President-Elect Jeff Haynes is urging all members that have not submitted their annual Rotary Foundation Pledge to please do so, as they are now due. If you would like to confer with him to schedule payment you may either contact him, or Mindy Wilmot.
 
Thank you, Mary Jo Pasek, for inviting a Zoom guest. Her guest was Eric Sanders of Jason’s Retreat. Welcome Eric and thank you Mary Jo for sharing our meeting with the good people of Bakersfield.  
 
**Happy Spots**
Can you possibly imagine 150,000 4 X 4, Jeeps, trucks armored all-terrain vehicles assembled in one place in the California desert for a week-long adventure of racing, mountain climbing and precarious horseplay? Well, Ken Quarnberg can. Ken spent last weekend in the desert to engage in testosterone-energized festivities of fun, camping, exhibits and competition at the annual King of Hammers. The thoughtful Ken brought a fine beanie cap for The Prez to wear. The Prez is hooked. I understand Past President Ron Nelms who is paying a $10 BBRC fine per wheel for his new truck purchase is following Ken’s lead and going to the event too. I’m now worried…
 
As the meeting whines down The Prez closed the meeting with a strike of the bell, quicker than you could say “Super Bowl Sunday”. The members protested The Prez’s pre-mature act by crying foul. President Dave hadn’t completed the drawing yet! With an about face, President Dave asked me to draw a winning ticket. Lucky for Jeff Haynes he is taking me to lunch next week as he claimed a nifty $44 bucks.
 
May the Rotary motto be your guide,
 
By: Frank Wooldridge
Beacon Writer