Friday, June 29, 2018

Field Day coming, Field Day going ...

Monday, June 18, 2018 -- Well, Field Day is coming this Saturday. I have an standing invitation from the local club to join them at Field Day. Thanks, but I'll probably pass this year.

Our club is basically on life support, and has been for years. The longtime regulars have mostly quit attending. The reason for much of this is due to one person -- Neil.

Neil is a very unusual kind of man. For years he squatted on his family farm, living there without lights or water. The farm was actually the property of Neil's brother, who inherited the farm from his father, who had died years earlier. His father's estate never completed probate; Neil's brother died in a car crash, so title to the property fell into some sort of legal limbo. Neil lived there with utilities for years; he worked at a series of temporary jobs, which seemed to work against him -- or he believed it did.

Neil was an odd duck who tended to annoy other men and creep out most women. He ended up in a long period of joblessness, and he lost his utilities. His personal hygiene was really bad, and he smelled awful. But Neil wanted to volunteer if he couldn't find a job, so for a time he volunteered for the American Red Cross until his hygiene issues became a problem. 

Neil attended all the radio club meetings, and even if his presence wasn't annoying, his mannerisms were. A meeting would last forever because Neil would ask questions about random, unrelated things. Once you gave an answer, he would tell you how another group answerd the question, and if they were right or wrong? Or he would give a definitive answer about the issue. He really didn't want to know, he knew his answers, he wanted to know what you knew about it. I get it, but how he did it was most annoying.

During times I was president of the club, I would try to get Neil to shut the hell up with the questions already ... with varying degrees of success.

By this time I was out of the club and I kept hearing that more and more club members were staying away, some due to Neil, some due to the lack of leadership. The meetings had evolved into gatherings where members sat around looking at one another asking "what are we going to do tonight?"

There was nothing organized, nothing set, just random discussion, plus whatever Neil wanted to blather on about. It was time wasted.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Field Day came and went and I avoided every bit of it. I had a rig on at 2 p.m. Saturday, and got to hear all the chaos begin. Sounded like fun, lol!

I never made the first contact, nor did I visit anyone's FD station. I had plenty of other things to do.

The Section Emergency Manager resigned a couple of weeks ago; he was the same one who worked with me for the second half of my tenure, and did a great job. He was SEC for less than a year this time ... the SM and he weren't great buddies anyway. I never felt like he was 100 percent on board this time like he was before. I think he suffered from the same burn-out that I do. He has put in more than his share of hours, cared too much, volunteered more than necessary. I was surprised when the SM coaxed him out of retirement to begin with.

The Division Director contacted me a few months ago ... at some point in the past, I was named an assistant director, which is simple an honory title that means nothing. Some guys actually paid to have badges made with the title. Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

He wanted to know what we as a group of appointees wanted to do. I never responded; I guess I "earned" the appointment as a former section manager. I didn't care if I had it or not. 

Speaking of badges, I know a number of hams in my section who held a variety of volunteer appointments (like many do) -- Volunteer Examiner; Instructor; Emergency Coordinator; official emergency station, etc. Well, you would be surprised how many of these hams get badges made for EVER single appointment! One guy had at least five badges he work around his neck. 

Now the only badge I have now is that I had a red former SM badge made; I haven't worn it, it looks too much like the regular SM badge, and the damn truth is I don't want people to think that I'm SM again. 

And speaking of badges, one of the hot button issues within ARES in my section was the desire for "official" ARES badges. The membership wanted to have the state EMA issue some sort of "all-access" ID badge that would get ARES members in at any accident or scene anywhere in the state -- one that the State Police would also recognize.

This idea never got off the ground, and for damn good reason -- there's a high percentage of whackers in the ARES ranks. If we had provided any kind of all-access ID, it would have created problems from the get-go. I had an ID program ready to roll out, but it would be only recognized within ARES. It would have recognized training levels. The badge would not give anyone access anywhere, by design.

EM insisted during my tenure that they were working on an ID system we could use, so I sat on the badge project of my own. EM never moved an inch on the project, and again for good reason. One of our well-meaning members read the state director -- a national guard general -- the Riot Act about the lack of a statewide ID. The end result was that state EM promised an ID but never came thru. I left office convinced they promised the ID just to keep me from coming through with my own version -- and in that way, preventing any problems from ARES ID'd whackers.

Whatever changes the ARRL makes with ARES will probably be too little to make much of a difference. Of course, in some communities, you have quality volunteers who fill valuable roles. Those guys will always be there for their communities. But in a certain percentage of communities, your average ARES members will believe with all their hearts that they're prepared to assist when communications crash in their area. Chances are they'll never get the call, which is probably for the best.

Well, time for bed .... g'night all, 73.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

ARES Evolution?

June 16, 2018 -- I've been away from being Section Manager now for several years, and I still have yet to find my ham radio "mojo". 

I shouldn't blame my terms as SM I suppose. But in a way, the two go hand-in-hand. Ham radio became much more than hobby I shared with the ARRL membership I met and interacted with. Ham radio from my perspective, became a battleground of competing
and many times conflicting interests. The DX'ers hate the ragchewers; the ragchewers hate the DX'ers and the contestors. The contestors hate everyone. You can subdivide all of those groups once again when you throw in the topic of "emergency communications," which becomes a whole different ballgame.

I am still listed as the emergency coordinator for my county, but the damn truth is I have given up on ARES. And this comes at a time when the ARRL is allegedly revamping and "improving" ARES. How they accomplish this remains to be seen, of course.

As I have written before, I came to the conclusion long ago that the ARES program is little more than a program that allows hams with a minimal skill set to pretend to be part of communications group during an emergency response.

Now the ARRL typically highlights the actual work done by the very small groups of skilled volunteers who actually contribute to a deployment. These volunteers are trained; they work closely with their served agency or agencies; for the most part, they do whatever is needed (even tasks outside of communications); they do what they are told.

The vast majority of ARES members fall outside this small group; they fall into the scale of "unskilled, untrained, and not necessarily wanted," to "Whacker, First Class" at the far end -- and everywhere in between.

Many emergency managers don't want to use ARES volunteers they don't know and trust -- and who can blame them? IS100, 200, 700 and 800 don't make you a trained volunteer.

Currently the ARRL is revising ARES to create some sort of standards and training.  Hell, its long overdue. But even that effort probably won't mean spit to Emergency Managers, particularly if it isn't training that is useful to the EMs. 

When I was Section Manager, my guidance to ARES groups was to "train to the level your EM Director wants." The damn truth however was that outside a few populated areas, the EM job was often a job "awarded" the the judge executive's brother-in-law or other relative. If anything big hit the fan, law enforcement would call the state capital anyway.

In my years as SM in my state, I only saw a handful of incidents where the ARES groups truly assisted in an emergency. There were many more incidents where ARES did little more than talk about what they could do if called upon.

This isn't to say that ARES groups can't and don't do good works. They do. Sometimes. Some of the volunteers assist with marathons, bike ride and other public service events. In fact, these are probably events better suited to ARES groups than emcomm.

In my own experience here in my rural county, communications have improved significantly over the past 20 years, and the need for a backup communications group has become unnecessary. 20 years ago we didn't have smart phones that could do all the things that they can do. My argument is simple -- ARES has, for the most part, outlived its usefullness. 

And perhaps in its wisdom, the ARRL board recognizes this and is working to attempt to keep ARES relevant in the 21st Century. Best of luck to them.

Now I'm not going to cast dispersions on ARES members; the majority of members I've met are interested in serving in their comcommunities. And most of these volunteers believe they're helping out. There's a few who are obvious whackers and frauds, but only a few.

And perhaps I've been burned out by the experience, but I'm not at all interested in participating in ARES, much less the local radio club. After eight years of being a public figure of a ham, I enjoy ham radio on my own terms, privately. 

Go figure.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

More on ARES as a new SM prepares to take the helm ....

Saturday, March 18, 2017 -- Looks like there's a new Section Manager in town (or will be later this year), and he's already issuing edicts before taking office.

Not surprisingly, the new SM is pushing the ARES program. Sometimes I look back and thing can't help but think that in a majority of communities in my state, ARES is a paper tiger. In most
communities it amounts to a handfull of volunteers. Very few ARES groups in my section actually do anything with local emergency management, and that's one of the program's problems. The SEC and the SM push cooperation with state emergency management (EM). The problem from the EM side is that volunteers can't be required to do anything like training. You can't control them, and you have no real authority over them. ARES is not a factor in the state's largest communities.

If hams want to volunteer, they can do so on their own with another group. For example, the American Red Cross could use the assistance since they are a group that responds in emergencies. ARC has its own training requirements, but some of the better ARES groups keep themselves very busy -- and very satisfied -- by working with ARC.

The new SM -- through the SEC -- is pushing the same crap I did in ARES -- reporting every month, taking those damnable NIMS-related classes, and working with local EM. After years of promoting that agenda, here's my analysis.

REPORTS. Forcing AECs/ECs/DECs/etc. to report monthly is a waste of time. Most groups are lucky to have one meeting a month. Other than a weekly net, they don't do much. Don't require they report unless they have something newsworthy to report. One of the most consistent complaints I received as SM from ARES folks was the requirement they report when there was nothing to report. We also had a policy that any ARRL field appointee report on his or her activity. More busywork, IMHO.

TRAINING. You can hold a gun to the heads of your ARES members, and nearly none of them will complete the ICS courses. The purpose of the courses is to give ARES members an introduction to how incident command is structured. For whatever stupid reason, ARES members have to take ICS1,2,7 and 8, when local police and EMS don't take all four. Why does a volunteer need these courses? These courses aren't required for the knowledge they offer, it has to do with funding if they have an incident. FEMA wants your volunteers to have the training; it has NOTHING to do with being a better volunteer. Its all just BS. If you want training, train how to set up a temporary antenna or HF station. Make it effective and not just busywork.

EM COOPERATION. The elephant in the room here is that the majority of state Emergency Managers don't give two shits for ARES volunteers, for a variety of reasons.

1. EM managers want volunteers they can control, and those who are known quantities; ARES generally represents volunteers of unknown quality and unknown skill.

2. The majority of EM managers in the state don't do much; for many its a part-part-time job, they only do it if there's a major hazardous materials incident.

3. Hams in general tend to ruin their own credibility by their actions. ARES volunteers get overly enthusiastic about what they can do to help, and overpromising skills and abilities doesn't endear you to officials in charge.

4. Hams often lack willingness to be flexible volunteers. They only want to operate their own radios. They only want to play radio, they aren't willing to do other needed tasks. Just sayin'.

EPILOGUE. In my years as Section Manager, I promoted this agenda with little real success. Looking back, I think communities would be better served if their volunteers did their volunteering based on a connection with their local agency (like ARC, Salvation Army, etc.) without involving ARES. The benefit of ARES is the ability to network with other volunteers trying to do the same thing you are in your part of the state. Were I to be SM again, I would curtail the time I spent on pushing the ARES agenda and instead try to be a conduit for meeting the needs of our volunteers.

There's way too much time spent pushing rules. Get active and volunteer, or get out of the way.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

ARES: All dressed up with no place to go?

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 -- I'm taking a big gamble that may invoke the wrath of the ARRL pug-uglies, equipped with the wouff-hong and sharpened rettysnitches, who want to discipline me for my blasphemous statements I'm about to make.

In short, the usefulness of the ARRL's ARES program has outlived its usefulness. This conclusion isn't new, as most people in ARRL leadership already know it. Its like the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" ... everyone believes licensed Amateurs are critically useful in emergencies by default because of their communications abilities. Just keep telling yourself, "hams in Emcomm are useful," over and over.

The truth is there was indeed a time when that statement was fact -- that was in the days before everyone carried a cell phone and we had multiple ways of communicating long distances when the conventional methods failed -- and fail they did from time to time. But if you look at the state of communications among the list of "served agencies" usually identified by ARES, they generally have excellent and reliable communications.

Another problem that no one in ARRL leadership (national or state) wants to really talk about publicly is that as Amateur Radio has grown, there are a greater number of whackers who have been licensed. As a former Section Manager, one of the biggest problems I had was dealing with Emcomm whackers. You learn to see the clues when they talk to you about the ARES program. For example, if they start getting excited about getting appointments, training or certificates, there's excellent odds he or she is a whacker (probably "he" as I've never met a female emcomm whacker). If they have multiple HTs on their belt; if they spit out their "resume" of who they allegedly "know" in state emcomm.

Most effective volunteers don't brag about who they know, what they've done, or the equipment they own. They just want to use their skills to serve their communities if needed.

As technology has advanced, so have the communication abilities of first-responders. The truth is that unless a hurricane or other disaster wipes out every communication method, Amateur Radio just is not needed.

Another aspect of whackers is the "I'm a licensed amateur and I'm here to save you" attitude. I can't count the number of first-responders who were put-off by whacker-type ARES volunteers. The worst whackers get into leadership positions, and ultimately piss off served agencies and drive away the valuable volunteers.

I had a District Emergency Coordinator who volunteered to take on the job (there was a history of significant conflict between a local emcomm official and the county EC; as a result, ARES struggled. As SM, I worked closely with the SEC and his assistant, both of whom were super guys and identifying whackers was always a topic of discussion. How to deal with them once they were appointed was a pain in the ass, because invariably some would fly under your radar.

Anyway, this DEC immediately started firing off emails on the state ARES listserv, making demands of the ARES volunteers in the district. His first email informed the hams in his district that "unless I appoint you, you're no longer wanted as a volunteer." It went downhill from there. He made it clear that the district's volunteers had been a shiftless, lazy and useless group, and he was there to lead them to glory -- but only if they met his requirements. I had complaints from this guy from Day 1, as you might expect.

I tried to talk with him informally, suggesting that he soften the tone of his emails, and that he exhibit some understanding that he needs to encourage the volunteers, not bitch them out.

His appointment lasted about 9 weeks; I wrote him two more emails, the last one was very direct. By that time he had driven away several long-term ham emcomm volunteers and a long-running ARES net was disbanding after he said it was "unsanctioned and improper" without his blessing. I wasn't threatening in my last email, but made it clear he had to quit being so abrasive. He responded with an email whose length would have put the Unabomber's manifesto to shame, ending with his resignation. Of course, I didn't know what I was talking about, I just wanted him to coddle volunteers, he claimed.

His next mission was to try to start a competing emergency amateur radio group, which went nowhere.

Need another whacker story? I got a million of them.

Another DEC who initially started out well eventually showed his true colors. He was lots of talk, but he sold himself well, even if he appeared a little whackerish, we were willing to give him a chance (he was taking over a DEC position that had been vacant for quite a while).

Reports we were getting from volunteers were all over the place. Some loved him, some hated him. But our whacker detectors went full-scale when we heard that he had walked away from a hospital group who wanted to have volunteers to help with communications if all else failed. The group had purchased radio equipment and was prepared to install it in the hospitals; all they wanted were hams to help. They also wanted to license some of their employees (or those who wanted to be licensed).

Mr. DEC did not approve of the hospital group purchasing equipment, having it installed or encouraging any employees to get licensed. He told them good luck and walked away from them. He said that if he couldn't have a leadership role in their radio program, he wanted no part of it. To recap, an ARES DEC left a served agency in a lurch who was ASKING for ARES assistance and volunteers -- and he was proud that he did so.

This came to a head at a state conference that included the state emcomm agency. The SEC and I wanted Mr. DEC to go back to the group and offer to help them. Some of the district's volunteers wanted to help, even if Mr. DEC didn't approve. At the conference, Mr. DEC became so irate with the main volunteer who wanted to help the hospitals, he rescinded his EC appointment.

Mr. X-EC came to us, just beside himself over Mr. DEC's short-sightedness. We agreed. We told Mr. X-EC we would take care of it. In a quick review of what was going on in that district (it was where the conference we were attending was located) Mr. DEC had surrounded himself with whacker supporters who blew smoke about all the "work" they were doing. It was mostly bunk. We (the SEC and I) caught up with Mr. DEC and rescinded his ARRL ARES appointments. He was none too happy; he stormed off, and his posse resigned. The big issue we had to work with now was getting the hospital group some willing volunteers. Mr. X-EC volunteered to deal with the hospitals, but did not want to return as EC. He had enough volunteerism going on at that point. He was our unofficial EC for the next few years, he was so involved he provided us better intel than anyone else.

ARES EFFECTIVENESS. For those of you who have never been part of ARES, in most states it is organized from the grassroots up. Local volunteers step up and lead their local ARES group. Most groups are led by folks who take the post only to help keep the organization active. The only time there was competition for the county EC level appointment was when competing whackers applied. After making some really stupid EC appointments, I learned that the best thing to do was to see who the local hams recommended. We had contacts in the state emergency management office, and more often than not, the local EM director knew the hams he thought would be effective. One of our unofficial requirements for the EC appointment was that the county EM director had to approve. If the EC can't get along with the EM director, ARES pretty much doesn't have a seat at the emergency operations table. That assumes of course that the EM director believes the volunteers in his county thought the hams had value as volunteers.

We had many counties where a (usually!) well-meaning EC pissed the wrong person off, and in those cases, the "ARES" acronym is an unwelcome one. No group of local first-responders want any part of those ARES whackers. That happened in my county. The then-EC pissed off the EMS director and EMA director, demanding their cooperation in an inventory of their communications capabilities. They complained to elected heads of government, and basically anything with "ARES" on it was banned from a role in emergency work. The ARES group in my county basically dropped the name, but we continued to volunteer for the next dozen years.

Due to the FCC's narrowbanding mandate, the entire communications infrastructure was upgraded and expanding. Since that was completed a dozen years ago, there's been no need to ask hams to respond to assist with communications. Our only responses have been to help the American Red Cross shelters-to-EM director link. And there's been precious little of that.

Due to the localized nature of ARES, who each group serves and how they do that is in local control. On the state level, we encouraged working with the EM director, but that depended largely on the relationship (if any) between the director and local hams. The effectiveness of each ARES group varied of course, and that's understood. The nature of ARES is that on the state level, our leadership was more to help the groups in the field any way we could. We didn't issue edicts; telling them they have meet XYZ training requirements was a battle we would never win. We made recommendations for training standards, but left managing that to the local EC. We mostly encouraged volunteers to train to meet local requirements. Most EM directors weren't sticklers for training. Any ham radio volunteers weren't going to be sitting in an EOC; they would out in the field somewhere.

The debate over training continues to rage, however. If we had made the training mandatory, we would have lost 60 percent of our volunteers. ARES programs have done the mandatory training edicts in other states, and they lost more than half of the volunteers. Generally, they say a trained volunteer is more useful than an untrained one. That's true to an extent, but when you lose so many volunteers, you diminish the individual group in way that's not so obvious.

Joe Ham, Ima Qrmer and and S.W. Arr are longtime ham radio friends. They're members of the same club, and hangout on the same nets. Joe is told about the local ARES group and asked to volunteer. Ira and S.W. aren't that enthusiastic about being part of any group that would have them as members, but since Joe is going in, why to join too? It'll be fun and we'll have our friendship there.

After a couple years of involvement, a new, overenthusiastic EC takes over leadership, and he demands everyone take all of the FEMA classes, weather spotter training, CPR, blah, blah blah training -- and makes it a requirement to continued ARES participation.

Joe Ham is put off by the new EC's rules and decides to withdraw. Ima and SW are not going to hang around if their friend-in-common leaves. Without their buddy, they depart. All three also complain loudly about the new EC, poisoning ARES' popularity with the ham community.

The best case of whackerism I faced in my years as an ARRL Section Manager was very early in my tenure, my new SEC appointed a new DEC. This particular DEC was 110 percent whacker material, and showed it the first week. I wanted to give him a chance, me being new and all. His downfall was when he went to war against the local ham club, which prided itself on volunteerism in the community, years of it. The DEC insisted the club do is volunteer work under the ARES umbrella (which they never had done before). He went to a club meeting and attempted to badger them into it; you can imagine his reception. He came to me asking me to intervene; I agreed to investigate but promised nothing. My investigation opened my eyes as to the damage this guy had done; there was a hamfest the next weekend, so the SEC and I met with this DEC. We tried to talk with him; he got pissed and immediately resigned his appointments. I'm lucky like that I guess.

Oh, the story continues. One of his former appointments was of PIO (public information officer). During a bad snow the following winter, he started issuing press releases to regional media detailing the "work" he and his friends were doing to help the counties in the district. Basically they all had 4 wheel drives, and they drove to each county and screwed around under the guise of looking for stranded motorists who needed assistance. They helped no one, of course, but got a dandy road trip out of it. He put it on official ARRL letterhead and signed as an ARRL PIO. After all the shit this guy gave me, I sent him a letter asking him to cease and desist issuing press releases on ARRL letterhead, reminding him that he resigned his appointments, including PIO.

He told me he would have me "fired" as Section Manager. He wrote blistering letters to the ARRL executive board as well as every division director complaining about me. He taunted me in emails, telling me how much he looked forward to my being fired as SM. I got a em email copy of the letter the League sent in response that restated the policy regarding field appointments -- those are at the discretion of the Section Manager.

Needless to say, he was unhappy, and continued to bitch about ARES to every living soul he could corner.

Three  years later, I'm at a hamfest and run into this guy. He was nearly apologetic for the shit slinging he directed at me, and he noticed the DEC appointment in his district was open again and would I consider appointing him to that position?

How do I say this .... No. No! Hell no!

He told me that he had to better than having NO ONE in that appointment. I didn't say so, but yes, I preferred no one to him.

MOVING FORWARD? I hate to say this, but too many ARES volunteers want the badge, the title, and to be able to brag of their importance in times of emergency. Thank heavens some of them walk the walk.

During my terms as Section Manager, I spent most of my time on ARES. Its the ARRL's most important program because it helps establish our "value" to national security and to keep our valuable frequency spectrum.

If I ever serve as SM again, I will not push ARES; it will exist, but only if the volunteers wish to call themselves ARES. I would never give it the attention I did. I would likely focus more on recruiting new hams and finding new ways to make ham radio relevant.

I have this fantasy as well to win a term as a director ... if elected I would shake the shit out of the Ivory Towers at ARRL and work to make the board meetings accessible and understandable. The minutes today are a patchwork of statements without explanation -- and deliberately written that way.

That reminds me ... .at the board's last meeting they apparently discussed changing the rules in order to greater penalize directors who make speak out against the board or a member. I would probably win the award for the ARRL director with the shortest tenure, hi hi.

I pushed the ARES program relentlessly, and I'm sure I encouraged ARES groups to form in areas that had no mission or purpose for ARES. Doing it over, I would have only encouarge ARES where the volunteers existed and in areas where a need was defined.

Live and learn.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

ARRL HQ: 'It depends on what your definition of 'state resident' is ...'

Jan. 19, 2017 -- Yes friends, I'm back. Did not mean to be gone so long, but the ARRL has not been on my radar much of late -- until I heard back from my dear friend in another Division.

He had told me more than a year ago about some rumblings of unhappiness in one of the sections in his division in regard to the Section Manager. After the SM was elected (the long-time SM had decided not to run again), he found a sucker -- er, "volunteer" to run as a candidate to take the SM position. No one filed to run against him, and is policy, he was declared elected.

Well, after Mr. New SM took office, it was only a couple months or so later when he left the state. He went to work doing contract work that took him out of the state for about 9 months straight. Over a period of a year, he was in the state for about 3 or 4 weeks of that. The rest of the time, he lived several states away.

Mr. New SM had a way of sending snarky emails that did more to piss people with inadvertent insults and unwanted criticism. The term I heard used was "badgering." It was an annoyance, but people let it slide. Then he angered the ARES crowd, and after a couple of really bad choices for SEC -- and the fleeing of volunteers from the ARES program -- league members in the section contacted HQ to express concern. The response was ... well, nothing really. One industrious chap decided to craft a really nice letter detailing the complaints about the SM -- plus the fact he was living out of state for most of the year, and was vocal on social media about staying out of state. He sent the letter to all of the directors as well as the League president and CEO, as well as anyone who would listen. The director and League officials circled the wagons and responded with statements of complete support for Mr. New (and out-of-state) SM. His residence did change; from New England he moved to the Southwest, while still representing a section that was states away. According to my friend, ARRL HQ said Mr. New SM was a resident of the proper state. There was no hint that they felt the complaints were valid.

From what I've heard, for the past year he's visited his section a twice, one of those was for the state ARRL convention (yeah, that would be one to come home for!). I know we all have to have jobs, but is it intellectually dishonest to call yourself the Section Manager of a section you do not live in? Now he maintains an address in the section, but rumors are the home is owned by a friend of his, and isn't really his home.

Well, rumors hell -- its true. The PVA records show that one of the SM's longtime friends owns the SM's home he calls his home base. The friend got it from his mother after she died. It makes sense that the SM would not own or rent the home he lives in ... he's only there a few weeks out of the year.

Mr. New SM may wind up Mr. Former SM -- a former SM is going to run in the next election.

Again, I don't begrudge anyone the right to earn a living, but it is clear that according to the state regulations, he is no longer considered a resident of a state once you live someplace else outside that state as long as he has. The ARRL needs to support its elected officials, but when an official no longer lives in the state he represents, I think it betrays the who purpose of having an Section Manager.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

League elections not immune to a little director plotting, influence ...

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 -- I was going to write some more about corruption -- or the appearance of it -- in the ARRL, but CQ beat me to it.

Rich Moseson, W2VU, write a spot-on editorial about an incumbent director who was being challenged by a past director in the Southeastern Division. Right after the election period for director began, the challenger was declared elected. WTF?

Well, no one knows exactly why the incumbent director was apparently disqualified -- officially anyway. But the incumbent was an advocate for greater transparency in the ARRL; this includes making board meetings open to the public (or at least streaming them for public consumption).

CQ Magazine column

Election Drama Down South
This has nothing to do with the general election, which was still two weeks away when this was written and will (hopefully) be decided by the time you read this. No, this is about the election for director in the ARRL's Southeastern Division, or rather, the non-election. In a very unusual move, the ARRL's Elections and Ethics Committee disqualified an incumbent director from seeking re-election, and what made it even more unusual was that the decision was made well after the committee granted routine approval for his candidacy and announced the election. What was not unusual was the way in which the process played out, in secret, with very little information provided to the members.
Back on August 25, the ARRL announced upcoming elections for director in the Southeastern and Rocky Mountain Divisions. In the southeast, the announcement said, "former Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, will attempt to regain that position from sitting Director Doug Rehman, K4AC … Ballots and candidates' statements will go out to members eligible to vote … no later than October 1, 2016, with a return deadline for completed ballots of November 18."
Then, on October 6, five days after the voting period began, the League issued the following very brief announcement: "Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, has been declared elected as Director of the ARRL Southeastern Division, to take office at noon Eastern Time on January 1, 2017."
Huh? What happened to the election? As usual in ARRL politics, there was a lot more than meets the eye going on here. Based on what we can determine — and there are conflicting accounts, of course — the board's Elections and Ethics committee voted to disqualify Rehman on the basis of actions he took following the announcement of the election, a decision that was subsequently ratified by a majority of the full board of directors. The specifics appear to be subject to interpretation, so we won't get into them here, but actually, the specifics are irrelevant in this case. What is significant is the procedure.
The cornerstone of Doug Rehman's initial campaign and of his time on the League board has been to push for greater openness and transparency in the ARRL's decision-making process, something we have been promoting for years (decades?). He even proposed making the board meetings available to members via live streaming over the internet.
What is amazing here is that the process by which Rehman was disqualified from seeking re-election proved his point about excessive secrecy in the League's decision-making process. The members in his division not only were not informed of the reasons for his disqualification, they weren't even told he'd been disqualified! Just a one-sentence announcement less than a week into supposed voting that the incumbent director's opponent had been declared elected. By whom? Certainly not the members. How? Unspecified. Why? None of your business.
When I tried to get more details, I was told it was "a personnel matter." Wrong. A League director is not an employee; a League director is an elected representative of the members. And if the board is taking the extreme step of taking away the members' right to vote for their representative, then the least it can do is provide an explanation and not hide behind "a personnel matter."
Regardless of what Rehman may or may not have done in the current situation, he is on target that the League operates with far too much secrecy. It is the only membership organization we know of that routinely prohibits members from observing board meetings, and now it has even taken away the members' right to vote in its most populous division. You might call it a denial of service. The members need to demand change now.
On a more pleasant note, all the best to all of you from all of us for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, solstice celebration or whatever other holiday you may observe as we seek to add light to our short winter days.
– 73, Rich, W2VU

THE REST OF THE STORY. As always, there's more to the story than meets the eye. To save you some reading, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version.

Doug Rehman was elected as director of the Southeastern Division in Nov. 2013. He didn't really campaign, and the margin was just 12 votes. But still he won and was duly named winner. 

In his three years as director, Rehman was something of an upstart; he didn't always play by the good-old-boy rules that have been applied to the board of directors. For example, the board always wanted to show its unity on issues by not publicly disclosing dissent among board members in the discussions on issues. Rehman lobbied for better communication with ARRL members; he sought improved transparency of the board and the ARRL's actions. He was critical of the board's moves to maintain secrecy of the board meetings, etc. He rubbed the ARRL the wrong way and challenged the status quo.

In August 2016, Rehman and the former director filed to run for director, and the ARRL's ethics and election committee certified both as qualified candidates. But the ethics and elections committee took issue with Rehman's 300-word campaign statement, as well as postings he placed on his campaign Facebook page and website. Then in Sept. 19th, he received a message that he had been disqualified as a candidate for director, and the other candidate was declared the next director.

Here's a link to the ethics and election committee's report on their disqualification of Rehman as a candidate.

The irony is that another director complained about some of Rehman's campaign statements because -- according to this director -- they were disparaging toward the ARRL and the board of directors. One example was Rehman's campaign statement on his profile page, to wit: 

The election in the Southeastern Division is going to be a referendum on ARRL Board governance including ethics, transparency, accountability, and vision for the future.

Over the coming weeks I will pull the curtain back on the ARRL Board and the bleak future the League faces unless there is serious reform—reform that will only happen if the membership pays attention to whether or not they are being served by their representatives. I’ll be posting a number of motions to address issues with governance and ethics, motions that I will make at the January 2017 Board meeting if reelected.

There are some good people on the Board, but far too few. In the coming weeks, I’ll give you some insight of things to look for in the purposefully cryptic Board minutes that will help you determine who the good guys are and who the institutionalized power elites are (or were).

Start taking back the League now by spreading this message to every amateur that you can!

My, my, what "disgusting" and "libelous" statements! One would almost think Rehman actually believed he had freedom of expression in the democratic election process for Southeastern director. Complaints against Rehman also include the fact he may have disclosed secret board information.

But Rehman also ruffled feathers at HQ with a couple of ethics complaints against his competitor -- you can judge the value of those complaints on your own. It doesn't look like either had much of a chance of going anywhere, but did raise some questions that deserved answers.

One of Rehman's campaign promises was to make audio recordings of board meetings, with the exception of the committee of the whole. He often wrote about the board and its need for openness. Not a bad idea.

In my terms as section manager, I got an inside look at the board politics. One of my fellow SMs in my division had some excellent contacts on the board --- contacts who were in a different division -- and thanks to him, me and the fellow SMs got daily updates each time the board met. We also learned how often our director didn't attend the full board meetings but had the assistant director fill in (he enjoyed the booze a little too much). One goal that split the board was getting rid of Dave Sumner, K1ZZ. There was never a majority of the board at the time that wanted to boot Dave at the time; by the time there was a majority, he was already planning to retire, and the board let Dave continue with his league employment until his retirement.

I have a great deal of respect for a director who wants to try to reform the system and bring membership into the loop; I wonder what would happen if half a dozen candidates for director threw their respective hats in the ring on a reform platform? As a reformer, half a dozen elected newcomers would be a significant voting bloc that could pull back the curtain on the board of directors. Its an interesting idea ... any reformers want to run for director in your division? Lets stir that pot a little! One suggestion however -- don't get too radical or the Leagues ethics & elections committee will declare ineligible!

Monday, November 28, 2016

ARRL politics: Ruthless, conniving, fairly corrupt

Monday, Nov. 28, 2016 -- Boy, that headline is a grabber, ain't it!

Don't think for a minute that the ARRL and its directors are immune to playing politics; just like any other organization, there are ways to get things done, and then ways to "really" get things done.

The board meetings, for example, are often (at least in part) a dog-and-pony show for the benefit of the folks "back home." For example, it isn't uncommon for a director to propose some change in policy that he or she actually doesn't want and would not vote for. The sole purpose of some director's motions is to show those back home the director is listening to their concerns, and is taking "action" at the board level. I've even been told more than once that a director will tell the rest of the directors NOT to vote for a proposal meant simply for show.

One of the facts of life when serving as a director or vice-director is that you don't get to pick the man you will serve with -- and this means that you may wind up serving with a vice-director you despise.

I've witnessed this in my own division. The vice-director was a former director who lost earlier to the director. At the next election, the former director won the vice-director seat; as you can imagine, this set up a pretty awful scenario. The director refused to work with the vice-director -- beyond handing him a bunch of shitty tasks to do. The director and vice-director were at odds at every step; the vice-director treated the director -- the elder of the two -- with respect, but refused to take orders from him. The vice-director eventually resigned, and the director replaced him with a former SM.

I had considered running for vice director at one time, and the director told me he would be retire at some point in the near future, and he asked if I would be interested in the vice-director position. I thank him for the consideration, and told him I was. That was all baloney that was designed to encourage me to run for another term as SM. If I didn't remain SM, I wouldn't be considered for the appointment, pure and simple.

Yeah, I was gullible. The director knew what he was doing.

The next year, the director resigned within a couple of weeks of the deadline to request the nominating petition to file for director or vice director. It took some time for word to get out, and by that time, the deadline had passed. The vice director was elevated to director, and he appointed his pick for vice director. With no time to get petitions filed, the move insured there would be opposition. By a stroke of luck, one person had already filed for vice director, but the power of the incumbency ruled the day -- even if it was for a short time.

WHATS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SM AND DIRECTOR? We both wear red official ARRL badges, and are the League's only elected officials, but there's a lot of difference between what we do.

The Section Manager is responsible for managing the field programs in the section, and for making appointments in those programs. The Director appointment deals with the management and policies of the ARRL, including QST.

The director and vice director attend the board's meetings twice each year, as well as participate in other meetings as required. Directors also have a much larger territory to cover, and they are expected to attend hamfests and events in the division.

As much as I thought I wanted it, I prefer life unattached to an ARRL elective position. Maybe in the future? Who knows!?