St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/02/2011 : 2:18 PM
Rocky times in the Rocky Mountain state
While every state owes their SMRO for establishing their program, perhaps CO owes their ABATE even more. There were independent motorcycle schools prior to 1990, but ABATE got whole-heartedly involved in rider education that year. They found sites and bikes, trained instructors and increased enrollment - from 51 students in 1990 to over 1,000 just four years later. Like in other states such as Indiana, ABATE put it's feet on the range, the hours in the class and energy where it's mouth was. And they do a fantastic job. ABATE was also heavily involved in creating the Motorcycle Operator State Training (MOST) program through the DOT.
But, recently CO's ABATE and other private training schools have had a little bit of a problem with the state administration though, let me start by saying the lines of communication between CO ABATE and the CDOT are now open and working well.
So who runs MOST? Colorado's state coordinator is Rick Davis who has no experience as a rider education instructor and has an iffy reputation in both his state and among other state coordinators. Rumor has it that Davis has stopped by at least one training site on his motorcycle while wearing shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes. No word on whether he was wearing a helmet or not.
According to a source (no, not you, someone else), he's also close, personal friends of Colleen Boyle, President of T3RG and her husband Steve.
As part of the state law establishing M.O.S.T, by law, there is supposed to be an Advisory Committee that "shall consist of five members...one of whom shall be a motorcycle retail dealer, one of whom shall be a peace officer...who operates a motorcycle, two of whom shall be active motorcycle operators, and one of whom shall be a citizen not affiliated with a motorcycle dealer, manufacturer, or association. Of the two members who are active motorcycle operators, one shall operate a motorcycle manufactured in the United States by a company originally incorporated in the United States." This committee was supposed to meet once a month to advise the state coordinator.
It doesn't necessarily meet once a month, but until recently, this committee's existence ensured that CO riders had input into rider education in their state.
Of particular interest: although CO uses the M$F standards as a template, CO is not bound to them and can allow variances although some rules are firm, such as not permitting anything over a 350 cc bike to be used in training. Iow, unlike in many states such as Oregon, for example, it is possible that TOMS could be taught in CO alongside M$F's BRC.
Even so, there are rules and regulations that rider education schools are supposed to adhere to, and any variances must be approved in writing *by the state coordinator.* These rules, however, were formulated for the RSS and, in 2001, Davis was informed by rider educators in his state that the BRC did not conform to the rules and the rules and regs needed to be updated. Davis did not do so nor, it appears, was concerned about doing so since the BRC still is in violation of state regulations.
Davis' cavalier attitude towards the rules and regs though was evident last spring when T3RG began offering courses on a compact range with the 8/1 ratio. T3RG did not put the request in writing and Davis did not approve the request in writing. He also denied on more than one occasion that the compact range and 8/1 ratio was being used or was approved and turned down requests to use it. However, he also said he had given T3RG verbal approval to use the range prior to May.
Being buds with Colleen and Steve gives at least the appearance of impropriety that their business was allowed to do what M$F hadn't even approved while other equally for-profit and non-profit sites weren't allowed to do that. Who knows what could've happened if other schools had only invited Davis over for a BBQ now and then?
That was one issue, but not the most important one. This was:
At the end of June, ABATE wanted to get the rules and regs in conformity with the curriculum they, as well as all the private for profit schools, are currently offering the M$F's BRC. They are happy enough teaching it, they just wanted to finally get it all squared away, if only for safety and liability reasons. It seemed to be a reasonable request, however they didn't hear back from Davis.
In mid August, they contacted Davis and was told their request had been sent on to the Attorney General's office even though the AG isn't part of the approval process as established in the MOST law. But that was ok, and ABATE waited. Then, in September, they found out it hadn't been sent to the AG's office yet.
But there was a September meeting of the Advisory Committee, and guess who was there? Surprisingly enough, Sherry Williams and Ray Ochs - who talked about the compact range/ratio.
According to sources, Erik Erikson who runs Iron Buffalo Motorcycle School and has been a Chief Trainer for more than a decade, asked if M$F was allowing sites to use it and if the approval was in writing. They could, he suggested, have Irvine send a fax to that effect. Williams or Ochs said that wouldn't be possible as it wasn't approved yet.
OK, so here it is September and T3RG's been teaching non-approved curriculum since May and yet they are awarded "Outstanding Community Training Sponsor"? And yet CMSP site owners get non-comps and threats to shut down their site because of minor paperwork infractions? Apparently Tim thinks that consistency is the hobgoblin and all. Williams and Ochs hurried back to Irvine where official approval was soon thrown up on the web.
A week before the October meeting of the Advisory Committee, Ben Hochberg notified Rick Davis that ABATE had a presentation for the meeting.
And guess who showed up at *that* meeting? Tim Buche who said he just happened to be in Denver on other business business that he didn't specify and, apparently, just happened to hear about the meeting in enough detail to know when and where to be. No one volunteered that they invited him.
The October meeting began with a series of agenda items and then Ben Hochberg, ABATE's Director of Rider Education, got up, passed around a hand out and began presenting their concerns: the rules and regulations were based on an obsolete program and had to change so training could be in compliance. He suggested that no further contracts be executed nor renewed until the rules and regulations had been changed. This would give not only MOST a chance to build up funds, and it would also put pressure on TPTB to get it done.
Oh, and, yeah, they wanted TOMS, the Oregon curriculum, to be approved. Gee, I wonder why Tim was in Denver. Must have been on vaca.
ABATE made it very clear that they didn't want to switch over but, as Terry Howard, CO BATE President later said, their priority is that CO riders get the best possible training they can and "we want the opportunity to be able to use any tested curriculum." Just have it in the wings, so to speak.
When Hochberg got done, there was silence. Then Ernie Wolf, the chair, asked for comments. Bill Anthony who owns Rider Training Enterprises said it was about time. Erick Erikson said that it made him proud to be an ABATE member. As I understood it this referred to changing the rules and regs. Then Kirk Severson (sp?) said it was a political ploy for ABATE to take over the state program.
Davis then went over the presentation summing up all the points and seemed to have no problem with any of them and suddenly says it's a matter for the Attorney General to approve TOMS. Even though, according to those who have studied the rules, it isn't the Attorney General's responsibility to make a decision about curriculum.
Steve, representing T3RG and Colleen Boyle's husband, then asked why another curriculum was needed.
And things deteriorated from there.
According to sources, everyone focused on TOMS rather than on the rules and regulation compliance issues. Hochberg had to once again reiterate it wasn't a matter of liking or disliking the BRC. Somehow, as these things do, it strayed off all the issues and became an issue about QAV visits, or rather, the lack of any standardized, meaningful ones.
According to eye witnesses, at some point, a side conversation sprang up between Steve and Jack Arnold, another committee member, and Arnold says something like, "How can someone who doesn't " and, suddenly, Steve is, screaming, "Don't even go there!" They both leap to their feet and Steve, according to one account, slams his hand down hard on the table, according to another, the two almost exchange blows. Both accounts agree that some terms not fit for public consumption were exchanged.
Wolf gets them to settle down and shortly after the meeting is adjourned.
So what about Tim? What was he doing during all of this? Sitting, listening, interjecting comments now and then. He explained what the M$F wasI bet he did. And how rigorous the field test for the BRC was (as sound as the Texas compact range one, Tim?). He didn't comment on TOMS. So why was he there at all? Good question.
A few days later, Ernie Wolf, the Chair resigns, and shortly after that CDOT shut down the Citizen Advisory Committee. You know, the one the Act establishing the program requires? It seems to me - and this is my opinion only - CDOT shares Davis' opinion on rules, regulations and laws.
Since then, ABATE had a meeting with representatives from CDOT and the Attorney General's office last week, without Rick Davis present, and has a meeting today with Davis. According to Terry Howard, lines of communication are open and things are moving forward. ABATE has been assured that the rules and regulations will be looked at and there will be a public meeting for comments before they are approved.
The Attorney General's office is gathering information and has not yet made a decision on TOMS, however, two separate requests to teach it have been denied since the meeting.
So that's the background on why Bob Frank, less than a month after that disastrous Advisory Committee meeting, suddenly had an intense interest in dual curriculums in a state. And we'll get to that, oh, yes we will.
But first, for those who also follow Buche's extensive travels, you will remember that a Hawaii committee meeting that was supposed to be discussing the BRC also had to be ended because of untoward trouble that happened when Buche was present. In that meeting the Chair had told Buche and his lawyers repeatedly to shut up and finally had to threaten he'd call security guards to remove them.
So, two states, two meetings, both with Buche present, both disrupted.
Interestingly, and purely coincidentally, the disruptions served M$F's purposes in both cases. In Hawaii, it forced a delay in the decision regarding the BRC giving TPTB more time to lobby for it. That effort, though, failed.
But it's the rocky times in Rocky Mountain state that most interests me:
Say, for the sake of argument, someone who has the most stellar reputation as a long time trainer and trainer of trainers, someone who is well respected by riders in Colorado decides to offer TOMS. Or say that ABATE decides it wants to offer it in addition to or instead of the BRC. ABATE, by the way, does about 3/4 of all training in Colorado. CO residents would have a real choice in training then.
But T3RG is in a business relationship with M$F and has already tried to expand to other states particularly CA that M$F controls. (Speaking of which, it'll be interesting to find out what independent contractors will be working with M$F for their next contract year). Offering TOMS is not exactly an option as it's not going to help their expansion plans, is it? For more than one reason, of all the site owners and trainers around that table, it's T3RG that has the most to lose if TOMS is allowed in Colorado alongside the M$F's BRC.
So I find it interesting that it's T3RG's *Steve* who spouts them thar fightin' words and also leaps from his chair fully prepared to throw a punch with the result that the meeting is ended, the chair resigns and the committee disbanded.
The disbanding of the Advisory Committee then removes critical input from those who have been most involved in training and the state program since before there was one. It certainly was...convenient...for M$F and T3RG that the fight started at the moment it did, at the meeting it did.
But it is very likely that's all it is. No need for conspiracy when there's a combination of an ineffective, incompetent coordinator, unpleasant personal history between two at the table with one of them being a hot headed co business owner, and a controversial decision on the table.
But that doesn't mean Buche, who sat there observing, didn't take another lesson away from the table: disruptions can delay or win the day for M$F's interests.
Hopefully, MRO activists and rider educators can also learn from this situation.