Monday, October 15, 2007

Dissension Among the Troops

Recent issues surrounding motorcycle rights have glaringly brought to the forefront a wide dissension among the ranks. Why this is can only be discerned from a number of sources. I apologize up front for the long post. However, this post encapsulates many related issues of late.

Since coming to Tallahassee, I have become accustomed to frequenting several "bike nights" in the city. This is a great place to share information, find out who is doing what, and enjoy camaraderie. Tallahassee has two such bike nights that attract a large number of motorcyclists; Famous Dave's BBQ on Wednesday night, and Hooters on Thursday night.

About three weeks ago, information about a new bill in Florida raised its ugly head. A bill that, if passed, would allow law enforcement to permanently confiscate your motorcycle and remove your endorsement for 10 years. The violation? Speeding at 30 mph over the speed limit in what is deemed reckless operation of a motorcycle. The call on reckless driving would be up to the officer's judgement.

Now this bill is first and foremost a HUGE discriminatory move on the part of law makers. No mention of automobile drivers committing the same act is included.

Many of us who actively work independently as freedom fighters immediately called all those we know to action and wrote or called the state rep responsible for the bill.

The question cropped up, as it has in the past; where is ABATE?

ABATE of Florida, who claims to work for all Florida motorcyclists, was silent. No word of encouragement that all would be well, no alleviation of fears. Upon opening the ABATE of Florida's website, I expected to see a call-to-action. Nothing. Not until a few weeks later, when out of the blue Doc handed a "directive" down for everyone to cease and desist with the phone calls to the state rep. The missive said - the bill is killed.

Calls to the rep's office for days afterward confirmed it was not - as Doc stated - killed, but very much alive. Rumor has it that Doc was negotiating for different wording! Not for the demolition of this bill. Did Doc offer any information on what he was really doing? No. Just the usual "run along, children, it's all taken care of".

With all the "helmet" stuff going on with NTSB and NHTSA, and no substantial information on any assistance from ABATE of Florida, I had just about had it with ABATE-come-lately.

Then, recently, the city of Delray Beach, Florida, announced a hearing and their intention to ban ALL motorcycles from a 5 block stretch of road in their city, simply because diners along that stretch of road do not like loud motorcycles. A huge outcry from many biker sources ensued.

NO WORD FROM ABATE. Nothing. Nada.

I am a frequent visitor to a forum called Bruce-n-Ray's Biker Forum, where all issues surrounding motorcycle rights are posted by many freedom fighters around the country. Bruce Arnold of this forum is like the rest of us. He wants the protection of biker's rights for all, and has drawn us all into a unified army of freedom fighters through this forum. His logic is sound, and his motives are non-judgemental, and if biased, only heavily so in favor of our basic right to ride free and safe from cagers.

Many of us voice our "opinions" of ABATE, and other various motorcycle organizations around the country, but Bruce carefully remains "politically correct". (Remember this later when I tell you about an unwarranted attack on Bruce, by one ABATE chapter president and then by Doc himself.)

As a blog writer, I enjoy the freedom of saying exactly what I think, but always try to substantiate those words with facts. My goal is to get readers to think, and to sit up and take notice of what is going on around them.

Florida bikers, sit up and take notice.

Now, I've never met the president of ABATE of Florida. But here's what I know about ABATE and the infamous Doc. I will leave out what I have heard from RC of Big Bend Bikers For Freedom, as it is common knowledge that there is no love lost between RC and ABATE, and I wish for you to understand that these are my own conclusions. The words that follow are based upon articles and letters written by others about Doc and ABATE of Florida over the past many years. It is also based on ABATE meeting videos as well. I'll add my comments to the statements in italicized text in square brackets.

Doc is a paid lobbyist and President of ABATE of Florida. ABATE hired him on a contract to lobby for them. He cannot be fired from the job without being paid off for the guaranteed two years of salary. Doc is also reimbursed for all expenses incurred.

[I view this as a direct conflict of interest. As President AND lobbyist for ABATE, membership is helpless to oppose Doc's final decisions, many of which are indeed opposed by the majority.]

Doc has never disclosed a financial report as a lobbyist for ABATE, nor has ABATE disclosed when they've received government monies or how and when it was used.

[More suppressed information.]

ABATE of Florida is either late in confronting serious issues with regards to Florida's bikers, or does not deem it their responsibility to inform all of it's membership (or other Florida bikers) of what is happening, when it happens.

[It is my opinion that ABATE does not feel it's their responsibility to inform Florida's bikers. I also believe that Doc develops his own agenda until his actions are brought to light, and then changes them to align with what is supported by all. What I do know along these lines, is even when the ABATE membership wants a particular issue handled in a certain way, Doc has the authority to change it without the membership's consent. He did this blatantly with the cell phone bill. The membership wanted the bill to say 'ban all cell phones', and Doc amended it to 'all but hands-free'.]

Doc informs all government officials in Florida that he, as a lobbyist for ABATE, speaks for ALL Florida's bikers.

[Doc does not speak for me, or many other bikers of Florida. Doc speaks for himself, and a small number of ABATE members. This is a concern for me. What arrogance and disregard for those of us who differ in opinion from Doc. I am entitled to my opinion of what my rights are as a biker. So is Doc. However, Doc is paid by ABATE to lobby for it's membership, is NOT entitled to inform anyone that he speaks for me.]

ABATE of Florida has a history of bickering over who was the organization responsible for resolving individual issues.

[My, my, my. Are we talking about adults here? Or children arguing over who found the best tree house first. This is surely an overflow of Doc's arrogance onto it's membership.]
Now, let me break away for a moment and address a few things. First of all, when I first started reading about ABATE and their President, Doc Reichenbach, I started with a clean slate. I wanted to be objective in the outcome of my view of this person who has caused discontent with so many for so long. So one of the things I did was to ask others, face to face, what they knew of or thought of this person. What I heard was overwhelmingly negative.

Interview question: "Do you know who "Doc", the President of ABATE, is and what he does?"

Out of approximately 100 people, 43 of them were women, 57 were men. All own motorcycles. Of those 100 people, 66 did not know who Doc or ABATE was. Of the remaining 34, 26 were women. Here are the main threads of comments in this survey:

Those women who knew who Doc was, had starry-eyed praise for Doc as a figurehead, but when asked, had very little clue of what he does or doesn't do.

The men who knew of Doc merely stated Doc was a lobbyist, or president of ABATE.

Those women who DID know about Doc, and what Doc does, had a common thread to their comments; Doc is a sexist.

Now, I won't print their comments here, as I do not want to worry about meeting up with some hit man in a dark alley, but some of these comments would make any woman's skin crawl. It is enough for me to know that Doc feels threatened by women of any intelligence. I guess that means there will never be a chance to ask Doc questions and get reasonable answers. I am, after all, a woman engineer of reasonable intelligence, and very tall (strike three).

But I digress.

I got two line items from this interview with local bikers:

A very alarming number of motorcyclists in this state do not know who or what ABATE is.

Those women who have had any interaction with Doc aside from exchanging pleasantries, thought he was a sexist.
I don't know which one alarms me more; the fact that a great majority of bikers know nothing about ABATE, what they do or are doing (even members), or that Doc, who presumes to speak for me as one of Florida's women bikers, is a sexist. At this point, I'm struggling to find a reason why I should like or trust Doc with any of my freedom fighting.

Somehow I don't think I'd get idle pleasantries from Doc. So here's a few questions for ya Doc, so you can be prepared if and when we ever meet and we can avoid the idle UNpleasantries:

Why do you think you have the right to tell me whom I can and can't write to, when no one (other than maybe a choice few) has any clue what you are up to, at any one given moment?

Why is it that a place like Bruce-n-Ray's Biker forum broadcasts issues long before ABATE does? And very often from forum visitors, not moderators.

What gives you or ABATE the right to criticize those of us who fight for the rights of bikers?

As a public figure, and paid lobbyist for ABATE, why is it no one has ever seen a financial accounting for the ABATE money you spend?

If you have nothing to hide, and you know people are questioning your motives and actions, why won't you disclose to the public what you are doing?
So let's look at a recent squabble involving ABATE and another Florida motorcycle club, the Enforcers. We've already covered the fact that ABATE is more often than not late in addressing serious issues at hand. Last week, Bruce Arnold sent out a call-to-action requesting help in stopping the Delray Beach motorcycle ban ordinance. The highest of praise and heartfelt thanks should go to Bruce for calling in all freedom fighters and swamping the email boxes of the city commissioners who will decide this issue tomorrow.


However, apparently the Enforcers MC planned to rally and protest this city hearing, and since ABATE had already made contact with the city's officials, an argument ensued. Not about the fact that another club was organizing a protest, but about who got there first! And of course, the president of the Palm Beach ABATE chapter had to throw in a slur against the Enforcers MC, and Bruce Arnold as a scapegoat for anyone hearing this call-to-action from other than ABATE, because once again, ABATE failed to inform anyone of what they were doing!

Here's a few quotes from the Palm Beach ABATE President, "Strongbow" in answer to an inquiry as to what is going on (see the thread here and judge for yourself):

Of the Enforcers MC, he says, "In fact this group of cops and ex cops are not welcome at alot of local establishments and motorcycle events for the very same reasons that this ordinence had been proposed. This action is purely for their own purpose.

"Their trying to make it appear that they are responsible for organizing this rally when in fact they contributed to the the city taking this action."
Read a rebuttal to this comment from a member of the Enforcers here. Now there's a man with integrity.

And here's what Strongbow says about Bruce:

"You must have received an email from Bruce Arnold who has had a hard on for ABATE since he was rejected as a candidate for webmaster for ABATE of Florida 4 years ago."
A "hard on"? This is an elected chapter president? Is this how an organization conducts itself, who claims to represent me, a biker of Florida?

So I ask you, the reader, is it any wonder our right to ride free is being challenged more and more frequently? That we are losing ground, losing respect?

What else can we expect, can I expect, from these immature little boys making an attempt to play at being adult.

Can we focus on what the issues are at hand? Can we unite as bikers, one and all, in an effort to thwart the ever increasing violations to our rights as Americans to ride free?

Over and above the obvious kowtowing to Doc Reichenbach by a whole lot of bikers who can't think for themselves,

Over and above the fact that Doc Reichenbach is a sexist (my opinion based on numerous other comments made directly to me),

Over and above ABATE's sad organizational and social skills,

The issues at hand are more important than anyone's ego.

Get over yourself, all of you. Put aside your differences, and GIT'R DUN!

Rumor now has it that Doc went into a tirade, in an ABATE meeting no less, about RC and his blog. It seems that Doc doesn't like that RC prints things about him. Yet, when RC has tried to ask Doc questions Doc doesn't want to answer, Doc gets angry, Doc gets nasty, and Doc threatens RC with his bodyguards. If this is how Doc has treated the women I interviewed, no wonder they have a low opinion of him.

OK, so let's recap here.

Doc Reichenbach has treated some women bikers with less than acceptable decorum.
[Surely does make me anxious to meet him! I can't imagine any woman biker would want to support ABATE or Doc knowing that Doc treats women this way.]

ABATE is slow on the take when it comes to critical issues, and squabbles over who got there first.

Doc and ABATE's reputation is gaining notoriety which causes Doc to launch into a tirade at a state ABATE meeting. [Enough to cause someone to warn RC to watch his back. Read a threatening letter from Doc to Bruce here, when he posted his support of RC.]

ABATE and Doc Reichenbach continually warn off those of us who would add our voices to the others in Florida who are not ABATE members, stating that we 'might screw up' Doc's (ABATE's) chances of achieving his agenda. [They insist "we" must join them, but they will not join "us" and unite in a common cause.]

And to all this I say, to Doc and ABATE of Florida: You are not the majority I think, not anymore. You're screwing with OUR goals now. (Squabbling with, and defamation of, the Enforcers MC. Lagging and withholding of information on critical issues. Opposing what Florida bikers want on legislative issues.)

I guarantee you, Doc, I won't be having a temper tantrum in front of multitudes in a state ABATE meeting and make idle threats over one person (now two) who isn't afraid to ask the right questions. I left that behavior behind in my teenage years. What I'd be happy to do is provide you with a mirror, for there you will find that which must be corrected; your own behavior, your own actions.

If you can't do that, stand down and allow the army of freedom fighters to march on, uninhibited by the dissension of your making.


rc said...

no compromise, no retreat, no surrender......good writingx

Barbie said...

You just summed up the last 2 years I have spent in ABATE of SC. Just wanted you to know that the state coordinator did throw a fit in the state meeting though and then resigned a month later after removing a member from a chapter without the chapters want to or the persons desire to be removed. placed the member at large. ABATE just isnt what it used to be.. Apparently in Fl as well.
I am sadly dissappointed

Sam said...

It makes me sad too Barbie. But I take heart in knowing that out of approximately 500,000 motorcyclists in Florida, only 7000 are members of Abate. That makes for what, about 2% of Florida's bikers a part of Abate? And of those 7000, many of them are rebelling against the dictatorship that Doc represents. And as those numbers grow stronger, a mutiny is emminent. In the meantime, the "real" Freedom Fighters will continue to work toward a common goal, "No compromise, no surrender". Don't allow the political aspects of your own state's Abate organization sway you from contributing to what you believe in.