Thoughts about the ARRL election

I have some conclusions about the election last fall for the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division positions:

  • First of all, Brian and Dwayne ran as a slate more or less. I think that extended Brian's reach as the incumbent vice-director into the new vice-director election. There's nothing wrong with that but it did mean I was fighting uphill from the very beginning. Brian is a popular guy, having won the 1997 Newsline Young Amateur of the Year award and the 1999 ARRL Hiram Percy Maxim Award. So my only hope was to get ARRL members to split the ticket and vote for me over Dwayne. I thought (and still think) that Colorado should have someone on the board seeing as how it is the most ham-populated state in the division. If I could have gotten all of the ARRL members in Colorado to split for me I may have had a chance.
  • Brian and Dwayne were willing to spend some money and put in more effort to campaign for their positions. I received a postcard from them and more than one email. On my part, I was not willing to spend the money necessary to send US Mail to every eligible member. They also put together a series of telephone conference calls with club leaders from ARRL associated clubs in all four states of the division.
  • Although the ARRL puts a lot of effort into making the incumbent's position not an overwhelming one,there are still some things that I think make incumbency important. For one, just the knowledge of how the ARRL office works and what information is available. I didn't know that it would be possible to get an email list of eligible voters. I'm not really sure that it is, but somehow I received email from the opposition campaign. The election materials talk about making a postal mailing list available but I wasn't willing to spend the money necessary to put that to use. It would really be nice if known email addresses of ARRL members would also made available to all candidates. I was somewhat overawed by speaking to the ARRL HQ staff and did not call them up to ask if I could get email addresses or other information. Maybe it was just that easy.
  • There isn't really any big shocking issue that people disagree about. So voting for the most competent people is probably the best policy. And that usually means a vote for an incumbent candidate. Both Dwayne and Brian had me whupped on that. I'm just a ham. I am confident I could do a good job as vice-director, but I have no name recognition and not much reputation to work with. I couldn't try to be a revolutionary candidate because generally things are running pretty good. Some few people are still upset about AM power limits, losing the CW requirement, even incentive licensing from the 1960's. But I don't think there is any big groundswell to "throw the bums out."
  • I am not unhappy with the outcome. I enjoyed my brief connections with the ARRL staff and leadership. I also learned a lot about how the ARRL works. I think I would like to try again in another election down the road. Brian and Dwayne are sharp guys and they will do a great job I'm sure. I hope they can keep up the level of communication they started out with in their campaign and in the division email newsletter since the election.
  • I also learned about the concerns of other hams in this division. Homeowner's associations and deed restrictions are the #1 concern. Most of the housing in the west is new. Most of it is under restrictive covenants. Neighborhoods are very concerned about views and visual impact of antennas, towers, etc. There are also some concerns about how the ARRL is operated, like why the DXCC desk is so far behind.
  • It really wasn't very hard. If you think you would like to run for an ARRL office, I would encourage you to give it a try. All you have to do is get 10 ARRL member friends to sign your petition and you are off and started. If you really want to win you may have to spend some money: go to ham club meetings in multiple states, send out some mass mailings, make as many phone calls as you can.

As for me, I finally have a wire HF antenna put up at my newly built shack in the city. I have plenty to do.

I hope to see you on the bands.

Chris Howard
Fort Collins, Colorado

Election Results

From the ARRL Web site :

Current Rocky Mountain Division Vice Director Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with 1393 votes, defeated Jeff Ryan, K0RM, of Westminster, Colorado (915 votes) in the race for Director of that Division. Current ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Director Warren G. "Rev" Morton, WS7W, did not run for re-election this term. Dwayne Allen, WY7FD, of Devil's Tower, Wyoming, with 1332 votes, defeated Chris Howard, W0EP, of Fort Collins, Colorado, who received 938 votes.

I received a phone call from ARRL President Joel Harrison W5ZN this afternoon letting me know the results of the election. That was a kind thing for him to do.

Random Thoughts:

I think Brian and Dwayne's strategy of running as a "ticket" was effective. Also, I think they did a better job contacting clubs and organizations in the division.

I was gratified that I received 938 votes and that there was a pretty good turnout.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me in my candidacy and thanks for supporting me with your votes.

Making Progress

As I've mentioned a few times in this blog, I'm working on building a ham "shack" in the backyard of my city lot.

We got the monolithic concrete foundation poured in mid-October and I've spent every weekend since then working on the construction. Right now I have the walls up and the roof on. This weekend I'm celebrating the end of the Division Election by taking Thursday and Friday off to get the doors and windows installed and the siding on. Then I will get the electric installed and have my inspection. Maybe I'll have a dipole up by the end of November!

I've missed out on ARRL CW Sweepstakes and I will be hammering nails instead of running the Phone Sweepstakes. I console myself by thinking maybe this time next year I will be snug in my shack proudly having achieved a full sweep in CW and preparing for the same on Phone.

People ask me how the election is going. Frankly, I don't know. My blog traffic is down to a bare trickle, two or three hits per day. The highest hit rate was at the beginning of October when the ballots were appearing in people's mailboxes. I suspect most people that were going to vote their ballot have already done so.

But! If you didn't get your's in yet you should hunt it up and get the thing into the mail today.

Some of the purpose of this Blog was to act as a dairy of my election experience. I hope to revisit the whole thing and write up a short article about how it went. So far I'm impressed with the process and how it is managed by the ARRL HQ. There are some things I think could use a little adjustment, like maybe providing an email mailing list of the ARRL members in the section or division to all of the candidates, or maybe even an official election area on the website where candidates could have a little space to present themselves. As things are I think it is very hard to contact all of the ARRL members in a particular section or division without running contrary to the election rules or doing some spamming.

It has been enlightening for me to find out more about the services the ARRL provides. I had someone complain to me about the support system for affiliated clubs so I did some research on that issue. I think there are a lot of ARRL benefits that aren't well known or at least not as well as they should be.

Election Continues

The election continues through October and early November, so I encourage you to dig that ballot out of the pile of junk mail and get it sent back to the ARRL. It needs to arrive by November 16th.

We have had some interesting conversations on the local repeater about the election and the candidates. Personally, I think its a great thing that we have people interested in running for office and need to have an election. And I would like to see a good percentage of the ballots completed and returned.

But I try to keep my wonkishness under control. Most hams are probably more interested in the upcoming contest season, band conditions, getting their winter homebrew projects started, etc. And that's a good thing. If we spent all of our time agonizing over every decision and direction of the hobby then we wouldn't have time to operate. That is what directors and vice directors are for!

My big project for this fall is to get my ham shack built. Our new residence in Fort Collins did not have space for my collection of boatanchors and Junque, so I'm building a small outbuilding in the back yard. I hope to have the concrete pad/foundation poured by the end of this week and then start right in on getting the walls and roof up. I have to tell you, I'm suffering from r390a withdrawl. I listen to the local AMers on my little bedside DX-440 and it just isn't the same. I miss being able to fire up my big AM transmitter. Yes, for the same cost as my new construction I could have gone down to HRO in Denver and bought a very nice modern compact radio and set up a station in a hutch in the living room or whatever. And no offense to people who do that. But I need some bench space where I can fry transistors (and maybe even fix that Kenwood TS-820 that I was working on before the move).

Dig out that ballot and 'X' the boxes and get it sent in! 41 cents is a small price to express some interest in the ARRL organization. I'd like you to vote for me. Even if you vote for the "wrong" guy, the act of voting will give the Rocky Mtn Division more clout and send a signal that hams in this division are passionate about antenna restrictions, BPL, spectrum threats, growing new hams, etc. the whole list of issues.

Ballot Arrives

Today my ballot arrived from the ARRL. It is in a thickish envelope with the ARRL return address. It said "Official Ballot" on the front of the envelope.

Inside was the ballot, a small envelope for the ballot, a mailing envelope for the ballot-in-envelope, a page of candidate's statements and a copy of the bylaws about elections.

I filled out my ballot, put it in the small envelope, put that into the larger envelope, put a stamp on it ($0.41) and set it out for the mail pickup.

I have to say that Brian's picture looked the best of the four. I looked like I had just eaten something that tasted funny. Really, I'm more pleasant than that in real life. Honest. (That is the picture that I sent in... So it's my own fault for not sending a better picture!)

I encourage you to keep an eye out for your ballot and fill it out right away. I would appreciate receiving your vote. But win or lose, I really would appreciate seeing a lot of participation. Spend 41 cents to make a guy happy.

Issues List

I am trying to pay close attention to the issues that people raise when I talk to them about this election and their level of satisfaction with the ARRL.

Here are the issues that I've heard about so far:

1) antenna restrictions / CC&R's
2) getting more new hams, young hams, new club members, etc.
3) potential bandplan changes
4) DXCC desk backlog
5) complaint about the club-affiliation program
6) promotion of LoTW
7) not focused enough on the interests of the membership

I've mentioned some ideas in this blog about #1 and #2, which I see as the most difficult things on the list.

To bring my attention to your favorite issue, post a comment on this blog or send me an email.

(I got an email and added #7 today. 06-OCT-2007)

The Candidates and their Web Pages

Here's a handy guide to who is running for what:

For Division Director:

Jeff Ryan, k0rm of Westminster, CO (current Colorado Section Manager)

Brian Mileshosky, n5zgt of Albuquerque, NM (current Division Vice-Director)

For Division Vice Director:

Dwayne Allen, wy7fd of Devil's Tower, WY (current Wyoming Section Manager)

Chris Howard, w0ep of Fort Collins, CO (that's me!)

You should be receiving a ballot in the mail early in October. Don't forget to send it back to the ARRL.

Antenna Restrictions

I had a great time at the BARCFEST yesterday in Longmont. BARCFEST is mostly a swapmeet with the addition of a VE session, some door prizes and a tasty food concession.

While I sat at my campaign table people would wander by looking at all of the displayed treasures on the neighboring tables. I'd say "good morning" and sometimes we would start a conversation.

The issue that I came away with as most pressing on hams in this division is the one of antenna restrictions. All new housing seems to have covenant restrictions on antennas. It was expressed to me that it is disappointing that the ARRL hasn't been able to generate more leadership on this problem. I can see why that might be true if we look at it only on the legal side. Potential homeowners voluntarily enter into an agreement when they buy a house that limits their use of their own property. Where does the ARRL fit in a such an arrangement? On the outside!

Who is hurt? Someone who buys a house and agrees to the restrictions could later take up an interest in ham radio. Or, it may be argued that the only houses available require the agreement. But a point was raised that our efforts to get young people interested in ham radio are thwarted by these restrictions. Young-teen potential-ham lives in a house that his parents purchased and is stuck with the rules of the housing covenant!


Maybe the first idea is to subvert or avoid the restrictions by building stealth antennas, attic antennas, indoor antennas and other unconventional antenna systems. This takes the issue into the same realm that apartment dwellers deal with every day.

Since the fundamental issue is real estate, moving the station away from home is a reasonable response. Club stations are kind of rare around here. But who says the radio club is only for drinking coffee and talking? Who says club dues should be $20/year? Start a radio club with 20 friends and charge $100/month dues and you have yourself enough money to buy some property and build an antenna system.

That may leave our youthful beginning hams in a money crunch. So we turn to the old idea of the Radio Elmer. Besides borrowing the Elmer's soldering gun, maybe the beginner could borrow the Elmer's operating position.

With the most recent crop of radios we get into the realm of remote control in a serious fashion. Do you know a ham who has an antenna farm but doesn't operate 24x7? There you have the makings for a remote station. Pool the cost of a modern radio and an internet connection and you are flying.

Finally there is the local park. With a QRP radio, a gel cell and some wire the park could be your regular QTH.

I hope I've given you some ideas. If your station is sitting idle, consider opening it up for some young hams to use during the next contest or invite some over to hit that rare DX. For a little more investment that neighbor kid who is always on the internet could be using your radio to learn CW or work a rare station. If you are in a radio club, think about using the club's resources not just to maintain the 2 meter repeater (one of 20 others in the area?) but to lease a quarter acre of ground for a tower, a Home-Depot shed and a generator. It could be "BYOG", bring your own gas.

Antenna restrictions can't keep a good ham down!

So where should the ARRL apply it's big hammer to this issue? First, I think that a study of the source and nature of antenna restrictions should be done. Do these housing associations use boilerplate language? Where do they obtain it? Can we influence that source? Second, some legal challenges may be in order if we can find test cases. Third, the promotion of alternative station sites, Elmering, subscription stations, rental stations, any other schemes that put antenna resources out there for hams to employ. A simple directory of internet accessible remote stations would be a good start, how about an addition to the affiliated club database that indicates if a club has a club station. And an internet station could use ARRL advertising and directories to bring in new subscribers and members.

I'm kind of excited about some of these ideas. Let me know what you think by posting a comment to this blog entry or send me an email.

73 for now

BARC Hamfest in Longmont, CO this Sunday

I plan to attend the Boulder Amateur Radio Club's annual hamfest at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado this Sunday, September 23rd. I would love to meet you and talk about representing your needs as Vice Director.

See BARCFEST for details about the hamfest.

Of course you are always invited to contact me by email or telephone, or leave a comment on this blog. You can get my email address by following the link at the right to see my profile, look me up on, or just put w0ep with

Election Ethics

In light of the article on the ARRL website posted today, I thought I would talk a little bit about my election strategy and how that fits with the ethics rules.

I really appreciate the election rules that the ARRL has adopted. They seem to be particularly designed to keep incumbents from having an edge over challengers. That is a hard thing for a board to do, and I appreciate the emphasis on the organization above what might be the personal goals of an individual director or vice-director.

My own campaigning so far has been limited to this website, some personal communications with local hams (sometimes over the air, discreetly), and a very small email campaign. I was
hoping to get to some more of the ham club meetings between Cheyenne and Denver to personally introduce myself, but not much of that has happened.

At one time I thought it would be pretty easy to download the FCC database of all amateur radio licensees, do a query for the ones in this division (by state), then send an email for each one to But there are two problems with that idea. The first problem is that it would be a mail-spam operation. I hate spam email. So that would be pretty hypocritical of me to spam all of the ARRL members in the division, and probably counterproductive. The second problem is that it would be using the forwarding facility. One of the rules of the election is that ARRL organizational facilities and assets cannot be used for campaigning purposes.

Well, that does present a problem! A lot of ARRL members use the email forwarding facility. Am I prohibited from sending any email to an address that could be construed as campaign material? I think some clarification is needed in that area! I decided that I would draw the line by not doing a fishing expedition for email addresses on the service. That would probably cause somebody, somewhere to have to intervene and try to clean up a mess (since there would be more bounced messages than good ones it would look like a spam attack or denial of service attack or something). But real addresses that were known to me that happened to be on the service I would go ahead and use. My rationale is that such messages would not be a burden on the facility, would require no person's intervention and not incur some financial obligation to the organization.

I did decide to send out email. What I did is I looked up the section pages for Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah on the ARRL website. I took email addresses directly from those web pages and sent a very short email to those people. I reminded them of the upcoming election and told them I was running and that I had a website they could check out (this blog).
I did a similar thing with the ARRL affiliated club web search facility. I sent an email to the club contacts listed for clubs in these four states. Many of those addresses used the facility.

The issue in the recent article seems to be openness and truthfulness. I've been trying really hard to stick to that. If I can't be truthful during the election than I don't think it will be any easier to do so when/if I get a position of responsibility.

It's not life-or-death to win this election. It's a volunteer position. I think it is desirable because I would like to meet more hams and participate in shaping the policies and direction of the ARRL. I think I have something to contribute in that area. But my opponent in the election is a capable person and it won't be a terrible thing if he gets elected instead of me. The attitude I'm supposed to have is one of service. If you'd rather have his service than mine then part of my service is to make that happen as smoothly and happily as possible.

Notes on Spectrum

Amateur Radio Spectrum

I appreciate the efforts of the ARRL on behalf of all amateurs to aggressively represent our interests in front of the FCC in regards to radio spectrum assignments.

Radio spectrum is a shared national resource. As radio amateurs we have been allocated some of that resource for the advancement of the radio art, for community service and for our own enjoyment. It is always in our own best interest to use the spectrum efficiently, with decorum and with a level of humility for being allocated a chunk of a national resource. It is kind of like getting to be the keepers of a large national park. Surely a park ranger wouldn't throw his gum wrapper on the ground; radio amateurs should have a similar appreciation for their position.

So I see the issues of spectrum protection and rules enforcement as intertwined and mutually supporting.

Take the issue of BPL for example. The ARRL has taken a leadership role in describing to the FCC what the implications are of an unregulated or misregulated BPL industry. That is of importance not only to radio amateurs but to broadcast, emergency service and business band users. Ultimately the developers of BPL, the investors, the customers, the whole industry will be better served because the ARRL has stepped up. Because we take the high road, amateur radio has the ability to present a respected opinion.

That's the reason we don't want "lids" on the air: because it erodes the respect that has been built up over decades. I'm proud to have an amateur radio license. Not because I'm smart or can take a test but because there is a tradition and an expectation of quality that goes with the license.

What I Can Offer

What I Can Offer

So what talents, skills or gifts do I have that might make me a good Vice Director of the Rocky Mountain Division of the ARRL?

I have good communications skills. You can evaluate that claim as you look through this blog. I enjoy working with people. I don't mind public speaking. I have experience leading meetings and committees, keeping things focused and moving forward. I enjoy learning and I appreciate good teachers. I appreciate traditions and history, but I also see that we can't move forward if we are always engrossed with the past.

I have a wide range of interest within amateur radio. Maybe you know someone who is a hardcore DXer, contester, microwaver, builder, EMCOMM-er, PSKer, WinLinker, FMer, ... I like radio, learning about electronics and trying new modes and bands, putting those things to use for my own enjoyment and to serve my community. I think most hams are like me, they have a wide range of interests and they want the system to accommodate that wide range not just the specialists.

I am a fresh face. The other people in this election are all more experienced than I am with the inner workings of the ARRL and its sections and divisions. I will have a fresh look at how things are done. But I'm also not a revolutionary. I generally am happy with the ARRL and what it has done for me. I'd like to keep that level of satisfaction.

I am centrally located. For the last few years we haven't had a director or vice director from Colorado. As I was thinking about participating in this election I wondered why the large population of hams in Colorado wouldn't want someone from their area on the board. If elected I plan to serve the whole division not just Colorado. But I think having representation from the biggest concentration of hams is a good thing.

My biggest asset is that I'm willing to serve. Some people reading this blog would probably make much better leaders than I would. But I've decided to pitch in, participate, give it a go. I want the ARRL to continue to be an organization that radio amateurs are proud of, that the FCC respects, that is a leader in the international telecommunications world. And I'm willing to read your emails and take your phone calls and try to represent your concerns to the leadership of the ARRL, the HQ staff and anyone else.

My Vision of the ARRL - part 2

Regulations and the FCC

I really appreciate the leadership role that the ARRL serves in representing ham radio to the FCC and international government bodies. It really does work. Personally, I wouldn't have known anything about BPL if it weren't for those sharp-eyed FCC watchers at the ARRL who keep up with all of this.

I appreciate the ARRL spectrum defense efforts, including the fund raising program.

Testing and Licensing

As I mentioned, I think HF operation is the real attraction of amateur radio and I think the recent removal of the morse code proficency requirement will help get more new hams on the HF bands. I love morse code. I started and lead a VHF morse code practice net in our area, carried on weekly morse code practice for a number of years. I'm not a code-hater, I'd just like to see more people get to enjoy the historical heart of ham radio.

Code proficiency did act as a higher hurdle for licensing. It was really the only hands-on part of the examination, something you couldn't get from memorizing the question pool. I'd like to see something replace the code test in this area. I think an operating proficiency segment would be good. Maybe a computer simulated QSO could be used to demonstrate simple things like knowing how to tune in a sideband signal, how to recognize some of the common digital modes, how to operate a radio in receive mode. Maybe it could be just a certificate from another licensed ham which declares that yes, this candidate knows something about how to get on the air.

I appreciate the ARRL's leadership in the testing and licensing process. I'd like to see more recognition for volunteer examiners and the work they do.


The ARRL recently withdrew a proposal to the FCC to rework the bandplan based on signal bandwidth. I applaud the effort and the openness of the process, and the willingness to take a step back and work things out a little more. It's going to be a difficult issue. I think we should continue moving forward with this issue in a deliberate and open process.

Finances and HQ Operations

I have no inside information on the finances, membership, employee satisfaction or other metrics concerning ARRL operations. My experience dealing with ARRL headquarters has always been pleasant. I expect there are people less enthusiastic than myself. Let's just say that I'm not running a "throw the bums out" campaign. I am interested in seeing that funds continue to be used efficiently to promote the interests of the membership.

Logbook of the World has been very successful as a member service. It is an indication that the ARRL is forward thinking and not too bound by tradition. I see these kinds of projects as a health indicator not just for the ARRL as an operational organization but for amateur radio as a forward looking activity.

My Vision of the ARRL - part 1

My Vision of the ARRL

I'm not sure that's really the right way to put it. My vision is to serve the members of the ARRL not to dive in and remake it to fit me.

Youth in Radio

I think the ARRL needs to be active in trying to get new members, particularly younger people. I'm 45 years old (and I can't stand rap music) so my vision in that regard has to be taken with a grain of salt. My kids are in their teens and they aren't much interested in ham radio. But then neither was I when I was their age. Somehow the magic of radio bit me as I approached 40. For others it happens a different way. One key I think is to get people on HF not just on VHF or UHF FM. Don't get me wrong, I like the local modes through the repeaters, the ready conversation with people I can meet face to face. But I think the really interesting stuff is cross cultural connections on HF. As the sunspot cycle comes back up I would like to see more non-contest venues for new hams to have DX ragchewing. My kids aren't going to meet someone from Belarus on their cell phone. But they can do that with ham radio!

Public Service

Public service is a hot topic these days. The ARRL has been a focal point and connection between amateur radio and various served agencies. That needs to keep happening. Issues like the Red Cross wanting background checks... we need people who can connect with the served agencies at a national level and let them know what we have to offer. I think the ARRL has been doing a good job of that and I plan to encourage it.

I think there is a real attraction for youth in public service activities too, particularly local events like races, runs and parades, things that don't require six months of EMCOM training but will give them an important job that is appreciated.

Where I'm Going

Where I'm Going

I've really had a growing interest in electronics. You have to realize that I've been a computer guy all of my career not an electrical engineer. My electronics training has all been through ham radio. I read books, I subscribe to QEX and I read both QEX and QST from cover to cover every issue. About half of the stuff in QEX goes sailing over my head but it sure is interesting.

The articles that really tweak my interest are the guys who build complete HF radios of their own design, from scratch. Wow. Maybe someday I can do that. I'm slowly making my way through Experimental Methods in RF Design

Over the last few years I've learned a lot and I have a long way to go. I'm intrigued by software defined radio. I have a little bit of interest in digital modes, but I really like the simplicity of good old analog CW rigs. I've done a little bit with PIC microcontrollers and DDS stuff.

Despite my less-than-contest antenna setups I always love doing the ARRL CW sweepstakes. Maybe someday I'll get a clean sweep!

About two years ago I inherited a large homebrew AM transmitter basket case. I spent a long time figuring out how it all fit together, cataloging the circuits and the interconnections. I eventually got the thing on the air. For the old timers: It is a pair of 250TH tubes modulated by 2 pair of 813s (I did say large!). That has been the focal point for my "hollow state" education. I have not yet built my own HF amplifier, but someday I'm gonna.