Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chicago FM Club Misleads Elmwood Park Newspaper, Public

The Chicago FM Club states to be an amateur radio club. They boast to be the largest club around, but all a person has to do is listen to their repeater systems, attend a few meetings / club events, look at the CFMC roster, and it suddenly becomes clear that CFMC is a political club disguised as a radio club.

Field day is the largest, most active event in the United States for amateur radio operators who usually take their equipment to parks with their clubs and operate on emergency power. Field Day operators also operate from their homes using normal power supplied from their homes and there is an ARRL classification for those operations as well. Those field day stations operating out in the open air usually have a GOTA station, a CW station, a Digital station, some have satellite operations happening, and all sorts of other radio neatness.

Recently, CFMC caught the attention of the Elm Leaves for their field day event. All you have to do is read the article to see misrepresentations & exaggerations. The Elm Leaves is a newspaper based out of the Chicago suburbs and is a company of Sun Times Media.

ShortWaveAmerica is going to debunk the statements made by CFMC members in the article one at a time, and then follow up with other facts about this organization.

Statement One:  "It's always the last weekend in June," said Mike Brost of Norridge, a member of the amateur radio club. "It's a global thing. New Zealand, Australia, China, Germany, Canada -- the entire world is on the radio.

Reality of Statement One: Field Day is not intended as a DX event. Never has been, and never will be. The ARRL does not give clubs nor individual operators any point multipliers for DX stations. Field Day is a U.S. event disguised as an emergency operations readiness drill but, is really just a contest similar to the other ARRL sponsored contests.

Statement Two: "This is our staging area," said Rick Duel of Chicago about the gazebo at the park. "We've been here six or seven years now."

Statement Two Reality: Field Day doe snot involve any staging areas. This is whacker speak to sound and look important. In amateur radio lingo, a whacker is someone who gets involved in emergency communications and uses it to look more important than they really are. Another reality of this is that CFMC has not been at an Elmwood Park site or any site with a gazebo for six or seven years. In fact, CFMC has had up to three field day sites with one site having been in or around Niles, Il on the property of a public works facility.

 Statement Three: The radio group uses the event to help stress emergency preparedness. And most of the operations use generators to power ham radios.

Statement Three Reality: Anyone who has witnessed a CFMC field day knows for certain that any generator usage gets shut down as soon as the media and the public are gone, and overnight operations begin. This means that CFMC goes to the usage of near-by power sources from a 120VAC plug.

Statement Four: "We're simulating a communications exercise among other hams," said Bob Odrowski of Palatine. "In any emergency event where there's a major power outage, the police departments and the fire department may not be able to communicate. During (Hurricane) Katrina, most of the communication was done by ham radio operators."

Statement Four Reality: A close examination of our nation's emergency communications plan shows that emergency responders have their own communications equipment that has more advanced technological features that are not very likely to fail, and if they did...hams would not be the ones called into action. There are internal policies about who a public safety department contacts in the event of a communications failure, and it's always going to be a radio tech. Police & Fire Unions forbid anyone not on their approved list of service providers to do anything at all, period! Hams did provide comms during Katrina, that is true.

Statement Five:  "A lot of us have (ham) radios in the car," Brost said. "When I was driving through Wyoming and Colorado, I could talk to South America and Spain from my car."

Statement Five Reality: Brost admits in this statement that he performs distracted driving, which is against the law in every U.S. State. Keeping an eye on one's driving is more important than talking to someone on a radio, and may even save a life. Don't drive and perform other actions, it just doesn't make sense.

Statement Six:  "It's really amazing who you meet," Duel said. "King Hussein of Jordan was a ham radio operator. So was Barry Goldwater, when he was alive. John Bon Jovi and Joe Walsh are, too."

Statement Six Reality: King Hussein was a radio operator, this is true. Bon Jovi and Mr. Walsh? Nope! None of those two gentlemen even know what amateur radio is! Conversations were had with Mr. Bon Jovi and Mr. Walsh back in the mid nineteen nineties and both men said they have no time for playing radio due to the realities of their own lives. Both men stated they have never held amateur radio licenses at any time. Today, there is no trace of them in the FCC ULS database where FCC licenses are stored for the public to view.

Statement Seven: Operating a ham radio goes hand in hand with storm watching, weather spotting and tornado chasing, said Tina Odrowski.  

Statement Seven Reality: No, it doesn't. All of these activities are the same thing. Tina had no clue what she was talking about here. Amateur Radio Operators do not "chase tornadoes", they volunteer their time for the National Weather Service after receiving storm spotter training. The National Weather Service decides when to activate their spotters. Not every spotter is a licensed amateur.  Licensed amateurs are a small portion of the storm spotter communiyt and are usually looked at as a joke.

Statement Eight:
"Doppler radar is limited," she said. "In some cases, it can't see the storm, where people on the ground can. "And that's really important to know when the (National) Weather Service is trying to determine what type of warning to put out." "Ninety-nine percent of the time, a storm watcher is also an amateur radio operator," Bob Odrowski said.

Statement Eight Reality:

The NWS can see everything in the sky just fine with their equipment! NWS equipment cannot see from the ground to a certain portion of the lower atmosphere, which is why teh NWS uses spotters. Doppler Radar, Satellite Imaging, and all of the other NWS tools work just fine and the fact needs to be known that Storm Spotters are not trained meterologists, although some of these people think they are. T%he NWS knows quite well what warnings and watches they need to put out and they do it BEFORE activating spotters and without the help of spotters. Again, not all spotters are amateur operators. Ninety Nine percent of the time, a person who spots a true danger isn't even a trained spotter. Other times, severe threats are spotted by municipal public safety personnel. Spotters use a combination of cellular telephone, E-Spotter, 911 calls, but the amateur radio involvement is a rather small portion of the spotter community. Those spotters who are licensed amateurs are outnumbered by other spotters who are not licensed amateurs.

Statement Nine:

Duel noted Chicago FM was the first club to operate a repeater for a Spanish club.
"We're the single biggest, and one of the oldest clubs, in the Chicago area," he said. "We have 250 members. We're like a social club with radios. We like having a good time in our own way."

Statement Nine Reality: CFMC created a division among local amateur operators with this spanish group because very few of these guys speak english and the FCC requires them to identify in english which they never do. CFMC is not a radio club although their state charter says they are. An in-depth examination of CFMC shows that the organization is a political / social club made up of older males who all come from municipal public safety departments, broadcast TV / Radio, Transportation such as CTA workers and truck drivers to include tow truck operators / employees and others who are senior or tenured union employees. All of these individuals have far reaching city, state, and federal connections that may possibly be highly inappropriate.

CFMC has a history of financial files that disappear but then magically re-appear when consequences loom. CFMC also applied to become a FCC VEC (Volunteer Examination Coordinator) and the FCC flatly refused to have them.CFMC has a stronghold on local amateur radio testing, a questionable practice. Over a period of years, CFMC has built an empire centered around their repeater systems which are almost exclusively used by organization board members, their close friends in the organization who have special permission to operate the system,  and "jammers" who use shocking language and engage in other FCC prohibited activities. This has always posed a problem for members who pay dues to the organization for "membership" but get denied the benefits of their dues per the organization's corporate constitution. CFMC has a past of deciding when and to whom their corporate constitution applies. There is existing documentation to prove this.

CFMC has a history of turning away newly licensed hams as members because of the organization's unwritten rule about not letting outsiders in. The organization is made up of older males who have known each other for more than 30 years and they thrive on exclusivity between themselves and their specially approved others.

Statement Ten: "And among us, we have a wealth of information," Prize said.

Statement Ten Reality: The wealth of information Prize refers to is held in strict confidence among board members and specially approved CFMC "members".  Amateur Radio technical knowledge is not something CFMC helps anyone learn. CFMC's mentality is that you should already be an electronics expert BEFORE you join them or even obtain an amateur license. Something referred to as "elmering" is not going to happen.

Statement Eleven: Brost said club members come from different backgrounds and bring different experiences.

Statement Eleven Reality: Read Statement Nine Reality.

Statement Twelve: "We can communicate with the military," he said.

Statement Twelve Reality: No, you can't. Amateur Operators cannot operate outside of the license classes they earn at their testing sessions. The FCC has set aside frequencies for the amateur radio bands and the military does not use them. Amateurs do not conduct military operations or communications. NTIA has frequencies for military operations and communications, used strictly for and by the military. MARS is not an active organization and was recently threatened with "Sunset". A lack of new MARS membership and lack of interest from current membership is placing MARS in grave danger. MARS frequencies are not any secret to anyone, and if you listen, you'll not hear any amount of MARS activity at all.

Statement Thirteen: "Amateur radio is not just a hobby, it's a service. We're able to link radios, like we did during Katrina, so we could cover the entire state of Louisiana." "And you can also turn it into a trade, a profession," he said. "There's a huge demand for this niche market for people who have that skill." "A lot of the electronic engineers are getting old and retiring," Duel said. "Companies need people to replace them."   

Statement Thirteen Reality: The FCC has stated that amateur radio is NOT a service in the respect that these CFMC members are speaking in. The FCC has made it quite clear that amateur radio is for HOBBY use only! Duel's comment about using an amateur radio license to gain employment is way off the mark. Part 97, section 97.113 and all of it's subsections in all of it's language spells out that no amateur radio licensee may receive payment for station operation, may not receive gifts for station operation, and may not use an amateur radio license for anything other than the operation of an amateur station.

Duel implies that technical skills are learned in amateur radio and this just isn't true. The study books have the questions and answers in them for each license class. Those electronics engineers who are retiring are being replaced with computers and other cheap technology that gets thrown away and bought again new when it fails. No techs are used to fix anything anymore due to the cost. Maintenance costs more than buying a new toy to run an operation.

This article has laid out the truth of the CFMC organization and how they misled the Elmwood Park Media and therefore, the readers of the public.

Update 9/11/2010: since this article was published at SWA, it has been observed that the article SWA linked to at the Elm Leaves on-line publication has been pulled. Attempts to reach the writer for the Elm Leaves have been unsuccessful.  Threatening / slanderous comments on this SWA post have been removed. SWA chooses to keep this publication civil, and moderates comments toward that goal. Unlike certain amateur radio forums, SWA does not allow trolls, slander, defamation, libel, etc.