Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Opposition - Richard Norton, WM6M

Richard Norton, WM6M

12603 Carinthia Drive

Whittier, Ca 90601

January 16, 2008

George Valverde, Director
Department of Motor Vehicles
Fax: (916) 657-7393

Assembly Member Charles M. Calderon (CA)
Fax: 916-319-2158

Senator Ronald S. 'Ron' Calderón (CA)
Fax: 916-327-8755

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA)
Fax: 916-445-4633

Dale E. Bonner
(CA) Secretary of Business, Housing, and Transportation
Fax: 916-323-5400

Senator Alan Lowenthal, Chair
Transportation & Housing Committee
Fax: (562) 495-1876

Subject: No Space in Ham Plates


I am writing in response to the unacceptable position taken by the California Department of Motor Vehicles where the DMV is violating Section 5005 of the California Vehicle Code. It is clear to anyone reading Section 5005 of the CVC, which states in part, “…in lieu of the numbers otherwise prescribed by law, shall display the official amateur radio station call letters of the applicant as assigned by the Federal Communications Commission.” The official amateur radio station call letters do not contain a space. Anyone who has ever used a computer keyboard, or even a typewriter, knows full well that a space is a character. The decision to insert a space is as invalid as a decision to insert a “Z” or a “9”. I am very strongly suggesting, in fact demanding, that the California DMV immediately recall these plates and issue new plates in compliance with CVC Section 5005.

I am aware of the statement by MARIO BALBIANI, Program Manager, Registration Policy Development, Department of Motor Vehicles Registration Operations Division which in which he says “The Department has been issuing HAM license plates since 1953 when the statute was first enacted. The placement or spacing of letters and numbers composed of the HAM license was originally determined by the FCC. Although the department is required by law to issue HAM license plates with specific call letters, spacing is not addressed in the statute and the department can exercise its administrative authority in this regard.

The Department adopted the spacing in order for law enforcement to differentiate between HAM license plates and other series license plates. Unlike other states, California does not distinguish the HAM license plates with a symbol or wording indicating the plate is a HAM plate.” In his statement he first expresses and opinion which is not supported by the Vehicle Code and then not only describes the real problem but the obvious disregard for the real solution, which is to apply a symbol or wording to indicate that the plate is a ham (Amateur Radio Operator) plate.

I am not the most creative person around, but keeping in mind that Amateur Radio Operator callsigns never contain fewer than four or more than six characters I can think of at least five easy solutions which not only eliminate the violation of CVC 5005 but also enhance the Amateur Radio Operator license plate:

1. Many current plates have silkscreened backgrounds such as the “Whale Tail” plates. It would be simple to use existing DMV technology to silkscreen a scene or even the words “Amateur Radio Operator” on the plate. An added benefit of this technology is that it would support multiple plates for multiple vehicles owned by the same Amateur Radio Operator with a “dash number” or “sub number”

2. California has introduced special symbols on the “Kids” plates, although I would not know how to keyboard the heart or hand, maybe using the asterisk for the star and the plus sign is easily understood. Apply that technology to add a symbol – the lightning bolt is almost universal – in the first position (NOT IN THE MIDDLE) of the Amateur Radio Operator license plate and then center the callsign over the remaining six positions on the plate.

3. Using the “letter over letter” technology used for the Olympic plates put the letters “A R” vertically in the first position and then center the callsign over the remaining six positions on the plate.

4. Use the technology behind the Dealer plate where the bottom of the plate is embossed with “Dealer” and the official license number is centered on the plate (note that there is no space in this officially issued number). An added benefit of this technology is that it too would support multiple plates with a “dash number” or “sub number”

5. Use the technology from the Firefighter plate with a nice silkscreen in the first character position and the callsign centered over the remaining six character positions.

I am forced to question, if I can come up with at least five solutions, and the 49 other states plus the District of Columbia can get it right, why can’t California? Since I was a little kid, quite a few years ago, my mother taught me the “two wrongs do not make a right”. Why is “two wrongs” now the policy of California?

Speaking of other states, most other states are ahead of California in the respect they show for mobile Amateur Radio Operators. Most charge a lower fee for these plates, and many states do not charge at all. Many states recognize these plates almost like a pass to get through police and fire lines to assist in emergency situations. Some states grant other special privileges such as the explicit authorization to monitor police and fire radio frequencies, again recognizing the service provided by hams. In terms of the assistance provided by hams, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department estimates that the direct support was $4,559,360 of free service to the citizens of Los Angeles County for 2007. That does not include direct support to the various cities within the county nor does it recognize that the figure is for labor only. It does not include the radio (and other) equipment, vehicles, fuel and other expenses, or the training and experience the hams brought with them. I shudder to think what would happen if the hams in California decided to treat the state with the same level of respect shown by the state to the hams. Perhaps Mr. Balbiani could sharpen his pencil and draft a letter to the Governor and Legislature that in these critical economic times the state needs to fins another billion (billion with a “B”) for manpower, equipment, vehicles, training and so forth to support the state and local emergency operations.

Finally, I would like to address the personal nature of the Amateur Radio Operator callsign. The word “unique” means one of a kind. My name, Richard Norton, is not unique. In fact, many of you may have already heard from Richard Norton, N6AA. I am a different Richard Norton, WM6M. In California license plate numbers are unique. Social Security numbers are unique only within the United States. Amateur Radio Operator callsigns are unique, period. Governed by international treaty, there is not another WM6M in the world. As such, these callsigns are very personal. Any attempt to monkey with them, especially in violation of statutes, becomes very personal. I invite any or all of you to poll some or all of the nearly 100,000 licensed hams in California and ask them how they feel about their callsigns. Come to think of it, if Mr. Balbini had asked even one ham we would not be in this mess, which has been carried nationally by the Amateur Radio Community exposing the country’s 675,000 hams to the inability of California to get it right.

Please assist in doing whatever it takes to fix this mess and issue plates that address the needs expressed by Mr. Balbiani while respecting the hams and their legal callsigns. I would expect the DMV to declare invalid all plates issued with a space and reissue at no charge correct and legal plates. Should this state join other states in issuing distinctive plates for Amateur Radio Operators I would expect that the DMV would be prepared to reissue distinctive plates for a very nominal fee to any ham wishing to upgrade existing plates. I also would like to see not only the correction to the DMV’s thinking expedited, but also the reissuance of plates expedited.

Thank you, and 73 (that’s ham-speak for “Best wishes),

Richard Norton, WM6M

(NOT Richa rd Nort on WM6 M)

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