A Brief History of ABATE of Colorado
by former State Coordinator Mark Buckner, written in September, 1995
ABATE of Colorado was incorporated on August 3, 1983 in Sterling, Colorado. Sterling's District 1 held their first meeting on August 21st of that year and quickly grew from 83 original members to about 150 members by the fall. February of 1984 saw Districts 2 and 3 open in Colorado Springs and Ft. Collins respectively, followed in April by District 4 in Craig. Denver's District 5 opened in the fall of 1984, Salida's District 6 in March of 1985, and Pueblo's District 7 in December of 1985. This group made up the original districts of ABATE of Colorado. All of them except District 5 folded over the next thirty months due to internal strife, problems related to the direction the organization was taking, and lack of effective leadership. Since that time, ABATE Districts 2, 6 and 7 have been reorganized.
The early years were heady times for the organization, as ABATE grew from those original 83 members to approximately 600 members by 1986. Along with the dramatic increase in membership, ABATE was working on introducing the first rider education bill in Colorado, and was getting some very positive feedback from the legislature. That early rider ed bill was the forerunner for what eventually became the State of Colorado=s existing rider education program.
ABATE was involved in some highly successful events, and had a number of people working as rider education instructors in the Sterling area. Looking back, it seems that all of this success should have put ABATE in a very favorable position for years to come. However, what came next was anything but successful.
After 1986, things started to unravel. Two events contributed heavily to the near destruction of ABATE in 1987, those being the "Coming Together West of the Mississippi" conference (which was loosely patterned after the MRF's "Meeting of the Minds"), and a bungled bike raffle. The conference, which was hosted by ABATE and held in the Denver metro area in the spring of 1987, was highly successful from an attendance and a results standpoint. Unfortunately, it was also a financial disaster as ABATE lost thousands of dollars in putting the conference on. Questions had already begun to arise about financial mismanagement within the organization, and the conference didn't do anything to dispel those feelings.
During the same time frame, ABATE was involved in a bike raffle that was doomed to failure from the beginning. First off, the organization didn't have a raffle license (a slight problem in the eyes of the Secretary of State's office!), and as it turned out, we didn't have the bike either. Originally, the bike was to have been purchased with the proceeds from ticket sales. This approach is highly illegal, and was a huge mistake on the part of ABATE's leadership. According to state law, an organization must first own the raffle item outright before any tickets can be sold, yet tickets were sold all over the state at $5.00 each on a bike ABATE never owned. These problems were subsequently straightened out with the Secretary of State's office.
As the expenses for the "Coming Together West of the Mississippi" conference climbed, moneys raised by raffle ticket sales were used to cover those expenses instead of being held to cover the cost of the bike. For the record, ABATE was planning to buy the bike from Freedom Harley_Davidson in Denver. Stories have surfaced over the years that the bike was to come from Rocky Mountain H_D, and that the bike was to be given to ABATE instead of purchased outright. Neither of those stories is true. ABATE had planned to buy the bike from Freedom H_D all along.
In any case, when it came time to give the bike away, ABATE didn't have it. As you can imagine, there were people who were more than a little upset with ABATE over this turn of events. Although the organization offered to refund the $5.00 to anyone who came forward with a raffle ticket, there weren=t many takers. Most people figured it wasn't worth their time. The bad publicity ABATE received due to this raffle drove more and more people away and contributed to the closure of several districts. These and other problems, like the majority of District 3 resigning their membership en masse, just added fuel to an already raging fire. Nobody was taking ABATE seriously, and it took years to overcome the negative image many people had of the organization.
By early 1989, things hadn't improved much, and ABATE was on the brink of extinction. Meeting attendance and membership numbers were only slightly better than they had been sixteen months earlier, and even though a small group of officers was trying to keep things together, ABATE was losing ground faster than we were making it up. These were very frustrating times.
In mid_1989, a dedicated handful of members decided they would not let ABATE die, and that they would make it into an organization Colorado bikers could be proud of. In order to understand what it was this group was trying to accomplish, we must realize that ABATE's credibility at this time was non_existent. The shops didn't know us (or didn't care to), the independents didn't know us (or what they did know they didn't like), and the clubs who knew us didn't want anything to do with us. As if things weren't bad enough, ABATE was also flat broke. At one point in time we had to pass the hat at a District 5 meeting due to the fact that ABATE's entire treasury stood at a minus $25.00. Being that broke _ and having zero credibility _ meant that instead of starting out on a level playing field, ABATE was about five and a half feet under. The good news was, the organization had nowhere to go but up.
There's something about being in a spot like that, backed against a wall, that brings out the best in people. There's a get tough, take care of business mentality that kicks in, and the attitude and focus of those members who had decided to salvage ABATE changed almost overnight. Instead of looking over their shoulders and expecting the worst, the group began to attack the problems facing the organization head on. It was understood that in order to gain back some of the credibility that had been lost, ABATE would have to perform on a consistent basis, year in and year out, and prove to Colorado bikers that the organization was serious about protecting their freedoms. One year, two year, and five year plans were formulated for the organization, and ABATE began tracking progress of those plans.
From mid_1989 through mid_1991, ABATE held its own and began to rebuild. A Shop Awareness program aimed at getting ABATE information out to as many bikers as possible began to have a positive effect, and membership numbers increased at a slow but steady rate. In October of 1989, District 2 was reorganized in Colorado Springs, and two months later District 13 was organized in the Longmont area. In 1989, ABATE started working closely with the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and got serious about legislative issues for the first time in several years. In 1990, with the help of a grant from the Jan Marie Leslie Foundation, ABATE opened its rider education program at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton. In June of 1991, ABATE was able to send two officers to Washington, DC to lobby against federal blackmail provisions regarding helmet laws. From 1991 to the present, ABATE of Colorado has continued to improve and is now a strong voice for Colorado bikers, particularly in the legislative arena. During these years Districts 6 and 7 were reorganized in Leadville and Pueblo, and new districts opened in Durango (D8), Canon City (D9), Aurora/Bennett (D10), Buena Vista (D11), Woodland Park (D12), Summit County (D14), Trinidad (D15) and Evergreen (D16). ABATE has approximately 2,000 members as of this writing, and counts many state and federal legislators among that group.
In May of 1994, ABATE began operating a bingo game in Lakewood, Colorado to help further the goals of the organization, and to support ABATE's Rider Education Division. ABATE of Colorado=s Rider Education Division consistently trains more students than any other program in the state, and with the opening in 1995 of a dedicated rider education facility at Denver=s old Stapleton Airport, ABATE of Colorado became the owner of one of only five such facilities in the nation.
Today, ABATE members regularly help out on the campaigns of biker friendly legislators. That involvement, coupled with long hours of voluntary lobbying for the rights of Colorado motorcyclists, has paid off in a big way. ABATE of Colorado is one of the most respected groups in the state in the eyes of our state legislators in both the House and the Senate. On May 8, 1995 at the end of the 1995 legislative session, State Representative Alice Nichol presented ABATE with a Colorado state flag and a U.S. flag which had been flown over the state capitol. Those two flags and an accompanying plaque are proudly displayed at ABATE's rider education facility. Representative Don Armstrong also acknowledged ABATE on that day, as did the rest of the members of the House, by giving ABATE of Colorado an ovation from the House floor.
District History (Updated Jan, 2007):
District 1 Sterling Organized in 1983; folded 1987; reorganized 2003.
District 2 Colorado Springs Organized in 1983; folded 1986; reorganized 1989.
District 3 Ft. Collins Organized in 1984; folded 1987; has not been reorganized.
District 4 Craig Organized in 1984; folded 1986; has not been reorganized.
District 5 Denver Organized in 1984.
District 6 Leadville Organized in Salida in 1985; folded 1986; reorganized 1992, folded 2007
District 7 Pueblo Organized in 1985; folded 1986; reorganized 1991.
District 8 Durango Organized in 1992.
District 9 Canon City Organized in 1992, folded 2007
District 10 Aurora / Bennett Organized in 1992.
District 11 Buena Vista Organized in 1992.
District 12 Woodland Park/Divide Organized in 1992. Folded 2006
District 13 Boulder County Organized in 1989.
District 14 Summit County Organized in 1993.
District 15 Trinidad Organized in 1994.
District 16 Evergreen Organized in 1994.
District 17 Southeast Denver Organized in 1995
District 18 LaJunta Organized in 1996
District 19 Pagosa Springs Organized in 2001
District 20 San Luis Valley Organized in 2001
District 21 Georgetown Organized in 2003
District 22 Grand Junction Organized in 2003
District 23 Elizabeth Organized in 2005 Folded 2006
Listing of ABATE of Colorado State Coordinators to date:
George Katein, Sr. _ 8/93 _ early 1984
Dick Cucarola: Early 1984 _ 6/85
John Freeman: 6/85 _ 7/87
J.W. Brattain: 7/87 _ 11/87
Wolf Apodaca: 11/87 _ 12/87
No State Coordinator held office from December 1987 through March 1988.
E.J. James: 3/88 _ 7/88
Pat Smith: 7/88 _ 2/91
Mark Buckner: 2/91 _ 11/94
Maggot Mike Williams: 11/94 _ 6/99
Deb Craig: 7/99 - 12/03
Terry Howard: 1/04 to present