Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Coop Kohli, AU Lakes Zone Director                         September 18, 2017


The AU Ladies National Auxiliary for years made the AU Scholarship Fund a principle part of its program, and for years the AU made an annual donation to the fund to support it. However, as the sport aged, it became increasingly difficult for NLA to maintain its own membership, and in 2014, the group approached AU President Tom Coletti seeking a commitment from the AU to take over the scholarship program, as the group had plans to disband. Funds for scholarship in past years came from bird sales, auctions, and other functions organized by the ladies themselves, but with its declining membership, staffers were being over-worked,volunteers were hard to find, and contributions were declining. At the same time, a number of regional groups began organizing their own auxiliaries and scholarships, cutting into funding sources.

$12000 in Scholarship assistance 
has been passed out by the AU since 2014.

Clearly committed to the mission of ensuring that the AU assists AU youth as they pursue their educational and professional goals, AU President Tom Coletti assured the officers of the NLA that while he was President he would see to it that the AU managed the Scholarship program and its mission of making financial contributions to deserving youth.

To that end, a new AU committee was formed, and Ron Pairan eagerly agreed to lead as Chairman, falling back on his professional expertise for 34 years as an Educator and Youth Guidance Counselor. It was decided that three (3) scholarships would be awarded each year. An application process was put in place, criteria was developed, and the first applications were received in 2016, when a total of 16 applications were received by the June 1 deadline. Educational interests ranged from attending medical school, traveling nursing, veterinary medicine to forensic accounting.

Applications are weighted, based on need, a demonstration of youth giving back to their
Chairman Ron Pairan uses his
34 year as a youth guidance
counselor to supervise the
awarding of AU scholarships.
communities, and leadership. Applicants must be 23 years of age or younger, and must be pigeon flyers, or relatives of pigeon flyers.  Applicants must provide proof of having at least a B average, must provide a personal biography, a photo, and a resume that explains their goals, community involvement and achievements.

In 2017, twenty-four applications have been received, a fifty (50%) increase in participation. To date, the AU is proud to say that the good work of the AU NLA is being continued, and that a total of six (6) scholarships have been awarded, each in the amount of $2000, to applicants from Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kansas and Massachusetts.

The scholarship application and criteria are featured each quarter in the AU Updates and annual Yearbook. Applications are due each year by June 1, and all applications are given careful consideration. Winners are selected and announced in the Fall of each year. Checks are sent to recipients upon proof of enrollment.

Scholarships mean everything to students struggling to pay for higher education. In my own case, I have a daughter that recently graduated from Northwestern University with a Phd. She got very little help from me, but worked very hard, risked everything, secured every scholarship she had access to, and found a way to make her dream come to fruition. Although she did not participate in this program, these small scholarships may help some struggling student, like my daughter, bide their time in the pursuit of a dream.  I am glad the AU feels a need to be there for students.

I Am Betty Logan.


Betty Logan would just love to talk to those folks that think all the AU does is just sell bands. “We try to be pretty motivated in this office, and it kills me to think someone we know would think of our mission that way. I am the Office Manager of your AU office, and I take your feelings about our work seriously.”

Lets start with this. On Betty’s first day on the job, Monday, May 3, 1999, an F5 tornado tore this place apart. After her day at work, the building disappeared. “Everything was gone. We started over”, she said. “But we put the place back together again, better than ever. How many of you even knew what we went through? We got ripped apart, and put it back so smoothly, you barely noticed.  That’s what we try to do on a regular basis. If we do our jobs right, you shouldn't even know we exist.”

Now, Betty wants you to know what she does for you every day of the week, (and she wants someone to share it with those clubs that think we only sell bands). “I love this job, the people I work with, and this crazy, beautiful sport. My sole purpose here is to help each one of you to maximize your enjoyment of your hobby. Now, this is what I do”:

•I focus on customer service, and in case there is any confusion, you are my customer. I know I need my customers. I love my customers. I hope you sense that when we visit on the phone.

•I retrieve, and answer many voice mails and emails sent to our office switchboard. Communication is the essence of good customer service. I never forget this, and I am good at this.

•I create invoices, statements, payment receipts and credit memos. Nothing in my own world bothers me like invoices done incorrectly. I work very hard on accuracy.

•I do data entry in our 10,000+ member data base. “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. We don’t do garbage in this office, or on my watch.

•I send out quarterly membership renewal letters. This is very important. We have got to have members. I also know you are very busy. I keep after this by keeping after you. I want you to keep coming back.

•I prepare and send out membership cards. It is a confirmation that we are doing things right, and I like that feeling.

• I fill and send out all mail-orders (bands, diplomas, t-shirts, hats, posters, prints, bumper stickers, WinSpeed programs). This is one of the more enjoyable parts of my job. We want you to buy more of this product. It helps us promote the sport. I stay on top of it.

• I post payments and attach copies of payments to invoices.  Money is another area that demands accuracy. (Don’t we know!)

• I file. This I hate to do, but no snowflakes work in this office.  We do things that must be done, on time. No crying about it. I export and merge files for mailings and label orders, and process all out-going mail. I don’t really like doing that either!

• I keep a registry of ARPU band numbers (95,000 pieces), and I keep it up to date, and I keep it right. We sell 950,000 bands.

• I track band numbers for lost and found birds. This is a big job, and ties into our PR work in our communities regarding reacting quickly to lost bird calls. This is important work in our effort to stay ahead of animal rights groups.

• I keep the log of registered WinSpeed users. This is important because AU members paid for this program with their dues money.
This is the property of AU members. We need to know where it pops up illegally.

• I prepare and mail information packets when they are requested.  I understand that sport promotion is critical. I try to do my part in your effort to recruit members.

• I prepare documents and club packets for annual renewal, oversee the inventory of band orders, and prepare orders for shipping. Dates on this activity are time sensitive. I’m on top of it.

• I am responsible for ordering equipment maintenance and equipment supplies, office supplies and inventory items.

•I create and prepare Club, Combine, Concourse Charters and Lifetime and Honor certificates. I know in this area we are trying to honor people, and clubs. Some of these things are mementos. I do it right the first time.

•I prepare monthly reports for the accountant and quarterly inventory, as well as prepare Mid-year and Year-end board meeting reports. Those seem to be of increasing importance as time goes by, and they take a great deal of time to do right.

Betty adds, “I need my customers to be happy and positive about this office. You need that. We need that, and I understand that. You don’t need to worry.” So, there you go. Betty’s goal is to be there for you, prepared, when you call needing her help. We welcome your calls.

The girls in the AU office want to always be in PUSH mode, as President Coletti calls it. Betty also calls it GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


COOP KOHLI, AU LAKES ZONE DIRECTOR                                     SEPTEMBER 12, 2017



Tonight, I am wondering if I am the only pigeon flyer in America that doesn't know the meaning of this message sent to our Infractions chairman after the AU board ruled against this man’s interest in an AU infractions dispute? Should anybody donating their time for the good of the national effort to improve pigeon racing really have to put up with this? Did some of us forget that these guys are volunteers? Yes, of course, I googled it, and found the meaning to be somewhat vague and varied, with considerable leeway as to how it could have been intended, but it certainly sounds like a veiled threat to the reasonable mind of this writer. It makes one ask, “what is the sport becoming?”


Likable, fair-minded and knowledgeable, 67 year old
Ron Pairan, of Millersport, Ohio, has been a member of
the Lancaster Pigeon Club since 1987, joined the AU Board in 2006 as Lakes Zone Director, and was elected AU Vice President in 2014, but in addition to that, he holds undoubtedly the most thankless job in the sport; Chairman of the AU Infractions Committee.

A 2013 AU Legend of the Sport, Pairan is also an American Trenton Breeder and AU Certified Judge, who knows a little about breeding good pigeons, and the racing of good pigeons, having won the Triple Crown One Loft Race in 2001 and 2012, having placed 21st once in the Million Dollar Race, having had birds in the first drop in the Devore Classic and the Devore Challenge, having won the Joe Stankos Memorial Race and the Miami Valley Sportsman's Race.  Pairan has also bred 28 AU Champions and 3 AU Elite Champions, and has won numerous Digest Awards. He has also never missed an old or young bird race series since he started racing. In Ohio, Pairan has held numerous offices in his club and combine, and is currently the Race Secretary of the COC Combine. The value of that experience for you and me, is that Pairan understands how hard it is to make a pigeon club work even when things are going well, and can relate easily to the issues that AU members call him about when seeking guidance to solve their own organizational problems. He understands “fractious”, in other words.

While on the AU board, Pairan created The Master Loft Award, the Yearling Award, and compiled the Youth Idea Book (which is a free download from the AU website), and created the current complaint form placing emphasis on trying to solve infraction issues locally, whenever possible. He and his Lancaster club-mates have done many public pigeon releases, and Pairan has been a presenter and speaker at the Cincinnati Home Schoolers Convention for the last 2 years, trying to encourage youth into the sport. Now, again, why is this background important to you and to me? Because
Pairan knows the sport, and none of us want some bozo running the Infractions Committee that’s throwing Hail Marys all the time. The seat requires extensive experience, as well as self-control as you can see from jab thrown at Pairan in the opening of this article, and Pairan has lots of both things going for him.

While there is nothing tough about being Vice President of the AU organization when you are sitting in the shadow of the President Tom Coletti and Executive Vice President Jay Holder (who also shields you from most of the sun’s rays), in his role as Infractions Chairman, Ron Pairan is out there alone, holding the proverbial tiger by the tail, and taking the heat while heading up a very important AU committee. “Since 1999, 51 infractions have been filed, and 10 members have been expelled from the AU. The work is complicated, time-consuming, but important to the integrity of the sport”, said
Pairan. In this role, the straight-forward, former school teacher of 35 years, occasionally has to go head-to-head with some bristling personalities when interpretations don’t go their way, but he can take the pressure, something he learned many years ago as President of his local Teacher’s Association. At its very best, all the decisions the committee makes “will be wrong” in the eyes of the losing party, and may be wrong to both parties, if both sides need some correction. “Another thing that people need to remember is that, because we try to protect the privacy of the people involved, rarely does the whole story ever get presented to the general membership”, Pairan added.


Here is how the process normally works: a call comes into the national office from an individual with an organizational problem that is not getting attention. The call gets directed to Karen Clifton. Many calls come in that result in no followup, but still get all the attention they need. After a discussion and an initial evaluation, if no other options are viable as determined by Clifton, and if the caller still wishes to file an infraction, dates are noted and notes are taken. The file is numbered, and the details are forwarded to the Infraction Chairman. More calls are made by the Chairman, and more discussion of the dispute takes place. If the initial caller can't get the problem remedied at the local level, the Infractions chairman assigns the case to one of three AU Investigators. One AU investigator is a Prosecuting Attorney, and a second generation pigeon flyer. A second is currently a Criminal Attorney. The third is retired after having served his state as a State Investigator in child abuse cases for 32 years. Again, more calls are made, details are probed, and more questions are asked, as the facts in the dispute are sorted out. One function of the investigation is to confirm that the organizations are following their own by-laws, and are not violating AU rules, according to Clifton. After the process is completed, the investigators summarize all details in a written report, make recommendations on how they think the problem should be remedied, and pass the information on to the AU Board, where the topic is discussed by the full board again before a final decision is made. Never is the decision on settling an infraction made by one man, but Ron Pairan has the unleasant duty to share the news with those involved.

Sometimes when infraction committee decisions don't go the way the offending parties want them to go, the thought of bailing from the AU to the IF enters one’s thinking. In cases like that, it is important for flyers to know that the AU and IF have a Letter of Reciprocity, meaning members in poor standing in one group are unable to ignore the rulings of the organization they are with, by jumping to the other group.  The IF is notified whenever parties subject to sanctions part ways with the AU.  In the end, no one wants to get tied down in these issues, but sometimes there is no way out.  When that time comes, we are thankful that there are guys like Ron Pairan and his investigative team to help sort out the details.  However, in the end, it is always more satisfying to keep problem-solving and decision-making at home.

Friday, September 8, 2017


AN OPINION                                                            COOP KOHLI, LAKES ZONE DIRECTOR


So you think you might want to be the ED someday? The position of Executive Director (ED) of the American Racing Pigeon Union is no place for introverts,contemptibly obnoxious people, or pompous fellows, and while you are at it, you had better bone up on your street-smarts.

Of course, it would be helpful to be elegant socially, to look like a celebrity and to have the humility of the Pope, but you must also have the moxie of a full bird Colonel. Metaphorically speaking, you will sit at 40,000 feet, as if in an AWAC plane, looking down on the moving parts of the sport across the country, developing a sense of what is taking place, fine-tuning your gut feel as to what needs to be done, identifying your strategy to bring diverse people together, then pushing the buttons, making the calls, and greasing the relationships that bring the competing factions back together to make the whole thing tick perfectly.

Behind every decision will loom sometimes painful, unintended consequences.  While lots of people will love and admire you, those that don't get their way, will whine, distort, ridicule or threaten you, and Facebook gives everyone a public platform to present themselves as a truthsayer. Through it all you have to smile, be graceful and poised, maintain the official vision of who we are, know what direction we are headed, know what we want to accomplish; and do it all without ceding influence to those determined to derail the mother ship.  (You also have be strong enough to push down those recurring feelings of wanting to castrate some people.)


For Clifton, coming into the AU on the heels of the well established Executive Director (ED),   Rick Phalen, it was no surprise that for a time she would be working under the great pigeon man’s shadow.  Hired as Sports Development Manager in 1999, Clifton worked for 8 months in both positions, running ads to fill the ED position and the Sport Development position at the same time, not sure herself, which one she was to end up with. After securing Deone Roberts for the Sport Development position, Clifton was given the nod by the board to step into the role of Executive Director.

After education at Oklahoma City Community
College, the University of Central Oklahoma, and
Oklahoma City University, majoring in Business
Administration, Clifton worked for national retailer, TG&Y in Loss Prevention, as Manager of Community Relations for national retailer, CR
Anthony, as Special Event Manager for Feed the
Children, and as Marketing Director for Republic
Casualty Insurance Company. Much of her work in these companies involved outreach between
retailers and customers, or as a liaison between
corporate management and vendors. Her work with Feed the Children involved developing giving opportunities, which frequently led to special events and press conferences, and included making presentations to national conventions for educators of at-risk children. After the Oklahoma City bombing, Clifton was a volunteer co-ordinator, working disaster relief, directing and managing volunteer groups to deliver stock supplies and assist clients. For Republic Casualty Insurance, Clifton traveled the state of Oklahoma, recruiting independent insurance agents to write auto
insurance. In a year and a half, she succeeded in signing up 90 new agents for the company, substantially impacting the company’s top-line revenue.


For starters, there will be no mention here of the 2010 Centennial Convention in Oklahoma City, when our flagship event was waylaid by a multitude of sneaky pigeon racing adversaries devouring a boatload of naive, unsuspecting racing pigeon enthusiasts, followed by a contemptuous legal proceeding that confirmed for all of us that the AU should officially distance itself from pigeon racing gambling; an event that saw a humiliated, unsuspecting Clifton hauled before a county court for illegal gambling for merely lining up the hotel room from which convention-race pigeons were shipped. No, I won't go there, but that’s the ultimate definition of a “hot seat”, and an awful position for a former “Feed the Children” executive to suddenly, innocently, be pressed into because a pooling sheet was found in a room she had reserved for others. Doesn’t seem quite right, does it? My understanding is that after all the details were hammered out, the judge considered pooling on one’s own pigeons in Oklahoma to be no more a crime than the judge’s pooling on his own golf game in a Saturday afternoon Bar Association golf tournament. Everyone was relieved, but it did not lessen the embarrassment for Clifton in her own community. She suffered through the dreadful event in silence like the good soldier she is. Most employees I have ever had, would have walked immediately for the unfairness of it all, then filed a workers’ comp claim against me for stress.

An article was written last month about the USPS decision to stop
handling pigeon shipments across the country around the time of 9/11.  Situations like that test the focus and fortitude of an ED because the need to fix it is immediate, the pain is felt by everyone, and frankly everyone is raising hell.  This was Clifton’s first big test. After meeting over a period of several months with USPS officials and Senators to pressure and persuade USPS to find a way to facilitate shipping, she succeeded in getting USPS to arrange an alternative shipping method through Fed Ex. In the process she also helped established a network of AU members to receive and forward birds for those members that were in areas where shipping was hindered. She also aligned the AU with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in DC, to gain support to protect the right to ship. Their attorneys went to bat for the AU as a result of our membership with them. Clifton had passed her first big test. “I believe all of these actions saved our ability to ship”, said a relieved Clifton at the time.

Then in 2003 and 2004, another emergency jolted the sport. Exotic
Newcastle broke in California. With the help of AU members, Jim VanderHeide, Warren Shetrone and Tommy Erskine, Clifton coordinated conference calls with the USDA and California Department of Agriculture to discuss the imposed surveillance and restriction of bird movement. Ultimately, the AU paid for testing to disprove pigeons were susceptible. As a result, movement within the quarantine zone was permitted, which allowed most training and racing to continue. That episode kick-started the process of building relationships with many of the State Veterinarians across the country to introduce the AU, so that during times of other outbreaks, like the bomb that was the outbreak of Avian Influenza in 2015, members could continue to fly. As this writer knows better than anybody, the AU was not successful in Ohio, but because of Clifton’s earlier groundwork, most states (Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois) were amenable, and most AU members started racing pigeons again. “It took communicating with them, and educating them”; worked performed over a long period of time by Clifton, herself.


Clifton is usually the one that fields ordinance calls, which take 20-30 
minute conversations to get to the emotionally charged story behind each situation, and once the cause is determined, she decides how to address the matter. Clifton explained. “In some areas, it is a crabby neighbor. In other situations, it is a matter of the city enforcing a “no poultry or fowl” ordinance which requires getting the right official on the phone, appealing to their sympathy, as we get them to listen to why we feel they should allow a spot on their meeting agenda for a resident to propose an amendment to an existing ordinance, or to request a variance. Calls from members faced with having to remove birds from their property are tough ones.”

Clifton also fields the emotional calls from club members that feel they are not being treated fairly in a club, or were voted out of a club, or report allegations that someone is cheating. The calls from members complaining about rules or wanting to file infractions typically start with Clifton. “I receive and log the infractions and then forward them to the committee chairman. One side is always unhappy when a decision is made on an infraction, so I get those calls as well. When disgruntled members call, I find myself trying to calm them down, and trying to get them to turn negative energy into positive. Encouraging the use of a Board Action Request goes a long way with that. I receive, and number those, as well”, she said. “Working with infractions is some of the most difficult and time consuming work we do for the members of this organization, and it is not unusual for no one to be happy with a final outcome,” lamented Clifton.


Many, seemingly little projects fill out the rest of the Executive Director’s schedule. Travel is right in there, of course, and last year, Clifton spent 14 days on the road, visiting umpteen events in 5 states, representing the board at events that were very important to the membership. Clifton also coordinates the Certified Loft Registration program, processes all the band ordersnegotiates with vendors (printing, etc.), and monitors the budget. She also works with the CPA and auditor for bookkeeping, and the year-end budget review.

Then there is the work with the webmaster to keep the website current, the processing of credit card transactions, the schlep mail, the opening and distributing of mail, the deliver of bulk mail, the retrieval of left over newsletters and yearbooks, the coordinating of mailing of publications, the coordinating with the graphic layout designer on publications like the AU Year book, the UpDate, and other communication forms of media. She prepares award certificates and plaques. She coordinates with the post office for
large commercial shipping when preparing bands for distribution.

Clifton also works with the convention host to coordinate the youth race for junior members each year. She prepares the applications for the race, receiving approximately 100 each year, logs them, and then provides monthly updates to each junior member once training begins. After the race she prepares award plaques and certificates for the junior race.

She also receives inquiries and applications for the Help-A-Beginner program, then determines which coordinator (east or west) to send the applications to in order to get the applicants into the program, and assigned a mentor. And then there are the alien band lists, which after being received, are registered into the office database, when rosters are received. Of course, let’s not forget the calls she takes from AU organizations that want to utilize the AU Speakers' Bureau, or Judges' Panel, to coordinate reimbursement.  Clifton added, “I gather, compile and distribute board meeting materials, provide recap of actions taking during the meetings and communicate with those that submit BAR's after the meetings. I also maintain the Directors' manual. I take direction from 12 board members, and attempt to bring the pulse of the membership to the board. I keep thinking, though, that these things seem little, but yet, the days are completely full; and then, I take the trash out, vacuum, and scrub the bathroom.


Now, as incredible as it may sound to those of us that know how
hard this work is, some pontificating pigeon racing Facebook
prodigies would like to see Karen Clifton replaced, along with the board. On this Clifton gets introspective, “My advice to my replacement would be to have tough skin, to be calm, because as much as you may want to tell someone off, you simply can't do it. I would, however, tell them not to allow a member to yell at them, as some of our members are prone to do. There is absolutely no reason in the world for people not to be civil with one another.  This is a sport. Ninety-nine percent of us race pigeons because it is fun. I would say, don’t let them forget that. Don’t let them ever forget that.”  

“I would also encourage my replacement to create a network of members for feedback. I think this helps ensure that the office knows what the needs, or desires, of the members are, and obviously that leads to moving the organization forward, and feeds one confidence in decision-making.”  

We think Karen Clifton is absolutely exceptional in her role as Executive Director, and we want to thank her for her dedicated service. She has paid her dues. She has our support. We have her back. We want her to feel your support. We would like to hear from you, the great silent majority, that rarely expresses an opinion on anything. For me, loyal employees that are great at their jobs are diamonds, especially employees that will take one for the team, as Clifton did in 2010, in Oklahoma City. You don't replace people like that in successful organizations.