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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 24, 2008
By Tyler Schuling
After his request for a custom license plate for his motorcycle was denied, a veteran felt he had been overlooked and underappreciated once again.
Earlier this year, Edward Ackroyd, who served in Vietnam and Cambodia and lives in the Hilltowns, requested and obtained Disabled American Veterans custom license plates for his car through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Ackroyd then requested one for his motorcycle. But the plate is not available through DMV and the department has halted its Custom Plate Development Program.
In 2004, the DMV enacted a moratorium that puts a stop to the department’s considering and approving all requests for new custom plates.
The department replied to Ackroyd, saying it will revisit his request for the development of a DAV motorcycle plate once the moratorium is lifted.
“I consider it another slap in the face,” said Ackroyd, who left high school early and joined the service when he was 17 years old. He recently served as a member of Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s school board.
For the custom plates on his car, he chose the number 1270. It represents the month he was born and the year he was in Vietnam.
“December was also a heck of a month for me,” Ackroyd said. “Three days after my 20th birthday was the closest I came to being killed when my hooch was blown up that I was walking towards.”
In 1971, when he was discharged, Ackroyd was refused a drink at the airport in Chicago. He then explained to the bartender that, for the last two-and-a-half years overseas, he hadn’t been refused one.
When he returned to the Capital District, he was looking for a car at a dealership, was able to buy one, but was told by a salesman that a parent needed to co-sign.
“And I told him that about a month earlier I was in a firefight and carrying a machine gun and nobody asked me for my signature,” Ackroyd said. “I was hot enough that I was going to go to my Congressman,” he said. “Then I got to thinking, I wasn’t old enough to vote yet.”
“It’s just one more thing on top of everything,” Ackroyd said. “Luckily, right now, I don’t believe the veterans that are coming [back] that are in the service now are getting the same treatment. In all honesty, the Vietnam veteran did not get treated well at all when he got home. Like I say, it’s just one more thing that happened.”
The DMV responded to questions about Ackroyd’s request.
“What it would take, actually, to make [a plate] available for motorcycles, is legislative action,” said Peter Bucci, a spokesman for the DMV.
If a bill is introduced by the State Legislature, passed by both houses, and signed by the governor, the state is then bound by law to create that license series.
The moratorium does not last for a specified length of time. The DMV replied to Ackroyd, saying the moratorium “will be in effect until the criteria for approval of a new custom plate series has been reviewed and our regulations updated accordingly.”
The exceptions to the moratorium are: plates mandated by law, ones that were in the process of being developed, and those that were a part of existing contracts.
About 183 organizations are awaiting plates, said Bucci. In 2007, the DMV issued and renewed more than 500,000 custom plates, said Bucci, and 300 custom plates are available.
“Currently, there’s a moratorium in place,” said Ken Brown, also a spokesman for the DMV. “The agency is involved in litigation regarding the very issue so the moratorium will remain in place until the litigation is resolved.”
Brown was referring to a lawsuit brought against the department by The Children First Foundation a New York-based non-profit, pro-adoption group over the DMV’s not approving the organization’s “Choose Life” plates.
Format and availability questions
Earlier this year, Ackroyd and his lawyer, Michael Rhodes-Devey, wrote letters to the DMV.
Ackroyd said he’s seen other customized license plates for motorcycles the veterans plate and the Purple Heart plate. Both are listed on the DMV’s website and are available for both full-size vehicles and motorcycles.
While some custom plates are available for both automobiles and motorcycles, the Disabled American Veterans plate which Ackroyd requested for his motorcycle is currently only available for automobiles. A motorcycle plate was not part of the agreement when the license plates were established by the organization, according to Brown.
While there are many custom plates available through the DMV, the methods to obtain them differ. To receive DAV plates, for example, a person must request them through the DAV. To obtain Disabled Veterans plates, on the other hand, a person does not need to go through the organization but needs to contact the DMV directly and provide the department with a doctor’s note verifying his or her condition.
Rhodes-Davey said in his letter to the DMV, “The Disabled American Veteran’s custom plate is not a new custom plate. It already exists and has been issued for years…The question is the format; motorcycle plate versus passenger vehicle or commercial vehicle plate.”
“That’s not the reason,” Bucci said. “It’s just not available for motorcycles and that’s just this one specific instance.”
Rhodes-Davey wrote, “It appears that the DMV has determined to issue numerous plates since [the moratorium] including, but certainly not limited to the new New York Giants Super Bowl plates prominently advertised on the home page of the DMV’s website.”
When the DMV enacted the moratorium, the department says, it had an existing contract with the National Football League.
Ackroyd on DMV’s responses
Told of the pending litigation against the DMV and its contract with the NFL, Ackroyd concluded, “I hope they get their politics squared away and do what they’ve got to do so I can actually have the plate.”
He said “getting the runaround” is nothing new.
“There’s plenty of veterans out there, at least my age, who can relate to that extremely well,” Ackroyd said.