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Time To Restrain Towing Companies?

by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 3, 2012 3:35 pm

(12) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation

Thomas MacMillan Photo Thomas MacMillan Photo You can let your unpaid parking tickets stack up to $200 before you need to worry that your car will be booted. But get behind on your taxes by only $100, and someone can tow your car right out of your driveway.

Charles Blango wants to change all that.

Charles Blango (pictured), a former Newhallville alderman, has submitted a request that the city raise the towing threshold for taxes to $200 and prohibit towers from entering private property to take cars.

City parking director Jim Travers argued that the current system is fair and reasonable.

The matter has been sent to the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee for a public hearing.

Under the city’s current laws, cars can be booted or towed for $200 or more in unpaid parking tickets or $100 or more in unpaid taxes. Towers are allowed to go onto private property to boot or tow for taxes but not for tickets.

Blango said he was moved to submit his request to change that system after hearing repeated stories of towing trouble. He said an elderly woman told him that her car was towed while she was at church. She owed just $105 dollars in unpaid taxes, he said.

Blango said the woman wants to remain anonymous but that many people will testify at the public hearing about his request. “When testimonial time comes you will hear some of them stories.”

The cars being towed are “mostly in the urban city,” Blango said.

He said he was also motivated by the news of a woman claiming a Crown Towing driver had swindled her out of $158 that she owed in taxes. Crown denies the charge.

“It’s just not right,” Blango said. “You have to deal with people with respect.”

With a 96 or 98 percent tax collection rate, there’s no need for the city to be so aggressive going after people who owe, Blango said. The towing threshold should be raised to $200, he said.

And the city should not allow towers to go on private property to take cars, Blango said.

“I just think when you’re at your residence and you have a “No Trespassing” sign ... No trespassing means no trespassing,” Blango said. “It’s really like an invasion of privacy.”

The state does not require cities to have a minimum threshold for towing for unpaid taxes, said Travers, head of traffic and parking. By city ordinance, the city set a $200 threshold for unpaid parking tickets. Cars can be booted or towed if their owners exceed that threshold.

The city’s aim is to set a threshold that’s high enough to be reasonable but low enough that people will get a wake-up call before their debt gets unmanageable. He said $200 strikes that balance when it comes to unpaid tickets.

“I think that is the correct number to go after,” Travers said. “It helps someone before they get too far in debt.”

For unpaid taxes, however, $100 is the appropriate number, Travers said. More so than revenue from parking tickets, tax revenue is written into the city budget as a set amount of money the city expects to receive to pay for the things that keep it running.

“We rely in running the city on the collection of taxes that are due,” he said.

The towing threshold for taxes used to $35, which was too low, Travers said.

People can look on city websites to see if they owe money for tickets or for taxes, he said.   

As for going onto private property, Travers said that the city does not allow towers to enter private property for unpaid traffic tickets. “But by state ordinance the tax collector is allowed to go on private property to claim the car,” he said. “It’s like if your car is being repossessed. The repo guy can go on your private property to claim your car.”

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posted by: PH on December 3, 2012  3:45pm

Seems to me like those two figures should be flipped: you can get towed for $100 in parking fines, $200 for taxes.  There is also an inherent bias in the enforcement of this rule against people who park on the street or don’t have garages to park in—their cars can be seen and towed far more easily.  Not sure that’s a critical point, but it seems likely that the burden of enforcement will fall primarily on those who live downtown or in apartments/rentals.

posted by: streever on December 3, 2012  8:56pm

$100 == 1 year of car taxes.

The city is not required to notify you: I know of MORE THAN ONE city employee who had their car booted/towed for back taxes. I do not believe that these people lied about not receiving a tax bill. I believe that they honestly did not get one, because, the city is not required to submit one.

I think that alone—that city employees have had their cars towed on being late for one year of taxes—should speak to the problem with the current system and threshold. At the very least, the system should require notification of the car owner before their vehicle is towed.

posted by: Threefifths on December 3, 2012  9:30pm

You donot have to tow.Do like they are doing in New York.Booting is an enforcement tool used instead of towing.If you owe more than $350 in parking, red light camera or bus lane violation tickets in judgment and you are parked on a public street, you may have a boot attached to your vehicle. To get the boot off, call the toll-free phone number on the boot notice and give the customer service representative your debit/credit card number. You will then receive a release code. Once you enter the code, the boot will unlock and you can remove it.You need to return the boot to a return location near you within 24 hours.

Read the whole program here.


http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/pdf/12pdf/booting_faq.pdf

posted by: HhE on December 3, 2012  10:57pm

I think using a boot is better than towing for a range of reasons.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to tow is a form of patronage/job creation, so we get towing instead.

posted by: Chip on December 3, 2012  10:59pm

I’ve lived in 12 US cities and New Haven is the worse one by far, very far, on towing. The city is tow crazy! Needs to stop. It disrupts too many lives and, most seriously, hurts low income people disproportionately!

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  2:25am

posted by: HhE on December 3, 2012 9:57pm

I think using a boot is better than towing for a range of reasons. Unfortunately, the opportunity to tow is a form of patronage/job creation, so we get towing instead.

patronage/job creation.It is call political patronage,Done by the crooked two party system.Can not blame this on the unions.But you will find away.

posted by: robn on December 4, 2012  8:11am

I agree with STREEVER about fair warning. And, god help me, I actually agree with 3/5 about the boot being a better alternative to towing.

posted by: HhE on December 4, 2012  9:56am

Robn, sometimes 3/5ths is right.  Sometimes.

Beware of agreeing with him, however.  Just look what happened here:  Because I agreed with him, I am now a union hater who is going to blame towing on the unions.

(Any idea how I could do that?  Since the tow drivers are non union, and the Mayor’s office is non union, I have no idea.)

posted by: RCguy on December 4, 2012  10:05am

““The city is tow crazy! Needs to stop. It disrupts too many lives and, most seriously, hurts low income people disproportionately!”“

Thanks, Chip. Very good points.

posted by: streever on December 4, 2012  10:32am

Robn:
I’m in that awkward position too :)

The City says that cars which are booted overnight tend to get their windows smashed, which I believe, but which is depressing.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  11:53am

posted by: robn on December 4, 2012 7:11am

I agree with STREEVER about fair warning. And, god help me, I actually agree with 3/5 about the boot being a better alternative to towing

Amen.

posted by: streever on December 4, 2012  12:12pm

Hhe
Oh, you’ll find a way to blame them, just wait…. :)

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