Des Moines explores new towing rules to protect drivers
The Des Moines City Council is considering new rules that benefit drivers who are towed, but some are concerned they may burden businesses.
Driving the news: Council member Josh Mandelbaum last week suggested two new ordinances that he said offer protections for drivers who are privately towed.
- One requires clear no parking signage by businesses where someone could possibly be towed.
- The other allows a driver to get their car back if they see their vehicle getting towed before it's brought to the lot. They'll likely have to pay a smaller fee, but the details haven't been determined yet.
What he's saying: Some visitors and even locals may accidentally park illegally, especially downtown. Establishing no parking signs — which aren't required for private parking lots — could create more transparency, Mandelbaum said.
- And it would be less burdensome on drivers who spot their vehicle getting towed and could pay a reduced fee to retrieve it, he said.
The other side: Council members Joe Gatto and Linda Westergaard opposed the proposals, saying drivers are responsible for parking legally and the ordinances burden business owners.
- "There's consequences for not following the rules," Gatto said.
Of note: Mayor Frank Cownie and Gatto have each received $1K in campaign donations from the Crow family — who owns towing provider Crow Tow — within the last three years.
- Cownie said he supports exploring Mandelbaum's suggestions. He said Crow's donations haven't influenced his stance on the city's towing policies.
- Gatto said he doesn't solicit donations from contractors and is also not influenced by the money.
The big picture: Mandelbaum's proposals aren't out of the ordinary. Thirty states have laws requiring clear "tow-away" signs at private lots, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
- Eighteen states require tow companies to release your car for at least a smaller fee if you return before it's removed from a property.
- But Iowa is considered one of the worst states when it comes to consumer protections against predatory towing, Teresa Murray of U.S. PIRG previously told Axios.
What's next: City Council members said they plan on having private conversations with local tow groups about the measures before making any decisions.
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