If you’re a political nerd like me, and you’ve had the time, you may have heard the oral arguments before the US Supreme Court about Colorado throwing a certain former president off the ballot because of being rebellious. And you may recall that I’ve spoken frequently about my view that SCOTUS will most likely rule, largely on technical grounds, that it will remain on our ballots.
But I won’t talk about that.
Trust me, it’s tempting. This is the only SCOTUS case that Trump is likely to win, given that within a short period of time (judicially speaking) it is very likely that the same court will rule that a president does NO, in fact, has total and unconditional immunity from any action he takes as president. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the first case be a 9-0 decision, and the last case I predict will be 8-1 the other way around, with Justice Clarence Thomas clinging to his perverse view of the Constitution.
But, again, I won’t talk about that.
Instead, I want to talk about people who tow their cars.
There is a very good bill, in my opinion, coming in this legislative session, HR. 1051. This bill addresses predatory towing practices by many towing companies. Many towing companies are fine and do important work. But some flood into the wee hours, usually patrolling private roads owned by HOAs, retirement communities and others. And when a car is spotted that is, in the driver’s view, illegally parked, they swoop in, take the car, and the car owner faces hundreds of dollars to bail their vehicle out of car jail.
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For example, let me give you a hypothetical example. Let’s say a guy called Hal – no, wait, that’s too easy – a guy called Bidlack, yes, that works. Anyway, this guy Hal Bidlack has a beautiful wife who was the main support of an elderly mother who, at the time, lived in a mobile home community in Colorado Springs. And let’s assume that in the pre-dawn hours, the mother had a medical problem and the daughter rushed there to be taken care of.
Imagine the disappointment when, approximately 30 minutes after arriving, that daughter took her mother out to her car to take her to the ER, only to find that her car had been towed away as it was parked on the street after 10:00 p.m. . lots of traffic in that trailer park at 3am so we know the car wasn’t in anyone’s driveway. It just came into existence after 10:00 PM and thus was confiscated by the private towing company.
In addition to the family challenges the towing job generated to get my mother-in-law to the ER cost me (wait, did I say it was me?) more than 400 dollars in the morning to pick up the car from that company’s private car park.
I learned when I was a member of the board of directors of my local HOA that towing companies Can not withdrawal from public roads for violation of agreements, such as the 10:00 p.m. rule. But many, many people live on private roads, although they may not know it at the time. In those areas, trailer park owners or other entities often contract with a towing company, and that allows these predatory towing companies to drive around, say after 10 p.m., and just slide up and tow any vehicle that is not parked in accordance with the rules of the local organization. The results are terrible inconveniences and high costs that many cannot afford. The towing company gets a good check, often with a kickback to the property owners.
Now, I’m not saying that parking should be a free-for-all with no rules and no one should ever get pulled over. But it seems reasonable to me that, for example, a tow truck driver should have to knock on a door before towing a car from the front and give the owner a chance to move the vehicle.
This bill arose when the wrong car was towed. State Sen. Julie Gonzales revealed ITS the car was towed in a way she was pretty sure was illegal. How did she know? Well, in 2022, she got a bill signed into law that banned non-consensual towing and required towing companies to offer payment plans, and the people who took her car were literally not following the law of her. After she bailed on her car and the company found out who she was and what law they were breaking, it graciously refunded her money. Not the level of service most people see.
Under the proposed new law, towing companies will not be allowed to patrol lots, cruise for cars and tow without discretion. There are also additional restrictions on the companies involved, requiring, among other things, towing company employees to be fingerprinted and pass criminal background checks — as well as property the owners being responsible for withdrawal charges and any charges associated with storage. Apparently, they could bill the owner of the car if the owner was, in fact, at fault.
As a former military policeman, I issued parking tickets and towed cars when necessary. But those tickets were never issued as part of a money-making enterprise. Rather, they were in response to irresponsible parking practices that either posed a hazard or were blocking necessary access to the facilities. The guy driving around the mobile home park at 3 am is looking to make money, not make our communities safer.
Again, towing companies are vital, and most are fine. I often called for accident towing, for example, and that service was quite important. And I have no objection to towing companies making money; I am a capitalist after all. But I do object to unfettered and disorderly carjacking.
I’ve written often about how most people tend to focus their attention on national politics, when in fact state and local governments have a far greater effect on our lives. This is a clear example of that, as our state legislature will, I hope, soon right a wrong in our society. I hope HR 1051 passes.
Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught for more than 17 years at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.