In a political move that seems destined to please just about everyone besides those who own tow truck companies and the lobbying groups that represent them, yesterday the Seattle City Council approved caps on towing rates and impound fees from private property.
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While the action didn't inspire quite as much celebration as the arena vote, it was widely applauded by the council itself - which isn't terribly surprising, considering the vote was unanimous and the legislation is designed to keep citizens from becoming the victim of towing fees that most everyone agrees have become absurd.
Taking effect in January, the move will set a $183 per hour limit for the first hour of an impound tow off private property in Seattle and $130 for any additional time. It will also limit storage rates to $15.50 for up to 12 hours.
Councilmember Nick Licata, one of the forces behind the bill, was obviously pleased.
"This legislation is a real game-changer for the towing industry," said Councilmember Nick Licata, who worked with Mayor Mike McGinn to introduce and pass the bill. "People will no longer have to ransom back their personal auto because they parked too long."
However, as mentioned above, there are a few folks out there upset by the council's decision - mainly those who make a living towing vehicles. Claiming the city failed to study the actual costs of towing and impounding a vehicle, using time-honored criticism of "big government," and questioning the fairness of Seattle instituting towing fees that are out of line with the rest of the state, the representatives of the towing industry tell the Times they'll soon meet to discuss the possibility of a legal challenge to the legislation.
From the Times:
"This was foisted on the industry devoid of facts," said Al Runte, a member of the state legislative committee for the Towing and Recovery Association of Washington.
Dan Johnson, president of the state association, said the bill to the car owner will include an additional $15 fee that will go to the city to monitor compliance by tow-truck operators.
"Government was made bigger today. Regulation was added to our industry," Johnson said.
Speaking of the Times, columnist Danny Westneat is largely credited with helping to spearhead the towing fee cap legislation with a piece he wrote in 2011 detailing the experiences of a Capitol Hill resident charged $800 after getting towed from an illegal park job near his apartment.
If it comes down to big government or $800 bills for getting towed, it seems likely the public will side with big government every time.