There has been much controversy lately surrounding the proposed rules regulating private property impound, or PPI, tows in the city of Portland.
The regulations are being proposed by Commissioner Randy Leonard and Marian Gaylord, towing coordinator for the city.
The regulations are needed, according to them, because of the high number of complaints that their offices receive about PPI tows. But they're not telling you the real reason for the proposed changes.
Here it is:
The Oregon Tow Truck Association did a public records search with the towing coordinator's office and found that out of approximately 9,000 PPI tows performed so far this year, 40 complaints were filed with the city. That works out to 0.4 percent.
Further research through public records provided to the association by the towing coordinator show that since 1996, a total of 422 complaints have been filed with the office, out of an estimated 70,000 PPI tows performed in the city.
A breakdown of those complaints show that 136 of them were not valid because of various reasons, cutting the legitimate complaints down to only 286.
The towing coordinator could not provide the Oregon Tow Truck Association with any information about how many of the 286 complaints were found to be legitimate tows.
Assuming all of the complaints were valid, which I seriously doubt, that computes to a 0.4 percent complaint ratio.
So why are Leonard and Gaylord putting so much time and effort into creating 19 pages of new regulations to restrict property owners' rights to control illegally parked vehicles?
The answer isn't because a 'high number of complaints,' because 0.4 percent is extremely low.
The answer is money!
The city of Portland wants its piece of the pie. It's an area of business that the city isn't currently taxing.
What Leonard and Gaylord aren't saying is that the city of Portland wants money from all the Portland PPIs.
On Page 13 of the new regulations (which I'll bet that most of you haven't been able to get a copy of), the city has built in a fee for itself. And guess who pays the fee?
I'll give you a hint. It's not the towing company. It is the vehicle owner.
The $5-per-car fee is called a 'service fee' and is 'payable to the City of Portland on redeemed vehicles.' So 10,000 PPIs a year multiplied by $5 equals $50,000 in revenue to the city, paid for by vehicle owners.
With your money, they can administer the 19 pages of new regulations and use the revenue to help resolve 43 complaints a year.
That's $1,162 in revenue per complaint, paid for by the vehicle owners that the city says it is trying to help.
Towing companies that perform PPI tows in the city of Portland are already abiding by seven pages of the most restrictive PPI regulations in the state of Oregon.
The system in place works fine and results in very few complaints from vehicle owners. There's only one problem with the current rules. The city doesn't have a piece of the pie.
Steven Preston is the president and founder of Sergeants Towing Inc. in North Portland and an elected industry representative on the Portland Towing Board of Review. He lives in Oregon City.