Saturday, May 31, 2008

Abusive Non-Consent Towing ROUNDUP For May, 2008 (Yee-Haw!) photo

Hopefully, I can keep up with all the many incidents which happen on a month-by-month basis. The idea is...

If I can't blog about it in detail, I can at least throw in a short description and provide a link, to document the common patterns. There are SO MANY common patterns, one of which is the tendency of towing companies to hire some really rough people, like ex-convicts with auto theft convictions.

Oh, by the is a nice link to information about "Rocky Mountain Oysters."

Just in case you wondered what those cowboys want with that little calf, pictured above.

Favoritism alleged in Carmi, Illinois

In Carmi, there is a situation where a tow truck driver is also a city alderman, and his daughter just happens to be a police dispatcher. Click here to read the article.

There are allegations of favoritism when it comes to the "roster," a tactic many cities use to determine which towing company is called to the scene of accidents and impounds.

A crowd was gathered for the city council meeting and at one point an alderman asked, "Do you believe police are picking a favorite?"

"Yes, we do!" the crowd said, in unison.

Citizens still out of luck in Fayetteville, Arkansas

The city government weeded through a bunch of applications and picked one towing company to use for police-initiated towing. City fathers sounded a cautionary note, as reported by the local press in this article, saying...

"Fayetteville Police Department cannot control tows occurring on private property such as Dickson Street businesses, University of Arkansas parking lots, apartment complexes, residences, etc. This is where a large majority of citizen complaints originate, and once again, we want the public to understand this towing contract will not and cannot resolve those issues. Those type of complaints should be made to the Arkansas Towing and Recovery Board."

A long, ugly history in San Antonio, Texas

Texas Towing is being dropped early from its 7 year contract with San Antonio, due to "longstanding failure to meet performance standards" according to this article.

The article is quite valuable because of its links in a "sidebar" to the whole ugly history of the dispute. This messy controversy is the subject of a separate blog entry. I was married in San Antonio, Texas, and even thought that didn't work out so well I still love that place, and I care what goes on "deep in the heart of Texas."

Gouging students in Georgia (A matter of record)

Statesboro, Georgia voted to raise the fee for non-consent towing a little bit in light of rising gas prices. In the course of discussion, a lot came out in front of a reporter about how the previous price was a response to local towing companies "gouging" students.

Tow trucks charge "whatever" in Escambia County, Florida

Only when a citizen was outraged over a $500 towing charge did Escambia County, Florida, start to take a look at the fact towing companies were free to seize cars and charge whatever they liked, according to this article.

Escambia County isn't some kind of backwater. This county includes the city of Pensacola. You have to wonder how many places in this country have no regulation at all, and citizens are getting gouged until somebody talks to their city council or county commission.

Oops, just a MISTAKE in Fort Worth

A woman shopping found her car being towed, and asked how much to release the car. The driver said he had to take the car. Turns out this is contrary to a Fort Worth ordinance. If the driver shows up, the towing company must DROP THE CAR WITH NO FEE.

The company, Excalibur Towing, is refunding the woman's money, according to this article.

But I wonder how many other "mistakes" were made like this?

A commenter to the article named Andrea McLaughlin of Dallas, Texas says she has also had problems with Excalibur Towing.

But no mistake in Dallas

Meanwhile, Dallas has decided to authorize towing vehicles discovered to lack auto insurance, according to this article.

Towing predators snarling at each other in Florida

In Martin County, Florida, tow trucks are coming from neighboring Palm Beach County and St. Lucie County to seize illegal cars, according to this article. But Martin County towers can't go into St. Lucie because of an ordinance.

The towers are crying foul, according to this article, and wanting an ordinance to "protect" them from the other towers. What about protecting the rest of us from them?

The Ugly History of "Texas Towing" In San Antonio photo

Like brave Texas citizens who were cornered at The Alamo, pictured above, citizens were corralled and mistreated by an inappropriately-named outfit called "Texas Towing" which had a "longstanding failure to meet performance standards" according to San Antonio's Chief of Police...

Bean counters spill the beans

It's seldom when auditors get the kind of recognition and glory they deserve for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing, but that's exactly what happened here according to this article in at

A refusal to turn over documents

Things grew worse as Texas Towing refused to provide information about its operations in response to requests by the city, according to this article.

Outrage piled on outrage

After dragging their feet in turning over information, Texas Towing announced the city of San Antonio owed the company more than $100,000...without explaining why. Hard to believe, but it's all in this article.

The controversy drags on
San Antonio appeared to be merely "lining up its ducks" as matters dragged on, making sure it was holding up its end of the contract while trying to have discussions with Texas Towing. That's what I take from this article.

Letters tell the tale

The local media did a great job obtaining and publishing behind-the-scenes documents about the ongoing controversy. Here is a letter from Texas Towing to the local media, Page One. Here is Page Two.

The Chief of Police made the public record in detail in a three-page "Notice of Default" sent to Texas Towing. Page 1, 2,3.

Disturbing conduct by Texas Towing

The next news article relies heavily on the info in the "Notice of Default," but conscientious reporters did some digging, too. Some of the outrageous shenanigans of Texas Towing included (but certainly were not limited) to the following:

* Too few drivers. Drivers showed up late, keeping police tied up at accident scenes. (I merely presume some accident victims were also inconvenienced by this?) Specifically, drivers were late 2,371 times in a seven-month period.

* Tow truck drivers tampered with arrival and departure times on their paperwork.

* In a pattern which is all-too-common in some sectors of the towing industry, drivers were permitted to work with "revoked licenses, and with records revealing arrests for drug possession, and outstanding warrants."

* Texas Towing allegedly threatened a staff member of the police chief with loss of his job if he kept reporting contract violations.

*Texas Towing failed to submit required auditor reports for, like, um...years.

Where was the pressure coming from?

Some suspected the push to get rid of Texas Towing was due to competing businesses who wanted to get control of the lucrative contract. In the middle of this dispute, Texas Towing was dealt another blow when a competitor gained control of the city's impound lot, according to this article.

Auditor who started the controversy loses his job

Right when things seemed the most bleak for Texas Towing, the auditor who started the controversy lost his job and there was a dust-up over the contents of his original draft report, as discussed in this article.

What a great controversy. Makes me wish for some popcorn!

Controversy "blunted" by new report

It turned out the City of San Antonio had overpaid Texas Towing by a mere $21,000 according to a different auditor's report. The Texas Towing controversy became all tangled up in issues of whether the auditor was a "loose cannon" who had overstepped his authority, but the push to dump Texas Towing was inexorable whether the auditor had been a "loose cannon" or not, according to this article.

Police Chief unhitches Texas Towing

As of a couple days ago, according to this article the word was Texas Towing was "out on the street," and if there was going to be a lawsuit, so be it.

That is where things stand as of today.

Wow! And who speaks for the citizens at accident scenes who have dealt with this unsatisfactory company for years? In all this controversy, there is very little talk of what any citizens experienced in (for example) dealing with drivers who had outstanding warrants.

The final irony

Oh, one final little note of irony or is it just "virtual" irony, since it's on the internet?

As of today, May 31, 2008, the Texas Towing website still lists the company as "San Antonio's Official Police Tow."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tennessee Regulates Car Booting...Finally? photo

I am not sure how critical I am allowed to be of Tennessee because...

I do not have facts and figures on how many states regulate "booting" at all. My sense is, however, Tennessee is pretty late in the game. Better late than never, though, unless it's money in a parking meter.

In that case, you're just out of luck.

Anyway, here is a link to the article, which is also reproduced below.

Car "boot" rules win approval by state

Legislation will let cities regulate fees charged by private parking lots

NASHVILLE - Reports of motorists in Gatlinburg being charged up to $200 to free a "booted" car have led to passage of legislation that will let cities regulate the fees charged by private parking lot operators using the devices.

The bill passed the House 94-0 Monday night and now goes to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his expected signature. It had been unanimously approved by the Senate earlier.

The wheel immobilizers, or "boots," are affixed to vehicles to block them from being moved when the vehicle has been left in a parking lot too long, in an improper area or without a required payment. The vehicle remains immobilized until the motorist pays a fee.

Some private parking lot operators have developed a reputation of "being aggressive, egregious and really going after people hard" with the devices, said Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, House sponsor of the measure.

There has been an "enormous amount of complaints" from motorists forced to pay huge fees to have boots taken off cars, he said, and the Gatlinburg City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking for passage of the bill.

Some cities use boots on cars that have been illegally parked or found to have a high number of parking violations. Cities typically charge $25 to $40 to remove a boot, but private businesses with parking lots have reportedly been charging $150 or even $200, backers of the measure said.

McCord said he had heard "not a single complaint" against enactment of the bill, while "a lot of people are very much in favor of it."

The only House floor debate on the measure came when Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, questioned whether the measure would block the use of boots, which can be cheaper to a motorist than having a car towed.

McCord replied that this would not be the case, noting that governments already can regulate the towing industry. The bill merely puts boots in the same posture, he said.

As initially introduced, the bill would have applied only to Gatlinburg. But it was amended to apply statewide, giving all municipalities the right to establish maximum fees - if they wish - that may be charged by parking lot operators for unlocking the devices.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville.

Towing Utopia says: Senator Raymond Finney hasn't gotten enough credit for this. I'm going to send Finney an email to see if I can solicit more information.

The Abusive Towing Fun Never Ends In Knoxville, Tennessee

All I can think is, good lord, don't visit Knoxville, Tennessee with a vehicle. This place makes even downtown Birmingham, Alabama look good by comparison...

The latest Knoxville horror story happened near the University of Tennessee, with a certain paid parking lot which has a habit of towing cars whether they pay or NOT. With nothing but a crude little slot in a metal box to stuff money (no receipts) people can't prove they paid, even if they did. The entire story is reproduced, below, but you can click here for a link to the original article.

The City Wrecker Commission says it doesn't know who to believe, yet this parking lot apparently generates more complaints than any other lot in the city. This was back in October of 2007, but I don't see any indications the problems were resolved.

Wrecker panel hears two sides of story about garage towing cars

No decision, just a lot of confusion

By Hayes Hickman

October 26, 2007

Members of the city's Wrecker Services Commission weren't entirely convinced by anyone's story Thursday as they heard from alleged victims of a campus-area private parking lot that, according to one Knoxville police officer, spurs more complaints than any other in the city.

But they're willing to hear more before they decide who might be scamming who.

The board, which regulates local towing companies, took the complaints of two drivers who both contend they paid their $5 to park at the 1815 Lake Ave. lot near the University of Tennessee in August and still had their cars towed.

Local attorney T. Scott Jones, who owns the property, offered a witness' sworn affidavit challenging one alleged victim's account.

The commission members offered their own doubts about the accuracy of the affidavit, but they couldn't make heads or tails of the drivers' stories, either - the cash-only parking lot doesn't provide receipts.

"There's no proof that the money is paid or not," said Pete Claussen Jr., who had to pay an extra $90 to Jim's Garage to retrieve his Mercedes-Benz after it was towed from the site Aug. 17.

Claussen said he knew well to pay. He had another vehicle towed from the same lot once before when he shorted the pay box by $1.

Terri Godsey's story was similar. She said she made sure to pay the $5 fee on Aug. 24. Her husband, Billy Godsey, had one of his company trucks towed from the lot before, when one of his employees neglected to pay.

"My husband jokingly said, 'You better get your money in the right slot,' " she said.

Nevertheless, her vehicle - also a Mercedes - was towed as well before the couple had come back from lunch.

"You're going to get towed out of that lot whether you put your money in or not," Billy Godsey said.

In the Godseys' case, Jones furnished the written testimony of an employee at the nearby First Tennessee Bank. In the affidavit, dated two months after the incident, the bank teller wrote that from the bank's drive-through window she had seen a blond-haired woman park her Mercedes in the lot that day. Godsey is blond.

"Someone said something to her and pointed at the box. She shook her head and did not pay as she walked past," Sherry Fritts' account reads in part.

The commission members, however, were less than swayed.

"Most of the banks I go to at lunch have a line backed up out into the street," said member Mark Kolander. "I don't see how she could have seen anything."

Commission member Jean Teague added, "There are people who sign affidavits who don't see everything."

Knoxville Police Officer Don Huskey said that in response to numerous complaints, he and a team of other officers recently parked and paid for three unmarked vehicles there to monitor Jim's Garage, which is contracted by Jones to patrol the lot.

"They did tow some vehicles, but they didn't tow ours," Huskey said.
Thursday's was the wrecker commission's second monthly meeting at which complaints about the Lake Avenue lot have come up. But the members decided they would need to hear from others next month - Godsey said she has two witnesses who saw her pay - before they could draw any conclusions.

Huskey also stressed that the city's only interest is in the trustworthiness of Jim's Garage, which also answers calls for police service on a rotation list of city-contracted firms. If an angry motorist wants to pursue a case against the towing company, he'll likely have to file a lawsuit, he said.

"I can't make them give you your money back," Huskey said.

Super Hero "Angle Grinder Man" Frees Booted Cars In United Kingdom

Once again, and for the record...I am a moderate and I do not endorse this kind of thing.

However, this YouTube video about self-proclaimed urban superhero "Angle Grinder Man" is funny stuff.

Towing Horror Stories From Orlando, Florida (Preying On People In Wheelchairs) photo, downtown Orlando, FL

After consumer advocate Gregory Dawson of the Orlando Sentinel mentioned on his blog, two horror stories emerged from the woodwork...

First, an Orlando citizen calling herself "Lulu" wrote as follows:
There is more than one towing horror story in town.

Central Parking runs a lot on the corner of Washington and Magnolia that preys upon the handicapped and non-English speaking. The lot is monthly permit only during the day, Mon - Fri, but has like 6 or 7 conflicting signs and a meter box making it look like it is paid parking.

Plus the signs are mangled making them next to impossible to read. Disabled people park in the handicap spots and the second that wheelchair rolls out of sight the spotter calls for the tow truck to haul away the vehicle. A lawyers office sits in the middle of the lot, but they don't own the lot.

Get is owned by St. Luke's Cathedral, the Episcopal church behind the lot. Real Christian of them to tow the handicapped, poor and uneducated people who can afford it the least.

They could end the confusion by making it a secure, card access lot only, but then the church would lose revenue they make from event parking on nights and weekends and Central Parking would lose all the extra cash they get from their towing sting operation so there is no incentive for them to change. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wow! That's serious, Lulu.

This information is unconfirmed, and I welcome other points of view and/or contradictory information. (It appears the church in question describes itself as "Anglican," but the two denominations are closely related)

I contacted the church through their website, to give them an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

Next we have the story of a towing operator who has found a sneaky way to get paid twice. I don't know if consumer advocate Gregory Dawson will pursue this one because apparently there is no end to the horror stories he receives, but he was kind enough to share the story with me, as follows.
I have a situation where I had sold my daughter's car. I gave the buyer a bill of sale and I kept a copy for about two years. I thought I no longer needed to keep the document and discarded it.

I am now informed my daughter has a lien on her license because the person never transferred title. He abandoned the vehicle and the car store located at 12811 W. Colonial Dr., Winter Garden was told to pick up the car.

The lien on the drivers license is for $278.20. I called the store and asked for an explanation of the charges. His response was, "Towing cost, paper work and storage."

I asked what happened to the car. I wanted to know if they sold the car and for how much.

His response was they crushed the car. I said "Okay, why have I not received the proceeds from the crushing as a credit? After all you you clearly stated what the 278.20 was for and you are not entitled to be compensated twice."

His response was, "I've been doing this twice a month for thirty years."

I said, "That does not make it right, in my opinion he need to return the illegal proceeds he has kept all these years and needs an atitude adjustment for his "I make the law and answer to no one" outlook.

It has been my experience from 50 years in business the law is "you don't get paid twice for one service."

I tried to reason with him. He would not hear it.

(Greg Dawson) do you know if this is the norm in the business of towing cars and being allowed to be treated differently from other businesses?

Greg Dawson may have his own answer, but here is mine: getting away with murder appears to be the norm when it comes to "non-consent" towing all over the nation. That's why I've started a blog about this issue.

However, when it comes to towing as an actual service, companies are forced to mind their manners. I see the issue of abusive non-consent towing as an emerging national issue.

Gas prices are only going to make the situation worse, since cars are now filled with "liquid gold."

Furthermore, the scrap metal market has increased the incentive to snatch cars on any pretense and reduce them to valuable scrap. That's exactly what happened here.

In closing, I'd like to add this: Gregory Dawson said my blog was "doing God's work." Well, isn't that supposed to be the job of St. Luke's in Orlando, Florida?

If Gregory Dawson ever has a surplus of consumer abuses involving towing, and can't take care of them all, a few can be kicked this-a-way. But Dawson seems to be doing pretty well as a one man army of consumer advocacy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A "Citizen Uprising" Over Towing In Knoxville, Tennessee? photo

Citizens in Knoxville, Tennessee appear close to an uprising over towing issues. It's pretty ugly...

Admittedly, I have only been blogging about these issues for a few months, but I don't ever expect to ever see anything like the controversy raging in Knoxville. Citizens are literally talking about cutting off metal "boots" with a blowtorch...

First, let me make one thing clear. I am a moderate. I study public administration at a Masters level at the Humphrey Institute. So I'm not into a whole lot of wild-eyed talk about rising up in open rebellion against the oppressors, who happen to be one's own government. My response would be to put forward reformist measures (like technology which could inform a citizen of an impending tow) rather than talking about organizing an uprising.

(For the record, even the Founding Fathers tried a bunch of moderate reformist measures before turning to other options, so even the Founding Fathers didn't act like a bunch of hotheads until all other options were exhausted)

Therefore, I do not endorse cutting a metal boot off your vehicle, nor do I offer an opinion on the creative legal reasoning some have put forward in that regard, except to note "creative" and "legal reasoning" are not usually a winning combination.

What I do know, however, is citizens in Knoxville, Tennessee appear to have a very low tolerance for what they perceive as official abuse, and there is quite a discussion taking place about booting and towing as a form of official abuse. I first became aware of this amazing, colorful discussion on the comment stream of this article about possible limits on booting fees.

Here is the article, reproduced in full under the "fair comment and criticism" doctrine of the First Amendment, with my (fair) comment and criticism inserted. (Yeah, OK, I guess I do actually engage in some creative legal reasoning myself, but I'm on firm ground especially when I don't actively TAKE UP ARMS like some rather hotheaded individuals are literally talking about.

The article itself is fairly bland. But, oh, what people were saying in the comments section! Blowtorches! Constitution! The McMinn County War!

And much more!

Boots could get a cap

Parking firms say $40 limit would wreck business

By Hayes Hickman

Friday, May 23, 2008

Private companies that put boots on cars in Knoxville could be put out of business if the city enacts a proposed $40 cap on their charges, owners told Knoxville Wrecker Commission members Thursday.

The firms now charge vehicle owners more than twice that much if they want to free their cars from a boot, which act as a sort of handcuff when it's attached to the wheel, rendering a vehicle inoperable.

(Arguably worse than a handcuff. When people are first handcuffed, they will still get a trial, some legal process. When it comes to your car, though, it's "judge, jury and executioner" at the hands of some tow truck driver)

Boots are growing in popularity locally and can offer a "friendly alternative" to traditional towing for private pay parking lots and apartment complexes that contract with the firms, an attorney for the businesses argued.

But "booting requires at least two trips," said attorney Mike McGovern, who represents three firms working in Knoxville. "It's very labor-intensive, unlike towing, where you just get the car and go."

("Labor intensive?" That's just crazy talk. I'm sure if you go around towing cars all day and driving off, having to make TWO TRIPS seems really "labor intensive." However, considering the labor involved versus the revenue shook just can't call it "labor intensive.")

Among his clients, current rates run between $75 and $100.

Doug Stagner, owner of Rutherford County-based United Parking Enforcement Service, said he already pays his employees - who work as independent contractors - $40 per booted vehicle. His charge to a vehicle's owner is $95 cash or $100 to pay by credit card.

"There's not that much profit," said Stagner, who's been in business locally for about three years. "You will put us out of business at $40."

When asked what the cap should be, McGovern said, "They think they're charging a reasonable rate now."

City Council members booted the proposed price capping ordinance back to the wrecker commission after hearing from McGovern at the May 6 council meeting, where he offered a list of rates allowed in other cities nationally, including $300 in Milwaukee.

(Booted it back to the commission? OK, somebody needs to take a stand against puns like that, and...well, it's not going to be me)

City Attorney Alyson Eberting, however, said McGovern's list was flawed - many upper-end prices are in cities that don't regulate the practice. In those that do, the maximum allowed charges for booting by a private company typically are much lower, she said.

(The attorney for the tow truck company padded the numbers? Shocking)

Using that strictly apples-to-apples comparison, she offered her own list in which the prices ranged from $25, as set by state law in Virginia, to $100 in Chicago.

Knoxville is ahead of the curve in its attempt to regulate the practice, while other Tennessee cities now are waiting to see what Knoxville enacts, she said.

"We've talked about the rates before; it's come up at previous meetings," Eberting said. "And that's what we based the $40 on that we sent to council the first time."

Eberting, who recommended against any change to the proposed $40 cap, also offered the wrecker commission members a revised draft ordinance that was expanded to include requiring such companies to first obtain a permit from the Knoxville Police Department, pay a $25 annual permit fee and carry at least $25,000 in liability insurance coverage.

Feeling no closer to a compromise after the meeting passed the two-hour mark, the wrecker commission decided to continue the discussion at its next meeting, tentatively set for July 7.
Until an ordinance is approved by City Council, local booters remain free to charge what they like.


(Sure, let them run loose a couple months. It's not like they've got anybody UPSET)

Here are some examples from the comments posted to the article and, once again, I am not endorsing any of this. But I see it as very relevant to show what the mood is among the citizens in Knoxville, Tennessee.

First, check out this website all about "tow crime" in Knoxville.

The author of the site claims "this is the website that forced City of Knoxville Municipal Corporation to fire all its car-thieving towing contractors and file a class action against them. An amazing claim, yes, but I found evidence to back the claim up in a website about class action lawsuits, and I'll be posting something about that.

Second, check out the link to this lawsuit against towing contractors in Knoxville, which reads more like a novel than a legal brief. This is inevitably what happens when you represent yourself. It all seems so important and relevant, the historical record so near and dear. All the same...the lawsuit, as colorful all-too-personal as it was, apparently worked in the way it was intended by the plaintiff, and nothing succeeds like success.

However, this revised lawsuit reads like a much more professional document.

Here is another website which explores the fascinating philosophical boundary between car theft and non-consent towing, and when does one become the other? These websites appear to all be part of the same grassroots anti-towing and booting movement in Knoxville, and I'm sure they're connected quite intimately.

As part of this discussion, somebody contributed a link which explains, in detail, how to remove a "Denver Boot" from your vehicle. As the document puts it so colorfully, "It's big. It's ugly. It looks invincible. But the Denver Boot is really a marshmallow."

More will follow on the situation in Knoxville, which appears to be developing and changing moment-by-moment. I intend to contact some of the folks in Knoxville and collect a few of the horror stories from the blog.

But I emphasize, again. I am a moderate. Right now, I am just trying to understand the complicated and (I suspect) highly relevant situation in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Citizens Boiled In Birmingham, Alabama In Outragous Towing Scam photo

Behind the scenes, some email contacts in Birmingham dished up the rumor, scuttlebutt and dark innuendo...

So here it is. And I emphasize this information is UNCONFIRMED. If somebody has other information to the contrary, then submit a comment and I will most likely approve the comment for the sake of a substantive discussion.

According to an unnamed source (I love to say that!) the drivers who were caught up in the Birmingham, Alabama Crawfish Boil Towing Scam" will probably not get their money back. The issue was not even raised at the most recent "Parking Authority" meeting.

The source heard from several people who had their cars towed from that same lot during other events on previous weekends. Though there are "No Parking" signs, downtown Birmingham, Alabama is a ghost town on most weekends. (How sad and bleak!) So folks get in the habit of parking in these lots without getting tickets or being towed.

But recently some of these same lots were left open on the weekend, the owners of the lot waited for people to park and walk away, and then the towing companies got $200 for each car. There was no way to confirm whether the property owners were getting a "piece of the action." This issue has come up previously over "booting" in other parts of Birmingham. There are apparently some mass emails floating around containing articulations of conspiracy theories and I'm waiting for some of these emails to be cc'd.

(Just because I'll publish a commentary doesn't mean I endorse it)

Birmingham, Alabama sure doesn't sound like a nice place to visit, whether for the crawfish boil or any other reason.

Here's a crazy coincidence, by the way. I mentioned the small town businessman who kindly gave me a digital camera for use on my blogs? Well, I owed him some hours for a personal favor so yesterday I helped him haul 800 pounds of live crayfish on short notice. COINCIDENCE OR CONSPIRACY?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Citizens Scammed, Towed And Uncompensated In Birmingham, Alabama photo

Here is a great story with lots of local color, about a "crawfish boil" that started out as a lot of fun...until a bunch of citizens got towed in a scam...

Click here for a link to the original story, reproduced below with comment.

Birmingham Parking Authority maintenance employee fired after being accused of orchestrating parking scam.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


News staff writer

A maintenance worker with the Birmingham Parking Authority was fired, authority officials said, because he directed people to park on a private lot and collected fees from drivers attending the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil on Friday.

Birmingham police identified the employee as Edward McCray. Parking authority executive director Lynn Thomas said McCray, who had been employed by the authority for several years, was on duty and using a parking authority vehicle at the time he collected money at 22nd Street and Seventh Avenue North. He then directed cars into a lot owned by the company that manages the Park Place housing community, Thomas said.

(How strange is it his name is "McCray?" Crawfish are also known as crayfish. Maybe everything in Edward McCray's life has been leading to this moment of crayfish notoriety. Did he do it for the sake of the crayfish. OK, it's doubtful. All the same...what an odd little coincidence!)

"He had no business going on private property. We have zero tolerance for stealing," Thomas said.

(How sad he feels the need to state that last part, like maybe it's a revision of the former "you can steal a little bit" policy)

Many people returned to the lot that evening to find their cars had been towed. Some reported paying $200 to retrieve their cars from an impound lot.

A co-owner of the company that towed cars that night said only about 40 cars were towed. Some victims of the towing put that number at more than a 100.

McCray was detained by police, said Birmingham police spokesman Lt. Henry Irby. He was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor related to outstanding traffic violations, Irby said.

McCray has not been charged in the Friday incident, Irby said, because none of the victims had come forward to police.

Several of the people whose cars were towed have said they gave money for parking to a person they thought represented the parking authority.

Carrie Boyce, an 18-year-old McAdory High School senior, paid $5 to park on the lot about 5:30 p.m. When she and her friends got ready to leave about 11 p.m., their car was gone.

Others, including Angela Taylor, followed a steady flow of cars that continued to enter the lot after police arrested McCray at 6:30 p.m. Cars still were being towed when she, her husband and three teenage sons left the Crawfish Boil about 11.

(Oh, my word. Despite learning of the scam, the authorities didn't try to stop the towing! And, to make matters worse, this "crayfish boil" was a charity event. Here is a link about the event, which really sounds like a lot of fun and helpful to a good cause)

"Why didn't someone put a chain back up or why wasn't someone there to tell people they couldn't park there?" Taylor said. "It just seems like such a rip-off. Anything would have been better than just towing all those cars."

On Saturday, the second day of the festival, the owners of the property opened the lot to the public.

LaVeeda Morgan Battle, attorney for the parking authority, said the matter is under investigation and she could not comment.

No provisions for reimbursing those whose vehicles were towed have been made by the parking authority, property owners, the towing company or the city of Birmingham.

Gordon Williams, co-owner of B&G Towing, which towed several of the cars, said any reimbursement would have to come from someone else.

Rick White, a spokesman for the property managers, said he did not believe they would be giving reimbursements because the money went to the towing company.

"The Birmingham Parking Authority is a separate entity, we don't have any liability," said Deborah Vance, Mayor Larry Langford's chief of staff. "They are not city of Birmingham employees. They are Birmingham Parking Authority employees."

Larry Ward, chairman of the parking authority board, said the issue could come up at the board's May 15 meeting. "The board will have to look at that."

Well, as you might suspect, this matter did not just go away. Click here for a link to another article about this matter. (I'm undecided whether to call it a "controversy" or a "scandal" so I'm just going to label it a "rip off." Here is the text of that article, below, with commentary.

Click here for yet ANOTHER article about the scandal. As one woman put it, $200 is food for her family for a week. She has cried and cried over this.

The real question I have is not whether McCray guy is guilty and will be prosecuted. It certainly looks like it. The real question is who will be giving all these people back their towing fees? I plan to send a few emails and make some inquiries.

However, once again this is a good argument for more advanced technological systems so drivers could get "pinged" and warned of an impending tow. What happened here was the result of a scam, but with big events like the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil (truly a monumental event!) there is plenty of opportunity for confusion when it comes to where people are allowed to park.

And what happens, then? A wonderful night turns into a serious downer. And if you're from out-of-town, would you ever want to attend an event in Birmingham again?

Auto Theft Using Tow Trucks In Charlotte, North Carolina (The Beginning Of A Disturbing Trend?) photo

It happened in Charlotte, North Carolina but this kind of thing happens all over America. As the price of scrap metal and gas rises, you'll see a lot more of it.

And it's another argument for using more advanced technology so legitimate towing can be distinguished from sophisticated auto theft using tow trucks...

Here's what happened, according to a story on the local Channel 9 Eyewitness News. (Click here for a link to the original report)

Police said Wednesday night that tow trucks are the latest tools used to steal cars in Charlotte. Investigators said a number of cars have been stolen recently along North Tryon Street.

The most recent case happened at an Advance Auto Parts store on the 4500 block of North Tryon. Police say unmarked tow trucks pull up and then haul off the cars. Witnesses often just assume it's for a legitimate reason.

Channel 9 Eyewitness News spoke to a reputable towing company who told us the cars are probably picked up and then taken straight to a chop shop or scrapyard.

"Take it down to the scrapyard. Get money for it. Scrap salvage. Turn it right back into soda cans," said Ben Rudy with Hunter Towing.

OK, I just have to insert something here. Soda cans? Is he serious? More like Chinese-made stoves and toasters. Most soda cans are made out of aluminum. Cars are made out of steel. You don't have to be very bright to know THAT.

Police say all tow trucks should have some sort of indentification or contact number on the side of the truck. Because tow trucks can cost almost one million dollars, police don't think the thieves are amateurs. They are confident these crimes are being committed by people with access to a tow truck and the knowledge of how to use one. (End of article)

A million dollars apiece? That sounds rather inflated, even for the super-deluxe heavy duty tow trucks. And there's no indication here the plain and unmarked vehicles in question were the super deluxe kind, which more often tow LARGE vehicles, anyway. I have to wonder if this wild-eyed million dollar estimate came from the same source who thinks stolen cars get made into soda cans.

All the same, a story is only as good as its sources and kudos to Channel 9 for bringing us information about this disturbing trend...likely to just get worse due to the rising scrap metal market.

So what is the answer, here? I think there needs to be better technology. If my car was being towed, right this minute, I should be getting an alert to that fact on both my cell phone and my email. In fact, I should get electronic alerts BEFORE my car gets towed, so I can run out and move the car if there is a problem.

Currently, it seems, anybody with a truck and a large metal hook can just go around grabbing cars. How did we get to this point? You didn't see it in the horse-and-buggy days. You didn't see it in the early days of automobiles. So why do we all just ACCEPT this situation of our cars (which are necessary for our very lives) being grabbed off the street with impunity?

What we are seeing in Charlotte, North Carolina will start happening in other cities. I've often driven along the highway, seen disabled cars by the side of the road, and thought, "What is to stop people from just pulling up with a truck and hauling off the cars?"

Well, it appears...nothing.

The Unkindest Cut Of All, "Comrade"

Photos by John Hoff

From each according to his abilities? To each according to his needs?

Not if it's the private parking space at May Day Books, in the "West Bank" area of Minneapolis! Park here and they will sic the capitalist towing company on you.


(Do not click "Read More")

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Outrageously Bad Behavior By A Towing Operator In Orlando, Florida photo, Universal Studios, Orlando FL

Though the story here doesn't involve "non-consent" towing, it seems apparent tow truck drivers who engage in outrageous behavior in one category will turn right around and do the same thing in another category of towing. In this case, we're talking about a literal felon who did time for grand theft auto...

According to a local "consumer affairs" columnist who writes for the Orlando Sentinel, a tow truck company run by John Warrington scratched a guy's expensive car, promised to pay for it through insurance, then played one game after another to avoid paying a dime. It's not surprising, since Warrington did five years in a Florida prison for false personification (sic), grand theft motor, (sic) and multiple counts of check fraud.

There are so many reforms needed in the towing industry. A good place to begin would be not allowing convicted felons to be tow truck drivers or own tow truck companies.

(My only bit of critique or feedback about the article: if the columnist says he's going to "posterize" somebody, then there needs to be a kind of "poster" illustration with an image of the person's face. If no image is available, well, have a cartoonist make some kind of caricature!

Get enough "posterized" bad guys and maybe you'd have enough to make a deck of cards. What a great fund raiser idea THAT could be!)

Twin Cities: An Awful System That Leaves A Citizen Distressed, Smarting and Insulted

Photo by John Hoff

Roadguy at the Star Tribune has a great blog, and in January, 2008 he hosted a substantive discussion about "parking in a friend's space, an expensive cautionary tale....

Some of the things citizens had to say on Roadguy's blog were quite articulate and heartfelt, including the "system summary" which is the title of this blog.

The stories there really woke me up to another towing trend. It is apparently quite common for an apartment resident to tell a friend "you can park in my space" and then the friend gets towed. I'm sure more than one friendship has been ruined over this kind of thing.

It's another good argument for using the technology to "ping" auto owners so they will get word of an impending tow. Maybe, in this case, they could even talk to their apartment manager and say, "No, that's my friend. I WANT her to be in my space."

Of course, read the fine print. Some leases say you can't let anybody else use your parking space. What a messy noodle bowl of issues. Who knew?

The last comment was, of course, exactly what you'd expect: a tow truck driver jumping in to get the last word and insulting citizens who dared to complain.

He also says he can hooked a car and make off with it in 40 seconds. I say let's time you, big talker, my money against yours.

The Name "Cedar Towing" Keeps Coming Up, "Parking Ticket Make Hulk MAD!"

I'm sure we all experience times when we don't "put 2 and 2 together" right away and we get mad and kick ourselves. That happened to me with a company called Cedar Towing...

I mentioned a while back about how Cedar Towing was the subject of neighborhood concern at the meeting which took place on the West Bank, in a mosque. (Click for link)

Well, just today I was on the blog for "Road Guy" from the Star Tribune, and naturally I was searching for stuff about "towing" (naturally) and I saw an old article from Minnesota Monitor about the city council proposal to cap fees for non-consent towing.

Yes, I saw that article when it first came out, but for some reason I looked it over again and something new jumped out at me. Here is an excerpt:
Al Garcia, an attorney for Cedar Towing, handed out a list of expenses that go into the magic number, things like fuel, taxes and payroll. But the breakdown was vague enough that it raised more questions from the committee than it answered. Said Council Member Don Samuels: "These figures don't mean anything."

People paying towing fines, as Council Member Paul Ostrow noted during the discussion, aren't "customers" in the traditional sense. When you leave your car where it's not supposed to be, you don't get to comparison shop which tow company hauls it off. So the only real incentive to maintain reasonable rates, it appears, is to avoid being so outlandish that too many angry tow victims call their council members to complain and demand action. And here we are.

Garcia argued the city's rate isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, because private towing companies have more expenses. Private impound lots, for example, are required to be open 24-hours-a-day and need to hold vehicles 45 days before auctioning them off. The city's lot isn't open all day and it can sell unclaimed vehicles after 15 days. Schiff moved to continue the towing discussion after the city can do more research about how private companies' expenses compare to those of the city.
So who did I notice basically leading the political opposition to making any changes in the current structure? It was CEDAR TOWING, the same company the good folks at the "mosque meeting" were complaining about so pointedly. How is it their name keeps coming up, whether it is accusations of abusive towing practices or opposing reasonable changes?

Also, somebody on the "Road Guy" blog put it quite well. Private impound lots are required to be open 24-hours-a-day? That's news to him! That doesn't fit with his experience at all.

I wonder how many private impound lots are actually following that law? It might be fun to spend a bunch of time and effort to find out!

Oh, by the way...Road Guy's blog is great! It's not just all his Star Tribune columns, but unique content. To make life even sweeter, Road Guy is big into RIDING A BIKE! Who knew?

Just Like I Said Months Ago: A Towing Nightmare In St. Paul photo, tow truck in St. Paul

OK, first of all, I called it a couple months ago and now the rest of the media is just catching up with the story. A parking nightmare is shaping up in St. Paul, which is automatically a TOWING NIGHTMARE if something doesn't change soon, like giving drivers individual electronic notification of an impending tow. (Modern, yes, but very feasible)

Here's a link to the Star Tribune article in question. There are some issues in the article which I would like to highlight and, shall I say, spin in my own special way...

...such as the fact the information about public input in the article is really good to see, especially in light of the frustrating experience I had there a couple months ago, and didn't I let the world know about THAT? Maybe some of that had an impact.

Anyway, there is a meeting on June 5 at the Goodwill/Easter Seals building, 553 Fairview Avenue North in St. Paul, and people can even call and leave their comments at 651-266-2776. I called and, yes, the line does work and is a specific line dedicated to gathering these comments. You won't get lost in a bureaucratic voice mail system.

In the article, the project leaders acknowledge "there won't be a perfect solution for everybody." Translation: some folks, particularly small business owners in Frogtown and Midtown, will have to be sacrificed in the name of progress. This is what happens when you're named FROG town. You get sacrificed, like a frog being dissected in biology class. (Here's a great opportunity to plug my periodic employer, Bio Corporation in Alexandria, Minnesota)

I'm all for progress, even if sacrifices need to be made. I want the light rail. I understand University Avenue will change and some of these businesses will have to move. Some businesses might close up or even go bankrupt. (Can't say I'm sorry to see the tattoo parlors and pawn shops find another place to go)

Yet the light rail will open up more opportunities than it shuts off.

ALL I ASK is that if you're going to create a bloody, ugly Darwinian proving grounds of survival-of-the-fittest in the competition for parking, toss in some solutions to make the situation less of a nightmare. Individual notification of impending tows, for example. Better ways to track where one's vehicle is in the system, including tracking the vehicle online. (Very useful late at night, when you're trying to figure out if you've been "towed or stolen."

Is this all so much to ask?

First Virginia Beach Tows Cars, Then It Goes After Bikes photo

Things have really gotten bad in Virginia Beach, according to this news article...

First the city was towing people while they were at work. Some citizens got squeezed so hard they decided to take up biking.

So then what did the city do? You guessed it, they started seizing people's bikes. Not only did the city cut bike locks and haul off bikes on flimsy pretenses (like a complaint securing a bike to a tree might "hurt" the tree) but the people who lost their bikes had no notice, so they usually assumed their bikes had just been STOLEN.

What will they do next? Break people's legs so they can't WALK?

Let us not forget Virginia Beach also has signs reminding people not to cuss. Sounds like this town really needs 'em.

I am disappointed to learn about this stuff. I used to live in Luray, Virginia, and then Harrisonburg. Virginia Beach was the first (and only) place where I laid eyes on the Atlantic ocean. One of these days I'd like to get back to visit all the places where I used to hang out in Virginia. But it sounds like it's best to stay away from (as we called it) "Va Beach."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Getting The Word Out Plus "Corporate Sponsorship" (Well, Sort Of)

Photo by John Hoff
(Would you really expect to see "fine wine" in this place?)

The other day I was driving through the Mid Town area of St. Paul, when somebody started honking and waving at me. I looked to the left and saw a young guy giving me a big smile and an energetic "thumbs up."

He yelled out something, and I realized...

It was my metallic stick-on letters which had him excited and delighted. (GOT A TOWING HORROR STORY? WWW.TOWINGUTOPIA.COM)

So I waved back and nodded, like I was representing the beginning of a powerful growing social movement, oh yes, and I knew it.

Towing Utopia Dot Com. Rock on.

This is the first picture posted here with my sweet new digital camera. This piece of extremely useful equipment was given to me a couple days ago by a small town businessman who wishes to remain anonymous, but he is supportive of my "clean up the neighborhood" effort in North Minneapolis. (And, besides, he purchased a much newer camera)

"Don't do anything perverted with it, though," he admonished. "It's a CHRISTIAN camera."

I managed to establish, however, "perverted" didn't include taking pictures of crack-addicted prostitutes for the purpose of driving them off the streets. Good to know.

I'm pretty sure the businessman in question knows about this blog, too, since he and his spouse went all through the other blog (about North Minneapolis) and there are some links to this one.

The generous gift of a digital camera will support both blogs. The camera is sweet with easy-to-figure-out functions. Already I'm snapping and downloading in a heartbeat. My word, I just took this picture a little while ago while picking up Children's Claritin for my kid at CVS Pharmacy across the street, and already I can load up the photo like a snap.

Will modern wonders never cease? So why can't non-consent towing systems be improved and modernized? Why can't citizens get notice of an impending tow before somebody (oh, gee, for the sake of a convenient example) confronts a tow truck driver with a Remington 870 shotgun in North Minneapolis?

Another Argument For Electronic Towing Notification (Who Remembers Rental Car Info?)

I am always amazed and delighted by the way people transform their abusive non-consent towing horror stories into art, using photos and prose. Here is one from Boston which I found on

The story which goes with this image...written by "Vida Insana," goes like this.

"I missed my flight. My rental car got towed. The impound lot owner clearly wasn't impressed that I was clueless about the make/model of the car. I could only tell him that it was gold colored! (Who actually remembers rental car info?) The tow fee and a ticket. Ouch. Pouring rain and 30 degrees. Yeah, real fun."

So what I take from'd think the car rental companies would want to know when their vehicles get towed. You'd think there would be a relatively easy electronic notification process, and the rental company would be able to quickly contact the renter and let them know how to find the vehicle. Or, BETTER YET, there could be a way to let people know to hurry up and move their car BEFORE they get towed.

Nothing says "out of towner" like a rental car. And nothing says "I'll never come to your crummy city again" like a bad towing experience in an unfamiliar metropolis.

Tow Truck Driver Confronted With A Shotgun In North Minneapolis During Spring Street Cleaning

Photo By John Hoff, yard in North Minneapolis
(Can you spot the flying donkey?)

If there was ever an argument for giving citizens electronic notification before towing their vehicles, it would be something like this...

The incident happened on Wednesday, April 30, 2008, at 3221 Lyndale Avenue North. This is just a block or so north of where I own property and do extensive "block watch" activity. So I learned of the incident because I get "Fourth Precinct" email updates, though all these updates are also posted on a website. So this tow truck incident was routinely posted, but I guess only somebody like me (completely obsessed with non-consent towing issues) would see it as anything more than more senseless violence in North Minneapolis.

The man arrested (the owner of the vehicle) was Robert Tuggle, age 22, a white male with (get this!) NO PRIOR POLICE HISTORY.

Normally, when reading about these North Side incidents, one sees the suspects have extensive police histories. Take, for example, Earnest Boyd, arrested in a crack incident a block away, who has a total of 87 "CAPRS" on his record. (Computer Assisted Police Report System...or something like that) Basically, this guy has had the cops called on him 87 times. Quite a record, but normally with these North Side arrests one sees a few dozen CAPRS.

But Robert Tuggle? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Tuggle has never had the cops called on him before, at least not something recorded by CAPR.

According to the cryptic report, it was 8:30 in the morning and a tow truck driver was towing vehicles for street sweeping, hooking up when Robert Tuggle came out. Tuggle "racked" and then pointed a Remington 870 shotgun at the tow truck driver.

Though the report doesn't actually say it, one presumes the tow truck driver unhooked the vehicle in question and left the area. Officers came back, arrested Tuggle, and took his gun.

Clearly, Tuggle was in the wrong. But try explaining that to Tuggle. In North Minneapolis, you can be living in a house illegally--squatting, basically--and it takes WEEKS for the legal process to evict you, with a notable degree of care and concern about notifying you in regard to your rights and property.

But authorities can just come along and seize your car without notice.

What gets you to a job and helps you earn a living? Your car. Where will you live if you get thrown out of your house in North Minneapolis? Your car. What object is all tangled up with your very sense of personal identity, even more than (for example) a Remington 870 shotgun? That's right, your car.

For god's sake, Minneapolis. Find a way to give citizens electronic notification of an impending tow, before some tow truck driver gets shot dead on the street. Really, one could take an incident like this as a warning and work to prevent something much worse.

Friday, May 2, 2008

"I guess the city is in violation of its own ordinance"

Photo by John Hoff, near campus, contruction
of new TCF Stadium in background.

Tom Dahlberg at the Humphrey Institute sent me this little missive on April 23, which I thought I'd get posted before I start digging up innumerable Minneapolis-St. Paul horror stories on personal blogs and in the dark virtual nooks and crannies of chat rooms, editing this stuff for spelling and grammar, (of course) and tossing it up right here, baby.

Here's what Tom said:

"Street sweeping day is tomorrow for another street near me. It is 8:45 a.m. and there are no signs yet. Gee, I guess the city is in violation of their own ordinance to post 24 hours in advance."

Here's what I have to say to Tom:

"Go out there and make a citizen's arrest. See where that gets you."

(Do not click "Read More")

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Better Towing Information Systems Needed For "Get Your Stuff Back"

State Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, out of touch with reality.
(Image from a state government website, here under "fair comment and criticism")

I'm really interested in the fate of the "get your stuff back" bill, which means towing companies in Minnesota must allow the owners of impounded cars to, obviously, get their stuff back.

Though progress of the state transportation bill is complicated and I'm not sure where it is just right this second, one thing is clear...

And that is "get your stuff back" is a popular provision of the bill. An attempt to kill the provision with a hostile amendment FAILED. The hostile amendment was proposed by Rep. Tom Hackbarth, Republican, Cedar, who argued towing companies will be "stuck with junker cars" if owners are allowed to collect personal belongings from them, and towing companies will become "mini-welfare programs."

He also argued many towing companies already allow people to gather needed items from impounded cars. This argument by Hackbarth sounds completely bogus and out of touch with reality, like his argument companies will be "stuck with junker cars."

In fact, supporters of "let people get their stuff" pointed out junked cars have tremendous scrap value, a point that was rather obvious, except perhaps to Hackbarth who seems completely out of touch with ordinary human reality.

He was apparently out of touch with POLITICAL reality, too, because his suggestion to drop "let people get their stuff" failed by (as described it) "a wide margin."

You really have to wonder who is stuffing what into Hackbarth's back pocket.

But here's the kicker, and it's funny Hackbarth couldn't come up with this point and find a way to twist it to his advantage: clearly this law, when passed, will push us in the direction of needing better towing information systems. People can't GET THEIR STUFF if the system can't FIND THEIR CAR, like the horror story told in the previous entry by Martin Rugeroni.

Minnesota Daily Exposes "Towing Overkill" In Minneapolis

Photo by John Hoff, Dinkytown

Though taking an objective and even-handed tone, one can't help but notice how Joy Petersen's final article in Minnesota Daily exposed the overkill towing in Minneapolis, especially near the University where it is assumed student renters have no political power and won't fight back, even in (good lord) an election year!

I took things beyond the article and talked, myself, to one of the sources... get his horror story. Here is what Martin Rugeroni says happened.

I was actually pretty (expletive) when I couldn't find my car and I found out it was towed without letting me know. I saw the signs (for street cleaning) Sunday night as I drove around for about 15 minutes trying to find a parking spot as close to my house as possible. When I finally found one, I thought I wouldn't have a problem because there were many other cars parked there as well.

The next day when I came back from class at around 5 in the afternoon I got my keys and went to bring my car in front of my apartment and why I got there it just wasn't there anymore.

I got really nervous and my first thought was that it got stolen. I tried to talk to people on the street to see if someone saw something, trying to find out if it was OK to park there or not, but nobody could help me.

So I started looking for towing company numbers and called them one-by-one until one finally told me if it was on the street it was probably the City of Minneapolis who towed it. I gathered information from on-line and called them.

For the first two hours or so nobody could help me out and one of the guys on the phone told me I should report it stolen because they didn't have it registered. Finally I decided to give it one more chance and call again after 30 more minutes went by. NOW THEY ADMITTED HAVING MY CAR and I had to ask a friend who was having a nice dinner with his girlfriend to give me a ride.

I got there and first they couldn't find it in their system AGAIN. So I got very nervous, but after a while they finally did find it and I had to pay almost $140 bucks to get it back, not counting the ticket I got.

They drove me to my car and I finally got back home.

Towing without a previous notice is something that should be changed because people don't have the money or the time to lose in something like this. If they are going to clean the streets they should allow parking in places where you usually can't park since they just TAKE AWAY HALF THE PARKING SPOTS THAT EXIST, so where are we suppose to park our cars?

Signed Martin Rugeroni
My photo shows the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown. Bob Dylan used to live on the second story. He also wrote for the Minnesota Daily.