The Transportation and Environment Committee failed to vote Monday on the proposed booting ordinance, choosing instead to schedule a third meeting before the city council's July recess. In the meantime, booting companies continue their aggressive tactics, as we witnessed last night during a ride-along with a Dallas police officer patrolling the Central Business District.
At approximately 11:30 p.m., officer Stace Hayward pulled up to the private parking lot at the corner of San Jacinto and Olive streets, where three other officers had responded to five citizens who were booted despite claims they paid using the machine.
Amy Bond and Jackie Collier returned from "Jazz Under the Stars" at the Ross Avenue Plaza to find boots on their vehicles and were forced to pay $100 plus unpaid parking to have the boots removed. However, Bond claimed she paid to park with a credit card and put the receipt on her windshield, and Collier said a machine malfunction didn't allow her to pay in full.
"It wouldn't take our money. It wouldn't take our credit card. We tried multiple times," Collier told Unfair Park. "The most we could get it to take was $2, and [a booting company employee] admitted it was a machine malfunction."
Bond said the employee arriving to remove the boots was unable to verify her credit card payment as her receipt was no longer on the windshield, and he told her changing her tire would result in a theft charge. "This is absurd," she said.
Officers at the scene said of the three others who said they paid, one took their receipt with them, one had the receipt on their dash but were told tinted windows prevented verification by the booter and another also put the receipt on their windshield and it was gone when they returned.
The person with the tinted windows was not forced to pay for the boot removal, and it was unclear whether the one carrying their receipt had to pay, but they apparently were told their receipt could have been taken from another car.
The booting company employee fled the scene when we arrived, and calls to the booting company, Bootman, Inc., and the parking lot operator, Premier Parking, have not been returned.
Officer Marcus Holland expressed frustration that the police department is forced to "put this fire out" while booting serves to sour people on visiting downtown.
"This is exactly what Dallas has tried so hard to get down here -- these people came to the jazz festival downtown. This is exactly what the city council wants; this is exactly what the mayor wants," he said. "These people are not going to want to come back downtown next Thursday night for the jazz festival. They're not going to want to put up with this again."
Senior Corporal Miguel Jamaica said the city is "killing themselves" by allowing booting and stepping up its efforts to ticket cars on Main Street, many of which are awaiting valet parking.
"Parking enforcement is out there, and it's just ticket, ticket, ticket," he said. "They go down there and just fucking have a heyday."
Angela Hunt, who represents the district where the parking lot is located and is a committee member, described last night's incidents as "awful," but stressed that people should know to put the receipt on their dash -- as the machine instructs them to do -- instead of their windshield. And she faults those who take the receipt with them.
"If someone is putting the receipt in their wallet, unfortunately it's their mistake," she says.
Hunt is confused regarding why the one receipt wasn't seen because of tinted windows, pointing out that state law restricts tinting windshields. "I'm not sure why it would be difficult to see, so I don't understand what the problem is there."
Committee discussions have only been about restricting booting, but Hunt says she's open to prohibiting it. "The problem with booting is it's easy to implement, but it's a severe measure for the driver, particularly when it's implemented wrongly."
As we pointed out Tuesday, outlawing the practice could prove viable. Besides getting rid of the headaches resulting from the boots, the best reason for a ban came from John Brunk, assistant director of Public Works and Transportation. He told us that Platinum Parking, the largest private parking lot operator in Dallas, has been successful in handling parking violators by issuing paper tickets.
Brunk says city staff hasn't given consideration to a ban because towing is a more expensive and aggressive measure, and council members haven't expressed a desire to do so.
"An error in towing is more difficult to overcome," he says. "If you tow them, you've really caused them some major problems."
This is the first he's heard of incidents regarding machine payments, as the majority of complaints received have been related to slot box payments. "The idea is that the machine boxes help solve most of those problems, but clearly there's no technique that's foolproof," he says.
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The next committee meeting has not been scheduled, according to Brunk, and he says only two members -- Pauline Medrano and Carolyn Davis -- have spoken with him outside of the committee meetings. So does city staff have any urgency about solving this mess?
"Well, yeah," Brunk says. "I guess I'd say we're ready to go."
Officer Hayward said the booting is "a failed system that needs to be revised."
"It's like anything in this town," he told Unfair Park. "Once a city council member has this happen to them, it will get fixed."