Committee advises booting task force

A Minneapolis committee discussed booting at a public hearing Wednesday

by Jason Juno

The wait continues on whether the practice of booting vehicles will be banned in Minneapolis.

A Minneapolis committee discussed the issue Wednesday at a public hearing and decided to recommend that the City Council approve the formation of a task force to research the issue.

Dan Niziolek, chairman of the committee and a council member for Ward 10, said the committee needed more information before giving the City Council a recommendation on the possible ban.

Booting, as the city of Minneapolis defined, involves using a wheel boot to lock and prevent a vehicle from moving.

A large group of residents spoke at the meeting, continuing much of the same debate as at past public hearings.

Residents representing parking lots and booting companies defended booting as a tool to keep lot space free and a better option than towing, which can be more expensive.

Others shared stories, particularly about booting companies that were dishonest or had flaws in the system.

Enrica Fish, owner of Enrica Fish Medical Books on campus, said half of her lot is for public parking and half for contract parking. She said the parking ramp on Washington Avenue Southeast fills by 7 a.m. and meter parking is limited.

Signs telling people to prepay are displayed, she said, and tow trucks are slow to respond. Booting allows her business to have parking, she said.

Minneapolis Police Officer Christopher Guelcher said police regularly respond to 911 calls after a caller insists payment was made. Then police get involved, he said, sometimes threatening arrest of the person who booted the vehicle to get the boot off.

Guelcher said police have concern there is no evidence of payment in some unattended lots that do not give receipts. Booting also gives the city a bad image to those visiting downtown and people without cash available to pay for boot removal, he said.

Council member Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding areas, has said booting forces immediate confrontations with people who are upset because their cars were booted. Towing gives those people time to cool off, he said.

Those who like booting argued it is half the average price of towing, and vehicles do not get damaged as they might by towing companies moving their cars to impound lots.

University Student Legal Service attorney Bill Dane told the committee that booting companies also patrol lots, giving extra incentive to boot vehicles to make more money.

Dane told a story to the committee about students who parked in a Dinkytown lot for business customers. The students intended to visit the business but stopped at an ATM first. A company that watched them not go directly to the business towed their vehicle, he said.

The task force, as proposed by Council member Barbara Johnson, Ward 4, would include booting industry members, the city’s licensing office and legal office, and those who have been booted. Johnson also suggested starting a grievance process for complaints.

After talking with Council members before Wednesday’s meeting, Zerby said a ban on booting was unofficially one vote short.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19.