CITY HALL — Chicago drivers should soon have a Towing Bill of Rights to assure they're treated fairly by firms like the notorious Lincoln Towing, a group of aldermen said.
Aldermen Ameya Pawar (47th) and Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, submitted an ordinance including a Towing Bill of Rights at Wednesday's City Council meeting. It was immediately signed by 31 aldermen and City Clerk Susana Mendoza.
In addition to the Towing Bill of Rights, the proposed ordinance would call on tow trucks to have onboard cameras to provide video evidence justifying tows. It would also call on towing firms to distribute a list annually of the lots they patrol to the Police Department.
Like the original Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, the Towing Bill of Rights has 10 items.
1) The tow firm must have written consent to patrol a lot and remove cars from it.
2) Signs must be clearly posted.
3) Rates for towing and storage must be printed and openly available to those towed.
4) A car cannot be removed and must be released if the owner arrives with the keys before it leaves the lot.
5) The tow firm must inform the Police Department of the towed car within 30 minutes.
6) Fees can be paid with cash, certified checks and "commonly accepted credit cards and debit cards."
7) A car owner can reclaim belongings from a towed car even if not paying to have the car released.
8) A photo of the car and its position must be taken before it is towed.
9) A copy of the Bill of Rights must be given to those towed.
10) Complaints can be filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission by calling 847-294-4326 or online at icc.illinois.gov.
Grant Klinzman, spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said the administration is reviewing the proposal, adding it has already "sparked a welcome discussion about towing practices."
Under pressure from Pawar, Reboyras held a Council committee hearing on the issue last month. Allen Perl, an attorney representing the owner of Lincoln Towing, accused the two aldermen of "bullying" him at the hearing.
Pawar has called Lincoln Towing "a bad operator," and said the Police Department spent 600 hours last year pursuing complaints made against the firm. It is also under state investigation by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Lincoln Towing was made famous in the '70s by folk singer Steve Goodman with his sea chantey "Lincoln Park Pirates," and it was also a favorite target of newspaper columnist Mike Royko.
Perl testified last month, however, that the current owner bought the company in 1993.
"I'm not sure what relevance it has today," Perl said. "Don't cite the Lincoln Park song to me. That doesn't mean anything to me. it doesn't mean anything to my client."
The full Council is likely to vote on the ordinance next month.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: