Letters to the editor

Stuck inside of Asheville with the tow-truck blues again

We turn this week’s Letters section over to an ongoing issue: downtown parking, and towing. The first letter you’ll read is at our request: Carl Mumpower, the most vocal Asheville City Council member on towing issues, weighs in on this thorny subject, which comes to a fiery head in the two missives that follow his own.

Xpress isn’t taking a position on the Lexington Avenue towing situation addressed at length below. We encourage you to draw your own conclusions.

We’re all in this together

Vivid memories persist of my Grandmother, and childhood trips to Asheville. That big green Buick was a chariot to heaven with the downtown pleasures to be found at the S&W Cafeteria, Woolworth’s and the Plaza Theater. Most trips we found a parking space on the street, or a handy attended lot close to the action. [But] time’s passage has seen the closing of each of those wonderful doors.

That big Buick and my dear Grandmother have disappeared into dust and memories. I’m still here, for a time, and continue to find and appreciate downtown pleasures. What I generally don’t find is easy parking.

We have a new downtown [that’s] more successful than ever, and most of us choose to drive there to have fun there. Parking-garage capacity is adequate to cover almost all of our downtown needs, and more [garage parking] is on the way. The ghost of my grandmother haunts us a bit, however, in that we all seem to prefer parking on the street, or in that convenient lot near the action. Thus the stage is set for a struggle of needs that pits downtown visitors against property owners, towing services and others searching for convenience — it’s a formula for problems.

Abuses occur on all sides in the form of predatory towing, vandalism and littering; poor or nonexistent signage; and indifference to the rights of private property owners. [But] a measure of relief may be in sight: Asheville City Council, with the support of our local legislative delegation, will soon implement ordinances designed to help. It’s a start, but the real solutions will come more through mutual consideration than additional governmental regulation.

The letters that follow bring dramatic focus to our parking issues. What unfolds is not a simple tale of “good guys/bad guys.” Buried in both letters are challenges that speak to anyone who lives, works, plays or invests downtown. We are all in this together — whether we own the car, the property or the tow truck — there are solid reasons to look out for one another.

— Carl Mumpower
Member, Asheville City Council

Legalized car theft?

I was outraged by the treatment I received by All-Safe Towing the evening of July 3.

I pulled into the South Lexington parking lot at 5:55 p.m. [and] noticed a small, poorly marked sign saying private parking till 6 p.m., public parking after 6 p.m. The lot was empty. Another car pulled up next to me and we walked to the electronic kiosk to pay. After standing in line for a minute, dollar in hand, I entered my parking-lot number. The electronic message said: Private parking till 6 p.m. I glanced at my watch: three minutes till 6. I told the other couple we would need to wait three minutes and we began chatting.

Moments later, the woman commented, “Isn’t that your truck being towed away?” I charged off across the parking lot, certain that some creep was stealing my truck. I flagged [the driver] down at the edge of the lot; he saw me and took off into the street. I darted out in front of him, causing him to come to a screeching halt … [and then] I slammed my fists on his hood, demanding to know why he was stealing my truck. He told me he was towing it for illegal parking and started to pull away. I again accused him of being a car thief and jumped onto the back of the tow truck. He slammed on the brakes, knocking me off.

I saw two police on foot and started yelling for their assistance. [The tow truck operator] tried pulling away a second time and I jumped back on his truck and held on. The police asked him to park it and get out. I told them this creep was stealing my truck. They told me he was the All-Safe Towing driver. (The driver never identified himself, nor was the truck marked.) I asked the cop what time it was. He had one minute till 6 p.m. I still had the $1 bill in my hand and explained I was trying to pay while the driver was taking my truck. My watch [then] had one minute after 6.

The driver claimed I parked at 5:45.; I told him I had witnesses. He could [have cared] less. He said he needed $100 cash — no checks, no credit card. I showed him I had only $22. No deal. The police explained this was a civil matter and removed me from the truck so the driver could leave. All my resources, phone, checkbook, etc., were going down the road in my truck. What a horrible feeling — banks closed, holiday weekend, 45 minutes from home.

Many thanks to the manager of the French Broad Co-op for lending me $100 until I could retrieve my checkbook. It took several trips to the parking lot to find the correct phone number for All-Safe — they post their number in the small lot next door to the lot where I parked. It took an additional 60 minutes of driving around and two phone calls for directions to find these guys.

I finally arrive [there] at 8 p.m. and the driver now informs me that the price [is] $125 (they charge $25 for storage). Thankfully, the owner noted I was ready to hemorrhage and told the driver to “let me go” for $100.

I work with juvenile felons for a living. My students have committed some very bad crimes, but most have more compassion and understanding than this predator of a truck driver. I now understand the outrage and vindictiveness of a person who feels abused by the system.

Beware the red tow truck: He’s the judge and the jury, and he sets his watch slower than the rest of us. As far as the city is concerned, “it’s a civil matter.” I think it’s legalized car theft. The punishment does not fit the “crime,” and there is no due process to protect citizens’ rights.

— Stephen “Tex” Teixeira

“Please try to be civil”

All-Safe Towing appreciates the opportunity to respond to the [letter] received from Mr. Teixeira, who was obviously as upset when he wrote [it] as he was on the day his car was legally towed from downtown Asheville.

I am the creep predator of a truck driver Mr. Teixeira referred to in his diatribe. No one who knows me would recognize me from [his] description. I am 23 and have a BA in corporate finance. I grew up here, am involved in my community and my church, and have recently bought my own home.

I have been working for All-Safe for two years. The Aston lot [on Lexington Avenue] recently changed hands and the new owners are trying to balance the parking needs of downtown employees with the needs of downtown visitors. One section of the lot is set aside for monthly parkers until 6 p.m. We usually try to check the lots toward the end of the day to make sure spaces are available for those employees who staff the late shifts at area restaurants, bars and clubs. These folks make downtown a pleasant place for the rest of us to visit. They are not highly paid, and the space they pay for needs to be available when they pull in for their shift.

When I pulled into the lot at 5:45 p.m., I began to hook up to Mr. Teixeira’s vehicle. As I did this, I had no way of knowing he had just pulled into the space. He could have been parked there all afternoon for all I knew! His car was in a reserved space, so I towed him.

He makes a big point of his having pulled into the space at three minutes until 6. It took me about seven minutes to hook up to the car; then I got back in, and as I tried to drive out, he slammed his fists on my hood and screamed at me. As I tried to leave again, he proceeded to jump on the back of my truck (twice). The police came up and assessed the situation — it was then 6 p.m. It seems like a pretty full schedule for three minutes!

Mr. Teixeira says he noticed only one small, poorly marked sign [in the parking lot]. There are four signs, [each] 24-by-28 inches, which emphasize that the yellow-striped spaces are reserved Monday through Friday. There is an additional 24-by-28-inch sign, plus a 36-by-48-inch sign, which also includes the information. Under the information regarding the reserved spaces, each sign states, “Enforced by All-Safe Towing, 236-1131.” I would also like to point out that Mr. Teixeira states that the electronic message at the kiosk said “Private Parking till 6 p.m.” The message actually reads “Stall Reserved.”

Mr. Teixeira does correctly state that he slammed his fists on the hood of my truck and began screaming at me. I told him I was towing the car for illegal parking, and then proceeded to drive off. You may understand why I chose not to stand and chat with an obviously enraged individual with poor self-control. Mr. Teixeira then jumped on the back of the tow truck, and I was forced to stop again, although I did not slam on the brakes as Mr. Teixeira says. He asked me to call the police, which I did; but while I was on the phone, two officers walked up. I told [them] that Mr. Teixeira was out of control, and [that] there would be no deals. They understood and told Mr. Teixeira that I “had a job to do and was going on.” He was charged the full $100 fee when he arrived [at the All-Safe office] to collect his car.

Mr. Teixeira says in his letter, “I now understand the outrage and vindictiveness of a person who feels abused by the system.” By his own admission, Mr. Teixeira parked in a space he knew was reserved, despite the fact that numerous public parking spaces were available. When he got to the kiosk, the machine displayed a text message to tell him the stall was reserved. Mr. Teixeira still chose not to move his car, knowing it was parked in a reserved space. When his car was towed, Mr. Teixeira slammed his fists on my hood and accused me of being a car thief.

It seems to me that Mr. Teixeira is his own worst enemy. He spends a lot of time railing against “injustice,” yet no time at all taking responsibility for the choices he made, or for his abusive reaction to the situation he provoked. Is his response one he would model for the juvenile felons with whom he works?

It is a terrible thing to have your car towed. We understand that people are upset and angry. This does not give them the right to be abusive. There are many folks we’ve towed who have made honest mistakes. They politely explained their situation and collected their vehicles at a free or reduced rate as a result. I do wonder what difference it might have made if Mr. Teixeira had given a civil explanation for the situation in a calm, non-threatening manner.

Downtown Asheville is a wonderful place to spend time. You will find great music, great food and great shopping. Please pay attention when you park your car. Take a minute to find and carefully read the signs. Don’t let carelessness ruin your evening.

If you do end up being ticketed or towed, please try to be civil. It makes things easier for everybody. Besides, this is a small town.

— Patrick Pavone
Driver, All Safe Towing & Recovery

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