Gorham bans towing on Munjoy Hill
Secret move prompted by anger over wreckers’ practices
By Chris Busby
October 20, 2006
Portland City Councilor Will Gorham had had enough. Tow truck drivers on Munjoy Hill had been speeding through the neighborhood, blocking streets, and bullying residents for months, he said. Then, this past summer, came the incident that finally pushed Gorham "over the edge."
A wrecker had a car on its hook, but had not yet moved the vehicle. The charge to get an unmoved car off the hook is $25; once it's been moved, it's $65. The wrecker driver saw the car's owners, an elderly couple, come out of their house to retrieve their vehicle. According to Gorham, the driver then "jumped in his truck, moved it two feet, and said, ‘Now you owe me $65.'" The couple did not have that much cash on them, so their vehicle was towed away.
"I said ‘F*ck this,'" Gorham recalled, and he got in touch with City Manager Joe Gray. "I said, ‘I want towing suspended immediately,'" and following a meeting with Gray, city parking division head John Peverada and members of the police department, Gorham got his way.
Gorham, who represents District 1 (the East End, downtown and islands) has kept the tow ban a secret, even from fellow City Councilors, because, he said, "I didn't want people taking advantage of it" by leaving their cars on the wrong side of the street. He also expressed concern City Councilor Karen Geraghty, who represents the West End and Parkside, will demand towing be resumed on the Hill.
"Tow truck drivers are out of control," Gorham said. "They don't give a sh*t." As another example of wrecker drivers' alleged callousness, Gorham noted the incident this past summer when a tow truck struck and killed a wayward moose on the Hill.
The drivers had been "acting like a bunch of freakin' renegade cowboys or something," he said. "We told them to slow down, and they gave us a big ‘F*ck you.'"
Gorham's other challenger, Kevin Donoghue, could not be reached for comment this afternoon. Neither could Gray, Geraghty or several other councilors contacted shortly before this article was posted. Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who represents East Deering, reacted to the news Gorham had done this by saying, "Good for him."
"It's the responsibility of the district councilor to take action, and he did that," Leeman said.
"I will be the first and foremost to say we have some tow truck drivers that give everybody else a bad reputation," Leeman continued. "They are relentless about this pursuit of $65 to an awful lot of innocent people. This has been an ongoing complaint for as long as I can remember."
Wrecker drivers "get a bad rap for a good reason," Leeman said, though she added not all the drivers are unscrupulous.
The Bollard was unable to reach any tow companies doing business for the city late this afternoon. Peverada said he's gotten no feedback from wrecker drivers about this decision.
Gorham has. "The tow truck drivers hate me for it," he said.
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard. He can be reached at editor[at]thebollard.com.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Guerilla Move Against Towing Pirates
In a surprise move, a Portland city councilor has turned the tables on local car towing renegades who have long held this cities' downtown residents in thrall. Any Portlander who has been awoken by the doom-laden sound of towtruck gear on the street outside their apartment, or has had to deal with the drivers' cutthroat attitudes when trying to get their car back before it gets towed away, will be happy to read this account.