Politics: Tow the Line

By Jeffrey Bradley

 Real Life Horror Stories:

“After spending the last five months talking, writing and promoting Miami Beach as this weird, wonderful and slightly corrupt community (the Arts at St John’s is doing a Miami Beach History Project) — I GOT TOWED, for a $210 fine.

“Not only did I get towed by the notorious Beach Towing, but I was in the right. I was parked at Walgreens at 1845 Alton, shopping for about 15 minutes… and they towed me.

“Here I am, a 65-year-old retired minister, with a cart full of the best of Walgreens, where I have been a loyal customer for more than 20 years. I push the cart out to the parking lot, and my green 1996 F-150 truck is gone. I think, ‘My memory is leaving me…’ But no, the truck is gone. I laboriously trudge [back] into Walgreens. They keep everything for me, as I mutter words a minister should never say.

“Twenty-five years in Miami Beach [and] I have always been soooo legal, such an upright citizen. I even go the speed limit on Alton Road! I tried to get Beach Towing to look at my receipts, but he said, ‘Lady, pay the $210 or you don’t get your truck.’ So I paid it.

“I had receipts that bracketed my time within 40 minutes [and] showed I could not have gone elsewhere. Beach Towing tried to tell me that I left the property, but I did not — and my receipts backed me up. I imagined there was a vigilante towing employee who profiled my old truck and decided I was a likely suspect, without actually ‘spotting’ me.

“Then I went back to Walgreens and asked for a manager, who said the lot isn’t owned by Walgreens, and the private owner has the contract with Beach Towing (just pass that buck, please). I went to my truck and sobbed. I was glad that I am not Annie Oakley packing a pistol — there are signs at Beach Towing actually warning about the use of a gun!

“Of course, this is a familiar story. Towing happens. But I was following the rules. I called the police and was told this was a civil matter. Should I file a civil suit? I then spoke to a cop friend, who told me there is a real problem on Miami Beach with people parking in a private lot and going elsewhere. He said Beach Towing does provide a needed service. I also sent countless emails to friends, associates, the city parking authority and elected officials, trying to find out how to correct this situation.

“Persistence paid off. I went back to Walgreens and spoke to another manager, who reviewed my receipts and called Beach Towing, telling them to give me a refund. I went twice to Beach Towing, who also finally reviewed my receipts, and eventually after waiting half an hour, I got a refund.

“My advice to people looking for parking in Miami Beach is only use private or on-street parking. And, if you think you are wrongly towed, save all receipts. Be persistent; take your case to civil court if you need to.

“Private parking lots need larger, more visible, explicit messages about towing. As I waited for a refund, [another person] told the Towing employees in Spanish that the large fee meant he had less money for necessities for his niños. He asked the Towing employee if he had children. He then said, ‘How can you sleep at night when you do such things?’

“Because my personal mission is to address social issues and build community, I hope that we in Miami Beach can find solutions to the lack of parking in a manner that doesn’t outrage local residents and leave a bad taste in the mouths of visitors.

Aggressive towing like this is not good for the image of the city.”

Rev. Carol Hoffman-Guzman
Arts at St Johns

“P.S. See our History of Miami Beach project called Wish You Were Here, at


 We get this kind of mail all the time, and rail against the inherent arrogance, unfairness and rank infamy of this city-sanctioned brigandage. It’s as if armed freebooters were left to pillage us at will under the benevolent gaze of officialdom. Were Blackbeard to wade ashore with cutlass drawn amid scores of unkempt pirates, would the administration offer the keys to the city? We wonder. How else to explain the continued indifference to this corrosive blight? Very little compares to the outrage, frustration and sense of violation of towing, unless it’s the smugness of those Artful Dodgers as they jingle your keys in one hand while extending the open palm of the other.

Consider the reverend’s letter. A frustration runs through it. What jumps out is the number of lame excuses. Apparently, Beach said they announced on a loudspeaker in the Walgreens lot that they were going to tow. Rubbish. They offer these ridiculous, schoolyard rationales because no one calls them on it. Until now. We all know there was no announcement made of any kind. Listen, you like ridiculous excuses? Here’s another one: “The owner has the contract.” Good; call him. Have him tell Beach if they come trolling through his lot again they can just tow away the trash can containing that shredded contract of theirs. You can almost see that manager’s shrug at this tale of woe, just before he turned back to those really important two-for-one specials. Only persistence impelled a reconsideration. “It’s not my job, man” just doesn’t cut it.

So, what’s to be done? First, the status quo must go, absolutely. The behavior of those operating under a state-sanctioned monopoly by definition becomes abusive. Soviet apparatchiks had nothing on towing when it comes to boorishness. To rid yourself of canker, you must strike it root and branch. You must open the window, and let in the fresh air of spring to rid your dwelling of the stench of decay. First step, revamp the bidding process by throwing it open.

But most of all, elected and administrative city officials must be told in no uncertain terms that this kind of public larceny eats away at our image like a flesh-devouring bacillus and will no longer be tolerated.

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