Council Delays Booting Ordinance

This morning, the Council unanimously voted to delay the booting ordinance until it can be considered by the Council’s Transportation Committee in August.

The delay was critical for those of us who want an ordinance with teeth that protects our restaurants and retailers that have lost customers due to unscrupulous booting.

Here’s what happened: The booting issue was presented to the Transportation Committee of which both Councilmember Medrano and I are members. We represent the two districts most impacted by the booting problem: Downtown and Deep Ellum.

On June 1, the Transportation Committee discussed the issue, but had outstanding questions that needed to be resolved before deciding the issue. At the end of the meeting, the committee wanted to: bring the issue back to the Transportation Committee, get input from impacted business owners, allow the committee two hours to discuss the issue, and hopefully, reach consensus on the booting ordinance.

Despite the best efforts of Transportation Chair Linda Koop, it was not possible to find a time to hold a special committee meeting where a quorum of the committee would be present before council recess in July. (There are many special meetings crammed in right before the July recess, making it difficult to find time for yet another meeting.)

Staff had proposed an ordinance similar to the City of Houston’s, which requires parking lots to provide a written receipt to their patrons. Then if a car is wrongly booted, the patron has proof of payment and can dispute the wrongful booting. Having talked with business owners who have lost customers due to wrongful booting, they like the receipt system because it will protect their customers.

The issue was presented to the Economic Development Committee, of which neither Councilmember Medrano nor I am a voting member. So we could attend the meeting, but could not make a motion or vote on the matter. The committee recommended approval of staff’s proposed ordinance with a significant change: a parking lot owner could EITHER provide a receipt OR use something called “video monitoring.” Video monitoring means the parking lot owner doesn’t issue receipts, but instead a parking attendant opens up the money box and videotapes the money in each slot. In theory, the money box is tamper-proof, and the parking lot owner cannot remove the money from any of the boxes before videotaping (making it look like someone hadn’t paid when they had).

There’s a real problem with that. Unless the city hires money box monitors who regularly inspect the money boxes to ensure they are indeed tamper-proof, there’s no guarantee that the parking lot attendant won’t remove money from boxes, videotape the “empty” payment boxes, then boot the parking patrons who in fact paid. Without a receipt, the parking patrons have no evidence or recourse.

Also, the video monitoring system puts all the evidence in the hands of the (possibly dishonest) parking lot owner, when it is the parking lot customers — the potential victims — who should be protected with proof of payment in their possession.

Councilmember Medrano shares these concerns and, due to the many outstanding questions (including cost of implementing the receipt system, which some have argued is as little as $200 a month), the council agreed to delay the vote on booting until it has been considered again by the Transportation Committee in August.