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Davenport City Hall

The clock in the tower of Davenport's City Hall is believed to date back to 1895 or 1896.

A proposed ordinance in Davenport would give local parking enforcement authorities the authority to use an old school tool for punishing people with several unpaid tickets: the vehicle locking device commonly known as the “boot.” 

The device, often bright yellow, clamps over the wheels of passenger vehicles, leaving them temporarily immobile until it is removed. The punitive method is often employed in major cities around the nation, including Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Under the proposed Davenport law, a vehicle could be booted whenever its owner has five or more unpaid tickets. To get the boot off, the vehicle owner would have to pay back all fines owed plus an $80 removal fee.

Nicole Gleason, Davenport’s public works director, told aldermen during a committee hearing this week that the proposed method aims to “address specifically those who are in arrears significantly on parking violations.”

Another provision of the proposed ordinance would make all of the city’s parking fines a flat $25, a change Gleason said would remove some of the confusion that comes with writing different tickets for various offenses. The city’s parking fines currently range from $20 to $35.

Davenport’s city code permits cars to be towed and impounded once drivers meet the five-ticket threshold. The proposed update now in front of aldermen would allow the city to boot the cars instead but also leaves the door open for a car to be towed at the city’s discretion.

Taking too long to pay up could make things worse. In cases where no fees are collected for more than 30 days, the city could add another $30 fee. And the city would have the discretion to tow and impound any vehicle within 48 hours of it being booted.

The proposed ordinance is still in an early stage of the council’s decision-making process. It goes to the council for its first reading Wednesday, where the measure must receive a majority of aldermanic support to move forward. That process repeats twice more unless aldermen pass a special motion to expedite the approval process.

The proposal also comes as some of the city’s towing practices have been met with upset calls from area residents.

During a separate meeting this week, Gleason told city officials that 78 cars were towed away from the downtown area amid the last weekend storm. In periods of heightened snowfall, the city makes declarations to keep cars off main thoroughfares so snowplows have room to clear the streets.

Addressing recent complaints the city received, Gleason said the volume of tows was on par with other large events the city has previously witnessed. Whenever parking ticket appeals are filed, she added, the city provides information to sign up for the city’s snow emergency alerts.

Snow emergency information and city alerts can be accessed at http://www.cityofdavenportiowa.com/cms/one.aspx?pageId=7361133

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