Towing is the New Mandatory Minimums

Every now and again you read a columnist and say, “Nah, he/she can’t possibly believe that.” I had one of those moments this morning after reading Adrian Walker’s latest. It is, quite possibly, the most asinine Globe column I’ve read in some time. I read it, then threw it across my apartment in disgust, then picked it up and read and threw it again. None of this did anything to alleviate my apoplexy at his suggestion that, in its effort to clean Boston’s filthy streets, the city is waging a war against the poor.

It started out as a good idea a few months ago. The city, tired of complaints that street cleaning was lousy and getting worse, decided the only way to fix the problem was to move the cars standing between the sweepers and the curb.

But when government met free enterprise, a good idea spun out of control. Some neighborhoods are cleaner, but the big beneficiaries have been towing companies. They have collected more than $2.1 million since April – the easiest millions they may ever rake in.

What many residents have to show for the program is anxiety and aggravation.

Read the column yourself. It’s like an onion of inanity. Though I’m having a hard time divining the actual point of the piece, there are several half-developed assertions that constitute a kind of loose roadmap for those with the fortitude to follow it through to its stunning conclusion.

1. Private tow truck drivers drive recklessly and “stalk” neighborhoods, unsettling residents.

2. Since the city, buffeted by complaints about trash-strewn streets, started towing illegally parked cars on street cleaning days, non-rich people have had their cars towed. One guy in Roxbury got his car towed, and then was late to one of his two jobs because he had to go get it.

3. Private firms are making a lot of money off this policy, and that is bad because, according to an equally asinine coment from city councilor and mayoral hopeful Mike Flaherty, “companies are collecting millions on the backs of working families.”

4. The towing program is facilitated by the BPD when they would be better served solving murders.

Walker acknowledges that the streets are cleaner, and quotes a city official who says fewer cars are being towed as residents get the message—which to a sensible person would suggest the city’s policy is working—but apparently that’s offset by the veiled persecution of the poor.

Predictably, this sort of lefty class warfare Walker’s going for pivots on a stereotypical characterization of the poor, or, “working families.” In this case, the people being preyed upon are essentially good-natured, hard-working but ultimately helpless morons who can’t process simple bits of information and need to be protected by the government.

The Roxbury resident Walker cites says his car got towed because the sign announcing street cleaning days was “mostly covered by a tree.” Really? Was the metal post the sign is bolted to also mostly covered by the tree, because that’s usually a pretty good tip-off that something important is up there. Moreover, who lives in a neighborhood and doesn’t know the street cleaning days? Two jobs or no two jobs, this guy deserved to get his car towed. And odds are he’ll be more careful next time.

But that point is lost on Walker, who, half-heartedly proposes the city right this gross inequity by dumping the private towers and using its miniscule BTD towtruck force to do the job—as if that wouldn’t prompt another Walker column about how the city, seeing the potential of added revenues, is preying upon poor people with their Visigoth tow truck death squad. Maybe he’d also push for tow truck drivers to request paycheck stubs from people who’ve parked illegally to make sure no working families are affected. Maybe the rich can pay bigger fees to subsidize the poor, like with car insurance.

“Everyone wants a clean city,” Walker concludes, “but Boston was cleaned for years without sticking up residents. If the city had to pay for towing 20,000 cars, it might approach street cleaning a lot differently.”

Um, of course it would. But is that what we’re arguing about? If the city had to pay to clean my toilet, they’d probably view things differently too. But they don’t, and they won’t. So closing on that point is just fatuous — like the whole piece — and the decidedly shaky philosophical foundation it’s built upon. Shit like this is why people hate liberals so much.

Update! The Dig’s Paul McMorrow, and Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin pile on.