By Aaron Keebaugh
At the council meeting Monday night, city councillors and city officials sought solutions to a recent towing debacle on Revere Beach.
On Sunday, September 16, Boston’s Allstate Life Insurance sponsored a road race as a benefit for autistic children. But the benefit “turned into a nightmare for the people,” Mayor Dan Rizzo said to councillors Monday night.
The 13.1 mile marathon race, which began at 7 a.m. on Sunday at Suffolk Downs and continued northwards, resulted in some road closings in the Revere Beach area. The northbound-lane of Ocean Ave., Harrington Ave., Rice Ave., and access to Revere Beach Parkway via Eliot Circle were closed for much of that morning.
To make way for the runners, many residents moved their cars onto Revere Beach Blvd., as stated in a flyer made available in the area.
But by 4 a.m. that morning, 36 of cars had been towed, Rizzo said. Fees for each towing approached $130.
“This turned into a problem the city did not anticipate,” Rizzo explained. “We regret any and all inconveniences that happened that day.”
The mayor informed the councillors and the public that the administration is working to rectify the problem, adding that he has already received half-a-dozen towing receipts, which he will use to seek reimbursement from Suffolk Downs and Allstate Insurance for towing expenses. “We’ll do everything we can to get revenue back to reimburse the towing bills,” he said.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto said of the issue. The towing incident, he said, was the result of mixed and poor communication between the entities involved with the benefit race and Revere residents. Information about the race was issued through CodeRED, but some residents in the area did not receive the message, the councillor said.
[In a related matter, Zambuto presented a motion requesting the director of finance to send tax and water bill notices through local media outlets as well, due to residents with unlisted numbers, imploring them to register their phone number through CodeRED.]
Council President Richard Penta, back in presidential form following a health-related absence, called it “a great motion” since, he noted, not everyone reads the newspapers, watches local TV, or even maintains a landed telephone line.
Wishing to speak, William Bell, a Jack Satter House resident and former city councillor, interjected, hoping to comment on a related communication he submitted to the council members (which he asked to be read aloud) prior to the meeting.
But Penta cut him off: “I’m running this meeting, not you,” the president quipped. “This is not an election year… It sounds to me like you’re running for election.”
Bell, stating that he was only looking out for the residents, said, “I don’t blame the state police or the towing companies for what happened.” He suggested that the councillors enact legislation requiring entities holding similar large-scale benefits to notify the mayor and appropriate Ward councillor.
Bell wrote the following in a letter to the council: “The recent towing of cars off Revere Beach Blvd.…on Sept 16, 2012, was a disgrace. Many elderly residents were hit with a $130 fee because they were not notified in a timely fashion about any proposed towing.”
He also wrote that the press releases for the event as well as the ROBO calls failed to mention anything about towing of vehicles. “I recall last winter when the same issue came up after cars were towed off Revere Beach. At that time residents were informed that it would not happen again without proper notification. Well it did happen again and it was worse this time around,” Bell wrote.
Bell also raised a separate incident (Thursday, September 13), when he reported that a “private resident” placed flyers on cars parked in Oak Island St., informing residents that the city would be painting stripes for parking spaces there at midnight. A copy of the flyer, provided to The Revere Advocate by Bell, informed readers that their cars would be towed if they were not moved by that time.
“The city never painted lines on Oak Island St. But drivers, who were scared into moving their cars onto the Beach then, were towed on Sunday,” Bell alleged in his letter. When he questioned residents in the area about the flyers, Bell reported he learned that Ward 5 Councillor John Powers had instructed the man to place them on the cars in preparation for the striping work.
“The residents of Ward 5 want answers,” Bell wrote, adding that the towing caused residents in the area to miss church and postpone travel for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
But Jack Satter House resident Frank Sabio, speaking to the council Monday night, refuted Bell's claims, adding that the former councillor was conflating the two incidents. “The road race and the Jack Satter House (incident) had nothing to do with each other,” he said. He noted that his own car had been towed because of the race, which he attributed to miscommunication, but “not from politicians.”
Of the striping work on Oak Island St., Sabio said he asked Powers a month ago if they could paint the lines for parking spaces there. Powers had agreed, and Jack Satter House Director Steve Post was notified of the plans, he said. Residents were initially given a one-day notice, via flyer, to move vehicles out of the way, but most of them did not receive the information, he said.
Sabio said they tried again on September 13, giving the residents a two-day notice with the recent flyer. But not all of the cars were moved, and as a result workers were still unable to stripe the parking lines.
Councillor Powers confirmed Monday night that he did speak with Sabio and Steve Post about moving cars for the parking stripes. The striping work, he added, would be done through a permit with the DCR.
In a heated response to Bell’s statements, Powers said “This was being done for the benefit of the residents of the Jack Satter House. I’m very troubled that someone would turn this into a political football.”
In a phone call Tuesday morning, Bell commented on the statements directed at him during the meeting: “I’ve been involved in Revere for over 50 years… Are they all [city councillors] not running for reelection? …It should be a level playing field.”
Powers said Wednesday that Bell was conflating the two incidents for political purposes to run for the Ward 5 council seat next year. Powers went on to say that he did not believe any cars were towed as a result of the planned striping work, stating that people could have easily moved cars back to Oak Island St. on Friday.
“I’m sorry that people got towed,” he said of the road race incident. “Hopefully the mayor will be able to get the fees reimbursed.”