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Atlanta takes a modest step towards reforming the automotive startup industry

A proposed Atlanta City Ordinance introduced in February would have banned private-owned vehicles and codified the practice as “a ruin for the city”.

Nine months later, those strong words had been removed from the legislation. And the version of the bill approved by the City Council’s Public Safety and Justice Committee on Tuesday will likely come as a disappointment to anyone who wants to put vehicle immobilizers on the scrap heap.

VIDEO: previous coverage of the car start

The committee approved an ordinance that increased background checks for startup operators, created clearer signage for when cars could be started or towed and allowed business owners to apply for permits to start autonomously the vehicles. Currently, the law requires companies to hire a separate company authorized by the city to tow or start vehicles.

Now the proposal approved Tuesday will likely go to the full council on Monday. But the testimony before the commission highlighted the significant amount of indignation and financial interest surrounding the matter.

Matthew Wetherington, a lawyer who is trying to overturn the ordinances that allow vehicles to start in Atlanta and make it illegal across the state, called the “window dressing” order.

However, Wetherington called Amir Farokhi, the board member pushing for the changes, brave to be willing to tackle the issue, despite lobbyists’ powerful start-up efforts to preserve the status quo.


“He’s doing his best,” said Wetherington.

Wetherington appeared before the committee with a new client: 27-year-old Matt Stevens, who was shot in the thigh last Thursday after facing a man who said he started his car outside a Buckhead bar on block 3000 on Roswell Road.

“It is a culture of violence that is inflicted unnecessarily on our community,” Wetherington told the committee. “We are talking about using guns to enforce $ 2, $ 3, $ 4 parking. We can do better as a city. “

Stevens told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that his car was the only one in the parking lot and that he was only there for about 10 minutes longer than he should have been. Frustrated, he said he threw money to remove it on the ground.

After a few more words exchanged, Stevens said the boot operation pulled the gun out. Stevens replied by raising his hands saying: “Relax! Cold!”

Then his ears rang and blood dripped from his leg.

The clerk of the startup company removed the boots from Steven’s car so that a friend could take him to the hospital.

Chip Schmeelk, a representative of Empire Parking Services, who is responsible for applying the parking lot in Buckhead’s parking lot, told committee members Tuesday that vehicle immobilization is effective and necessary in dense urban areas. Its industry employs over 250 people locally, investing millions of dollars in the city’s economy every year, he said.

He said his company was cooperating with law enforcement and investigating the accident.

Schmeelk also acknowledged that it was not the only time an employee of the Empire parking service had been accused of illegally brandishing a gun. Last year, in the same batch, another employee of the Empire pointed a gun at a man who was filming him. When the employee threatened to shoot the man, the man dared to do it and threatened a cause.

“What I would like you all to get away from that accident is that we collaborated with law enforcement,” said Schmeelk. “The employee in question has been fired.”

According to documents from the Fulton County Court, the clerk pleaded guilty to a crime by pointing a gun at a person.

“In other words, the system has worked,” said Schmeelk.