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The Weber State University debate team covers both sides of the towing debate before the Ogden City Council. As part of the College Town Initiative, the debate team was able to help the City Council make a decision by debating both sides of the issue. (Source: Ogden City)

During an Ogden Raptors baseball game last summer, 19 cars were towed from parking lots next to the Lindquist Field in downtown Ogden.

In response, Ogden residents complained to the City Council, who began to look at drafting a motion on non-consensual towing.

As part of the College Town Initiative, Weber State University debate coach and communication professor Omar Guevara volunteered the debate team to contest the issue in front of the City Council.

“It’s a great opportunity for the city to have interaction with the college and have (students) do some research that would be beneficial to us,” said Ogden City Council Chair Richard Hyer.

Hyer said he often hears complaints from residents in the summer about towing company practices. One example he provided was of an Ogden resident who had his car towed after going into a business because he went to the adjacent business first.

Guevara selected four members of the Weber State debate team to stand before the City Council on Dec. 16  to debate the issue.

WSU sophomore Misty Tippets, who debated the negative side, said the team spent a whole day researching to come up with arguments and prepared with two practice debates.

“Usually we only get to debate in front of a judge and two others debaters, so this was a big deal,” said Kinsee Gaither, a WSU sophomore who argued for the affirmative side.

WSU sophomore Steven Sanchez joined Gaither to argue that Ogden should adopt a policy restricting towing companies and require the business owner to call the towing company directly.

They argued that use of “spotters,” people paid to spot when someone parks in the wrong place, was unethical and their use was abused by towing companies to make more profit.

They cited cash-only polices and a lack of good road signs as traps that people fall for often, resulting in their car getting towed. Gaither said Provo City passed a similar ordinance to restrict towing.

WSU junior Khalid Sharif joined Tippets on the negative side, arguing that predatory towing is over-hyped by the media, and towing companies should be able to operate their businesses without regulations that stifle competition.

They referred to people who park in places they’re not supposed as “predatory parking” to counter the opposition’s theme of “predatory towing.” They said the current plan would not relieve the abuses in the system and proposed an alternative of building a parking garage to ease some of downtown Ogden’s parking woes.

“I was kind of nervous coming in,” Tippets said. “I thought we had the wrong side of the debate, but after refreshing, I thought we found some good arguments.”

Tippets added that she learned a lot about how city government works and functions.

Hyer said he understands that it is a complex issue and feels the council should be able to find a middle ground.

“There is some (towing) that’s absolutely predatory that’s going on,” Hyer said.

Council Member Neil Garner said he was glad the debate team brought both sides to the table since he doesn’t get to hear the other side often.

Guevara said he was pleased with the information the debate team presented to the City Council and that he was glad the Ogden City attorney had attended the debate.

“Sharing the information is what makes the decision-making process better,” Guevara said.

Guevara said the debate team has assisted the City Council in the past in hosting events and promoting tourism.

“Being able to provide our specific services in such a deliberate fashion really gives us a chance to give back to the community,” Guevara said.

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