Greater Greater Washington

AAA "apologizes for comments," says taken "out of context"

AAA Mid-Atlantic just posted the following statement on Twitter:

The remarks attributed to John Townsend reported in the City Paper article are inappropriate, and in no way representative of AAA Mid-Atlantic's views. Mr. Townsend apologizes for comments attributed to him that were offensive.

It was never Mr. Townsend's intention to be insulting and agrees that there is absolutely no place in the public discourse for personal attacks.

That said, Mr. Townsend believes that many of the statements were presented out of context and mischaracterize the discussion.

Read the original story and the Greater Greater Washington team's comments.

Update: DCist's Martin Austermuhle figured out the missing context. For example,

I think he's developmentally retarded, and I use 'retarded' in the French way, meaning that he's late. He's late to development meetings, that's what I'm trying to say.
Update 2: Reporter Aaron Wiener defends the context of the quotations and gives even more examples of insults from Townsend: "He also called [David Alpert] 'reptilian,' 'pedantic,' and 'childlike,' and suggested he had a 'Napoleonic complex.'"
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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Sure! If only you had posted his comparisons to the KKK and calling you "retarded" in the right context, the comments would have been perfectly understandable!

by engrish_major on Apr 19, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

@engrish_major +1

by Adam L on Apr 19, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

I'd be fired in about two seconds if I made my organization look this bad.

by Brian S on Apr 19, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Wow. After reading that article, I think it's pretty clear that Grandpa Townsend should be taking the bus to work! The fact that this organization employs this guy as their spokesperson is surely indicative of far deeper problems.

by Ron on Apr 19, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

Well that was almost an apology anyway.

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.: Yeah, they got halfway there...but then couldn't resist walking it back. Nice try, I guess.

by Gray on Apr 19, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Gray: If it's AAA, would that be "driving it back"?

by David Alpert on Apr 19, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

As long as you walk your statements back :)

by Thayer-D on Apr 19, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

Can I bike them back (so it's faster) when I need to withdraw something?

by David Alpert on Apr 19, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

FYI, as a AAA member this is the response I got to my email from them after the City Paper article:
Anderson, Lon Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM
To: xxxxxxxx
Mr. Xxxxxx —Your email has been forwarded to me for response. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and for giving us the opportunity to respond.
First, let me say that AAA was taken aback by the tone and many of the comments made in the recent Washington’s City Paper article. The remarks attributed to John Townsend reported in the City Paper article are inappropriate, and in no way representative of AAA Mid-Atlantic's views. Mr. Townsend apologizes for comments attributed to him that were offensive.
It was never Mr. Townsend’s intention to be insulting and agrees that there is absolutely no place in the public discourse for personal attacks. That said, Mr. Townsend believes that many of the statements were presented out of context and mischaracterize the discussion.
While I think your points about having to change in DC are right, I do believe that the article’s attempt to debunk the assertion that the District government is waging a war on motorists, really misses the mark. We believe that the city is continuing to undertake regular activity and enact policies that take advantage of and are hostile to city motorists. The Mayor himself, seemed to be acknowledging this when, in a recent public forum he felt it necessary to state “there is no war on cars.” It was the local media, not AAA, which proffered the question about the city’s hostility to motorists. The Mayor then stated that his goal was to reduce trips by car into the District to 25 percent of their current level. Some of the other actions and policies that we deem hostile to motorists include:
- The practice—unique in the nation—of arresting, and taking into custody drivers merely for driving a vehicle with expired tags-- including mothers with children. Arrests and incarcerating of drivers continued until we were able to get emergency legislation passed by the council ending it.
- Issuing over 68,000 parking tickets to visitors during Cherry Blossom festival celebrations (2011), the most intense ticketing period of the year.
- Rewriting zoning regulations to propose eliminating the requirement for developers to provide any parking spaces for new buildings—residential and commercial--which will put much greater strain on neighborhood streets and already overburdened curbside parking.
- Issuing 707,000 speed camera tickets in FY2012, while generating $78.8 million in speed camera revenue. Speed limits are often set artificially low, and cameras are often deployed in locations that have no impact on safety, but to garner maximum numbers of violations.
- Dispensing 91,550 red-light camera tickets while netting nearly $13 million in photo-red fines in FY12.
- Handing down more than 1.8 parking tickets while collecting more than $92.5 million in parking ticket revenue in FY12, at a pace that is six times of all other local jurisdictions regionally, which issued 350,000 parking tickets combined.
- Installing 61 parking boots per day to force payment of outstanding parking tickets at a pace unmatched by other local jurisdictions.
- Rolling out 91 additional traffic enforcement camera sites later this year with the stated goal of generating $31.7 million in fine revenue, in addition to in another $12.4 million in fines from the deployed of a new generation of traffic cameras.
Whether you call the sum of these actions and policies a war on motorists or just a demonstrated hostility to drivers in Washington, it is clear that this situation exists, no matter how vehemently the article seeks to refute it. That said, clearly we need to work together towards a city that is safe and accommodating to all modes, from bikers to pedestrians to cars and street cars, and I appreciate your suggestion that we tone down the rhetoric. I hope you will continue to be a AAA member, and please know that we appreciate your membership.
Again, we at AAA Mid-Atlantic apologize for the offensive language contained in the article and want to thank you so much for taking time to express your concern.
Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson
Managing Director, Public and Govt. Affairs
AAA Mid-Atlantic
202-481-6820
Twitter: AAAGuy

by Gallegoscot on Apr 19, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

It was never Mr. Townsend’s intention to be insulting

Huh? He wanted to insult Alpert. Why can't they just admit the reality of that?

by JustMe on Apr 19, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

I think the more accurate version would be It was never Mr. Townsend's intention to be called out by people who realized how obviously insulting he was being. I'm beginning to like Mr. Townsend; he's like our local Donald Trump or Herman Cain, full of bizarre and potent quotables.

by worthing on Apr 19, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Gallegoscot

That's a great reply. Most of their complaints are centered around: "We're upset that the city is efficiently enforcing the law."

by Adam L on Apr 19, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

So a lot of AAA's issues seem to be that DC is enforcing it's laws and doing so vigorously. That is a week complaint. How many cars owned by people who refuse to pay parking tickets should DC boot per day? What is the right level of enforcement? And then, how many car thieves should DC arrest every day? Surely that has an upper limit too.

by David C on Apr 19, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

BTW, I got the same response from AAA and I promptly pulled out my Johnson and set it on it.

by David C on Apr 19, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

In other news, Darth Vader says that the destruction of Alderaan was taken out of context.

by SJE on Apr 19, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

the anderson email mixes up policies that some drivers like, factoids that are misleading (comparing number of traffic tickets to other jurisdictions where parking is not as scarce, or not scarce at all) and issues that are mostly about details of enforcement, and PERHAPS revenue and have nothing to do with GGW, cycling, urbanism, etc. It confirms that AAA will engage in misleading statements to suggest a hostility to drivers that does not exist - and confirms me in not wanting to use them as my towing service. for MY CAR.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 19, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

Good that they apologized. An important reminder to always be civil.

Also a perfect example why sources should be very careful when they criticize reporting -- the journalist probably has even worse stuff they can trot out.

by Gavin on Apr 19, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

I'm waiting for clarification on the KKK aspect. Why hasn't Weener updated that?

I think the other insults are ok enough.

by HogWash on Apr 19, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

So the only thing I got out of the email (kudos for posting it by the way) was that AAA really needs to step up its driver education campaign so it's members understand how to properly drive in a city? I'm trying to think of another organization that complains about it's members having to follow the law all the time.

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Hogwash,

Wait, so calling him retarded is ok? I'm not so much concerned about David Alperts feelings on that one but that is offensive to people with developmental disabilities because to use the word as an insult is dehumanizing. That's hogwash.

by drumz on Apr 19, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

Lon Anderson may have a point on two things:
1. The mayor's plan to reduce car trips to 25% of trips - yep that is anti-car travel, but not anti-people-getting-around.
2. Arresting drivers with expired tags - if this is true and happening unwarranted to people.

The rest of it is complaining about policies asked for, and implemented by and for the benefit of people who drive. He wants people to just be able to park everywhere as long as they want whenever they want? I'm sure that will do wonders for car travel in the District!

by MLD on Apr 19, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

So the only thing I got out of the email (kudos for posting it by the way) was that AAA really needs to step up its driver education campaign so it's members understand how to properly drive in a city?

As a regular DC-area driver, I think that one of the great services AAA could provide in terms of "advocating for the interests of drivers" would be taking initiatives to ensure that the local drivers are a lot more competent and a lot less dangerous.

by JustMe on Apr 19, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

I think the other insults are ok enough.

You're a perplexing cookie sometimes.

As a DC resident, I find the AAA grievances odd. I see just about all of them as pretty good things. I don't want people parking illegally in my city, running red lights in my city, or speeding in my city, regardleses of whether it's the Cherry Blossom Festival or a Tuesday. Quibble all you want about the size of fines or locations of cameras--and quibble GGW has, on many occasions--but I can't see how those are controversial virtues for a local jurisdiction to espouse. Does AAA do this with other cities and towns, too, or is DC one of the main villains in their narrative?

by worthing on Apr 19, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

"1. The mayor's plan to reduce car trips to 25% of trips - yep that is anti-car travel, but not anti-people-getting-around.

I would quibble even with that. As one who sometimes drives to DC, a 25% reduction in total car trips in DC would make it easier to get around, I think.

Could they please focus that reduction on I395 - especially on the rare days I've decided for one reason or another that the bus won't work?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 19, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

I think the most absurd one is that they have issues that 61 people are getting booted daily. Their issue is that we are much more efficient than neighboring jurisdictions in tracking down lawbreakers who have made a conscious decision to ignore the tickets.

You cannot live in a civilized society and ignore official notices that get delivered to you. Life just doesn't work that way.

by Kyle-W on Apr 19, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

Just wanted to tell those who've often disagreed with me here that you're a bunch of "retarded reptilian ninnies from the KKK"...and by that I mean "esteemed interlocutors".

All about context, you know.

by oboe on Apr 19, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

I'd be fired in about two seconds if I made my organization look this bad.

This.

by oboe on Apr 19, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Unless you were in Congress, in which case you'd cry and apologize and be reelcted.

by Alan B. on Apr 19, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

@Davis C. -hehhehhheeeeheheheeehehehe!!!!

by Tina on Apr 19, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

Most hilarious thing to come out of all of this:

I do believe that the article’s attempt to debunk the assertion that the District government is waging a war on motorists, really misses the mark. We believe that the city is continuing to undertake regular activity and enact policies that take advantage of and are hostile to city motorists. The Mayor himself, seemed to be acknowledging this when, in a recent public forum he felt it necessary to state “there is no war on cars.”

So, let me get this straight: the mid-Atlantic AAA disagrees with the article's thesis that DC is waging a war on cars. As evidence of this, the Mayor himself, in a recent public forum, he said "there is no war on cars."

Is there not at least one rational adult working at the mid-Atlantic AAA? Or is it all internet trolls?

by oboe on Apr 19, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

BTW, I got the same response from AAA and I promptly pulled out my Johnson and set it on it.

I'll pull out my Johnson and set it up against yours any day of the week.

Okay, that came out wrong.

by oboe on Apr 19, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Vinh An Nguyen on Apr 19, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

IF only AAA was like the organization that espouses the goals and understanding of this video produced by AAA.

http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/bicycle-safety/

by Randall M. on Apr 19, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

I would love to see someone use the term "retarded" as an insult around my old roommate, and then say "don't worry about it, it's OK enough."

If you caught him at a point where he wasn't being completely calm, you'd get your nose broken. Rightfully so.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Apr 19, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by oboe on Apr 19, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry for anyone who is attacked or belittled. But there isn't much I can do about that. All I have is the policies we have to encourage or criticize. Declaring entire schools of though bankrupt because one person (who may have never heard of GGW, I don't see what it has to do with Alpert and AAA) acted awfully doesn't help either.

If that had happened to my friend I'd have stepped in. But this only gets personal when people (like Townsend originally) decide to make it personal.

by drumz on Apr 19, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Since the AAA thinks that arresting people for expired tags is out of bounds, the cycling community can now claim that our bikes ARE registered, just that we havent paid a fee.

by SJE on Apr 19, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

read this website: http://www.r-word.org/

get educated.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Apr 19, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

I go away for a couple of hours and am very disappointed to see this thread has devolved into a flamewar about HogWash.

Calling people names is not appropriate whether it's Townsend or commenters referring to another commenter. I have deleted the comment and the ensuing sub-thread.

HogWash, I am working hard to protect your ability to express contrary opinions, because we believe that this should be a forum where people can do that without being attacked. However, you need to help keep that up by not getting dragged into the mud.

2 people reported Vinh An Nguyen's comment. Those people did the right thing. If a comment crosses the line, DO NOT reply to it. Do not comment extensively on whether or not the moderators have deleted it. Most likely if we haven't it's because neither myself nor Matt Johnson (the 2 people doing this right now) are online just then.

I am going to place both HogWash and VAN on moderate mode for a while so that I can make sure that comments are not crossing the line or perpetuating inappropriate flamewars.

Finally, Our comment policy requires using a real email address so we can let you know when comments are deleted. Otherwise we end up getting follow-up comments from people annoyed their comment disappeared. It appears there are fake email addresses by "Vicente Fox" (and unless you are the former Mexican President please also switch to a name that doesn't impersonate someone), AWalkerInTheCity, and maybe Oboe, I'm not sure.

Our policy does require people to use actual email addresses, which we promise to keep confidential, and I would appreciate if folks would do that. (HogWash does use a real address, for instance.)

by David Alpert on Apr 19, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

:P

be warned, this one is real, but I check it only slightly more frequently than I drive into DC

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 19, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

I have to hand it to AAA, though: despite being a member for 15 years, I'd never heard a thing about their policy agenda. Sure, now that I have, I'll be on my way (anyone else looking at Better World Club?) But it appears that, perhaps like the NRA, AAA's lobbying arm is far more extreme than their membership.

by Eli on Apr 20, 2013 7:54 am • linkreport

Mr. Anderson,

Not to worry. I'm not canceling my membership. Least of all because of whining and bad-mouthing from people who don't drive and/or have a vested interest in seeing DC continue its anti-car policies.

by ceefer66 on Apr 20, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

Why hasn't he been fired? Perhaps just a matter of time.

by Emm on Apr 20, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Tyro on Apr 20, 2013 6:25 pm • linkreport

I still do not see a press release from AAA on this point, having searched their website. Disavowal on twitter seems cynically designed to appease the technophiles at GGW, without being much noticed by others. This seems par for the course with AAA's PR.

by SJE on Apr 20, 2013 7:42 pm • linkreport

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