Food Trucks, Who’s Your Nanny?

I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad we have LaToya Cantrell making sure food trucks look pretty and Jackie Clarkson looking out for restaurants’ private property rights.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 saw another round of debate over Councilmember Head’s proposed food truck ordinance changes. I have been critical over a number of the changes, but at least they’re a step in the right direction. However, I’m starting to wonder if the council will even take that first step.

Councilmember Cantrell apparently thinks New Orleanians have difficulty distinguishing between food trucks and carnival-food vendors. How else could she justify suggesting an aesthetic requirement on truck operators? Aside from this being a ridiculous idea, I have a question for Councilmember Cantrell. Who’s aesthetic standard will apply? Yours (which could be awesome or terrible, but that’s irrelevant)? Or will it be some generic, uniform design that will actually make it more difficult to distinguish between the trucks? Newsflash, it is not the role of the government to decide what is aesthetically preferable. Get out of the way and stop playing government Nanny. Aesthetics have absolutely nothing to do with whether the trucks operate in a safe way in preparing food for their customers.

I reserve my most significant outrage for economic protectionist, Councilmember Clarkson. She believes it is her job on the council to protect restaurants from having to compete with those big, bad food trucks who are stealing everybody’s business. Ms. Clarkson does not think food trucks should be able to operate within 100 feet of an existing restaurant. Don’t ask her what a suitable distance is though, she has no idea.

“You’re talking about land owners, private property rights, you’re talking about tax payers on property. I come from that world…I’m trying not to get into measurements with you, and I’m trying not to argue.”

Well Ms. Clarkson, you are wrong in several ways. First, lets talk about those land owners and private property rights. You are allowing restaurant owners to tell other business owners where they may operate on public property (streets). A restaurant’s property rights and land ownership do not extend to the parking spaces on the public street. Also, I fail to see how your argument is in any way logical. Do you complain when a restaurant opens within 100 feet of another restaurant? What about when a bank opens within 100 feet of another bank? A salon 100 feet from another salon? You get the idea. If we were to apply your reasoning to all aspects of commerce we would quickly see New Orleans devoid of commerce. The better idea is that there be no distance requirements. Look at the line of art galleries on Royal St, the bars and restaurants on Magazine and Oak to name just a few examples. When businesses compete with and complement each other it creates thriving neighborhoods and districts. This is what your policy would prevent, Ms Clarkson.

Second, food trucks also pay taxes. They pay sales taxes on all their supplies, they pay fuel taxes on their gasoline, they contribute to payroll taxes, federal and state, for their employees, and they collect sales taxes for the city of New Orleans. The point isn’t that restaurants pay more taxes because of property taxes. That is a choice restaurant owners made when they went into business.

At the core of the issue is that banning food trucks from reasonable operating locations serves only one interest. The interest of a business that has set hours, a set location, seats, air conditioning and heating, etc. This restriction protects the business that already has all the advantages. The public is the group that suffers.

If you keep up your nanny-like behavior Ms. Clarkson, I will be happy to help send you back to the world you so proudly come from next election.

Food Trucks Coming to Fat City?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 will see a measure brought up before the Jefferson Parish Council to allow food trucks to operate in Fat City in Metairie on Tuesdays between 7am and 10pm. While the proposition is laughable, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

However, the same, age-old, debunked myths surrounding food trucks continue to be spread like infectious disease. This time from Drago’s proprietor, Tommy Cvitanovich;

“But it has to be a level playing field. They’ve got to be safe. They’ve got to be inspected.”

Mr. Cvitanovich, food trucks are already regulated exhaustively for health and safety purposes by the state. Also, what do you think isn’t level about the playing field? You have a brick and mortar building, an established clientele, and years of experience running an extremely successful restaurant. And you’re worried about people serving food on private property out of trucks? Sounds to me like you’re not as interested in a level playing field as you are about using the government to protect yourself from competition.

Also, conveniently not mentioned is the fact that Drago’s has their own truck for special events and festivals. Care to explain Mr. Cvitanovich?

Our Policy Is We Have No Policy

Those are the words reported to me this week by NOPD relayed through the New Orleans City Attorney’s office in response to my public records request from July. Yes, July. Never mind that the Louisiana public records law requires documents to be produced in 3 days. That’s not the big issue here though.

In case you missed it this summer, there was a story about a burglary suspect who was caught as a result of an NOPD vehicle that is able to scan license plates and run them through a computer while driving.

According to Uptown Messenger’s reporting:

“The reader, affixed to a normal patrol car, automatically scans the license plates it passes and checks to make sure they aren’t on stolen cars, but it also maintains a geographical database of the tags it passes.”

Overall I have no issue with the technology. But it’s that last line that got my attention because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States v. Jones. As a result of that decision I seriously wonder if NOPD could have some major 4th Amendment problems with their use and/or storage of the license plate data they collect.

So, I requested the full NOPD policy regarding the use and storage of data associated with any and all departmental vehicle license plate scanners. The city attorney’s response:

“Please be advised that the Police Department has informed our office that no such record exists.”

This terse, 4 1/5 month late response will certainly not be the end of this. All I want to know is exactly what NOPD uses this data for and how long they keep it. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

Libertarianism and Christianity Compatible?

In response to several comments I’ve received, I will be spending the holiday season working on a longer piece that explores the question of whether libertarian politics is compatible with the Christian faith.

I look forward to the finished project and will share when it’s completed.

Movie Review of Silver Circle

This weekend, Nov. 30, 2012 – Dec. 2, Wizard World’s Comic Con was in town. Usually, that isn’t something I’d really bother to mention here, but this year Lineplot Productions brought their new full length animated film, Silver Circle, to the convention for its second public screening before it is released in theaters in January 2013.

The plot focuses on America in the year 2019 in the wake of financial collapse. Prices have skyrocketed on most consumer goods and fuel in response to the Federal Reserve’s continued printing of money. Additionally, the Fed is directly engaging in managing home prices. In fact, the Fed regularly employs SWAT-like raid squads to forcibly evict homeowners who refuse to sell their homes to the Fed at Fed mandated prices.

The story is told through the eyes of a Fed arson investigator, Jay, searching for clues after several recently Fed-evicted homes burn down in a single neighborhood. Along the way he meets Zoe and a band of rebels who illegally mint silver coins in their attempts to undermine the Fed and stabilize the economy.

Being that this is a subject near and dear to many libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans, it’s refreshing to see the message of the dangers of the Federal Reserve system told through an untraditional medium that remains compelling. If you’ve ever attempted to explain these concepts to someone you understand the challenge that Silver Circle faces.

Fortunately though, their team is comprised of several talented artists who have provided the Fed fearing community with another valuable tool to use in spreading the message Ron Paul has worked so hard over the years to get out. With Dr. Paul retiring from Congress in January, what better timing than now for the release of the film.