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.