Tag Archives: Common Council

Tuesday: Show Your Support for Buffalo’s Food Trucks

12 Mar

Today at 2pm, Buffalo’s Food Trucks will be at the Common Council as the city’s legislature debates how the food truck law might be changed. The law sunsets in April and in the past 12 months, not a single complaint has been lodged from any source against any truck. 

The trucks, however, find themselves up against some intransigent lawmakers and some brick and mortar restaurants that believe they have the right to regulate and control what the trucks do and how they do it. Also on the agenda is expanding access to downtown Buffalo Place locations and freeing Canalside up to the trucks. 

If you enjoy buying food from Buffalo’s food trucks, please come and show your support. 

Because in the end, this isn’t about whether or not the law is fair for the trucks or fair for the restaurants – this is about you. This is about you telling the city, the trucks, and the brick & mortars – I like having a choice; I like the product that the trucks offer and I want more access to more trucks – not more restrictive access to fewer trucks. We’ve already lost the Cheesy Chick grilled cheese food truck due in part to the high cost of doing business across multiple municipalities in WNY. 

Buffalo charges trucks $1,000 per year, while it costs a restaurant between $175 – 325 per year to hold a take out license. The city claims that it needs to charge trucks $1,000 per year because of the administrative costs involved, yet refuses to release a breakdown of those costs. 

Ultimately, it might be time for a regionwide statute that is applicable to all municipalities in Erie County with a single fee paid. You want to encourage and help entrepreneurship in western New York? Then this should be the test case. 

But for the time being, please show your support for your favorite food trucks. They need it, and the city’s lawmakers need to understand that this isn’t only about the trucks and the restaurants – it’s about you. 

Two for Tuesday

24 Jan

1. Hopefully, the WNY Food Truck Association will have something to celebrate later today, as the Buffalo Common Council is set to vote on proposed food truck permitting and regulations at 2pm today (Tuesday the 24th).  Buffalo Place, which governs much of the downtown CBD, has said it will follow the same guidelines the city sets forth, although trucks may have to pay a separate fee for a Buffalo Place permit. Follow along at #BUFTruck on Twitter.


//

new TWTR.Widget({
version: 2,
type: ‘list’,
rpp: 30,
interval: 30000,
title: ‘Follow the’,
subject: ‘Buffalo Food Trucks’,
width: ‘auto’,
height: 300,
theme: {
shell: {
background: ‘#f70838’,
color: ‘#ffffff’
},
tweets: {
background: ‘#ffffff’,
color: ‘#444444’,
links: ‘#080808’
}
},
features: {
scrollbar: true,
loop: false,
live: true,
behavior: ‘all’
}
}).render().setList(‘buffalopundit’, ‘buffalo-food-trucks’).start();

 

2. The Boston Bruins traveled to the White House yesterday as part of a traditional ceremony where the President congratulates the winner of last season’s Stanley Cup. All the Bruins attended, except for one. Goaltender Tim Thomas is a Glenn Beck “conservative” and decided to skip the ceremony, issuing the following statement (verbatim, all SIC):

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

Setting aside for a moment the statement’s inherent inconsistency, no one is disputing Thomas’ right as a “Free Citizen” to opt to skip the White House event. But what, precisely, did it accomplish? I’m not aware of a similar snub taking place during George W. Bush’s administration, and if it had I’d have been critical of that, as well. Because the White House event wasn’t a political one. It wasn’t a Bruin endorsement of Barack Obama and his policies.

You don’t have to agree with the President to attend a ceremony honoring you, and I think it’s somewhat indicative of a complete breakdown of fundamental civility in our society. Regardless of your thoughts on the current occupant of the White House, the office and what it stands for deserve a certain degree of honor and respect. If the President wants to congratulate you for an achievement, I think it’s better form to go, rather than to stay home and make a political point about why.  Although the Presidency is a governmental post, it needn’t always be a political one, and this wasn’t a political event.

Again – not because Thomas isn’t free to do whatever he damn well wants to do. But I think it was a childish and self-centered move that reflects poorly on him, and is deserving of criticism.


//

Food Truck Law: It’s a Go on the 24th

20 Jan

On Wednesday, the Buffalo Common Council took up the issue of the proposed food truck legislation (after a lengthy and heated Acropolis expansion hearing). As I reported on Wednesday, the WNY Food Truck Association has reluctantly agreed to support the bill as written, and request no changes. Although they were displeased with the radius requirement, the hefty licensure fee, and some other issues, they were willing to give it a shot for a year as written, and come back when the law sunsets to discuss ways in which it might be improved going forward.

A source close to the food truck group was present at the hearing, and learned early on that both Golombek – the bill’s sponsor – and Council President Fontana would be moving it towards a vote next Tuesday the 24th. More importantly, Fontana indicated that he would not be requesting the “one truck per block face” rule.

When Mitch Stenger, the lawyer for the food truck association, addressed the council and repeated the group’s concerns with the legislation, but that they would rather see it passed than further delayed.  After the Acropolis debate ended, Councilmember Golombek made some perfunctory remarks, and then Councilmember Mickey Kearns rose to speak.  Kearns spoke out against the high license fee, and stated that the city should be helping – not punishing – these start-up entrepreneurs.  Kearns then proposed that the bill be amended to lower the license fee to $300 per year, and then surprisingly asked that the “one truck per block face” rule be added, as well as an expansion of the 100′ radius to 175′.

Any such amendment was unacceptable to the food trucks, most importantly because any such change would further delay passage of the law by a minimum of two weeks.

Then Councilmember Rivera rose to speak favorably on behalf of the food trucks, but then proposed that the license fee be lowered to $500, and seconded Kearns’ “one truck per block face” amendment. My sources indicate that neither Kearns nor Rivera had discussed any of these changes with anyone else on the council.

At this point, Stenger rejected both Kearns’ and Rivera’s amendments, demanding that the bill be submitted to the full council as currently written.  The session was quickly adjourned after that.

Afterwards, representatives for the food trucks were assured privately by numerous councilmembers that there were enough votes to pass the bill on the 24th. The vote will take place during the session that begins at 2pm. There will not be any public comment period, but food truck supporters are encouraged to attend in a show of support. 


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);

Buffalo Food Truck Legislation Debated

5 Jan

A hearing of the Buffalo Common Council’s Legislative Committee was held yesterday on the issue of a proposed statute legalizing food trucks within the city. You can read the proposed legislation and sign a petition here.

Truck advocates are generally pleased with the proposed law, but questioned the need to carry around two 65-gallon garbage cans in their trucks, and sought clarity on the definition of “property line” as set forth in the proposed law. An added issue I have with the law is that it should be easy for kitchens to waive the 100′ ban in an informal way, if mutually agreed-to.

It is expected that the final legislation will be passed before the end of this month. This will clarify, legalize, and regulate the food trucks’ operations for the 2012 warm weather season.

Courtesy of the Buffalo News’ Aaron Besecker, you can watch video of some of the presentations made at yesterday’s hearing, and pay close attention to Zetti’s Pizza’s John Fusco, who has a request for people who would vilify him on the internet. (For what it’s worth, I like Zetti’s, and I like John, but I think he’s wrong on this issue.)  Unfortunately, the Buffalo News does not permit embedding of videos.


//


//

The Common Council’s Holiday Spirit

28 Dec
Occupy Buffalo

Occupy Buffalo, by Flickr user dhnieman

Each Buffalo Common Council member is allocated a certain budget to hire staffers. Some have two, others have three. North District Councilman Joe Golombek is leading a charge to limit the number to two, citing the legacy costs for a third staffer.

The Council members with three staffers are Kearns, LoCurto, and Rivera, and it’s a longstanding tradition that Councilmembers are free to staff their offices however they see fit. One council staffer tells me that the legacy costs for the three-staffer offices are negligible, since these three staffers share a pot of money in such a way that they are very poorly paid, many of whom work part-time, or are interns, never incurring any legacy costs at all. As to those who do incur legacy costs, it’s not breaking the city’s bank.

The joke of this is, as Mickey Kearns pointed out, that the city budgets for 200 – 250 vacancies every year. The incoming Fontana-led majority, (which I’m told Golombek agreed to join after being assured that he could make an issue out of this no-three-staffers issue), also plans to slash the pay of some key council staffers, and will add a $2,500 stipend to the President pro Tempore.

In other Common Council news, while the members were bickering and nickel-and-diming each other, the council punted again on proposed Food Truck legislation, sending it to the Legislative Committee, which meets next on Wednesday January 4th at 2pm.


//

Photo by dhnieman.

 

//

#flickr_badge_source_txt {padding:0; font: 11px Arial, Helvetica, Sans serif; color:#666666;}
#flickr_badge_icon {display:block !important; margin:0 !important; border: 1px solid rgb(0, 0, 0) !important;}
#flickr_icon_td {padding:0 5px 0 0 !important;}
.flickr_badge_image {text-align:center !important;}
.flickr_badge_image img {border: 1px solid black !important;}
#flickr_www {display:block; text-align:left; padding:0 10px 0 10px !important; font: 11px Arial, Helvetica, Sans serif !important; color:#3993ff !important;}
#flickr_badge_uber_wrapper a:hover,
#flickr_badge_uber_wrapper a:link,
#flickr_badge_uber_wrapper a:active,
#flickr_badge_uber_wrapper a:visited {text-decoration:none !important; background:inherit !important;color:#3993ff;}
#flickr_badge_wrapper {background-color:#ffffff;border: solid 1px #000000}
#flickr_badge_source {padding:0 !important; font: 11px Arial, Helvetica, Sans serif !important; color:#666666 !important;}

www.flickr.com

items in Buffalopundit: AV Photo Daily More in Buffalopundit: AV Photo Daily pool

Matt Chandler: Don’t Legalize the #BUFTruck

2 Nov

When last we Fisked a column by Matt Chandler of Buffalo Business First, he was busy imploring all the mean people to stop being mean to kind old racist Carl Paladino. Today, he publishes an article that is supportive of the food trucks in Buffalo, but then essentially asks the Common Council to stop crafting legislation that would legalize their operation.

As it stands now, the food trucks operate essentially as outlaws. They can sell food in the city so long as no one complains. But if someone does complain, there are no rules in place to protect anybody, and the trucks get chased away by the police. Trucks are permitted to operate on private property with permission, or along Buffalo Place in the central business district with a permit.

So, Chandler is exactly correct when he writes,

The argument is that trucks can park outside and siphon business away from bricks-and-mortar restaurants. The problem with that argument is simple: Ask people how they decide where to eat lunch and they’ll usually list a combination of the following: Who has the best food? Who has the fastest service? And who is most affordable?

It doesn’t matter if you are slinging dogs out of a cart, tacos from a truck or sandwiches out of a building, those factors drive customers.

The food trucks are simply another form of business competition, and competition is good.

If traditional restaurants are threatened, it should drive them to improve their product, deliver it with more efficiency and stay competitive in their pricing. At the end of the day, the customer wins.

But then, noting that the Common Council had tabled (again) proposed regulations, he asks them to leave it there. This completely ignores the fact that it’s the food trucks who are helping drive the debate on setting rules and regulations so that they are permitted to operate in the city without fear of being chased away arbitrarily and capriciously. Regulation is not a bad word when it protects the competing rights of mobile and stationary businesses to be treated fairly.

Currently, the proposals from the trucks and the brick & mortars are largely similar. Some differences exist – for instance, the trucks want a 200′ radius from the front doors of open kitchens, while the restaurants want the radius to emanate from the walls of any such restaurant, not just the front door. The restaurants want the city to set up special vending districts in city lots, and the trucks oppose this. The restaurants want “tax parity”, which is somewhat ridiculous. This is why we have legislatures and courts. Now, the lobbying begins in earnest. We know what each side’s proposal is.

So, after mounting an eloquent defense of the food trucks, Chandler ends with this:

With buildings crumbling, houses abandoned, schools a mess and jobs evaporating daily, don’t our elected officials have more important things to devote their time to?

As for me. I’m going to file this blog, then finish eating the delicious turkey sandwich I bought from the brick-and-mortar deli located 25 feet from a food truck. They prepared it fast, charged a reasonable price and, most important, it is delicious.

I can’t really think of a more pressing issue for city government to take up than freeing up a new business sector to do business in the city.  I can’t think of something more important for the legislature of a poor city to do than to help enable an entire, brand-new sector of small businesses with comparatively low startup costs to legally operate in the city. The Common Council shouldn’t forever table this bill – on the contrary, it should act on it as soon as possible, and do so in such a way that we end the status quo, which is tantamount to illegal protectionism of restaurants.

I wonder what deli is located 25 feet from a food truck?

The Food Trucks Propose a Law (UPDATED)

28 Oct

The following document was filed with the Common Council today. It represents the law the food trucks would like to see enacted to regulate their business in the city of Buffalo.

UPDATE: The document I posted below was missing a page from the proposed bill. Here is the entire document: 

[HTML2]

Note that they are adamantly against – and will oppose – any distance restriction beyond a 100′ from an open kitchen, or 500′ from a festival.  Apart from that, no additional restrictions are proposed. The definition of a food truck is clarified to exclude hot dog vendors and trailers, and the statute is rather succinct in requiring a license, health inspections by the county, and the aforementioned radius from brick & mortar restaurants. That’s it.

The ball’s now in the Common Council’s court. This proposal was filed so that the Council could consider it at its November 1st meeting.

[HTML1]

Food Truck Tuesday & Nickel City Chef

25 Oct

1. The food truck debate continues apace. The food trucks and the brick & mortars on the ad hoc committee created to help draw up regulations that everyone could agree on has met a few times, and from what I can gather from the Twitter stream of Roaming Buffalo truck owner, Christopher Taylor, it didn’t go well.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RoamingBuffalo1/status/128213060295983104″%5D

The Common Council is to meet on the issue today at 2pm at City Hall, and the Food Truck Association is urging its supporters to join them. They suspect that a vote may be taken on proposed regulations today.  I’m not so sure it’ll all be resolved today, but one can always hope.

2. I’m very proud of my association with Nickel City Chef, and have been honored to judge several really epic battles between talented local chefs. I had urged its organizer, Spree food editor and Feed Your Soul owner Christa Glennie Seychew, to pull together a cookbook by the chefs, highlighting the food they prepared during their battles. That book is out, and its unveiling will be tonight at a party at Artisan Kitchen & Baths on Amherst Street between 6 and 9. 

If you can’t attend the party, you can order the book and DVD through this link. It makes a great gift for any Buffalo foodie, and celebrates Buffalo’s best chefs, and our best ingredients from small local farms.

Live-Tweets from the #BUFTruck Hearing

29 Sep

The Tweets are in reverse chronological order – the newest one is at the top. I shouldn’t have done it that way, but it’s the way Twitter is read, and it was how it sort of fell together.

I’ll write more about my thoughts later, but the Tweets from various attendees speak for themselves.

[HTML1]

 

The Food Truck Public Meeting: What to Expect

28 Sep

1. It will be in room 1417 of City Hall at 10am on Thursday September 28th.  In case the crowd is too large, there is a strong possibility that the meeting might be moved to the legislative chambers on the 13th floor.

2. You will have an opportunity to speak, if you wish.  Look for a sign-in sheet. There are no restrictions on who can speak, but it is likely that your comments will be limited in time, and that they be relevant to the matter at hand.  Tailor your remarks in such a way as to zealously advocate on behalf of the food trucks you love, while recognizing the legitimate concerns that existing brick & mortar restaurants have.  If you have specific recommendations or ideas, bring them up – don’t assume that it’s obvious, and don’t assume it’s already been thought of. If you have researched the matter and can point to specific provisions of actual laws that have been enacted in other cities, cite them.

3. This is not a bitch session. This is your opportunity to be heard with respect to some real, positive legislative change that will put Buffalo ahead of many other cities in the state. If you’re a Buffalo booster – young or old – this is a big deal.

4. Come with your mind open. Do not presume that all restaurants are opposed to food trucks. Do not prejudge what the councilmembers’ opinions or positions are. If someone speaks on behalf of a business association with which you disagree, listen respectfully. When you’re doing something novel – when you’re ahead of the times – there’s a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety that goes into that. Be respectful of others’ viewpoints, and expect them to be respectful of yours.

5. The matter is not going to be resolved tomorrow.  You will not walk out of there having witnessed a new food truck law being debated and enacted. This is just one part of a lengthy process, which will continue to evolve and be discussed and debated – both privately and publicly.

6. The meeting will be live-streamed. Look for it here at WNYMedia.net.