Have you seen this article from Somerville Patch? Chris Orchard reports on the ongoing debate around food trucks in Boston’s (supposedly) hipster haven, the city of Somerville. “A proposed ordinance that would regulate food trucks” received reactions ranging from “skepticism” to “open hostility.” For example, Alderman William Roche of Ward 1 thinks food trucks are “not an image that I think promotes what we want the city of Somerville to be.” What kind of city would that be, Alderman? Apparently, in his opinion, one that doesn’t value hard working, inventive small business owners or diverse, casual, and affordable food options. “I don’t think they do any public good,” Alderman Roche said. Except the “public” that attends parades. Or fire works. What I’m guessing he really means is the folks whose transience wouldn’t seem to pose a threat to brick and mortar businesses. Because you know, the two are mutually exclusive.
Then there was this: “Roche and other aldermen expressed concern about who would be operating the food trucks and asked for more stringent CORI—Criminal Offender Record Information—background checks on operators.”
I mean, have you read some of the Twitter feeds for these food trucks? Or asked to meet the owner only to find out he was the guy who just handed you a grilled cheese? Shady characters indeed, not transparent at all.
While your head is spinning let me also highlight another confounding bit of opposition:
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said, “What I was looking for … was more designation of areas” where food trucks would be permitted. She expressed concern about bricks-and-mortar businesses, many of whom “shelled out tens of thousand’s of dollars for a liquor license and [are] paying so much in taxes every year.” (Somerville Patch is not aware of any food truck that would sell liquor.)
There did seem to be a voice of reason via Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, who said, “They are small businesses, they are innovators, the come into a community and bring something maybe that community does not have.” Virtual high five.
More high fives to Benjamin Mako Hill, who left this comment: “As someone who doesn’t own a series of restaurants, I welcome more competition for my business and options for my meals. Running a competitive restaurant can be tough. But getting a variety of decently priced and decent tasting meals is too.”
Another commenter going simply by “Alex” also expressed a well-said, albeit a bit harsh, show of support. I’ll go ahead and give him the last words:
This is what holds the Boston area back and makes Somerville especially frustrating. Food trucks exist all over the country. People love them. They serve great food, with very little downside. They make urban areas more vibrant. But do elected officials acknowledge any of these facts? No. They treat food rucks as a brand new idea that no one has ever tried before, and which could be so dangerous and scary they should be banned. I love Boston and I live here, but part of me is looking forward to the day when our economy pays the price for fighting every lifestyle amenity that young entrepreneurs want, while Austin and San Francisco welcome them with open arms and thank us for our pettiness and small-mindedness. Wake up!
Shouts to the Somerville Patch and reporter Chris Orchard for covering this, and the trajectory of food trucks in our region in general. Brookline Patch has done great work on the issue as well.