Tyrannizing Food Trucks … and More

I will never quite understand what it is about food trucks that so often have municipal governments up in arms, but there is something about them that brings out the worst in city bureaucrats and law enforcement. Of course, in Chicago—where yours truly can be found—the degree of officious meddling that has to be endured by food truck proprietors (and their patrons) is nothing short of ridiculous. Alas, Chicago is not alone in having to put up with this nonsense. Consider this story from Arlington, VA:

For those of you who follow IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative, you most likely know that cities across the country pass arbitrary and anti-competitive laws that make it practically impossible for food trucks and other vendors to succeed. An opportunity to fight against one such law has presented itself in Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington County has a law in place that prevents food trucks from operating in one place for more than 60 minutes. A local food truck named Seoul Food received a notice for violating this rule. According to the owner of the truck, he informed the police officer that he did move from one parking spot to another within the allotted time. The police officer still cited Seoul Food, however, because in the officer’s view the truck had not moved “far enough.” It is important to note that the County Code does not specify any minimum distance a truck must move; it states only that “the vehicle must remain stopped for … no longer than sixty (60) minutes.” Arlington Code Section 30-9(B).

The penalty for violating Section 30-9 is severe. The Arlington County Code classifies a violation of the sixty-minute rule as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by “confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500.” Thus, Arlington considers selling food to willing customers from a legal parking space to be as serious as Reckless Driving, DUI, and Assault & Battery.

If you’re not appalled, I wonder about your sanity.

Of course, it is worth remembering that there is a certain group of people out there who, upon reading this story, may well almost uniformly express outrage and disgust concerning the city of Arlington’s actions. They may even express outrage and disgust concerning the actions of the city of Chicago when it comes to food trucks. In the next breath, however, this same group of people will tell you, me, and anyone else who will listen, that we should have a government big enough to tax you more, interfere with local decision-making when it comes to educating your kids, and impose upon you a one-size-fits-all health care regime straight out of Washington, DC.

You may have scorn for these people, but for Heaven’s sake, don’t ignore them. They make up a group big enough to have re-elected a president just a little over a month ago. And yes, that ought to be a source of concern to you.