Mobile vendor task force assembles

Concerns over mobile street vendors evolved this past summer, with the public making appearances in several council meetings.

Concerns over mobile street vendors evolved this past summer, with the public making appearances in several council meetings to express their opinions on the matter.

After hearing complaints from several downtown business owners and mobile street vendors themselves, council decided to assemble a task force in order to address these complaints.

But after placing several advertisements, requesting volunteers starting back in September, council expressed shock over the limited participation. It wasn’t until the November 10 council meeting that the final member, Julie Comete, was appointed to the task force. The organization was meant to consist of two members of council and up to seven volunteers, consisting of mobile food vendors, representatives from the food service industry, downtown residents and up to three members with no vested interest in the mobile street vendor concerns.

However, after few volunteers came forward, council was forced to appoint members of the public with a vested interest, a concern they addressed during the November 10 meeting.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve ended up in a situation where absolutely nobody, other than Coun. Ripley and yourself (Mayor Mary Giuliano) doesn’t have some sort of previously proclaimed self interest in this issue,” Coun. Randal Macnair said. “I think it weakens the validity of a task force at the end of the day that we don’t have anybody that has no vested interest in some way or another.”

Those with self-interest in the mobile street vendor issue include restaurant owners, who addressed their concerns this past summer. Concerns included late hours of operation, the proximity of the trucks to competing businesses and the lack of public facilities for patrons in the downtown core. In response to these complaints, council worked to limit the vendor’s street access to First Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Street. Mobile street vendors and their supporters, however, thought these guidelines were too strict and noted that they would seriously impinge on their ability to do business. That is when council decided to assemble a task force to properly address these issues, but interest in joining the task force was much lower than expected.

“I think it showed that the people that had skin in the game mobilized some of their support and that’s why the numbers were so good for the [council] meeting,” Coun. Phil Iddon noted. “At least they’re [task force members] willing to put the time in…[to] try and come up with some solution to what I consider to be a fortunate problem.”

Coun. McSkimming added, “I’m grateful that these people want to spend the time, but I also think it speaks to the fact that the rest of the community’s not that worried about it.”