Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 12, 2013

Forum: Food trucks — 'To be or not to be'

Traverse City Commissioner Jim Carruthers and his food truckers are actively promoting these entities into our downtown district, streets and parks. Food trucks are mobile vehicles serving up whatever concoction the owner chooses. Most of us are familiar with them at festivals serving up french fries, elephant ears, etc.

I am currently a member of the Downtown Development Authority, a property owner and a former proprietor of a small business downtown. I’m opposed to the degradation of our emerging food culture by allowing these vehicles for more reasons than mentionable.

First and foremost is that Carruthers and company, while decrying free enterprise and “opportunities for all,” will hurt existing businesses. The reality is the eateries downtown (currently 54 within our DDA) exist and operate on private property. Food trucks can, too, but these truckers insist they be allowed on public property, streets, and parkland. This will create an unlevel playing field.

Mobile vendors will have an advantage at the expense of private enterprise. Food trucks will motor in during the summer season, take a percentage of business, and leave when the weather sours. Truckers have an unfair advantage in that they don’t pay property taxes, city utilities, yearly employees or provide restrooms. All of which the bricks and mortar pay.

I know how difficult it is to survive as a small business downtown. Many just “hang on” until summer. Why would government choose to negatively impact the very businesses they are charged to support? Why would the DDA recommend these vehicles downtown to compete on an unequal playing field? Why would the DDA undermine the very businesses that tax themselves additional dollars to fund the DDA? What is government’s role in the marketplace? What slippery slope is this? Isn’t governments charge “to do no harm” being compromised? Ask J & S Hamburg, Greenhouse Café, House of Doggs, etc. about the playing field.

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