Update: 9/29/11: Advocates delivered nearly 4,000 signatures to the Common Council today! An advisory committee will now be formed to draft regulations that will be presented to the Common Council by Nov. 1st. Please keep signing the petition to urge Council members to enact regulations that would allow for a thriving fleet of food trucks in Buffalo!
Before taking office, most politicians hope to "make a difference" for their constituents. After taking office, many politicians are so mired in small debates that actual "make a difference" opportunities seem rare. Today, you have a chance to make a big difference. The food truck regulations you are currently considering will impact more than a single neighborhood, and go beyond even the City of Buffalo. What you do will have ripple effects across all of Western New York, and possibly national consequences.
Other cities have welcomed food trucks as dining pioneers, benefitting from an expanded variety and quality of foods. As evidenced by strong citizen support for these trucks, they undeniably generate good will and contribute to a city's culinary discussions: when the food's great, people literally follow the trucks from location to location, forming lines to support the new businesses. Some trucks, such as Los Angeles's Kogi BBQ, have received international attention and become tourist draws in their own right, while bringing crowds of new people to help generate additional support for existing businesses. These trucks generate precisely the sort of public excitement and improvement that a city needs, particularly in challenging economic times.
Today, Buffalo has five food trucks. Lloyd was created to bring more authentic tacos to Buffalo. The Whole Hog Truck sells outrageously good gourmet pork sandwiches. Roaming Buffalo serves Western New York specialties, RNR BBQ Truck offers barbecue, and Rolling Joe is a coffee house on wheels - plus a Buffalo favorite, loganberry. These trucks are trying to deliver better food and drinks to the people of Buffalo, while celebrating some of this area's culinary traditions.
Delays in food truck permits and regulations have already quantifiably hurt Buffalo. Limited in its area of operation -- and forced to fight when it could have been reaching out to additional people -- Lloyd fell just short of winning a national competition that would have guaranteed it a place on television and a $10,000 cash prize, half of which it planned to donate to a local charity, providing 25,000 meals to needy Buffalonians. Another truck, Fork on the Road, planned to diversify the food truck scene by offering Vietnamese dishes that could not be found elsewhere in this area. The owner is a locally well-established chef who scuttled his food truck plans specifically because of the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the business. Other trucks have been threatened, not by angry customers, but by local landlords and mediocre businesses that have called city police away from actual crimes to chase away permit-holding competitors.
Your prompt action is needed. It is important. The regulation you will pass is not just about protecting the pockets of a handful of your wealthiest constituents. It is about helping the tide to rise such that all boats in Buffalo will be lifted. Your actions will directly affect the ability of a truck such as Lloyd to receive national television attention while making direct contributions to our community. It will help a truck like Fork on the Road to improve the variety of foods available in this area. You will inspire or discourage the next generation of Buffalo small businesspeople.
Since most of your constituents will not be present at the public or private meetings that are held regarding this legislation, it is up to you to act in Buffalo's broader interest, and consider the unspoken needs of the many rather than the loudest shouts of the few business owners who are afraid of competing with these trucks. Like other cities that have embraced and seen tangible cultural, culinary, and economic benefits from food trucks, Buffalo will grow and prosper as these small businesspeople test new models on their own dime, infusing our streets with long-awaited energy and excitement.
We urge you to expedite regulations that enable licensed food trucks to operate with minimal interference from established businesses. In thriving cities, food truck regulations and permit processes are designed to encourage healthy competition. Buffalo should follow their example -- immediately.
As much as private landlords may want to lay claim to our public spaces, these individuals need to be reminded that they can control their own property, but they cannot preclude access to the surrounding streets and infrastructure our tax dollars paid for and maintain. Existing businesses cannot and should not be able to stop new, law-abiding competitors from offering higher-quality products at different or even nearby locations. Let the market decide the victors and reward them for their quality and innovation.