Yesterday, food truck political organization MFU Houston took its case for revising certain City of Houston ordinances to a hearing at City Hall but faced skepticism from council members who have absorbed anti-food truck rhetoric from the Greater Houston Restaurant Association and its allies. More than a dozen food truck supporters spoke to the council on the necessity of these changes; the group included food truck owners Joshua Martinez of The Modular and Daniel Caballero of Good Dog Hot Dogs, local hip hop legend Bun B (UGK 4 Life!) and Jonathan Jones, the newly hired chef at Monarch whose presence offsets the view that all restaurants are opposed to the proposed changes.
From the perspective of someone who's familiar with the food truck scene, the group represented an all star lineup of talent, but the council members weren't impressed. Despite assurances from a representative of the Houston Fire Department that allowing trucks to use propane downtown represents an "acceptable risk," council member Andrew Burks Jr. proclaimed "There is no competition here. There is danger here." He announced he would not support the changes.
Council member Jack Christie caused a stir on Twitter when he implied that food trucks make money by selling illegal drugs rather than food. Houston Press critic Katharine Shilcutt summed up supporters' feelings about the council's attitude when she tweeted, "Most City Council members today reminded me of how my grandma keeps sending me emails on various urban legends that Snopes has long debunked."
At least one downtown restaurant owner supports the current system. Frank's Pizza owner Debbie Love told KTRK's Miya Shay that she wants the trucks kept out of downtown, because "We depend on foot traffic. If people are walking four or five blocks to Frank's, and they see four or five food trucks along the way, obviously they have more options. We feel like it's going to really hurt our business."
Whether it should be the role of Houston City Council to protect certain private businesses from competition at the expense of other private businesses will be part of the ongoing debate. In the meantime, sustainability director Laura Spanjian will publish the proposed changes to give the public 30 days to comment. After that, city council will vote on them.
· Food trucks as terrorist weapons? Debate over rule changes attracts Bun B, restaurant defenders & strange logic [CultureMap]
· Food truck operators continue fight for downtown [ABC 13]
· Houston MFU [Official Site]
· Food Trucks Organize MFU to Fight City Hall [-EHOU-]