The small town of Zillah, Washington has recently banned food trucks from operating in a unanimous City Council decision. The small city has a population of 2,770, but feels that food trucks pr ‘taco wagons’ have an unfair advantage over businesses that pay property taxes. Zillah officials are also concerned about traffic problems that may arise from mobile vendors, and potential health issues.
Mayor Gary Clark anticipated the rise of food trucks in this town, and placed a temporary moratorium on them last summer. According to Clark, “My request came from looking around at other communities and seeing them pop up. I thought maybe it’s something we need to get ahead of. Personally, I don’t really care for the mobile vendors. They come in, set up shop and don’t pay taxes. They’re here today and gone tomorrow.”
Councilman Kevin Russell affirmed this statement, “The main thing is we want to protect public safety, make sure all businesses are on the same playing field.” Zillah has recently experienced a growth in its Latino population, but council members say demographics have nothing to do with this ordinance. The ordinance was not meant to affect small ice cream vendors or home delivery options, but was aimed at the full-blown ‘taco wagons’.
Zillah’s decision in unfortunate, given the way many larger cities have worked to incorporate food trucks into their operations. In today’s economy food trucks are a low entry-cost solution for entrepreneurs who are unable to open restaurants and are able to provide jobs and affordable food to the public. Food truck models have been implemented in most major cities, as Long Angeles has addressed health concerns by applying the same grading system restaurants have to mobile vendors as well. For those concerned about food trucks evading taxes, the City Council could try to enact a permitting or parking system more in line with what the city expects. Simply shutting down the food truck industry in the whole town may seem like an easy solution, but city officials are shutting down a major industry based upon what seems like personal prejudice and an unwillingness to enact compromise.
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