The Last Conservative Remaining on San Angelo's City Council

 

OPINION — The last conservative standing at the City of San Angelo is Councilman Lane Carter. He’s the only member of that body who voted against sweeping zoning regulations of food trucks.

What to do about food trucks has fascinated the city’s staff for over a year now. As food truck entrepreneur Tim Condon, the owner of Lone Star Cheeseburger, noted after the council today, no industry ever has had so little revenue impact to the City and received so much scrutiny.

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Above: San Angelo City Councilman Lane Carter, SMD 5. (Contributed/City of San Angelo)

Council voted to modify zoning ordinances today in what the city’s new power couple, City Planning and Development Director Jon James and City Attorney Theresa James, claimed was an attempt to modify old laws to take into account new economic realities that there are now food trucks. A food truck may set up in a church parking lot, the power couple argued. And if that church is in an area zoned as residential, that currently is against City ordinance.

The old ordinance that forbids food trucks in residential areas just isn’t enforced.

Condon noted to council there were likely less than 20 trucks operational in the city and really only about five trucks are fulltime enterprises.

What concerns Condon is that the new zoning regulations require a certain number of feet setback for “semi-permanent” food trucks like his. “My trailer is like 20 feet away from the street,” Condon said. The new regulations that all but Lane Carter voted in favor of this morning will require semi-permanent food trucks like Condon’s to comply with the setbacks specified in an additional, heretofore unassociated with food trucks part of the ordinance, the building codes. Condon said the building code also mandates more parking spaces that Condon doesn’t have. He doesn’t have enough real estate to provide them, either.

The Power Couple packaged the entire ordinance proposal nicely as a deregulatory vehicle. ‘Hey look, we’re being nice and now allowing food trucks into industrial and residential areas!’ they said. It’s deregulation, they argued.

There are other regulatory problems with the City’s ordinances and their interpretation of State Statutes regarding food trucks. Among those issues is the arduous requirement that a food truck prove its mobility by driving around the block once per year. Condon said this year, the City demands food trucks drive to City Hall and fire up the operation as if you can cook a meal.

“And now we will check if the trailer is properly licensed by the DPS,” Theresa James said with the grin of a Cheshire cat.

“I don’t have a generator,” Condon said. It will require a very large generator for Condon, too, since his trailer was designed to plug into several electrical feeds when parked at his commissary, the Eskimo Hut at W. Beauregard and S. Abe St.

Today’s discussion was just about zoning, not health department rules like driving the food truck to City Hall to cook a meal. Introducing regulations piecemeal was a very smart way to orchestrate growing the power of the City bureaucracy. This way, like frogs in the pan of water before it boils, opposition stays put and is neutralized.

By the time the health department and fire marshal have their say, the water will be boiling and there will be no escape from more and more rules on a fledgling industry.

If you believe creating a new ordinance is a deregulatory action, you haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984. It’s available on Amazon here.

This is solution that is looking for a problem. No one today noted safety, health problems, or our pending doom in a food truck apocalypse if these small businesses continue to be founded and operate in a freer market system before this ordinance was passed.

Today, we salute Councilman Lane Carter for his vote cast against more regulations. He is the last standing defender of apple pies and the American Way at City Hall.

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Comments

Why don't they just shut them down as it seems the council just wants to regulate them out of existence. Here in Midland our food truck community is vibrant and greatly varied by type of food due to them and the city working together. On Friday night's there's even two gathering of trucks where we all can come to get her and enjoy the fantastic and varied food available!

Del Rio, a free market city, with stringent health codes has a thriving Food Truck industry with a variety of foods that do not take away business from local fast food and other restaurants, rather they compliment other eateries.
Perhaps some on the Angelo City council is concerned about local restaurants loosing business to Food Trucks.

San Angelo has a disgusting city council. They love to regulate things that don’t need that much regulation and they ignore basic infrastructure items like street repairs and trash. Never have I seen such a backwards working city! Ever wonder why big corporations completely ignore San Angelo? It’s because of stupidity like this. Companies need room to grow, a good workforce and low regulations. We have none of that here. We have a horribly educated workforce and excessive regulation. I challenge each councilperson to travel to other similar sized cities in other states where things are booming and look at the differences.

Where are you getting your information on the education level of the local workforce? While agree with your assessment of the problems with funding infrastructure programs, attacking the level of education of the locals is trumpian.

"Introducing regulations piecemeal was a very smart way to orchestrate growing the power of the City bureaucracy. This way, like frogs in the pan of water before it boils, opposition stays put and is neutralized."

Often an effective strategy.

In my opinion, it was less about public safety and more about brick and mortar restaurants. They used the council to help with competition. Did the mayor cast a vote? I wonder what interest she had in the whole debate?

Great question, since the mayor owns a downtown restaurant! I certainly don’t like many menus on some of the food trucks, but I really respect these folk’s drive & desire. They deserve a break at the American dream instead of this ridiculous red tape.

As far as the local workforce goes; have you ever hired any? It’s exceptionally difficult to get a sober, reliable employee that either brings skills to the job or is willing to learn. Half the contractors in this town have no certifications in their specialty! My comment is based on my experience as a mid to high level manager. SAISD test scores continue to go down. Leave your personal politics out of this - this is about local business & has noting to do with national political figures.

What possible benefit does the City of San Angelo have in making it so hard for these food trucks to operate that they go out of business? I'd like to know who brought the issue up to begin with. It's beyond ridiculous to make a food truck or trailer drive around the block once a year to prove mobility. Let's make it simple, does it have wheels? Then it's capable of being mobile. An RV or motor home can be parked in one place for years, with someone living in it, and still be considered mobile. If they have a power source, they shouldn't be required to have a generator.

It sounds like the "Cheshire Cats" in power do more to prohibit honest, hardworking people from making a living than they do standing up for the little guy. Shame on you for not using common decency and discretion in helping rather than hurting those who are creative in making their own way instead of being a burden on society. These food trucks often serve better food than any fast food restaurant around.

My opinion is that Brenda Gunter, being in the restaurant business too, should recuse herself from any discussion on this matter. The conflict of interest is not a good appearance. People don't flip coins to decide whether they are going to Miss Hattie's or a food truck for a hamburger.

I’m not sure what “last conservative” has to do with city council operations, as local government should be free of partisan politics as much as possible. I do think that credit should be given to councilman Lane Carter. He appears to be nearly the only one living up to his campaign promises & that is worthy of recognition. Perhaps a few other newbies are also fulfilling their promises, but from a citizen’s view, I’m not seeing or hearing about it. I don’t know Lane Carter, have never met him & he doesn’t represent me, but from those that he does represent, he follows thru on what he told them in going door to door.

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