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Tuesday: Show Your Support for Buffalo’s Food Trucks

Today at 2pm, Buffalo’s Food Trucks will be at the Common Council as the city’s legislature debates how the food truck law might be changed. The law sunsets in April and in the past 12 months, not a single complaint has been lodged from any source against any truck. 

The trucks, however, find themselves up against some intransigent lawmakers and some brick and mortar restaurants that believe they have the right to regulate and control what the trucks do and how they do it. Also on the agenda is expanding access to downtown Buffalo Place locations and freeing Canalside up to the trucks. 

If you enjoy buying food from Buffalo’s food trucks, please come and show your support. 

Because in the end, this isn’t about whether or not the law is fair for the trucks or fair for the restaurants – this is about you. This is about you telling the city, the trucks, and the brick & mortars – I like having a choice; I like the product that the trucks offer and I want more access to more trucks – not more restrictive access to fewer trucks. We’ve already lost the Cheesy Chick grilled cheese food truck due in part to the high cost of doing business across multiple municipalities in WNY. 

Buffalo charges trucks $1,000 per year, while it costs a restaurant between $175 – 325 per year to hold a take out license. The city claims that it needs to charge trucks $1,000 per year because of the administrative costs involved, yet refuses to release a breakdown of those costs. 

Ultimately, it might be time for a regionwide statute that is applicable to all municipalities in Erie County with a single fee paid. You want to encourage and help entrepreneurship in western New York? Then this should be the test case. 

But for the time being, please show your support for your favorite food trucks. They need it, and the city’s lawmakers need to understand that this isn’t only about the trucks and the restaurants – it’s about you. 


Two for Tuesday

1. Hopefully, the WNY Food Truck Association will have something to celebrate later today, as the Buffalo Common Council is set to vote on proposed food truck permitting and regulations at 2pm today (Tuesday the 24th).  Buffalo Place, which governs much of the downtown CBD, has said it will follow the same guidelines the city sets forth, although trucks may have to pay a separate fee for a Buffalo Place permit. Follow along at #BUFTruck on Twitter.



 

2. The Boston Bruins traveled to the White House yesterday as part of a traditional ceremony where the President congratulates the winner of last season’s Stanley Cup. All the Bruins attended, except for one. Goaltender Tim Thomas is a Glenn Beck “conservative” and decided to skip the ceremony, issuing the following statement (verbatim, all SIC):

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

Setting aside for a moment the statement’s inherent inconsistency, no one is disputing Thomas’ right as a “Free Citizen” to opt to skip the White House event. But what, precisely, did it accomplish? I’m not aware of a similar snub taking place during George W. Bush’s administration, and if it had I’d have been critical of that, as well. Because the White House event wasn’t a political one. It wasn’t a Bruin endorsement of Barack Obama and his policies.

You don’t have to agree with the President to attend a ceremony honoring you, and I think it’s somewhat indicative of a complete breakdown of fundamental civility in our society. Regardless of your thoughts on the current occupant of the White House, the office and what it stands for deserve a certain degree of honor and respect. If the President wants to congratulate you for an achievement, I think it’s better form to go, rather than to stay home and make a political point about why.  Although the Presidency is a governmental post, it needn’t always be a political one, and this wasn’t a political event.

Again – not because Thomas isn’t free to do whatever he damn well wants to do. But I think it was a childish and self-centered move that reflects poorly on him, and is deserving of criticism.



Food Truck Law: It’s a Go on the 24th

On Wednesday, the Buffalo Common Council took up the issue of the proposed food truck legislation (after a lengthy and heated Acropolis expansion hearing). As I reported on Wednesday, the WNY Food Truck Association has reluctantly agreed to support the bill as written, and request no changes. Although they were displeased with the radius requirement, the hefty licensure fee, and some other issues, they were willing to give it a shot for a year as written, and come back when the law sunsets to discuss ways in which it might be improved going forward.

A source close to the food truck group was present at the hearing, and learned early on that both Golombek – the bill’s sponsor – and Council President Fontana would be moving it towards a vote next Tuesday the 24th. More importantly, Fontana indicated that he would not be requesting the “one truck per block face” rule.

When Mitch Stenger, the lawyer for the food truck association, addressed the council and repeated the group’s concerns with the legislation, but that they would rather see it passed than further delayed.  After the Acropolis debate ended, Councilmember Golombek made some perfunctory remarks, and then Councilmember Mickey Kearns rose to speak.  Kearns spoke out against the high license fee, and stated that the city should be helping – not punishing – these start-up entrepreneurs.  Kearns then proposed that the bill be amended to lower the license fee to $300 per year, and then surprisingly asked that the “one truck per block face” rule be added, as well as an expansion of the 100′ radius to 175′.

Any such amendment was unacceptable to the food trucks, most importantly because any such change would further delay passage of the law by a minimum of two weeks.

Then Councilmember Rivera rose to speak favorably on behalf of the food trucks, but then proposed that the license fee be lowered to $500, and seconded Kearns’ “one truck per block face” amendment. My sources indicate that neither Kearns nor Rivera had discussed any of these changes with anyone else on the council.

At this point, Stenger rejected both Kearns’ and Rivera’s amendments, demanding that the bill be submitted to the full council as currently written.  The session was quickly adjourned after that.

Afterwards, representatives for the food trucks were assured privately by numerous councilmembers that there were enough votes to pass the bill on the 24th. The vote will take place during the session that begins at 2pm. There will not be any public comment period, but food truck supporters are encouraged to attend in a show of support. 



Buffalo Food Truck Legislation Debated

A hearing of the Buffalo Common Council’s Legislative Committee was held yesterday on the issue of a proposed statute legalizing food trucks within the city. You can read the proposed legislation and sign a petition here.

Truck advocates are generally pleased with the proposed law, but questioned the need to carry around two 65-gallon garbage cans in their trucks, and sought clarity on the definition of “property line” as set forth in the proposed law. An added issue I have with the law is that it should be easy for kitchens to waive the 100′ ban in an informal way, if mutually agreed-to.

It is expected that the final legislation will be passed before the end of this month. This will clarify, legalize, and regulate the food trucks’ operations for the 2012 warm weather season.

Courtesy of the Buffalo News’ Aaron Besecker, you can watch video of some of the presentations made at yesterday’s hearing, and pay close attention to Zetti’s Pizza’s John Fusco, who has a request for people who would vilify him on the internet. (For what it’s worth, I like Zetti’s, and I like John, but I think he’s wrong on this issue.)  Unfortunately, the Buffalo News does not permit embedding of videos.




The Common Council’s Holiday Spirit

Occupy Buffalo

Occupy Buffalo, by Flickr user dhnieman

Each Buffalo Common Council member is allocated a certain budget to hire staffers. Some have two, others have three. North District Councilman Joe Golombek is leading a charge to limit the number to two, citing the legacy costs for a third staffer.

The Council members with three staffers are Kearns, LoCurto, and Rivera, and it’s a longstanding tradition that Councilmembers are free to staff their offices however they see fit. One council staffer tells me that the legacy costs for the three-staffer offices are negligible, since these three staffers share a pot of money in such a way that they are very poorly paid, many of whom work part-time, or are interns, never incurring any legacy costs at all. As to those who do incur legacy costs, it’s not breaking the city’s bank.

The joke of this is, as Mickey Kearns pointed out, that the city budgets for 200 – 250 vacancies every year. The incoming Fontana-led majority, (which I’m told Golombek agreed to join after being assured that he could make an issue out of this no-three-staffers issue), also plans to slash the pay of some key council staffers, and will add a $2,500 stipend to the President pro Tempore.

In other Common Council news, while the members were bickering and nickel-and-diming each other, the council punted again on proposed Food Truck legislation, sending it to the Legislative Committee, which meets next on Wednesday January 4th at 2pm.


Photo by dhnieman.

 

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Ellicott District Update

From our offices in the heart of the Ellicott District, I bring you this small update on the race to fill the seat vacated by Brian Davis: I’m told the members of the Ellicott District Democratic committee will meet the candidates (all 12 will be invited) on December 18 at the Pucho Olivencia Center on Perry Street. But I’m also told the committee won’t vote on an endorsement that evening.


Stillwater (Not) Shut Down (After All)

Today at 2pm, the Common Council will vote on whether to issue a permit to the Stillwater for a patio. The proposed patio, which will face onto Virginia Place, has been adamantly opposed by immediate neighbors and activists throughout Allentown, many of whom have fought nightclub patios in their own backyards. The city’s Preservation Board and Planning Board opposed the patio permit, as did the Allentown Association.

But Ellicott District Councilmember has kept the issue alive and called for today’s special vote. Which is curious, since he doesn’t have the votes to win the patio permit for Stillwater.

It’s even more curious because yesterday the city’s inspections department issued this cease and desist letter, yanking Stillwater’s conditional certificate of occupancy and operating license, due to a failure to comply with the conditions upon which they were issued. The city gave Stillwater a day of grace to address the six unnamed conditions

UPDATE: The Common Council received and filed the permit application—which tranlsates as “This place may not be open when the recess is over, so let’s not do anything now and see what happens.” (In fact, the Council received and filed nearly everything on today’s agenda, even change orders on contracts for ongoing projects.)

The problems that Stillwater did not take care of seem to be: door identification (maybe an exit sign?); certifying glass on the fourth floor; a ceiling in the coat room; a third floor circuit box that needed a lock; a new fire door needed at the rear entrance. Inspectors have visited the restaurant six times since Apri and failed it each time.


Letters From Demone, Part 2: On the Council Majority

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Masten District Councilmember Demone Smith’s other letter this week is a bit of a whine. In it, he asks Council President Dave Franczyk why only the five members who comprise the council’s majority coalition are allowed to take part in the hiring of council staff. He asks why the other four are left out in the cold, and are not even afforded the opportunity to review the resumes of candidates:

The current candidate is proposed to be brought in at the Senior Legislative Assistant title. The experience in the resume (containing grammatical errors that I was handed in passing by a district Council Member) does not show the experience level for the title. Being a former Senior Legislative Assistant after working my way through the ranks from an intern up as well as other Sr. Legislative Assistants who have done the same, value the title and expectations of performance. Are we shortchanging the candidate by hiring at the top level?

Grammatical errors? An AV baseball cap to the first person who can identify all the grammatical errors in that single paragraph.

A cap and a mug to the first person who identifies all the grammatical errors in the entire letter.




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