Tag Archives: Opinion

Food trucks are great for the community, but opponents have city council scared to act on ordinance

 

People gather in lines for food trucks.
Photo courtesy of manahawkinfleamarket.com.

Tristan Lawson

Staff Writer

Pensacola’s City Council has been debating and postponing the proposed food truck ordinance for about three years now. The most recent council meeting, on Thursday, was the second reading of what is the closest they have come so far to successfully passing an ordinance that would allow mobile food vendors to operate in Pensacola.

However, restaurateurs, restaurant property developers, and multi-million-dollar restaurant groups appeared and voiced their opinion of the proposed ordinance and successfully scared the crap out of our timid city council.

At the meeting, the unruliest and blatantly disrespectful people were people opposed to the ordinance. One person in attendance was forcibly removed by police for shouting at the city council. Opponents often scoffed at speakers’ arguments, shook heads at councilmembers’ comments, and used obvious body language to signal their disdain for the proposed ordinance. While all claimed to be in support of the free market, entrepreneurship, and the American dream, after the behavior they displayed and their constant opposition to the ordinance in any form, one is left to wonder if they really understand what those things mean.

“Unfair,” “unjust,” “probably illegal” and “should be forbidden” were among the many phrase the opponents used to speak of the ordinance and the concept of food trucks in general. Many scare tactics and outlandish theories came out of the woodwork during this open forum. Apparently the clearly written ordinance that only applies to food trucks and mobile food vendors would also open the doors to mobile retailers, mobile tattoo trucks and even mobile bong shops! This is not only false, but if the people opposed to the ordinance would have taken the time to read it, they would know that nothing in the ordinance allows this.

One statement made by the owner of Seville Quarter was perhaps the most telling thing said, revealing the true intentions of established restaurants in downtown Pensacola in preventing this ordinance passing. “They are looking for something to give them rights,” he argued. “They will become stakeholders.”

This conversation is not about food trucks. This conversation is about maintaining control and the status quo for the interests of large and extremely wealthy restaurant groups and owners in the downtown district. It is about dominance over a market, and it is about preventing people from entering the game. Essentially they are fighting against all of the things they claim to be for: the free market, entrepreneurship and the American dream.

They claim not to be afraid of competition… so why fight the ordinance? They are afraid; they are terrified, and I will tell you why.

If you want to open a restaurant in any part of the country, you had better have a few thousand dollars. A hood vent system alone will set you back anywhere from $18,000 to $36,000. The cost of small wares, dishes and silverware can add up quickly, and restaurants’ budgets for these items sometimes run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Opening a restaurant is not cheap, and it is a risky business where it is very common to not even make a profit for the first few years of operation. The margins are small and the work is demanding.

However, restaurateurs are not infallible. Many of the problems in restaurants are caused by mismanagement and unrealistic expectations by owners who do not fully understand the logistics of operating a restaurant and have even less understanding of what their employees go thorough to get the job done.

So what does all this mean? Well, despite what wealthy restaurateurs and multimillionaires who just want to play with their money by investing in restaurants want you to think, food trucks are a good thing. A GREAT thing… for the community and the local economy.

Competition has been the root of some of the most progressive innovations to ever happen in our country. Not only does it push chefs to cook better food, source locally, and appeal more to the tastes and desires of their patrons, but it also adds new ideas to the culinary melting pot of our community. It pushes management to improve service standards and provide a better experience to their customers. It also pushes more competition between brick and mortar operations.

Competition also applies to the workforce, and with more restaurants and more foodservice options come more jobs and demand for higher wages. And since many college students depend on service jobs to make money while in school, this is something to pay attention to. Your boss will have to promote you and give you a raise when your manager quits to open his or her own business.

Many of the restaurants in our city are corporate-owned or franchise businesses where much of the profits go out of the local economy to a corporate headquarters to be distributed amongst shareholders. Food trucks purchase their product locally, live locally, and are working-class people who flip that dynamic on its head by redistributing their profits back into the community by buying local fish, shopping for fresh local produce, and going directly to the customers in our community who need good, affordable, healthy food.

Another thing to consider is what many people in the restaurant business complain about: stagnant wages, inconsistent hours, no job security, no benefits and no opportunities for advancement. Food trucks provide restaurateurs the ability to get started in the business without selling their house or taking a loan that will take 20 years to pay off. It provides chefs, bakers, and baristas with the chance to be their own boss and be in control of their own destiny. And there is nothing more American than that.

Even if none of this applies to you, options are good. Food trucks are an affordable, convenient and modern way to get great food. Many of the most progressive and cutting-edge cities in the United States have a vibrant food-truck community… and they are not restaurant deserts. They are also home to some of the best restaurants in the country who employ the best chefs and some of the highest paid wait-staff.

Basically, not only are food trucks good business, they are good eats. So when this issue comes up at the next city council meeting, make sure you show up and tell the guys in the designer suits and expensive Italian leather shoes that you want them to shut up and stop crying, and tell the guys in work shirts, checkered pants, and clogs to keep up the good work and don’t stop fighting!
Chef T. is a UWF student and a working-class culinary professional proudly serving the community for 12 years.

Wedgewood: Human life worth more than money made from human garbage

Josh Hart

Staff Writer

The citizens of Wedgewood pulled off an upset victory against corporate greed early this month, successfully persuading the county to shut down the Rolling Hills C&D (Construction and Demolition) Landfill. You see, the citizens of Wedgewood don’t exactly enjoy the proximity to the landfill. It’s filled their neighborhood with dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide, poisoned their groundwater and dramatically lowered the value of their property.

The Pensacola News Journal covered the event in significant detail. Their first story, written by Thomas St. Myer, clearly takes the side of the victims, the citizens of Wedgewood. Their second story, also written by Myer, examines the economic impact of the closing of the landfill, offering obvious sympathy for demolition companies that have been inconvenienced.

No disrespect to Myer, and I actually do appreciate his attempts to be impartial, but I simply don’t care about the economic impact of ending an instance of economic oppression. I only care about ending the economic oppression.

And that’s exactly what the situation in Wedgewood is — economic oppression.

The neighborhood of Wedgewood existed before the Rolling Hills C&D Landfill existed and will exist after the landfill is gone. It has encroached upon Wedgewood, and, by exposing the residents to dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide, has increased the incidences of headache, dizziness, upset stomach, and lung infection.

Living near a landfill also might increase the risk of low birth weight, birth defects and certain types of cancers.

As previously mentioned, the placement of the landfill has also lowered the property values in Wedgewood, and, in an already limp housing market, this doesn’t bode well for anyone trying to leave Wedgewood.

“I feel trapped. Very trapped,” Mina Sanchez, Wedgewood resident, said. “I just can’t sell this place. I think all the fumes are giving me sleep apnea.”

So, forgive me if I’m not interested in the economic woes of the purveyors of a system that worked to keep the citizens of Wedgewood trapped in a state of perpetual fear and unrest. The demolition companies involved should humbly acquiesce in dumping their material somewhere else out of respect for those affected in Wedgewood. They were given a voice in the Pensacola News Journal, but it’s not a voice we necessarily should bother paying attention to.

Seeking a second wind: How to make it to the end of the semester without having a breakdown

Emily Doyle

Staff Writer

With the end of the semester in sight, University of West Florida’s students are relying more and more on caffeine and hope to make it till the end of finals.

UWF Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) recognizes the slowdown of motivation in students toward the end of the semester, providing services such as counseling for stress, puppies to play with, and the gift of caffeinated drinks in every vending machine.

College is no cakewalk. I don’t think UWF would provide free services such as counseling to help propel us forward if it weren’t completely necessary. So maybe if you find yourself cowering under your covers in an attempt to make all responsibility go away, like many of us do, you should consider taking advantage of these programs.

But, even you – yes, you – can survive the last crippling month of the fall semester. Here are a few testimonies from people who needed a little extra morale boost, and one brave gentleman who managed to conquer college, and his advice.

When asked what helps her get though the semester, junior Madison Murphy said, “Coffee. Lots of coffee” – confirming the idea that without coffee, many of us wouldn’t be where we are today.

When asked how she manages to stay motivated, senior Kady Meyers said, “What keeps me motivated is the end goal.” She said she also looks to her pets as support. “I also have animals that I have to support, and taking care of a horse, dog and cat isn’t cheap … If I fail, I fail them as well. So knowing that when I finish I get to move on to the next step of going to vet school is an amazing feeling, and that’s why I stay so motivated.”

Recent UWF graduate Evan Bernard advises, “You just have to keep going, day after day. The end will come eventually. Find what energizes you and use it to your advantage.”

Students, listen up — these wise words came from someone who has overcome the finals, papers, and overall overwhelming energy that looms over the UWF campus and has come out the other side alive.

So if you need that extra shot of espresso in your morning latte, take it. If you need that energy drink, take it. If you need a nap to help cleanse your mind and get you ready to take on the day, take it. Do what works for you. Look at that assignment in front of you and tell yourself that you can do it, because you are awesome.

CAPS is located in Building 960, Suite 200-A, between the tennis courts and the Fine and Performing Arts building. You can contact them at 474-2420 or email counselingservices@uwf.edu.