It’s wonderful to see an ordinance formally introduced. But with election not taking place for 9 months, you can bet pushcart vendors won’t see any progress until the members of city council feel safe to place a vote that won’t hurt their chances for re-election.
CHICAGO, IL – Pushcart food vendors operating illegally on the streets of Chicago took a baby step out of the shadows Wednesday.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) formally introduced the ordinance drafted by pushcart vendors and their legal advocates, even though it’s an issue that some of his colleagues are not interested in tackling nine months before the aldermanic election.
The ordinance would minimize the city’s inspection burden — by forbidding pushcart food vendors from cooking outside and allowing them to sell only food made in a city-licensed and inspected kitchen.
Chicago remains one of the nation’s only major cities that bans street vendors from selling anything more than frozen desserts and uncut fruits and vegetables. Cooked food or cut fruits and vegetables are off-limits.
Even so, scores of vendors defy the law, selling tamales, tacos, hot dogs and other food from push carts across the city while living in fear of arrest. Maldonado is one of their loyal customers. He buys tamales every Sunday after church.
“I’m not worried about any political repercussions. I’m worried about doing the right thing for this group of entrepreneurs that are sometimes being singled out by police. Chase them out. I don’t think that’s right,” Maldonado said.
“This has been going on for years. It’s not going to go away. Why not legitimize them and have them operate like legitimate businesses in Chicago?”
Maldonado said pushcart food vendors should have been legalized when the City Council authorized food trucks with cooking on board. They were “left out” simply because aldermen lacked the “political will” to confront an issue they have dodged for years, he said.
“The University of Chicago has spent a lot of time with the Department of Health going through safeguards so the proposed ordinance meets all [city] standards,” he said. “Because of that, hopefully, we’ll find the political will now to incorporate this group of entrepreneurs and finally have them come in out of the shadows and be able to operate freely.”
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, reiterated Wednesday he’s not eager to tackle the “very difficult” pushcart vendor issue because there are “so many different perspectives from aldermen and the communities they represent.”
“It’s less than nine months before the election. People are going to be operating under self-interest. That has to be considered. But, if it could go through and it won’t hurt my constituents, I could support it,” Solis said.
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