HOUSTON, TX - The food truck fad may prove to be a phase, but good governance never goes out of style. So whether you’re a fan of waiting in a parking lot to eat a Frito pie pizza from a truck, all Houstonians should support City Hall’s proposal to eliminate unnecessary regulations on mobile food units.
The proposed changes, which are on the agenda for today’s City Council’s Quality of Life Committee meeting, include removing the mandatory minimum 60 feet between food trucks, removing the minimum 100 feet between food trucks and tables and chairs and removing the ban on propane in the Texas Medical Center and downtown.
Houston is supposed to be a business-friendly city that goes light on regulation, but our food truck rules are among the strictest in the nation. These burdensome regulations should have been struck from the books back in 2012, when they were addressed by City Council, but lobbying by the Greater Houston Restaurant Association and fear-mongering by council members postponed a vote until after the 2013 city elections.
The concerns at the time? One council member worried that propane-powered trucks in dense areas would be too dangerous, despite the fact that places like New York City and Washington, D.C., allow it. Another council member implied that food trucks may be selling drugs, with little evidence to back his speculation or reason to think that these regulations would stop it. A third council member focused on the ratio of health inspectors to food trucks, despite the fact that, at the time, there were more food truck inspectors per truck than restaurant inspectors per restaurant.
The food truck debate isn’t about safety, it is about entrenched industry trying to protect itself through government regulation. Houston recently witnessed this tactic during the vehicle-for-hire fight that just wrapped up at City Hall, and we’re going to see it again with food trucks.
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