NEW ORLEANS, LA – Calling it unconstitutional and unlikely to stand up to a legal challenge, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vetoed a recent City Council ordinance easing restrictions on food trucks in New Orleans. Landrieu suggested that the ordinance, sponsored by Council President Stacy Head, did not go far enough in liberalizing a provision intended to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition by food trucks.
“It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court,” the mayor said in a letter Wednesday to Clerk of Court Peggy Lewis.
It would take five votes on the seven-member council to overturn Landrieu’s veto.
Landrieu said he “strongly supports” the City Council’s push to redraw regulations for mobile street venders. But he noted that both Head and the ordinance’s “principal proponent” — a coalition of food truck owners and supporters — have expressed concern that parts of the law as written could be deemed unconstitutional.
Head, a frequent political antagonist of Landrieu’s, learned of the veto from an email sent to her office Tuesday night by Landrieu’s chief liaison with the council, Eric Granderson. Other council members learned about it during meetings Wednesday morning, staff members said.
During debate on the ordinance April 18, Head said she hoped that food truck backers would file a legal challenge to what she described as “egregious” and unconstitutional provisions in the final document, even though she voted for it.
Her principal objection appeared to be to a provision banning food trucks from operating within 200 feet of any part of a standard restaurant unless the restaurant is closed or waives the restriction. At present, the so-called buffer zone is 600 feet, or about two city blocks. Head originally wanted to cut it to 50 feet but agreed several weeks earlier to set it at 100 feet — one of several concessions she made in an effort to win more support for her measure.
Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson moved at the April 18 meeting to increase the buffer to 300 feet, as favored by the Louisiana Restaurant Association, but Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell offered a compromise of 200 feet, which Head agreed to support in preference to the 300-foot figure. Cantrell’s amendment passed 4-3, with James Gray and Susan Guidry joining her and Head in support and Clarkson, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Kristin Gisleson Palmer opposed.
Head said she agreed with leaders of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition that any such buffer probably is illegal because it is designed merely to protect one type of business from competition by another type of business. “Economic protection is not a legitimate government purpose,” coalition attorney Andrew Legrand told the council.
Find the entire article by Richard Rainey at NOLA.com <here>