The Irony of Taco Trucks on Every Corner
Over the past few days, the country has been in an uproar after Trump surrogate Marco Gutierrez’s warned that a Democratic president in 2017 will result in us having “taco trucks on every corner.” The “dominant” Latino culture will take over all our roadways and turn America into Mexico (again).
The ridiculousness of it all has turned many of us to patronize our local food truck and street vendor, posting our photos of tacos and even exploring the economic boon that taco trucks on every corner would generate for America. One such study has taken place recently that focuses on street vendors here in L.A. In short, I love this!
Taco trucks and other street vendors are important contributors to the culture and economy of cities. I’ve even heard analysts on CNN say, “taco trucks are the symbol of entrepreneurial capitalism.” Wow! Even the Democratic Party has begun using taco trucks to register voters.
The public (or at least Los Angeles) has spoken: we love tacos; Trump and his friends are ridiculous; and taco trucks on every corner would be amazing!
Or would it be?
The attention on street food in this context is welcomed but also a bit ironic for me, especially in a City where its leaders have done little to help street vendors (mobile vendors who are on the sidewalk, not on the roadway). For the last four years, a proposal to create a permit system for street vendors has been languishing at City Hall. While a system for food trucks exists, vendors who use the sidewalk are largely outlawed in Los Angeles. After a motion to explore the potential of legalizing street vending in L.A. back in November of 2013, the City Council has moved at sluggish pace to vet the issue and explore the possibilities of creating a program that supports street vendors, small businesses, and other stakeholders. Even mainstream press coverage of the issue has failed to move it at City Hall.
And what about that Trump-inspired vitriol we’re hearing all over the news? Well, we’ve heard it all here in Los Angeles too:
“Legalizing street vending will fill our streets with vendors.”
“Vendors will make all brick and mortars go out of business.”
“Can we require street vendors to speak English?”
“These people are breaking the law. Let’s lock them up.”
We’ve heard these and many more comments, everywhere from the Valley to San Pedro and within the walls of Los Angeles City Hall.
While we all love tacos and are quick to ridicule Trump and his supporters, we’ve been slow to do what's required of us in our own backyard. We may not see Trump lawn signs everywhere, but the perspective of his movement exists all over our City.
As we deride the comments of the Trump campaign, it’s also important to not turn a blind eye to the same remarks being made towards hard working entrepreneurs here in our own City. For the thousands of street vendors in L.A., a responsible permit system that can help them build a business to take care of their families should get more than just a meme or a soundbite; it should get our serious attention and our proactive support. Call your Councilperson; tell your friends about the criminalization of street vendors; and as you share that next Anti-Trump meme and laugh out loud at the latest antics in this presidential race, remember that politics is indeed local. Change on a national level only begins when our own City has policies that are treating people fairly. Unfortunately, the same hateful rhetoric found in red states, can also be found in one of the most liberal cities in America, Los Angeles.
So what’s next for the City of L.A.’s street vendor proposal? We are (not so) patiently awaiting a hearing in the City Council’s Public Works Committee. If you really love these entrepreneurs and think that Trump-inspired perspectives are ridiculous, will you help us get the hearing scheduled and a good proposal passed?
Here’s what you can do right now:
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Call your Council Office and let them know that it’s time that we create a permit system for sidewalk vendors so they are not unjustly criminalized. We need to schedule this issue in the Council’s Public Works Committee as soon as possible.
Like the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign on Facebook
Follow this link: http://bit.ly/lurnlist to join our list serve and learn how you can volunteer to help make a city-wide permit system for street vendors a reality.