The absence of three council members and Mayor Tony Yarber made last night's meeting of the Jackson City Council, unnervingly efficient.
Before going into executive session to discuss personnel issues and litigation around 8 p.m. -- a recent best for the ordinarily long-winded body -- the council adopted a new ordinance to regulate food trucks. Previously, food-truck vendors had to pay the city $500 per location, but under the new ordinance, operators pay a yearly license fee of $500 and can go anywhere in the city, but cannot set up within 300 feet from a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
The council also adopted an ordinance regulating the sale and display of tobacco paraphernalia, a move in response to complaints from community groups and citizens about local stores selling bongs, clips and pipes that can also be used to smoke marijuana.
(Apparently the city council doesn't realize you can make a bong out of just about anything, including, um, sources say, apples (see photo below); no word on whether this new ordinance means Granny Smiths will be disappearing from supermarket shelves).
An ordinance to lower the number of vehicles needed to be considered a cab company was held to allow for more discussion. Council President De'Keither Stamps or Ward 4 said his motivation was to lower the barriers of entry so that a person with one cab could start their own company. In Stamps' mind, the move would somewhat level the playing field with services like Uber, an Internet-based sort-of ride-sharing company similar to a taxi service.
Uber, often a cheaper option for getting from Point A to Point B, has been giving cabbies fits all over the world. Jackson is no exception, and representatives from local taxi companies showed up a city hall to state their case. Tyra Dean, with Deluxe Cab Co. in Jackson, cited "safety concerns" with Uber.
Since the company's rise in popularity and profile, a number of allegations of sexual assault have risen against Uber drivers in several American cities and abroad, according numerous media accounts.
Ward 2 Council Melvin Priester Jr., an attorney, said it would be hard for the council to regulate Uber because the company is a web service.
"We don't regulate the Internet as the city council," Priester told the taxi drivers present at the meeting.
With the absence of the mayor and so many members -- including Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who was in Houston attending to his brother, who is ill, Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman -- a number of interesting items were either pulled or held.
These included the city's lobbying contracts in Washington D.C. and Jackson and an item from Stokes to discuss the need for a downtown mall. In the coming weeks, the council will also consider an ordinance requiring Jackson police to report hate crimes to help make hate-crime reporting more uniform. In addition the council will consider renaming the basketball courts at Tougaloo Community Center in honor of Jesse Pate, a former Mr. Basketball who died in March at age 41 as well as the renaming of Rita Court in honor of Derrick Trimble.
Trimble passed away in July 2014. After losing a runoff to Stamps for the Ward council seat in 2013, Trimble went to work for the city and became close friends with Stamps.
"He's the reason I work so hard," Stamps said.