Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell is chasing puppy mills and food trucks this week. Whitwell has submitted two ordinance changes for the March 22 council agenda: one discouraging roadside animal sales and one encouraging roving restaurant trucks.
Whitwell said many of the animals sold from cages along the city's busy intersections bear degenerative hereditary illness that cause pain for owners and pets. He said his ordinance targets puppy mills, which create an unseemly proportion of genetically damaged critters.
"We need to be protecting our animals, and I believe that if we're encouraging, by virtue of our silence, puppy mills, then we are basically fostering a form of animal cruelty," Whitwell said. He added that the proposed change would respect property owners' rights, however.
Whitwell also dreams of roving bands of food trucks rolling throughout the city, carrying a welcome change of diet to the brown-bag lunch crowd in urban business sectors.
"A lot of cool, hip and trendy cities across the country are allowing food trucks, trucks that have a landing pad and can go to an area and bring new culinary types to that area," Whitwell said. "I believe there are a lot of people in the downtown area, and possibly Fondren and other places in the city, that would like to see this opportunity."
The councilman said he envisions the trucks targeting the type of downtown lunch crowd that does not intend to go somewhere and sit down to eat--which should not put the trucks in direct competition with the current restaurant offerings. "One of the compromises we're considering is the requirement that anyone that gets a license for a food truck or to be a vendor that they also have a brick-and-mortar institution as well," Whitwell said.
Current city ordinances regarding mobile food distribution, Whitwell said, are too restrictive.
City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen said he knew of no current ordinance created to discourage mobile-food vending, but that city ordinance does not properly address the budding industry.
Jackson chef Tom Ramsey said Jackson's city-issued transient vendor food permit is too temporary, which discourages mobile sales.
"You can set it up, but your license is only good for one day. You have to apply for your license every day. That's the way we read it," said Ramsey, who is designing the menu for the incoming Gringos Tacos and Tortas truck. "You have to have stable laws in which to operate. ... My biggest risk, as an operator, is going out and spending money on the truck, and hiring and training employees, and buying the local produce and (then) having somebody coming down from the city saying 'despite the fact that you have your health inspection regulations and you're not selling crack, you can't set up a food truck.'"
Teeuwissen said the city's legal department would work quickly to fashion an updated city ordinance regarding mobile food sales once Whitwell submitted his ordinance. He said vendors would still likely require a permit, in addition to a food-safety permit from the Mississippi Department of Health.
I'm all for having the roving trucks but it would concern me to see these operators be required to have a brick and mortar business. All operators may not wish to operate a brick and mortar business, have the operating funds to do so or be able to devote time to both enterprises needed to ensure efficient operations.
Yeah, what does this do to Gringo Tacos/Tortas, the new food truck in the works right now? I know he doesn't have a brick and mortar presence. I get it, on many levels, why this requirement is there, but this eliminates him. Look at the cities where this is working and see if this is a requirement there.
I applaud the councilman for the push (on both of these issues.)