Chicago, IL: Emanuel Moves Forward with Food Truck Plan

By Kate MacArthur | Crain’s Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced his ordinance to Chicago’s City Council today to allow food trucks to cook on board,but the measure ignores the concerns that food truck operators raised to city officials on Monday.

Mr. Emanuel believes that his version will get the laws moving in the right direction after two years of stalling. Between restaurants wanting no food trucks and the food trucks wanting no rules, the earlier ordinance “was going nowhere fast,” he told reporters at a press conference. “My idea moves us forward.”

Co-sponsored by Aldermen Tom Tunney, 44th, Joe Moreno, 1st, Scott Waguespack, 32nd, Brendan Reilly, 42nd, Emma Mitts, 37th, Michele Smith, 43rd, and Walter Burnett, 27th, the proposed law has been referred to the license and consumer protection committee, of which Ms. Mitts is chairman.

Mr. Tunney said the draft law now must be passed by the committee before it can be sent back to the full council for a vote. “I’m assuming it will happen in the next 30 days,” he said. The committee process typically allows for public hearings.

Asked why he didn’t simply work to push through the revised ordinance that he drafted with Mr. Waguespack, he responded that the mayor “wanted to show his leadership on it.”

Mr. Waguespack said that his revised version “won’t make it in” to any committees and that he now will work with the mayor’s version.

The alderman plans to meet with food truck owners next week to learn more about what they were told in their meeting with the city on Monday. “I want to be at the table to discuss the changes that might be outlined by the food truck operators in our upcoming meeting.” he said in an email.

To food truck owners, the mayor’s ordinance is largely what city officials presented on Monday and doesn’t reflect any of the concerns they voiced in that meeting. They are most worried about the 200-foot parking ban near fixed restaurants and the required on-board global positioning devices.

“It still requires trucks to be 200 feet away from restaurants when not at a food truck stand selected by the city,” said Beth Kregor, director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School.

While she agreed that allowing cooking and 24-hour operations is “right and long overdue,” she called the 200-foot rule “unfair and unconstitutional.” She also said that the fines, which range from $1,000 to $2,000 per offense for violating the parking and other operational restrictions, were “unusually high” for business licenses and said it’s troubling that they can be “used to enforce unconstitutional restrictions.”

Mr. Emanuel contends that the 200-foot parking restriction is “the right number” and has a better chance as a compromise to achieve the goals of both restaurateurs and truckers alike.

He acknowledged that not everybody will be “100 percent happy,” but “doing nothing is not a choice.”