Mayor defends fining food trucks

Press Release: Statement from Mayor Robinson on Food Trucks in Pensacola

Over the past several days, there has been much discussion about food trucks in our community, and I have listened to many small business owners, food truck operators, and citizens of Pensacola share their thoughts. Some of the conversations around enforcement have been troubling to me, and I believe they should be concerning to all citizens as it relates to fair application of the law.

Regardless of how someone feels about food trucks or a specific food truck provider, that feeling should not impact the enforcement of the law. Consistency under the law is a basic tenant of any discussion or application of Civil Rights.

My administration did not create the current city ordinance, and we did not ask for its enforcement. However, if we are asked to enforce an ordinance, we will not simply enforce on those we do not like and spare those we like. That type of enforcement would be a miscarriage of justice.

While I do not have a vote on a street vendor ordinance, I have been asked by many people to share my opinion. Based on my experiences with street vendors, I do not think a binary decision of no street vendors versus no limits on street vendors as currently provided by the existing ordinance is the right decision for Pensacola.

What I see in Pensacola is there are absolutely places where street vendors work as a great complement to existing businesses and can create a positive experience for citizens and visitors. However, I have also seen where street vendors clash with adjacent businesses and detract from the experience of citizens and visitors.

My opinion is that Pensacola needs to seek a better ordinance that encourages those positive experiences while limiting the negative ones. However, the challenges with state law compliance makes this a difficult balancing act. After discussing with city legal, I believe there are options that can work better than the current ordinance provides. While creating ordinances is not my function in city government as Mayor, I am happy to provide those options to Council through the Council President and Executive.

Whatever Council chooses to do with the ordinance going forward, the city administration, as long as I am Mayor, will fairly and consistently apply the ordinance as created. For me that is far more critical for the City of Pensacola than selectively enforcing based on feelings.

Grover

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3 thoughts on “Mayor defends fining food trucks

  1. Update on Food Truck Freedom. I did some digging last night to find out more about the history of Section 509.102 Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles; Preemption; Florida Statues. The issue was analyzed by both the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties. The group’s “2020” legislative reports are not posted to their websites but certainly someone in the City of Pensacola should have known about HB 1193 and the pending and actual creation of Section 509.102. I think that the intent of Section 509.109 was three-part. First, it prevents the city (or the county or the DIB) from requiring a food truck to get a license or permit to operate. Second, it prohibits the city from imposing any additional safety or sanitary requirements upon food trucks because those are regulated by DBPR. Third, it prohibits the city from prohibiting food trucks from operating “at all” in the city. In laymen’s terms, the city cannot post a huge “No Food Trucks Allowed” sign at the entrances to the city. If Section 12-3-65(4) cited by Mayor Robinson did apply to food truck food, and that seems unlikely, the law does not distinguish between public versus private property and would seem to create a citywide ban on food trucks. As such, Section 509.102 would preempt it. On the other hand, the majority opinion among municipalities seems to be that food trucks are subject to zoning laws. The city could adopt a food truck ordinance that prohibits them from residential neighborhoods, city park parking lots, near schools, on certain streets such as Palafox between Garden & Main, on certain days, during certain hours, etc., etc. The city council can and should adopt a food truck ordinance and someone should have told it about Section 509.102 in 2020 so it could have an ordinance in place by July 1, 2020. For the immediate moment, the issue today is if there any limits on food trucks as to where they can operate and when? Here’s a link to a 36-page document that might help the city come up with a fair food truck ordinance.
    https://ij.org/report/food-truck-freedom/

  2. We have not fined any food trucks. We have made them aware of of current city ordinance.

  3. The law now being cited by “Grumpy Grover” to stick it to food truck operators is Section 12-3-65. It was first adopted in 1986 and amended in 1996 and 2006. None of the current council members had anything to do with it. I doubt most of them have ever even read it.
    The Office of the City Manager/Mayor, City Attorney and City Clerk should each have plenty of information in their files about the law from 1986, 1996 and 2006 to include council memorandums describing the intent of the law. The word “merchandise” appears elsewhere in the city code in the context of “goods or merchandise.” It seems improbable that the city council in 1986, 1996 and 2006 intended that “merchandise” as used in Section 12-3-65 would regulate food trucks, or hot dog stands, etc. I suspect the reference to “merchandise” was intended, as example, to prevent someone from parking in front of Elebash’s and selling fake jewelry out of the trunk, etc. Further, with respect to Mayor Robinson’s hissy defense that he is sworn to enforce all city ordinances, he needs to explain then why he refused to enforce the mask ordinance and refuses to enforce the city’s panhandling ordinance. Lastly, Section 509.102 Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles; Preemption; Florida Statutes, effective July 1, 2020, may be the solution. It prohibits the city from regulating food trucks and provides also, “A municipality, county, or other local governmental entity may not prohibit mobile food dispensing vehicles from operating within the entirety of the entity’s jurisdiction.” State Representative Andrade voted YES for Section 509.102 and is an attorney. Someone should ask him what it preempts.

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