The Los Altos City Council is currently considering an ordinance that would ban the “taco truck” as we currently know it. They must not pass this ban. And students must make it clear to the council that this is not acceptable.
At its September 10 meeting, the council discussed the possibility of banning or restricting mobile food vendors near schools. This discussion was in response to a petition from residents near Los Altos High School who voiced concern regarding the taco truck in their neighborhood. Superintendent Barry Groves then sent a request to the city on behalf of the Board of Trustees expressing the district’s concerns about the truck.
At the meeting, the City Council heard arguments from residents supporting the restriction of mobile food vendors and decided to ask city staff to draft an ordinance.
There have been four major arguments against mobile food vendors: they serve unhealthy food, the district loses a significant amount of money because of them, trash is left in the neighborhood and the increased number of students on a residential street can cause safety problems.
However, these arguments are both unfounded and unwise, based on the flawed premise that a city has the duty to ban a business just because it inconveniences a small minority.
The district’s main claim is that taco truck food is unhealthy, much more so than the food that is served on campus. This is nothing more than an excuse. The food served by the district in the cafeteria is not only unappealing but also far from healthy. The district did not provide the cafeteria’s nutritional information despite repeated requests for comment. However, typical meals involve greasy pizzas and oily cookies. If the district truly cared about childhood obesity, they would look into fixing their own food before ousting another business.
More likely, the district’s reason for objecting to the taco truck is because it causes the cafeteria to lose a substantial amount of money each year; according to Groves, the figure is roughly $40,000. While this amount is significant, banning all competition is not the solution. If the district wants to increase the cafeteria’s income, it must improve the quality of the food. Students choose the taco truck for a reason: they prefer the food. It is ridiculous to ban a perfectly legitimate business solely because the school’s food is unappealing. Instead, fix the school food.
On the other hand, neighbors argue that students leave trash in their neighborhood. Arguing that businesses should be banned because there is litter is just another excuse. Instead, a solution should be sought to deal with the trash. A better answer would be to require mobile food vendors to clean up after themselves.
Finally, neighbors argue that the number of students in the area poses a safety concern, due to an increased probability of traffic accidents. However, there have been no specific incidents cited. This argument would have been compelling, if only there was any proof.
Because the ordinance hasn’t been presented yet, it is impossible to know what evidence will be given. However, when this ordinance is officially presented it is the community’s duty to hold the city council to a high standard, insisting that actual safety concerns be demonstrated.
This debate has been filled with excuses. The bottom line is that it isn’t the city’s job to ban businesses because the school doesn’t like competition. This is a free society; the government shouldn’t ensure monopolies.
The only way this ordinance is going to be stopped is if the council sees that community members oppose this intrusive measure. So far, they have only been hearing from neighbors and administration. Students, teachers and community members must attend upcoming meetings and let the council know that this issue is far from one-sided.