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This disconnect sounds familiar to Matt Geller, head of SoCalMFVA, a group that advocates on behalf of food trucks in the Los Angeles area (and co-author, with me and SoCalMFVA attorney Jeff Dermer, of a forthcoming law-journal article on mobile-food advocacy).
Geller, who was instrumental in leading the fight against Monning’s bill, was nonplussed by the lack of available data to support the bill. He pressed both CFPA and Monning for data. But he never received any.
“CFPA could not point to any schools where [mobile vending] was a problem,” says Geller. “I found that to be incredibly irresponsible of them to lobby for a bill that would demonize hard working entrepreneurs of the mobile food industry without any data to conclude that mobile vendors were such a huge statewide problem that a state bill was necessary.”
So why introduce the bill in the first place? Erin Glenn, head of Asociación de Loncheros, a group launched in 2008 to advocate on behalf of catering food truck owners in Los Angeles, blames “a general laziness on the part of the people pushing the bill to consider all of the impacts that this bill would have on the people of California.” Glenn and her also group advocated and lobbied against the bill.
Another advocacy group, SactoMoFo, led by Paul Somerhausen, also fought back against the A.B. 1678.
Rather than laziness, Somerhausen sees incompetence. “I honestly don't think they knew what they were doing,” he tells me.
Faced with all this opposition, Monning recently pulled the floundering bill, admitting it “wasn't ready for prime time.”
Just how unready? Monning pulled the bill before it “ever even made it to his own committee,” notes Somerhausen.
Consequently, what looked like a potential setback for food trucks in California instead turned into both a well-deserved victory for food truck advocates and a cautionary tale against basing legislation on data that appears sketchy or, in some cases, nonexistent.
Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer, is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates in favor of culinary freedom.