Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Food trucks form alliance to combat St. Petersburg restaurants

ST. PETERSBURG — They are, by nature, disorganized, independent, tied to no one but their customers.

But Tuesday night, food truck owners and pushcart vendors formed a coalition with a clear message: We are all in this together.

"There's more power in numbers," said truck owner Mark Thompson. "We need to make ourselves heard."

The Tampa Bay Mobile Food Vending Alliance hopes to counter any push to bar food trucks from the streets. The group will make its first public stand this morning at a St. Petersburg City Council committee meeting, during which council members will be presented with several options for food trucks in the downtown area.

Group members hope a unified voice will help food vendors combat restaurateurs, who brought a slew of grievances and concerns to the Chamber of Commerce last month. The chamber has since formed a food truck committee that will present recommendations to the council.

"They're aiming at the food vendor because we're new competition and we're on wheels," said Jim Amanta, who owns the Jimmy Meatballs food truck. "But if a national chain opened up across the street, what are they going to say? 'Oh, no, you can't do that?' "

On Tuesday, more than a dozen mobile food vendors drafted their demands. Among them: open downtown to food vendors; oppose requirements that would limit how close to restaurants food trucks can operate; extend overnight time restrictions until after bars close; abolish roadside market statutes; and have clear, simple, transparent legislation.

"The changes the city was talking about were actually really favorable to us," said Sam Dudding of the Fire Monkey food truck. "Then the restaurants became active."

Several council members initially expressed interest in helping food trucks hit the streets. They recommended several changes, any number of which would make St. Petersburg among the friendliest cities in Florida for food trucks.

Once restaurants began to voice fears of losing business and concerns over food trucks' "unfair advantages," city officials balked.

Helping local entrepreneurs fight to free the food trucks are lawyers from the Institute for Justice, a self-described "libertarian public-interest law firm" from Washington, D.C.

"Everybody supports food trucks," said Christina Walsh, director of activism. "The only people who don't are the restaurants afraid of the competition. It's up to us to tell the city, it's not their job to protect these guys."

The law firm launched a national initiative aimed at reviewing vending regulations and fighting those deemed abusive or unconstitutional in cities across the country.

"Cities that support these restrictions are losing — they're losing in court and they're losing on the streets," Walsh said. "St. Petersburg has an opportunity here to be progressive, positive and open its doors to food trucks."

The City Council will discuss options for food trucks at a 9:15 a.m. meeting today.

A vote isn't expected until next month.

Comments
NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

Column: An important thing you probably knew nothing about — tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds

Only tax attorneys and God fully comprehend the federal tax code that has governed private activity bonds since 1968.But most of us can understand results.Such tax-exempt bonds over the years have literally saved millions of dollars in borrowing cost...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Horrified friends watch screaming woman driven to her death in Plant City

Horrified friends watch screaming woman driven to her death in Plant City

PLANT CITY — Jonathon Adams heard a scream, "like a dog getting run over by a car," then saw a mini-van come tearing around the corner with a woman he knew dangling out of the passenger side.It was the start of a deadly sequence of events Dec. 8 that...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa chamber names first companies for minority business accelerator

Tampa chamber names first companies for minority business accelerator

TAMPA — Four firms in marketing, construction and secure cash logistics will be the first to go to through a new Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce program designed to help black- and Hispanic-owned companies grow their businesses through two years of...
Updated: 1 hour ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Column: How the 2018 midterms could end the nightmare of Trump

Column: How the 2018 midterms could end the nightmare of Trump

It is slowly dawning on Republicans and the right-wing media echo chamber that President Donald Trump’s assault on democratic norms and the rule of law, his betrayal of his own populist campaign themes (with tax cuts for the rich and Medicaid spendin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Two Tampa-area widowers whose wives died of ovarian cancer are suing Johnson & Johnson, joining nearly 5,000 other plaintiffs across the country who blame their illness on the daily use of the pharmaceutical company’s talcum powder.Bryan Isa’s wife T...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Column: How Doug Jones lost in nearly every congressional district but still won the state

Column: How Doug Jones lost in nearly every congressional district but still won the state

Preliminary numbers for Alabama’s U.S. Senate election crunched by J. Miles Coleman of Decision Desk HQ reveal something astonishing: Democrat Doug Jones lost in six of Alabama’s seven congressional districts, but he still managed to beat Roy Moore b...
Updated: 1 hour ago