Akron isn’t making any promises, but will at least study whether food trucks should be allowed in the city.
Council President Garry Moneypenny announced Monday that a committee will look into which other cities have permitted food trucks and what the impact has been on their brick-and-mortar restaurants.
“You’ve gotten our attention,” Moneypenny said of the local food truck operators and their supporters who have been lobbying council through Facebook, an online petition and with numerous speakers at council meetings.
Downtown Akron Partnership, whose members have raised concerns about food trucks competing with downtown restaurants, and the food truck operators also will have seats.
Councilman Jeff Fusco, who will chair the committee, said he thinks the group will need some time to digest the issue.
“It will take time to put it together — to do the research and gather input,” he said.
The food truck quandary isn’t unique to Akron. Columbus City Council earlier this month approved a pilot program to allow food trucks into the city on a limited basis to gather feedback. San Francisco recently approved new food truck regulations and Washington, D.C., just passed legislation specifying when and where food trucks can operate.
In each city, food truck operators have pushed for the freedom to operate, while traditional restaurants have fought it, arguing they can’t compete with the lower-overhead, rolling food providers.
Some cities in the Akron area, including Norton and Fairlawn, have welcomed the food trucks. The Please Allow Food Trucks in Akron Facebook page, which has more than 450 likes, mentions a food truck roundup in Norton on July 5 and a similar event is planned in Fairlawn on Sept. 1. (The site, according to food truck operators, was started by a local blogger.)
“PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE AKRON LET IT HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!” one Facebook member wrote on the page.
Other comments are a little more extreme, which has been a bit annoying for some council members.
“I call discrimination on the city if ice cream trucks are allowed to sell on their streets and food trucks are not!!!” one commenter wrote.
Moneypenny asked the food truck operators Monday to tone down the remarks, which he said have at times attacked the city, elected officials and downtown restaurants.
“You get further with honey than you do with vinegar,” he said. “Please quit attacking on Facebook.”
Food truck operators, who were at the council meeting on Monday for the third straight week, were pleased to hear that the city will at least consider their request.
“That’s all we’re asking for,” said Jeff Winer, the co-owner of Orange Trük, who has been helping to lead the charge. “We just ask them to take a look at it.”
Winer told council that he will ask those behind the Facebook page to be more respectful in their remarks.
Winer has received input from the Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., including sample legislation that he provided to Akron council members two weeks ago. He said the food truck operators haven’t hired legal counsel, contrary to a post on the pro-food-truck Facebook page.
In other business, council:
• Discussed legislation that would change Wabash Avenue to Akron General Avenue, a switch requested by Akron General Medical Center in honor of its 100th anniversary next year. Wabash runs from Exchange to Bell streets and the hospital owns all of the businesses along it.
Council members asked the Planning Department to research the history of the Wabash name. Fusco joked that it could be an Australian animal, and Councilman Mike Freeman speculated that it could have been named for a union leader back in the day.
• Approved funding for two summer arts and music programs. The city will provide $80,000 for the Lock 3 Summer Arts Experience and Neighborhood Canvas and $10,000 to help support the Akron Art Museum’s Downtown@Dusk summer concert series. This is the same amount provided last year.
Public Service Director John Moore said the city likely will provide funding to other summer programs, with city officials still seeking outside sponsors to help defray the cost.