Councilors at Odds Over Mobile Food Vending

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On Monday night, the Hermiston City Council debated aspects of the draft ordinance regulating mobile food vendors. That debate continued on Tuesday with one councilor saying a fellow councilor has helped make the draft ordinance “embarrassingly complicated.”

Lori Davis
Lori Davis
In an e-mail to the media on Tuesday, Hermiston City Councilor Lori Davis, who was absent from Monday night’s council meeting, said she had “some thoughts on the subject.”

In her e-mail, Davis wrote, “This issue has become embarrassingly complicated. I think George Anderson has a lot to do with that. I think it is funny that he is such an ‘expert’ on mobile vendors but he has never eaten at one (he said a few months ago).”

Anderson said he has practiced law for 37 years in complex areas which call for him to review statutes and ordinances. Anderson also said he drafts complex contracts relating to business, real estate, agriculture and litigation.

“If Ms. Davis had any of this experience, she would know good statutes and ordinances, like good contracts, are complicated,” Anderson said in an e-mail to Northeast Oregon Now. “They need to specifically and clearly state what the law is or what the contract is.”

George Anderson
George Anderson
In her e-mail to the media, Davis also attached a document titled, “BASIC RULES – Mobile Vendors.” The document listed eight rules:

• Must have license and display
• Must have insurance
• Must be neat and clean and maintained properly
• Must follow ordinance on hours of operation
• Must not interfere with another food vendor
• Must be ‘mobile’
• Must be set up in proper zone
• All local, State and Federal laws will be obeyed

Anderson serves on the council’s subcommittee on mobile food vending along with fellow Councilors Manuel Gutierrez and John Kirwan. The three drafted a proposed ordinance that would regulate mobile food vendors in the city. The city council was briefed on the draft ordinance at its Aug. 12 meeting. The major points of the draft ordinance are listed in the minutes of the Aug. 12 meeting which can be found on the city’s website.

Davis also expressed her dissatisfaction with the complexity of the draft ordinance in an Aug. 21 e-mail to Hermiston City Manager Ed Brookshier and Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan.

“I think the mobile vendor proposal at the meeting on Aug. 12 was WAY too cumbersome and I would like to see it simplified,” Davis wrote. “I would like to see a list of SIMPLE rules for each vendor. Also, where did the $500 license fee come from? That seems expensive to me.”

Anderson said the $500 license fee was reasonable considering the work city staff would have to take on to issue the licenses.

“The city is going to have to spend substantial staff time related to the licensing, and I doubt if $500 will even come close to compensating the city for its time and trouble,” Anderson said. “And when you add in the code inspection and law enforcement related to the ordinance, the $500 is very reasonable.”

Anderson also took issue with Davis’ comment about him being an “expert” on mobile food vending despite having never eaten at one.

“While tacos, BBQ and Filipino food from mobile vendors are not my fare, I have on many occasions inspected them and their locations, photographed them, and talked to patrons and neighboring land owners about them,” Anderson said. “I have also participated in four long hearings in front of the public, seeking input about them. To my recollection, Ms. Davis was at none of those hearings.”

He also dismissed Davis’ list of eight “Basic Rules.”

“An ordinance as rudimentary as Ms. Davis proposes would be worthless and unenforceable,” said Anderson.

The Hermiston City Council is expected to have further discussions on the draft ordinance at its Sept. 9 meeting.