What’s wrong with Amherst? - OPINION
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 26, 2012 @ 8:42am
Here are three events that have really bothered me this past week: the death of the baby panda in the National Zoo, the troubling decisions of the NFL replacement referees and perhaps the most civilly-unnerving, the temporary banning of Lloyd Taco Truck from Amherst.
The Buffalo News’ Sandra Tan penned two articles—one introducing the conflict and one investigating in-depth—about the Amherst Police’s puzzling decision to enforce a 1993 town law (that originated in 1934, Lloyd co-founder Peter Cimino mentioned to me.)
Tan’s post is exceptional in its detail and sources, but she left the most important point until the very end.
(Amherst Police Chief) Askey also said he was embarrassed to learn that the “anonymous complaint” lodged with the Building Department against the Lloyd Taco Truck on Monday came from one of his own officers, who has relatives in the restaurant business and called in the complaint as a private citizen.
“I spoke with him today,” Askey said Tuesday. “I specifically told him to have no interaction with those trucks. We are not, independently - through back channels or forward channels - going after these people on their own. I can’t fix what happened, but I can make sure we’re reasonable going to forward.”
Hold on. The reason this whole dispute has been called to attention is because of a personal favor from a police officer to his brick-and-mortar powerhouse relative? Is that really what the previous two graphs are indicating?
Instead of turning this into a disconnected, rambling diatribe, here are the reasons why this is infuriating:
1) The timing: Buffalo’s Common Council approved a permit process for the city’s food trucks to vend within the city limits on Jan. 24. The process and expectations were clear—after months of discussions and public forums—and the legal tensions surrounding the food trucks settled down thereafter. Now, almost exactly eight months later, Amherst chooses to enforce an antiquated law? What?
2) The explanation for why the law hasn’t been enforced until now: This is really what Amherst Buildings Commissioner Thomas Ketchum said in the TBN article:
“They probably got away with a violation of the town law, just like the police don’t catch all the speeders.”
I’m not even here to correct his grammar. Since Lloyd has been setting up shop in Amherst for the past two years without getting the axe until now—and the fact that they draw lengthy lines in front of a fluorescent lime green truck—the notion that Lloyd has hidden from the cops for 24 months is laughable.
3) Precedent and process: Now that Amherst has raised a stink, what’s to stop suburbs like Orchard Park, Hamburg, Clarence and Lancaster from adopting their own permit process and regulations? Furthermore, while there is a temporary permit that’s available—$100 per truck per location, according to Tan’s article—the fact that this saga won’t reach a public hearing until Nov. 1 at the earliest (and that’s assuming all the council members will be available at once) hints that this will remain unresolved for quite some time.
Here’s the resolution from the Town of Amherst that directs the Building Commissioner, Town Attorney and Chief of Police to craft a local law that directly impacts food trucks as something more specific than a “transient business.”