La Vittles Loca

Vendor bender: Taco Hell? Hell's bells! Your piece on mobile food vendors ("Taco Hell," Edward Lebow, September 28) covered a lot of complicated territory, much of it more related to the city's inadequate methods of dealing with neighborhood problems than with the proposed City of Phoenix mobile vendor ordinance. Parts of the story that are directly related to the ordinance topic are misleading either by omission of facts or distorted information. As one of the primary negotiators of the proposal submitted to the city by the neighborhood and vendor teams, I've lived through this brawl for nearly two years. Please allow me to set a few things straight.

Maricopa County issues permits to all restaurants, ice cream trucks, mobile food vendors and practically everyone else who handles or markets food products. The City of Phoenix issues licenses to "street and sidewalk vendors," i.e., traveling catering trucks (roach coaches), ice cream trucks and downtown hot dog and drink vendors. The city does know how many of these exist with licenses; what it doesn't know is how many food vendors currently operate on a semi-permanent basis on private property. The city lumps those folks in with restaurants when they apply for a privilege tax license. The proposed ordinance provides a tracking mechanism through the new mobile vending licensing provisions.

David Ludwig with Maricopa County is quoted as saying there are approximately 1,740 food vendors. That's correct, in all of the county, not, as some people would have you believe, just in Phoenix. Of that 1,740, surveys show that fewer than 80 of the food vendors who will be covered by the new ordinance operate within the city. It is doubtful, given the zoning districts that vendors will be limited to, that the number of vendors -- food or otherwise -- will ever approach 1,700.

Mr. Ludwig further commented that "finding the vendors can be difficult." True, if the vendor drives a catering truck, traveling around the county on an unprescribed route. (The county does not require these vendors to submit their route or a list of their stops, something that is required by other counties around the country.) What the county does know very well is how to find and inspect food vendors who set up on private property. Maricopa County inspectors can tell you that "taco vendors" rack up more inspections than most restaurants do, especially when the inspectors can't find the catering trucks.

Although the proposed ordinance covers anyone selling food or merchandise on private property in the city, it prohibits the provision of services. No more instant auto repair shops, stereo installation, window tinting, etc., under awnings, trees or on unpaved lots. This should help rid neighborhoods of de facto swap meets.

Rest rooms. Dear God, in a city where every other drunk stumbles out of a bar and pees on anything in sight, you'd think that mobile food vendors are somehow responsible for rivers of human waste. Or that the food they handle will infect customers with E. coli, Hepatitis C and who knows what else. (Doesn't anyone read the restaurant reviews?) In fact, the county requires a separate hand-washing sink for any mobile vending unit and access to a rest room "within a reasonable walking distance" for the vendor's employees.

Get this straight: Neither the county nor the city requires a public rest room for patrons of all food establishments. Try buying a hot dog and drink near the stadium and asking the vendor to use his rest room. For that matter, stop in for an ice cream cone in some brand-name establishments and try using the rest room. Sorry, employees only. If we want to fall on our swords over public rest rooms, we'd better start ordering swords by the case; this policy is all over the map.

Your article points up many problems that need to be addressed by both the city and Maricopa County. Our efforts to get the "Mobile Vending on Private Property Ordinance" passed is just one little dog-paddle across a sea of growing urban ills. The fact that a few of us Anglos and a handful of Mexican "taco vendors" worked so long and so well to come up with this proposal is proof positive that working together is more productive than firing off cannons of hateful rhetoric and accusations. Hate is, after all, the ugly daughter of fear and ignorance. You can't work together as long as we did and sustain that parentage. I invite others to try it. My prediction: You'll like it.

Alma Williams

Frijole mackerel: The wrath against the speechless begins its perpetual motion, once again. Amazingly, "Taco Hell" distorts the very essence of the individuals under question, and the more accurate historical backdrop.

The immigrant story is your story, your parents' story, did you forget? Did the Mayflower cross the largest body of water (in comparison to a river on the Mexican-U.S. border) with legal citizens (oops, I mean law-abiding Pilgrims who worked diligently and humanely established their mores in this land where they "discovered" the Indians) ready and able to establish businesses that we all agreed to? I was never asked if I believed in murder of innocent Indians and many Mexicans in this Arizona, your Arizona.

Some policy initiatives need to curb the inconsistencies that exist among the vendors. The "aesthetic" ambiance is not up to your satisfaction; hence, you want to wipe out hardworking people, the same people who contribute to your quality of life.

I have eaten at the taco stands (loncheras) you mentioned in the article. You know what? Better food than Garcia's, Macayo or Casa Carmen. The xenophobic, stereotypical undertones of the article are unnecessary. If crime is an issue, the vendors are working, so maybe your kids are the ones hanging out, driving the neighborhood out of the utopian synthesis of your romanticized, nostalgic imagination.

Realistically, help out, don't flake out, with fear and ignorance. We should support people who work hard. I skip beyond the Flintstones logic of this article, and may want to convey to the mayor that the same subsidies that go to Honeywell and Motorola should also go to the little guys. They want a restaurant, government should assist them equally. Is this not a democracy? The Bill of Rights was a lie? Be a critical thinker, please.

Juan F. Carrillo

Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Salsa: In reference to your cover story, "Taco Hell," what's the big deal?

Last time I checked, this was a capitalistic society. These folks are just trying to make a living. Is this a "Taco Bell conspiracy" to drive them out of business because their food is better?

I've eaten at several of these stands along McDowell, before and after work. I work weird hours, which makes them very convenient for me, and I just don't see the problem. They have always been neat and clean, otherwise I wouldn't eat there. They give Phoenix a Southwestern, regional touch, something you'd never find in Wisconsin.

If they purchase a seller's permit and abide by local ordinances, then leave them alone. They have every right to conduct business as much as McDonald's, Wendy's or Denny's. What's next? Pick on hot dog and ice cream vendors, too? Are you going to kick the crap out of the Girl Scout next time she knocks on your door selling cookies?

Where does it stop? God, people, get a life!

Kim Bakke

Last Gas

Fuels rush in: It was refreshing that you revealed the deception of the alternative-fuel incentive program ("Fuel's Gold," John Dougherty, September 28). It is truly sad that Arizona allowed this fraudulent legislation, in the guise of responsible environmental policy.

But that is the modus operandi of the Republican Legislature: First, feign concern for the environment, then pass legislation that benefits only small, affluent groups. Replace "environment" in this equation with "education," "health care" or "growth," and you have described almost every legislative initiative in the past 15 years.

Please note that the first people to take advantage of this SUV Welfare Bill were House Speaker Jeff Groscost and his staff members. Then ask yourself for whom this bill was really designed.

Next, go to the polls this year and vote out every Republican senator and legislator that you can. Finally, contact your legislator and demand truly responsible alternative-fuel incentives.

Ken Clark

Pump room: Back in January, at my request, a bill (SB1251) was introduced by state Senator Darden Hamilton that would have restored alcohol-based fuels in the official Arizona state definition of "alternative fuels." The bill failed on its third reading with 11 yes votes, 17 no votes. So the natural gas lobby got its way and all these millions have been wasted.

An E-85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) pump could be installed at any gas station for about $10,000. That means we could have 12,000 E-85 pumps for the price of all those natural gas SUVs the state is buying for people. What good would all those pumps do us, you ask? Good question. Ford Taurus and Ranger vehicles with a four-liter engine run on E-85. They don't cost a dime more than gasoline versions; as a matter of fact, some even cost $340 less than the gasoline version.

This is just one example; there are many other brands and types that will run on E-85. The problem is there is no place to buy E-85. So there are thousands of alternative-fuel vehicles on the road now that could run on E-85, if it was available. But since there is no infrastructure, they are forced to use gasoline.

That $121 million would buy a lot of $10,000 pumps. But that is not what happened. Alcohol-based fuels continue to be excluded from the program. The DOE lists ethanol as an alternative fuel. As a matter of fact, it is the only alternative fuel that is both clean-burning and renewable, since it is made from plants. All of the other "alternative fuels" are from substances stored in the earth for thousands of years. When we burn fossil fuels, we release carbon without taking any up. This is the root cause of the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Tim Castleman


Tempe tempest: There are two issues in this Tempe problem ("The Not So United Way," Patti Epler, September 21).

Issue 1: Is the government allowed to declare certain people to be second-class citizens, such as homosexuals, atheists or blacks, and discriminate against them? Of course not! The government has to treat all people equally even if a government official hates a person's lifestyle, religion or race.

Issue 2: Can a private citizen or group discriminate against people for any reason they feel like? Yes. The First Amendment gives private citizens the right to discriminate for any reason they want.

But Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano doesn't get either issue. If the City of Tempe helps employees give money to charities, then it should help them to give to any charity they want, even if the charity is a politically incorrect, homophobic, racist group like the Boy Scouts or the Ku Klux Klan.

I dislike the Boy Scouts and the KKK for their constitutionally protected homophobic and racist beliefs, but I dislike even more government officials who ignore their Constitution and discriminate against these groups.

Chris Acuma

Dress Rehearsal

Moon over Buffalo: Thank you for Robrt L. Pela's hilarious "A Guide to Cultural Crudity" (Stage, September 28).

As a native of Buffalo, New York, with a master's degree in theater, I have worked on and attended a multitude of shows both in Buffalo and in New York City. Since New Yorkers take theater seriously, I am accustomed to seeing the audience dressed to the nines and behaving respectfully throughout the performance. After moving to Phoenix six years ago, I attended a touring production of a Broadway musical. I nearly fell over when I saw men and women wearing cut-off denim shorts, Hawaiian shirts, tank tops and sandals. Worse yet, many of them were acting like they were in their own living rooms, talking incessantly throughout the show. Sad but true, my hometown -- tiny, industrial Buffalo -- has much more sophisticated theatergoers than the megalopolis of Phoenix.

C'mon, people, the only time it is acceptable to wear shorts to the theater is when it's Shakespeare in the Park!

Deborah Hewett-Elson

Crash Course

Critical force: I would like to comment on Kathleen Vanesian's article "No Big Bang, A Big Gong" (September 21). I first have to say that a lot of things that Kathleen wrote about I myself have felt in participating in the art events here. However, it is one thing to preach to the choir, but to kill the choir and then kill the audience is another thing. The art criticism in this town is pathetic, boring and childish. I think these writers have forgotten that these outlets are for the public to read, learn and want to investigate or participate in art. The art of writing for publications such as New Times and the Arizona Republic is to assist in the public's experience with the art and to help them understand where they can have these art experiences. Once the public gets there, they should be able to form their own opinions and ideas on what this art experience brings to them. I challenge the art critics in this town to grow up and really support the arts, not tell us what they think is good or bad art.

Sherrie Medina

True to Your School

Rah deal: I'm an ex-fullback from the 1981-1982 Scottsdale Community College Artichoke football team, which was the last team to win a conference title, in 1982. I just want you to know I played for both coaches Ken Giovando and Lee Rodgers. I was at the University of Southwestern Louisiana with Rodgers in '83. Both guys are outstanding coaches. I remember the two as upstanding coaches who would never do the things I have read about ("Speared," John Dougherty, September 14).

I remember "Gio" would get on my butt all the time about sportsmanship. He wanted you to play hard but not dirty. So unless something has changed in the past 19 years, these allegations are false.

This is not a game for girls. If you want to play with the girls, go play basketball. In my day, you didn't run off the field crying about shit like that; you lined up and kicked ass until you couldn't stand up anymore. That's what it's all about, bubba. These kids today don't know how to stay tough. What happens on the field stays on the field. That used to be the code of honor.

Chris Austin
Apache Junction


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