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DC Needs Further Food Cart Deregulation

The relatively recent relaxing of regulatory burdens on food cart operators has done a lot to improve the availability of lunch options in Downtown, DC. But as Jane Black reported yesterday there’s an awful lot of red tape remaining.

It would really be good for the city to do something about simplifying this process. And as I’ve said before, it’s really important for people to be more active in taking ownership over the communities in which they live. Local government has enormous impact on your day-to-day life, but people are incredibly disengaged from it. This is too bad, since local elected officials are dramatically more responsive to contact from constituents. Everyone should really learn the names of their local elected officials (there tend to be a lot — I vote for a mayor, a city council president, a ward-based city council member, three at-large city council members, and an advisory neighborhood commission member) and email them. Below the fold, what I sent earlier today:

Dear local elected officials who represent me:

Like most people who work in downtown Washington, DC I’ve been pleased that over the past couple of years there’s been an increase in the number of “food carts” offering lunch around town. These carts have increased the variety of food available, generally offer high quality, and promise to introduce more competition into this sector of the economy, driving consumer prices down and food quality up in both cart- and non-cart formats throughout the downtown area.

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My understanding is that this increase in food carts is largely due to regulatory changes enacted in 2008 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/30/AR2008093000491.html ). In light of that, I was a bit distressed to read Jane Black’s article in Wednesday’s Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/01/AR2009120100847.html) about the extent to which red tape continues to frustrate cart entrepreneurs. This is an area in which some regulation is appropriate, but I hope that the council and the city’s ANCs will make it a priority to address the barriers standing in the way of a further expansion in the available options. The recent cart trend has improved quality of life in the District, and the city government should be trying to encourage and expand the trend, not stifling it.

Regards,Matthew YglesiasANC 6C01