Following last month's passage of a long-brewing ordinance redrafting the city's decades-old mobile vending laws, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vetoed it, citing fears that it violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. "It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court," Landrieu wrote in his formal letter to clerk of council Peggy Lewis.
Landrieu wrote that the ordinance's supporters even have expressed its unconstitutionality including its author, City Council president Stacy Head, who voted in its favor yet also spoke against several last-minute amendments at last month's council meeting. As written, the ordinance would open 75 additional food truck permits, increase the amount of time food trucks can operate (from a previous 45 minute rule), require trucks to operate within 300 feet of a restroom, and allow trucks to operate 200 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants — that distance was disputed from its originally proposed 50 feet, to 100 feet, then Jackie Clarkson's proposed 300 feet, to a compromise of 200 feet.
The ordinance can be reintroduced in City Council, where five votes could overturn Landrieu's veto. Here is Landrieu's veto letter:
Dear Madam Clerk:
I hereby return Ordinance M.C.S. 025291 (Calendar Number 29,497) disapproved for the following reasons:
Both the author of the ordinance and its principal proponent have publicly stated their belief that elements of the adopted ordinance as amended may be unconstitutional.
Further, the City Attorney has raised Equal Protection concerns and opined that this ordinance would not withstand a legal challenge. It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court.
My veto notwithstanding, I strongly support Councilmember At-Large Head and the City Council’s efforts to update the City Code regulations pertaining to itinerant vendors, including those governing frozen seafood, vegetable and fruit, and food trucks.
Accordingly, I have directed my staff to work with the Council to immediately address this issue and develop changes which will result in mobile food vending laws which are legal, fair, enforceable and best serve the industry and the people of New Orleans.
Yours very truly,
Mitchell J. Landrieu