Tuesday, April 26, 2011

City council legalizes food trucks, bans trans fats on Dyngus Day

I was out at the Happy Dog last night, celebrating Dyngus Day and pretending to be Polish, when I ran into Matt Zone. He was relaxing with a Dortmunder after an evening at City Hall, where he and the rest of city council had just legalized food trucks and banned trans fats.* Zone seemed pretty happy with the night’s work.

Under pressure from Dim and Den Sum’s Chris Hodgson and other food truckers, Zone, Joe Cimperman, and other councilmen had pushed the mobile-food ordinance through a bunch of committees and made it more liberal than its first draft. The trucks will roll through 3 a.m. at night to catch the last-call crowd. They’ll hit six downtown zones – East Ninth Street, part of Public Square, Perk Plaza, Willard Park (near City Hall), North Coast Harbor, and Euclid Avenue near Cleveland State University.

Outside downtown, in typical City Hall fashion, councilmen will have veto power over whether food trucks can go into their wards. The legislation lasts only six months. Cimperman told Fox 8 he thinks the legislation will grow weaker in November (after restaurants and hot-dog vendors get a chance to complain, I assume). But Zone said he’s confident concerns will melt away once the law takes effect, like they did with the city’s ordinance legalizing chicken farms and beekeeping.

Council also passed two laws as part of the Healthy Cleveland initiative: new restrictions on smoking on city property and a ban on industrial trans fats.*

I had just downed a pierogi-topped hot dog drenched in purple, pickled sauerkraut, a reminder that lots of people think dietary laws aren’t a great fit for ethnic Cleveland. But Zone confirmed that banning trans fats just means getting rid of artificially hydrogenated oils.

Zone and others pushed for a more gradual implementation of the trans fat ban. It’ll go into effect in January 2013, not 2012, with doughnuts grandfathered in until July 2013. That gives the health department time to put the word out, Zone said. “We don’t want to be the heavy-handed government,” he explained.

Smoking will be prohibited in parks, recreation areas, and within 150 feet of city-owned buildings. Other potential restrictions, including an ironic ban on smoking in cemeteries, were dropped. “If somebody’s mourning, they absolutely should have every right, if they’re a smoker, to relieve their pain and their stress,” Zone said.

*Update, 7/8: The state legislature has prohibited cities from regulating restaurant menus, killing Cleveland's trans-fat ban. See my new post.

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