Chicago has a higher than average crime rate, serious pension problems and a host of other issues; even so, the city government has put a priority on harassing food truck vendors who, like many other entrepreneurs throughout the country, simply want to earn an honest living.
The multiple, unconstitutional requirements the city is placing on people who sell food from a truck rather than a brick and mortar building has led the Institute for Justice to sue the city for violating the vendors’ Constitutional rights.
Chicago’s draconian laws require food truck operators to install a GPS unit on their trucks and keep this unit operating at all times. The purpose of the GPS unit is to transmit the location of the truck every five minutes; what is more, anyone who wants this information would be able to access it with ease.
The city claims that the GPS requirement is for the good of all, stating that it would enable the city and consumers to keep track of where a particular food truck is at any given time. However, many food truck vendors are naturally unhappy with the excessive monitoring. Furthermore, the city is also making life difficult for food truck vendors by stating that they are not allowed to operate within two hundred feet of a brick and mortar restaurant. A food truck operator who happens to inadvertently break this rule can be fined up to $2,000, which is more than the fine imposed for parking in front of a fire hydrant.
The Institute for Justice, which is suing the city on behalf of food truck vendors who oppose these regulations, has the backing of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a legal entity that specializes in property rights cases. As Pacific Legal accurately notes, the city of Chicago is infringing on food truck vendors’ Fourth Amendment rights by insisting that they must be tracked at all times. While the Fourth Amendment originally focused solely on property rights, the Supreme Court has made it clear in past cases that the Fourth Amendment also includes specific protection for private property and personal effects, which means that food truck vendors should have the right to avoid tracking if they so desire.
It is also worth noting that the Institute for Justice has also successfully sued other cities for imposing harsh requirements on food truck vendors. In Carolina Beach, food truck vendors were not allowed to operate in the area unless they also owned a brick and mortar restaurant in the city; this law has now been overturned. Other cities where the Institute for Justice has successfully gotten anti-food truck laws repealed include El Paso, San Antonio and Louisville.
As the IJ lawyer handling the Chicago case accurately notes, brick and mortar restaurants should not be able to push city officials in any city to stifle competition. In some instances, brick and mortar restaurant owners pushing for anti-food truck vendor laws are politically connected and are using their connections to get rid of pesky competitors who might cut into their profits. The Illinois Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case in a move that could help obliterate protectionist laws in the Windy City.
When the Founding Fathers first wrote the Constitution, it was done with the intention of giving people freedom to live and work as they pleased as long as the people did not infringe on the rights of others. While some brick and mortar restaurants and local politicians don’t like the idea of having food trucks in town, the fact is that food truck operators provide a great service to the general public; what is more, the people running these trucks are honest individuals who simply want to use their talents and skills to earn a living.
Chicago’s move to micromanage food truck vendors by tracking their every move sets a scary precedent by implying that the government needs to track its law-abiding citizens in order to avoid legal infractions. Hopefully, the Illinois Supreme Court will recognize that Chicago’s liberal government is in the wrong, and help to reverse these insane laws so that food truck owners and their customers can enjoy living, working and eating in peace.
~ Liberty Planet