Don and Kathy Evanson want to start up a hot dog vending cart business in downtown Meaford. That fact shouldn't really be a news story, but it is going to be.
Well, we live in a society that at times seems hell-bent on drowning itself in rules and regulations most often in an effort to protect what we feel is ours, or to lock others out.
The Evansons came before Meaford council on June 28 to request permission to set up their new business in close proximity to our big red apple. Don Evanson told members of council that he has already purchased the equipment, and is ready to launch their new enterprise.
Most members of council appeared to be very receptive to the concept. We have after all been waving the economic development flag in this municipality for over a year. We have been saying that Meaford is open for business.
And yet, The Evansons faced some strong resistance from Councillor Jim McPherson who clearly was not thrilled with the idea of having a hot dog cart in our downtown core. Not that McPherson didn't make some very good points.
McPherson argued that there were already restaurants in the downtown area. This is true.
We do have restaurants downtown, though I suspect that a hot dog stand would capture a different kind of market.
McPherson argued that many of our local restaurants are moving toward the slow-food/local-food ideals and that a hot dog stand is far removed from that concept. This is also true.
As someone who is very involved in the local food movement, I think it would be great if everyone hopped on board the locavore train and take a serious look at the foods we consume and where they come from.
The fact is though, that there are many for whom such ideals are not a concern, and just because they don't have the same interest in local or slow-food as McPherson does, or that I do, doesn't mean that they should be shut out of the game. One of the major problems often associated with any movement is that it gets a reputation of dismissing anyone that doesn't agree with their cause. In my books, well, that simply isn't cool.
McPherson argued that the businesses downtown pay taxes, they pay into the BIA, they pay for garbage removal, and they pay for a host of other costs including toward downtown parking, and that the Evansons wouldn't have to. That is true.
However we are talking about a hot dog stand. Actually, we are not even talking about a hot dog stand, we are talking about individuals who have taken initiative to start a small business- why do we need to create road blocks?
Yes, people will purchase their hot dogs and then whatever wrappings, or napkins that are used will most definitely be tossed into one of the municipal trash containers downtown- though many might simply be tossed in the trash bin back at the office. As for the other concerns, surely the municipality can come up with some sort of fee structure that would ensure that the Evansons pay their fair share.
McPherson who operates a restaurant in the downtown core, said that “I am absolutely opposed to this.”
“This is not healthy food by any stretch of the imagination,” said McPherson. That is also true.
Personally I don't eat hot dogs, but what business is it of mine if others want to? I don't do a lot of things that other people do, but I don't hold that against them, or feel the need to hinder their chances at making their way in this world.
Another argument made by McPherson is perhaps the most curious of all.
“Once you've opened the door to one, you are opening the door to many more,” this I don't believe to be true.
If we step back from trying to create rules for everything and take a look at reality we would see that more often than not, we regulate ourselves. Opening one hot dog stand certainly won't mean that they will multiply like cockroaches and we will have to stumble through a hot dog cart obstacle course as we walk from downtown to the harbour.
Sure, if one opens and is successful, we might see one or two others open up, but how is that bad? Didn't we all learn something about supply and demand when we were in school?
Much of what McPherson said in his arguments against allowing these entrepreneurs to open their hot dog cart business, is certainly true. McPherson didn't exaggerate, and he didn't say anything that was untrue.
I just question why it matters. It is a hot dog stand. A simple, little hot dog stand. And if Meaford can't be open for business for it's own residents wanting to start up a simple little hot dog stand, then what message does that send to any outside businesses that our CAO is trying to court and bring to Meaford?
The matter has been handed over to staff to look into and prepare a report for council to consider, though even that comes with a hitch as it was made clear around the council table that any agreement to allow the new venture to get off the ground would have to receive the stamp of approval of the BIA.
This is not the democratic, free-market society I thought it was. Apparently Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.