Crackdown on street vendors

Moderated by Rick Badie

Atlanta has swept its sidewalks of street vendors, a removal not applauded by all. Today, a veteran street vendor calls the crackdown a hindrance to self-reliance and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, a business executive who supports the crackdown says that too often, vendors attract unsavory activity.

Respect street vendors

By Larry Miller

I have sold shirts, hats, jerseys and snacks to excited, loyal Braves fans for more than 20 years. Thanks to street vending, I own my own business, have created jobs, and have bought a home in which I’ve raised my children and grandchildren. The city must not want that. It has made operating my business a crime.

Last month, Mayor Kasim Reed ordered Atlanta police to shut down street vendors, threatening us with fines and even jail time for doing what we’ve done for years. Police even arrested a vendor over the Final Four weekend for selling hot dogs to hungry tourists. Rather than let vendors serve the thousands of commuters who travel into Atlanta each day, or the almost 2.5 million baseball fans who will visit Turner Field this season, the city now threatens to destroy the self-made jobs that we rely on.

This isn’t the first time Atlanta officials have tried to wipe us out. In 2009, the city handed over street vending to one out-of-state company. We vendors were given a “choice”: Shut down altogether, or rent tiny kiosks for up to $20,000 a year and sell only what the company wanted us to sell. About 16 independent businesses closed forever, costing dozens of people their jobs.

To defend my right to economic liberty, I teamed up with the Institute for Justice to sue the city. In December, we won when a judge struck down this arrangement. Our struggle should have ended then, but Reed and the City Council are now punishing us for defending our rights by refusing to renew our vending permits.

The city is bizarrely claiming that our victory in December requires this crackdown. The court said only that the city could not turn over all street vending to one company, not that the city had to shut down street vending. In fact, the court’s order specifically told the city that its ruling was “limited to any decision made pursuant to [the parts of the law authorizing the monopoly] and the city may continue its other licensing and regulatory operations.”

The city is perfectly free to let street vendors operate. Atlanta officials shouldn’t continue to claim otherwise. The city could stop its crackdown immediately if it wanted to. Instead, it has decided to harass us and throw us out of business.

Strong-arm tactics like these are why I and my fellow vendors started the Atlanta Vendors Association to stand up for our rights. Civil rights groups like the NAACP, National Action Network, and Institute for Justice are standing by our side. Vendors have a right to pursue the American Dream. Through hard work, we create jobs that help families escape poverty, satisfy thousands of customers every day, and make Atlanta a better place to live and work. City officials need to respect what we do for our communities and let us get back to work.

I am not a criminal. I am not asking for a handout. All I ask is that Atlanta let me run my business in peace.

Larry Miller is president of the Atlanta Vendors Association.

Vending magnets for trouble

By Evens Charles

As a business owner who has been invested in downtown Atlanta for several years, I have witnessed how the city’s disorderly vending operations have contributed to the detriment of the area. I applaud the city and Fulton County Superior Court for finally voiding the ordinance that permitted vending on public property.

The removal of disorderly vendors will undoubtedly alleviate some of the serious problems facing our community. From a public safety standpoint, there will be less loitering and congestion in front of the Five Points train station. Tourists, MARTA riders, students and locals were tired of being illegally solicited, harassed, addressed in lewd manners, panhandled and even intimidated by individuals hanging around the vendors.

Atlanta is a business friendly, ambitious, progressive and international city that should not allow these type of operations on the doorsteps of its busiest train station, on iconic Peachtree Street and in the heart of a downtown that accounts for the highest foot traffic of any place in the city. This gives the area a bad image, making it look lawless, disorderly and devoid of supervision and enforcement.

Some might think this is not a serious problem, but aesthetics is one of the most important features in developing and maintaining a city and civil society. One crucial reason cities have ordinances regulating and licensing street vendors and other businesses is to preserve the character and aesthetics of an area.

Vendors’ failure to maintain clean and orderly operations has directly impacted the values of adjacent properties and hurt brick-and-mortar businesses, as the reputation and image of the area gets tarnished by the chaotic and disorderly way these operations are run.

These vending operations have become magnets for aggressive panhandlers, loiterers and other questionable characters. Individuals make it their staging ground for whatever they’re engaged in. Some stand around harassing women; others panhandle or scam pedestrians and MARTA riders. Plenty others sell cigarettes in singles and conduct illegal activities while using vending operations as their camouflage.

These vending operations give the Five Points area a reputation of lawlessness and chaos. Their condition and presence has contributed to the detriment of the neighborhood. Businesses in the Five Points and Underground area are closing at an alarming rate. The ones that remain are struggling, and property values have a taken a huge hit. Unlike the vendors, these businesses are legitimate taxpaying operations that employ hundreds of people, pay premium rent, comply with rules, regulations and codes, and operate in a relatively orderly manner, mindful of the community that surrounds them.

Many brick-and-mortar operations around the vendors are clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to doing business in this area. These vendors, though operating in the same area and even selling the same products, are not subject to the same property and sales taxes, rent, and strict regulation and code enforcement as the storefronts.

 

Evens Charles is managing principal for Frontier Development and Hospitality Group LLC.

18 comments Add your comment

GJE

April 25th, 2013
8:01 am

Mr. Charles is seriously misinformed. The city’s public vending ordinance was unconstitutional. The vendors at 5P were there long before Mr. Charles invested in his hotel. They were there before Underground Atlanta businesses moved in and stop paying their rent.

Bernie

April 24th, 2013
1:49 pm

Mr. Keeping It Real @1:10 pm – Because of the Heroic acts of those same JIVE TALKIN BEE BOP Veterans you are able to Navigate your way to a braves game. You could easily be a FRENCH speaking American with Vietanmese as your second language had it not been for ALL of those JIVE
Talkers. Senator Chambliss said NO because he HURT his Leg! maybe you would have stayed as well?

But then again you are still unaware of my meaning of that french reference. Comments from another Spoiled and selfish American Brat, who thinks only of himself and does not know his own History!

Mr. Keeping It Real

April 24th, 2013
1:10 pm

I can’t tell you how WONDERFUL it has been to go to Turner Field these first couple weeks of the baseball season and not have to navigate those annoying, jive-talking street vendors who take up 3/4 of the sidewalk as we had to do in years past.

For once, the normally-inept City of Atlanta got something right.

Go peddle your tacky, unwanted wares elsewhere, Terrell and Laquisha!

.

Bernie

April 24th, 2013
12:25 pm

Prof @12:03 pm – Thank-you for the clarification to me and all of the readers here. I am of the opinion, this is an issue that is need in reviewing and consideration especially to accommodate ALL Veterans who may pursue such a Business venture in Downtown Atlanta.

We as Americans owe at least this small amount gratitude to those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf as a Nation.

I Detest those of Us, who will use The American Soldier as a PROP, to serve their Political Needs and desires then discard them completely, when they are NO LONGER NEEDED!

We All should Demand a Change and take care of OUR VETERANS not only in words and Flowery Platitudes of support, but in actual on the ground DEEDS and ACTION.

Prof

April 24th, 2013
12:03 pm

Bernie @ 10:50 am must be referring to the preference for disabled veterans that has been part of the public vending ordinance since 1942, all the way up to the present ordinance. 16 of the present vending sites were reserved for vendors who are disabled veterans, including some at Turner Field. Many other vendors were veterans who aren’t disabled. These jobs for veterans have just been swept away by the Mayor’s office, along with the other vendors.

Bernie

April 24th, 2013
10:50 am

corrections:

What many of you do NOT understand about Atlanta’s History. Pan Handling and Side Walk vending has been a welcomed, tolerated, a city government approved process that dates back to Civil War days in Atlanta.

It was initially designed to ALLOW Negro businessmen a way to sell their products and wares to the White citizens of Atlanta. Just as in New Orleans when you walk down City streets and find a variety of musicians,Tap dancers, drum beaters and so on soliciting donations. A similar type of acceptance.

Today, unfortunately many citizens see these individuals as a NUISANCE and a blight on Atlanta City streets. Strangely our current system was initially approved specifically for VIETNAM VETERANS!

Imagine that! Americans Not wanting TO support American Soldiers! What Hypocrites we ARE! The next time many of you who watch FOX NEWS and cry and weep at the many soldier related good stories. or hear the National Athem when you stand so Proudly with Head held high.

Think of our own Atlanta Veterans who are NO longer allowed to VEND on our streets because IT and they LOOK DISGUSTING and REPULSIVE! They too, are ONE of US!

Do think about their personal sacrifices to this Great Nation when they were called to DUTY and went to FIGHT in a WAR that was NOT Necessarily POPULAR and with the SUPPORT of the American PEOPLE. Unlike one of Georgia’s most prominent Senators! Many of you who just love and support so adoringly!

We should gladly and with FULL THROATED SUPPORT should BE standing behind these UNSUNG HEROES of ours, WHO are in OUR MIDST. Everyday we should support their EFFORTS to Maintain their Livelihood in a responsible way.

Shamehia

April 24th, 2013
10:33 am

I’ve encountered more than a few street vendors during four decades working in the heart of downtown. They’ve rarely been a bother, on the contrary I think they add a unique character to city life when done properly. Done properly means situating the vendor stalls so that they don’t impede sidewalk traffic. If you don’t care to patronize them just ignore them and go about your business.

Bernie

April 24th, 2013
10:26 am

What many of you do NOT understand about Atlanta’s History. Pan Handling and Side Walk vending has been a welcomed, tolerated, a city government approved process that dates back to Civil War days in Atlanta.

It was initially designed to ALLOW Negro businessmen a way to sell their products and wares to the White citizens of Atlanta. Just as in New Orleans when you walk down City streets and find a variety of musicians,Tap dancers, drum beaters and so on soliciting donations. A similar type of acceptance.

Today, unfortunately many citizens see these individuals as a NUISANCE and a blight on Atlanta City streets. Strangely our current system was initially approved specifically for VIETNAM VETERANS!

Imagine that! Americans Not wanting support American Soldiers! What Hypocrites we ARE! The next time many of you who watch FOX NEWS and cry and weep at the many soldier related good stories. or hear the National Athem when you stand so Proudly with Head held high.

Think of our own Atlanta Veterans who are NO longer allowed to VEND on our streets because it and they LOOK DISGUSTING and REPULSIVE! They too, are ONE of US!

Do think about their personal sacrifices to this Great Nation when they were called to DUTY and went to FIGHT in a WAR that was Necessarily POPULAR and with the SUPPORT of the American PEOPLE. Unlike one of Georgia’s most prominent Senators! Many of you who just love and support so adoringly!

We should gladly and with FULL THROATED SUPPORT should standing behind these UNSUNG HEROES of ours that are in OUR MIDST everyday support their EFFORTS to Maintain their Livelihood in a responsible way.