Asymmetrical Information - Megan McArdle

11.21.12

DC Government Loses 1,000 Pro-Food Truck Comments

The mobile vending saga continues . . .

DC's city government just ended the open comment period on proposed new regulations of food trucks.  Somehow, they managed to lose at least a thousand comments in favor of the food trucks: 

According to the DC Food Truck Association, more than 1,000 letters in support of these gourmet lunchwagons never reached Helder Gil, legislative affairs specialist for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, who was charged with collecting public comments. These 1,000-plus comments were sent via the DCFTA’s automated letter-writing site, RulesThatWork.org, says Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the group’s executive director.

Ruddell-Tabisola and the association were looking into the situation late Monday — not that it would make much difference if the problem turned out to be on the sender’s end. Gil told All We Can Eat that any comments submitted after the deadline of 5 p.m. Nov. 13, would not become part of the official record. As of the deadline, DCRA had received only 43 comments from RulesThatWork.org.

“Absolutely it concerns me that they are not part of the public comments,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. “If they’re not there, we’ll be absolutely sure the [Mayor Vincent Gray] administration is. . . fully aware that these individuals share” our positions.

No one has suggested that sabotage, or any such drama, is responsible for the missing pro-truck comments.  

Perhaps they're not suggesting it, but they sure are implying it rather muscularly.  For which the DC government frankly has only itself to blame.  Its attempts to curtail upstart competition on behalf of incumbents in the restaurant and taxi industries have been so transparent that even material science PhDs probably wonder how they've done it.  If you keep coming up with ludicrous regulations that solve "problems" no one has--while also just accidentally also solving that little "problem" their competitors have with new entrants coming into their markets--then you are going to have to accept that when accidents like this happen, many people will supsect that it's not entirely accidental.  Even if it was, as is of course quite possibly the case.  

The way to ease those suspicions is for the DC government to announce that it will be reopening the comment period, and extending it to, say, the end of the month.  It's hard to see what harm could come from this, and it would go a long way towards quieting the suspicion that the DC government is trying to chase the food trucks out of downtown at the behest of restaurant owners who would rather have a captive market.