The following post was written by John Breeden, an SFL Campus Coordinator at West Virginia University.
WVU Students For Liberty’s vehement defense of street vendors has been covered in The Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s campus publication Click here to read the full article.
On September 17, the Morgantown City Council passed an ordinance restricting street vendors’ areas of operation throughout the city. The city claims its primary concern is for the public safety. By removing street vendors from the sidewalks on the main street of the city, they believe this will help to reduce some of the violence that is known to occur in an area with many late-night clubs and bars by reducing the size of crowds outside. The city also restricts the vendors from operating during the day, and regulated that they must remain at least 50ft away from other brick and mortar businesses, significantly limiting their areas of availability. Morgantown, West Virginia is not a busy city with a vast array of food trucks and vendors. There are two men who operate hotdog carts and a couple who own a taco truck. That comes to a grand total of three regular street vendors that the city believes is causing a safety hazard for the late-night bar patrons who make up their customer base.
WVU Students For Liberty tables with Joe Stone, affectionately known as “Hot Dog Man.” Morgantown city regulations would restrict Mr. Stone to selling hot dogs away from the main street of the city, severely cutting down on foot traffic and his business profits.
When I first heard about what the city was doing, I was upset by the clear anti-competitiveness of the ordinance and the absurdity of the city believing these people were causing any harm. I first talked to Joseph Byrd who has been operating his hot dog cart in the same spot for the past 7 years. Before selling hot dogs he had worked as a janitor at the local clubs. Prior to that he lived in New York City, doing whatever he could to get by. The other vendor is Joe Stone, known affectionately as Hot Dog Man. He has been selling hot dogs on the same street for 17 years. In that time he’s been able to support his family and even put two kids through college. In the past, Joe ran his business with his wife, who sadly passed away just two months ago from cancer. These men were both distraught about what the new ordinance was going to do to their business. Being relocated away from the busiest areas would greatly impact the relatively small margins they already make.
On October 1st the WVU Students For Liberty and WVU College Libertarians coordinated efforts to raise awareness and protest what the city was doing to these men. We obtained an official city petition to repeal to local ordinance and invited Hot Dog Man to come out with us and do what he does best: sell hot dogs. We got more than 500 signatures in just a few hours, and helped raise money to support Mr. Stone and his business in this difficult time for his family.
Being a part of this process significantly changed the way I viewed the situation. The city government’s intentions are irrelevant when their actions can have such a harmful impact on people’s lives. This is what the fight for liberty is truly about; standing up for innocent people and defending them from the harmful hand of government intrusion.
Do you have photos or video of your student activism on campus? Were you featured in a local newspaper or magazine? Be sure to email Students For Liberty’s Media Team of Megan Roberts or Keara Vickers and let us know. We’d love to spread the word, feature you on our website, and help you garner more media attention!