While I’m not in favor of denying anyone the right to make an honest living, the Jan. 9 story, Hialeah reworks rules for its street vendors, seems disingenuously slanted against what are referred to as “powerful special interests,” or in plain English, regular merchants who operate brick and mortar stores.
The rule that vendors maintain a 300-foot distance from a fixed establishment selling the same goods doesn’t sound at all discriminatory to me. The $150 annual fee peddlers pay for a license is a far smaller burden than the rent, taxes, occupational license fee, certificate of occupancy fee, FPL and water department bills, and perhaps workers comp costs, to name a few of the expenses that store merchants face, to say nothing of inventory or employee costs.
It’s also a well-known fact that in Hialeah, and in Miami-Dade County, street vendors often clutter public walkways with merchandise, disrupt traffic and cause safety hazards and sometimes anger motorists when they overstay the green light at an intersection.
It seems to me that any municipality has the right to regulate commerce within its borders without having to bow to special interest pressure such as lawsuits from groups that distort the truth to favor one group over another, as the Institute for Justice appears, in my opinion, to be doing.
People paying into the tax base of a community have a right to expect their governments to protect their interests from unfair competition. I think the gist of this lawsuit has it backwards. Merchants who pay significant amounts in taxes should count for more than street vendors who, while honest and hard-working, are taking advantage of the financial burdens merchants shoulder. The vendors contribute proportionally much less to the general economy of a community while expecting the same benefits.
Aren’t these the same people who complain that the likes of Walmart are driving mom and pop businesses out of business? If anyone can stand in front of a flower shop and sell cut-rate flowers at an unrealistically low price because he’s paying tiny taxes and buying no services from other enterprises, why should the flower shop owner bother to stay in business and pay taxes? And if these businesses fold, is Hialeah going to pay its expenses on the revenue from peddlers’ licenses?
Leonard Riforgiato, Miami