A discussion on food trucks got attention of the public and dominated the City of Socorro’s Dec. 18 meeting.
The meeting kicked off with, Socorro City councilor Deborah Dean making a statement in which she recused herself from any food truck discussion or future resolution proposed, citing recent bullying behavior on Facebook.
“I’ve been targeted over this discussion for a resolution about food trucks. First of all, I want to make it clear that I don’t believe anyone here is suggesting we get rid of food trucks…speaking solely on behalf of Bodega, I don’t believe our business is being affected by food trucks as has been suggested on some of the posts in some of the comments,” Dean said.
She talked to food truck vendors by phone, and in person, and didn’t feel like there was an ill intent in many of those conversations and most of the Facebook posts and comments were fine.
“I do find some posts to be unwarranted. I’m being bullied, stalked and harassed – one of the posts suggested for people to call text, email, and even go to our homes to talk about this issue. Once that post went up, I did receive a phone call from an individual saying I was a horrible person and she didn’t like what I was doing with my time; she’s here tonight,” Dean said. “My family has been becoming somewhat concerned for my safety. It’s been suggested to me to call the state police and file a report or file a restraining order at this time. I chose not to do that, but instead I did deactivate my Facebook account because it’s just too toxic.”
Mayor Ravi Bhasker asked for the post to put up on the screen for everyone at the meeting to see. The post was a GIF of a woman holding a sign that said, “Want me to kill them?”
“Who put this up?” Bhasker asked. “You guys from the food truck business, who put this up? Do you think that’s funny, is that funny for public officials that you threatened that somebody will want to kill them? You know, we serve here for your benefit, we serve here for the public and for you to come and try to intimidate people with that kind of stuff, it really didn’t sit well with the mayor. I think that’s really horrible of whoever put that up that’s responsible for that.”
Councilors Damian Ocampo, Michael Olguin, Nick Fleming, Gordy Hicks and Peter Romero followed suit reprimanding the behavior, explaining the process of an ordinance and requesting that the public contact them directly rather than get their information on Facebook.
“The whole idea is that we bring it up. We have discussion. We have informative, constructive discussions, involving all people that are involved to where we come up with an agreement where everybody’s happy,” Olguin said. “We’ll probably be setting up the next meeting with the food truck people to come up with ideas and restaurant people on what we can do next.”
“What I’m going to propose is something that’s a step for permitting a mobile food business and every city has it. We don’t have it and that’s one of the things that we need to codify,” Bhasker said.
He said it would require health inspection permits, registration and special use permits from the property owner.
Planning and Zoning manager, Kristy Padilla, said that there were only two places that have special use permits for transient vendors approved, The Baymont and the area south of Radio Shack.
Several vendors spoke about their food businesses with questions and concerns.
Robert Gonzales, owner of Breakfast Burritos N More, said that his was one of the original food trucks in Socorro.
“When I came to talk to you, Mayor, and few of you guys, that have been here, you said ‘Robert, you’re the first one that’s been here, we don’t know what’s going on but when we get to the road we’ll cross it.’ And we are here at the road and we are going to cross it,” Gonzales said.
He felt that it was a shame that Deborah Dean couldn’t be at the meeting because “she knows a lot about the business.”
“I heard a lot of stuff from other people, that was going on, but when I read it in the paper, is when I said okay, I got to go see what you guys are talking about,” Gonzales said. “That’s why I’m here, to hear it out of your mouth to see what’s going on. I mean, people are saying you’re going to ban us from parking in town.”
He brought up concerns about pop up tents not having proper permits or being regulated.
A vendor who identified himself as Chris, founder of Big Mike’s from Belen, said that he has permits in Albuquerque, Bosque Farms, Belen, Socorro and Valencia.
“So, I know all about permits and I think what you are doing the right thing. I think that somebody just started a flame and it just burned out of control,” he said.
Eric Sanchez, who said that he feeds a lot of people at Tech who have kept him busy since 2020, spoke to the more stringent rules he has to follow as a food cart. He requested a clearer process from the city and asked for clarification regarding being able to park at the Plaza. The mayor confirmed that public places were open to food vendors, but only if it wasn’t interfering with parking for a another event. He said they would only be charged if they were plugging into the electric.
“I think the biggest problem that’s happening right now is that he said, she said,” Sanchez said. “If you’re talking about ordinances and stuff like that, there’s a really simple way to do it without overly complicating things, which is what sounds like is going on.”
Bhasker assured the vendors that the ordinance would include the basic requirements that they all should already have.
“I’m just basically going to follow what’s already been done in other cities. We just haven’t done it. And I just wanted to make sure we do it because it looks like the food truck business is going up and up. And that’s great. I mean everybody’s happy with that. We even talked about putting a food truck area. All that can happen, but we still have to codify certain things that we have to do as a city and that’s what we’re doing,” Bhasker said.