It may not be New York City or Los Angeles, but one unique aspect of those two major metropolises may soon be coming to the Oakland County campus in Pontiac and Waterford if some on the Board of Commissioners have their way: mobile food vendors.
The county board voted Wednesday, Aug. 3 to request Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s team to submit for consideration a proposal for establishing stationary outdoor sites for mobile food carts.
However, Oakland County Media and Communications Officer Bill Mullan said Patterson, “based on the wording of the resolution,” will not have to veto the measure and will instead take no action on it since the board’s resolution is non-binding.
If the Board of Commissioners comes back with a binding resolution that requires Patterson to draft a proposed policy, the issue may come up again.
The issue came to the forefront when Mary Strom, an unemployed Troy woman who lost her job at a landscaping company after 14 years, tried to start up a hot dog stand on the county complex but was rebuffed by what Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D-West Bloomfield) characterized as “a terrible run-around.”
“They basically told me that Oakland County was too good for a mobile food cart vendor at the courthouse,” Strom said. “I don’t understand why they are so opposed to it. I was trying to be creative. I think it would be a win-win, not only for myself, but for the county, too.”
“We need to give this person a chance,” Gershenson said. “It was just an opportunity to help a constituent who was looking to be an entrepreneur. That’s pretty much what we are trying to encourage, and I hope it happens.”
But the county board’s resolution calls for the protocol to include a proposed procurement process, meaning that even if a policy was adopted, there would be no guarantee that Strom would be able to sell hot dogs on the county’s campus, according to Mullan.
In addition, Mullan said that comparisons made between Wayne and Macomb counties — which have food vendors outside their circuit courts — are misguided since they are located on major thoroughfares, while Oakland County’s court is buried back off of Telegraph Road.
“I believe in free enterprise,” said Commissioner Robert Hoffman (R-Highland). “I don’t know all the details of this particular issue, but they were talking about having it in the lobby or outside, like you would see in Detroit and Chicago. I’m not particularly opposed.”
Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) had a different take.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “What I didn’t like on it (is that) it says ‘establishing stationary.’ For a hot dog cart, no, it would be portable. In my vision, I would like to see an area where we could have mobile vendors if they want to do it, but they are going to have to bid on the process through the county because they are acting on our property.”
Mullan noted that having mobile food carts like the one Strom proposed may fly in the face of a ban on trans fats that was adopted a few years ago.