by Dr. Michael Sanera
Director of Research and Local Government Studies
The food truck controversy in Raleigh raises serious ethical questions for Raleigh’s city planners, including Raleigh’s chief planner, Mitch Silver. For anyone who followed the long controversy, the decision to prevent food trucks from operating within 100 feet of an existing restaurant, along with numerous other restrictions, was specifically designed as economic protectionism for existing restaurants. In other words, the police powers of the city were used to protect existing restaurants from economic competition from food trucks.
Silver currently serves as the president of the American Planning Association (APA), the nation’s preeminent planning organization. As such, he should be aware of the APA’s "Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct." Section A, "Principles to Which We Aspire," begins with: "Our primary obligation is to serve the public interest…"
This section goes on to state:
a) We shall always be conscious of the rights of others.
b) We shall have special concern for the long-range consequences of present actions.
c) We shall pay special attention to the interrelatedness of decisions.
d) … Participation should be broad enough to include those who lack formal organization or influence.
e) … [E]xpand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs.
How does a narrow, special-interest zoning ordinance designed to protect existing restaurants from economic competition serve the public interest? Did the planning department under Silver’s leadership at any time inform the council members that:
Raleigh’s planners failed to provide this information to the city council members before they voted on the ordinance. Thus, they are in violation of their own code of ethics. I wonder how the APA under Mitch Silver’s tenure as president would respond to a formal ethics complaint?
What is abundantly clear is that this ordinance is not in the "public interest," because it was designed specifically to protect existing restaurants from economic competition from food trucks.
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