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Speaking Out

Vending's 'Hidden Agenda'

As a concerned student who has been following the campus vending ordinance controversy, I feel a need to speak out against our administration's reprehensible tactics and goals. I observed the February 19 meeting of the Trustees' External Affairs Committee, where a Trustee asked why vending must be completely prohibited on Walnut and most other campus streets. The only response,from Penn's economic development guru Jack Shannon: "To protect our retail investment."

Vendors are not resisting reasonable regulation, as University lawyer Roman Petyk suggests (D.P. 2/25/98). Instead, a large number of students, faculty, staff, community residents, and vendors are demanding fair regulation and convenient access without hidden agendas. Representatives of all these groups have met and crafted a compromise vending ordinance; it achieves the administration's stated goals without the unnecessary harshness of banning vending entirely on many campus streets. Though invited, our administration chose to boycott these meetings. They have a hidden agenda--creating a controlled suburban environment to attract high-rent retailers and wealthy investors for the Inn at Penn. The result will be anything but a lively, affordable campus.

John Fry says "our remaining issues are not for lack of good faith efforts" (D.P. 2/ 25). During a meeting in Councilwoman Blackwell's office on February 9, Fry agreed to several important compromises. The administration promptly reneged on these, drew up an even more restrictive ordinance than what was proposed last May, and "requested" Blackwell introduce it. First Fry denied making those promises, but when the D.P. published statements from others present which demonstrated he indeed did, Fry admitted it. The administration refuses to negotiate without Blackwell present and breaks agreements when she is. In addition to shedding some light on the "public" political processes in this City, it shows there does not exist any circumstance in which the administration will negotiate the vending ordinance in good faith. Simply put, John Fry is making statements he knows to be false. I find it difficult as a TA to teach my students to value academic honesty when the EVP of our University sets such an example.

The Penn Consumer Alliance has a well documented history of this issue at galadriel. Read the administration's side of the story: www.upenn. edu/foodplaza. Compare the PCA version of the ordinance with the administration's. Look at the map of allowed vending regions in the February 24 D.P. and ask yourself "If the administration's version of the ordinance becomes law, will it improve my quality of life over the PCA version of the ordinance? Are these reasonable limits on the number and location of vendors? Has the administration really tried to reach a compromise in this matter? Or have they done their best to avoid a compromise? Does the administration stand behind its agreements? Or do they make false statements as a matter of convenience and public relations?"

If you feel as I do that the administration is behaving reprehensibly, then do something about it. Sign the petition at the PCA web site. Call Councilwoman Blackwell and other City Council members (the numbers are on the website) to ask them to support the compromise ordinance agreed upon by the rest of the community. Additionally, consider boycotting Penn retail. For example, did you know a wide range of books can be purchased cheaply over the web? A boycott would remove the advantage our mistreatment is supplying.

-- Greg Huey, Graduate Student of Physics

Views on Vending

John Fry's response (Almanac March 17) to Matt Ruben's charges of bad faith on the vending issue (Almanac February 24) represents a continuation of Rodin/Fry administration's campaign of obfuscation, distortion, misrepresentation, and outright falsehood designed to "bigfoot"unreasonable vending regulation through Philadelphia City Council.

Fry's response completely evaded the central "bad faith" issue; the fact that Jack Shannon agreed at the end of the meeting with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell on February 9 to continue to negotiate, and that the University absolutely refused to participate in any further negotiations.

Space does not permit anything close to an accurate recounting of the extraordinary history of bad faith on the part of the administration, nor does it even allow for a refutation of all of Fry's less than honest responses. Those who are interested in the full story are invited to check out the food trucks web site at One example using Fry's first response, will have to suffice.

Fry's first sentence ("We only said we would consider it") is an absolute falsehood. "It" was a set of reasonable regulations for the operation of generators, including decibel limits. The fact is that the generator discussion was tabled, with a specific agreement that further negotiations would take place on that issue. Fry next declares decibel limits "impractical and unenforceable," contradicting everyone from federal regulators to Penn's Open Expression Committee who have found decibel limits both practical and enforceable. Fry then tells of an "interim period" during which vendors will be able to switch to electrical hookups. He conveniently neglects to mention that the University itself is empowered by the legislation to deny vendors any such hookup.

Given the complicated nature of the ordinance itself, most members of the University community will be making up their minds on this issue based on whom they believe. The two University constituency groups that have examined the issue so far, GAPSA and the UA, have voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the Rodin/Fry approach to vending regulation, as has Spruce Hill Community Association (the neighborhood group that represents the area directly west of campus).

Penn policy encourages members of the University community to participate in the political process. Judith Rodin has it within her power to call a special meeting of University Council where this issue can be debated publicly enabling this community to participate in an informed manner. I strongly urge her to do so.

-- Paul Lukasiak, Office Assistant, GAPSA

Response on Vending

While Mr. Huey and Mr. Lukasiak in the above letters claim to present the true implications of the vending ordinance, these two gentlemen continue to follow the rather reckless lead of the Penn Consumers Alliance in providing the University community with little more than misinformation and conspiratorial overtones that are both incendiary and irresponsible in their nature.

In light of Mr. Huey's and Mr. Lukasiak's continued distortion of the events and discussions of the past year, I would like to again stress the key facts of the ordinance which Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has introduced and the University fully supports.

The University's position on vending is relatively simple. We believe that vending needs to be regulated to the same safety and health standards as any other businesses operating in the city of Philadelphia. Furthermore, vending is a form of commerce which needs to be managed so that it is consistent with development plans for improving the overall quality of life in University City. While this means that some vendors may be displaced to alternative locations, vending will remain available in convenient locations, such as the proposed food plaza at 34th and Spruce Streets; at sidewalk vending locations along the 3700 block of Spruce; and from food trucks sited at 38th and Locust Streets, 37th and Walnut Streets, and 40th and Locust Streets.

While critics of regulation seem ready to dismiss the significance of the food plazas or look for a hidden agenda in their creation, it is precisely these plazas--to be financed by the University and built on University property--that have made it possible to maintain vending in convenient locations, while at the same time achieving the public goals of enhanced traffic safety; higher health standards; and improved urban aesthetics. When Center City regulated vending, no such vendor plazas were constructed and a significant amount of the displaced vendors had no where to turn (but to cross the Schuylkill River into University City, thereby creating the unmanaged and chaotic situation we have today).

Since last June, the University has endeavored to communicate as widely as it could with regards to the issue of vending on and around its campus. In doing so, we have tried to consult and find areas of common ground with various interested constituencies, including, but not limited to, the Penn Consumers Alliance and the University City Vendors Alliance. In response to the issues and concerns raised by these groups and others, the University has made a number of concessions in its proposed legislation, such as increasing the number of permitted locations to one hundred; modifying the size and composition of the Vending Advisory Board to ensure that non-University-aligned constituencies are in the clear majority; and involving the Vending Advisory Board in the decision making process concerning certain design and operational standards.

After making some considerable progress over these last several months, we now find ourselves at an impasse when it comes to such things as specific vending locations. Unfortunately, it appears that we may not be able to resolve the current logjam, because we continue to have very different views as to this and other key points. When you get beyond the irresponsible rhetoric bandied about by Mr. Huey and Mr. Lukasiak, and instead zero in on the facts behind this debate, it quickly becomes clear these gentlemen are entirely resistant to any meaningful regulation of vending in University City. On a very basic level, the University, along with many area merchants who pay rent and taxes to do business here, fundamentally disagree with Mr. Huey and Mr. Lukasiak about many very important "quality of life" issues related to the rational regulation of vending along the streets and sidewalks of our campus.

After numerous hours of conversations (many of which have been moderated by Councilwoman Blackwell) and close to two years of discussions concerning this issue, it is now time for City Council to pass the Councilwoman's ordinance, so that the estimated $10 to $15 million in annual sales rung up by vendors can be finally brought into the realm of properly regulated commercial activity.

-- Jack Shannon, Managing Director, Economic Development

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated.--Ed.

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, March 24, 1998, Volume 44, Number 26