Does the complaint of one person warrant the change or implementation of a city ordinance? Some have said, “No!” but I think it does not matter how many people complain. If something wrong is to be righted, I believe in the power of one.
But what if that one voice is a business owner upset that there is competition coming into town and asks the city to restrict and/or outright ban that competition?
As a Councilwoman, do I protect businesses by restricting competition or do I protect the people by allowing the free market to provide our residents with the choice of products they want at prices they are willing to pay?
At issue are the used car tent sales at the local Walmart, who charges the out-of-town car company a lease fee for the use of their property. The complaint comes from a local used car dealer who claims that the twice yearly tent sales take away from his and other local businesses, and he has asked the city to ban tent sales. It was also asserted that it is unfair that he pays rent and license fees to do business here in Vista and these out-of-towners do not. Actually, they do pay a small fee when they apply for their temporary use permit.
Quite the dilemma, isn’t it? Do you protect a business by implementing government regulation limiting competition? Or, do you protect residents and their right to freely purchase whatever product they want from whichever vendor they choose?
When discussing this item, some of my colleagues talked about “fairness” and “equity” in business, and the need to protect local business by implementing government regulations. Don’t misunderstand. I do have the utmost respect for my colleagues and know that they are as passionate about their convictions as I am mine.
However, I stand with the belief that if the needs of our residents are being met by local businesses, the tent sales folks would find no market here. But if people’s needs aren’t being met in the local marketplace, shouldn’t people be free to buy wherever and from whomever they please? If residents want to buy a car from a guy under a tent in the parking lot at Walmart, who am I to tell them that they cannot? After all, nowadays people buy cars from the internet.
There was also concern that once a car is sold and the tent left town, the new owners would have no place to go for maintenance of their newly acquired cars.
To me, that is just white noise. Of course they can find an auto shop; they found a car under a tent in a parking lot, didn’t they? Hmmm, come to think of it, does that used car dealer in town who complained have a service bay?
Let’s follow this thought process out to its logical – or illogical – conclusion. If we really need government intervention to protect businesses, will we then add another layer to the now invisible barrier around our city by not only keeping carpetbaggers out but also not allowing people to leave the city to make purchases elsewhere? Do we pass an ordinance saying that if you live here you must buy here? Do we prohibit car buying from Craigslist or Autotrader? What about your Uncle Charlie? How far does it go? When does it stop? Where, exactly, is the edge of that slippery slope of government protection?
And what about the people? Does the word “freedom” ring a bell?
The vote to enact an ordinance prohibiting tent sales passed with a 4-1 vote. I was the lone no vote.
In addition, to address concerns over sales tax revenue with out of town vendors, we asked staff to come back with proposals on a temporary use permit that requires proof of a Board of Equalization (BOE) certificate ensuring local sales taxes get credited to Vista and not the city where the out of town vendor has their office or PO Box.
I am hopeful that with those provisions, and assurances that folks really are capable of maintaining their cars, the Council might reconsider this vote. However, until this vote is reversed, a temporary use permit requiring a BOE certificate is moot. Call me a sucker but I, too, asked for this revision of the TUP application because I believe that we cannot build up one by tearing down another and I am one voice that still holds out hope for the free market and common sense.