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Sherwood's Notebook: Keep on Truckin’

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D.C. Food Trucks Take Day Off in Protest of Proposed Regulations

Food truck operators suspended service Monday to protest proposed city regulations. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

Trademark Hearing Over Redskins Name

A group of Native Americans are arguing against the name and want the team to lose trademark protection, which doesn't cover disparaging names. Chad Corntassel Smith, the former principal chief of the Cherokee nation, says he find the name offensive.
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There was a sliver of a new development Monday in the ongoing criminal probe of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign. It provides some insight into why prosecutors can’t — as some complain — “just get this case over.”

Federal District Court Judge Royce Lamberth — in a year-old court ruling that was released just Monday — says prosecutors believe Gray fundraiser Jeffrey Thompson has engaged in “efforts … to obstruct the investigation.”

Lawyers for Thompson have lost several rounds in court to prohibit release of Thompson’s financial documents that might shed light on the Gray campaign mess. Thompson could appeal to the Supreme Court next. His lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, makes it a routine practice not to comment to reporters.

The intense court battle over documents between Thompson and prosecutors is important because it has so far delayed the full investigation into whether Gray knew about illegal efforts to elect him.

When you hear people say that the prosecutors ought to fish or cut bait — that is, indict the mayor or get off his case — you might pay attention to the court battle over documents.

Judge Lamberth minced no words in the May 2012 court order denying Thompson’s legal move to severely limit access to his financial records.

“The government in the pursuit of an investigation of serious potential criminal violations has seized documents” through a valid search warrant, Lamberth wrote. “The government has the right to review those documents on a prompt basis, and the public has the right to see alleged wrongdoers swiftly brought to trial.”

Again, that “swiftly” part was written in May of last year.

■ Keep on truckin’ 2. This Friday, a D.C. Council committee will try — again — to make sense of how the city should regulate the growing food truck industry.

No one disputes that some regulation is needed. It’s just a matter of how much.

Mayor Gray’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has written, and rewritten, guidelines. The latest version would authorize “mobile roadway vending locations” for which truck operators would compete in a monthly lottery. Food trucks could park at any metered space but could not “feed the meter” to remain longer than the time posted.

The Food Truck Association is screaming bloody murder, complaining that the regulations severely limit where and for how long they can park.

On Monday, nearly two dozen food trucks showed up as usual at Farragut Square downtown and set up for business. Only this time they didn’t open. The vendors stood outside their trucks and explained to hungry customers that it was a one-day strike. The vendors urged the customers to write or call the mayor and council.

“Well, the situation is dire,” said Curbside Cupcakes co-owner Sam Whitfield. He and his business partner wife Kristi Whitfield took turns holding their young son as they lobbied the passersby.

At-large Council member Vincent Orange chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and other members include at-large member David Grosso, Ward 1’s Jim Graham, Ward 3’s Mary Cheh and Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander.

Cheh told News4 that she’s inclined to throw out the proposed regulations and start over. She said there has to be a way to be fair to entrepreneurs that are bringing liveliness to city streets and employing people.

That’s all well and good, said the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, but what about the brick-and-mortar restaurants on the same block? The lunchtime crushes of food trucks sweep in, attract office workers and sweep out. Meanwhile, building-based restaurants lose business to the mostly unregulated horde.

Andrew Kline, a representative for the restaurants, says the new rules are not everything his association wanted, but do bring some order to the Wild West situation. He noted that “it’s ironic” that the food truck strike occurred at Farragut Square. He said the regulations would allow the trucks to vend there by paying the parking meter. The food truck folks say they’re limited to one or two hours, which is not long enough to make money with their trucks.

(We’d like to point out that the Notebook’s son Peyton is a partner in a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Columbia Heights. His partners include owners of a food truck. And, your Notebook has been a presenter at the annual restaurant awards ceremony. All of this is to say, we have no dog in this hunt.)

■ “Redskins” offensive? We’re not talking about offense and defense. There’s been a flurry of news stories recently about whether owner Daniel Snyder should change the name of the Washington Redskins.

Snyder and the team have resisted other flare-ups calling for the name change. In the past few weeks, new at-large D.C. Council member David Grosso has promoted a council resolution urging the change. Grosso recommended the Redtails, a salute to the World War II Tuskegee Airmen.

Whatever your feelings on the subject, it’s not a slam dunk to change. A recent Associated Press poll showed that 79 percent of respondents favored keeping the name. Only 11 percent said it should be changed and 8 percent weren’t sure.

Opponents of the name — widely considered to be a slur of Native Americans — contend that discriminatory descriptions shouldn’t be put to a vote. There’s also a move in Congress to deny the team protection of federal copyright laws.

The Washington Business Journal has done one of its online polls on the issue. It’s not scientific, just interesting. The poll as of Monday night had attracted nearly 1,000 responses. It showed 66 percent don’t want a name change. Another 15 percent favored changing the name to the Washington Redtails. But 19 percent favored changing the name, but to something different than Redtails.

Follow Tom Sherwood on Twitter at @tomsherwood

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