We believe that vending is a Washington institution that is beneficial to our nation's capital:
* Vending creates jobs in Washington, a city that is suffering from unemployment.
* Vending lends a burst of color to our streets, a European flair to Washington scenery.
* Vendors often are the first people to whom tourists and residents alike turn for directions.
* The presence of vendors along the streets creates an effective buffer against crime.
We are sensitive, however, to the small merchant whose store visibility has been impeded by the presence of too many vendors. We also would like to see the city benefit financially from vending. Vendors are a source of revenue that the city's administration has not yet effectively tapped.
As a solution to these two concerns, we offer the following:
1. Raise the licensing fee. This is a simple administrative detail, easily effected, that would greatly increase vending revenues to the city. We are very much against, we should add, the prohibitive fees requested recently by representatives from the board of trade. Fees in the thousands of dollars would leave vending in the hands of a small number of wealthy entrepreneurs. The purpose of vending is to enable the small business person to make a living without draining city resources.
We propose that the fee be raised to $250 yearly. On June 9, city officials stated that nearly 7,600 vendors were licensed last year. If the city collected $250 from each of 7,600 vendors, the District would raise nearly $2 million.
2. Increase the number of feet required between one vending stand to the next. The current vending regulations require that vendors be at least 10 feet apart. We suggest that the regulations be changed to require 20 feet of space between vendors. This would alleviate the visibility problem that has led to complaints from some small merchants.
In conjunction with this suggestion, we agree with the metropolitan police department that areas now off-limits to vendors be opened. This would certainly relieve vendor congestion.
We strongly oppose the idea of a rental fee that would be charged by the city for particular vending spots. Some D.C. Council members and officials from the board of trade seem particularly enamored of this idea.
These individuals do not realize that such a scheme would lead to an administrative monstrosity. Who would get the prime locations? How much would it cost to rent the city's most crowded street corner as opposed to, for instance, the 50th most crowded corner? It would take years to analyze such questions, and thousands of dollars in government time. A fee for rental of a particular space is an unworkable idea.
We love vending, and all the members of the Washington Association of Vendors feel that they sell beautiful products that adorn the streets of our city. We know as well as any merchant that times are rough, and money is tight. But we believe that there is enough business out there for everybody.