The Farmers market at Founders Corner in St. Petersburg is scheduled set to re-open in the near future. Thanks go to Mayor Rick Kriseman for personally intervening to ensure an unwieldy government bureaucracy was not quashing the very business the city needs to be successful. The City had threatened to fine Market Manager Joe Irizarry and Founders Corner Owner Dr. David McKalip for operating on Saturdays and Friday, at the corner of 4th st. N and 62nd Ave. N. They also continued to confuse and obfuscate on parking requirements. That is now past and the city has issued a letter of “approval” for the market. But there is still room for abuse, and time will tell if the city interferes again in this exercise of free market rights. The Farmer’s Market Police are at the ready to stop the event if any of a number of questionable city ordinances are violated.
The July 28th Letter of approval from City Planning and Economic Development Director Dave Goodwin (linked here), followed a meeting between Dr. McKalip, Mr. Goodwin and the Mayor on July 16th. The letter indicates the market may operate on both days. This approval came after Dr. McKalip and Mr. Irizarry pointed out that the Deuces Market was operating on Tuesdays and Sundays. Mr. Goodwin had initially indicated they were granted that special privilege since “that part of town” was different and needed more economic assistance than Northeast St. Petersburg. He referred to the presence of an “Enterprise Zone” and similar carved out areas like “Main Street” and “Brownfield” zones. He had to admit during the conversation that it was his sole determination, in his opinion, that the Deuces market deserved better treatment under the law because of their location in that “part of town”. Fresh Market at Founders Corner Permit Issuesand expressed surprise at this clear expression of discrimination by a city official. He also pointed out that the law being applied was arbitrarily and inappropriately selected and the City could be more lenient by referring to a different part of the law called “Other Temporary Uses” under City code 16.50.410.4.10. That was, in the end, the ordinance that Mr. Goodwin cited in approving the market.
The city had also complained that on-street parking would not be enough. However, Dr. McKalip and Mr. Irizarry pointed out that the popular Saturday morning market used nearly every on-street parking spot in down town St.Pete and had no permit whatsoever for operations. It also has no requirement for parking at an adjacent business was being suggest as a requirement by the city. In the end, Mr. Goodwin approved parking that was on-street with overflow at the medical office building of Dr. McKalip.
There is still room for concern. This is only a 6 month letter of approval. The city also stated the large fruit and vegetable vendor tent (12×20) would need a special permit from another bureaucracy in the city (Construction Services and Permitting). Dr. McKalip has contacted the city to clarify why this is the case. Reportedly the same sized tent with the same services is set up at the Deuces market and at their City inspection was stated to be “OK” with no need for special permit. Further, the city may not approve the tent for 6 months as well. In addition, the city stated they will “…monitor activity at the Market to verify that parking is adequate and that the operation of the market is generally compatible with the surrounding area and all other applicable sections of the City Code.”. In other words they will be creating a new “Farmer’s Market Police Force” to specifically monitor this market. This seems to be an excessive use of city resources and has the potential for abuse and unnecessary confrontation. Dr. McKalip pointed out the overwhelming support for the market from local business and neighborhoods and it is unlikely that there will be any problems.
Despite all the concerns, it is clear that the intervention of Mayor Kriseman was crucial in this case. While the Sunbeam Times has been very critical of the Mayor over many policy matters, in this case he got it right. Dr. McKalip offered: “I would like to extend my personal and public thanks to Mayor Rick Kriseman for taking charge of a bureaucracy that had unnecessarily interfered with small business in our City.” The Citizens and economy of St. Petersburg will be better off now because of this action by Mayor Kriseman. Hopefully Mayor Kriseman will find this episode educational as he sees just how much this government is run by staff and bureaucrats rather than elected officials and the citizens. He may discover that big government truly IS the problem, and the solution is fewer regulations with more freedom for citizens who operate without harming others. The better standard should be for the city to address complaints for problems that arise, rather than create an unwieldy regulatory code that harms citizens.
Government is designed to serve the citizens, and not the other way around. The resolution of this Founders Corner Fresh Market controversy is an example of the application of “EQUAL JUSTICE” and “RULE OF LAW” as memorialized at the Founders Corner lot where the Market is located. Equal Justice means that the government treats all citizens equally. Rule of Law means that it is not the whims of man that decide how citizens may exercise their freedom. Rather than a “Rule of Man” there is a “Rule of Law” that allows people to predict what the conditions of their business and other operations will be in a governed area. St. Petersburg will be better off when all decisions and actions of the government are based on Equal Justice and Rule of Law. That is what our Founders envisioned.