Monday, September 22, 2014

Of Farmers, Arts and Crafts, and Fleas

The Richardson City Council is considering an ordinance regulating farmers markets. I've blogged about this before. The city didn't listen to me then (go figure ;-). Now, The Dallas Morning News picks up the story.
"It comes down to, what is a farmers market?" [Richardson Mayor Laura] Maczka said. "By the name it should focus on farmers' produce. During the non-peak growing season, if you’re not careful, you could have a weekly arts-and-crafts fair."
I read that sentence. Then I read it again. Then I scratched my head. I wondered to myself, "and a weekly arts-and-crafts fair would be"

Of farmers, arts and crafts, and fleas...after the jump.

What would be bad about a weekly arts-and-crafts fair? Two of the most popular events on the City of Richardson's own calendar are arts-and-crafts fairs at Cottonwood Park and Huffhines Park. You'd think the city would welcome a business that is interested in bringing this kind of popular commercial activity to the city on a weekly basis. Note that the market being proposed for Richardson Heights is not an arts-and-crafts market; I'm just wondering why the city would be against it if it were?

"The goal here is to keep it a true farmers market and not let it deteriorate into a flea market," city spokesman Greg Sowell said.
Oh, so maybe that's it. Maybe the city doesn't know how to hold the line so it wants to outlaw arts-and-crafts markets, just to be sure no "flea markets" get a foothold. Note that no one is proposing a flea market. It's a strawman argument on the city's part. You don't refuse to permit "A" just because you don't like "B." But let's back up. I don't even accept the premise of not liking "B." So what if it becomes a "flea market?" I said "becomes" not "deteriorates into" to avoid passing judgment on the intrinsic worth of various kinds of markets. There is no valid reason to object to the sale of recycled goods all the way down to the point where they are so worn out that no one can find any use for them anymore, not even as arty knick-knacks. A good case can be made that society should encourage such recycling, not outlaw it. Maybe we should let the market decide whether people want to buy cheap, secondhand goods. Maybe the government should limit itself to ensuring health and safety and not try to outlaw purported bad taste. Because, you know, freedom...or something.

Cambridge Market
Source: Mark Steger.

The photo above was taken in 1982 in Cambridge, England. If that seems like a long time ago, that's not the half of it. That's an outdoor market that Cambridge is rightly proud of: "stalls have been trading at the historic market square in the city centre since the middle ages." Those stalls sell a "wide range of goods including books, music, films, clothes, jewellery, fresh food, second-hand bikes, plants, mobile phones and accessories, and much more." Come on, Richardson. Cambridge has been doing this for literally hundreds of years (maybe not mobile phones for that long, but that would be awesome if it were true). Cambridge proudly calls itself a "market city." Cambridge itself hasn't deteriorated because of it (even if some of those medieval people might be aghast at what mobile phones have done to society). Richardson won't deteriorate either. Richardson could do worse than emulate Cambridge. Get with the times, Richardson. The 1300s are in again.


Mark Steger said...

OK, as far as I can tell, the outdoor market guy was ready to open a market at the Heights shopping center, the shopping center property owner was on board, the rest of the tenants didn't oppose the idea, and, finally and most importantly, the city gave its approval for a special use permit to allow the market. Then, once all the i's were dotted and t's crossed, one or more tenants changed their minds, the property owner changed his mind, and the plans to open an outdoor market are scrapped. Can you say clusterf*ck?

Mark Steger said...

"Now that permit — which is tied to a specific location — is useless. Hirth is looking around for another location in the same area. Then he’ll have to start the permitting process all over again. 'It will take months,' he said. 'It won’t be open this year.'"
-- The Dallas Morning News

After months of wrangling over the first proposal, the red tape the city left in place ensures that it will still take months for a new proposal to get approved, if ever. Richardson really doesn't want outdoor markets.