Teacher plans ‘save the taco trucks’ efforts

Middle school English teacher Chris Rutherford is mad for tacos. Since college, Rutherford has frequented taco trucks throughout Los Angeles.

In early April, when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that inhibited taco trucks, he was prompted to rally support and take action.

Beginning in mid-April, Rutherford has been the driving force of the “Save the Taco Truck” movement.

The ordinance bans taco trucks from remaining in the same location for more than an hour.
Failure to comply results in a fine or jail time. Rutherford believed the ordinance was an injustice and launched a petition and a website with a college friend.

“[In college], taco trucks were a staple of the diet when we tired of cafeteria food,” Rutherford said. “They’re open late, serve excellent and authentic Mexican fare and are cheap.”

Through saveourtacotrucks.org, Rutherford and his partner organized various “taco truck nights,” events to garner support for taco trucks. At the first event May 1, Rutherford’s local taco truck served so many patrons that it ran out of meat.

The petition gained the attention of local newspapers and later attained national interest.
Rutherford notes the taco truck controversy reveals a greater socio-economic conflict.

“The board is picking on a mostly immigrant group that is politically unsophisticated and an easy target,” he said. “These people don’t have lobbyists, lawyers or chambers of commerce to represent them.”

The website was initially used as the forum for the online petition against the ordinance.

Since mid-April, it has evolved into an online store to buy T-shirts and also a bulletin board to plan community nights at various taco trucks throughout Los Angeles. Rutherford was not expecting the community’s vast support.

“The fact that this has spread so widely is a testament to the power of the internet and to the broad spectrum of issues that this ordinance touches on,” he said.

Rutherford has generally kept the issue separate from the classroom environment.

“I’ve explained a little of what is going on to my students but largely just encouraged them to read the articles and educate themselves on the issue,” he noted. “My job is to teach them how to think, not what to think.”

Despite the organized efforts, media attention and pleas to reconsider, the group has made little leeway with the Board of Supervisors. The board has neglected to address letters or the petition.
“We’re pretty disappointed that with this much public outcry, the board still hasn’t dignified us with a response beyond writing us off as hipsters who think it’s fun to slum it up or as people who don’t really understand the issues,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford credits the best interest and history of the city as the reason for his protest.

“The board is eliminating a culinary institution of Los Angeles and the county will be worse off as a result,” he said.