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Lemoore's reason to deter food trucks may be outdated

LEMOORE — Earlier this year, the Lemoore City Council asked staff to review mobile food vendor - aka food truck - ordinances.

In a study session  April 3, city presented  the current ordinances. 

Council didn't take the review further, stating that there were no ways for the city to make revenue from these businesses like it can from brick and mortar restaurants -  and,  the food trucks are in direct competition with brick and mortar businesses.

The only vocal council member for changing ordinances so mobile vendors can have a more permanent practice was Councilwoman Holly Blair.

The city report missed new state information that might have eased council members qualms - despite such information being easily found on the internet -  nor the approach many other cities take to food trucks.

Kings County food trucks like Chicken Shack are often found in Fresno where food trucks are more accepted. Damon Miller, the owner of Chicken Shack, which also has a Hanford restaurant, said he and several other owners of  food trucks from Kings County open up shop in Fresno and Visalia because the rules in those towns are more lenient.

The National League of Cities issued a report in 2013 citing the benefits of having food trucks for cities.

“Many city ordinances were written decades ago, with a different type of mobile food supplier in mind, like ice cream trucks, hot dog carts, sidewalk peddlers, and similar operators,” the report states. “Modern mobile vending is a substantial departure from the vending typically assumed in outdated local regulations.”

Councilman David Brown and the city report both stated that food trucks do not pay sales tax, which is untrue.

In 2014, the California State Equalization Board issued a statement that food trucks should have been and are expected to be charging sales tax to customers. Specific parameters can be found in the food truck tax guide.

“We are like any other business,” Miller said when asked about whether he reports sales tax for his truck.

Sales tax is one of the city’s forms of revenue. Lemoore can only collect sales tax on purchases made in Lemoore.

When Miller found out he could not regularly have his food truck open in Hanford, where his brick and mortar is located, he said he turned to Lemoore where he found more rules and regulations preventing him from selling his product.

Another issue cited was that food trucks do not pay property tax.

Food cart pods could be a solution to that. Food cart pods are locations, often in empty lots or parking lots, that are converted for space for multiple food carts.

One of the food cart pods in Portland, Oregon, the city often considered as the capital of food trucks, can hold up to 15 trucks. Portland charges each truck around $650 to $750 to rent space.

Most food cart pods are privately owned, but the National League of Cities suggests there is no reason a city government couldn't run one out of a city-owned, vacant lot.

Miller said that if there was a food cart pod in Kings County, he would be interested in selling his chicken there.

There is also an opportunity for brick and mortar stores to have a truck.

Miller bought his food truck six months after opening his brick and mortar restaurant. He said it is a good form of advertisement and that it often brings people from Fresno to Hanford to visit the brick and mortar restaurant.

“It was a way to reach people that aren’t here in Hanford,” Miller said. “People always ask do you have an actual restaurant, and I say yes it’s in Hanford.”

Judy Holwell, the Community Development Director and presenter of the city report on mobile food vendors, was not immediately available to comment.

Shoppers invited to create the 'art' in the heart

HANFORD — Art in the Heart, Hanford’s monthly art hop event returns tonight and one artist suggests that patrons don’t merely observe the art — they make some of it, too.

From 6-8 p.m. tonight, art and commerce merge at various spots in downtown Hanford, as artists and musicians perform and show their art at shops, which will remain open into the evening.  

Artist Michelle Stevens of Coat of Many Colors will be at the Soaking Tub, 227 N. Irwin St., hosting a painting party.

These parties, usually held at cafes and other places around the county and in Fresno, see a group of hobbyist or just curious would-be painters work on a subject chosen by Stevens.

”They put their own twists on it. And that’s what I love about it is that it’s so unique that we’re all doing the same thing but all the paintings are so different,” Stevens said.

Stevens also hosts the painting parties at private events like bridal showers, birthday parties and family events.

Seats at the art hop class are $5, which buys painters an 8x10-inch canvas and access to paints, brushes and supplies.  

The paintings usually take 30-45 minutes on average at the Heart of Hanford’s monthly art hops, which Stevens frequents, and are more free-form, not always adhering to a strict subject.

“They do their own thing at art hop because they’re all pretty artistic anyway,” Stevens said.

Something that makes her classes unique, Stevens said, is her practice of offering painters a template of whatever the event’s subject is — whether it be a lake or an angel or sunflowers. The cardboard template allows for painters to work on a piece that can be a mix of templated and abstract.

“It saves so much time and it helps people not be intimidated because sometimes people think, ‘oh I can’t draw.’ So it takes the stress level out. They can draw it and we can spend more time on painting techniques,” she said.

Originally from New Hampshire, Stevens has lived in Lemoore for about four years and is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in art therapy from West Hills College, where she is president of the art club.

After graduation, the artist hopes to open her own studio, which will serve as a spot where she can use art therapy as a healing mechanism for people with specific needs like those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

The artist is also in talks with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce to host an art show and gala later this summer.   

For more information, visit

Other artists spread around the 12 downtown locations that participate in the art hop include singer/songwriter Timothy Mattos and photographer Joshua J. Cordero, who will be at DJ’s Collectible Shoppe and genre fiction author Garrett Jones, who will be featured at the Rock N Roll Deli. The band Daze Baby will perform at Crossroads Appliance Store with artist Tristan Luke.

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LHS students win nationwide virtual challenge

LEMOORE — A team of Lemoore High School students came out on top in a nationwide virtual team challenge where they used their real-world skills and business knowledge to help their virtual employers.

The contest, sponsored by Deloitte—one of the largest accounting firms in the world—tasks teams of four students to compete as a team to make decisions involving business, environment, ethics and negotiation.

The virtual team challenge is played each year in the fall and the spring by thousands of high school students throughout the United States.

“This is a huge honor in a brand new competition for LHS students,” said Scott Buller, business and technology teacher at LHS and the winning team’s adviser.

The students on the winning team, named 7-SharkTank, were Michael Ashford, Riley Jacobs, Isaiah Johnston and Carlos Medina.

The students who participated in the project are enrolled in a special dual enrollment class called Introduction to Business that’s offered by West Hills College Lemoore. Students in the class get college credit when they complete the course.

Buller, who learned about the challenge at a teaching conference, said this is the first year any of his students have participated in this challenge.

Students participated for three weeks in an online game-like simulation where they played the role of employees in a fictitious professional organization hired by the fictional town of “New City” to organize the clean-up of an oil spill and raise money to support that effort.

Buller said students were required to use their business knowledge to interview sub-contractors who were best qualified for various jobs. He said they were tested in their business knowledge and ethics throughout the simulation.

“To succeed, they had to research companies, understand the criteria for success, interview candidates and negotiate the best price for all the jobs,” Buller said. “Based on their decision-making, each individual made a profit margin on each transaction throughout the simulation.”

As part of the simulation, Buller said the students earned a profit margin of $218,680 and the first place spot as a result. The three teams that earned the most virtual money for New City to clean up an oil spill were the winners.

Buller said communication is a huge part of the challenge because each team member had a different role and goes through different experiences in the simulation, so it’s the members’ responsibilities to talk to their other team members about what they learned.

“What I appreciate most about this type of learning is that students had to learn and practice real-world business skills such as communication, critical thinking and creativity to succeed,” Buller said.

Johnston, a senior at LHS, said the business class prepared them well for the challenges, especially knowing about business ethics.

Johnston said winning was not even on the students’ minds; they just wanted to complete the challenge to get a good grade in class.

“It was a shock for all of us,” Johnston said of the team learning about the standings.

Although some days were more difficult than others, Johnston said his team did great and he really enjoyed the challenge.

“I’m glad I did it,” Johnston said.

As a result of this win, each student gets a $150 gift card and the local United Way chapter will receive a $500 donation from Deloitte. Buller said Deloitte will also send a representative to the school to recognize the students.

An LHS team also finished in fourth place with team members Josue Alvizo, Evan Berna, Jacob Chieze, and Paige Clarke. In fact, over a dozen teams from LHS competed and four of those teams were in the top 20 teams out of the over 400 total teams that competed in the challenge.

Buller said he is proud of all the students who participated and wanted to thank LHS Principal Rodney Brumit and Lemoore Union High School District Superintendent Debbie Muro for being open to the dual enrollment class.