Councilor Vincent B. Orange offered an astonishingly candid take on the government's position.
"You do have to give the government some deference," he said. "Right now there are 200 trucks, and I think the government has a right to say the limit is 250. That's it. That's going to be our food-truck industry."
Speaking of which: The food-truck industry has its own trade association, thank you, as well as a novel way of rallying its constituency: by starving them.
Food trucks at Farragut Square, a patch of semi-greenery amid Washington's skyscraper stumps, staged a protest a few days before the hearing, arriving early to occupy their usual spots but refusing to open for business during the peak of the lunch rush.
Thus did local diners get a taste of the terrifying dystopia that awaits them if onerous regulations pass.
One pub owner, citing payroll, taxes and other costs, lamented during the hearing that he couldn't stage a similar protest.
This, in a nutshell, is the restaurant owner's dilemma.
It's not all about regulation, though that's part of it.
A traditional restaurant is a great lumbering beast. If customers stop liking what it's dishing up, it can't just turn on a dime.
Food trucks can. (Yes, some of them are quite large, but they are still smaller than the local Italian joint.)
For now at least, Washington remains relatively hospitable to the food-truck industry. (The Institute for Justice's excellent Food Truck Freedom project has a good rundown of the national scene.)
The good news is the bad news, or maybe vice versa: The regulatory process seems to be stalled, and confusion and dissension reign.
Still, many food-truck owners are just one cracked engine block or arbitrary parking rule away from calling it quits.
One of the city's highest-rated vendors, Basil Thyme, may close in the next few weeks.
Brian Farrell, who owns the pasta and lasagna trucks, points the floury finger of blame straight at regulators:
"The city of D.C. has been nothing but a series of hurdles and difficulties," he told a reporter for CityPaper, the local alternative weekly. "They're just painful to deal with."
That was followed by one of the saddest sentences a foodie could ever read about a successful culinary entrepreneur:
Farrell, the paper said, "plans to return to his previous career in IT sales."
Mangu-Ward is managing editor of Reason magazine. Her column was distributed by Bloomberg Views.