Clovis News

Clovis council declaws solicit law

A week after approving a new law to require people soliciting in Clovis to register, City Council members picked it apart.

Council members voted 4-0 Monday to remove many of the proposed law's provisions. The issue was discussed during the ordinance's "second reading," which is normally an affirmation of previous council action.

The council removed a registration provision that had required anyone older than 16 selling door-to-door to carry a registration permit. That provision was deleted after council members heard concerns from real estate industry officials, who said registration would be onerous for the region's 2,500 agents.

The only parts of the ordinance passed last week that remained intact are limits on aggressive and abusive door-to-door solicitors and a provision making it illegal to knock at a home that has a "no soliciting" sign displayed.

Monday night's action deleted a provision that would have prohibited solicitation or panhandling in public places.

"I have experienced aggressive solicitors [at home] and if that's what we are trying to target, let's target that," said Council Member Bob Whalen, who was on the losing end of a 4-1 vote supporting the plan last week.

He said the state penal code already makes it a misdemeanor for people to seek donations aggressively in a public place.

Jared Martin, president of the Fresno Association of Realtors, said agents can't be expected to register so they can talk to people about selling their homes or inform neighbors of open houses.

"Realtors go door-to-door to promote new listings and look for new clients," Martin said.

The registration clause also would have required an adult representative of groups such as Girl Scouts or a school charity to register with the city because they are "independent contractors."

Council Member Nathan Magsig asked whether Halloween "trick or treaters" could fall into that category.

"It's an extreme example," he said. "We cannot pick and choose who we want this ordinance to target. We either include everyone or none, and that's my dilemma."

City Attorney David Wolfe said the city could limit soliciting rules only to those seeking money.

Council members also revoked a 7 p.m. cutoff time and a prohibition against roadway median solicitations.

Police Capt. Drew Bessinger said the ban on median solicitations was added initially as a safety measure to limit distractions for motorists.

The intent of the ordinance, he said, was to place limits on large national organizations that drop off groups in the city and whose solicitors sometimes become aggressive toward residents in their sales pitches. Bessinger said police get dozens of calls about those groups.

Said Bessinger: "We are going to regroup and see what we can do to make a more workable alternative."