June 03--Attorney: All solicitors must be treated equal
By TIM HORAN Salina Journal -- Tuesday, June 03, 201412:08 AM
MDA, Girl Scouts and homeless people must be treated equally when it comes to solicitation ordinances, an attorney told the Saline City Commission on Monday.
In a study session, Aaron Martin, with Clark Mize & Linville law firm of Salina, said the city's rights-of-way, streets and sidewalks are protected areas when it comes to freedom of speech.
Jason Gage, city manager, and Martin spoke during a study session about solicitation of funds in the public rights-of-way and use of on-duty personnel and city resources.
The subject arose when the Muscular Dystrophy Association requested that Salina conduct a "Fill the Boot" campaign, in which firefighters solicit donations.
"There is more than one big question here," Gage said. "The type of entities and/or persons that can be excluded from soliciting -- there are none."
Nor can commissioners consider what those solicited funds are used for.
City supports fundraisers
Gage said city employees are allowed to participate in fundraisers for United Way and Project Salina.
"Department heads are encouraged to volunteer in a board/committee role with a local nonprofit organization," Gage said.
He said the city supports Project Salina because of the demand for food for Emergency Aid-Food Bank. He said United Way serves as an umbrella funding agency to more than 20 community service agencies.
Gage said the topic has come up recently because of panhandling in the city. He said a panhandler has the same protections as a nonprofit soliciting funds.
Gage said the current city ordinance restricts people from standing on a street to solicit "employment, business or contributions."
An aggressive begging/soliciting policy also exists.
"Aggressive means: threatening approach; following someone; physical contact; continuing to solicit after negative response, verbal threat; blocking a sidewalk, street or pathway; and being intimidating," according to the policy.
Soliciting on a public street is a Class B misdemeanor.
Could make restrictions
Commissioner Jon Blanchard said there could be time-and-place restrictions. For example, the city could specify certain intersections, certain times of year or days it would be allowed and a certain number of times a person or entity could solicit a year. Procedures could be established for approving solicitation permits, and fees and insurance could be required.
City commissioners agreed to review guidelines addressing the solicitation of funds on streets and sidewalks.
One big issue was curb-to-curb soliciting and whether that allowed someone to solicit from the curb but walk into the street to collect.
"I am not in favor of the whole thing," said Commissioner Kaye Crawford. "If you make an ordinance for one group it has to be for everybody. It's too dangerous."
Commissioners agreed that soliciting would have to be voluntary, not on city time, and that city resources used, such as fire trucks, would not be needed for an emergency response.
"There are certain time-and-place restrictions that we can make to meet the constitution test," Blanchard said. "I would assume we would have some of them. We may not want to have that at certain intersections.
-- Reporter Tim Horan can be reached at 822-1422 or [email protected].
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