By DAVID GREEN
Morenci city council members approved an ordinance amendment Monday regrading solicitors and peddlers, but it took the mayor’s final vote to get the measure through.
Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks brought the topic to council’s attention several weeks ago, expressing a concern that the old ordinance—requiring a licensing procedure with the police department—implies the city’s approval of a peddler.
Council worked with attorney Fred Lucas to come up with a new ordinance, but soon learned that courts have ruled it illegal to ban door-to-door sales and discriminate against certain groups. For example, the city could not ban all sales except local school groups.
A proposed ordinance came up for a vote Monday, but the vote ended in a 3-3 tie until Morenci mayor Keith Pennington joined the dissenters.
The proposal called for an eight-point registration process that councilor Brenda Spiess opposed. Jeff Bell stated that the registration process shifts the burden from the police department to the city clerk. Pennington agreed, adding that it still sounds as though the city is qualifying that sellers are legitimate.
Spiess, Bell and Pennington were joined by Robert Jennings in opposing the amendment.
On the other hand, said supporter Tracy Schell, the city will have no information about the various groups going door to door without the registration process.
Chief Weeks said his department receives calls from citizens wondering if sellers are legitimate, but generally the police aren’t even aware of the groups until someone calls. There’s an expectation, he said, that police will investigate the peddlers.
Schell was joined by Greg Braun and Rebecca Berger in voting for the amendment.
Spiess then made a motion to pass the amendment without the registration process and vote was 4-3 in favor.
Schell expressed her disappointment, stating, “I think we’re showing even less concern. It’s a bad thing to show the public.”
Spiess said the responsibility of dealing with peddlers should rest with the homeowner and not the City. She suggested investing in a “No Solicitation” sign if a resident doesn’t want to deal with peddlers.
As approved, the amendment’s purpose is listed this way: “Door-to-door solicitation and aggressive panhandling within the City of Morenci has become a public nuisance by putting into jeopardy the physical safety and economic well being of the residents and visitors of the City of Morenci.”
The language continues to state that it will bar “unwanted solicitations and aggressive panhandling” to provide a safe physical environment.
Aggressive panhandling includes touching another person without that person’s consent, blocking the path of a person, continuing to solicit after a refusal, making remarks that could make a person feel threatened into making a donation, and soliciting within 20 feet of an automated teller machine or a bank entrance.
The ordinance prohibits aggressive panhandling and soliciting at a residence or business posting a sign “indicating in any manner that the occupants of the premises do not desire to have their privacy disturbed.”