Working for a company that trains college students to run their own business selling an educational learning system to families door-to-door, I engage with communities on a frequent basis regarding their solicitation ordinances.
Most communities are receptive to the Southwestern Advantage student dealers – as long as they follow existing ordinances. If the ordinances are within reasonable means of not infringing on the First Amendment Right of Commercial Free Speech, this is certainly not a problem. The student dealers are allowed in many communities other solicitors may not be because of the excellent track record of the student dealers who were previously in the area.
Recently, the town of Riverlea, OH has taken a different approach. They are no longer requiring permits and background checks. Rather, they are asking residents to display a “No Soliciting” sign if they choose.
The reasoning behind this move was to prevent future lawsuits. A Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati ruled just this past February that a restrictive time in Englewood, OH was a violation of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The city of Englewood said no sales could take place after 6 pm. They were sued by Ohio Citizens Group, a nonprofit anti-pollution group.
The attorney for the Ohio Citizens Group, Daniel T. Kobil, says this is something the homeowner is “perfectly capable of dealing with in a civil and polite way.”
Other cities have had to evaluate how they regulate solicitation in their own backyard, while making decisions on what is best for the community and still recognizing an individual’s right to Free Speech. It is a fine line.
I know the college students who will make Ohio their home for the summer of 2012 appreciate being there and meeting so many wonderful families. It would be a shame to deprive those students of such an experience and the families of Ohio the ability to welcome a student to their home if they have a need for educational products. Maybe some other towns will follow Riverlea’s example to open their community rather than shut it off.