Woodburn solicitors no longer need licenses from city to go door to door
Solicitors, canvassers and peddlers no longer need to obtain a license to go door to door in Woodburn, as per a new city ordinance passed by the City Council on March 13. The change in city law comes in light of recent federal court cases that have ruled that requiring peddlers and solicitors to obtain approval from cities can be an unconstitutional restriction of speech.
The city's former Peddlers and Solicitors Ordinance, originally passed in 1969, required all individuals, business, nonprofits, religious groups and political organizations to file an application with the city, pay a permit fee, pass a background check and receive city approval before going door to door. According to list of solicitors on the city of Woodburn website, only 20 solicitors had active registration through the city.
Such laws are relatively common in Oregon cities. The cities of Hermiston, Albany, North Bend, Happy Valley, Troutdale, Umatilla, Bay City, Ontario and Hubbard are among the Oregon cities that, according to their websites, require some sort of licensing for solicitors and/or peddlers.
But, according to Woodburn City Attorney Bob Shields, the legality of such laws is being questioned by courts.
"Recently, many cities have been challenged on, and sued over allegedly unconstitutional door-to-door solicitation ordinances," an explanation of the new ordinance included in the city council meeting packet reads. "For instance in Working America v. City of Bloomington … a federal court recently found unconstitutional an ordinance very similar to the Woodburn Peddlers and Solicitors Ordinance."
The issue with the laws is that they can be seen as freedom of speech restrictions. In Working America v. City of Bloomington, a federal judge ruled that a Bloomington, Minn., city ordinance, which was similar to Woodburn's, allowed the city to treat individuals differently based on the function or purpose of their speech, which is considered unconstitutional.
The goal of passing the new ordinance, according to the city, is to avoid litigation by proactively changing the ordinance before the city could be sued. "Being proactive and trying to anticipate problems before they develop is consistent with our past efforts to revise and update all Woodburn ordinances under the City Council's Ordinance Review and Revision Project," the letter in the city council packet reads.
The new ordinance provides a new approach for residents who do not want to have contact with solicitors: Posting "no soliciting" signs. With the new ordinance, if a solicitor attempts to make contact with a resident despite a resident having such a sign, the solicitor could be cited for violating the new ordinance. Penalties for violating the ordinance are up to $100 for a first violation and up to $250 for a second violation.
In addition, businesses going door-to-door will still need to obtain business licenses with the city
The city plans to conduct outreach to citizens about the new ordinance. At Monday's city council meeting, tactics like providing free "no soliciting" signs to residents for a limited time were discussed. According to the city council meeting packet, the Woodburn Police Department, the enforcement body of the new ordinance, will prepare a "Frequently Asked Questions" sheet about the new ordinance, as well as disseminate information via Facebook, Twitter and its website.