Monday, May 12, 2014

I need a license for what?

The Town of Munster in Lake county, Indiana has a bit of a training issue on how they handle their solicitation licensing. I had heard that there was a local anti-solicitation ordinance and was driving by town hall anyway so I stopped by to figure out what was going on. The ordinance itself is pretty unobjectionable. In Munster if you're going to be asking for money, you need to get a background check and let the town know what you're doing and you're limited to going to the front door. You're not allowed to go wandering around private property.

I was directed to an office and asked if starting conversations and talking to people door to door would need notice and was informed that not only that it needed notice but that I needed to pay a fee as well. The explanation was vague and unsatisfying but they were at least savvy enough to suggest I look up the law on the town website as I had 1st amendment concerns. I stopped off at the police department and they called what I was doing a gray area and that in case of complaints (which they apparently get every day), I would get a warning to stop and then a citation for a few hundred dollars.

In the end, reading the ordinance made it clear that there was no need to apply for one. The town fathers hadn't flipped their lids and violated the Constitution. The higher ups knew what they were doing. They just aren't training their front line people to be clear about what's going on and their printed materials lack the text of the law so you have to do just a bit of digging. I wonder how many people just forked over the license fee?