After being told that their efforts to solicit campaign petition signatures would be exempt, Evanston aldermen voted unanimously this week to impose new restrictions on panhandlers and solicitors in residential neighborhoods.

Asked about the personal impact by Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, City Attorney Grant Farrar said the door-knocking by aldermen or their supporters would be political speech, which would be exempt from the ban.

The ordinance defines soliciting to include pitches for commercial products and services and requests for gifts to non-profit organizations.

The aldermen also voted to further limit hours for soliciting to from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The ordinance as drafted by city staff would have let soliciting continue until 9 p.m.

Hours for panhandling will be limited to  9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Both activities would be banned on Sundays and national holidays.

Solicitors and panhandlers will also be required to honor “no soliciting” signs posted by residents.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested that city staff provide sample signs that residents could download from the city’s website.

The city previously has had restrictions on panhandling that applied primarily to commercial districts and on peddlers in residential neighborhoods, but until now did not regulate door-to-door soliciting.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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    1. Soliciting by religious groups

      I asked the city's corporation counsel, Grant Farrar, about that.

      He  replied with the definition of soliciting used in the ordinance:

      An act made in person in or upon any street, public place, park, Premises or Residence in the City, in which a person requests or seeks to obtain:
      1.         Orders or customers for the purchase of goods, wares, merchandise, foodstuffs, and/or services, of any kind, character or description whatever, for any kind of consideration whatever; or
      2.         Prospective customers for application or purchase of insurance of any type, kind, or character; or
      3.         Subscriptions to books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, and every other type or kind of publication; or
      4.         Gifts or contributions of money, clothing, or any other valuable thing for the support or benefit of any charitable non-profit association, organization, corporation, or project.

      As noted in the story, unless a resident posts a sign barring soliciting, it is permitted during certain hours, forbidden at other times.

      Therefore I think it's reasonable to conclude that church members could "spread the good news" at unposted doors at any time — but could only seek contributions there during permitted hours. Similarly, politicians could seek petition signatures or distribute literature at any time, but could only seek contributions during pemitted hours.

      — Bill

  1. Panhandling

    The link was to 296 pages of information. Perhaps you could indicate what page we should look at for the ordinance. Does this mean that anyone has the right to come to a private residence to panhandle unless the owner posts a sign to the contrary? It would seem to encourage people who are casing the area. If they are stopped they can always say they were doing something legal. I am a retired female who is at home (fortunately with a large dog) during the day. I live next to a church and people freqently mistaken our house for the parsonage and ring the doorbell to ask for money. The staff of this church also receives numerous requests. The church I attend in Evanston has had to take added precautions not only because of panhandlers, but also presumably homeless people who want to use the bathroom, ask for food or money and then vandalize. It has a small mostly female staff and it is a large building. We have had to increase security measures to ensure staff and volunteer safety. This is costly. Are churches included in this ordinance? I am also mystified at the hours. Why should only people who are at home during the day be inconvenienced? I do not want someone I don't know to come to my door unannounced anytime, alderman or not! As for the non-profit sipulation, it is often difficult to determine whether the people soliciting are legitimate. I never give to people who come to the door unless I am familiar with their organization (a couple of environmental groups). As I was writing this someone came to my door to sell something and said he was working for some organization that I did not recognize, that was not an Evanston organization. Needless to say, my sign has now been posted.

    1. Panhandling ordinance

      The link in the story was to page 139 of the council packet, which is the beginning of the panhandling material. But not all web browsers correctly interpret the link. Some will dump you at the top of the document. In that case you can either read the page number in the link, or look at the bookmarks in the council packet document to find your way to the appropriate page.

      — Bill

  2. No chance at Girl Scout Cookies?


    Kids can't sell candy bars or cookies to benefit their organizations?  I remember my childhood working so hard to help grow our church's endowment fund, or fund a camping trip, or better yet, a chance to go with my band to Disney. 

    I was a kid who couldn't have a job but was taught that if you want something you must work for it.  So, now kids who want to earn what they want will now have to forego extra curricular activites like the arts and sports after school and solicit at a time when no one is home to buy them.


    Is it really that hard to look out your window at 7:30 pm to see if you even want to answer it?

    Fear mongers are ruining this awesome town.  And the elected officials are supporting it. Sick!

    1. Some welcome those selling but some don’t
      I think that you are reading that there is a 24-hour ban on soliciting door to door. That’s not it.

      Sure, the kids can sell door to door. But only during daylight hours (smart for children anyway) and not to homes that don’t want sales calls.

      And consider that it’s more efficient for the people selling things door to door, including those little cuties raising money for a trip to Disney. If a resident has already decided that he or she won’t buy anything at his or her front door without knowing the person (as I have), why should the solicitor waste anyone’s time knocking on that door? Move on to someone who doesn’t have a sign and may buy something.

      It’s about personal choice for Evanston residents. If you want sales people ringing your bell, don’t post a sign. It’s not a question of “hard” or “easy.” It’s a question of choosing not to be bothered.

      I am thrilled that the City Council is giving us a choice — all are free to welcome sales people and panhandlers to your door, or not.

      Personally, I don’t want to waste my time going to my door after dark, trying to figure out who is standing out there in the dark, telling them through a locked door “no thank you” and hoping that they move along (some don’t and the police needed to be called). I’ve had this doorbell ringing happen two or three times some nights. At least one person rings our doorbell looking for a sale or handout every week.

      Call me a fear monger but perhaps you need to walk a mile in my shoes before you do that. My kids, work, reading, TV, friends on the phone — all of these are way more important to me than someone ringing my doorbell, trying to sell me something that I don’t want and don’t need or giving me a sob story about their child who needs medicine or a newly-employed person who needs a bus pass (both popular scams in certain parts of town). In some parts of town, this is a real problem.

      And of course, a neighbor who calls or sees us on the street and asks for us to purchase a fundraising item is always warmly received and always makes a sale.

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