Herald-Sun editorial: New rules on solicitation promote safety

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 04:52 PM

On particular roadways around Durham, such as along the U.S. 15-501 and Fayetteville Road corridors, they are a familiar sight: Men and women clad in orange vests, soliciting for donations.

The Durham City Council unanimously voted this week to change the rules governing roadside solicitors. In January, those solicitors will no longer be able to be in roadway medians. Violators will be given tickets.

Some folks have favored banning such soliciting entirely, but the median ban is considered a compromise.

In addition to the median change, the city is doing away with the permitting requirement and $20 annual fee that the city charged solicitors. That change went into effect immediately.

Banning the solicitors from using the medians is a positive move. From a safety perspective, especially on certain roadways, the median is just the wrong place for someone to base themselves while looking for donations.

The permitting decision also makes a good deal of sense. Just the process of permitting seems as if it was more trouble than it was worth, and doing away with the fee is a necessary compromise that subtracts little from the city’s bottom line.

It is understandable that some residents and officials are in favor of an all-out ban of roadside solicitation. Roadside solicitation makes “us look like an old Eastern European country, particularly when none of the adjoining communities allow” it, south Durham resident Dave Snider wrote in an email exchange with Councilman Steve Schewel. Another council member, Eugene Brown, said earlier this month that he would favor a ban of roadside solicitation, calling the rule banning solicitation in medians a “compromise.”

Allowing roadside solicitation does present potential problems. But allowing it also offers a measure of compassion for people who are in need. And it is also very much the choice of each person whether or not to contribute money to someone who is soliciting. Solicitors might momentarily appear in a driver’s field of vision, but they can be fairly easily ignored.