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Panel struggles to limit door-to-door sales in Minneapolis

In a move to discourage traveling magazine-sales groups, which sometimes prey on runaway teens, Minneapolis City Council members Gary Schiff and Sandy Colvin Roy were careful to make sure their proposed ordinance did not limit local teens from selling products to benefit local schools and youth organizations.

But they might have inadvertently limited the hours for people seeking public office to go door to door campaigning. The proposal might also require candidates to register with the city and display a city-issued identification card.

To make sure that is not part of the new ordinance, the City Council Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee voted Monday to delay action on the proposal for two weeks.

It was a confusing day at City Hall.

Political candidates are defined in the proposed ordinance as non-commercial door-to-door advocates. That group includes those disseminating religious, political, social or ideological beliefs. Persons in this group are not required to register with the city or pay a license fee. At least that’s what the ordinance says in Section 332.20.

But in Section 332.80, those non-commercial door-to-door advocates are lumped in with everyone on the hours they can do business and the need for registration and to display a city issued ID card. They are also not allowed to use bells or whistles to call attention to themselves.

Council Member Cam Gordon asked Lead License Inspector Rich Tuffs “what if I have no peddlers or solicitors registration and I knock on a door?”

“You would be in violation,” said Tuffs.

“I have often found that people didn’t mind having a candidate talk to them,” responded Gordon, who also asked if a 15-year-old could go door-to-door seeking work shoveling snow.

The answer is the 15-year-old could do that but her 18-year-old sibling would need to register with the city and display a city ID card before going door-to-door for the same shoveling work.

It was all too much for Schiff.  “It’s not about politicians, it’s about the exploitation of youth,” Schiff said in defense of the proposed ordinance.

A few years ago Schiff read a New York Times story about the traveling magazine-sales industry that, Schiff says, is one of the “most dangerous and exploitative industries in the country.”

“They exploit youth by moving them across state lines in order to avoid child labor laws,” said Schiff.  Two years ago, one of those young people knocked on Schiff’s door. Schiff asked him if he wanted a phone to call his parents and saw tears well up in the kid’s eyes.

“He explained to me he had spent yesterday in Missouri, he had spent all night in a van driving and then they were dumped into the Corcoran neighborhood,” said Schiff. The crew leader was standing on the corner watching the kids go door-to-door.

Schiff says the requirement that door-to-door solicitors be required to register with the city and display a city issued ID card should keep this type of exploitation out of Minneapolis.

“These operators will not come to City Hall and register all of their youth,” said Schiff, “They’ll just skip the area.”

The tricky part of the ordinance is placing restrictions one group of youths without having every kid in Minneapolis who wants to sell a holiday wreath or chocolate bar for a club or school also trooping to City Hall.

The ordinance allows persons under the age of 17 participating in a fundraising program for a school or children’s organization to be registered as a group by the school or organization. The Minneapolis Public Schools, for example, could register a group of students and issue ID card to them without sending the kids downtown.

Confused? So were the committee members. That’s why they decided to delay action until early in July.

Late-night nude dancing

Same Committee, different topic. This time the subject was extending the hours of Sinners at 121 Washington Avenue N. This is next door to Sexworld, for those of you who know Washington Avenue.

Sinners features nude dancing and does not serve alcohol. You can get a drink in the neighborhood, but what you get at Sinners is naked dancers.

Currently, Sinners closes at 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The management sought to extend those closing hours until 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Originally city staff was recommending approval of the extended hours, but Sinners got into trouble of their own making.

Council Member Lisa Goodman said Sinners was open later then allowed and got caught. And they promised to meet with the local neighborhood association and didn’t show up. That’s trouble.

The extended hours license has been delayed at least until the Sinners management meets with the neighbors.

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