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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
City Council Doubts Law's Effectiveness
By Dan McKay
Copyright © 2008 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
The killing of a Northeast Heights couple last year triggered calls for a new law targeting door-to-door salesmen and the creation of a "no-knock" list for homeowners.
Eight months later, Albuquerque city councilors still have reservations about the proposal and might, in fact, gut the central provisions of it.
"It's easy to pass legislation that feels good, but if you can't enforce it, there's no purpose," Councilor Ken Sanchez said in an interview.
Sanchez agreed in January to sponsor the "no-knock ordinance" for Mayor Martin Chávez, but he's now poised to lead an effort to overhaul the bill. Sanchez intends to propose an amendment deleting provisions of the bill calling for the city to establish a "no-knock" list for homeowners who don't want to be bothered by solicitors.
The mayor, meanwhile, still supports the original bill and says it will be enforced if the council approves the legislation.
"The Chávez administration will continue to support citizens against predators who would take advantage of the innocent victims in Albuquerque," a mayor's spokeswoman said.
Chávez proposed the law after two magazine salesmen were accused of killing Tak Yi and Pung Yi at the couple's home. The measure calls for companies to conduct background checks on their solicitors and post a $500 bond. The city would also create a "no-knock" list for homeowners.
Sanchez said he asked the administration how it planned to enforce the law and wasn't satisfied with the answer. He will propose next week that the "no-knock" provision be stripped from the bill.
"Currently," Sanchez said, "there is not a structure or plan in place to enforce this legislation."
People already post "No Solicitors" signs, undermining the need for a city-sponsored no-knock list, critics say.
Councilor Debbie O'Malley said that, after the Yi killings, it was understandable that people wanted to "do something, anything" to keep it from happening again. But approving an ordinance "without thinking it through" would be a mistake, she said.
And it's not clear how much more effective a no-knock list would be, compared with the rules already on the books, O'Malley said.
Councilor Isaac Benton said he went door-to-door as a youngster selling newspapers and Christmas cards. He said he's "not sold" on what the proposal would accomplish.
"There's something about it I'm uncomfortable with," he said.
Councilor Rey Garduño said he would oppose the bill because it's "fairly restrictive," and he isn't convinced it would be enforced.
Even with the amendments, Sanchez said the new ordinance would be worthwhile. It would still require a company to apply for a permit at least 30 days before soliciting in the city. The company would have to provide written oaths that the person applying for the permit hasn't been convicted of an "unfair trade practice" and that the company has conducted background checks on its representatives.
Sanchez also will propose amendments removing the requirement for a $500 bond and instead requiring the company have insurance. Another amendment would prohibit firms from employing solicitors under 18.
The laws already on the books require companies to obtain a permit and pay a $10 fee before starting door-to-door sales. Solicitors cannot have been convicted of a "crime involving solicitations" within the past 10 years anywhere in the United States.
As for the criminal case, Travis Rowley, 24, and Michael Lee, 22, could face the death penalty if convicted. Rowley, of Clairmont, Calif., and Lee, of Boston, are being held at the county jail.
The city also filed a lawsuit against the firm that employed them, accusing the company of negligent hiring. The suit is pending in federal court.
The no-knock bill is scheduled for discussion in a council meeting that begins at 5 p.m. Sept. 3.