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Death of the Salesman

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City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has taken a feel-good position that is bound to appeal to his constituents but raises some questions.

He said he plans to introduce legislation that will stop salespeople from knocking on doors. Sounds good, right?

We find the proposed legislation problematic on a number of levels. First there is the free-speech issue. Ringing the bell or knocking on the door is a form of communication. There have been door-to-door salesmen in America for nearly as long as there have been doors.

The resident has the right to say, “I don’t want any.” The resident can shut the door. The resident doesn’t even have to open the door. As long as the salesperson can take no for an answer, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Vallone’s legislation will only contribute to the growing isolation in many of our communities. Baby boomers will remember a time when people used to sit on front steps on warm summer nights. They knew their neighbors and vice versa. Increasingly, Queens residents now live in air-conditioned fortresses with large-screen TVs and iPads. They don’t want to be bothered answering the door.

And at a time when even entry-level jobs are hard to find, this legislation would eliminate an opportunity to make a living.

In Phase 1 of his anti-commerce plan, Vallone said his office often sends out small white-and-black signs to residents in Astoria who wish to bar companies from leaving ads at a home, which can pose a security threat if they pile up when the resident is away and clutter up the neighborhood if they blow around the streets.

The councilman said his office has received numerous complaints about salespeople. Some, he said, are aggressive, rude and persistent — the salesmen, that is.

Vallone said some door-to-door salesmen are promoting scams. Those people, of course, are already illegal.

His legislation will not allow residents to ban politicians or religious proselytizers from knocking because he realizes political and religious speech is protected.

Let’s see if we got this right. The Avon Lady is not protected by the First Amendment, but the guy carrying petitions for Vallone and other politicians is?

Think about that.

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