Corinne Sealy sells ice cream, popsicles and caramel corn near the Galt Market entrance and has a front-row seat to watch people asking for money. Most of the solicitors belong to or have set up nonprofit organizations, Sealy said. She is frustrated that they are allowed to block the gate and harrass customers.
"If we are paying rent, we should be the most important thing for the city," she said.
After receiving mutliple complaints from vendors and customers, Galt is trying to crack down on people asking for money.
City staff drafted an ordinance they presented at the council meeting that will restrict where solicitors can be located, City Attorney Steve Rudolph said. Soliciting is allowed under the First Amendment, but cities can put restrictions on it when when it becomes a problem, he said.
"It is characterized by being overly aggressive, like stepping in your path while moving about the city streets," Rudolph said.
The ordinance will prevent solicitors from following people, threatening them or blocking where they are going.
The solicitors at the market are often pushing the limit, Sealy said.
"They call it aggressive, I call it offensive. They attack you at the gate," she said.
The proposed ordinance also lays out certain situations when soliciting is not allowed. Solicitors will not be allowed to ask for money on a bus, within 30 feet of a bus stop or when people are in cars at traffic lights because all of those situations do not allow the person being solicited to escape, Rudolph said.
"In some cities, there are problems where you might be approached at a traffic light, and they start washing windows or asking for money, and you are held hostage until the traffic light changes," he said.
One of the main complaints staff has heard from the Galt Market is that people are asking for money as customers visit ATMs because it puts more pressure on people to give. Rudolph said that cities can limit soliciting in situations like that, where people are "feeling vulnerable."
While the council supported the ordinance, several members had concerns that violators of the ordinance would only recieve an infraction and not a misdemeanor.
Galt police chief Loren Cattolico recommended making it an infraction because the Sacramento County District Attorney does not usually prosecute misdemeanor citations. By issuing an infraction, the fine is a more instant penalty, he said.
Councilmen Mark Crews and Mike Singleton worried that the city ordinance was missing a way for police to escort the solicitor off the premise after violating the ban.
"They can say, 'I was just cited. I'll stay here and harrass people anyway,'" Singleton said.
Staff said they will research whether they can legally remove people from the premise, and the ordinance will come back at a future meeting.
One suggestion that Sealy has is to make the solicitors rent an actual booth in the market.
"They give good deals for nonprofits. They are making enough so they should pay to buy a booth," she said.
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.