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Anti-solicitor law is unlikely at terminal

Solicitations inside the airport terminal have not been a big problem, officials say.

November 08, 2006|By Chris Wiebe

BURBANK — The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on Monday heard the details of new ordinance that regulates the activities of solicitors seeking donations from travelers at the Los Angeles International Airport. But the authority is unlikely to adopt a similar policy because solicitors do not pose as significant a problem in Burbank as they do in Los Angeles.

The ordinance requires solicitors to file for a permit with airport officials and to only seek donations in designated areas, said Thomas Winfrey, spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports, which is the airport authority for the Los Angeles International Airport.

Implementation of the ordinance, which the Los Angeles City Council approved in December 2002, was delayed after the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and others alleged that the law infringed upon constitutional free-speech rights, Winfrey said.

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"There was an injunction that prevented it from going into effect," he said. "The judge had reviewed the case again and felt that the ordinance could take effect; and we began enforcing the system that allows people to solicit inside the terminals, but in defined areas."

The new ordinance does not, however, regulate solicitor activity outside terminal buildings, he added.

Although Bob Hope Airport officials say they will not likely need a similar procedure anytime soon, the new system at Los Angeles International Airport signals the willingness of the courts to give airports more control over solicitors inside airport terminals, airport spokesman Victor Gill said.

"With recent litigation results, airport proprietors can be presumed to have a little bit more say-so in how solicitation takes place in their facilities," he said.

Monday's presentation to the tri-city airport authority was intended to inform commissioners about the challenges facing other airports and how the recent removal of the injunction gives airports more leeway, Gill said.

"The bottom line was that [the courts] were able to say fundamentally that an airport terminal building is not necessarily a public space when it comes to issues of supposed free speech," he said. "And the influence of the need for security after 9-11 also added to the ability of the airport proprietor to control what goes on in those spaces."

But Bob Hope Airport has never attracted the numbers of solicitors that larger airports draw, Gill said.

"We have had solicitation here from time to time over the years, but it's not been seen, I don't think, by the solicitors as a terribly lucrative place," Gill said.

Airport Authority Commissioner Charlie Lombardo lauded the ordinance as a step forward for travelers' safety and convenience.

"Times have changed since this case first started out and security concerns are really overriding now," he said. "I've seen some of those people approach some of the passengers and they're rather aggressive."

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