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Is offer a public service or self-serving?

Cary Ashby • Apr 7, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Will Norwalk city council approve legislation that would allow the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) to administer the city’s do-not-knock registration? 

The registration prohibits solicitors from making door-to-door sales calls at a resident’s home if he or she has signed up. The restriction only covers for-profit businesses and organizations.

Council members last month discussed the NOPEC proposal in depth and questioned community outreach manager Tony Ramos about its motives. Many council members said it seems NOPEC is being self-serving and attempting to have control over its competitors, but under the guise of giving residents the option of avoiding unwanted door-to-door sales calls. 

Norwalk currently has a no-knock registration list that is handled by city hall. Safety-service director Dan Wendt said the responsibility of overseeing and maintaining the registration is an administrative burden.

The list currently only has slightly less than 40 names on it and is provided to solicitors who are given permits. Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara said a violation — meaning knocking on a door of a person on the no-knock registration — would lead to a fine.

Council has been presented legislation that would allow NOPEC, which considers itself a non-profit sales aggregate, to operate Norwalk’s registry at no cost. Ramos said the updated, computerized list goes to communities each month and residents who sign up for it must do so again each year in the same manner they signed up. He also said that even though people on the list are given a window decal, they don’t have to put it up at their home.

NOPEC, in its online, vision statement, says it is a “non-profit council of governments and pro-consumer lobbying force dedicated to bringing reliable, stable and lower-energy costs to families and businesses in Northeast Ohio.” Thirteen unpaid directors 13 counties oversee NOPEC.

“They call themselves non-profit. Not-for-profit does not mean not for profit; they make money,” said Councilman Chris Castle, who is skeptical of NOPEC’s proposal.

“If we care about the free market, why should we give a utility aggregate free reign over the entire competition? They are trying to pass a law that gives them free reign over their competition.”

Essentially, Castle said NOPEC is promoting its proposed legislation as a way to keep someone like a roofing company representative “who come to my door” from doing so, but also is trying to block its energy-sales competitors and in the process is “trying to strong-arm” Norwalk.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test. My gut tells me something about this is not right; there’s something not right here,” Castle said. “They (NOPEC) are paying for social-media advertising before this has even gone to vote.”

Upon recently noticing a NOPEC ad on Facebook pushing for the legislation to be pushed, Castle, who represents the fourth ward, requested NOPEC take it down since the ad was about pending legislation.

Council will vote on the issue Tuesday. If Norwalk were to introduce the no-knock legislation, it would join Tiffin, Warren, Roaming Shores, Parma, Highland Hills, Willowick, Eastlake and Brook Park as other cities and villages in Ohio with similar laws. 

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