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Re: “Op-ed: Ravenstahl rebuke may clear the air on gas bill

Could you say what exactly is involved with bringing a measure to the ballot? If enough signatures are collected will a question be automatically submitted to voters or must it still be approved by council?

Posted by Larryville on 08/09/2011 at 5:33 PM

Re: “Strip-club bill could result in protracted court battle, lawyer warns


We are posting at the same time and so talking past each other. This deal with the post at 4:04pm.

1. I didn't say the crime data you posted was invalid. In other posts I said it was contentious and you agree that it is. Indeed, the City Paper notes as much and notes that the results you offer don't have the longitudinal data needed to distinguish clubs moving into higher crime areas and areas becoming higher crime after the addition of a club. I still don't see how your proposal aims to limit crime since moving clubs to industrial areas doesn't strike at the heart of what you believe generates the crime -that is anonymity and easy marks. Please say how your legislation deals with this and why zoning them industrial fixes the crime problem.

2. The point about STDs only works if you believe there is active prostitution going on in these clubs. I also note that you are backing away from the position that mere lap dance contact is enough to cause it. My question is 'why should I believe that these clubs have been centers of prostitution?' 'Have undercover officers made arrests for prostitution or soliciting in the City's clubs?' 'Have they arrested women who work at these clubs for these crimes?' Speculation that it must go on given the highly charged environment will not be a sufficiently strong argument to pass the 'reasonable argument' test you cite in 4.

3. You essentially make my point that tatoo registration is invasive here! You note that we commonly track that tattoos of criminals to aid identification. In other words you want to treat working dancers in the way that we treat criminals that we want to track. Few things are more invasive that requiring an innocent person to undergo the things we do to criminals!

4. Finally, I do not dispute your claim that this law can be made legal! I have said this before. Thus pointing to studies which allow for 'reasonable belief' fails to get any leverage on my point.

My point is that there is enough controversy, potential cost and overreach so as to make this law unwise!

In other words, I don't think the STD threat is big enough to justify a ban on private contact. I don't think the law will result in protecting the women that work in these places and threatens to undercut the power they enjoy there. I think that regardless of the legalities the city faces the very real possibility that this law will result in an expensive and protracted legal battle.

Finally I think that any attempt at regulation should be collaborative and not combative - the fact that this bill received no input from the industry makes me wonder if the real goal is to regulate these places out of existence. Reasonable belief can act as a shield for projects that are bigger than that which reasonable arguments can support. Given that this industry has traditionally been the target of exactly that tactic, and the city has just lost the CAPA appeal, this has all of the hallmarks of that tactic. This is what concerns me that most about your propsal.

Posted by Larryville on 06/20/2011 at 4:42 PM

Re: “Strip-club bill could result in protracted court battle, lawyer warns


It is your choice to argue here or not. Every critique I have made of you has been framed as a reasonable conclusion that I have drawn from the evidence. You on the other hand have insinuated that I am a coward, favor the construction a red light district and enjoy face to genital contact with dancers. I would hate to see what kind of vitriol would get thrown my way if you had the ability to google my name.

You continue to conflate reasonable regulation with the kind of overboard attack that your bill includes. The fact is that San Diego and Seattle have regulation that looks very different from the regulation that has been proposed here. For instance, Seattle does not have a lap dance ban as you erroneously claim. Further, while San Diego has a buffer zone for stage dances, it allows close-up private dancing as long as no contact exists. It is these aspects that have allowed those businesses to be profitable and the Pittsburgh proposal specifically outlaws those aspects.

Your continuing insistence that the bill resembles the regulations Seattle and San Diego have imposed is false.

A closer case in point would be Kansas City. That city does have regulations that resemble these and it has led to a lawsuit and has led to the Kansas city police chief describing the law as unclear and not yet enforceable. Indeed the legal challenges to that law have now made it to the Missouri Supreme Court. This only serves to underwrite the claim, made by many here, that the city faces a huge financial and legal burden if it passes this law and then tries to defend it in court.

I will also note that it is a coalition of anti-pornography groups that crafted the law in KC. Thus the fact that this law emerges from groups like that again supports my claim that this is an attack on the industry thinly disguised as 'regulation'.

Finally, you selectively ignore those claims in my argument that derail the narrative of regulation that you espouse.

First, why wasn't anyone in the industry consulted about these issues and invited to the table when this regulation was being crafted?

Second, given that these measures will reduce the most profitable patron/entertainer interaction in a variety of ways, won't the effect of these measures be felt first and foremost in the wallets of the least workers? Is that what the law aims at or is a a side effect? If it is the latter what do you think can be done to mitigate that damage?

Third, apart from trusting in the benevolent efficiency of the City's law department why should we expect that no legal fight would result from this law? It seems to me that the city has pursued many costly legal fights over the years, what reasons can you provide for thinking this one will be different?

Posted by Larryville on 06/20/2011 at 4:06 PM

Re: “Strip-club bill could result in protracted court battle, lawyer warns


You are right to point out that the rhetoric in my final question contained a false dilemma.

That said, I think some form of the question needs to be asked. First, if the legislation succeeds and aims at bankrupting the industry, the city will lose the tax revenue that it used to enjoy. So we might ask, 'during this recession does it make sense to pass legislation that threatens to reduce tax receipts?'

Now we turn to the entertainers. It is true this industry is not solely populated by unskilled working mothers who will be destitute without it. But, if the legislation succeeds in bankrupting the industry or cutting significantly into profits it is the workers who will feel that pinch first. Further still, licensing requirements and the no-contact rule will put more power into the hands of club owners and less pay on the pockets of entertainers. So we might ask, 'does it make sense to change the power imbalance in this industry to put more power in the hands of club owners and less profit in the pockets of those who, probably, need it most?' As should be obvious by now, I think the answer to this question is 'no' as well.

I suspect we both agree that this choice of employment probably results from regrettable circumstances for a great many of those who pursue it. But the city is hardly in a position to change those circumstances and its 'protective' solutions will cut into the bottom line for most of the city's entertainers.

Posted by Larryville on 06/20/2011 at 1:18 PM

Re: “Strip-club bill could result in protracted court battle, lawyer warns

Despite Bram and Kail-Smith's denials it is pretty clear that this bill is an attempt to bankrupt the adult industry in Pittsburgh. And it absolutely takes the kitchen sink approach. Not one item of regulation that was tried elsewhere has been left out of this bill!

So why think they are trying to bankrupt the adult industry?

This can be seen first and foremost in the fact that the authors of this bill made no effort at all to include the owners of the establishments that they wanted to 'regulate' in the drafting. If they were concerned about taking steps to mitigate both crime and lowered property values, it seems obvious that the first step would be consultation. That this wasn't a part of the process at all shows clearly that this is about attacking the industry, not working with it.

The second piece of evidence that makes it clear that this is just an attack on the industry is the overly broad scope of the legislation. Bram simply cries that 'secondary effects' justify every intrusive aspect of this legislation. In fact, the studies he cites are almost all much more cautious in their conclusion and they don't do anything to support the most extreme restrictions. His studies fail to demonstrate that lighting requirements, registration of a dancer's tattoos or a prohibition on all contact will lessen any of the secondary effects that he claims justify these restrictions. Indeed, he cannot even show that Pittsburgh sees any of the problems that the secondary effects studies make mention of. We don't see prostitution originating in these establishments in this city. The crime data he supplies is vague enough to support a variety of conclusions. And the albatross about reducing disease is such a stretch that it is laughable. If we have had one case of STD transmission in Allegheny county from a simple lap dance, I would like to see the evidence. Since the incidence of such disease is recorded and monitored, it shouldn't be so hard to find data that shows this as a problem.

He knows that saying outright that he is going to regulate these places into bankruptcy threatens to demonstrate exactly the intent that hurt Seattle's efforts at attacking this industry. For that reason he won't say anything quite so bold. But a review of the legislation and the data that is supposed to justify it, reveals enough holes in his argument that his claim to merely want regulation rings most hollow.

Finally, the costs!! Pittsburgh can't afford to pave its streets. The result of this legislation will be years of court cases that will finally force the city to pay through the nose for a losing judgment. Can Pittsburgh afford that? I don't think so. Should Pittsburgh be trying to bankrupt a tax-paying industry that employs single mothers with very few marketable skills? That doesn't sound very smart either!

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Posted by Larryville on 06/20/2011 at 12:24 PM

Re: “Kail-Smith proposes new strip-club zoning, and a lap-dance ban

No Bram, I am not familiar with that part of the dance. Please don't suggest that I am! While we are at it, if you are going to take me to task for putting words in your mouth, I would appreciate you not describing my proposal for integrating the zoning of clubs, bars, adult entertainment and nightlife as "creating a red-light district"!

I don't pretend to have read every study on those pages. I only point out that the studies you do cite don't make the kind of discrimination between contact-entertainment and non-contact-entertainment that would justify a ban on lap-dancing. Further, without that, I think the argument that lap-dancing attracts "an audience that is more likely to cause issues" has no basis. The basis that you cite, statistical correlation, has yet to be provided in a form that gives support for this very specific point in your legislation. That is a hole in your justification.

I am not interested in whether the prohibition you desire is legal according to current case law, but whether it is desirable and can be supported by an argument that isn't ad-hominem. That is the reasonableness basis I think a law should have to pass, at minimum. It may not be the reasonableness basis a court uses, but I would hope that a judge considering a challenge wouldn't accept the argument you have made here and might very well rule that a law made on such support is overly broad. You say that reasonable people can disagree about what a study means, but in this case you want to claim the benefit of that doubt and I don't think you are entitled to it.

Finally, the point about STD's and free-speech are red herrings. I support the staus quo because of a concern for the living wage that this industry provides to otherwise unskilled women. Further, I don't see it as government's concern to regulate away every from of imaginable risk. We could cut down on STD transmission by requiring very bright lighting in the City's bars,free condoms with every third drink purchase and a graphic flyer posted in the bathroom. But at the end of the day I think that is an illegitimate interference with a private business. Certainly such regulations might be legal, or made legal, but the better question when considering new laws is 'is this desirable?' and 'can this be supported by the facts I have at my disposal?'. I think the ban you propose, a very specific portion of your legislation, fails both tests.

Posted by Larryville on 06/08/2011 at 4:06 PM

Re: “Kail-Smith proposes new strip-club zoning, and a lap-dance ban

Bram, I think you are proving my point here. My claim is that your legislation doesn't need to be as prohibitive as it is. Specifically, it need not include a ban on contact.

Your claim is that adult business attracts crime and decreases property values. I accept this and so I acknowledge the need for zoning considerations and increased policing. However, I do not agree that driving it to industrial areas is the way to go. I favor a 'sunlight is the best disinfectant' approach and favor specialized 'night entertainment' zones such as South Side. (Though I think there is a good argument that this is already badly zoned since it is too mixed use and too close to residences).

But the hole in your argument, as I see it, is that the lap-dancing ban doesn't speak to the problems you cite and only seems to because you employ an ad-hominem attack on certain clientele. You have provided no data to suggest that a lap-dance ban correlates with a decrease in crime! Further your argument that it does has the following structure. 1. People who are attracted to lap-dancing are deviants. 2. Deviants are more likely to commit crime. 3. Elimination of lap-dancing is a way to eliminate crime. But this is a spurious accusation and that is why it seems to me that the proposal is excessively moralistic.

Because this specific proposal cuts into a particularly lucrative aspect of this industry and does so without the support of any justification it will hurt the industry without realizing any important gains in property values or decreases in crime. For that reason it looks like it aims only to hurt the industry in the hopes that it will dry up an go away. But the industry has a right to exist, and so waving the specter of its attracting deviants only serves to paper over a hole in the justification you offer and, to my mind, reveals hidden motives.

Posted by Larryville on 06/08/2011 at 12:32 PM

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