Over Thanksgiving, I noted that Mayor Parker had settled a longstanding dispute with a cabal of adult entertainment facilities (colloquially known as strip clubs). The clubs had been in and out of court nonstop since a 1997 ordinance was enacted to confront many of the perceived excesses therein. Specifically, enforcing a “three-foot rule” between the entertainers and patrons, disallowing nudity and removing private rooms. Ostensibly, these regulations were done to help eradicate shady business at these establishments, such as drugs and prostitution. However, there was also obviously a splash of the morality police in the mix; but that is neither here nor there.
The settlement between the clubs and the Mayor, which allows exemptions for lap dances as well as topless dancing, has now come under fire from both local activists and members of the City Council. The Houston Chronicle reports that Bob Sanborn, the director of a non-profit aimed at protecting at-risk children, blasted the deal agreed to by the Mayor. In addition to providing the exemptions to the ordinance, the deal also requires donations to HPD’s human trafficking fund, information sessions on trafficking and mandatory blacklists for employees convicted of drug or prostitution offenses. The deal only applies to a specific 16 clubs.
KRIV also reports that at least two sitting Councilmembers joined in on the disapproval. Reportedly, Councilmember C.O. Bradford referred to the Mayor’s dealings as an overreach and Dave Martin called the settlement “an act of extortion.” City Controller Ronald Green also allegedly had harsh words to say about this deal.
An interesting discrepancy between the stories is that KRIV leads one to believe that both Sheriff Adrian Garcia and DA Devon Anderson opposed this deal, though the Chronicle article notes that the speakers simply referenced their hardline stances against human trafficking–quite a distinction.
At a certain point, things like this are wholly the Mayor’s prerogative, as we live in a Strong-Mayor system where the Chief Executive has unparalleled power. Dissenting Councilmember like to gripe about it, but there is little they may do. I personally find the deal somewhat straightforward and honorable, as it focuses on eliminating the hotbeds for illegal activity and not simply preventing them from engaging in their businesses. From what I recall, there was a broad alliance of advocacy groups that also endorsed the settlement, so make of all this what you will.
Additionally, and I am keeping this especially in mind, KRIV has largely been promulgating the entire issue. This is the same station (same reporter actually) who broke the “phony scandal” during the Mayoral race. I think it is safe to acknowledge that someone, somewhere at KRIV has an ax to grind against Mayor Parker.