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4/16/8  Council comes through with the right stuff.

  After the scandal of a 12 year old stripping in a sleazy Dallas SOB (sexually oriented business), our city council has done a fantastic job of fixing a problem that could not get done by previous councils.  Credit also has to be given to City Attorney Tom Perkins.  This is a good day for Dallas.  This is a day when Dallas citizens can be proud of our City Hall.

Lord knows, I don't always have good things to say about the way things get done at City Hall.  There is absolutely nothing to complain about in the way they resolved this embarrassment.  They got it done, and they got it done quickly.

Councilman Caraway caught me during the Board of Adjustment's break for lunch on Monday to ask for recommendations regarding the new SOB regulations the council was considering that day.  I suggested they prohibit anyone younger than 21 from entering a sex club.  Not to strip, not to cook, not to clean, not to wait tables.  And, no patrons under 21.  I never imagined it could happen.

We talked about the VIP rooms, that they should be eliminated.  I never imagined it could happen, either.

Both the major items we discussed are in the council's new regulations.  That never happens in the real world of community activism.

4/20/8 After I posted this commentary, I learned it was Councilman Mitch Rasansky who circulated the resolution to get the matter on the council's agenda.  Special thanks to him for pushing this item forward, so the council would take such decisive and correct action.

Dave Levinthall does a great job reporting this news:

It?s now illegal for minors to enter or work in Dallas strip clubs, and closed-door ?VIP rooms? are henceforth banned, the Dallas City Council ruled Wednesday as part of a reform of laws governing sexually oriented businesses.

The changes come in part as a result of Dallas police in March discovering a 12-year-old girl dancing nude in Diamond?s Cabaret, a Dallas club, which remained open because no city law allowed City Hall to revoke the establishment?s sexually oriented business license for employing a minor.

?When we realized we did not have the tools in place ? we have moved quickly to put those tools in place,? Mayor Tom Leppert said of the strengthened law. ?We are pressing the issues associated with the minors, and it gives us the tools the police department is going to need to continue to address this situation and address it in a very forceful way, a very aggressive way and a very timely way.?

...  But Dawn Rizos, owner of the Lodge strip club, said the city?s new rules make sense and won?t be difficult to comply with.

?We support any measures that will prevent such a situation from ever happening again. The Lodge already complies with nearly all the new changes, except for the fingerprinting,? she said in a prepared statement.

Dallas? revamped sex business law:

Calls for an automatic one-year revocation of licenses for sexually oriented businesses found to be employing or entertaining minors.

Prohibits strip clubs from operating closed-door ?VIP rooms? in which sexual performances or activity is taking place. The new ordinance, City Attorney Tom Perkins said, ?prohibits doors, walls, drapes or anything that obstructs the views of these areas. They must be clearly and completely visible from anywhere else in the club.?

Requires any sexually oriented business owner to designate an official club operator who?s present during club operating hours and responsible for activity within the club.

Requires sexually oriented clubs to keep on file detailed records of all employees, including dancers. The employee records must include the person?s age, an original photo, valid driver?s license copy, fingerprints and a Texas criminal history report.

By council ruling, the revised ordinance takes effect Monday. It empowers Police Chief David Kunkle to shut down a sexually oriented business down within 10 days ? reduced from 30 days ? upon citing them for a violation of the new law.

If Dallas police revoke a sexually oriented business? operation license, the business may appeal the ruling to Dallas? Permit and License Appeals Board, and ultimately, state district court.

...  The City Council met in a closed session for nearly two hours Wednesday before voting on the revised sexually oriented business ordinance.

During the closed session, Mr. Perkins said he briefed council members on legal issues surrounding his office?s recommendations to the council. His office had been studying changes to Dallas? sexually oriented business laws for nearly a year and a half.

Again, City Attorney Tom Perkins has been very responsive to community concerns about eliminating prostitution in "massage parlors" and/or "body works spas".  He has assigned us assistant attorneys who are not only knowledgeable but dedicated to resolving this sick stuff.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia has been our champion in Austin, and has been very effective in getting new legislation.

Unfortunately, the TABC has been of little or no help.  In response to State Rep. Anchia's request, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures will hold a hearing on TABC issues at 10 a.m., Tuesday, April 22nd in Dallas City Council chambers.  It is invited testimony only, but the public is welcome to attend.

  The TABC seems to see its role as a facilitator for the liquor sales industry, rather than a department to promote the welfare of Texas communities.  A few years ago, a pool hall on Forest Ln. wanted to get a private club liquor license in a dry area.  There was a church in the same shopping center that should have prevented the liquor license from being issued. 

The TABC staffers I talked with didn't see it that way.  They asked me if I had measured the distance from the church to the applicant's business.  I said that's not my job.  I was told it isn't their job either.  Then the staffer told me the community would have to monitor the business to be sure they followed the rules once their license was issued.  Not "if their license is issued", but "once their license was issued".  It was a given their license would be granted. 

It took over 10 years to get the SOB's off Northwest Highway at Bachman Lake.  We still have the awful abandoned buildings that the sex club owners refuse to market for other uses.  Councilman Steve Salazar is looking into the city taking that property by eminent domain for park use, possibly expanding the nearby pocket park.  Things are looking up for Northwest Dallas. 

With the council's action to remove minors from any contact with strip clubs city wide, the entire city will be better for it.

I appreciate Dawn Rizos supporting the new regulations.  The changes will eliminate the sleaziest SOB's immediately.  Keeping people under 21 out of adult entertainment clubs will likely be good for the high dollar clubs.  Eliminating closed door VIP rooms will cut out much of the prostitution associated with many SOB's. 

This may not be a big deal to people who don't live near a strip club, if there is such a place in Dallas these days.  To Northwest Dallas, it's huge.

There may be many issues where I disagree with Mayor Leppert, but he said he was going to fix the loop hole that allowed a strip club to stay open after a 12 year old was stripping there.  He didn't do it by himself, but he did it.  When was the last time the city recognized it had a problem and within six weeks got it fixed?

I'm sorry that little girl was in that situation, but the publicity was the catalyst for quick action on a long standing problem. 

Thank you, Mayor Leppert.  Thank you city council members.  Thank you City Atty. Tom Perkins.  You had a good day, and the citizens of Dallas will benefit enormously from your good work.






  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8