Patrons of Hillsborough County’s strip clubs and pornographic theaters can now sleep with ease, knowing that the recently passed adult-use ordinance makes strip clubs and theaters more safe. Employees will be subject to mandatory background checks, alcohol will be banned, floors will be cleaned according to strict guidelines, and, of course, parking lots will be patrolled for much-feared lewdness. What was once thought to be a rogue industry on the fringe of society has been revamped in the spirit of familial, feel-goodliness.
Joking aside, these paternalistic measures are hardly in place to protect the patrons of this industry. Instead, they were passed in order to placate “the community.” But because there’s obviously a community who enjoys going to these venues, the county commission must mean the community of people that doesn’t patronize the industry at all.
Citing “secondary adverse effects” such as decreases in property value, commission Chairman Jim Norman further justified his decision by saying the public was generally supportive of the law, as explained in a Tampa Tribune report.
The county commissioners obviously want these establishments to close, but they realize they can neither ban them outright nor impose harsh zoning laws. The former almost screams “lawsuit,” and the latter was passed and shot down in court once before. Nevertheless, the commissioners dreamed up a more politically correct way of going about their dirty work – making the adult-entertainment industry’s operation fiscally impossible.
Moreover, the commissioners always have the “community good” cushion to fall back on – so what if they violate the freedoms of a few measly business owners and their customers? The county commission has the community to think about, after all, and the aggregate view must trump all victimless dissent.
The key word here is victimless – adult-entertainment businesses don’t hurt anyone as long as they’re employing consenting adults. Like it or not, the services and products they provide meet an economic demand and while doing so, even provide high-paying jobs. In addition, there is a large body of economic research committed to the study of the costs and benefits of prohibitionary laws. The attempts to curtail innocuous yet socially unfavorable behavior are typically futile and expensive – for example, the war on drugs.
In a similar vein, adult entertainment also takes place in closed venues, meaning the only visually offensive material available to non-patrons – like people driving past in a car – is an advertisement or a glittery marquee. Even these are regulated and probably cannot be considered offensive with any seriousness. These establishments do not force their goods and services upon non-patrons and hence are only offensive to those who cannot tolerate others’ volitional, private choices.
Despite the fact that adult-entertainment venues are accused of creating decreases in property value, the fact remains that the county commissioners should not determine an entity’s legal legitimacy based upon this. If the commission were to establish relations to property values as the measure of legitimacy, the corollary standard would doubtlessly be inconsistent and unfair.
Many demographic and developmental shifts cause property values to rise or fall.
If I were to build a smaller house in a non-deed-restricted area filled with mansions, for example, my choice would most certainly cause the other houses to drop in value. Does this mean I shouldn’t be allowed to build?
Unfortunately for residents of the Tampa Bay area, this recent development is not the only pending attack on basic freedoms. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, in conjunction with the University of Tampa’s dean of students Bob Ruday, is discussing a possible city ordinance that would ban drink specials at Tampa bars and clubs. These figureheads think individuals who want to drink a lot must be forcibly protected from themselves. As detailed by Janet Zink of the St. Petersburg Times, proponents of the measure say such drink specials foster high-risk activity, especially in college students.
The basic premise of this proposal, much like the adult-use ordinance, assumes college-age persons cannot make choices for themselves – they are psychologically weak and victims of flashy advertising. The backers of restrictive adult-use ordinances and alcohol regulation infer that the opportunity to binge, either sexually or with substances, requires that people succumb to that opportunity. Therefore, the very opportunity to binge should be banned.
But it is easy to recognize that this is not true – though many college-aged persons may partake in unhealthy behavior, a significant number does not. This belies the premise that the temptation to binge must result in binging. If anything, the tendency to binge reflects one thing: lack of personal responsibility. Quite ironically, Iorio’s measure would foster that very lack of responsibility by letting young adults make one less decision for themselves.
Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French.