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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Call Your Alderman re: Massage Parlors

I'm not sure how many of you have heard, but on Monday's committees meeting for City Council, the Zoning Committee has approved an ordinance that would ban massage businesses from opening in residential areas (and neighborhood business strips) and only allow them to open in commercial zone areas.

Why would the Aldermen want to pass such an ordinance/ban on massage parlors?

Because they think it's going to help fight prostitution.

And we need some help calling up the Aldermen to remind them this this is a ridiculous idea and to vote NO in tomorrow's meeting when it's scheduled to be brought up for a vote!

"Okay, Aaron. So what's really going on here? Isn't it possible that they've got a good reason to do this and you just want to rile us up?"

No, loyal reader. This is your standard City Council bullshit looking to do something ridiculous that will not fight the problem that they're looking to solve.

The beginning: Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) went to court to revoke the license of an illegal sex parlor in the 2200 block of North Cicero that he said was masquerading as a massage parlor.

So the underlying problem is that a massage parlor was also selling sexual acts.

Ald. Suarez: "The community is upset, and I don't blame them. There was prostitution going on. More of these places are popping up, and it's hard to get rid of [them]. It's becoming too easy. They're pretending to be something they're not."

Here's where I'm running into my first problems with this scenario: How did the community become upset? What happened that made them upset?

Obviously if there's a massage parlor that is selling sexual acts - it's happening IN the parlor. It's not streetwalkers selling themselves for sex in public view. Which means that unless you were BUYING a sexual act or TOLD that you could buy a sexual act - how did the community find out?

Or did they find out when, during the course of standard policework, it was revealed that there was prostitution going on in the parlor?

In which case this whole hubbub is ridiculous, since the community did NOT have a problem until they FOUND OUT there was prostitution going on!

In the meantime, what would have upsetted them about a massage parlor in their neighborhood that happened to be selling sexual acts without them knowing?

A boom in clientele as a result of the sex-selling that caused parking problems? In that case, one can argue that no popular business should operate in a residential area. And then no business would be able to survive without getting kicked out.

Was there an influx of "people who would be likely to purchase sex acts" and the socioeconomic differences of people in their residential area were upsetting the people? That's rather rude/racist/elitist of them, wouldn't you think? I'm pretty sure you can't ban "creepy-looking people" from a residential zone unless they're doing something creepy in public or where the public can see it.

But I digress. Let's assume that there's a validity to the neighborhood being upset by having a secret sex-selling massage parlor in their neighborhood.

What about the massage parlors NOT selling sex? Why should they have to suffer and be forced to only open in "areas with commercial zoning designations, like car dealers, gas stations and other heavy business uses"?

In a quick side note, I believe prostitution should be legalized. If that were the case, it wouldn't have to be done in secrecy. Sex workers could get health benefits, the industry could be regulated, and having a sex worker licensing program would help to curb underage prostitution.

Anyway, Suarez has support from 26 other aldermen who have co-signed the ordinance that passed, but there are luckily some members of City Council who can see the light.

Unfortunately, they're too afraid to speak out unless it's anonymously...

"He's probably got one place that's a front for a sex operation, and instead of going after it with law enforcement, he's trying to kill a whole industry," said one alderman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of embarrassing Suarez.

"Just clean up the ones that need to be cleaned up and let the legitimate places operate. I have a large hairdresser that's trying to come to my area. Something like this would kill it."

Yes, and I'd believe more that your anonymity was to protect Suarez's embarrassment - if it weren't for the fact that you then follow it up with a mention of personal gain for your ward if it doesn't pass.

How about gain for society in general and for businesses in general? Isn't THAT enough to be able to speak freely and openly about how stupid of an idea it is to ban an entire industry from being located in certain zones just because random ones happen to be doing something illegal that has nothing to do with their location?

Seriously, do these 26 other aldermen think that if a massage parlor is forced to open someone more commercial where there's better parking and more businesses that are open and catering to additional potential clients that the changes of them selling sexual acts is going to be reduced?

That's like saying that because most shootings at convenience stores happen at night, all convenience stores are banned from being open after sunset and cannot open a new convenience store in a location where other businesses are open at night in order to fight illegal gun violence.

If I were Alderman (and hopefully I will be in 2011), I would be speaking out just like I am now about a dumb ban that should not be passed and I would vote NO.

But since I'm not Alderman, I need your help to make sure the current aldermen in City Council vote NO on this ordinance. Please look up the office information for your City Council representative and tell them to vote no on this ordinance that hurts small business owners who want to sell massages and don't plan on selling the "happy endings".

Maybe with some help, we'll see a real happy ending to this story tomorrow when the City Council does not pass this ordinance.

Digg this article - and spread the word!

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