April 08, 2003
Doctor! It hurts me when I do this!

Just what the City of Houston needs, another rathole to throw its money down.

The city of Houston Legal Department is asking for more money to preserve the city's sexually oriented business law, which it beefed up five years ago but has been unable to enforce because it's been tied up in court.

The city has spent $450,000 to uphold changes to its ordinance, designed in part to restrict where the businesses can locate.

Now the city wants another $40,000 to see the case through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is expected to rule within two months whether the distance requirements are legal.

Well, at least they're fighting for a law that's had a real effect, right?

City leaders are dismayed that the ordinance -- approved by an entirely different City Council -- is basically useless. Nearly 30 adult entertainment clubs have set up shop while the law has been challenged.

"Not only are we spending hundreds of thousands to fight it, but it doesn't seem to be living up to its purpose," Councilwoman Annise Parker said.

The changes were enacted in 1997 to keep the businesses 1,500 feet from a residential area, school, church, park or day-care.

Some of the clubs appealed, and a federal judge said the requirement -- which doubled the previous distance of 750 feet -- was unconstitutional. The city appealed to the 5th Circuit.

Well, okay, but now that the city is fighting it has to keep fighting, right?

On Monday, Ross Allyn, a lobbyist for several of the clubs, informally proposed dropping the lawsuit if businesses in existence before the 1997 changes are grandfathered in under the old rules.

He maintains the city could end its expensive litigation and have an enforceable law. It would also likely put 26 new adult entertainment venues out of business.

Well, okay, but surely the end is in sight, right?

The city expects the 5th Circuit to uphold its law. But both sides agree that whatever the court rules, it will likely be appealed.

That sound you hear is me banging my head against the wall.

A few notes: As observed in the article, the clubs' settlement offer probably would not be the end of litigation, since there have been about 30 new clubs opened since the law was passed, and they are not a part of this lawsuit. There's no guarantee that they'd sue, though, and I think the city would be on firmer ground here since after all these clubs came into existence after the law was on the books. Finally, if you think this whole thing is pointless, one person you shouldn't blame is Lee Brown, for the law was passed (and the lawsuit was filed) before he was elected. The blame goes to former Council member Helen "Ross Perot In Drag" Huey.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 08, 2003 to Local politics | TrackBack

This is crazy. I LIKE sex shops. I don't frequent them terribly much, but it's a quirky detail that sets Houston apart from most cities in the US. And it's free enterprise, darn it. Well, the goods aren't free, but it is very enterprising.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on April 8, 2003 10:39 AM