GLAA Talking points on Bill 17-109 05/31/07
D.C. 'honor bound' to help clubs (Letter, The Washington Times) 05/28/07
Save the Clubs (Metro Weekly) 05/24/07
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GLAA Update: Bill 17-109 (as amended) passes first reading
|Sent:||Tuesday, June 05, 2007 11:37 PM|
|Subject:||Bill 17-109 (as amended) passes first reading|
Bill 17-109, which GLAA has worked tirelessly for the past several weeks to help pass, did pass its First Reading on Tuesday, June 5, by a vote of 9 to 4.
Voting in favor were Councilmembers Barry, Catania, Cheh, Evans, Graham, Gray, Mendelson, Schwartz, and Wells.
Voting against were Councilmembers Alexander, Bowser, Brown, and Thomas.
Thanks to Councilmember Jim Graham for leading the effort on this bill, and to the other 8 members who voted yes. Thanks also to our colleagues in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club for backing the bill and for helping us gather petition signatures at Black Pride Day, and to all of you who called or wrote to your councilmembers. I am convinced that your calls and emails made a crucial difference, given the irrational furor that was stirred up against the bill. Thanks to Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who brokered a compromise between Jim Graham and the bill’s chief opponent, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. Gray’s vote in favor of the result is a strong boost for the bill’s chances of passing the Second Reading. (Incidentally, after the vote, Gray specifically thanked GLAA and Stein for our efforts.) Thanks also to Councilmember Carol Schwartz, who defended the legitimacy of our nude dancing establishments and our right to patronize these businesses despite other people not approving of them. This is a simple truth, but it was good to hear from a veteran councilmember in light of all the calumnies that have been hurled at us.
No thanks to the four who voted no even after several amendments from Harry Thomas were accepted as friendly amendments. In particular, Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s justification that she was “protecting neighborhoods” implies (A) that gay people are not part of neighborhoods, and (B) that our nude dancing clubs are harmful to communities. This last charge was endlessly repeated by the opponents without any evidence to back up their claim. In fact, as we said in the talking points that we raised with members and their staffs, our community’s 35 years of experience with the clubs that were near South Capitol Street contradicts the claim about their being associated with crime.
Now for some of the messy details. I don’t have copies of all the amendments, but here is a rough summary, based on my notes from the debate, of the amendments that were adopted:
- Only two of the displaced licensees will be allowed in each ward. This means that they cannot all move to Ward 5.
- The clubs must be separated from each other by 1200 feet.
- Licensees will be allowed to move back into the vicinity of the ballpark. Thanks to Tommy Wells for agreeing to this.
- Licensees must be 600 feet away from churches, schools, libraries, playgrounds, and any places under the jurisdiction of the Fine Arts Commission.
- Licensees must discuss community concerns with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, but they are not required to enter into voluntary agreements (which is nice, since otherwise the word “voluntary” would be a misnomer).
- Licensees cannot move prior to November 1, 2007 to a location that has been rezoned by that date to a residential, C-1 or C-2 zoning district. When this amendment was accepted as a friendly amendment, we initially thought that this would effectively gut the bill because it would make the licensees subject to “Small Area Plan” reviews by the Office of Planning, which we do not consider friendly to the clubs. But Jim Graham pointed out the November 1 date, as well as the fact that with the bill (once it passes its second reading and is signed by Mayor Fenty) facing a congressional review period, it will not take effect as law before the end of September, which will leave only about a month for any zoning changes. Jim is more familiar with the zoning process than we are, so once he explained this to us after the vote, we were mollified.
The bill as extensively amended represents a compromise that provides both resolution and disappointment. In the end, though, recognizing that we are reality-based activists, GLAA carried the day. If we had taken an all-or-nothing stand, we would have ended up with nothing, which would have meant our displaced clubs would have no chance to re-open. While the bill as passed is flawed, and both less than we wanted and less than what our city’s leaders promised us, it keeps hope alive for the preservation of adult entertainment choice for the gay community. At the same time, it must be said that the rabble-rousing about nude dancing, the lies and inflammatory rhetoric, and the drumbeat in the media, substantially worked. The extensive and vicious misrepresentations by the Washington Times were particularly egregious. This mountain of nonsense made our lobbying efforts all the more difficult in the past week. After all of that, and looking back on our efforts, we can hold our heads high. If we had not pulled out all the stops on this, the opponents almost certainly would have succeeded in killing the bill.
Thanks again to all of you who signed our petitions or responded to our action alert and contacted your councilmembers.
Below I am again providing contact information for all D.C. Councilmembers. Feel free to communicate your pleasure or displeasure to them, and urge the nine members who voted “yes” today to hold firm at the second reading of the bill. Our extensive work on this bill tells us that this bill, flawed though it is by compromise, is the best we can achieve at this point, so our hope of saving the clubs requires that this bill pass. Our final judgment will have to await events on the ground after the bill becomes law. As I said to several councilmembers during the past week, any solution that does not result in our nude-dancing clubs actually opening for business amounts to window dressing for an empty store. So we are not done. We are bruised and battered, but still standing. Thanks again to all of you who pitched in to help.
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
PS: Sitting in the Council chambers for several hours, including a seemingly endless series of amendments to the Budget Support Act, is a form of torture. Thanks to Frank Kameny for staying there with me through it all. He had been there initially this morning as the recipient of a ceremonial resolution in recognition of GLBT Pride. Even as he is covered with plaudits, he is still in the saddle, defending our community’s interests. He continues to be an example for others.
D.C. COUNCIL CONTACT INFORMATION:
Chairman Vincent C. Gray (AT LARGE)
Chief of Staff: Dawn Slonneger
Councilmember Carol Schwartz (AT LARGE)
Chief of Staff: John Abbot
Councilmember David A. Catania (AT LARGE)
Chief of Staff: Benjamin Young
Councilmember Phil Mendelson (AT LARGE)
Chief of Staff: Beverley Wheeler
Councilmember Kwame R. Brown (AT LARGE)
Chief of Staff: Zafra Stork
Councilmember Jim Graham (WARD 1)
Chief of Staff: Ted Loza
Chairman Pro Tempore Jack Evans (WARD 2)
Chief of Staff: Shannette Grant
Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (WARD 3)
Chief of Staff: Susan Banta
Councilmember Muriel Bowser (WARD 4)
Chief of Staff: TBD
Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (WARD 5)
Chief of Staff: Grace Lewis
Councilmember Tommy Wells (WARD 6)
Chief of Staff: Charles Allen
Councilmember Yvette Alexander (WARD 7)
Chief of Staff: TBD
Councilmember Marion Barry (WARD 8)
Chief of Staff: Keith Perry