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{September 20, 2008}   Stripped of illusions in Tualatin

A mong the throng, 250 strong, that jammed the Tualatin police station Tuesday night to protest the imminent arrival of Stars Cabaret were at least two first-time visitors to town.

The first was Claude Dacorsi, who is on tap to manage the strip club. His back to the wall, Dacorsi seemed baffled the crowd didn’t appreciate Stars’ commitment to community values and working women.

The other newcomer to Tualatin? That would be reality. With police Chief Kent Barker on hand but helpless to intervene, reality slapped these folks around for two hours, stripping them of the illusion that the law, the Legislature or their local government — not to mention 21 years of unbridled obscenity in Oregon — will assist in their desperate fight to keep Stars Cabaret in Beaverton, where it clearly belongs.

The room was thick with anger and apprehension when the town meeting began. Dozens of citizens arrived convinced that concerns about public safety and prostitution, and the proximity of schools and family-friendly businesses, were sufficient to stop Stars from moving into the disheveled tavern — Out of the Blues — on Southwest McEwan Road.

They were convinced, in other words, that Tualatin is not subject to the market forces and court decisions that have governed the rest of Oregon for the past 21 years.

In 1987, the Oregon Supreme Court took a long look at Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and decreed obscenity is perfectly legal.

The court having also ruled that dance — whether a James Canfield ballet or a lap waltz at the Acropolis — was protected expression, strip clubs began busting out all over.

As countless little towns soon discovered, nude bars and adult video parlors are more than welcome in any commercial zone. Attempts to regulate those lewd expressions were quickly struck down by the courts.

What the court allows, attorney Charles Hinkle notes, is the “regulation of an adult business if you can establish it has a negative, deleterious effect on the area. Government can say that no commercial enterprise can exist on Sandy Boulevard, for example, if it attracts an undesirable amount of traffic, diminishes the property values in the area or becomes the locus of criminal activity.

“Of course,” Hinkle adds, “you can’t just say the sky is falling. We’ve had adult bookstores and dancing establishments in every metro area since 1987. The opponents can’t come up with a shred of evidence these establishments have a negative effect on the neighborhood, and they’ve had 21 years to try.”

For a reality check, I called Detective Pam Judge, a Beaverton police spokeswoman, and asked whether that city’s Stars Cabaret was the local hub of criminal activity.

“I can’t say we’ve had any more problems there than we have with any other business in the area,” Judge said. Prostitution, she added, is not an issue in the neighborhood.

Tualatin is not completely helpless in its fight against Stars, and bubbles of creative thought eventually surfaced Tuesday. Scott Mitton suggested making the property owner a better offer, and Tom Kruger envisioned flooding the place with protesters who “buy the minimum one drink and don’t tip the dancers.”

The line of volunteers may be already forming.

But I wouldn’t count on an assist from Oregon voters. Three times in the past 20 years, Hinkle notes, the voters have been asked to amend the Constitution to allow for the regulation of sexually oriented businesses through zoning . . . and three times the voters have said, “No, thanks.”

How Tualatin voted when Stars Cabaret was not yet a twinkle in its eye, I can only imagine.

Source

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