On June 29, 2012, Houston City Council took a bold step in infringing upon local businesses right to operate without being harassed, when they approved a $5-per-customer fee on strip clubs so the City could buy speedier lab work to end the crisis in the crime lab of the backlog of rape kits. This week, Mayor Parker announced that a new plan has been created to end the backlog of untested rape kits that will have the crime lab operating without a backlog anywhere from 12-14 months.
This plan includes outsourcing the lab work to two outside labs that have extensive experience in reducing and eliminating backlog testing. Whether these two companies are “Hire Houston First” worthy is a discussion for another day, but I will applaud the Mayor for making this move for a few reasons.
First and foremost, because rape victims and accusers will no longer have to wait an unreasonable amount of time for the justice system to provide results and give some certainty to their lives. Second, the unconstitutional Poll Tax that was levied on strip clubs should now become obsolete and thus Council should repeal their June 2012 action so as not to continue to burden and harass an industry, where there were never any studies or data that showed a correlation between strip club patrons or strip clubs and rape.
This is not a “free the strip clubs” argument, but a pure business argument. Houston is quickly becoming a sore spot and last resort location for the hospitality industry and the increasing taxes and fees on local businesses is the main reason. Singling out this small community within the industry was a witch hunt from the beginning, and now that the funds to be used for the testing of the backlog kits are coming from grants that were funneled into the General Fund, there is no need for this pointless Poll Tax. When asked whether or not the City would stop collecting the fee, there was not an affirmative answer, which is troublesome. We cannot continue to allow legal businesses to take the brunt of an abusive tax and fee structure mandated by the City of Houston. Whether you support or oppose strip clubs or that industry, right is right and allowing local businesses to grow and prosper within the city is something that we must allow if we want to attract the business and entrepreneurial community to come racing back into the city instead remaining in the periphery of the city limits.
I look forward to seeing how this turns out both at the Council level as well as the Lawsuit level, as the City no longer has a reasonable or rational basis to implement and collect on the strip club fee. Let’s give support to our local businesses and give them a chance to succeed by not allowing our Council to continue to burden them with excessive taxes and fees that have nothing to do with the safety of our community. Houston’s growth will not survive this type of regression, so let’s push forward with progress, because that is what will develop our neighborhoods, our roads, our communities and in my eyes. . . COMMUNITY COMES FIRST!