Strippers don't get a lot of sympathy from City Hall. Already part of what may be the most reviled (and heavily regulated) industry in Seattle, so-called "adult entertainers" have few political advocates. (Since "Strippergate," not one current candidate for council has accepted a dime of strip-club money.) About 100 or so strippers spoke for themselves on Wednesday, August 10, begging the council's finance committee, chaired by Richard McIver, to reconsider onerous new regulations that could put Seattle's four remaining strip clubs—and its estimated 550 licensed strippers—out of business.
The rules, which Mayor Greg Nickels proposed because of a pending court case that could put an end to the city's 16-year-old "temporary" strip-club moratorium, would ban lap dances; bar dancers from taking tips directly; and require lighting in strip clubs somewhat brighter than that at City Hall. In addition to the strippers' testimony, Gil Levy, a lawyer for Rick's strip club, made a compelling case against the new rules in a letter to the council, calling them "a cynical effort to avoid adopting a comprehensive land-use policy" dictating where new strip clubs could locate. (Somewhat less compellingly, Levy described the club's many charitable contributions, including to the Lake City Girls Drill Team and the Miss Petite Teen International Pageant.)
Sitting in his office a few minutes after testimony wrapped up Wednesday, McIver, who had unequivocally supported the strip-club rules, sounded newly conflicted about the proposal. "We are talking about people's livelihoods," he said. Although most city officials I talked to believe the new rules will harm clubs economically, the mayor's legislation assumes the changes would have no financial impact on the city. Tell that to strippers and the clubs that employ them, which contribute nearly $210,000 a year to the city in the form of license fees and taxes. On Friday, after council members Peter Steinbrueck and Tom Rasmussen asked him for more time to consider the proposal, McIver decided to delay the legislation until September 21—one day after the September election.
So far, neither of McIver's two opponents, Robert Rosencrantz and Dwight Pelz, has raised strip clubs as an issue. According to the rumored results of a poll commissioned by the Downtown Seattle Association (the same poll that found 56 percent of voters opposing the monorail) both candidates lag behind McIver in a race that remains essentially wide open, with 63 percent undecided. Among incumbents, only Richard Conlin reportedly fared poorly in the poll, lagging behind challenger Paige Miller by seven percentage points.
A compromise between the Seattle Fire Fighters Union and the mayor, which would have funded four-man fire crews but also required firefighters to work extra hours, was roundly rejected by the union's membership earlier this summer, causing union leaders to resuscitate the controversial, unfunded mandate. Last month, the union spent $25,000 paying a California firm to gather signatures to put an initiative mandating four-man crews on this November's ballot.