New City Tax Should be Stripped

Houston City Council voted 14-1 to include a $5/person fee on adult establishments.  Expected to generate about $3 million per year, this money will go towards reducing the backlog of over 6,600 untested rape kits.  Council Member Ellen Cohen proposed this, and you may remember that when she was a state representative, she passed a similar tax as well.

I agree with CM Cohen that the backlog of the rape kits is unacceptable; however I disagree with her method for solving the problem. While I personally do not like strip clubs, to connect that industry with rape is unfair.  CM Cohen said that sexually-oriented businesses do victimize sexual violence against women.  I disagree with her assumption.  There is a huge difference between a stripper being paid for a job that she agreed to do and someone who is raped and has no choice in the matter.  Also, while CM Cohen is correct that rape is sexual violence, rape is actually an act of aggression and violence, not sexual desire.   Attending a strip club, however, is about sexual desire, not violence/aggression.   The strip club industry is an easy target.  Very few people would want to be on record saying that they support strip clubs (I did mention that I am against them, right??)

The problem is that there is nothing they could really tax that is correlated to rape to pay for this.  Sure they could lobby the state and ask them to pass a law to allow them to collect money from rapists when convicted, but it is unlikely that they would collect much from this.  Basically the money needs to come out of the city’s general funds.  Rape is a crime, and solving the crime (by testing the rape kits) is a necessary function of the government.  What they choose to cut out of the budget to pay for this is really up to them, but it might mean cutting programs for a while that are not vital to Houston.  The city didn’t put enough money into testing rape kits in the first place, and now they have to pay the price (literally).

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2 Responses to New City Tax Should be Stripped

  1. Thank you for such a brave, insightful and knowledgeable post. I am very curious to see where CM Cohen got her information to support the validity of her statement concerning sexually oriented business’s and violent crimes. As you have pointed out, these types of establishments are easy targets for obvious reasons and are being taxed unfairly.
    Maybe the Council should look at the tax revenue that the “strip” clubs have generated for your city and the possible decrease in sales caused by this new tax. The 14-1 vote on such an issue is not uncommon in these financially stressful times but is an embarrassment to your Council. I feel this was a lazy and incorrect way to address this problem and reinforces the ignorance of those that correlate these types of clubs with sexual violence.

    Thanks again for your blog,

    Eric Bernstein
    Austin, TX

  2. Amy,
    Again you are “spot on”. I’d like to add (by the way, I agree with every word you said), the budget for FY 2013 was said to be “balanced”, that being said, there should be no reason for supplementing the budget with additional taxes. The fact that there will be $3m generated per year, begs the question of where will the revenue be spent after the backlog no longer exists?

    Clearly, the so-called balanced budget is not in fact “balanced”. I am dumbfounded at how one-day council will question an obvious shortsighted proposal or negotiation made without council’s approval and then the next day vote in favor.

    I agree with E. Bernstein as well, this was a lazy and incorrect way to address this problem and reinforces ignorance and a lack of research or other creative thinking.

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