Friday, December 5, 2008

The Only Thing Swinging At (or Near) Seattle's Safeco Field Should Be Mariners' Bats

If the decision of Seattle city planner Andrew McKim stands, the city of Seattle could have its newest strip club placed within tobacco-spitting distance of the field used by the city's major league baseball franchise.  Read what the Seattle P-I had to say on December 3rd here.

The owner of the Pike Place-area Deja Vu club, Roger Forbes, applied for a permit to locate another one of his establishments at a location on First Avenue South that is only 400 feet away from Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners.

The permit can be challenged legally for a period of 21 days from issuance.  Since a suit would likely only succeed in tagging the baseball park as a community center, thereby providing it an 800 foot buffer zone in which no nude dance establishments can locate, let's just assume that a location one block further away from the field of play will be found and subsequently approved by the city.

I'm not even going to start on a rant about how this reflects on the cultural state of a city that continues to become less and less family-friendly.  I won't even take the perfunctory shot at Mayor Greg "Claudius" Nickels.  With precedent established on how cities may and may not deal with nude dancing clubs even the Pope would be reduced to quixotic measures.  Because of the costly legal challenge the city would most certainly have faced in either rejecting the permit application or creating zoning restrictions, the permit issuance was a fait accompli from the moment the ink on the application was dry.

My fiancee and I take my son to at least three or four games every season, and we attend another three or four on our own of with friends.  These are outings in which - strictly speaking - nudity is neither expected or welcome.  Our plans (pertaining to both frequency or attendance and our clothing required policy) will not change next season, nor will they be altered in whatever season the Deja Vu club opens its doors.

The point at which our plans will change, and the Mariners organization will lose out on close to $1,000 our little family spends at the field in an eight-game, will be when I hear discussions of what goes on behind the doors of the strip club while I am trying to enjoy an idyllic American pastime with my loved ones.  It is already disturbing to listen to loud conversations on topics that my mother would have scolded me for speaking about in public.

When does tolerance of differences cross the line of becoming intolerance of our fellow citizen's right to have public spaces that reliable preserve some semblance of decency?  Our society is based on democratic principles, that the people affected by something are the best fit to determine whether that something should proceed or be halted or be altered in some fashion of compromise.  This manifests in the institutions of trial by peers, in school boards, in city governments themselves and so many others mechanisms though which local people make decisions on issues that affect their environment. 

There are indigenous business and residents in these areas who will be affected, and they should not have to mount a legal argument to prevent this from happening.  The club owner is the interloper, and should have the burden of proving that they will not do harm to the social and economic environment they wish to enter.  They should make that case to the people, not to a bureaucrat who feels no direct impact from the decision they make.


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