Politics & Government

Pierce County Council committee advances proposal for strippers’ ‘training program’

A Pierce County Council committee on Monday moved forward a measure that would require strip club dancers to go through a “training program” — earning a certificate of completion — to educate them about prostitution, human sex trafficking and domestic violence.

Councilman Jim McCune, R-Graham, said his proposed ordinance is needed to protect dancers from abuse.

Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma, said the program wouldn’t do enough to get dancers out of the business.

The committee voted 4-0 to advance the proposal without a recommendation. The measure — along with several potential changes suggested by Auditor Julie Anderson, whose office would oversee the training— is expected to go to the full council for a final vote Dec. 16.

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee spent nearly three hours deliberating about issues affecting the only strip club in unincorporated Pierce County, DreamGirls at Fox’s in Parkland.

Several members of the public spoke in favor of the changes, including a former dancer at Fox’s and several other strip clubs.

Raquel Goodwin said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from more than 17 years as an exotic dancer.

“It’s a very destructive and isolating lifestyle, even though it’s glamorized,” said Goodwin, 40, who stopped stripping nearly four years ago. “There is sexual assault and solicitation for prostitution inside the club, not only by patrons but also by management.

“There is definitely sex trafficking and labor exploitation that happens within the clubs,” Goodwin said. “We don’t hear about it because we’re not educated on it.”

Goodwin, of Tacoma, said she’s now an advocate for woman trying to leave the sex industry.

But Gilbert Levy, Fox’s lawyer, said the dancers are “not a trafficked population.”

The dancers are “intelligent, mature individuals” who don’t “need the government telling them what they should do,” he said.

“You’re passing a law that you don’t need to pass, that you’re not going to be able to defend, which is going to cost the county a lot of money,” Levy told the council members.

The council committee discussed another adult-business-related proposal, as well. It would prohibit a restaurant or bar for those 21 and over from locating within a 1,000 feet of or on the same parcel as an adult business.

McCune sponsored the resolution in response to Pole Position Sports Bar relocating next to Fox’s early this year. Pole Position would be grandfathered, so the ordinance would not affect it.

Ladenburg questioned the need for the change since Pole Position would still be permitted to serve alcohol.

“I’m concerned that we keep moving more and more to becoming the morality police for our community,” said Ladenburg, adding the council was overstepping its role.

McCune, who is chairman of the committee, interrupted Ladenburg, saying she didn’t have the right to make remarks directed at council members.

Ladenburg countered that she has the right to free speech.

“I’m not criticizing anybody on the council,” she said. “I’m talking about policy.”

With Ladenburg casting the only “no” vote, the committee advanced the resolution restricting businesses for those 21 and over that serve alcohol. If approved by the full council, the county Planning Department would study the change and the Planning Commission would make a recommendation back to the council by March 1.

The elected leaders spent most of their time asking questions about the training program for strippers.

The program would cover its own costs, collecting money from the club and perhaps from the dancers’ and managers’ license fees. The same training would be taught by video in the auditor’s office and with in-person instruction by a company through a contract.

Dancers and managers would be given contact information for services related to sexual exploitation, domestic violence and sex trafficking.

The measure would add two other requirements:

• The club would have to put up a 36-inch tall barrier, marking the required 10-foot distance between a customer and a dancer who is performing nude or partly nude.

• The club would have to post a sign inside and outside of each entrance and exit, urging people to call the Sheriff’s Department if they suspect illegal activity. The sign would include the Sheriff’s Department’s nonemergency phone number.