Wednesday, June 27, 2007

City Council Wastes $500,000 - Kids Get Shot

The City of Detroit recently spent $500,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Famous Door II, now Bouzouki's II, a strip club in downtown Detroit. The lawsuit was the result of the City Council's efforts to prevent the club from transferring its ownership. Various religous leaders, such as Pastor Marvin L. Winans of the Perfecting Faith Church and Rev. Ronald Griffin of the Rose of Sharon Church of God in Christ, vigorously opposed the transfer of ownership.

Those opposed to allowing strip clubs to operate, or allowing them to change ownership, point to those facilities as havens for crime and urban blight. Quite frankly, I think those arguments are downright stupid.

Two children were shot in their home in the Warrendale neighborhood this past February. The shooters weren't strippers; they were drug dealers. The shooters were drug dealers who were looking for more drugs. The drug dealers killed those two children (ages 11 and 13) just because they were in the house.

A 1-year old boy was shot and killed, and two other people were wounded, in a seperate shooting this past Sunday. Again, the shooters were not strippers; they were drug dealers.

We have also seen an especially violent streak these past few days. Two children, ages 8 and 9, were shot in Detroit this past Saturday. A man in a wheelchair was killed in a Saturday shooting. Three other people were shot Thursday on Detroit's east side.

In none of these cases was the shooter a stripper.

Detroit's problem, in my opinion, isn't that we have too many strippers or strip clubs. It's that we have too many drug dealers. We could shut down every strip club in the city and it wouldn't do a single thing to prevent these crimes.

Our neighbors in Dearborn, for example, currently have two strip clubs operating in their main commercial areas. Those clubs haven't turned Dearborn into a slum nor have they caused a noticable increase in crime. Dearborn imposes tough regulations on those clubs and they are enforced.

When the City of Detroit went into a legal battle with the owners of the strip clubs, we as a community lost $500,000 that we really can't afford to lose.

That's $500,000 we could have spent hiring more police officers to crack down on the drug dealers who are shooting our children.

$500,000 that we can't spend on protecting our children because we wasted it trying to prevent a strip club from changing owners.

I'm disappointed that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the City Council allowed this to happen. We as a community gained nothing in this fight.

More importantly, I believe there is a better way to handle this situation; one that allows us to address the problems that strip clubs do have the potential to bring into a neighborhood while still protecting our neighbors, our children and ourselves from drug dealers.

I have previously pointed out on this blog that the women who dance in strip clubs earn a considerable amount of money and they earn it entirely in cash. Some of them are honest enough to pay taxes on it. A great number of them, however, do not pay any taxes to anyone.

All of these dancers are required to get a caberet license from the Detroit Police Department. It would be relatively easy to cross-reference a list of people who obtained this dance card with a list of people who filed a City of Detroit tax return.

No one is going to pay the $250 that it costs to get a dance card in Detroit unless they intend to dance professionally. And that means they're subject to a city income tax.

If they didn't file a City of Detroit tax return, the Income Tax Division of the Detroit Department of Finance should spring into action to collect that revenue.

By my calculations, the City of Detroit is losing somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million in uncollected income taxes from these dancers. That's enough tax revenue to post a police officer in front of every strip club in town to respond to any issues that develop and to deter those who intend to commit a crime.

More importantly, that would also leave us with enough revenue to hire another 200 or so police officers. Those additional officers could, in turn, go after the drug dealers who have been using our children as target practice.

In addition, the enforcement and collection of these taxes would be much easier if it was coordinated with the IRS, the Michigan Department of Treasury and the other cities around Michigan that have both strip clubs and a city income tax (e.g., Flint, Highland Park and Lansing).

I have argued this for months. Hopefully, someone will listen before another child gets shot it in Detroit.
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