The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OnMilwaukee.com, its advertisers or editorial staff.
Once again Milwaukee Christmas stockings will be stuffed with goodies this year, but there will be no stockings stuffed with dollar bills as Silk Exotic has lost yet another battle trying to open a gentlemen’s club near Downtown Milwaukee.
Last week the Common Council’s Licensing Committee held a public hearing on the applications to open clubs in one of two Walker’s Point buildings. The hearing started at 1 p.m. and lasted until well into the night. When it came to an end, after a seemingly endless parade of people who opposed the club, the applications were turned down.
I watched the entire thing on the city television channel. Not the most exciting television in the world, but it sure is nice sometimes to watch your government in action.
I can’t begin to count the number of public hearings I’ve sat through over the years. And there are a couple of things I know.
One is that the house is usually stacked. The people doing the hearing, in this case five alderpeople, normally have their minds made up before the first speaker desperately grabs the microphone and starts to shout. Heck, I’ve organized public hearings in the past where the only reason to do so was the say we had a public hearing. The matter had already been decided.
The other thing that a public hearing does is give the people who are making the decision cover for what they decide. In this case each of the alderfolks can say that they were so impressed with the vast number of people who opposed the club that they just followed the public will.
The third thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the people who speak in opposition to an idea usually don’t even come close to testifying why they truly oppose the idea.
Here’s how things worked in this case.
The chairman of the committee, T. Anthony Zielinski, gave a little speech saying that the decision would not be made on the "nature" of the business, in this case girls dancing in little bits of clothing. He said it would be decided on other issues that were brought to the attention of the committee.
And like a powerful shepherd, his flock followed instructions.
Speaker after speaker after speaker all testified about the parking problems, the decline in property values, the horrors of people getting out at bar time, the density of bars in the area, how crowded it was already and the fact that a strip club wouldn’t attract the kind of people they wanted to have in Walker’s Point.
Nobody bothered to explain just what kind of people they were talking about. But I can guess that most of these people have never even been in a strip club so how they would know what kind of people go there is beyond me.
Some lady even got up and said she didn’t want it in the area because of "sex trafficking." She was really worried about trafficking taking place in the strip club and I think she said Milwaukee was one of the top cities in the country for sex trafficking. I have been unable to find any evidence to back that up.
There were people who were from eight and 10 blocks away from the proposed sites who complained about the parking issues and the bar time chaos that would result from horny men being let loose on the streets after the club closed. There was even a mention that it might be dangerous for a woman walking the streets alone.
There is no evidence that I’ve ever seen that a gentlemen’s club has all of these "secondary" effects on an area. Let’s also say that there is already a strip club on South 1st Street, right in the heart of Walker’s Point. And nobody seems bothered by it.
Here’s what I think is going on here. And I’m pretty sure I’m right.
These people don’t like the idea of a strip club. They have almost no actual knowledge about strip clubs, but they hate the idea. It offends some kind of ethic they have. And I think that’s OK. If you are morally bothered by it, step up and say so. Don’t hide behind all this other crud.
But worse are the alderpersons who sat on that committee. I called three members of the committee: Zielinski, Milele Coggs and Russell Stamper. They didn’t call me back. Watching Coggs and Stamper at this hearing was like watching a pair of second-graders laugh and poke fun at everything. They looked like they were rarely paying attention to the speakers.
"I can tell you the deal was decided before we even had the hearing," said Ald. Joe Dudzik, who was a member of the committee. Dudzik voted against the club but said he supported a club in an area where there wouldn’t be resident opposition.
"I can tell you that this is not the way we are supposed to operate," Dudzik said. "Other members of this committee had their minds made up, no matter what happened at the hearing."
Jon Ferraro, the owner of Silk, said he is going to continue to search for a place to build a club Downtown. He also said that his lawyers are already at work on a pair of lawsuits that should be filed in a couple of weeks.
"I’m going to keep applying until we get a permit to run a club Downtown," he said. "And I keep getting discriminated against because of the type of entertainment I offer, I’ll keep filing lawsuits against the city."
I hope he succeeds. I don’t think a strip club is the total answer to developing our Downtown, but it should be a part of development plans.
It’s not going to be easy though with this gaggle of craven politicians manning the gates.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.