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The Journal Gazette

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Friday, August 02, 2019 1:00 am

Adult decisions:

Swingers' club should rank low on the list as City Council sets its leadership priorities

Jama Smith

Jama Smith is a Fort Wayne resident.

I'm forced to make them on a daily basis, and they're quite possibly the least fun part of being an adult.

So when I was reading the proposals before City Council that would ban a swingers' club in the city, I had to ask myself how much this was truly an issue for the citizens of Fort Wayne and not just a matter of an adult decision to be made as a consenting adult.

The city has stated that “sex acts that occur at these places open to the paying public increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.” Yet there has been no evidence provided to verify this claim is directly linked to this business. In fact, in the past eight years of operation, the club directly in question has passed all annual inspections from the Health Department.

Another claim is that a swingers' club is a “public nuisance.” Upon viewing the pictures provided by the media, I saw no windows that displayed the inside goings-on; not even a sign that promoted the name or hinted at the nature of the business. Just a simple address on an undecorated building that could easily be mistaken for a basic local business.

Further claims in the proposal include the likeliness of increased drug use and crime. Again, there is no evidence that ties this to the club; in fact, when I searched public records, I found zero police incidents at the address the club holds. The owner of the club has publicly stated that, in the past eight years of operation, there have been zero drug busts, zero violent crimes,zero robberies or even vandalism calls.

What the club has reported are current taxes paid to the city, as well as more than $1 million in revenue brought in through local hotels, restaurants and retail shopping in addition to thousands of dollars in charitable donations given through the business to local nonprofits.

I truly understand the council's concerns when it comes to crime, drugs and public nuisances. In fact, as a social worker, I have several ideas how we can confront these.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates more than 3,500 individuals are homeless in Fort Wayne. Perhaps the council's time could be more effectively spent on ways to assist those who struggle to find their next meal or to battle the elements when they are left to live unsheltered.

When the winter months hit, those people are on the forefront of my mind far more than the location of an unassuming building.

An increase in sexually transmitted diseases in Allen County is certainly a concern. However, seeing that this club has been in business for years, I cannot fathom how it is suddenly responsible for this statistic. Could the answer possibly be instead that Indiana ranks 49th among states for public health spending (according the United Health Foundation)?

Could efforts and resources not be focused more upon educating and raising awareness to our citizens about the risks and proper use of protection, particularly in our high schools that maintain the largest demographic for acquiring sexually transmitted diseases?

If we continue with the public health concern, last year Indiana saw a statistic that out of all fatal collisions, 22% were reported to involve alcohol. However, I see no moves to ban breweries or bars on the agenda of the council. Just to clarify, I would fight hard if there were.

But there clearly is discrimination here where individuals are seeking not to improve public health but to establish their personal feelings on what they consider “moral.”

Why are we focusing on a business that has reported no criminal activity? A business that has caused no issues for our police officers or for the neighborhood in which it has settled?

Are there not more pressing issues between lowering our crime rates, protecting our citizens and safeguarding our officers?

These are just a few ideas of where our focus could and should be so much more advantageous. I don't claim they are the only ones, of course, and that's exactly the greater issue.

As we look forward to 2020, we are facing the possibility of huge budget cuts to Medicare, Social Security, the Department of Education, and aid to women and children. Any of these issues are truly the greatest of “adult decisions” that any adult on the council should take into consideration as a far worthier issue in their community.

We have become a society that adores grandstanding, witch hunting, judgment and blame-passing; our government and politicians have gotten far from solving issues and instead utilize their positions to seek scapegoats to increase their popularity.

That, in and of itself, is a grave concern.

And when it comes to whether I buy a membership at an adult club, drink an alcoholic beverage or enter an establishment to purchase a novelty item? As an adult, I can make a decision like that for myself without the city's help, thank you.

I have far more grown-up issues that I'm looking to the city's leadership to help with.