Bob Sanborn, CEO of the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, and other advocates against human trafficking said on Wednesday that they should have been consulted before a deal was struck.
Mayor Annise Parker, who brokered the agreement, said it ended a lengthy lawsuit and gives the city more funds to fight trafficking.
“We settled a 16-year-old lawsuit and it’s unfortunate that they don’t agree with my decision,” Parker said. “I don’t think we should get sidetracked by those folks who simply don’t like the adult entertainment industry.”
Sanborn said his group wants to make sure the city is committed to going after traffickers, even if they are connected to those topless clubs making yearly payments to the city. Children at Risk also wants the city to license or close almost 300 other unlicensed sexually oriented businesses, like some massage parlors and cantinas.
“Houston is a hub for human trafficking; some would say we are ‘the hub’ for trafficking,” Sanborn said during a news conference. “This is the wrong deal and it’s certainly the wrong city.”
See here and here for the background. I don’t think the city was required to consult with anyone on the settlement terms of this 16-years-long litigation, and if their goal was to bring that case to a reasonably satisfactory close then the last thing they would want to do is involve more parties in the negotiations. That said, the city clearly did at least run the terms of the deal past the other groups that were present at their own press conference. I don’t know if the city included Children at Risk on the list of those it notified about the settlement or not – perhaps they did and C@R chose not to attend that press conference, and perhaps they had a smaller list of invitees in mind. I think the terms are acceptable, and I think it makes sense for the city to try to get the bigger clubs to voluntarily cooperate so they can concentrate on the more marginal players. Licensing and enforcement is a matter of resources, and the city hopes that this settlement will allow it to deploy its resources more efficiently. Check back in a year or two and we’ll see how that’s going. As for the complaints raised by some Council members about the settlement, well, that’s just how it is. As there was no payout to be made by the city in the deal, there was nothing for Council to approve, so there was no role for them to play. There’s not much more to it than that.
One more thing:
Sanborn noted that Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and District Attorney Devon Anderson support Children at Risk’s anti-trafficking efforts and read statements from each.
“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” according to Garcia’s statement. “It’s a greedy industry that thrives on forced labor, drug addiction and sometimes even illegal imprisonment.”
The story, especially the headlines, gives the impression that Sheriff Garcia and DA Anderson were standing with Sanborn, C@R, and the other groups in criticizing the settlement. We don’t know what Anderson said, but that clip from Garcia’s statement isn’t specific to the deal. Out of curiosity, I contacted the Sheriff’s office to ask about this, and was informed that Sheriff Garcia was not making a comment on the city’s deal with the strip clubs, and has not made any comment on that deal. Like I said, that wasn’t clear – to me, at least – from the story, so now you know.