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By Any Means


To be entered as testimony at the Schenectady City Council public hearing on Oct. 10 on the amendment to the adult-businesses law that would dramatically increase the classes of businesses limited to industrial zones, with the admitted and explicit intention of shutting down one bed and breakfast on Union Street at which the owner holds swingers parties:

Honorable council members. Thank you for the opportunity to make my thoughts on this very important issue known. I support this amendment whole-heartedly, but are you going to stop with just this and a beefed-up noise ordinance? Just a paltry response.

I mean, sure, the original complaint was supposedly just about noise, which could surely be handled with your new noise ordinance, but we all know, as you have so wisely shown by pushing this amendment through, that this is not actually about quality of life, but about sex.

Schenectady surely has no greater problem to deal with than appeasing a twitchy segment of its small cadre of remaining middle-class residents. If those good citizens are afraid that their children are going to become ill, get bad grades in school and/or lose all sight of the moral values they were raised with because strangers are having sex together somewhere in their neighborhood, behind closed doors, in a building that otherwise resembles all other buildings on the street, it is right and good that the city government should step in to make them feel better.

To wit, perhaps the city should consider a more comprehensive overhaul of its statutes and policies:

To begin with, trying to be business-friendly is overrated. It’s so complicated to act consistently enough to let business owners know they will be treated fairly under the law, and still protect quality of life.

Therefore, rather than wasting time trying to figure out all the specific things that businesses would need to do to be good neighbors—appropriate design, building upkeep, keeping noise levels down, snow-shoveling, etc.—putting those into law and then enforcing them, not to mention supporting and encouraging neighborhood associations that have relationships with their local businesses (phew! I mean, I’m out of breath already), why not just give the morally righteous squeaky wheels ultimate power? I propose an ordinance that says if someone who pays taxes doesn’t like something about what you’re doing and complains about it at least six successive city-council meetings, then you’re out of the city. Period. Finito. No need to resort to tricky excuses about zoning and the like.

Next, people keep circling around the question of whether these swingers parties are in fact part of Mr. Alexson’s business or not. It’s a good question, but you know he’s going to sue the pants off you before it’s decided for good. So all your good work at trying to corner him could go to naught, or at least be seriously delayed. Instead, how about an adult behaviors zoning ordinance? Everyone knows life is better in neighborhoods where the only people who have sex are married couples. (Or you know, it’s not the middle ages here, so probably civil-unioned couples or people who’ve been together for a really long time and have maybe started talking about marriage are OK too. Let’s not be draconian.)

Of course, you have to be careful of the civil liberties. I don’t care what people do in their personal lives, and you wouldn’t have to get into regulating that either. This ordinance would say just that if you want to engage in racy, bawdy behavior, you would have to do it far, far away from our property values.

In case you’re accused of only taking away rights, and never giving any, you could also add the Jeanine Pirro’s Political Life Memorial Act, which would state that behavior that would otherwise be illegal or morally questionable, such as trespassing, wiretapping, stealing someone else’s mail or using an elected position to pressure someone else to do one of those things on your behalf would be acceptable if you did it “as a wife.”

Maybe civil liberties are overrated anyway. Maybe fornication should just be plumb outlawed in Schenectady. It would get challenged, of course. But think of all the hotel stays (in hotels that don’t rent rooms for the purpose of sex, of course) by outside lawyers. You could charge inflated rates for hedonistic ACLU lawyers. It could go all the way to the Supreme Court, and you could use the publicity to attract a new wave of immigration of right-wing fundamentalist wingnuts. By the time you lost the court case, it wouldn’t matter—Schenectady would be a morally upright town with no need for adult-business or adult-behavior regulation in the first place.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

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