LA Daily News Editorial: Area officials must do what they can to keep industry, jobs here

from MOST elected officials probably would prefer to stay out of the porn condoms discussion. After all, politicians are paragons of morality, well known to never lie, take money they haven’t earned, get tipsy and crash the car, cheat on their spouses, or get caught texting photos of their private parts. They’d hate to spoil their virtuous reputations by getting mixed up with the purveyors of smut.

But – sarcasm aside – public officials in Los Angeles County cannot ignore the ramifications of Measure B, which requires the use of condoms on adult film sets to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted disease.

In the wake of voters’ approval of the measure on Tuesday, officials should do what they can to limit the potential economic impact as pornography producers threaten to leave the industry’s hub in the San Fernando Valley.

As Los Angeles and other Southern California cities try to create more business-friendly conditions, their leaders should treat legal porn producers as they would any other industry that brings $1 billion and 10,000 jobs to the local economy.

Thus it was good to hear Los Angeles Councilman Mitchell Englander [pictured] say, in response to questions from an editorial writer last week, that city economic incentives to encourage the adult industry to stay “should be considered.”

“It’s not about standing up for the (porn) industry. It’s about standing up for industries in general,” said Englander, who represents the Chatsworth area and cast the lone council vote against a similar city ordinance in January.

Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the headquarters of porn producer Vivid Entertainment, said the issue is “not at the top of my list,” but he is concerned about departures.

Other officeholders should stand up too.

The dollar and job figures above come from the industry and Valley business advocates who led the no-on-Measure-B campaign, so they may be exaggerated. But even if the real numbers are a bit lower, porn is a significant contributor to the local economy. And it would be a significant loss if producers left.

Producers say the new law would kill profits because consumers won’t buy porn with condoms in it. They say condoms spoil the fantasy, the same way that showing movie stunt performers in safety harnesses would spoil a James Bond film.

The Free Speech Coalition, the adult entertainment’s trade group, says it will fight the new law in court on First Amendment grounds. It would like public officials to support that effort, which figures to at least delay enforcement of Measure B’s requirements. Meanwhile, it would like public officials to give its representatives a seat at the table when they discuss how the measure would be implemented.

A full legal hearing and a policymaking role for the people most directly affected are not too much to ask. And, although porn producers say nothing short of overturning the condom requirement will make them stay in L.A. County, officials should explore ways to get them to stay. (This will take imagination; adult movies don’t qualify for the city of L.A.’s film and TV production tax credits – not because they’re naughty but because they generally do not fit the budget parameters.)

However distasteful it might be to many people, porn production is legal here, and Measure B doesn’t change that. People who move to the area know their neighbors may be employed in the industry and other businesses that depend upon it. Candidates for office know the industry is among its constituents and are only too happy to spend its tax dollars.

As Englander notes, this is not a moral issue. Measure B won’t stamp out pornography; it will simply move its production somewhere else. That could mean Valley-based companies moving to Pasadena, Long Beach or Vernon – where the county law wouldn’t apply because cities have their own health departments – or out of the county or state. Leaving California might be the reality, however, if the proponents of Measure B follow through on a plan to get a statewide version of the condom-law adopted.

If politicians are serious about improving the environment for business locally, they should not play favorites. They should set aside fears about what cavorting with pornographers might do to their images. (“I don’t know what my priest at St. Brendan’s (Church) will say,” LaBonge said.)

They should stand with the porn industry, assuming the porn industry is willing to stand with them.

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