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Thursday, October 26, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Danny Westneat

4 feet from making sense

Seattle Times staff columnist

My favorite factoid from Campaign 2006 is the one about the Seattle cop who bought 300 lap dances at local strip clubs.

He was undercover, out to clean up the naked city. The goal: Catch strippers or customers in acts of prostitution or other crimes. It was all on your tab — at the going rate of $20 to $40 per lap dance. That's roughly $10,000 for the strip-club expense account for that one detective (not including tips!).

And what were the fruits of this yeoman effort?

Essentially nothing.

Since 2001, despite the work of this cop and several others as described to the City Council, the city apparently failed to charge a single dancer with prostitution. Or a single customer with soliciting it.

They did ring up 40 strippers for some misdemeanors. Such as being too naked. Or "simulating a sexual act" (as opposed to the real thing, which they had a hard time finding).

So it has gone in Seattle's inane war on strip joints.

I bring it up because Seattle voters must decide Nov. 7 whether to crack down on the clubs, with a "4-foot rule." It mandates everyone stay 4 feet apart — which would doubtless require ongoing police "work" to enforce.

"Our vice squad has got much more important problems to deal with, like wide-scale prostitution on Aurora and major drug dealing in parts of the city," says City Councilman Nick Licata, who oversees the cops as chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

I wouldn't mourn the strip clubs if they all died. But I agree with Licata, who calls the 4-foot rule "overkill" for something that isn't much of a problem anyway.

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"There are common-sense ways to regulate strip clubs, but this isn't it," he says.

Come to think of it, that sums up most of the local and state initiatives on this year's ballot. None quite make sense. It'd be OK with me if voters rejected all of them.

The worst is Initiative 920, to repeal the state estate tax. Paid for by a handful of multimillionaires, it slashes taxes for a handful of multimillionaires. The kicker: It all comes out of the hide of education, just as schools are laying off librarians or cramming 30-plus kids in classes. If ever an initiative deserved a thrashing, this is it.

Or take I-933, on property rights. It's an easy "no," though there's no doubt government sometimes overregulates land. I-933 would slaughter virtually any zoning restriction. Overzealous laws may need reshaping, but not with a bulldozer.

I'm also voting "no" on the tax for Seattle streets. It's the largest property-tax levy in city history.

Nobody's against street repair, but this beast is padded with extras. If you vote "no," you can be sure they'll be back with something smaller — and smarter, I hope.

Which leaves me with nothing but buses.

King County's sales tax for more bus service is hard to say no to. It's only one penny for every 10 dollars you spend. And we definitely need the transit.

Yes, buses are lumbering and mediocre. But this year they're the cream of a bad crop.

Danny Westneat's column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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