City Council Backs Alaska Adult Store

Matt O'Conner
PALMER, Alaska — The City Council has affirmed the right of the Movie Gallery store to continue renting adult DVDs despite rabid protest from anti-adult groups at meetings on the subject.

In voting 5-1 against drafting an anti-obscenity statute that could have been used to shut down the store, as many in the community had requested at the heated meeting, the Council told a largely hostile audience that the community ultimately will determine the fate of Movie Gallery’s adult DVD section based on whether residents choose to rent from the store.

“I come from a long line of libertarians,” Councilmember Tony Pippel said. “The city should not dictate what people can do, except as it impacts public safety and health.”

Councilmembers suggested that if residents really want the store, in operation for only four months, to stop renting adult material, they can choose not to give the store their money or even organize a boycott.

In the meantime, the Council asked the city’s attorney to submit a new ordinance to regulate businesses selling adult material, looking specifically at the possibility of zoning adult video stores into industrial areas and banning topless bars, peep shows and prostitution.

That wasn’t good enough, according to many in attendance.

“What I see is you rolling out the red carpet and saying ‘Come on in, perverts,’” resident Carolyn Kuch said. “The levity I experienced in your [Council members’] conversation was insulting. It is apparent that none of you have had a wife, a daughter, a sister, or a mother who has been raped by someone who was addicted to pornography.”

The Council’s one dissenter, Kathrine Vanover, added that she disagrees with Pippel’s “invisible hand of the market” approach.

“I'm elected to make decisions for the community, and I should be able to stop it in my community,” Vanover said.

Resident DeLena Johnson seconded Vanover’s sentiment, saying, “It's important for the city councils, for the assembly and for state lawmakers to legislate morality because that's why you're elected.”

While Palmer does have an obscenity ordinance, it is nearly 30 years old and offers no direction for dealing with adult videos. Police Chief George Boatright said he has avoided using the ordinance against two smaller video stores selling adult DVDs because “enforcement of it is highly in question.”

He added that adult DVDs make up less than 30 percent of Movie Gallery’s inventory, so it is doubtful that the store would qualify as an adult business if any action against it were challenged in court.