BURBANK, Calif.—The "No on Government Waste" Committee, which opposes Los Angeles County's Measure B—the mandatory condom and health permit initiative that will appear on county ballots this November—held its first press conference this morning, in part to show that there is business support from across the county to strike down what one business leader described as "regulations when there is no problem to regulate, and when the impact of that regulation is going to have a far-reaching detrimental impact on our region's economy."
Present for the conference were Free Speech Coalition Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas, Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) Chair David Adelman and President Stuart Waldman, as well as well-known adult performers James Deen, Stoya and Tanya Tate. They were introduced by James Lee, who heads up the "No on Measure B" campaign.
"With an unemployment rate stuck at 12 percent in the county, it is clear the threat Measure B poses to the local economy should it pass," Lee stated in a press release handed out at the press conference. "Measure B is no less than an attempt at government overreach in setting up a system where the county would have to hire more government employees and pay them to hang out at adult film sets to check for condom usage. It's a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars."
Douglas began by charging that the ballot measure represented "an effort to effect a political agenda" rather than to help adult performers, and noted, "The risk that the adult industry presents to itself and the community is extremely low, far lower than any other form of entertainment. ... Here the performers are knowledgeable of the risk they're taking; they are adults in the true sense of the word."
He added, "I do want to emphasize the fact that the medical risks are low, not high, the performers understand the risks they're taking, and the system that's currently in place, the self-regulatory system of the adult industry testing every 14 or 28 days, represents an industry that has done an extraordinarily good job at protecting performer health. The number of infections in extraordinarily low."
Both of the VICA representatives stressed the economic loss to the county should the adult industry be forced to move because of the excessive regulation that would be caused by Measure B.
"On an annual basis we watch anywhere from 300 to 400 pieces of legislation on the local, state and national level, to ascertain whether or not those pieces of legislation are good for business in the [San Fernando] Valley or bad for business in the Valley," Adelman said, "and when we saw Measure B come across our computer screens, it became immediately apparent to us that this was bad for business in the Valley."
It will be gratifying for members of the adult industry to hear the industry described by Adelman as "an important part of the matrix" that makes the entertainment industry in general "one of the most essential components to the economic vitality of this region," and that adult "should be acknowledged for all of the contributions it has made to the Valley over the years by providing thousands of jobs to people and providing business to hundreds of companies that support it at all levels, behind the camera and in other areas supporting the industry."
Among the organizations that oppose Measure B include the San Gabriel Valley Legislative Chambers of Commerce for 15 cities such as Arcadia, El Monte/South El Monte, Monrovia, Rosemead, San Dimas and Sierra Madre, as well as the Regional Chamber Alliance and Legislative Forum, some of whose members include Downey, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Cerritos, Whittier, Santa Fe Springs and the La Mirada Chambers of Commerce.
Adelman also opined that the adult industry is basically no different from any other business. "They face the same challenges as every other businesses: Taxes, rising business costs, shrinking profit margins, needing to retool to accommodate all these challenges that are thrown in their way, and more importantly government regulation," he said.
"In order to stem the tide of businesses that have left our region, and to encourage businesses within our region to grow and prosper, VICA believes that our politicians should be bending over backwards to make Los Angeles County as business friendly as possible," Adelman advised. "Well, the politicians sure have missed the boat with regard to Measure B. Measure B is yet another regulation in search of a problem and will make Los Angeles County even less business friendly than it already is. At a time when growing the economy and growing more jobs is imperative, Measure B is precisely what Los Angeles County doesn't need. Should Measure B pass, we expect to see thousands more on the unemployment lines, and billions of dollars sucked out of our economy, and as a result, VICA is strongly in opposition to this measure, and is one of the key business organizations who's now dedicated to promoting the business across Los Angeles. We need to stand up to this overreach of government regulation and oppose Measure B."
"This industry plays an important role in the valley, the city of Los Angeles and really all of Southern California," Waldman echoed. "The jobs that this industry creates are not just the actors; it's electricians, it's transportation, it's web services, it's food service—it's a lot of people and a lot of residents in the San Fernando Valley. The industry has been openly courted by other states, who are actually offering them incentives to move to those other states, but the industry isn't asking for anything. They're not asking for film credits, which we're giving to other areas; they're not asking for any special dispensation, which we give to a lot of companies. ... The industry's just asking to be able to do their jobs, to be left alone, and this measure, if it's passed, will push people to leave, and that will be detrimental to this city, detrimental to the Valley."
When it came the actors' turn to speak, their focus was less on the economic aspects than on the freedom to do their jobs without being excessively regulated.
"Health and safety are very important to performers," Deen stated. "I can safely say I have done a lot of adult scenes, probably more than the majority of people in the world. I have yet to contract a single STD or STI. Everybody takes it very seriously. Everybody cares. The idea of restricting our ability to make choices of our own is insulting, it is rude and frankly, it's unconstitutional. To say that you have to make your movie in a certain way is illegal. I mean, saying that performers have to wear condoms because it's giving a bad example or anything like that is the equivalent of saying you can't have car chases in real movies because all that driving unsafely is inappropriate."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with using condoms in porn," he continued. "The problem is mandating it. So, one, it's a financial detriment, and two, it violates my rights as an American, and I don't approve of that as an American. It is an unconstitutional law, it is unfair, it is insulting saying we cannot take care of ourselves. We've had zero HIV transmissions in over eight years. There's no other community in the entire world that you can find that. Adult industry sex is as safe as you can possibly get. You have a group of people, all tested regularly, all engaging in sexual activity with one another."
"I feel safer having sex with other performers who are tested regularly than I would using a condom which is only 87 percent effective, and that doesn't cover your mouth, that doesn't cover potential sores like syphilis that can be transmitted with a condom easily," Stoya added. "I find it insulting that people are trying to legislate a law that implies that I'm not capable of calculating the risk myself and deciding that it's my choice to take what I see as the safer route because there's no such thing as safe sex, only safer."
"We understand; we're all professionals, we understand the risks, and in the U.K., everybody goes and gets tested just like in the U.S.," Tate stated, commenting on her experiences working overseas. "We all get tested regularly, whether it's 14 or 28 days, and when I go on set, I make that choice. That's my choice to go on set to have sex on camera without a condom, and I think it's absolutely disgusting that some man wants to come in and head a campaign to make all us performers use condoms."
Indeed; none of the performers had good words for the man behind Measure B, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, describing him as not involved in the adult industry at all and "completely clueless" about its practices. Deen in particular stated his support for condom use by the public in general, distinguishing the generally untested public with adult performers who test at least once per month, and urged that sex education courses include fact-based discussions of the use of condoms in disease prevention.
There was even a bit of audience participation at the press conference, when Girlfriends Films owner Dan O'Connell weighed in on how the measure would affect his company—and how his company is good for the Valley.
"We're really the perfect business from the standpoint that 90 percent or more of our money comes in from outside Los Angeles County," he noted, "and yet all the money that comes in from outside Los Angeles County, which includes we have a good business in Europe and around the world, and that money is almost entirely spent in Los Angeles County on salaries; we have four facilities that we pay rent on; we pay to have our DVDs manufactured; we pay printing companies and employees and we pay out on healthcare, and yet we have nothing in our facilities that requires any sort of special filtration or biohazards or dangerous liquids to be disposed of. We have a very green footprint; we bring in money from around the world and invest it in right her in LA County so we really are the perfect business."
"Government regulation should really have a purpose," Adelman summarized, "and we're hearing from the performers, we're hearing from attorneys who work in the industry, we're hearing from the head of the Free Speech Coalition that there is no health problem here, and in fact it provides examples of better health and safer sex and all those things. VICA as a business organization detests government regulation where there is no problem to regulate. ... It's time for us as Californians not to be egotistical and think that businesses are going to stay in California simply because we are California. We have to look at the issues that face the businesses in California and we really need to address them and not overburden them with regulations that have no purpose."