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Federal Way citizens blast Hustler Hollywood billboard
A billboard for adult store Hustler Hollywood recently appeared on the stretch of Pacific Highway South between South 348th and South 356th streets in Federal Way.
Although the billboard has since been taken down, it sparked an interesting conversation between both Mayor Skip Priest and citizens during the Federal Way City Council's June 5 meeting.
Federal Way resident Camille Perry spoke on behalf of a group of citizens who were concerned by the billboard's racy imagery and prominent placement along a major thoroughfare of the city.
"The billboard contains a nearly naked woman advertised for Hustler, an adult product retailer," Perry said. "The advertisement states: Love is free. We sell the accessories. It then goes on to list the accessories, which include lingerie, club wear, shoes, novelties, toys, DVDs and erotica. It then gives the address for the business, which, by the way, is not in Federal Way, but in Tacoma."
Priest shared thoughts about the billboard and what power, if any, the city has to regulate such advertising.
"This issue ventures into a part of the law where, for better or worse, the courts have limited the powers cities have to regulate because of free speech concerns," Priest said. "The city, in fact, has no authority to dictate to the billboard owner, Clear Channel Communications, to remove a particular display. However, the court of public opinion does have significant power to influence the decisions of private companies. Clear Channel heard directly from citizens about the concerns with the display, and it appears to have impressed them."
Perry addressed the First Amendment concerns, saying her group respects the right to free speech, but feels a billboard along a busy highway is not an appropriate place for such speech to be placed.
"There is…an appropriate time, place and manner for such advertisements. The open streets where the public has no choice as to whether or not they see the ad, is not the appropriate place or manner for this kind of advertising," she said. "We acknowledge that technically, this billboard is not pornographic, because there is no explicit nudity. It is, however, a clear invitation to pornography, and an introduction to pornography."
The concerned citizen described the detrimental effects that many feel pornography imparts to those who make it, and those who consume it. Because of the danger she and her group feels pornography poses, especially within the public square, she requested the city council to consider creating an ordinance or resolution that would restrict this kind of advertising within city limits.
"We do not want to have our children, or even ourselves, unwittingly exposed to pornography of any degree. We demand a community free of this blatant kind of sexual advertising. If we, the citizens of Federal Way, allow this introductory form of pornographic advertising to infiltrate our area, we are opening the door to more graphic and sexually blatant advertising," Perry said. "This must be prevented in the future. We are a family oriented community."
Perry asked that the council hold a town hall style meeting to discuss it further. Priest gave an open invitation to Perry's group, and any others, to come to City Hall and speak with himself and City Attorney Pat Richardson.
"Whether or not we happen to like the First Amendment, our forefathers actually put it in the Constitution as a right…Freedom of speech," the mayor said. "That requires us to respect that. And there are limitations on what the city can do, but we would certainly be glad to talk about those issues in specific detail with you or your representatives."