That is the minimum amount of money that we know Measure B will cost the county of Los Angeles over two years. That does not include the additional costs of administrative review and appeals, law enforcement, confiscation and warehousing. The bottom line is that Measure B will cost the taxpayers at least a half million dollars to enforce a law that will do nothing to reduce HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Measure B is a Los Angeles County ballot initiative that would require that condoms be used for vaginal and anal sex in porn films shot in the county. The ballot measure comes with a hefty price tag for taxpayers, is full of loopholes, is largely unenforceable and draws energy and resources away from the communities that are most affected by STI and HIV infections in Los Angeles County.
These are the basic facts to know about Measure B:
Proponents of Measure B argue that adult film producers will be paying for the cost of the measure, but that isn't exactly true. The County will be responsible for paying for and creating the infrastructure to enforce the law if it passes. It is hoped that later on the County can recoup costs through the permitting process.
In a letter to the Country Board of Supervisors, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the County Health Officer, wrote:
There would be significant startup costs to DPH regardless of the level of compliance with the ballot measure and the number of Public Health Permits reviewed and issued. Although there are cost recovery provisions in the ballot measure, the County may face unfunded costs due to an unknown but potentially large complaint volume that could occur from segments of the industry that are un-permitted.
The letter goes on to explain that the two-year cost of the measure would be a minimum of $582,932. Keep in mind that this is money the County is going to spend as soon as the measure passes. They will then hope to recover the costs through a permitting process, but they have yet to create a fee structure. So if this ballot measure pushes porn production further underground or simply out of the County, taxpayers will still be stuck with the bill.
The porn industry has evolved. Porn can be shot in a hotel room, a mobile home or a person's bedroom. Many producers can easily forego applying for permits and therefore will not have to contend with regulations and permit fees. No regulations will mean less oversight of producers. No permits will mean less money for Los Angeles County.
According to MarketWatch, "A detailed analysis of the adult entertainment industry's medical testing database reveals only 280 performers live and work year-round in Los Angeles County and make up the bulk of scenes shot and subject to the provisions of Measure B."
Are Los Angeles taxpayers prepared to pay over half a million dollars for a ballot measure that is about the mere promise of reducing HIV and STIs in 280 people?
In 2008 there were 2,413 new HIV infections in Los Angeles County. Some 80 percent of those infections were among men who have sex with men, and the majority of those cases were among men of color. Between 2004 and 2010 there were four possible HIV infections among adult film performers. That comes out to less than one per year. Please understand that this measure is not about HIV infections.
In 2010 there were 56,939 new STI infections reported in Los Angeles County. The majority of cases were among young people of color. Keep in mind that the estimate of adult film performers in Los Angeles County is 280.
Additionally, studies have found that the most common site of infection for adult film performers was the "oropharynx" -- in other words, through oral sex. However, Measure B does not require condoms for oral sex, so the vast majority of STIs would not be prevented.
We are all concerned about reducing the rates of STI and HIV infections, and we know that in order to do that, we must focus on the communities that are most severely affected. That means turning our attention to gay men and people of color. Yes, it may not be as sexy and exciting as the porn industry, but those communities are the ones most in need of money and resources for reducing infections.
The people of Los Angeles have to ask ourselves, "Where should we be focusing our scarce resources?"
A vote for Measure B will mean that we will spend a minimum of half a million dollars to create infrastructure to comply with a law that will do very little to reduce infections in the county. A vote against Measure B will send a message that the people of Los Angeles want to focus on the communities that are most affected. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has spent at least $1.6 million on this initiative. Imagine what that money could do to help those most in need of treatment and prevention.
We can reduce STI and HIV infections if we invest in the health of gay men, young gay men of color and women of color. People of those communities have value. They may not be the subject of countless Los Angeles Times articles or the focus of costly initiatives, but they do matter. Let's do away with useless ballot measures and focus on the needs of our communities. Vote no on Measure B.
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