When politicians talk about running government like a business, they usually mean that they see themselves as the CEO of Government, Inc. They’ll steer the ship, make decisions rationally based on the bottom line, and keep things nice and efficient. Dallas’s Mayor Mike Rawlings hasn’t campaigned on that promise, but he has certainly applied one aspect of the business world to his governing: goofy jargon!
This week, Dallas City Council has been embroiled in a debate about what to do with the Exxxotica Sex Show, a porn convention that sought to use the city’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center this year, after previously hosting the 2015 event in Dallas. Rawlings, declaring himself the city’s “Chief Brand Officer”—there’s the goofy jargon—opposed the idea, pushing the council to ban the convention. On Wednesday night, that ban was passed by the council 8-7.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for Rawlings was apparently “the Dungeon,” a BDSM exhibition within the convention. As D reports:
“I read online that there’s a place [in the Exxxotica event] called the Dungeon, where women are tied up and whipped,” Rawlings said, his voice breaking with emotion. “There’s where it crossed the line for me.”
Rawlings isn’t exactly wrong about the Dungeon—curious parties can get a glimpse of what it’s like on videos circling the Internet—but it seems as if the women participating in the event are having a pretty good time. We’ve no doubt that Rawlings is sincere in his desire to ensure that women aren’t exploited in Dallas—his track record certainly suggests that—but the spectrum of things people enjoy can include things that might look like a crossed-line to the mayor.
Legislating morality is always a dicey issue, and it’s pretty likely that in this case it’s going to lead to a lawsuit. Rawlings seems comfortable with that—according to D, “he drew parallels between this potential legal fight and past fights the city has accepted even when it knew it was likely to be sued, as with denying gas drilling in a park or the (short-lived) plastic-bag ban.” Indeed, if Rawlings sees himself as the city’s Chief Brand Officer, then getting sued by a porn convention that he tried to keep out of the city might even be a good idea. At the very least, identifying Dallas as “so opposed to smut that we passed a likely-unconstitutional law kicking a porn convention out” seems to fit with Rawlings’ overall brand strategy.
Other city council members, of course, took another view of the issue. Passing 8-7 means that the ban was contentious, and the slippery slope of playing the ethics police was part of it. D notes that city councilman Mark Clayton raised the question that if Dallas can pass laws banning porn conventions, why not pass laws banning gun shows that sell semi-automatic weapons?
The answer, likely, still falls under the issue of “branding.” And the idea of a Dallas that’s pro-gun, anti-sex is still ultimately on-brand for the city.