Public hearing on massage parlor licensing draws crowd

About 100 residents — most of them college-age — filled the Macon City Council chambers to address a proposal that would require a special business license for massage parlors.

The measure would require massage parlor employees to have a state license to practice massage.

But because the council needed to meet to discuss other matters, Councilman Mike Cranford said, only three speakers in favor of the ordinance and three against it would be allowed to address the council.

The ordinance comes two years after Councilman Erick Erickson first proposed city regulations for massage parlors over concerns of prostitution and possible human trafficking.

After the council’s Monday hearing, a few council members returned to the chambers to allow more people to speak about the proposed ordinance.

In the second part of the hearing, Melody Wright said she had been a prostitute in Nashville, Tenn., for 20 years, working in establishments similar to Macon’s massage parlors. In Nashville in 2005, she said, officials shut down 21 houses of prostitution in one day. That day, she said, changed her life.

“The people who sat on that city council were heroes,” Wright said. “They saved my life.”

After completing rehab, Wright said, she’s about to begin her first legal job and take college classes.

Massage parlor advocate David Corr also addressed the Macon City Council.

He said the city doesn’t require a privilege license for the Catholic Church despite accusations of molestation by priests. He said the parlors bring tourists to Macon and increase the value of property where they are located.

He said the legislation itself is “a joke” and said the legislation’s sponsor, Erickson, is a “national joke” who he also referred to as a “lifestyle Nazi.” Corr said he expects the city to be sued for “millions of dollars” if this legislation passes.

The meeting also was attended by political leaders who spoke in favor of the legislation.

State Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, was allowed to speak but wasn’t counted as being for or against the ordinance. He congratulated the council for pursuing prostitution in the massage parlors and advocated using existing laws to go after the “johns,” who solicit prostitutes both on the street and in the parlors.

The existing laws, he said, allow the city to put the pictures of johns in the newspaper and send notice to their spouses when they’re arrested.

Houston County Assistant District Attorney David Cooke, who has announced he’s running for Bibb County District Attorney, said he’s tired of having to explain to his children what the massage parlor billboards along the interstate mean. As a member of the Special Victims Unit in Houston, he said this issue is a major focus for him.

“This legislation is another tool in the toolbox for making these places go away,” Cooke said.

Answering claims that the police have “more important things to do,” he said that because the legislation creates a special business license, it takes pressure off of local law enforcement and allows them to put their resources elsewhere.

Macon resident Monique Taylor, who refused to verify the spelling of her name after the meeting, urged the council not to adopt the ordinance, saying the police should put their time into crimes of a more serious nature such as street prostitution.

Another massage parlor advocate, Brittany Anderson, who likewise refused to verify the spelling of her name, said, “I’m for the spas. I’m not for trafficking.”

To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.