So, the penny-pinching Star Valley Town Council may have finally found something on which it’s willing to splurge: A strip club. Seriously?
Town leaders have long chaffed at the operation of one of the town’s handful of businesses — Pete’s Place — a topless cabaret. For years, the place has operated brazenly, effectively defining a town otherwise known to outsiders for its speed cameras: Yep, that’s Star Valley, whisper the wags — speed traps and a strip joint.
So now, it looks like Pete’s Place could become the latest victim of this interminable downturn. It’s slated for a trustee sale, as the bank seeks to recover the roughly $300,000 loan it extended to owner Joseph Soldevere.
The Star Valley council has tentatively discussed bidding at that trustee sale, in hopes of buying the cabaret and that defining highway strip of a strip club.
Now, we understand the temptation — we do.
Star Valley incorporated to protect its water and its marvelous, rural, residential identity. Most folks in Star Valley love the place just the way it is — big lots, horse corrals, local people with deep roots. Pete’s Place with its big signs clearly doesn’t fit the community’s self image.
Moreover, the town has $2.6 million in the bank, enough to make a cash purchase and spare the town the stigma forevermore. The town had to accept the already operating topless joint when it incorporated and a new owner could claim the same grandfathering if he bought it and continued to operate a strip club.
Still — even with all that taken into account — we don’t think government has any business buying up private businesses just because you don’t like the owner or the type of business being operated.
Once the town council sets a precedent for buying out a business it does not like, what will keep it from buying the next business some council member does not like? What if the council does not like your business, should it spend taxpayer money to buy a business just to close it down? How does that fit into our free enterprise system? Does a town council have the right to say which businesses can operate in their town?
Granted, towns can and should buy land to serve public purposes. The town can condemn or acquire land for roads, flood works, sewers and parks.
But that doesn’t give government the right to buy up businesses they don’t like. Even with good intentions, such a policy crosses an ill-advised line.
Besides, the town accumulated that cash reserve through years of careful budgeting, tough decisions and a decision to offer minimal public services. The town has even weathered the recession with admirable — even miserly — restraint. This seems like an odd moment to start throwing money around.
The issue will light up the council’s agenda tonight. But we’d offer them the same Shakespeare quote we’d offer your average cash-strapped male customer sitting in the parking lot of a strip club: “’Tis one thing to be tempted, another to fall.”
On the other hand: They could go with Mae West: “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.”
The best thing about living in Rim Country
The storm that blew through Rim Country spewing beauty and chaos reminded us, once again, why we love this place so much.
Not because of the stirring change of season, although that’s awfully nice. Not because of the giant cottonwoods turned into ice sculptures — although that stirs the soul.
Not because of the sight of the Rim transformed by snow — although that stands as one of the world’s great spectacles. No, we love storms because they bring out the best in so many of our neighbors — here in our own corner of paradise. Just skim through the paper.
When a woman and her grandson got hopelessly stuck up in Whispering Pines, four good Samaritans spent an hour digging her out and getting her back on the road — as the snow continued to drift down. When scores of people found themselves stranded by highway closures or unable to get home on buried roads — volunteers opened an American Red Cross Shelter at Payson Elementary School that offered refuge to about 35 people.
When road conditions grew dangerous, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and police department volunteers stood for hours at road blocks in bitter cold to protect motorists.
All across Rim Country, neighbors showed up to help, with buckets of water to compensate for frozen pipes, with shovels to help clear driveways, with food and firewood.
Even businesses got involved, as when Walmart donated food and water to the folks holed up in the shelter. The blizzard of stories about people helping their neighbors reminded us, once again, that the best part about living in Rim Country remains the people who live down the road.
Of course — the sight of the Mogollon Rim covered in snow ain’t a bad fringe benefit either.