I have gotten all sorts of feedback about my email regarding the Gucci Mane rap concert. It's time to set the record straight on the issue. The real issues are (a) protecting our kids and (b) protecting the taxpayers.
This whole thing started when a citizen sent me an email with a link to a Gucci Mane youtube video that seemed very offensive to me persnally. I heard the n-word used a lot, but couldn’t really understand most of the lyrics. So I pulled the lyrics up online, and found that some of Gucci's lyrics promote the use of illegal drugs and the…how do I say it…unloving use of women. I challenge you to go online, and actually read some of the lyrics. They’re not as innocent as some people are claiming. The citizen pointed out that his tax dollars didn’t need to be subsidizing this stuff, and I agreed with him.
I would also agree that your tax dollars should not go toward subsidizing the KKK or some other hate group that wants to have a convention at the civic center. Unfortunately, it appears under federal law that ANYONE can use the civic center, if they pay to use it. We legally cannot reject anyone. Not Marilyn Manson. Not the KKK. The KKK can pay to rent it out, just as they can obtain a permit to parade down city streets. Federal law says they just have to abide by the civic center rules and regulations. I asked the city attorney to research exactly what those "rules and regulations" are, and can be. Right now it is still unclear.
One problem I am still having with this issue is that the way we book acts in our civic center means that hardworking taxpaying citizens could be subsidizing some shows that absolutely repulse the MAJORITY of the city. That’s not right.
I am hoping that we can adopt a policy that EVERYONE pays the retail, published rate for civic center use, unless the city commission or an advisory committee votes to provide some sort of subsidy. By subsidy, I mean that a producer will sometimes convince the civic center to reduce certain fees in exchange for a larger percentage of the concessions, or waive certain fees just to land the act. In this sense, the taxpayers wind up "subsidizing" the show. Would you want to foot part of the bill for a hate group convention through your taxes? Of course not.
Thus, I think we need to see if we can legally adopt a policy regarding subsidizing shows that will at least help people feel better that their tax dollars aren’t paying for things that most despise. We would not censoring. We would just not be financially promoting.
I also think we can learn something from the movie and music industries, as well as the public library. A 16 year old can’t get into an R rated movie without an adult, but he can go see a KKK rally or Gucci Mane at the civic center. I understand that a young kid cannot buy the hard core Gucci Mane CD without an adult, but the kid can go to the civic center and hear him live without an adult. The public library doesn’t carry KKK rally material or Gucci Mane CD’s, but kids can go to the civic center to get both. Something’s just wrong with that picture.
What can legally be done?
There are civic center trade associations. Perhaps we can lobby them to adopt a rating system like the movie and music industries have done. The acts that make their way around the country would come with a rating to warn parents about what their kids are going to see at the local civic center.
The local public library doesn’t spend your tax dollars lining the shelves with KKK books, Penthouse, Playboy, and Playgirl. Why should your civic center do something similar? Perhaps a civic center advisory group should decide what entertainment deserves taxpayer subsidy, and let the rest pay full retail rental. That seems to be compliant with federal law. Then, when Gucci Mane, Marilyn Manson, or the KKK book the joint, you can feel confident that there was no taxpayer subsidy, and they are paying full retail rates.
Let me clear up a few more things. This is not an anti-rap position. I believe rap is an art form just as much as blues, jazz, and rock and roll. My nine year old and I listened to some Christian rap on my ipod this weekend. My wife listens to a variety of artists that rap on occasion. Basically, I am forced to listen to whatever my wife likes, so yes, I listen to rap occasionally.
In my lifetime, I have also watched movies, listened to songs, and read books with content that would be "appalling" to my mother (although I remember her laughing hysterically through Richard Pryor's HBO special 30 years ago). The point is that that's my personal choice for me and me only. I can take comfort in knowing that while my kids are under my roof, it will be very difficult for them to watch, listen, or read "appalling" content, thanks in part to the various systems in place at the movie theatre, the music store, and the public library. I don't see why our civic center should offer any less protection for our kids.