A brawl over Cheshire Bridge Road

Inserec­tion owner seeks to un­seat Alex Wan from City Coun­cil

GA Voice - - News - By DYANA BAGBY dbagby@the­gavoice.com

A brawl may be brew­ing in the af­ter­math of the con­tro­ver­sial leg­is­la­tion pro­posed by At­lanta City Coun­cilmem­ber Alex Wan to oust sev­eral adult busi­nesses lin­ing Cheshire Bridge Road.

The coun­cil re­jected Wan’s pro­pos­als in a 9 to 6 vote on June 3, end­ing months of some­times bit­ter de­bate be­tween res­i­dents liv­ing in the area and those who own and work at the busi­nesses tar­geted by Wan’s pro­posed zon­ing or­di­nances. But an­other bat­tle may just be be­gin­ning.

Michael Mor­ri­son, owner of Inserec­tion on Cheshire Bridge Road, said he is pleased with the coun­cil’s vote, but he is not con­fi­dent some­thing sim­i­lar won’t come up in the near fu­ture if Wan re­mains on the coun­cil. So Mor­ri­son plans to run against Wan, the City Coun­cil’s only openly gay mem­ber, us­ing his own money if no­body else throws their hat in the ring.

An an­nounce­ment could come as soon as next week, Mor­ri­son said. All mem­bers of the coun­cil are up for elec­tion in Novem­ber.

“Alex Wan is not our can­di­date. We are busi­ness own­ers and we have a voice, too,” he told the GA Voice on June 4.

Mor­ri­son said he and other Cheshire Bridge busi­ness own­ers tar­geted by Wan’s pro­posed leg­is­la­tion have been talk­ing about back­ing a can­di­date to op­pose Wan for some time and con­tin­ued the con­ver­sa­tion late into the night af­ter the coun­cil vote.

“We’re a per­ma­nent part of the land­scape,” Mor­ri­son said of adult busi­nesses. “He was able to take his per­sonal views and push for­ward this leg­is­la­tion — that is not go­ing to hap­pen in this elec­tion.”

‘A VOTE FOR ME IS A VOTE AGAINST ALEX WAN’

Mor­ri­son is not afraid of a fight. As an owner of sev­eral suc­cess­ful adult busi­nesses that cater to LGBT and straight cus­tomers in metro At­lanta and a gay club opened last year in Mi­ami, he has a per­ma­nent bulls-eye painted on his back and is ac­cus­tomed to city of­fi­cials and res­i­dents liv­ing near his clubs want­ing to shut down his stores. Go­ing to court to fight to keep his busi­nesses open is part of the job.

In the mid 1990s he was ar­rested in At­lanta on ob­scen­ity charges and po­lice raided his stores sev­eral times. Even­tu­ally he helped strike down the state’s ob­scen­ity law in a time known by some as the “dildo wars.”

But he also ran into le­gal is­sues and in Fe­bru­ary 2005, Mor­ri­son was con­victed of tax eva­sion and spent nearly three years in a fed­eral prison. In­ter­est­ingly, he served time with for­mer At­lanta Mayor Bill Camp­bell, who in­sti­gated po­lice raids of Mor­ri­son’s shops. Camp­bell was also found guilty of tax eva­sion, ac­cord­ing to the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion.

“I may not be electable, but a vote for me is a vote against Alex Wan,” Mor­ri­son said.

Mor­ri­son said he is pre­pared to spend $150,000 in this elec­tion to try to de­feat Wan. Wan’s cam­paign had al­most $49,000 in cash on hand as of March 31, the date of the lat­est fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure state­ment. This amount does not in­clude money raised at an up­scale LGBT fundraiser on April 25 where many of the city’s gay elite served on the host com­mit­tee.

WAN: NEVER MEANT TO ANGER LGBT COM­MU­NITY

Wan’s pro­posed leg­is­la­tion an­gered many in the LGBT com­mu­nity who ac­cused him of be­tray­ing his own com­mu­nity by go­ing af­ter sex shops and strip clubs. Cheshire Bridge has a long his­tory serv­ing as At­lanta’s red light dis­trict and was where the first gay clubs opened and sev­eral con­tinue to op­er­ate.

Now that the vote is over, Wan wants peo­ple to un­der­stand he was try­ing to serve his con­stituency, those who live in Dis­trict 6.

“This ef­fort was never meant to anger the LGBT com­mu­nity, and I rec­og­nize that it did with some. I absolutely ap­pre­ci­ate the his­tory the com­mu­nity shares with Cheshire Bridge, which is why I made sure any strat­egy would not neg­a­tively im­pact the bars and clubs — ei­ther in this cor­ri­dor or else­where,” Wan said.

“I am sorry if folks feel my tar­get­ing the adult busi­nesses has un­done all of the com­mu­nity work that I have done for the over­all LGBT move­ment.”

News that Mor­ri­son or some other can­di­date may op­pose him doesn’t worry Wan too much, he said.

“I will be pre­pared if this is­sue prompts some­one to run against me this fall. I be­lieve I have served the con­stituents of Dis­trict 6 very well on a broad range of is­sues, and I would look for­ward to putting that record up against any po­ten­tial op­po­nent,” he said.

THE COUN­CIL VOTE

Vot­ing in fa­vor of Wan’s leg­is­la­tion were Wan, Carla Smith, Keisha Bot­toms, Michael Ju­lian Bond, Aaron Wat­son and H. La­mar Wil­lis. Vot­ing against were Kwanza Hall, Ivory Lee Young, Cleta Winslow, Natalyn Archi­bong, Howard Shook, Yolanda Adrean, Feli­cia Moore, C.T. Martin and Joyce Shep­erd.

Jane Rawl­ings, chair of Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit F, which strongly backed Wan’s leg­is­la­tion, was dis­mayed with the vote.

“I was hop­ing to gain coun­cil’s sup­port in rec­ti­fy­ing the bad zon­ing which al­lows adult busi­nesses to ex­ist in the back yards of our com­mu­nity’s res­i­dences. Such in­com­pat­i­ble uses should not lie in such close prox­im­ity to one an­other and re­sult in sus­tained, neg­a­tive im­pacts for sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods,” she said.

Wan had urged his fel­low coun­cil mem­bers to vote in fa­vor of his pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, not­ing that the idea to rid the Cheshire Bridge cor­ri­dor of a pro­lif­er­a­tion of sex shops and strip clubs orig­i­nated in 1999 with a task force. That task force’s vi­sion was then adopted by the City Coun­cil in 2005.

“A ‘no’ vote to me shows your will­ing­ness to al­low six or seven busi­nesses to con­tinue dic­tat­ing and neg­a­tively im­pact­ing thou­sands and thou­sands of com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers; not just res­i­dents but busi­nesses too,” Wan said at the meet­ing.

Dis­trict 2 Coun­cilmem­ber Kwanza Hall said he voted no be­cause of the “un­in­tended con­se­quences on mul­ti­ple other dis­tricts.”

He was also un­com­fort­able with zon­ing out non-con­form­ing busi­nesses that were grand­fa­thered in by the city.

“If you have an op­er­at­ing busi­nesses and just close them down – if you do that for one type of busi­ness you can do that for oth­ers,” Hall said. “This [leg­is­la­tion] opens the door and sets a prece­dent.”

Above: Michael Mor­ri­son, owner of Inserec­tion on Cheshire Bridge Road and other adult busi­nesses in­clud­ing a gay club in Mi­ami, said he will run against Alex Wan if no one else steps for­ward. (Photo by Dyana Bagby) Left: At­lanta City Coun­cilmem­ber Alex Wan may draw a re­elec­tion chal­lenge af­ter his leg­is­la­tion to oust sev­eral adult busi­nesses along Cheshire Bridge Road was re­jected by fel­low coun­cil mem­bers. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)

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