oak lawn pressed on anti-playboy fight

by victoria pierce
special to the tribune

july 14, 2005

an oak lawn man is not giving up on a campaign to remove pornography from video stores, gas stations and the public library.

mark decker approached the village board tuesday about enforcing village obscenity ordinances, which prevent the distribution of obscene materials.

he has also requested that the oak lawn public library drop playboy from its magazines available to adults. the library board unanimously declined last month, saying it had an obligation to serve the needs of the entire community, not just one person.

in an attempt to show the library board he is not the only one offended by the presence of playboy in the library, decker took out an ad in a local newspaper this week with a form soliciting opinions on the issue. he is hoping hundreds will fill it out and return it to him.

the magazine is behind the circulation desk, not out in the stacks tucked between newsweek and popular science. anyone wanting to peruse playboy must show proof of age and read it upstairs, away from the children's section on the lower level.

decker asked that village board send a letter to the library urging the library board to reconsider its decision and remove playboy altogether.

that is unlikely, said library director james casey, who noted that the library board considered the matter carefully before making its decision. casey said the library has received "all kinds of comments" from the public since decker raised the issue, but those calls have been from people on both sides.

"we have a large and diverse community, and we have to decide accordingly," casey said. "that's final as far as i'm concerned."

but decker, who is married with three young children, said the library board is "completely out of touch. ninety percent of the community disagrees with their decision. ... it's ridiculous to spend tax dollars on playboy."

the village board did not commit to sending a letter to the library but has pledged to take a closer look at enforcement of the village's obscenity laws, which mirror state law.

police chief robert smith said he has discussed the matter with the department of justice. he is likely to send a letter to local businesses letting them know that simply putting a risque magazine or video behind the counter or in a backroom would not protect them from enforcement of local obscenity ordinances, he added.

trustee marjorie joy did some sleuthing of her own, visiting a local video store that has an adults-only backroom with pornographic movies for rent.

what she saw shocked her.

"not only is it obscenity. it is the exploitation of women. it is a disgrace," joy told the board. "i believe the majority of people in the village do not want it. ... every woman in this village should stand up and say this is a disgrace."

but there is a demand. joy said one of the video store employees told her that the owner makes most of his profit from the backroom rentals.

and john jasca, manager of the hollywood video on 95th street, said his store regularly gets requests for pornographic movies. but the corporate-owned hollywood video stores, including his, do not rent such material, he said.

"people come in and ask for it all the time," jasca said.

decker said he believes it is mainly people from outside the village, not residents, who are renting such movies or buying x-rated reading materials while filling their gas tanks. he said residents would be too embarrassed to be seen by neighbors with porn in their hands.

"it is america's dirty little secret," he said. "i'm a carpet cleaner. i've been in 13,000 homes," he said, noting that when he sits down with people at their kitchen table most are pretty conservative at heart.


copyright i? 1/2 2005, chicago tribune

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