Local government

Montpelier Council advances prostitution repeal, despite residents’ unanimous opposition

But Council rethinking endorsing statewide legislation

By Guy Page

The Montpelier City Council Wednesday, July 20 gave unanimous preliminary approval for “second reading” of the proposed repeal of the city’s anti-prostitution ordinance. 

The endorsement followed lengthy public testimony in which Montpelier residents and sex trafficking experts alike all recommended the Council not repeal the ordinance. The second and final public hearing will be held August 24 at City Hall on Main Street.

Aaron Clark of Montpelier kicked off the string of testimony – all of it in opposition – at the 59-minute mark on the YouTube video. 

We’re making a value statement here,” Clark said of the people gathered in opposition. “Montpelier we don’t want consensual prostitution. We don’t want it. We don’t want what it brings in, which is sex trafficking and human trafficking.”

The next speaker was Diana Tierney, also of Montpelier. “I’m concerned about the youth and the relationship with drugs and people’s vulnerability.” She cited a media report about a 16-year-old boy who was involved in a male prostitution ring in Bellows Falls. “I am worried how we as a community are going to prevent vulnerable people from being caught up with others who might take advantage of them.”

Rebecca Savoia, of Williamstown, said: Ii’ve worked in counter-human trafficking and with people in the sex industry. I’ve seen the effects that it’s had in nations that have become a sex tourist destination, such as Bangkok [Thailand]. If we look at statistics, there’s so much crime and violence that’s associated with that and I know the idea is to get protection for them. But even PTSD studies show that PTSD levels with people that work in the sex industry is comparable to those of war veterans or people who have been tortured.” U.S. rape and abuse rates are far higher for prostitutes, she said. 

Jenna Clark of Montpelier, a young mother, said the city council should instead adopt the state law banning prostitution. “My family desires this. Every other community member that I’ve spoken to in Montpelier, in Barre City, in Barre Town are very surprised that we’re even considering this. They also desire that we criminalize prostitution.”

Ashley Strobridge, Montpelier photographer and artist, worries the repeal would attract sex trafficking. 

“The idea of Vermont and Montpelier becoming a sort of a beacon of bringing in sex trafficking, that just that’s scary to me,” Strobridge said.

Montpelier resident Michael Mannion was the last person to testify. “I’m hearing from their testimonies that decriminalizing prostitution is not a good idea for the individuals involved as prostitutes or for society in general. So I’m wondering if you can provide any evidence from people who may have testimonies that would support the idea that decriminalizing prostitution would be a good idea for society in general or for the prostitutes themselves.”

Although present to discuss a sidewalk problem, Montpelierite Maurice Martineau added his opposition to the repeal.

After testimony had concluded, city councilors then responded that the Police Review Commission has studied this issue thoroughly before recommending repeal. 

The ordinances’s “mere existence could have a problem in negatively impacting health and safety of sex workers by criminalizing this act. It sort of undermines sex workers ability to seek justice for crimes against them, that could include rape or robbery. It could include like violence from a client. It has a chilling effect. If you treat people like criminals they’re much less likely to report exploitation of minors, to report instances of trafficking, because they may be afraid of being prosecuted and going to jail themselves. So by taking this out of the shadows I really believe it is a measure that could help health and safety.”

I do appreciate there’s conflicting information on both sides and data, and when that’s the case i generally turn to sources I trust and in this case that would be the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.”

Although the councilors all protested the notion that repeal would promote sex trafficking by third parties, there was no interest in revising the repeal language to strengthen its anti-trafficking message.

The current ordinance, subject to repeal, reads:

“PROSTITUTION. No female person shall be a prostitute, or shall ply the vocation of a prostitute, or shall subject her person to prostitution, in the city; and no male person shall associate with such female person for the purpose of prostitution. 

“HOUSE OF PROSTITUTION. No person shall keep a house of prostitution, or suffer or permit prostitution in any building or other place, owned or occupied by him, or part thereof; or be an inmate of any house of prostitution or ill-fame, or in any manner contribute to the support or maintenance thereof; nor shall any person having control of any building or other place lease or rent the same, or part thereof, to any prostitute or other person to be kept or used, or knowingly suffer or permit the same or part thereof to be kept or used, as a house of ill-fame or for the purpose of prostitution.”

The Council Tuesday night heard a proposal developed by the city’s Police Review Commission, including:

  • Montpelier City Council should support state legislation supporting consensual prostitution laws while retaining felony human trafficking laws. (No statewide prostitution laws were passed this year, although the Legislature did approve, and Gov. Scott signed, a repeal amendment in the Burlington City Charter.)
  • Montpelier should repeal its prostitution ordinances, which criminalize housing for sex workers, the act of sex work, and a safe workplace for sex workers.
  • MPD should continue to deprioritize the investigation of consensual sex work and instead prioritize human trafficking, coercion, and when force is at issue.

Montpelier residents or those with business or other interests in Montpelier who wish to express their views respectfully, or seek more information, may either attend the final public hearing, or contact city councilors directly. The city councilors’ names and email addresses as listed on the public City of Montpelier website are:

Donna Bate – dbate@montpelier-vt.org

Conor Casey – ccasey@montpelier-vt.org

Lauren Hierl – lhierl@montpelier-vt.org

Jack McCullough – jmccullough@montpelier-vt.org

Jennifer Morton – jmorton@montpelier-vt.org

Cary Brown – no email address listed. 

Their phone numbers are listed in the city directory

Categories: Local government

12 replies »

  1. You go, Mayor Moonbeam and City Council !!!!! Lead us to the promised land of the Best Little Whorehouses in Vermont. VOTE WATSON everyone, for weed, hookers, woke social justice and control of our bodies!

  2. !5 people opposed & presented evidence (as those these loons don’t already know) that legalization ATTRACTS crime & INCREASES sex trafficking. But somehow at some point, those SERVING the public, believed they were RULING the public & here we now are.

    And thanks to Sanders & his groupies and the indoctrinated students at UVM & Champlain College who vote – alongside the propagandized VT media – these people have no worries about losing their positions.

    So……….Revelation – Here we come!!!!

    But as is said: Spoiler! In the end? GOD WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Way too late to worry about “the moral fiber of our community”!

  4. Montpelier is already the Whore Capital of New England…just look at the political affiliation of the vast majority of the politicians who “work” there.

  5. How about a list of those people that have the opinion that the business of prostitution is good and desirable for Vermont? List their names. Let us see who they are!!

  6. When will you all wake up! We’re losing our country because people don’t care until it directly effects you or yours. Well it will and moving away won’t be an option. So take that stand, sue, whatever is necessary to show they work for you, the majority!!

  7. The two most liberal cities in Vermont, Burlington and Montpeculier. One has become crime central, and the other is working on it. May be a good time to boycott both. Of course, both cities are full of druggies too. This is what progressive government brings, crime, drugs, prostitution, drag queen story hour for children and other weirdness abounds within the under belly of both. So when everyone who testifies is against the change, the council approves it. That is taxation without representation. They don’t care what you think!

  8. Protect your communities now. Find out what is needed to embed an ordinance statement in your town that will protect your community from a flood of “kitty cats” on public display.

    • That’s exactly right. Smaller towns and cities need to organize a campaign to contact their city councilors to put in place ordinances against prostitution. There’s only maybe one other town in Vermont that currently has anti-prostitution ordinances, though they abound in other states (contrary to what the City Manager of Montpelier has said).

  9. (FYI I’m the same Aaron Clark in the article, I’m a pastor here in Montpelier)

    Instead of talking, let’s take action. Here’s two ways you can do that:

    #1 The final hearing (or “reading”) will take place August 24th at 6:30PM, where the city council makes their decision. Please plan to be there to show opposition. Come ready understanding what the issue is and what the city council’s arguments for removing the city ordinance. They’re saying it really doesn’t make a difference when we all know this is just a part of a movement to decriminalize across the state.

    #2 Now is the time to organize your friends and family to contact en masse your local city councilors or town officials to create new ordinances against prostitution in your city/town. That could help protect you town/city when it becomes legal across the state, and may also serve to provide a counterbalance against the movement to decriminalize. This is your chance to fight back, Vermont.

    I pointed out in my testimony that our city ordinance needs to match the state ordinance, for one reason, because our city council and police aren’t enforcing the state ordinance against prostitution. In the first meeting on this, we literally had prostitutes saying, “I sell my body for sex” 5 feet away from the police chief. My question to the city council was, and still is, “Why is no one enforcing the state law?” They didn’t give me an answer, and I don’t expect they ever will.