Last month I called Michele Strobel a single-issue candidate because she said her reason for running for the Washington State legislature this fall was her disdain for incumbent state Representative Norm Johnson‘s (R-Yakima) vote for a comprehensive domestic partnership bill. Strobel has allied herself with Larry Stickney, the perennial campaign loser who has dedicated much of his life recently to undermining gay and lesbian families.
Since then, Strobel clearly has cast about for a real issue plaguing the Yakima valley that she can champion, and she has finally identified the worst of the worst: bikini baristas! Not gangs, not failing schools, not drugs, not poverty, not water supply, immigration policy or the apple maggot. No, scantily-clad women serving up joe at drive-though coffee stands are the root cause of all that ails Washington’s 14th legislative district.Although Strobel doesn’t live in Yakima, she debuted her new cause by speaking during the public comment section of the February 18th Yakima City Council meeting. Yakima is the largest city in the legislative district that she’s gunning for. The Council was thinking about changing their adult entertainment ordinance to include bikini barista coffee stands, and Strobel showed up to state her disapproval of those businesses. Certainly to her chagrin, the Council voted against making the proposed changes.
The clear signal from Yakima City Council that bikini baristas are not a priority for the city was not enough to cause Strobel to reassess her choice of issues. Strobel went ahead and staged a p.r. stunt by attempting to “save” some women working at local stands.
“We think these girls are being exploited and we’re worried about it,” she said. “As a woman, I’d be mortified if my child would do that.”
Strobel talked with two baristas Tuesday as part of a broader effort to close the stands, which she said are giving downtown Yakima a black eye.
But guess what, these “girls” (how condescending can you get?) rejected Nanny State Strobel’s “help”.
[O]ne of the baristas at Dream Girls on Yakima Avenue said she was offended and felt demeaned by the conversation, which lasted about 10 minutes.
“She basically kind of made me feel like what I was doing was wrong. She kept asking me if I felt what I was doing was wrong. I said no — I go to work, make coffee, and go home. I don’t do anything else, said 24-year-old Alisha Perez, who manages the coffee stand.
“I felt like she was trying to belittle me,” said Perez, who said she told Strobel that she was “perfectly happy with her job.”
“I assumed that maybe she wasn’t happy working there,” Strobel said. “I found out otherwise.”
Clearly it never occurred to Strobel or her handlers to check their assumptions about bikini baristas before moving ahead. This is what happens when you select a legislative agenda based on what your inner circle of radical-right buddies obsesses about, rather than check in with the real world. “Due diligence” is the magic term, and Michele Strobel apparently has no clue what that is. What she does have in spades is a personal agenda of encoding her harsh judgment of others into law. Responsible governance of a diverse population means opening your mind wider than the philosophical confines of Selah Covenant Church.
Perhaps most disastrous for Strobel is that this debacle didn’t just piss off a few baristas. She has essentially told her core constituents, pro-business fiscal conservatives, that a) businesses need more regulation, and b) they themselves are scum for patronizing these businesses. How many of those tea baggers that Strobel was trying to suck up to last month do you suppose get their jollies by buying coffee from DejaBrew or Dream Girls Espresso or similar businesses? By the looks of the extensive comments in the Yakima Herald and Yakima’s online public forum, I’d say lots.
Btw, is it any coincidence that Larry Stickney’s Referendum 71 ally Russell Johnson, former employee of Family Policy Institute of Washington and current executive director of Youth Revolution, also finds bikini baristas of burning importance? One does get the impression that Strobel moves within and represents a very narrow circle.