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Massage Ordinance Takes Center Stage
City Council
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City Council members listened to more public debate regarding the proposed massage ordinance at the Monday, Sept. 18 meeting as they fine-tune the verbiage before returning for a vote at the next meeting, Oct. 2.

At the center of the debate — should the city incorporate the California Massage Therapy Council’s (CAMTC) criteria into the new ordinance as well as require CAMTC accreditation for new massage businesses as a condition of licensing within the city limits — seemed to receive support from the audience but some council members were concerned about future ramifications.

While current massage businesses already in operation would be grandfathered in, it could create an issue for anyone not CAMTC-certified if they lost their business license in the future.

For the most part, many of the attending therapists were in favor of the CAMTC requirement, but admitted, the problem is policing the few bad apples in town providing illicit services.

Lori Shiflet, an Oakdale massage therapist for the past 20 years said, “There’s a problem and all the therapists in town know there’s a problem … I think that 90 percent of the therapists in town are ethical and do a good job … I think we all know who the issue is.”

One of the proposed requirements in the new ordinance is a time restriction, as the businesses suspected of illicit activities have “Open” signs posted at all hours of the night.

“No one open at 8 p.m. is doing anything good,” Shiflet said.

The frustration on both sides — law enforcement and legitimate massage businesses — appears valid as enforcement and policing are a sticky issue with plenty of loopholes to abuse.

City Manager Bryan Whitemyer welcomed the public feedback, saying, “We want all of this input; this is good,” adding, “I can understand the frustration, it’s no different than traffic enforcement. We don’t have the resources to enforce every place uniformly every time and the same thing goes for the massage therapy.”

Finding a long-term, effective solution isn’t as easy as just throwing together a sting operation and shutting down the bad actors, either.

Whitemyer said, OPD would happily become more aggressive in shutting down the troublesome businesses if it were effective. Without something such as the CAMTC requirement for licensing, the guilty parties would simply open a new business the following day.

It’s like playing whack-a-mole with limited resources and the bad actors use every loophole they can to keep the game in play.

With the additional input, Police Chief Jerry Ramar will return to the council Oct. 2 with a revised ordinance for the council members to consider as an action item.

Council member Christopher Smith reminded the audience that the packet will be available the Thursday before the Monday council meeting if anyone would like to familiarize themselves with the new ordinance before the vote.