NUDITY ORDINANCE DEBATE - Kristen Friend-Weaver

07/21/03

Debate continued today on an ordinance that would ban nudity in any public place in Hillsborough County when David Caton and Joe Redner both spoke at a meeting of the Tiger Bay Club in Tampa. Caton, who is a self-proclaimed family activist, originally brought the issue of a nudity ordinance before the Commission because of what he sees as a link between nudity and incidences of both rape and domestic violence. Redner, who has run for County Commission several times and owns adult establishments in Tampa believes that the ordinance is unnecessary and would be a violation of his rights and the rights of those who work for him. WMNF’s Kristen Friend-Weaver attended the debate and files this report…

Both Caton and Redner came to Tiger Bay with ample statistics, and both men believe that research supports their respective positions. Caton attributes his push for a public nudity ordinance to a November 2002 article in the Tampa Tribune that reported a rise in incidences of rape in Tampa. He began his statements by describing the typical victim as a young, white female, and saying that this victim was more than twice as likely to be raped by a stranger in Tampa than in any other city in the country. He also used data comparing Tampa to Miami that he says shows that Tampa’s forcible rape rate is more that double that of Miami. He continued by saying these reports cannot be ignored…

Redner countered with the argument that he would never have been able to operate if any of Caton’s evidence could actually be proven true. He called Caton’s logic “faith without reason,� and accused him of allowing religion to interfere with politics. Redner pointed out that there has never been an arrest at one of his establishments for prostitution, and claimed that the prostitution rate around his establishments is virtually nothing. Redner says that he has been winning this argument for decades and will continue to win because facts are on his side…

He continued by pointing out how the Tampa/Miami data can be deceiving…

County commissioners already decided by a 5-2 vote in May to hold a workshop on the ordinance instead of putting it to referendum. The issue failed to make it to the ballot because of criticism from Commissioners Pat Frank and Jan Platt. Commissioner Platt believes that there is no legally defensible rational for the ordinance, and Commissioner Frank considers it a non-issue. Caton however, stressed that he believes the issue should still make it to a public vote…

A major component of the argument against a referrendum is the idea that the county cannot be responsible for forcing the city of Tampa to enact a law that it did not approve. Pat Frank attended the debate today and asked Caton why he didn’t take his case to the City of Tampa where the debate would be more appropriate. Caton responded by saying that he did not believe that he had as much support form the city…

Overall, the attitude of those attending the lunch was skeptical about the convincingness of Caton’s data. Several people pointed out that he kept using words like “may� and “might� and others accused him of using selective studies. One member went to far as to claim that the Catholic Church also seems to cause rape, and asked Caton why he did not attack the Church. Others accused him of externalizing an internal problem he has with nudity. Caton replied to these accusations by saying that the questions were insulting and that he would not justify them with an answer.

However, not everyone at the meeting agreed with Joe Redner. One member accused Redner of barely passing for a legitimate businessman, and asked how what he does is different from pimping. Redner responded by saying that he did not understand why activities between consenting adults had to be demeaning to one party…

Although the fate of ordinance still seems unclear because it is mired in debate in the County Commission, both Caton and Redner vowed that they would keep fighting their battles no matter what other people feel about them. For WMNF news, I’m Kristen Friend-Weaver…

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