NUDITY ORDINANCE DEBATE - Kristen Friend-Weaver

05/21/03

Hillsborough County Commissioners continued their debate today over a proposed nudity ordinance that would make nudity illegal in any public place in the county. The commission decided not to offer the ordinance as a referendum for public vote, opting instead to hold a workshop to investigate potential costs and effects of enacting the ordinance. WMNF’s Kristen Friend-Weaver has this story…

Debate about the ordinance covered several issues ranging from its potential costs and effects to the right of a county commission to impose its will on the city of Tampa. Although the ordinance is simply a ban on public nudity, its definition of “public� is so broad that it includes private businesses and homes. Because of this broad interpretation, data provided to the commission estimates that the cost of enforcement of the ordinance as proposed will be 900,000 dollars for Tampa alone. David Kayton, a major supporter of the ordinance, dismissed this cost…

He also emphasized his view that the issue must come to a vote…

Others present at the meeting believe that the cost of the ordinance will be much higher. Activist and nightclub owner, Joe Redner challenged the commissioners, saying that the courts cannot possibly handle all of the cases he will bring to them…

Many who came to speak to the commission wondered why the issue was being debated at all. Tony Darby stressed that she feels the commissioners could spend their time and money on many more relevant issues…

However, after the public had a chance to comment, the debate among commissioners shifted to whether or not placing the ordinance on the ballot in 2004 would resolve the issue. Although everyone recognized that the results of a vote could still be challenged in the courts, some believed that knowing public opinion could still be a valuable tool. Rhonda Storms emphasized that a vote would make the ordinance seem like less of a one-person campaign…

Kathy Castor countered, saying that waiting until the next election would make the commission seem unaccountable…

Jan Platt agreed that the commission had a duty to address the issue by examining its potential effects and recognizing the cost of imposing the Commission’s will on the city of Tampa. She said that people who want the ordinance to come to a vote would be abusing the referendum process…

As the debate became more intense, Commissioner Pat Frank questioned why the ordinance was being debated at all, and challenged the commission to put it on the ballot…

At the workshop, commissioners will hear testimony on the costs of the ordinance to both Tampa and unincorporated Hillsborough County. The issue will the be brought back before the commission later this summer. For WMNF news, I’m Kristen Friend-Weaver.

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