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Citywide nudity ban proposed

A nearly unanimous City Council took a first step Tuesday night to create a citywide ban on public nudity.

The move goes beyond previous proposals to create 200-foot or 1,000-foot nudity-free buffer zones around schools, licensed child care centers and the Ashland Family YMCA.

Councilors Russ Silbiger, David Chapman, Kate Jackson, Carol Voisin and Greg Lemhouse voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance to make it unlawful for a person to intentionally expose his or her genitals in view of a public space.

The council majority directed city staff to look into the possibility of granting parade permits to people who want to hold protests in the buff. That option will come back to the council at a future meeting when councilors will consider approving the second reading of the ordinance, the final council action before a new law goes into effect.

Ashland already has a law banning the display of genitals downtown and in parks.

In September, a council majority voted not to expand that law to ban nudity around schools. But after a naked man from Minnesota appeared near three Ashland schools in October, Mayor John Stromberg decided to put the nudity issue back before the council.

Stromberg did not cast a vote on Tuesday because Ashland's mayor votes only to break ties.

Councilor Eric Navickas tried unsuccessfully to run the clock out and prevent a council vote with a speech about how society views the naked body. He warned that nude protesters will seek parade permits and go into school zones.

"We'll bring more people who want to challenge the law," he said.

Shortly after, the council voted on the issue before hitting the mandatory meeting stop time of 10:30 p.m., with Navickas casting the only vote against the citywide ban on public nudity.

Chapman said the language of the proposed ordinance, which makes it illegal to "intentionally expose" genitals, will protect people who are exposed accidentally to the public — such as if a person has his or her pants pulled down by someone else.

Before the vote, councilors heard a mix of opinions from educators, parents and members of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said the man from Minnesota was seen in close proximity to Walker Elementary School, Ashland Middle School and Ashland High School.

"He traveled some distance to get here, and all because he knew that he would not be arrested for this behavior," Di Chiro said. "Let's send a clear message to those types of visitors that Ashland is a community that treasures and protects its children, and let's adopt a citywide nudity ban."

But Ashland resident Ralph Temple, a member of the ACLU, said Ashland hasn't experienced a rash of nude people in public, and therefore shouldn't sacrifice people's personal freedoms.

"Civil liberties are fragile," he said, adding that they are the first things to be discarded when difficulties arise.

The Ashland Police Department has not released the name of the man from Minnesota. Some parents have made threats against the man.

Police Chief Terry Holderness said he believes the man has left Ashland.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.