Ashland council won't expand ban on public nudity

ASHLAND — The city will not pursue an expansion of its partial ban on nudity after Mayor John Stromberg cast a tie-breaking vote against the move on Tuesday night.

The City Council voted 3-3 on preparing a controversial ordinance to extend the city's nudity ban to cover 1,000-foot zones around schools.

The ban on the display of genitals downtown and in parks will remain in effect.

Stromberg said if enough community members care strongly about expanding Ashland's ban on nudity in parks and downtown to other areas of the city, residents can gather signatures and have the issue placed on the ballot themselves.

Although some residents have spoken out on the issue, Councilman David Chapman said his impression is that the nudity issue is not a top priority for the community.

"Most of the people I talk to are asking me why I'm wasting my time on this," said Chapman, who, along with council members Eric Navickas and Carol Voisin and the mayor, voted against expanding the nudity ban or putting the issue before voters.

Council member Greg Lemhouse, a police officer who works in Medford, had proposed expanding the nudity ban to school zones after a nude man from California was seen by children walking home from Walker Elementary School earlier this year.

Lemhouse said he has investigated cases of sexual abuse against children. He said children who have been sexually abused may be reminded of the last time they were violated if they see a person standing naked near a school.

"You're allowing someone to come into their safe zone — school," he said.

Lemhouse, along with council members Kate Jackson and Russ Silbiger, voted in the minority to prepare language that could extend the ban, and also to send the issue to voters.

City Attorney Richard Appicello said he believed the city's existing nudity ban and the proposed extension posed legal risks, but were both legally defensible.

Some cities in Oregon — including Corvallis, Eugene and Portland — ban nudity in all public places, according to a list of other cities' regulations Appicello presented.

Portland's ordinance was upheld in the face of a legal challenge that it was violating rights to free expression, Appicello said.

The city could face legal risk for failing to regulate or control nudity on public property. In one case, the state of Oregon was held liable for not controlling on public land nude sunbathers who were a nuisance to a nearby private property owner, Appicello said.

Ashland resident Ralph Temple, speaking on behalf of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Republicans and Democrats both like to talk about living in a land of liberty.

He said liberty means not only being able to call a president a "liar" or a "war criminal," it means putting up with non-conformists and eccentrics — including people who like to walk nude in Ashland.

After the council voted on the nudity issue, Temple said, "I think the council made the right decision. There's no showing whatsoever that we need a ban that runs such legal risks."

Temple said he did not know whether the ACLU would have challenged a nudity ban expansion in court.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or

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