Reuben Salters says "cleavage of the buttocks" is offensive to him and other city residents
Dover Councilman Reuben Salters wants the citizens of his fair city to hike up their sagging pants and cover their exposed undergarments, or risk the swift hand of justice.
Earlier this month, the veteran council member asked the city clerk’s office to research how the city might go about prohibiting residents from going out in public wearing those baggy, revealing pants indigenous to the younger male population.
At the July 26 meeting of council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee, Salters brought the possibility of a so-called “public indecency” ordinance up for discussion.
“The main purpose of the ordinance is to ensure decency in dress,” Salters said. “It’s so we don’t have pants below the rump and the cleavage of the buttocks is not exposed.”
Salters said he reached his breaking point recently while standing in line at the Dover post office, where he was forced to stare at the hindparts of a young man sporting the saggy look standing in line ahead of him.
“It offended not only me, but it offended a lot of people,” Salters told the committee.
Committee Member Dr. Bobby Jones said just addressing men’s clothing in an ordinance would not go far enough.
“Mr. Salters mentioned the cleavage of the buttocks; in my humble opinion, the cleavage of the breasts is equally offensive,” she said.
Similar legislative action has been undertaken across the country in recent years at the local and state level.
Saggy pants bans have achieved mixed results in various jurisdictions. In some cases they have failed to gain approval because of concerns over possible conflicts with the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Other locales have filed the offense under existing indecent exposure or disorderly conduct statutes.
In 2008, the city of Riviera Beach, Fla., banned the wearing of saggy pants, only to have the ordinance struck down by a judge who said it was unconstitutional.
Dover city solicitor Nick Rodriguez sent a letter to Salters and the council outlining his concerns with such an ordinance and citing the possibility of a constitutional challenge.
Councilman Jim McGiffin, a practicing attorney, agreed with the solicitor’s comments.
“Unless it is extremely carefully drafted, we are in danger of legislating in a manner too broad to be constitutional,” he said. “We cannot legislate matters of style.”
The committee voted to have Rodriguez do a thorough legal investigation of the matter before moving forward with an ordinance.
But, council President Ken Hogan said, outside of a citywide ordinance, council might think about setting a dress code for municipal buildings.
Hogan pointed to Kent County Superior Court, which last month instituted a dress code for the courthouse that prohibits, among other crimes of fashion, “pants that fall below the hips that expose undergarments or bare skin.”
Those who show up to the courthouse wearing prohibited attire will not be allowed to enter. If that causes a litigant to miss a vital court appearance, the judge is empowered to treat the case like any other failure to appear and may issue a bench warrant for the person’s arrest.
In other business
The Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee approved a draft ordinance that would eliminate rules that prevent members of some city boards and committees from retaining their seats while running for public office.
The measure, proposed last year by the city’s Human Relations Commission and initially rejected by council, now heads to council for final action.
City Manager Tony DePrima said residents will see changes to their recycling pick-up service beginning Aug. 2, when a new contractor takes over collection.
Pick-up will be every other week on the same day trash is collected. More detailed information is being mailed to residents.
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