The Manhattan City Commission on Tuesday will consider changing the ordinance that bans women from being topless.
Commissioners will discuss the city code related to public nudity at a 7 p.m. legislative session.
Current city code makes it “unlawful for a person to knowingly appear in a state of nudity in public.” According to the current code, nudity is defined to include male and female genitals and buttocks, and female toplessness (except while breastfeeding).
The push for the change comes because of a civil suit in Fort Collins, Colorado, in which a woman said the city’s ordinance banning female toplessness was unconstitutional because it was a violation of women’s equal rights.
The city settled the case, but not before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals entered a preliminary injunction against the city, saying that it likely would find the ordinance unconstitutional.
The 10th Circuit also covers Kansas.
City attorney Katie Jackson wrote in a memo that the case does not make Manhattan’s ordinance unconstitutional, but her office is recommending that the city amend the ordinance to decriminalize female toplessness, at least until the issue makes it to the Supreme Court.
Commissioners can decline a change to the code or amend it to generally “decriminalize general female toplessness.”
The amended ordinance would still criminalize the revealing of male or female genitalia or buttocks. A woman not wearing a shirt could still be prosecuted in some cases under the state, officials said.
According to city officials, Manhattan has prosecuted 51 cases of public nudity since 2003. Of those, 37 defendants were males exposing their genitalia. Of the 14 female defendants, six were cited for toplessness, which occurred between 2004 and 2010.
The commission also will host a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the levee project.
The project aims to improve the levee to combat flooding from nearby rivers such as the Kansas and Big Blue. The plan replaces gate wells and relief wells as well as build new portions of the levee along the two rivers.
The project’s estimated cost is $33 million with the city fronting $13.4 million of it. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will pay the remaining balance, city officials said.
After the public hearing, the commission looks to adopt the ordinance setting forth the steps for the improvement plan.
And city commissioners will contemplate a city/state agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation to expand a pedestrian sidewalk from 6-feet wide to 10-feet wide at the Wildcat Creek bridge on Highway K-18.
The project cost is approximately $69,000 and the city has to pay all of that amount through the trail sales tax fund, officials said.
The commission is also examining 2020 service fees for the downtown business and Aggieville districts. The fees are staying the same in 2020, but there is a 25% late fee. The fee prices depends on the size and type of business.