Democrats are enjoying poking fun at the NC GOP and a few Republican lawmakers, specifically, over a proposed breast ban.  But the juice might not be worth the squeeze on this.

Democratic Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell said he wrote to NC Representative Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) because he heard from constituents that Moffitt was claiming the City Council unanimously supported a re-write of state law to ban female toplessness.

Bothwell said that's not ture, and his desire to get clarification from the NC General Assembly on public indecency law was intended to get a ruling on toplessness for both men and women.

"I really do believe that if we're going to ban topless women then we've got to ban topless men," he said yesterday on the show.  "If we're going to have a law that bans toplesseness in public we need a law that specifically bans human beings from being topless in public."

You can hear the entire interview here.

Cecil Bothwell


Some history

Last August, the Asheville City Council unanimously signed an open letter to residents and tourists of the city asking them to steer clear of the event.

“As citizens of Asheville and individual members of Asheville City Council, we do not endorse this conduct. We believe that it does nothing to help our community, and we recognize that it disappoints and embarrasses many of our citizens and visitors. We wish it were not happening.

"Despite our hopes over the past few months that this could be addressed by city ordinance, legal research indicates that this is a matter of State law, and that our city’s options are very limited. As soon as possible, we fully intend to seek legislation in Raleigh that will clarify the law and enable Asheville and other communities in North Carolina to respond more effectively. Please join us in urging our legislators in that direction."

The letter indicates that the Council intends to seek legislation to "clarify the law" and allow cities to respond effectively. The meaning of this, I think, is clear. The City cannot respond effectively, so it intends to get state help to do so.

Bothwell said there was never any official request for legislation, or any language that might be adopted as part of a rewrite of state statute.

"To my knowledge we never agreed on any kind of text or any language that we wanted the state to enact," he said.  "That's why our reasons for agreeing that people shouldn't attend the rally might have been very different."

When the NC General Assembly convened for the current session, Rep. Moffitt, along with Rep. Rayne Brown (R-Davidson) offered a bill to clarify the state law. 

Their clarification was to define "private parts" in the existing code:

"For the purposes of this section, the term "private parts" means external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast."

The ridicule came quickly.

North Carolina Republicans were mocked nationwide as haters of breasts engaging in a war on women. Another line of attack was "Don't they have anything better to do?!"  As if adding 32 words to a law takes a lot of time.

What has not happened, however, is any actual reporting about the impetus for the state action. Nor has anyone in the state, national (and even local) media bothered to look at the role the Asheville City Council members' played in this law being proposed.  All of them Democrats, by the way.


Breast politics

The political benefit is obvious for the Council. The proposal allows the NCGOP to be ridiculed, and that's helpful for the Democrats.  Why debate the GoTopless rally, the Raelian sex cult behind it, or the attempt to change the cultural norm in the state?

It's also probably very satisfying for Democrats and progressives in Asheville to watch Rep. Moffitt twist in the political wind over this.  After all, he is trying to steal all the water.

However, Moffitt is in a pretty safe legislative seat. That is unlikely to change over the next decade.

Had the Council stepped forward and expressed support for the change in state law, it could have helped to improve relations that are strained, at best.  Council could have used this as an opportunity to build good will and maybe repair some damage. Perhaps doing so might have helped persuade Moffitt to back down on the water issue.

Politics is about personal relationships. It seems Asheville leaders missed an opportunity to improve some.  After all, Council asked for the clarification to help it respond more effectively.

So, while the short-game might elicit a certain level of glee, the long-game looks less advantageous for City relations with the State.

And that's not a good thing for the residents of Asheville.

Not to mention - the bill is now sitting in the Rules Committee and might not ever see the light of day again.

So, the Council won't get it's clarification and it has done nothing to help to repair the intergovernmental relationship.

0 for 2.