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Proposed Manteca council dress code is solving a problem that doesn’t exist
dress code

Manteca is in a crisis.

Businesses are on the verge of collapsing thanks to COVID-19.

Families forced out of work due to pandemic orders are worried about making their next mortgage or rent payment.

City revenues from sales and hotel room taxes are taking a big hit.

So what are elected leaders doing?

The answer is simple. They’re considering adopting a dress code for council members to adhere to.

The decision whether to put in place a policy to assure council members look professional and presentable — clearly the most pressing issue of the day — could be made tonight when the council meets via Zoom from their respective domiciles.

They’d better be wearing dress shoes and not sandals or tennis shoes as they broadcast from spare bedrooms, dens, and living room tables — three locales that reek of the professionalism they want to codify in the form of the first dress code for council members in the 102 year history of Manteca. Perhaps they can all be directed to give viewers a full body scan to make sure they are business casual looking enough to conduct city business.

If this is like most policies and even regulations the City Council conducts, enforcement will be complaint driven.

That, of course, begs the question: Who gets to lodge complaints about council dress and personal hygiene and who will enforce it?

Clearly this is not a job for anyone on the city payroll including the city manager given the council as a whole is the city manager’s boss.

Perhaps the mayor or whoever is presiding will be the dress code enforcer. Or they could name a council subcommittee.

And what will the hammer be to enforce the measure? Will offenders be sent home and denied the right to represent those that elected them until they dress up to the standard the council collectively decrees.  Majority rules so if the current council votes 3-2 to adopt this policy they will have a lot of explaining to do.

For starters, why are they targeting Councilman Dave Breitenbucher? Arguably he is the only one targeted with the wording in the proposed dress code policy as he is the only one among them to have worn shorts to a council meeting or — horror of horrors — not dress business casual.

Is it because Breitenbucher is sometimes at odds with the council majority and therefore needs to be shamed?

Do they think council members wearing shorts are subversives that need to be forced to toe the line?

And if they think shorts are inappropriate for leaders, it says a lot about their contempt for the style of many millennials the council claims they want to court. Mark Zuckerberg, as an example, would have to forgo his hoodie — sweatshirts are also prohibited in the proposed dress code — if he happened to get elected to the Manteca City Council that clearly wants to keep to keep at least one foot firmly planted in the 1970s.

As a self-respecting millennial it would seem a stretch that Zuckerberg would move to a city that imposes dress codes on elected officials.

Perhaps before the council delves into the wording of the dress code tonight they might want to share exactly what they are afraid of

Given the wearing of shorts is the only fashion transgression — former council member Mike Morowit occasionally wore them to meetings obviously committing a fashion faux pas that was affront to the sensibilities of the Manteca ruling class — that comes to mind under the proposed dress code policy, council members might want to elaborate on their rush to judgment on the appropriateness of a council member wearing shorts that are presentable.

Did they have rips or holes in them? That seems to be an important point given the proposed dress code say council clothing should be “without rips or holes.”

Then there is the fixation with the need to state “all clothing should be clean.” So who are the unelected officials that have worn unclean clothes to a council meeting prompting the need for the council as a whole to consider a policy that states “all clothing should be clean”?

And why “should be clean” and not “must be clean”? Using the word “should” is waffling as it is not an absolute such as the word “must.”

If the council is going to the trouble of adopting a dress code policy and obsessed with the possibility a council member might not wear clean clothes to a council meeting why don’t they come out and mandate it?

Then there is the issue of “proper personal hygiene.” What does this mean exactly given the council is told they must toe the line with “proper personal hygiene” and no further details are listed. Did someone come to a council meeting without brushing their teeth or using mouthwash? Perhaps some of them eschew deodorant or elect to bathe only once a month. Has a council member entered the august chambers with unkempt hair?

Part of the proposed policy is that “clothing with offensive or inappropriate verbal messages or visual images is also prohibited.”

By whose standards are messages on clothing is inappropriate or offensive? If a council member were to wear clothing printed with “All Lives Matter”, “Black Lives Matter,” our “Blue Lives Matter’ rest assured in today’s world someone would find it offensive or inappropriate.

And why didn’t the dress code policy address tattoos, body art, and body piercings? There are a lot of examples of sexually suggestive and sexually provocative — two things the proposed policy states clothing work by council members should not be — among tattoos and body piercings.

They weren’t included perhaps because the current council either assumes all people who run for local office and are elected will be of their generation and sensibilities. Or maybe they thought someone who gets elected to a council is an adult and can figure out on their own what is appropriate when it comes to body piercings.

At the end of the day the council regardless of whatever reasons they having for adopting a dress code policy for council members, should not do so tonight unless they answer two questions: Who will enforce the dress code policy and what will be the penalty if council members don’t comply?

Unless those two questions are answered and codified it makes adopting a council dress code policy — that no one has adequately explained to the public at a council meeting why it is such a pressing issue all of a sudden —just official gobbledygook with no teeth.

This is nothing but government at its worst solving a problem that doesn’t exist.