Thursday, May 02, 2013

21 Bar Round 3?

Profoundly mixed feelings here:
Union owner George Wittgraf and Martinis general manager Josh Erceg have filed an affidavit to commence initiative or referendum proceedings. According to the affidavit, the two are seeking to repeal the 21-only ordinance.
I'm exhausted just thinking about another round on this emotionally divisive issue. You think our city is polarized now, five days before the justice center vote? Think back to the fall of 2007 or 2010. This visceral fight brings out the worst Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students attitudes in the non-student population and, yes, more than a fair amount of self-interest from the bar owners.

The University is already on board with its trademark condescending attitude toward its own student body:
PAS community harm-reductions initiative coordinator Kelly Bender said the ordinance has been effective in reducing high-risk drinking and has been beneficial to downtown.

Bender went on to say that the only people who are against the ordinance are the few who weren’t able to adapt to it and just want more money.
Thanks for tarring me with that broad brush, Kelly, but I'm none of that. For me, a 49 year old grandpa with 28 years of sobriety, this has always been a simple issue. An 18 year old is an adult and adults should have adult rights. Ultimately I want to see the drinking age back at 18 where it belongs, and I'll support anything that moves toward that. But I seem to be completely alone in all that.
Nic Pottebaum, 22, who just completed a term as president of UI Student Government, said students probably would sign the petition. But with the law three years old, he thinks the issue has fallen off most students’ radars and he doesn’t hear a clamor for a return to 19-and-older bars.

“There has definitely been a huge cultural change downtown, as far as the students go,” he said, adding that he supports 21-only.
Thanks for the solidarity with the underclassmen, bro.
Mayor Matt Hayek doubts the City Council will be interested in reversing the ordinance.

“Over the last three years downtown has become safer, more vibrant and better balanced,” he wrote in an email. “The university is stronger and the sky-is-falling predictions did not come to pass. I think the community recognizes 21-only is working.”
I don't care, Matt. An 18 year old is an adult.
21-only supporters say the ordinance has been successful thus far, pointing to a 9 percent decline in the percentage of students who report engaging in high-risk drinking at least once during a two-week period, and the 19 percent decline in the percentage of students who report high-risk drinking on three or more occasions. That data was collected over a three-year span from 2009 to 2012 from a sample of undergraduate students at UI and published in the National College Health Assessment.
Don't care. An 18 year old is an adult.

The 21 bar issue is a microcosm of city government's attitude toward our young population. The last student-age student left the city council in 1983. Since then, the undergrads have been considered more or less a nuisance instead of what they really are: the lifeblood of our community. This issue isn't the one I'd pick to make a stand, but I'm an old man. If this is what they really want, that deserves some consideration and respect, and a framework of reducing alcohol abuse needs to address rights as well as responsibilities.

I doubt we're going to see this on the ballot, though. My first reaction on seeing the news was "where do I sign?" And I realized: I have no idea. The organizers seem far less organized than last time and far less organized than the red light camera group, who keep reaching the goalpost only to see the city clerk and attorney move it further back.

They've also picked the worst. possible. time. to try to get signatures. They announce on May 1 with a June 10 deadline, and the target audience is students?!? So you're petitioning through pre-finals, finals, and the interim before summer school? That's almost as bad as scheduling your caucuses on January 3rd. In 2010 the petitioners were gathering names, and thousands of voter registrations, in about March. (In `07 the petition was from the 21 side, and their target was townies.)

The other problem is one I've seen time and again with Iowa City ballot issues. People throw all their effort into the issue, but don't recruit candidates. So they pass the issue... while people on the opposite side of the issue get elected and reverse the issue within a couple years. If the 19 side had run student candidates in 2007, when 19 won, they could have elected three or maybe even four to the council, and the issue wouldn't have come up again in 2010 when a pro-21 council majority reversed the voter's decision.

We got student candidates in 2009, and in 2011 Raj Patel ran the best campaign ever by a young candidate and almost pulled it off. But without that turnout magnet of the bar issue, the student turnout didn't happen, and the 30 year string of Tuition Without Representation continued.

And now? Anyone? Anyone?

I'd do it myself but I'm too damn old. Even if I could run for two seats in my past lives as a 24 year old DJ and a 25 year old grad student, I'm too damn old. And 24/25 year old me had a lot more hair.

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