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Poor student turnout: Depressing or not all bad?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Lack of student voters hurts us all

People cast 17 votes at the UI Main Library for Tuesday’s City Council election.

If Panchero’s had another free burrito day, more UI students would show up. Steak burrito vs. voting?

The definition of a toss up.

The election saw the lowest turnout in 30 years. Students shouldn’t take the lion’s share of blame for these numbers. Iowa City residents speak out at nearly every City Council meeting. But when Election Day comes around, they become the invisible electorate.

But with their lack of engagement, UI students lost the ability to gain leverage and power at Iowa City’s political table. The student voice iterated on Tuesday that they would rather sit out than make Iowa City political history.

Students are fickle when it comes to what motivates them.

In 2007, they slammed their iron fists of political power directly on the face of the 21-ordinance and its proponents. Two years later, this watershed moment looks like an aberration, a conglomeration of false bravado in favor of another round of Bud Light Limes.

Student-candidates Dan Tallon and Jeff Shipley deserved better from their fellow students. Their courage to enter city politics was, if not inspiring, incredibly fearless.

Because of the election, councilors won’t examine student issues in the near future. And why should they?

Just picture the smiles and laughter of Iowa City residents as they cement their opinions of UI students. It’s all the more upsetting when the stereotype proves true. Unmotivated and disengaged students don’t exactly shine as bright examples of our future leadership potential.

My Sept. 9 column, “Vote or Booze,” highlighted my optimism at the time. I thought the tide had turned in favor of student civic engagement.

Tuesday’s results suggested I shouldn’t expect much in the future.

— by Michael Davis

In Mims, we have student representation

The voter turnout in support of the two at-large student candidates running for the City Council was more than disheartening.

This was the first time a UI undergraduate had run for a city seat in years, and we had options. Now, we will have to settle for one candidate, Jeff Shipley, acting as the UI Student Government’s City Council liaison. I urge the council to start taking his ideas more seriously, because he proved his devotion to the city by running a solid campaign.

Despite the worst voter turnout in 30 years and both students losing the race by a landslide, students aren’t necessarily out of luck.

Susan Mims proved herself a worthy candidate and very capable of representing the student voice.
Mims has a strong connection with student interests.

On top of 30 years of residence in Iowa City, Mims earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the UI. Though things have changed since she was a Hawkeye, she at least knows how it feels to be a student in this city.

Mims also has college-age children, who she said keep her in touch with the younger generation’s mindset.

Her husband, Fred Mims, is an Iowa associate athletics director, and he was a student-athlete here.

Susan Mims is committed to diversifying the tax base by bringing in businesses. But, unlike the other councilors, she is not set on shutting down the downtown bars.

After an embarrassingly low turnout in this year’s election, it actually turned out all right. While neither Shipley nor Tallon will serve as a student-councilor, I expect Mims to fill that role with relative success.

And if nothing else, Shipley, and Tallon’s campaigns set the groundwork for a future student councilor.

— by Chris Clark


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