21-ordinance opponents use Facebook to rally support


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Hundreds of people plan to join efforts against the possible prohibition of underage patrons in Iowa City bars.

University of Iowa junior Dan Tallon is encouraging students to speak out against the ordinance at the next Iowa City City Council meeting, March 23.

“It’s going to take a lot of people making it very clear that they’re against this,” he said. “Politics isn’t a spectator sport.”

The recently created Facebook event titled Iowa City, City Council Meeting, already has more than 400 planning to attend the meeting with another 430 saying they might attend. The event encourages students opposing the ordinance to pack City Hall’s Emma Harvat Hall, where the City Council’s meeting will be held, to “show the council that this is not the fight they want to pick,” according to the event page.

UI Student Government City Council liaison Jeff Shipley said was surprised when he heard the council announced the ordinance in a work session last week.

Shipley, who ran for a seat on the City Council last year, is encouraging students to attend the meeting and share their opinions respectfully.

“If students really want to affect their local government, they should definitely try to, and hopefully they can,” he said.

Shipley is not alone.

In fact, another group on Facebook of which Shipley is an administrator — along with Mike Porter, who owns several downtown bars — had more than 5,000 members by Sunday evening. Another group still in existence from 2007, when a public vote defeated the measure, had more than 3,500 members.

Porter told members of the larger group in a March 5 message that he appreciated their online discourse about the issue.

A group in favor of the ordinance, called PRO 21-Only Ordinance, had 38 members Sunday night.
Councilor Connie Champion said she expected a big response from students after the council discussed the ordinance last week.

Mike Mendel was one of those students, responding as “attending” to the City Council event page and encouraging others to show up, too.

The UI sophomore said he plans to attend the meeting and emphasized the importance of participation in local government issues.

“If students really care, they should definitely go,” Mendel said. “That’s how democracy works.”

Tallon, who also ran for City Council last year, said he chose to spread the word about this issue via Facebook because it’s easy to use and the majority of college students use the social-network program.

UI communication-studies Professor Emeritus Bruce Gronbeck said social-networking tools such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are ideal for political issues because they are free and appeal to the youngest class of voters.

While he recognizes it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of social networking, it continues to increase in popularity with political issues.

“It’s used very, very heavily,” he said. “It’s really beginning to show that it has strong local appeal.”

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