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Effort to overturn 21-ordinance will require strong student effort

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 07, 2010 7:30 AM

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The City Council’s anticlimactic approval last night of the 21-ordinance may make opponents — including scores of students — bristle.

But they shouldn’t fret.

For those who question the wisdom of the ordinance, it’s time to counter the council’s misguided policy. Over the next few months, that should take the form of a few principle initiatives: gathering signatures, persuasion, and mobilization and registration.

UI Student Government presidential candidate John Rigby said that while he and running mate Erica Hayes aren’t certain whether they’ll participate in the signature collection, he’s been impressed by the activism of students thus far.

“[The] energy that we’ve seen from the students in regards to the issue may be strong enough where collecting the required amount wouldn’t necessarily need the presence of UISG,” Rigby told the Editorial Board in an e-mail. Rigby and Hayes are the only two running for UISG president and vice president next year.

Regardless of their role in the petition movement, it’s imperative students mount a strong effort to garner the necessary signatures. Citizens have 60 days to collect the required 2,500 signatures in order to put the new age restriction up to a vote in November.

Persuading ordinance supporters will also be essential. We’ve been stalwart in our opposition to the 21-ordinance since it resurfaced several weeks ago, and we continue to view it as an ill-crafted attempt to remedy an undeniable problem plaguing our community — alcohol overconsumption.

But in the coming months, opponents’ duty is to engage in rational, informed discussion with supporters of the ordinance.

Backers of the 21-ordinance have legitimate reasons for their support. Many are fed up with past failures and are unsure of where else to turn to solve the problem. Some wish to quell the cacophony and superfluous consumption that typifies a Friday night on the Pedestrian Mall. Others are legitimately worried about the safety of students.

And both sides agree on one principle: Binge drinking is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Our task is to persuade supporters that the 21-ordinance, while well-intentioned, wouldn’t be the best approach to mitigating binge drinking. Opponents didn’t sway the City Council. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change the minds of the students and residents who favor the measure.

Come November, opponents’ focus needs to be on mobilization and registration of young voters.

Rigby said he was confident the energetic opposition of the students “would sustain through the November election.” While Rigby said both he and Hayes oppose the ordinance, he was unsure what role UISG would play in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

“Whether those energies center on encouraging students to mobilize and vote ‘no’ or seeing a separate anti-21 ‘task force’ materialize and help with the voting efforts, that will be determined in the very near future,” Rigby wrote. “[It’s] extremely critical that we also hear input from the rest of the newly elected UISG representatives and then move forward.”

While we’ve bemoaned ordinance-centric student activism in the past, it’s clear students are ready to mobilize and overturn the wrongminded measure. UISG involvement would strengthen that mobilization effort as well.

But make no mistake: We have our work cut out for us.


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