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‘21’ battle is on

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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The 21-ordinance could be short-lived.

At least, that’s what one University of Iowa freshman hopes.

UI student Raj Patel began collecting signatures Wednesday to put the bars’ entry-age issue on the ballot in November.

Patel filed an affidavit with the City Clerk around 4 p.m. Wednesday with the text of a possible referendum that would repeal the Iowa City City Council’s vote on Tuesday to ban underage patrons from the city’s bars after 10 p.m.

Members of the Student Health Initiative Task Force, which helped spearhead anti-21-ordinance campaign in 2007, are helping Patel collect signatures. He is an organizer for the student-led group.

They’ll need to collect 2,500 signatures from registered voters by June 7 to call for a referendum, City Clerk Marian Karr said.

That’s not daunting to Patel.

“I don’t foresee that being a problem,” the 19-year-old said. “The real work comes after that.”

Even after filing the petition, he said, members of the group will try to garner support for the repeal from local residents and other nonstudents.



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Mayor Matt Hayek has said he anticipates those on both sides of the issue will campaign fiercely in the next few months.

“I fully expect we will have a fight on our hands this fall,” he told The Daily Iowan on Tuesday.

Alan Eckhardt, the business manager of the Summit, 10 S. Clinton St., said they’ll encourage bar staff to build voter support.

“It’s getting people who don’t vote who agree with us to vote,” Eckhardt said.

A recent petition to lower the bar-entry age to 18, drafted in an attempt to pressure the City Council not to pursue the 21-ordinance, collected around 4,000 signatures, Eckhardt said. He said opponents of 21-only don’t intend to file that petition, instead focusing on the repeal.

Members from another organization against the ordinance, UI Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said they’re planing to help with the anti-21 push.

“I think a big part of it is going to be getting all of those interested parties working together as a unit,” group President Marni Steadham said.

Patel agreed, noting the importance of collaboration. He said his group will work with those that helped vote down the ordinance in 2007.

Both Patel and Steadham have been communicating with former UI student Atul Nakhasi, a key 21-ordinance opponent during that election.

That task force has been noted for its efforts to push student voting in 2007, when voters rejected the 21-ordinance by 57 percent.

“We’re just launching the second movement,” Patel said.

UI senior Jeff Shipley, who ran for a City Council seat last year, said he thinks a public vote is necessary.

“I think it absolutely needs to happen, needs to be voted on, and needs to be overturned,” he said.

A petition also sent the 21 issue to the polls in 2007. The citizen petition, drafted by pro-21 Committee for Healthy Choices, sought to raise the bar-entry age to 21. The members collected 3,576 signatures.

After this current petition is filed, Karr will verify that each signature belongs to a person registered to vote in Johnson County.

The city council will then have at least a month to decide how to proceed: repeal the 21-ordinance, hold a special election, or put it on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Several City Councilors said placing the issue on the November ballot would be the most likely outcome.

The last special election in Iowa City took place in May 2009 and cost around $36,000.



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