Lone UISG candidates want lower alcohol fines, expanded Nite Ride

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | APRIL 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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The lone candidate for University of Iowa Student Government president has worked closely with the Iowa City City Council this year — experience he hopes will allow him to better advocate for UI students.

The Action Party — made up of presidential candidate Elliot Higgins and vice-presidential candidate Brittany Caplin — is alone on this year’s election ballot. The two will serve as UISG leaders during the 2011-2012 school year.

“I’m running to be an advocate on behalf of the students and make some changes that will improve the quality of life for UI students,” said Higgins, the current UISG City Council liaison.

The pair of UI juniors will present their campaign platform at a UISG forum at 7 p.m. today in the Pomerantz Career Center, detailing what they want to accomplish as UISG leaders next year.

The party’s plans include working to allow students to charge items and services from downtown businesses, parking ramps, and vending machines to their U-bills.

Higgins is also lobbying the City Council to lower the cost of alcohol-related citations, and he said he plans to continue during his presidency next year. The 21-year-old wrote a letter to the council last week asking them to reconsider the fines and fees, especially the $735 citation doled out to underage people found in a bar after 10 p.m. The council is set to discuss the issue at its work session tonight.

Higgins said he hopes that his relationship with the council will continue to benefit UISG and plans to continue lobbying them on behalf of students.

Higgins said UISG would benefit from adding a student as a voting member of the City Council in this November’s election. As a liaison, Higgins isn’t allowed to vote.

City Councilor Regenia Bailey said Higgins has been an “exemplary” liaison who comes to meetings prepared. She also said she’d support a student councilor in order to “get some representation from that segment of our community.”

Along with several other ideas, the Action Party wants to create a UISG-sponsored website on which students can rate their landlords and property-management companies, Higgins said.

Caplin, also a UI junior, said she feels strongly about increasing campus safety.

“Nite Ride needs to be expanded and used more,” she said, and she hopes to implement a plan that would allow students to pay for taxi rides by charging them to their U-bills. Higgins said he’d like to expand Nite Ride to include males.

Party members — who wore bright yellow T-shirts around campus last week — also said they’d like to increase UISG’s transparency, posting meeting minutes and recording senator attendance online.
And even though Higgins and Caplin make up the lone party — as current UISG leaders John Rigby and Erika Hayes did last year — it doesn’t mean the members won’t campaign.

Tonight’s forum typically takes place in the form of a debate with multiple parties.

“[The forum] would be more effective if there were two parties,” said Gordon Sonnenschein, the director of the UISG Student Elections Board. “People want to see competition, they want to see debates, they want to see drama.”

Where students wont see a debate among candidates, they will have an opportunity to address their future representatives.

“Students can ask questions and get answers directly from the candidates, which might not happen throughout the year,” said Sonnenschein, who will act as the moderator of the forum.

And despite the lack of excitement in this year’s campaign season, Caplin and Higgins agreed their party’s platform is within reach.

“It allows us the ability to make feasible and reasonable goals,” Higgins said. “When there is competition, parties are more likely to make far-fetched goals in order to gain votes … It’s very important to us to have doable platform ideas.”

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