Mason: UI mum on Melrose vendors

BY NINA EARNEST | MAY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason said the university likely wouldn't get involved in the debates over game-day vendors on Melrose Avenue unless the city wanted its input.

Mason told The Daily Iowan Wednesday the university has not yet taken a stance on the issue.

"I'm always willing to work in partnership with the city, but this is a city issue," she said. "This is very much up to the City Council, to our city leadership."

However, she said, the school tends to get involved when it is invited. And she said she is "enthusiastic" to keep the vendors on Melrose, but she also made sure to distinguish her feelings from a university stance.

"My own personal opinion is the vendors on Melrose, I think, contribute to the overall positive nature of game day," Mason said. "For families, in particular, and for our guests and visitors who come to enjoy the experience."

Some Melrose residents said they're hoping for more UI involvement in the regulation of the vendors.

"What I would like is a comprehensive review of football game days and that the university, city, and the [Melrose] neighborhood sit down and talk about innovative ways to make the game day more enjoyable for everybody," said Jean Walker, a member of the Melrose Neighborhood Association.

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An Iowa City panel first suggested commercial vendors not be allowed to set up along Melrose Avenue — running alongside Kinnick Stadium — in response to neighborhood complaints in April.

Walker then told the City Council neighborhood members had to deal with disturbances from urination, vomiting, and trash.

Doug Boothroy, the director of Housing and Inspection Services for Iowa City, said he hasn't heard any notice of a planned discussion between the three entities.

"There's still time for that involvement," he said.

Michaelanne Widness, another Melrose resident, said she would like to have a discussion about game-day activities in general — one that involved UI officials.

"I don't think any sort of discussion can be mentioned without any involvement of the university," Widness said.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university would not adopt an official stance until others request it join the exchange.

"If such an invitation would be issued, the university would be open to the possibility of joining the discussion," he said.

Vendor Chuck Ford, known as the voice of the "Big Ass Turkey Legs" stand, said the university could contribute by supplying trash containers and restrooms along the avenue, in response to major complaints in regards to trash and urination.

"If you give them places to do those things, you eliminate part of the problem," he said.

Ron Christensen, the owner of Gameday Iowa, said he appreciated any support.

"We all need to work together to make it work," he said.

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