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Do UI students belong on the City Council?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Yes

University of Iowa students should be actively involved in municipal government leadership because of their significant makeup of the city’s population and their contribution to the city’s economy.

There’s no mistaking students play a vital role in maintaining Iowa City’s economic success. Without them and the University of Iowa, the city we’ve come to know and love would surely be another run-of-the-mill Iowa town. Students bring the commerce which keeps this city alive, namely in the form of financial and intellectual capital. So it’s only common sense that students get involved with city politics.

Unfortunately, the status of being a “student” is often correlated to a variety of negative misnomers. Students are stereotyped as being apathetic, misinformed, and, above all else, heavy drinkers. While this stereotype may be true of a few students, the majority remain rational, logical, and involved citizens. In essence, the “bad apples” of the student community should not be used as grounds to dismiss the leadership abilities of all members in the group.

But perhaps the single most important reason students need to become involved in higher-level city politics is because of the lack of representation they too often receive. Many of the policies decided on by the City Council are overwhelmingly student-related; yet, despite contrary belief, many of these issues are not alcohol-related. These include such vital issues as the increasing costs of off-campus housing or ever-changing Pedestrian Mall rules, both of which have serious implications on student-residents’ finances and lifestyles.

Although it has been decades since the City Council has had a student member, this year’s election provides a wonderful opportunity for students to change that. UI junior Raj Patel has recently announced his candidacy for one of the at-large seats, and he has set an optimistic outlook for how competent a student councilor could be.

“Some people may say youth is my weakness, but in fact, I think it is my greatest strength,” Patel said earlier this month. “I will bring to the table new and fresh ideas to bring Iowa City into the future.”

Fresh ideas could prove invaluable in providing a vibrant city atmosphere for future students and families alike. Hopefully, city voters will understand the merits a student leader can lend to city policymaking this fall and carry that optimism into all future city elections.

— Matt Heinze

No

Simply put, anyone who can run for a public office should be able to run for public office, be it for the local dogcatcher or a seat in the U.S. Senate. Anyone passionate and ambitious enough to actively seek out public service should be applauded — but that is not the issue.

An undergraduate university student lacks both the hindsight and the foresight to even moderately represent the city’s unique and widespread interests. Iowa City deserves better representation than what can come from a resident who primarily associates that title with how much money he or she has to pay in tuition.

Students come and go. They spend four years in a city, either trying to dig themselves out from under a mound of textbooks or, especially at this university, trying to recover from a massive hangover after bonging too many Four Locos at a black-light party. They have neither the time nor the experience to properly address even the smallest of systematic issues that makes a city run.

Iowa City is much more than its university. The University of Iowa is a beautiful and historical mark on the face of the city, its students bring unique life and passion from across the globe, but it is only a small part of the city as a whole. Students experience a small breadth of campus life, not having to worry about the upkeep of the small glass pieces in the grand mosaic.

But what would a student resident, who spent the majority of her or his time living in one of university’s residence halls, say about property taxes? About representative allocation of funds? About street construction? About economic stimulus for small businesses? How much time would it take for a student to research and formulate an educated opinion on these ideas?

The answer: too much time.

A student on the council would be unable to offer an informed opinion on the most important issues and would only have something of value to say when the pertinent issue directly affects the narrow student interest.

But it would be of no consequence, because in two years the ambitious student would no doubt move on to the next city, seeing how much money he or she could save by claiming residence on a tuition form.

— Benjamin Evans


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