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Guest column: 21-ordinance should stay

BY GUEST COLUMN | OCTOBER 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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As the Nov. 5 municipal elections draw closer and satellite voting locations open on campus, we think it is important to address the positive effects (and dispel some myths) that the 21-ordinance has had for the University of Iowa and greater Iowa City community. First and foremost, the ordinance has created a more vibrant downtown for both students and community residents. Downtown’s post-ordinance landscape is a better place and friendlier to wider audiences. New establishments including Scene 1, the Clinton Street Social Club, and Basta have replaced a handful of bars and cater to a variety of interests. Even with the current ordinance in place, we have seen city policies adapt to accommodate alcohol-alternative-entertainment options. Individuals under 21 can stay in such venues as the Mill, Blue Moose, Yacht Club, and Gabe’s to see concerts after midnight without violating the ordinance, and any establishment which makes more than half of its sales from goods and services other than alcoholic beverages is allowed to keep its doors open to individuals younger than 21. We think that this demonstrates a willingness and flexibility to respond to the interests of students and younger patrons.

Second, contrary to the oppositional narrative, the off-campus neighborhoods did not explode with parties in 2010. Proponents of repealing the ordinance often discuss safety in anecdotal terms, but the facts simply tell a different story. Recent data from the Iowa City police show that citywide calls for service for sexual assault/rape, burglary, assault, criminal mischief, public disturbance/loud parties, and fights in progress all dropped since the ordinance passed. There were 1,383 fewer calls for service citywide in those categories from 2010-13 than there were between 2007 and 2010. These statistics make it difficult to justify that students are put at a greater risk since the passing of the ordinance.

Alcohol-related charges have also dropped in the past three years. According to the Gazette, public-intoxication arrests decreased 11 percent, citations for PAULA were down by 33 percent, and the misuse of identification cards also decreased by 11 percent. So long as the legal drinking age is 21, keeping underage people out of the bars past 10 p.m. reduces the number of students who will be ticketed for underage drinking. Although a PAULA can be expunged after two years, keeping the ordinance in place makes it less likely that people will put themselves in a situation to receive another ticket. No matter how you feel on the issue, it’s not debatable that graduating without a legal record can only help students in their search for jobs and graduate school.

We’ve grown up in this community and have seen the measurable difference pre- and post-ordinance. We will vote “no” again this election cycle to preserve these changes that have reduced negative consequences from drinking and encourage students to look closely at the issue as well and take these points into consideration when casting your ballot.

Katherine Valde and Jack Cumming are the president and vice president of the UI Student Government.


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