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Officials speak on 21-ordinance

BY REBECCA MORIN | OCTOBER 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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Excitement flooded the University Capitol Center meeting room as University of Iowa students donning neon-yellow shirts in support of repealing the 21-ordinance filled the room.

The ordinance, which prohibits individuals under the age of 21 to be in a bar after 10 p.m., has incited many opponents and supporters alike since the law was first initiated in 2010.

The forum, which was sponsored by the University of Iowa Student Government and The Daily Iowan, was held Wednesday evening

UISG President Katherine Valde said she hoped the forum would lend some legitimacy as an unbiased discourse for students.

Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Student Life who supports the 21-ordinance, said that if it was repealed, it would result in the conditions prior to the law’s inception.

“I think there really isn’t any question that the safety and the health of our students and other young people have improved by the ordinance,” said Rocklin, who also serves as co-chairman of the 21 Makes Sense campaign. “We have about a 20-year time series on students’ drinking habits, and there’s been less drinking.”

A UI student on the panel felt the 21-ordiance has only increased unsafe drinking habits.

Michael Kessler said he believes the ordinance has only contributed to unsafe drinking by causing students to drink earlier, leave the bars earlier, and stay out later at house parties.

“Downtown Iowa City has gotten less quiet, but downtown Iowa City was never dangerous,” said Kessler, the Young Adults for Equality and Safety campaign commissioner. “I don’t think students were walking there thinking they were going to get shot, students are leaving bars at 10 p.m. to go house parties where the lighting is poor.”

Mayor Matt Hayek argued the ordinance has exemptions for students to still be able to go downtown — such as Blue Moose, Gabe’s, and the Mill, and with the addition of more restaurants, and even a downtown theater, he said people want to be downtown more often.

“One of the things everyone thought was the economy would implode,” Hayek said. “We’ve seen more places that have been replaced by restaurants, retail, a film cinema, we are seeing more people come downtown. We see a downtown that is more attractive with more people, and more people who want to live in the downtown area.”

In spite of Hayek’s support, Kaleb Hays, a panelist and YES supporter, believes the ordinance takes away the rights of the individuals under 21.

“I came here because it’s a progressive and open-minded place,” Hays said. “But we are not allowed to make our decision to drink and dance, and [city officials] are taking away the right decide on our own.”

UI statistics lecturer Blake Whitten echoed student concerns, and he feels the ordinance unfairly targets young people.

“I’m a lecturer at the university, and I want to provide a faculty voice on the other side of the issue,” he said. “I don’t think discriminating on a base of age is right, and I don’t think we should be picking on 19- or 20-year-olds.”


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