By Rick Dobyns
The progressive nature of Iowa City is a great part of our community. However, our progressiveness should not be misconstrued as the latest rationale for letting the underage into city bars after 10 p.m.
For this and other well established reasons, the upcoming vote on Nov. 5 needs to be a “no” vote to avoid going back to the time when thousands of underage drinkers could walk into bars where the law cannot be effectively enforced. Yet going back in time is what could happen.
Can they get it done? Well, yes — and here’s how. There are more than 22,000 University of Iowa undergraduate students who make up most of the 15,000 25-and-under voters eligible to vote in Iowa City. Of those 15,000 young voters, more than one-third of them voted in round one of the 21 ordinance vote in 2007 and 85 percent of them voted for underage bar entry. That’s almost 5,000 votes that the bar owners who want to lure the underage back into the bars can count on to vote to change the current ordinance. Even 10,000 Iowa City voters older than 25 showed up to vote and couldn’t outvote the young voters that year.
It took a City Council decision to put in the current ordinance and that’s what’s at risk. With many minds being made up, it pretty much comes down to getting out the vote for each side.
The group wanting to reverse the ordinance has pulled out the same game plan by successfully petitioning for satellite voting stations where UI undergraduates congregate — academic university buildings and dormitories — so most of the under-25 voters can vote where they live. That is a great advantage along with a singular issue that resonates with the youngest voters. No wonder that the various votes on this bar entry issue consistently breaks records for Iowa City voting percentage.
So it comes down to who votes and who doesn’t.
If you live in Iowa City, anywhere from Burge Hall to Scott Boulevard to Rohret Road, you will be encouraged to vote. When you see the early voter numbers pouring out of the university campus satellites before Election Day, you’ll see what I mean.
Rick Dobyns is an Iowa City Council member. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org