Student Voting Member on the ALRC

A few weeks ago, a proposal came before the Common Council Organizational Committee to add a voting Alder to the Alcohol License Review Committee. The committee voiced concerns about the potential and undesired 4-4 ties this addition could create, so the amendment was made to add another citizen voting member to deter such ties.  So far so good, right? But I thought we could do one better:

I introduced a substitute amendment to change the new citizen voting member to a student voting member.

The familiar topics of safety, landlord issues, the environment, and even those not-so-universal issues (snow removal and toxic algae to name a few), are all important and significant issues to students. Here in Madison, and I would assume in many other college-towns, few issues garner more student attention and passion than the issues surrounding alcohol.

With this interest and goals of encouraging active participation from young people in Madison, students deserve a full vote on the city’s most alcohol-centered committee. Not only do students care about the issue of alcohol, they know about and (many often interact with) the issue. Students can provide a unmatched voice and unique perspective about what kinds of establishments and policies Madison should be supporting when in comes to alcohol. Students are more surrounded with the issues of alcohol than probably any other ‘group’ in Madison.

From participating, observing, interacting, responding, hearing, feeling, and experiencing the affects and impacts of alcohol,  students are in-tune with the direct and indirect issues before the ALRC. Thus, students deserve a full vote on the issue and I would argue that students could benefit the committee and city as a whole with this vote because of their unparalled experiences, input, feedback, and ideas.

Now I know some critics may think that students would just be a “rubber stamp” for anything alcohol, but I don’t think that’s the case.  I would challenge those critics to give students a chance to prove them wrong because I know, through experience, that student don’t just want anything alcohol. No, we are smarter and more well-rounded than some think.

Students want fun, safe, interactive places to do more than vertical drinking. We want places where we can do more than just drink, places where we feel safe and comfortable to hang out, eat, play, relax, and have a good time.  I would venture these sentiments aren’t just shared among students, but shared with the wider Madison community as well.

Jamie Stark over at the Daily Cardinal wrote a great piece on the issue, expanding on how the current student “technical adviser” (non-voting position) shows significant student interest in the position.

My amendment failed to pass a few weeks ago, but the opportunity to add a student voting member on the ALRC is far from over, in fact, quite the contrary. The original proposal returns to the CCOC and Common Council this Tuesday, Oct. 6th, and I plan on re-introducing the student voting member amendment, this time armed with the full legal language and definitions that were previously absent, an absence that cause some self-professed would-be-supporters to vote against the amendment because they were unclear of the details. Not a bad reason, I admit. But now the language and details are clear and the time to show that this city can walk the walk in engaging, empowering, and enfranchising (ah, the rhetorical powers of alliteration) students to be full, active, informed, voting members on a committee they care about is now.

Again, I plan to introduce the reformed and defined amendment tomorrow, Oct. 6th at the 4:30pm CCOC meeting and we’ll have to see how that goes and maybe again before the full Council 2 hours later at 6:30pm.

And for all you junkies out there, here is some of the language of the proposed change to add the student voting member:

DRAFTER’S ANALYSIS:  This substitute ordinance adds an alder and an adult resident to the Alcohol License Review Committee.  The Committee will then consist of 9 members:  3 alders and 6 adult citizens, one of which shall be a student at UW-Madison, MATC or Edgewood.  Term of service is revised from two years to three years, except that the student appointee is a 2-year term.  The effective date of this ordinance shall be January 1, 2010.

(c) One of the adult resident appointments shall be a student, at least 18 years of age, enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison Area Technical College or Edgewood College.  The term of the student appointment shall be two (2) years.  The student governments of each university or college may submit nominations to the Mayor, and any other student may apply for appointment.  The Mayoral student appointment is, like other adult resident appointments, subject to confirmation by the Common Council.

Pass or fail, this initiative for a student voting member on the ALRC has created some great discussions about alcohol policy relating to students and the role students can and should plan on this and other issues here in Madison. Thoughts, feedback, ideas? As always, feel free to email me at: district8@cityofmadison.com

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