The Madison City Council approved Tuesday the addition of a citizen member and an alder to the city’s Alcohol License Review Committee, and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said he will appoint a student to the citizen member position.
Ald. Bryon Eagon’s, District 8, original proposal called for a permanent student voting position on the ALRC. In lieu of this, Eagon proposed another version of the proposal — calling for adding an alder and a citizen — given a prior agreement with Cieslewicz that the mayor would appoint a student to the citizen position.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, sought to pass Eagon’s original proposal solidifying the permanent voting student on the ALRC. However, the proposal was narrowly defeated 10-9, with 11 votes needed to pass the ordinance.
Maniaci said she was frustrated with the “entrenched lack of diversity” on the committee, adding the ALRC would be a good committee for young people to get involved with.
Discussion of a student vote centered on whether a student would be appropriate for the ALRC and whether students would be considered representatives of a special interest group on the committee.
Barb Mercer, president of the Dane County Tavern League, said a voting student on the committee is not necessary and a student vote is a “backdoor” attempt to change the culture and control of the ALRC.
She added students should not be voting on issues relating to the alcohol industry as a whole and she opposes a student vote as the Tavern League lacks one.
Mercer also said the University of Wisconsin is one of the downtown bars’ biggest competitors because Memorial Union sells beer — an issue she said no one brings up — and has the privilege of serving alcohol with no city monitoring.
Two ALRC members — Pam Bean and Chet Gerlach — spoke against adding the positions to the committee, as the new positions would prolong the already lengthy ALRC meetings.
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, however, said the students are an important missing voice on the committee and could offer perspective on alcohol issues, such as encouraging more entertainment options in the downtown.
She also said the student population should not be considered a special interest group.
“[Students] are not a special interest group — they are citizen members of our community,” Bidar-Sielaff said, adding that in the end, “we are a college town.”
Cielsewicz said he does not find Bidar-Sielaff’s argument persuasive, and designating a seat for a certain group on any committee is not ideal.
“It’s a bad road to go down to designate more people for specific groups on committees — it’s going to get harder and harder to fill the seat,” Cieslewicz said.
He added it would create a slippery slope in which other groups such as the Tavern League and UW administration would also ask for a voting position.
A number of students came to the meeting and spoke in support of adding a voting student position, including representatives from the Associated Students of Madison Student Council and Legislative Affairs Committee, and the editorial boards of The Badger Herald and the Daily Cardinal.
Adam Johnson, chair of Legislative Affairs, said students could offer a unique perspective on the ALRC and this position serves as a symbol for potential future student involvement.
“Hopefully this is the catalyst for future student involvement (in city issues),” Eagon said.
Correction: The Alcohol License Review Committee was cited as ARLC twice. We regret the errors.