City Council shuts out student voices

· Jun 28, 2001 Tweet

In mid-June, the Madison City Council decided to axe one of the two districts that ensure student representation on the Council. Following last spring’s District 5 election, which failed to produce a clear victor, the Council voted to split the district into three parts.

I would like to think that it is was just a coincidence that the council split the district when most students are gone, but the City Council has a history of making important decisions that directly effect students over the summer.

Unfortunately, Council’s last move is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem plaguing Madison. Both the mayor and City Council are deliberately trying to make sure student interests are not represented and are pushed out of the way.

By eliminating District 5, the council has managed to even further dilute student voices. Council members justify their decision to cut the student district by saying it was dictated by changing demographics. They conveniently point to the fact that many people have moved to the outskirts of Madison over the past 10 years, but ignore the equally important growth that has occurred in student areas. Many new student-oriented housing projects are going up, and tremendous growth is occurring in downtown areas and is expected to continue for the next two or three years.

Why else would the council be interested in splitting District 5 into three parts? The city is going to be dealing with some controversial issues in the downtown area. The mayor’s office is attempting to redefine the downtown area in order to attract more people to move from the suburbs to the downtown.

In order for that to happen, the downtown will need to be more attractive to that crowd. This means pushing students out of State Street establishments. It is a classic Machiavellian scheme of divide and conquer.

It is no mystery why the Madison Alcohol Licensing Review Committee has been cracking down on downtown bars. It is trying to make State Street appeal to the soccer moms of the suburbs at the expense of students and the character of the street.

The ALRC and the mayor’s workgroup on downtown alcohol issues have put forth a proposal they claim will stop the “problem” that alcohol poses. However, this proposal does not even begin to explain what this problem really is. They ignore the serious and relevant issues such as binge drinking. In fact, the proposal advocated by the ALRC will only make the abuses worse. The crack down on downtown bars will force more people into house parties, which are extremely unsafe in comparison to licensed bars.

In crafting the new proposal, the city failed to truly investigate the problem. The instant the mayor implied that the alcohol issue was too important to be handled by students, she doomed the city’s investigation to failure. Students may not have an end-all solution to this problem; but different viewpoints would help create a more complete solution.

At the last council meeting, a resolution was tabled that would have appointed several students to the downtown alcohol workgroup. This April, more than 10 students applied for seats on various city committees and not a single one was appointed. Even when the city is confronted with the issue they decide to ignore it.

It is time to awake the sleeping giant in the downtown. The mayor was elected her first time because of a large amount of student support. She has obviously forgotten who helped to get her where she is. Students need to make themselves a political force in this city and not let people talk the talk and then not walk the walk.

We need to make sure that those who plan on representing us have the intelligence and experience to fight for the student voice. Otherwise the city will just point to them as the reason students should not be at the Council table.

It is our job to make sure the city does not push students out of the downtown area by creating a market that has the highest rents in Wisconsin. We have the power to change this anti-student culture. All we have to do is use it.

— Mike Dean, former chair of the Associated Students of Madison, will write bi-weekly next semester.

He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].


This article was published Jun 28, 2001 at 12:00 pm and last updated Jun 28, 2001 at 12:00 pm


UW-Madison's Premier Independent Student Newspaper

All Content © The Badger Herald, 1995 - 2023