Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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ASM Silver elections fail to inspire

Alex Trebek: “This governmental body voiced their concern over the Patriot Act in Washington, they are dead set against military action in Iraq and a majority of them wished they could vote for a bill in Washington to investigate the feasibility of slavery reparations.”

Burt Reynolds: “Eh, that be the International Socialist Organization.”

Trebek: “Sorry, no go, Burt.”

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Sean Connery: “The Associated Students of Madison.”

Trebek: “Close, but still wrong. The answer is Madison’s City Council.”

Yes, our beloved city council, better known as ASM Silver thanks to their recent affinity for issues over which they have no control and their apparent desire to emulate their younger counterparts in the Memorial Union.

Just when you thought the elections were over and you breathed that sigh of relief after Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and state legislature, ASM Silver blindsides you like an SUV rolling over a cyclist, with uninspiring lawn signs and boring campaign literature.

An ASM Silver primary will be held Feb. 18, but allow me to wonder aloud: Why are we electing our mayor and alders in the spring (with a February primary, mind you) when we just had an election last November?

Turnout this spring will inevitably be lower than the November turnout, and while a separate ASM Silver election may bring increased attention to local issues, I doubt this attention is worth the extra money it will cost to haul out the ballot boxes two more times.

The city provides us a lot, from garbage collection to running water to parking tickets. But city staff and administrators provide these services and ensure things roll along smoothly. Alders and Mayoral wannabes focus on the “big picture” issues like affordable housing, “smart growth” and swimming pools.

These issues are certainly important to some people, but no city policy has had a greater effect on my day-to-day living than the Alcohol License and Review Committee’s hostility toward downtown bars and drinkers.

Bars, especially campus-area bars, have become a favorite scapegoat for many city and university officials. The university has taken an adversarial position against downtown bar owners through the well-financed PACE project and their constant meddling with the licensing process.

The city has not tried to stop the university’s meddling. They are rather impressed with graphics and statistics indicating downtown bars and drink specials are a blight on all of Madison.

This is a ridiculous proposition. The downtown needs more bars, not less. There is no reason anyone should have to stand in line in February to get into a tavern filled to capacity. There is no reason anyone should have to knock seven people over to get to the bar, only to wait for 15 minutes to get a pint of lager.

Bars are the safest place there is to consume alcohol, no doubt about it. Despite this and the fact there is clearly a demand for more tavern capacity, the city rejects legitimate proposals left and right.

The very few tavern proposals that even get consideration have already agreed to “voluntary” restrictions like early closings, bans on happy hours and video surveillance. Another ridiculous trend is that most new establishments aren’t bars, but restaurants required to earn 50 percent of their revenue from food sales. Restaurants are nice and welcome, but the lines all along State Street at 11:30 in the evening do not exist because downtown residents have the munchies.

ASM Silver candidates and candidates for mayor haven’t impressed me. They argue over who is the most hostile towards landlords and developers. They attempt to fit “Section 8” into their campaign literature umpteen times.

When Progressive Dane pushed for a smoking ban in taverns, I thought this ASM Silver election could get exciting. But supporters of that ban aren’t running again, leaving a group of candidates with no clash and no idea how to make campus life more enjoyable.

I know I seem shallow, but my hubris tells me I am not alone. ASM Silver needs an advocate for smokers, drinkers and concert goers. We don’t need another advocate for Iraq. Will anyone step to the plate?

A.J. Hughes ([email protected]) is a software developer and UW graduate.

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