Friday, June 01, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 496 - Rain Forest, Cable, Bars, Search

June 1, 2007, 7:25 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 3:45 p.m.

EXTRA: Brian Morelli, "UI president finalists to visit June 11-15," Iowa City Press-Citizen Online, June 1, 2007, 1:52 p.m.:
The finalists for the University of Iowa presidency will visit campus, one each day, from June 11-15, the presidential search committee said today.

The candidates won’t be revealed until they are on campus. They will come into town the night before and have dinner at the president’s mansion. The following day, candidates will tour campus.

A public forum will be held each day from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chambers, during which the public will be able to ask questions of the candidate.
And see, Diane Heldt, "Five Will Vie for UI President," The Gazette Online, June 1, 2007, 7:33 a.m.
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Lots of topics today. We'll start with the summaries and links and maybe add some comments as the day's schedule permits.

Earthpark, or as State29 calls it, "Earthpork," is back in the news. We've heard virtually nothing for nearly six months from what was once the output of a regular public relations machine. I'm indebted to Brad Franzwa for bringing to my attention that the Pella Town Crier is bringing us up to date. Don't worry, the rain forest in a tulip bed still doesn't yet have a lock on the $50 million they need to pick up Senator Grassley's earmark on their behalf. But they're clearly not throwing in the towel. After all, would you, if a Senator would dangle $50 million in front of you? "What's Happening With the Earthpark Project? Gov. Culver line item vetoes Vision Iowa funds...," Pella Town Crier, May 31, 2007. Governor Culver is pretty much on record opposing the project, and has tightened down the screws a bit on the State money the rain forest promoters were hoping to grab. Jason Clayworth, "Earthpark weathers Culver's rejection; The decision to not increase tourism grant limits won't be fatal, backers say," Des Moines Register, May 31, 2007.

Cable. But "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." At a time when Governor Culver was demonstrating his ability to veto bills contrary to the public interest, I am deeply disappointed that he chose to sign the "Qwest corporate welfare, tilt the playing field, and screw the consumer cable bill." I appreciate that it's not easy to stand up to your Party's legislative leadership after a major corporation has spread $165,000 over the Legislature. But really, Governor! What a God awful bill to put your name to! Nor am I alone; virtually every city government in the State opposed this bill -- and for good reasons that will soon become obvious to Iowa's cable subscribers. The Governor may end up paying a significant political price for his signature on that one. But only time will tell. He has, so far, been quite successful in damping down any media coverage of his Qwest for support.

Here' are the Sioux City Journal's story on his signing, and my take on the issues in an op ed I wrote for the Des Moines Register: Dan Gearino, "Culver signs cable television expansion bill; Governor vetoes Missouri River panel changes," Sioux City Journal, May 30, 2007;
Nicholas Johnson, "Rein in prices by keeping tough local regulation," Des Moines Register, April 12, 2007.

Bars. The fight is on, literally as well as figuratively, over the future of Iowa City's bar culture. There were a number of comments on yesterday's blog entry about the subject, all well worth reading. And last evening the City Council addressed the issues. Lee Hermiston, "Council sounds off on 21-only; Councilors, bar owners have mixed thoughts on ordinance," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 1, 2007, p. A1. As predicted, the City Council stayed true to form vis-a-vis the influential bar owners, and courageously voted: "Let's you and him fight; we'll hold your coats; and so long as the citizens of Iowa City are going to vote anyway I guess we don't have to."

But as if there weren't enough bar fights already, one local bar is using unregulated fights among amateurs as an added lure to potential profits; just a little "boys-will-be-boys" entertainment for their drunken patrons.
Hieu Pham, "City May Knock Out Fight Night," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 1, 2007, p. A1; Gregg Hennigan, "I.C. Council to Discuss Fight Nights; City Attorney Favors Total Ban Rather Than Regulating Contests," The Gazette, June 1, 2007, p. B1.

Hieu Pham's story contains this report: "City attorney Eleanor Dilkes has advised council members that a total ban of amateur fighting in businesses with alcohol licenses is preferable to regulation. An attempt to regulate is more complicated, requiring physicals, referees and other components, she said."

That's a good point. But with all respect to the City Council, isn't it an equally valid argument with regard to enforcing the 21-and-older-only law as well? That is, to paraphrase, "a total ban of underage patrons in businesses with alcohol licenses is preferable to regulation. An attempt to regulate is more complicated . . .."

As State29 writes today, as he continues his support of lowering the drinking age to 18, but notes: "I don't understand the idea of allowing people under the age of 21 into a bar and then kicking them out at 10pm. That seems like a really weird compromise and a large part of the problem." State29, "Let's Treat 20 Year Old Adults Like the Children They Really Are," June 1, 2007. Amen to that.

I really don't want to churn up all the old arguments all over again, but I will address one. A standard argument put forward by the pro-bar lobby is that if you were to enforce the law in an administratively feasible way (namely, by keeping those too young to legally drink out of establishments the primary purpose of which is to sell alcohol) they will just do even more dangerous drinking elsewhere. I have essentially two responses.

(1) A legal system requires that you either enforce laws or repeal them. Otherwise ordered liberty erodes. Why not argue: (a) You shouldn't forbid kids to bring knives and guns to school. As long as they're in school you can keep an eye on them. Forbid them to bring weapons to school and you'll just force them into drive-by shootings in the residential neighborhoods. Or (b), to use another school example: "Don't force those who like to speed to slow down to 15 mph in school zones. That's ridiculously slow, and besides, it will just encourage speeders to drive even faster elsewhere."

(2) Mick Starcevich has been one of Iowa's most competent and creative educational administrators. Now President of Kirkwood Community College, when he was Superintendent of the College Community District he kept a sign on his wall: "In God we trust. All others bring data." I have not seen -- but would like to, and would certainly take into account -- data from other college towns regarding this issue. It would need to be data from professionals not on the alcohol industry's payroll. There is, after all, a lot of money to be made from alcohol abusers and underage binge drinkers, and individuals can be found who will let their data be molded by money. Have there been other college towns with underage drinking in bars and residential areas, where the law was suddenly effectively enforced in bars, and data is available as to what that did to residential drinking? Not just the one best, or worst, case (depending on your point of view), but all the data. What was done next; what have proven to be the best practices for minimizing the adverse consequences of underage drinking (regardless of where it occurs)? I assume such data is available -- it may even be known by individuals in Iowa City (both the pro-bar and 21-only crowds).

Such data doesn't address the need to retain respect for law, but it would add a lot more to a reasoned dialogue about a major social problem than mere assertions and opinions.

UI President Search. Search Committee II is continuing to dole out little scraps of information with the skill of David Oman promoting the rain forest.
Brian Morelli, "UI Interview Dates Coming," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 1, 2007, p. A3; Erin Jordan, "Panel to Say Today When Candidates Will Visit U of I," Des Moines Register, June 1, 2007. We have now been promised that we won't know today when candidates will be coming, whether they will all be in and out of here in a week or longer, how many there will be, who they will be, whether they will all be recommended to the Regents, or whether additional persons may be. All we will know for sure is that (a) some of the candidates have agreed to suffer the incredible harm to their reputations as a result of their names being made public, and their colleagues coming to know that they have agreed to actually being considered as a possible president of the University of Iowa, and (b) that we will have but 24 hours to contact all the people we know in the world who might possibly have anything to tell us that would be useful in evaluating their candidacy.

UICCU and "Optiva"

The UICCU-Optiva story is essentially behind us. There may be occasional additions "for the record," but for the most part the last major entry, with links to the prior material from October 2006 through March 2007, is "UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Optiva," March 3, 2007. Since then there have been two major additions: Nicholas Johnson, "Open Letter to UICCU Board" in "UI Held Hostage Day 423 - March 20 - UICCU," March 20, 2007, and "'Open Letter': Confirmation from World Council of Credit Unions" in "UI Held Hostage Day 424 - March 21 UICCU," March 21, 2007.

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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . .

These blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.

Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006.

My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.

Searching: the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References." A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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John Neff said...

You were asking about data about underage drinking. In my opinion the best local data set is the one collected by Thomas Baker Assistant Dean of Students. His data is restricted to students who have violated the code of student conduct. He also looks at the Iowa City PD arrest records to get a general overview of the problem. Another good source of information is the annual survey of public school students carried out Criminal Juvenile Justice Planning. The police complaint log is a huge data set that does contain some data about parties but don't think that mining that data set would be very fruitful.

I am not aware of anything recent for Iowa City the survey of UI students drinking behavior was terminated several years ago and the studies I did that were based on IC PD public intoxication arrest reports and jail data are about five years old.

Collecting reliable social science data is expensive and finding money to pay for the data collection is difficult. My guess is that other universities may have data sets that are similar to those collected by Dean Baker but they also would be incomplete and they may not be willing to share the data.

Oddly enough I think a good way to get a fast overview of the situation would be to hire people to visit bars and conduct randomly selected interviews. Another approach would be to shadow the police as they carry out bar checks. On the other hand if the police become aware they are being shadowed that could influence the outcome of the study.

Information collected by the Ambulance Service and emergency rooms is confidential but they might be willing to provide summaries that give the number of alcohol related incidents.

John Barleykorn said...

It's not for the Bars.

It's not that I think its a better thing that they go to bars. I just make the point that prohibition has never worked. It does not work now for underage drinkers and it does not work for the so-called "War on Drugs". I was a student at the UI 20 or so years ago. There may be more bars downtown now, but back then the Greeks were part of the social system and there were the keg parties. Drinking is no more prevelant now than then, or frankly in 1963 from what my Mom and Dad tell me. My grandma also told me about drinking they did in the 1930's as students. People need to get some perspective here.

This is not an endorsement of drinking by college students, we should just be honest that they do and will continue to. So stop wasting resources on this issue. You might as well be lighting bills on fire as fund "Stepping Up".