Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Neighborly Request

October 14, 2009, 6:45 a.m.
How About Them Hawks!
(brought to you by*)

Current Hot Topics:

Hancher-Voxman-Clapp Relocation. Five-part series on relocation and rebuilding. Part V, with its links to the prior four, and its "update" analysis of the October 12 forum's "third option" and proposal to raise Hancher, plus a link to the UI Facilities Management Website with streaming video and Power Point slides from the July 9 and October 12 public forums at McBride Auditorium, and "Hancher Relocation Process and Site; University Offers Useful Model for Major Decisions," July 10, 2009 (commentary about the relocation decision making process).

University of Iowa Budget Issues. See "A University's Strategic Communication; A Modest Proposal to the Regents' University Presidents," October 7, 2009; and "Iowa's Budget Cuts and the University; Economic Collapse Tests Moral Values," October 9, 2009.

A few more porta-potties and trash cans would be nice. Everyone's pleased with the dramatic on-field record of the Hawkeye Football team this season. At least I am.

Even off the field -- unless the police aren't arresting and the papers aren't reporting -- there seem to be a whole lot fewer crime reports about the players this year.

But it's no secret that the program does impose some costs on those whose tiny residential locations are turned into staging areas for the 70,000 troops before and after those games. These photos give some idea of the number of cars and individuals we host on those occasions.

In dealing with this, unfortunately we haven't always had the cooperation we would have liked from the University, City, and Athletic Department in our efforts to make this as pleasant an experience as possible for fans and neighbors alike.

Individual neighbors' experiences, and responses, differ. Some have the misfortune to live next to party houses that generate excessive noise, excessive alcohol consumption (much of it illegal), boisterous behavior, property damage, obnoxious taunts, and lots of public urination. Personally I rather enjoy watching students and fans having a good time. And we're blessed with some very responsible student and other neighbors across the street (which has not always been the case). Putting more than our neighborhood's share of the 70,000 into a residential area designed for a couple hundred at most does create some congestion on the streets that could be a problem if there were a need for fire trucks or ambulances.

But aside from that, the adverse impact on me is primarily limited to the very public urination on our lawn and the trash that is thrown under bushes (rather than merely dropped, where I could pick it up). This picture shows a sampling from the game last Saturday. (Note the empty half gallon of vodka, the toilet paper, the Bud cans in the Hawkeye colors, and in the center the broken beer bottle -- apparently, next to watching football, there's nothing quite as exciting as throwing a beer bottle into the air and watching it crash into shards on the sidewalk.)

So far as I'm concerned a few additional porta-johns and trash containers would solve the primary problems I have with the football crowds this season -- though many of my neighbors are not so lucky.

In any event, for all of these reasons it was a very pleasant surprise to see Athletic Director Gary Barta's op ed in the Press-Citizen recently [Photo credit: Iowa City Press-Citizen]:

[T]here is something that has bothered me and that I've wanted to address for some time. . . . I am discouraged, and sometimes downright disgusted, by a small minority of alcohol abusers who ruin the gameday experience and give Hawkeye tailgating a bad name.

Each week, we deal with hundreds of fans who abuse alcohol to the point of embarrassment -- and in many cases endanger themselves and others around them . . . dozens of people who drink so much they can't stand on their own, pass-out, are under age, throw up on the fans around them, urinate in public, etc. . . .

I am not comfortable with allowing those who abuse this privilege to ruin the experience for the rest of us.

In advance of Saturday's homecoming game, I want to thank the overwhelming majority of Hawkeye fans who tailgate responsibly, . . . and respect the private property of our friends in the neighborhoods that are adjacent to our wonderful football stadium. . . .

I want to ask that very small number of fans who choose not to behave in a responsible, positive way on game days to consider raising their personal standards.
Gary Barta, "Help with 'Kinnick magic,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 8, 2009.

I thought this was a nice thing to do. Best case, it might actually have an impact on some fans and help with our neighborhood problems (although I suspect that few of those fans ever read it). Worst case, it was a thoughtful and appreciated gesture.

Unfortunately, the good will from that op ed column was offset a bit by Barta's emailed suggestion to one of my neighbors that they brought the neighborhood problems on themselves by choosing to live where they do, and that, by implication, the only effective remedy would be for them to move out of the neighborhood. (E.g., "many of your concerns and complaints will never be able to be eliminated. By choosing to live next to campus . . . you endure the inconveniences associated with a football game that attracts more than 70,000 people. . . . [T]here are no assurances we will be able to do what you suggest. [T]he challenges you experience . . . come with the choice of living next to the stadium.")

This was not, I should note, an email to me, nor was it a rejection of a request for more porta-johns and trash containers (since that had not been requested by that neighbor in that email exchange).

One would hope that a University could work toward a neighborly compromise, offering residents a little more creative and compassionate option than (1) shifting the full brunt and cost of the unpleasant aspects of hosting 70,000 uninvited guests onto the neighborhood's home owners, for what is a revenue-generating activity for the University, or (2) suggesting local residents simply abandon their homes and move elsewhere.

For its own sake, I would think the University would want to make the Myrtle Street Parking Lot (on the east end of the neighborhood) -- university property -- into an alcohol-free tailgating area, as I believe it has with other University-owned lots. This would not necessarily help the neighborhood, because it might well just shift the binge drinking onto more of the party house properties closer to the neighbors. But, without checking sources, it's my belief that what is now going on is a violation not only of Iowa law but of the University's own regulations, and could conceivably impose legal liability on the University for the property damage, personal injury (and worse) that might result from that alcohol consumption (especially by those who are under age and violating the law for that reason as well). Just a thought.

I would hope that at least my rather modest request for more porta-johns and trash containers in the neighborhood might be met. It would involve a rather insignificant expense for a multi-million-dollar-generating football program, and might actually reduce some of the cost of the post-game cleanup that either the City or Athletic Departmet is providing -- for which I thank whoever is resposible.
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
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