Saturday, October 05, 2013

'GO, HAWKS!' -- Just Not in My Yard

October 5, 2013, 2:30 p.m.
Homecoming's Public Urination

The Athletic Department needs to put at least a half-dozen porta-potties along Melrose Court, from its intersection with Melrose Avenue to the barricade at the intersections of Melrose Court, Myrtle Avenue and Greenwood Drive.

It's Homecoming.

For some football fans Iowa City is home. For others a second home. For still others it's just the home of Kinnick Stadium.

Unfortunately, apparently some fans came from a place where "home" means you can pee on your neighbors' lawns whenever you want. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson.]

It's nice that the Athletic Department can drop 70,000 folks into a tiny residential neighborhood designed for about 200, and that the crowd can feel at home. Sharing the football Saturday with friends. Tailgating. Throwing a football around. Playing the beanbag game. The colorful clothes, the music, the chatter.

What's to complain about that?

I am a resident of that neighborhood (in the house I lived in from 1941 to 1952, and returned to in 1989). So far as most of the fans are concerned, there's little, if anything, about which I complain. They are friendly, fun-loving, and respectful.

Unfortunately, that can't be said of all.

I have often written in the past about the trash that gets left behind. Most of it is left out in the open and can be easily picked up by the neighbors. The two exceptions are (1) the broken glass created, and left behind, by those who enjoy throwing beer bottles into the air just to watch them crash and shatter on the sidewalk, and (2) those who think it tidier to throw trash under bushes, out of the way, perhaps not realizing that means we need to get down on our bellies and crawl under the bushes to get it back out. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson, 2012.]

In fairness, early Sunday mornings these days there seems to be less trash throughout the neighborhood than there used to be. There's an organized trash collection and removal effort. This is in addition to the valuable service provided by those who have always gathered the visible cans and bottles and carried them off on their backs, in large 300-container bags, in exchange for the redemption money welcomed by those down on their luck.

But the public urination business is another matter. It's really offensive, and quite common. The two pictures embedded in this blog essay were taken within 10 minutes of each other while my wife and I were trying to enjoy breakfast on our back patio this morning. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson.]

I've never called the police to report it. It would never have occurred to me to do so. But two weeks ago, during the Western Michigan game, I noticed an Iowa City Police car parked in front of the house and went out to see what was going on. The friendly officer asked if I lived here. I said I did. He asked if I had given students permission to urinate in my yard. I acknowledged that I had not. "Just wanted to make sure," he responded, "because I just gave a guy a ticket for public urination." What a unique experience it was for me; the first time since 1941 that anyone had ever been ticketed for peeing in our yard (so far as I'm aware).

As we continued to talk, I noted that a little earlier I had asked three or four guys who were urinating on my front lawn to please go down the street to the Myrtle Street Parking Lot, where there are usually a dozen or more porta-potties, and how they'd argued with me. Their analytical position seemed to derive from their possession of an entitlement to pee wherever they wished. The officer explained that I should not expect to have reasoned discourse with a drunk.

OK, he's right. But I do expect reasoned discourse with the Athletic Department. The football program pulls in (and spends) tens of millions of dollars each year from television revenues, ticket sales, and gifts. This morning's paper explains that it spends over $200,000 on paying the dozens of regional law enforcement officers needed for security. Tara Bannow, "About a Dozen Agencies Protect Gamedays; UI Spent About $210K on Security Last Season," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 5, 2013, p. A1. It can put up porta-potties by the dozen when and where it wishes. Why can't it put up a half-dozen where its paying customers, and neighborhood residents, have to put up with the externalities created by 70,000 Hawkeye fans -- including their public urination?

Oh, and sorry about the 26-14 outcome today.

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Anonymous said...

I got a great chuckle -- pictures and all. As I drove through the after mass by the stadium-- to take my granddaughter in her white poofy dress and gold high high heels to her group's picture taking for the West home coming dance-- I thought wow-- this area is the first landing for near 100 thousand people as they all go somewhere streaming out of the stadium. This is where the party/ celebration begins and ends. And for so many years. Get residential porta potties!!!!

Amy B said...

It's miserable living in this neighborhood on game days, and some are worse than others. I'd like to see several patrol cars stationed in the neighborhood with officers giving out tickets for public urination, excessive noise (e.g., speakers outside blasting music with the bass cranked up), littering, etc. The Athletic Department should pay for the extra police patrols.

Nancy Davin said...

Have you contacted the Athletic Department about the placing of porta potties? If not, how about the people (non UI properties) who host the tailgaters?

I do, however, have little sympathy for those who have moved in the last 25 years to this neighborhood because you must know about the noise and litter on the 8ish Saturdays per year. It's been that way since I was 2. And I'm 53.

Douglas said...

Pee-ers are lucky I don't live on Melrose; they'd get a tazer in the ass.

Anonymous said...


I do not live anywhere in Iowa City but ever heard of personal responsibility for your actions such as peeing on somebody's lawn? Maybe you would draw the line and have sympathy if they were taking a crap on the lawn?

Also, have you considered that not all who have chosen to live on Melrose are either native Iowans or for that matter lifelong Iowa City residents like yourself? Were these residents expected to anticipate the actions of some drunk Iowa fans on game day when purchasing a home on Melrose in the summer?

This apparently obvious expectation to you is not be as obvious as buying a home that is 10 feet from the banks of the Iowa River.

Mary Murphy said...

This particular column brought back memories for me of living in the neighborhood at issue many years ago. My neighbor at the time, Ruth Milller, tired of people peeing on her fence on game days, had to contact numerous parties to get porta-potties installed at the Myrtle Street parking lot. I believe it was finally the Department of Public Health that inspired the action on the part of others that resulted in porta-potties being placed at the Myrtle Street parking lot location. I always admired Ruth's perseverence. Thanks for writing this piece.