The Alcohol License Review Committee is one of the most important bodies in Madison's government, tasked with coordinating and implementing all alcohol related policies in the city. From approving the liquor licenses of new bars to coordinating with police, the ALRC has a lasting effect on how city residents use alcohol. And when a city loves its alcohol as much as Madison, there will always be a wealth of issues to deal with. Yet until recently the voices of students have been comparatively absent on the committee, with a non-voting student advisory position added only last semester.
Ald. Bryon Eagon, District 8, a UW-Madison student, has proposed for a full voting position to be added to the committee. We feel this is a reasonable step toward giving a voice to student residents who are directly affected by city alcohol policies. The initial proposal Eagon brought to the Common Council Organizational Committee was rejected, but we believe that the subsequent changes to the proposal have not weakened it.
Any enrolled student at UW-Madison, Edgewood College or the Madison Area Technical College would be eligible for the seat if they are 18 years old, bypassing the criticism of the earlier proposal that it was only concerned with UW-Madison. Some opponents are concerned that 18-year-old students should not vote on policies pertaining to drinking, but this is unfounded as residents can run for Common Council seats when they are 18 and thus may already be able to influence alcohol policy. Underage students might also bring a different or more fresh perspective than 21-year-old students.
Students could be nominated by their student government to apply for the seat or they could apply directly to the Mayor's office, who would then make a candidate nomination for approval by the full Common Council.
The seat would also have a two year term as opposed to the three years for other voting seats on the ALRC, a compromise that takes into account the reality of students graduating or studying abroad. It also allows for the possibility that a student would be able to start and finish their term during a typical four-year college career.
When the proposed Badger Hall of Fame Grill failed to convince the ALRC of its viability in University Square, concerns for students were frequently cited. But it is far from clear if a student member would have rejected the proposal or the benefits it might have brought to Madison's economy, including a place for underage students to mingle with upperclassmen. The ALRC could benefit from having a member that deals with this issue on a regular basis, as opposed to spending Friday nights watching ""Dora the Explorer"" with the kids. It is important to acknowledge that students are intelligent and mature enough to advocate for themselves.
We urge both the ALRC and the full Common Council to support the student voting seat, with the Organizational Committee already giving their approval. A student perspective would help the ALRC craft policies that reflect student safety concerns and the realities of UW-Madison student life, being neither a rubber stamp nor an impediment to practical solutions for a thriving downtown.Thousands of students use alcohol legally and responsibly in Madison every week, it is long past time for their views to be fully heard.