Another voting member on ALRC?

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The Alcohol License Review Committee – easily the most politically important committee in the Council. No, it has nothing to do with approving the $100 million renovation of the Edgewater Hotel or the development of “car light” neighborhoods or city trolley systems, but alcohol is the only issue to a fair number of voters, especially if city elections don’t take place during spring break.

Today the ALRC is considering adding another voting member, which would bring the total number of votes on the committee to eight. Currently there are two alders, Michael Schumacher and Mike Verveer, as well as five “residents,” some of whom have technical expertise on the issue, and some of whom are selected by the mayor because…well, he thought they would be chill additions.

In another discussion with Schumacher about alcohol policy, my favorite German on the Council expressed tentative opposition to the proposed plan, mainly because he believes eight voting members would be harder to manage than seven, considering the likelihood of tie votes. Nevertheless, he did indicate support for an alternative plan, which would replace one of the resident members with an alder but keep the overall number at seven. His point is that although many like the idea of resident members, and see their participation as evidence of a keen sense of civic activity in the city, they are still appointed by the mayor, meaning they are less democratic than alders, who are elected officials and are held accountable by their constituents.

But here’s another idea that may be thrown around – how about making Mark Woulf, the non-voting student rep on the committee, a voting member? It’s an idea Bryon Eagon has thrown around. Add Woulf and an alder and bring the number up to 9? That way students get a vote on their favorite issue (I guess some care about book theft) and the committee has an odd number of reps to prevent ties.

Is that possible? No, at least not according to Schumacher, who says he fought a tough political battle just to get a non-voting student rep on ALRC in the first place. Despite that success, the student rep is still only a temporary position that must be re-approved in three years.

What is most surprising about the alcohol politics in this city is the opposition to student participation from, of all places, the bars! It’s the alcohol industry that doesn’t appreciate the presence of a policy maker who represents but mere customers (students). Does that make sense? Why would bars shun a reliably pro-bar vote on the license committee? Schumacher doesn’t quite understand. Would they rather have an anti-alcohol soccer mom?

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