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In the Wake of the Failed 21 Ordinance Repeal, Short-Sighted Rhetoric


Iowa City, let’s navel gaze for a moment. Our town, despite its location and size, has been ranked by The Advocate magazine as the third most gay-friendly city in the United States. It’s the only city in the country to be named a UNESCO City of Literature, where The University of Iowa Writers Workshop has played host to literary giants such as T. C. Boyle, Flannery O’Connor, Joe Haldeman and Kurt Vonnegut. It’s the recipient of countless accolades, having been ranked–over the last few years–the third “Best Small Metropolitan Area” by Forbes and the third best place to retire by Money magazine. Expansion Management Magazine, meanwhile, has named our school system the fourth best in the nation.

We know this, but none of it matters anymore. Teenagers are no longer allowed in our bars, Iowa City will die, and things will never be the same. At least, that’s what some of the more heinous rhetoric coming from 21+ opponents indicates.

Iowa City is not a shallow city. It is more than the sum of its drinking establishments, and to imply that Iowa City is now ‘finished’ is a slap in the face to those who actually made this city great. Iowa City is not ‘done.’ It is not ‘finished.’ The in-development rejuvenation projects south of Burlington Street, which include the 12-story Hieronymus Square building, the University of Iowa Clapp Recital Hall, a new train depot and riverside park, did not come to be because university underclassmen were allowed into bars to binge drink.

Did I say binge drink? I meant “socialize.”

I supported the repeal of the 21 ordinance, and I fear for how the ordinance may affect local business, most notably Iowa City’s music venues (which should probably begin charging me rent). What I don’t support is attributing Iowa City’s status as a great place, almost entirely, to its drinking establishment regulations. Iowa City is not a shallow city. We stand on the shoulders of giants, not teenage bar patrons.


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