Student involvement in city issues

With UW-Whitewater being such a prominent part of the Whitewater community, students are affected by decisions made by the local government.

UW-Whitewater students must become more aware of how decisions affect their lives here in Whitewater and the businesses they benefit from.

Graphic by Seth Anderson

For eight months out of the year, students living both on and off campus make up a large part of the community.

The current population of Whitewater is about 14,400 people, including all the UW-Whitewater students living both on and off campus.

During the school year, students nearly double the population of Whitewater.

As a part of the community, UW-Whitewater students benefit from local businesses, parks and services provided by the city, all of which are affected by decisions made by the Whitewater Common Council.

However, the lack of student turnout at common council meetings shows either students are unaware of how much they are affected or they just don’t care.

One issue affecting the 21-and-older portion of the student population was last spring’s attack on all-you-can-drink specials at local bars.

Though this might not be an issue for all students, there are many students who would be upset to see drinking specials limited further or even banned in Whitewater.

For students living off campus, zoning laws set by the city can impact how much they pay for rent and, if violated, can result in fines some might view as excessive.

An example of this is zoning laws. Though some of the houses on Prairie Street might have as many as five bedrooms, zoning laws prevent more than three students from living there.

For students living in these homes, even though there is room for four other people to split rent with, they are only able to split it between three people.

For students who might park on streets off campus, a previous proposal could have had a major impact on students.

The proposal essentially stated that students who park on streets off campus should be required to purchase a parking permit.

It’s issues like these impacting the student population that many students might be unaware of.

As a result, we must pay more attention to what is going on in our community and how it not only affects us, but the year-round residents who graciously welcome us into their city and businesses every fall.

A good place to begin involvement is to visit the City of Whitewater website at www.whitewater-wi.gov.

Here, students will not only find news about city events and happenings, but the minutes and agendas for the common council and the numerous other city boards meetings.

By reading the minutes, students can learn about what city boards have done recently.

Agendas for upcoming meetings will alert students of issues they might oppose and want to voice their opinions for or against.

At UW-Whitewater, we are  fortunate enough to have one of our peers representing our district on the common council.

Senior Javonni Butler was re-elected for the District 2 seat in last week’s election.

Butler is a valuable resource for students to begin getting involved in our local government.

Not only can Butler answer questions about issues occurring at local government meetings, but he can serve as a voice for our concerns and also explain how to become more involved.

As UW-Whitewater students, we are affected by the decisions made by the Whitewater Common Council much more than many might realize.

We have a voice in what happens in this community and because of that, we must not only become more aware of how decisions made by our local government affect us, but also more involved in the decision-making process.

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