Ames City Council and Student Government discuss Cyclone Welcome Weekend


Katherine Kealey

City of Ames Mayor John Haila and Student Government Vice President Jaden Ahlrichs during the joint city council and Student Government meeting.

The Ames City Council discussed Cyclone Welcome Weekend, among a host of other topics, in a joint meeting with Iowa State’s Student Government.

The council meets with Student Government once every semester to discuss topics pertinent to the students of Ames.

Cyclone Welcome Weekend

Senate and city council members heard from Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff and Iowa State Police Chief Michael Newton on the proceedings of Cyclone Welcome Weekend. John Haila, mayor of Ames, said the intent behind Cyclone welcome week was to create a safe environment for returning students to celebrate their return to the city.

Newton said 62.9% of people cited over Cyclone Welcome Weekend were neither Iowa State students nor residents of Ames. He added that prior to receiving citations, visitors had told him they had heard Ames is the place to be that weekend to party, but after receiving citations, visitors would say, “Ames is lame.”

“We want Ames to be fun for all of you that are here that enjoy Ames,” Newton said. “We know because you enjoy Ames, you’re going to treat things appropriately, right?”

Huff and Newton, with the support of the council, expressed that they want to keep out-of-city partygoers with no connection to Ames from engaging in Cyclone Welcome Weekend and other associated events.

“A lot of folks came to town from the University of Iowa still for this event, so we’re hoping to see the number of people coming from out of town reduce over time,” Huff said. “Hopefully they’ll stay at their university, and our event will continue with these official events that are well planned [and] well attended.”

Huff said the Ames police had trouble staffing for Cyclone Welcome Weekend, as they had $5,000 in overtime– excluding overtime from supervisors who are not paid overtime. Newton said ISU police supplemented the Ames police workforce into the weekend, as most activity takes place off campus.

“We also had some charges that took place from printing the sign– the giant signs– that said that you may be towed,” Huff said. “That was almost $2,200, plus the time and effort to put all the signs up and taking them down.”

Huff said he most commonly heard that the events taking place over Cyclone Welcome Weekend lacked the enthusiasm of past years, which he said was hoped for. He added that the ordinances passed by the city to increase penalties over the weekend helped the parking situation.

Off-Campus Senator Katherine Engelken, a senior majoring in animal ecology, suggested that the administration hold events downtown over Cyclone Welcome Weekend to discourage partying. Haila said the Ames Chamber of Commerce has been involved with Cyclone Welcome Weekend, and that they are evaluating efficient methods to get more students downtown.

“I think that’s worth exploring further; I want to find out what it is specifically that you believe would be attractive to students to come down,” Haila said.

Mental Health

On the topic of mental health, College of Design Senator Emi Thornton, a senior majoring in architecture, asked the city council what they plan to do to address wages and the lease gaps throughout Ames, as they have a negative impact on students’ mental health.

“In terms of the low pay, students make up half the population for over three-quarters of that year, and that’s a high workforce,” Thornton said. “When they are disenfranchised due to the low pay and the high stress of many class hours, their mental health will take a dip. Treating the symptoms of mental health with workshops is not going to solve the problem long-term.”

Thornton said the living wage in Ames is $15, then they proceeded to list city and campus jobs that pay below $15.

“Seven of the 12 jobs posted right now to the city government website are not paying $15 an hour, they are paying less than that, you can just Google ‘City of Ames jobs’ to find this,” Thornton said. “ISU dining pays $13 an hour, ISU’s library is paying $10 an hour– those are the jobs that employ most of our students.”

At-Large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen said the city is limited in what they can do to address the issues, as the legislature has restricted city-level administrators from imposing minimum wages higher than the state minimum wage. She suggested that a meeting could be held with property owners and landlords to address lease gaps, but that does not guarantee a remedy.

Assistant City Manager Deb Schildroth said she, along with the Campus and Community Commission which is made up of students, have had conversations with the intent of addressing lease gaps, mentioning a survey sent to landlords on the issue.

“Although not all property management companies or landlords responded to our survey or talked to us about the issues we were trying to address, there were a good number of them that did,” Schildroth said. “And when it came to the lease gap issue, what the landlords who are participating and responding to our survey said is that if it was discussed with them ahead of time, they would try to make accommodations to allow people to stay in the apartment or move into their next apartment earlier.”

Schildroth said there would be a cost associated with the accommodations but that landlords would try to work with tenants.

Brian Vanderheyden, Iowa State’s director of student wellness, said the university is wrapping up a health and needs assessment. They said the assessment includes a quantitative analysis, a qualitative analysis and an environmental scan, all to address the needs of the Iowa State community.

“That part of that is looking at 181 best practices that are connected on a variety of topics like basic needs, mental health, substance use, power response and others,” Vanderheyden said.

Vanderheyden expects the report to be completed by the end of the fall semester.

The city currently does not have any mental health initiatives specifically for underrepresented or marginalized communities. Mary Malausky, a junior majoring in psychology and Student Government’s director of diversity equity and inclusion, suggested the city take up the mantle, as those from marginalized communities are more likely to experience difficulties accessing mental health resources.

“Cultural competency and recognizing individual needs of each person is something that is an underpinning of initiatives that we’re taking,” Schildroth said. “We would like more input on that. I think we can get better at it and need to get better at it.”

Ames Climate Action Plan

Schildroth gave a brief overview of the Ames Climate Action Plan to the Senate. The plan aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 83% by 2030, with a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. A consultant for the city detailed Six Big Moves the city must take to make progress toward its goals:

–Reducing vehicle emissions.
–Increasing active transportation.
–Increasing public transit.
–Installing retrofits.
–Achieving net-zero emissions from new developments by examining existing policy.
–Reducing waste emissions.

“We have 29 action steps under those six big moves,” Schildroth said. “So what staff has been doing the last several months is analyzing those action steps and looking at financial feasibility, legal feasibility, how it’s gonna impact our community and our residents and what kind of staff time or administrative time it’s going to take to implement those action steps.”

City staff will present the city council with a report of their findings at 6 p.m. Nov. 15.

Student engagement

Both members of city council and city staff asked the Senate for more ways students can be engaged with local government. Assistant City Manager Brian Phillips shared an app called Ames On The Go with the Senate.

“Ames On The Go allows anybody in the community to let the city know about issues that you may be experiencing with the community, whether that’s related to potholes, sidewalk repair, traffic signals that aren’t working properly, parks and recreation issues, graffiti– things of that nature,” Phillips said.

The app also features events and jobs available throughout Ames.

Haila shared various committees that are open for students to join to contribute to city affairs. Having served on the Transit Agency Board of Trustees for five years, Hailia said joining a committee is a good way to look into how the city and Iowa State work together.

“I know a lot of people aren’t engaged with city government, maybe because they think it doesn’t affect their everyday life, but there are definitely a lot of things going on in this city that matter,” said Ward 4 Rep. Rachel Junck, a graduate student in business administration. “The sales tax you pay at any Ames restaurant or retail store– that’s because of government.”

Pedestrian master plan

Damion Pregitzer, traffic engineer for the City of Ames, provided an update on Walk Bike Roll Ames, a project which aims to make walking, biking and rolling safer and more comfortable through Ames, according to the city’s website.

“It’s substantially an infrastructure plan,” Pregitzer said. “It will talk about policy; it will talk about ways to encourage walking and biking and things like that, but the plan focuses on how the network is designed, how it’s planned for the future and how it’s paid for.”

The plan only pertains to city-managed spaces, leaving Iowa State with the ability to come up with its own plan. Pregitzer said students can stay updated with the plan by visiting the city’s website and signing up for updates.

Thornton asked if the city would impose an ordinance requiring helmets on bikes, to which Pregitzer responded such an ordinance would be added if the consultants working on the plan suggested so after examining current policies and best practices.

“If we don’t have that type of law or something that [Thornton was] describing, we might make a recommendation when the plan is ready to be adopted that we have a helmet law or that we have some other type of thing, and then it’ll be up to the city council to decide if they want to move forward with that,” Pregitzer said.

Editor’s note: A previous version on this article incorrectly stated the goal of the Climate Action Plan is to reduce carbon emissions by 3% by 2030. It has since been updated to report the goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 83%. The Daily regrets this error.