Joint StuGov, city council meeting focuses on city initiatives and pedestrian safety


Mayor John Haila and senators listen during the joint Ames City Council and Student Government meeting Wednesday.

Alex Connor

Pedestrian safety, infrastructure and student involvement dominated the discussion between Student Government and the Ames City Council during the joint working meeting held at the Memorial Union Wednesday evening.

The joint meeting, which is typically held on an annual basis, serves as an opportunity for the two governmental bodies to have an open conversation about the issues facing Ames specifically pertaining to students.

“We really want this to be a discussion meeting,” Speaker Zoey Shipley said. “It’s an opportunity for our representative bodies to come together and talk about issues we see around the city.”

Kicking off the discussion, Sen. Isaiah Baker asked the council how the two organizations can better partner in student safety, specifically on Lincoln Way.

“How can we keep pedestrian and bikers safe in general?” Baker said.

Councilwoman Gloria Betcher touted an ongoing citywide initiative dubbed Bike Walk Drive Smart that works to raise awareness about pedestrian safety.

Betcher encouraged the newly-created task force on pedestrian safety through Student Government to look into partnering with their current work as a way to not repeat work but also amplify what is already going on.

Other questions regarding pedestrian safety included rumors of a possible bridge to go over Lincoln Way as a way to curb illegal crossing, as well as why students tend to walk and text at the same time.

Betcher said a bridge is unlikely as studies show that even with a bridge students are just as likely to cross at alternative points. She said she’d rather see money spent on education when addressing the issue.

Mayor John Haila also touched on the Ames Lincoln Way Corridor Plan, which was created to address “land use, development, traffic and mobility, urban design” and infrastructure along the corridor.

Another large part of the conversation included ways to increase student engagement with the city, in addition to Student Government.

Haila encouraged students to apply to a board or commission, saying: “One thing that I am extremely passionate about is getting students involved with the city… Just be proactive.”

Sen. Chelsea Eret suggested the mayor promote the positions with outreach targeted at students through current resources such as the Student Job Board under volunteer experience.

Additionally, Vice Speaker Cody Woodruff discussed the recent ad hoc committee that was created last semester to encourage voting in Ames and at a local level and the possible partnerships that could exist between the committee and the council in the future.

In response, Betcher touched on the also newly-formed Campus and Community Commission which is designed so that all three entities in Ames [students, permanent residents and the university] can work together.

She suggested the possibility of the committee channeling its ideas through the commission and later the council.

Councilman Chris Nelson said at any level he encourages involvement.

“We get surprisingly little communication and you guys are the majority of our community,” he said.

For the latter part of the joint session, the Senate and council moved through a variety of topics including recent initiatives by council members such as the Capital Improvement Plan and the city park system.

Council member Tim Gartin said he was surprised rental housing was not part of the discussion, and feels it is a step in the right direction that it was not brought up.

Off that, however, and in closing, Haila invited Student Government to attend a February workshop on a recently-approved, and highly divisive, rental occupancy ordinance.

We want to get issues identified and work through them through a succinct, cordial conversation, he said.