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Group Targeting Iowa City Drinking Shares Successful Numbers

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Officials were excited Wednesday. At a meeting of the Partnership for Alcohol Safety they showcased a new study from the American College Health Association that shows UI undergrads are drinking less.

According to the study 75% of University of Iowa undergraduates have drunk in the past 30 days. That's the lowest percentage in the more than 20 years the group's been collecting data. High risk drinking is also down 17% from 2009 to 2013.

Here's a full summery of the study:

"We're not done with this problem, we haven't solved it. But, we definitely are improving," said Kelly Bender with the University's Division of Student Life.

It's improvement some say you can see. Police are noting fewer violent and sexual assaults.

"The things that were of major concern a few years ago, they've all been on the trend to the positive nature," said Police Chief Sam Hargadine.

The city is seeing a better downtown.

"The area is more vibrant. It's calmed down. It has a better mix. The downtown is stronger," said Mayor Matt Hayek.

The cause? Well some officials say, in part, it's the 21-only ordinance. It went into effect three years ago and bans those under 21 from being in bars after 10 p.m.

Recently, more than 2,600 registered Iowa City voters signed a petition to repeal it, with many saying it only forces the underage to drink earlier or elsewhere.

"Whether it's at a house party or a bar there's still lots of drunk people in Iowa City," said UI Senior Brianna Hoffmann.

The petition forces the council to either enact the proposal, allowing those 19 and older into bars at night, or send it to voters. The concern for the UI, and some with the city, is if the ordinance goes so too will their drop in numbers.

"Anytime you increase access to alcohol you increase consumption and you increase problems. Research supports that over and over again," said Bender.

Some city council members have said they don't support repealing the ordinance, so the issue will probably be on the ballot in November. The City Council will take up the ordinance at their July 23, meeting for discussion only. Assuming the council does not want to repeal the law, it will vote Aug. 6 to put it up for election.

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