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Student Senate discusses fate of Northgate, Lyft Initiative Program, 12th Can - thebatt.com

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Date: 2022-09-22 23:14:33

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The 75th Session of the Texas A&M Student Senate met on Wednesday, Sept. 21, to primarily continue discussions about the Student Government Association Fiscal Year Budget for 2022-2023, and recently proposed changes to Northgate.  

Multiple new bills were heard but not yet voted on. Notably, Community Relations Chair Jessica Williams and Senator Karime Ramos presented The Fate of the Gates Bill. 

Williams and Ramos expressed concern about College Station Police Chief’s new initiatives regarding Northgate, acknowledging that there are valid safety concerns, but they still oppose the proposed changes for zoning and making the “last call” earlier for the district’s bars. Williams said the new bill needs a lot more Senate feedback. 

“The bill would voice public opposition to changes to the last call,” Williams said.

Ramos said the Community Relations Committee is not opposed to all of the proposed safety recommendations, but their committee will have more meetings to further discuss it. 

During the period of questioning, Senator Kevin Pierce asked if the city of College Station would value their input. 

“I’m getting a feeling that they think we’re the problem, and they may not want us,” Pierce said.

“The [Brazos] County Commissioners, the City of College Station and College Station Police are all very different entities,” Williams said. “We are working hard to improve [our] relationship with the City of College Station. I think the more input we provide and the more conversations we engage in, the better that relationship will be over time.”

“If we don’t advocate for ourselves and our interests, then our input will not be [considered],” Ramos said.

For now, The Fate of the Gates Bill was sent to the Community Relations Committee for further discussion.

Notably, during the Committee Reports, Student Services Chair Wolfe briefly discussed his ongoing work with A&M Transportation Services for integrating bus transit information to be compatible with Google and Apple Maps.

During the open forum, there were multiple presentations from the Senate. Student Services Chair Graham Wolfe and Senator Gus Rodriguez, on behalf of the Corps of Cadets, gave a brief presentation on the significance of the Fish Spurs tradition. They brought to attention the issue of fraternities that encourage targeted stealing of freshmen female cadets’ spurs due to their vulnerability. 

Senator Fawaz Syed and Senator Sam Jefferis gave a brief presentation on Pay Equity. Immediately after, Syed and Jefferis gave another presentation on financial information that led to an in-depth debate during the discussion of the proposed Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Bill.  

Interested in reducing the cost of travel near campus for A&M students and faculty, Jefferis and Syed sought to form an exclusive partnership with ride-share service Lyft for affordable fares for carpool groups. Lyft expressed mutual interest in the potential partnership. 

With the potential Lyft partnership, it is important to note that CARPOOL is an SGA Executive Branch member and is a non-profit organization run by students to offer free, sober rides home during the fall and spring semesters on weekends, according to CARPOOL’s website.

Jefferis and Syed are now pursuing an installation of a trial run of the Lyft Pilot Program on campus. They proposed to allocate $1,000 to the program initiative, which will provide funding to study subsidized rides, which would reduce the cost or offer free rides. To allocate the funding required to begin the program, Jefferis proposed reallocating $2,000 from CARPOOL’s budget for car insurance. He proposed $1,000 to also be allocated to the 12th Can.

Residing under the SGA, the 12th Can is a student-run food pantry that serves all students, faculty and staff who are in need of assistance, according to their website. According to estimates from the 12th Can, if they allocated an additional $1,000, they can provide an additional 1,500 to 1,750 meals for those in need this year. 

According to Jefferis, CARPOOL representatives provided over 1,400 rides last year, costing about $98,000. Jefferis said that with the same funding for the pilot program, Lyft could provide anywhere from 4,900 to 25,000 passenger rides. Syed said the average cost per passenger was $70 with CARPOOL, while with Lyft, the average cost per passenger ranges from $5 to $20.

Upon conclusion of the open forum, Speaker of the Senate Tyler Smith announced that the University Committee Confirmations would be delayed until the next meeting in two weeks. 

As the senate transitioned into discussing unfinished business, they began with a period of presentation from Finance Chair Cade Conrad over the SGA Budget Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Bill. After reviewing the changes made to the budget from the last meeting, a period of debate ensued. 

Syed motioned to amend the financial legislation by striking $2,000 from CARPOOL’s budget for car insurance to reallocate it to the 12th Can and for the Senate Initiative for the Lyft Pilot Program. Syed’s amendment was approved, passing 24-0.

Conrad motioned to withdraw $1,000 from the Senate Initiative Fund and instead set it aside, meaning additional legislation would have to be passed to direct the funding to the Lyft initiative.

“Having the $1,000 allocated to [the initiative] makes it easier for us to work with Lyft,” Syed said as he debated against Chair Conrad’s motion. Additionally, Syed said having the funds solidified for the initiative could make future conversations with investors easier.

Senator Corbitt Armstrong asked Chair Conrad what the difference is between allocating the funds to the SGA initiative and leaving it unallocated for later use at the discretion of the senate.

“Leaving the money unallocated would leave it in our budget so that nobody can touch [it],” Conrad said. “Next session, we can introduce a statute that would specifically designate that money for Lyft so that it can’t go toward any other initiative or project.” 

Senator Jefferis motioned to amend the budget by including a section at the end that would further enact the Student Senate Initiative Fund to the Lyft Partnership. Jefferis’ amendment passed, 25-1.

The Student Senate then proceeded to vote on the overall piece of legislation for the bill, unanimously passing 25-0. 

Original Source: https://www.thebatt.com/news/student-senate-discusses-fate-of-northgate-lyft-initiative-program-12th-can/article_89730f70-3ac8-11ed-8cbf-375220a0f1d5.html