City Council pushes to add more railings in high structures

Monday, October 2, 2017 - 11:11pm

City Council was held in a somber mood Monday after a gunman killed 59 people in Las Vegas and a 56-year old man fell from the parking structure at the corner of South Fourth Avenue and East William Street.

Mayor Christopher Taylor expressed frustration at the lack of coordinated response to the Las Vegas incident, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“The fact that this occurs in our country, I believe it is a national disgrace,” Taylor said. “Other nations are able to deal with it as a matter of culture, a matter of legislation. I believe we should do so as well.”

He also lamented the incident at the parking structure, the third in a month after a 22-year-old man also fell from the same parking lot Sept. 7 and an 81-year-old man was found dead in the Huron River Sept. 20.

“It is a tragedy of mental illness, of community health,” Taylor said. “It’s something we need to focus on. We need to make sure that people who apply for help receive them.”

Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski, D-Ward 5, urged residents to engage in community activities that will distract from the sadness and forge bonds with other residents.

“This has been a heavy day for a lot of us in the community,” Warpehoski said. “In heavy times like these, it’s important to find things that give us life.”

Warpehoski added there are signs of hope. He explained the city is going to expedite the installation of railing on the Fourth Street parking structure. He said the process was delayed in the past because of high costs and other construction in the area.

“Given today’s death, we’re moving forward to get the railings put in with those higher bid numbers,” Warpehoski said. “If we find out because of the other construction that it’s going to take a long time, we’ll go ahead and put lower-cost chain-link fences or something else that can be deployed more quickly.”

Ann Arbor resident Peter Eckstein agreed placing a railing would help prevent suicide. He dispelled the common myth that "if someone is determined to kill themselves, they will, so putting up a fence will make them do it another way."

“The statement defies itself,” Eckstein said. “‘If they’re determined!’ But often people aren’t determined in that same sense. It’s an impulse.”

Eckstein shared the story about his friend jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco after his girlfriend broke up with him. The bridge did not have railings back then.

“These things are often done on impulse, the gloomy moment. It’s dark out. The sun may come out in half an hour, in 10 minutes. By then you’re dead,” Eckstein said. “You may get a job, you may get a purpose, you may get another girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s not ‘if you’re determined, you’re going to do it.’ And it is so easy to just climb up that wall and jump off. It’s scandalous that we let it happen.”