As early as July 19, the Ann Arbor City
Council could vote on and approve a measure to ban all porch
couches, claiming they present a fire hazard and should not be
allowed for the sake of safety. However, this justification is
merely a cover for the true reason some are pushing for their
removal: In the eyes of Ann Arbor property owners, porch couches
look trashy and bring down property values. When viewed rationally,
it is clear that porch sofas do not pose a significant enough
hazard to call for their forced removal. The proposed ban on
couches is an unnecessary attack on the rights of the student
population and is an indication of the poor opinion Ann Arbor
residents have for University students.

Janna Hutz

The idea that couches, specifically on porches, pose a
significant fire hazard is absurd. Outdoor couches are no less
susceptible to flames than indoor couches, which are not going to
be banned. Also, indoor appliances such as toasters and stoves are
much more likely to create a fire than a cigarette tossed onto a
piece of outdoor furniture. Others have warned that couches are a
threat because they can become waterlogged and fall through weak
porches. This is surely not a common enough occurrence to merit a
blanket prohibition of porch couches. City Council member Leigh
Greden proposed another justification, telling The Ann Arbor News
that “They are an environmental hazard because animals will
live in them.” Once again, while squirrels and chipmunks
might occasionally choose to live in a couch, rodent-infested
couches should be handled on a case-by-case basis, not by a broad,
intrusive mandate.

The real rationale behind banning couches is evident: Ann Arbor
property owners will benefit. Despite their convenience and
comfort, these pieces of furniture can be an eyesore for those who
wish to make the city appear upscale. Porch couches can seem seedy
and have the potential to bring down the property values of homes
close to student housing. Students, with their crass tastes and
often sloppy lifestyles, are viewed by permanent residents as a
liability to the city. Because Ann Arbor has drawn its city council
wards in such a way to marginalize students, students (who make up
a large chunk of the city population) are minorities in every
single ward. Thus, there is no adequate representation of student
voices in government; Landlords and property owners are able to
pass such restrictive legislation.

It should also be noted that the City Council is attempting to
pass a ban over the summer, when most students have left town and
are unable to contest the ban. This tactic, often used by the
University administration, is simply way to get around student
activism. Members of the Michigan Student Assembly who are in Ann
Arbor this summer should not forget their duty to represent the
student interest; MSA representatives and officers should organize
resistance to the pending couch ban. All those who are concerned
are encouraged to actively oppose this restrictive legislation by
attending the July 19 City Council meeting, which will be held at 7
p.m. at 100 North Fifth Avenue. This attempt to strip student
rights should not be allowed to pass without the active and vocal
dissent of the student community.

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