“I just want to get this over with,” Bob LeMasters said before lowering his head and stifling a sob as he spoke in front of the Ann Arbor City Council at its meeting last night.
LeMasters is the father of former Eastern Michigan University student Renden LeMasters, who was killed in an April 3 house fire that authorities believe started with a porch couch catching fire. The fire, which injured two other residents of the State Street house, prompted City Council to introduce a resolution banning upholstered furniture on porches.
Despite a plan to vote on the so-called “porch couch ban” last night, the council decided to postpone voting until September 20 in order to give University students more time to voice their opinions. Some Students, including the Michigan Student Assembly Executive Board, had opposed voting on the ban last night, saying that a vote at the start of the school year would limit student involvement in the process.
City Council indefinitely postponed voting on a similar resolution in 2004.
Bob LeMasters addressed the council in support of the ordinance during the public hearings section of yesterday’s meeting. In a brief but highly emotional speech, LeMasters begged City Council members to pass the ordinance and said it was what his son would have wanted.
“I think if (Renden) hadn’t lost his life he would have been behind it,” LeMasters said.
Despite supporting the ordinance, LSA senior John Oltean, a representative from the Michigan Student Assembly, spoke out against voting on it last night, pointing out that it fell on the very first day of University classes.
“I’d like to give (students) time to gauge support,” Oltean said.
Oltean also voiced the assembly’s position that the current ordinance too narrowly addresses fire safety.
“We feel many houses aren’t (safe) in other ways,” Oltean told the council. “We just want to make sure council is fully addressing the issue of fire safety.”
When the time to vote arrived, councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) — the ordinance’s original sponsor — acknowledged Oltean’s concerns and advised a postponement.
“There has been a broad degree of uncertainty in the student population (about) the ordinance,” Taylor said.
Taylor added that he wanted to give students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the ordinance before the council reached a final decision.
“It is in everyone’s interest for students to have a fulsome understanding of the ordinance,” Taylor said. “For that purpose, give us all a little more time.”
If passed, the ordinance will go into effect within 10 days, Taylor said in an interview last night.
In an interview after last night’s meeting, Ann Arbor Fire Marshall Kathleen Chamberlain said Fire Department officials back the ordinance because they believe it would ensure the safety of students and other Ann Arbor residents.
Chamberlain added that if the ordinance is passed the Fire Department plans to be more instructive than disciplinary in its regulation.
“Our intention is not to issue violations … our intention is to educate,” Chamberlain said.
“One life is too many to lose,” she added.