This week Ann Arbor’s couch ban went into effect. This is pretty much what it sounds like – students can’t keep couches on their front porches anymore, or they’ll be fined up to $1000. Here’s a little background from the Michigan Daily:
‘The ban — which prohibits upholstered furniture on porches citywide — carries a maximum $1,000 fine for violators. Ann Arbor City Council unanimously passed the ban in the wake of a fatal April 3 house fire on South State Street that authorities believe turned deadly because a couch on the porch caught fire. The fire killed Eastern Michigan University student Renden LeMasters.’
I don’t have any particular attachment to porch couches, but I’ve always been a little skeptical of this ban. First, the logic strikes me as a bit odd. Do only porch couches cause fires? If we’re banning porch couches because they’re flammable, shouldn’t we ban all couches? Nobody that I know of is making this argument—because, of course, it’s silly, and it would never happen anyway.
So it seems to me that this isn’t about the safety issues surrounding porch couches. I can’t prove it, but I’m guessing that this ban really passed because people think that porch couches are an eyesore, and they finally found an opportunity to get rid of them. Honestly, I think this is also kind of silly. Most student housing in Ann Arbor isn’t all that glamorous to start with, and I doubt that porch couches are going to significantly lower property values or something. But I don’t know how else to explain this strong opposition to the couches.
I should be clear: I’m not in any way trying to make light of Renden LeMasters’ death. It was a tragedy, and I have the utmost sympathy for his family and friends. My point is simply that the official reasons for the ban aren’t coherent, and especially since the couch ban “has been discussed and shelved more than once in recent years,” I suspect there’s something else going on here.
Photo by donjd2 used under a Creative Commons license.