An item on the Jan. 9 City Council agenda that seemed tailored to return to a conversation about the possibility and necessity of a fence on the top floor of the Sherman Avenue parking garage became a discourse on the appropriate role of the City in suicide prevention.

Background

On May 5, 2014, Henry Goldman, who was then president of the Sherman Plaza Condominium Association, met with City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, Police Chief Richard Eddington, First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske, Assistant City Manager Martin Lyons, and Parking Manager Rickey Voss on the upper deck of the parking garage to discuss residents’ concerns about activities there. Several incidents of people sitting on the four-foot wall, some of them tossing things below, had been reported.

The following month, although City staff recommended that the City authorize the purchase and installation of a six-foot chain link fence around the top level of the parking garage, the Council did not approve it.

June 2014 Meeting

During discussion at the June 23, 2014, meeting of the City’s Administration and Public Works Committee, it was said that the concept behind the fence was to prevent or at least discourage people from leaping off the deck and to provide a level of safety for skateboarders and other children sometimes seen playing near the structure’s walls.

Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey and then-Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus spoke against the proposal.

Ald. Burrus said the fence “is not going to stop anybody who wants to be up there.” The fence would not be high enough to prevent someone’s climbing over, she added.

Ald. Rainey said, “I think we’re smarter than this. What are we going to do about this lake? People drown in it.” She also said she felt the City would have to mandate similar protections on all tall structures.

Ald. Fiske said, “This isn’t an issue so much about attempted suicide. … Kids are sitting up there throwing things off” the deck onto the street below. The proposal came as a result of a “concern that was raised by residents of Sherman Plaza who saw this,” she said. Kids are “skateboarding” and “sitting up there dangling their feet off the ledge. I can see where something could happen, she said.

Back to January 2017

At the Jan. 9 City Council meeting, Ald. Fiske, who had asked that the recommendation for a fence be revisited, also focused on suicide, alluding to the discovery that day of the suicide of a Northwestern University basketball player.

“My hope is that we can take some time to ask staff to gather some information for us. We didn’t have the information we need for whatever is a good deterrent for those who want to end their lives,” Ald. Fiske said..

The alderman said she would ask City staff and Health Department Director Evonda Thomas-Smith for information about suicide prevention.

The Council thus took no action on the matter.

Over the past years, there have been reports of people jumping off both garages.