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City Doesn't Want to Fund Maintenance of Suicide Barriers at Cornell

The City of Ithaca held another meeting on Cornell's plans to install suicide barriers this week. And a number of council members have come out against spending any city money on the nets, according to reports in the Ithaca Journal.

"The idea that someone could potentially break their neck (jumping into the net) and turn around and sue the city concerns me," said Alderman Dan Cogan, D-5th. "I'm inclined not to support this unless Cornell would indemnify the city against lawsuits, costs, replacement. I'm not willing for the city to take on any costs for this."
Cogan echoed similar ideas from Joel Zumoff, D-3rd, Ellen McCollister, D-3rd, and Govind Acharya of the BPW.

The article makes the council look petty. Cornell has offered to pay the cost of the nets, is it really too much to ask the city to pick up on maintainence if they believe the nets will work? The humorous news site Scallywag & Vagabond picked up on this thread.

But "it's not just about having Cornell pay the costs and maintenance of net installation " writes Councilwoman McCollister in an email. "A few of us on Council think it's a bad idea to install nets, regardless of whether Cornell pays or not."

Recent research has called into question the effectiveness of suicide barriers--particularly when other jumping sites are available nearby. (More information here, here, and here.)

Despite this, Cornell continues to rely on expert guidance it received more than a year ago. "The experts have told us when people are deterred from one site they don't pick an alternative site," Cornell's Deputy Spokesperson, Simeon Moss, told WBNG, News Channel 12 out of Binghamton this week.

Yes, the experts did say this last spring, but that was before the British Medical Journal published a landmark study, showing a suicide barrier on the Bloor Street Viaduct had no effect on jumping sucide in Toronto. That was before Meta Ezra revealed the statistical dirty tricks used to obscure the fact that the suicide nets on the Bern Muenster Terrace had no effect on the jumping rates in Bern. That precedent is still being used by Cornell to argue that barriers are effective in preventing suicide, according to McCollister.

Perhaps the people of Ithaca will never agree on a single course of action, but I don't think it is too much to ask that everyone agree on some basic facts.

Dan Jost can be reached at djost.1983 (at) gmail.com.

Dan Jost | Posted on August 04, 2011 (#)

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