Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More on The Bridge -- SBCTA Opposes

Here's a letter I received a copy of about Cold Spring Bridge that was sent to CalTrans:

===========Letter from SBCTA to Cal Trans===============

This is to inform you of the opposition of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association (SBCTA) to the CalTrans proposal to install fencing barriers on the Cold Spring Bridge. We have arrived at our position after receiving input from experts in law enforcement.

SBCTA understands that our public safety officers place themselves in life threatening situations on a daily basis due to the unpredictable conduct and behavior of certain members of our society. Nevertheless, when troubled individuals threaten to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge, or engage in protesting while climbing the Golden Gate Bridge, we do not believe officers should put themselves in harm's way because of these individuals' erratic behavior and unfortunate conduct.

SBCTA would rather see our taxpayer dollars used to pay for putting more officers on the street and/or by providing our existing officers the wages and benefits they deserve as opposed to using these finite resources to build fencing and other barriers that are not only aesthetically unappealing, but are ultimately ineffective at stopping suicides from occurring.

We thank you for the opportunity to share our position with you on this important matter. In addition, CalTrans staff is always welcome to attend our monthly board of directors’ luncheons, held on the second Thursday of the month at Andersons Pea Soup in Buellton.


Mike Stoker
Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association

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Anonymous xyz said...

well, well, Mike Stoker and Marc McGinnes, arm-in-arm! Hard to disagree with that spectrum and the need for greater enforcement of existing traffic laws on 154 generally.

5/08/2008 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

I never thought I would find myself agreeing with Mike Stoker on anything! I keep re-reading his letter in case I missed something, but nope, I agree.

5/08/2008 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Marc McGinnes said...

The reasoned opposition of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association to the deeply flawed and grossly wasteful CalTrans proposal to install fencing barriers on the Cold Spring Bridge should raise a red flag for CalTrans and local officials. Since they are going to be asking county taxpayers to vote yes on Measure A to tax themselves to fund transportation and traffic safety projects in the future, they would be well advised to think twice before allowing the waste of nearly $3 million on this particularly flagrant example of fiscal irresponsibility.

These officials would be well advised to consider too the reasoned opposition of these other respected community organizations to the bridge barriers proposal:

Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
Citizens Planning Association South County Land Use Committee
Pearl Chase Society
Santa Barbara County Action Network
Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club
Los Padres ForestWatch
Womens Environmental Watch
San Marcos Trout Club
Santa Ynez Valley Alliance
Friends of the Bridge

Citizens who wish to let these officials know their views on the fencing barriers proposal can do so at upcoming public hearings and by contacting them directly. Information to assist folks in doing so can be obtained by contacting

5/08/2008 1:14 PM  
Anonymous I pay taxes and Stoker does not represent me said...

Nice to see Stoker and pals keeping busy just pandering to the police lobby as yet another example of them not having anything to do with taxpayers of government spending.

The fence atop the bridge is a stupid proposal, but to argue that the Caltrans money should be redirected into the County Sheriff or local police budget is so dumb and impossible that even Stoker knows it.

Caltrans, though, has plenty of other roadway safety projects that are far more deserving of those millions $$ funds that Caltrans has identified for this fence.

5/08/2008 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...

The Caltrans Environmental Impact Report for the barrier just came out, and it makes for depressing reading.

Caltrans has now dropped all mention of saving lives with that $2.8 million, and now states that the goal of the project is simply to prevent suicides from taking place on the bridge. As the project is written now, as long as suicides don't take place on the Cold Spring Bridge, the project is considered a success, even if the people diverted from the bridge die elsewhere.

So, rather than take recent criticism seriously and think hard about the best way to save lives with $2.8 million in highway safety money, Caltrans just dropped the subject, and the barrier project proceeds as planned.

The EIR can be found here:

5/09/2008 2:10 AM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

"or by providing our existing officers the wages and benefits they deserve"

"we do not believe officers should put themselves in harm's way"

So which is it Stroker?

You want to pay them more for doing less?

Funny, Cops and Fireboys never make it on this list but uber-patriots still like to lionize them cuz they believe all that TV Cop show BS.
WAKE UP you idiots!!

Can't you see that the Unions have been screwing the public with that propaganda for decades? Ask the guy in NYC who just got the crap beat out of him by a gang of cops.

They're the real threat to your freedom and safety...not some punk with a pig sticker looking to stick some other punk with a pig sticker.

The trash guy has a more dangerous job then Smokey and he doesn't get paid $100K+ a year...or maybe he does if he's a city union guy. I'll have to look into that. I need just one more thing to piss me off...

Rank Occupation Death rate/100,000 Total deaths
1 Logging workers 92.4 85
2 Aircraft pilots 92.4 109
3 Fishers and fishing workers 86.4 38
4 Structural iron and steel workers 47.0 31
5 Refuse and recyclable material collectors 43.2 35
6 Farmers and ranchers 37.5 307
7 Roofers 34.9 94
8 Electrical power line installers/repairers 30.0 36
9 Driver/sales workers and truck drivers 27.6 905
10 Taxi drivers and chauffeurs

5/10/2008 6:22 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

SA 1

Greetings. That was an amazing negative and paranoid blast on your part. Let's talk mathematics.

Now will you please run the calculation on death rate of citizens killed by police officers per 100,000 total deaths. Try even citizens put in hospital by police officers per 100,000 people going into the hospital.

Let me know the results.

5/10/2008 7:12 AM  
Anonymous You have got to be kidding said...

oh gee, if the Taxpayers Association agrees with Mark McGinness then opposing this suicide-prevention method just MUST be the right thing to do.
Give. Me. A. Break.

5/10/2008 8:40 AM  
Anonymous read the DEIR for yourself said...

Hello "you have got to be kidding",

This isn't a suicide prevention method. It's a suicide diversion method.

Take a look at the Caltrans DEIR. Even Caltrans does not regard this as a suicide prevention project.

5/10/2008 11:16 AM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

DJ Mi Amigo,

Have I ever misled you?

This from the Dept. of Justice (if you trust them to tell you the truth...)

In the 10 years of '96-'05 there were 575 police officers killed by evil doers. This from a recent AP article:

The report counted the deaths of 186 officers as of Dec. 26, up from 145 last year. Eighty-one died in traffic incidents, which the report said surpassed their record of 78 set in 2000. Shooting deaths increased from 52 to 69, a rise of about 33 percent.

In the three years of '03-'05 the police killed 1095 civilians, another 1000 or so died during the arrest process for a variety of reasons. Simple math would conclude that for every cop that is killed, 6 civilians are killed by cops and another 6 die while being arrested. Maybe all 12 deserved to die, I don't know. Just keep that in mind next time you get stopped by a cop. Maybe in their mind, you'll deserve killing too...

By all means, let's put more cops on the street till the budget breaks...Their padded paychecks depend on you being scared shitless to go outside. Scared of what, is the question...

Why would I waste my time on this blog trying to open your eyes if I was just lyin' to you...

From the DOJ:
"The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty has declined since the early 1970's
Between 1996 and 2005, of the 575 officers killed --

26% were in arrest situations
18% were in ambush situations
18% were making traffic pursuits/stops
17% were on disturbance calls
12% were investigating suspicious persons/circumstances
10% were in other situations
Of the 662 assailants identified in the killing of law enforcement officers from
1996-2005 --

more than half had a prior conviction
2 out of 5 had a prior arrest for a violent crime

Arrest-Related Deaths in the United States, 2003-2005

Homicides by law enforcement officers made up 55% (1,095) of all deaths during arrests by State and local agencies. Eleven homicides were committed by other persons present at the scene.
No other cause of death was reported half as often as homicide. Drug and alcohol intoxication accounted for 13% of all deaths, followed by suicides (12%), accidental injuries (7%), and illness or natural causes (6%).
Three-quarters of the law enforcement homicides reported to DCRP involved arrests for a violent crime. Except for suicides (51%), violent offenders were involved in less than 30% of all other causes of death. Public-order offenders accounted for 8% of homicides, followed by property (4%) and drug offenders (2%). "

5/11/2008 6:03 AM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

Here's some more pearls of wisdom...

Those stats don't include the death and destruction caused during the LA riots that were spurred on by the Rodney King beating. Remember that? The South LA community was wound so tight by the racist, random and disrepectful treatment by the LAPD that they exploded.

Want to talk about all the police corruption cases lately? How about the young soldier in San Bernardino that probably resembled your son that was shot by a cop cuz he just wouldn't listen and follow directions screamed at him by some manical cop?

How about all the money wasted by the so called "War on Drugs"? An abysmal failure. Shouldn't somebody get fired over that? Hell no. Let's hire more cops so we can fill and build more prisons and over fill them too. We've made an industry of incarceration. Good for the law enforcement economy I guess. God knows the lawyers love it.

5/11/2008 6:40 AM  
Anonymous hemlock said...

McGinnes has really hurt his case by saying things like the bridge barriers are `the nanny state in drag'. Comments like that about really serious folks who are doing what they believe is an important mission to save lives are inappropriate.

Now maybe barriers are not ideal. But the evidence is quite strong (while not airtight) that they will save lives. And if always waited for airtight evidence, lead in gasoline and in paint would have been present much longer (Europe had leaded gasoline into the 1990's), and thalidomide would have been available much longer.

5/11/2008 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...

Hello hemlock,

Actually, there is no evidence at all that barriers save lives, as I've been pointing out to everyone for nearly a year, and as I explained to Caltrans back in February:

Caltrans now recognizes this, and you'll note in the DEIR that they no longer claim there is evidence that the barrier project will save lives.

Further, Gary Spielmann (the retired head of suicide prevention for the state of New York and an internationally recognized expert on suicide prevention on bridges) wrote to Caltrans and told them that in his opinion a suicide hotline phone would be a superior alternative to a barrier for saving lives on the Cold Spring Bridge. You can see that letter by clicking on the agenda for the SBCAG May 15th meeting, and then clicking on the Caltrans District Director's Report (item 6):

How did Caltrans respond to this information? If they were interested in saving lives, they'd be considering modifications to this project (such as phones instead of a barrier).

Instead, Caltrans simply dropped saving lives as a stated goal for this project.

The new goal of this project as stated in the DEIR is not to save lives, but simply to keep suicidal people away from the bridge. As the project goals are written now, Caltrans will regard this project as a success if every single person stopped from committing suicide from the bridge goes on to commit suicide somewhere else.

Back in July Caltrans told us they would save about 2 suicidal people per year for a cost of $605,000. Now, rather than consider less costly and possibly more effective ways to prevent suicide, Caltrans has simply dropped saving suicidal people as a project goal -- and the price tag is now $2.8 million.

As someone who obviously cares about suicide prevention and saving lives, doesn't this trouble you?

5/11/2008 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Marc McGinnes said...

Hi Hemlock,
Public opposition to the bridge boondoggle is massive and increasing, and it exists for a variety of good reasons that I and others have carefully explained and backed up with hard evidence.

This barriers boondoggle is way beyond being my "case" or anyone else's.

If you think that my saying that the barriers boondoggle seems like a concoction of a nanny state in drag is inappropriate-- it was a joke to make a point, but you did not get it-- what do you call a plan to waste nearly $3 million of traffic safety funds merely to divert an average of one person a year from choosing to commit suicide at a particular location?

5/11/2008 5:21 PM  
Anonymous just wondering.. said...

Whatever will the BASE jumpers do if they put a fence on the bridge? A little known fact, but some of the most daring in the sport have jumped it.

5/11/2008 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Hemlock said...

Garrett and Marc,

Opinions abound, and your opinions on the efficacy of barriers are not persuasive to many people. Garrett, I think you state your case in a manor that is too extreme... there is plenty of evidence that barriers do save lives, and you do not find that evidence convincing. Other people do find that evidence convincing. This is not a mathematical proof, but interpretation of imperfect data. Your certainty reminds me of Bertrand Russell's quote about the problem with the world is that zealots are always certain, but thoughtful people harbor doubt.

Marc, a fair number of people have known jumpers, and what you think of as jokes turn out to really offend those folks. I understand and respect your and Garrett's views that the barrier won't work. Perhaps you two could respect alternate viewpoints and tread a little more softly.

5/12/2008 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Not so much a dream team said...

once again, Marc Mc is his own worst enemy. "It was a joke" ?????sorry marc, suicide, off the bridge or anywhere else is not a joke to the majority of us. Marc may have succeeded in strongarming well-meaning local groups to support his point of view, but many of the rest of us are aware that those groups made no effort to find out the facts about the origin of the project, etc. One sure way to keep the current proposal alive is to have Marc McG.and Mike Stoker share the opposition limelight. a match made in, well, not heaven.

5/12/2008 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...

Hi hemlock,

Sorry to be a stickler on this, but this is not a matter of opinion. As a point of fact, there is no study in existence that has been able to demonstrate that suicide barriers save lives. In other words, there is no evidence that barriers save lives.

Note that this isn't just my interpretation of this research -- this is exactly how suicide researchers themselves describe the state of the evidence. I quote from the existing research extensively in my February report to Caltrans, and nearly every study explicitly says what I am saying here -- we don't know if barriers save lives or not.

Of course, you are certainly entitled to believe that suicide barriers save lives, and there is no existing evidence to prove you wrong. However, leaping from there to asserting that there is evidence that barriers save lives is a logical error.

I know we've gone around on this before, and I'm not sure what the point of confusion is -- could we be using the word "evidence" in different ways? I'm just wondering how you could see that there is no change in the number of suicides in a community when a barrier is installed, yet still say there is "evidence" that barriers save lives.

5/12/2008 11:43 PM  
Anonymous hiker said...

I ran across this, which I'm posting here in case anyone missed it:

5/13/2008 1:26 AM  
Anonymous hemlock said...

Garrett, perhaps it is use of language.

As an example, take a trial. Lots and lots of evidence is presented. Often not a single piece of evidence is conclusive. For example, if Mr. X's footprints and finger prints are found next to the body, and the victims blood is on Mr. X, that is certainly evidence that Mr. X committed the murder. I think in most common language usage, we'd all agree that those elements (prints/blood) are *evidence*.

Those items of evidence to do not necessary give absolute proof that Mr. X did the murder, however. He might have found the victim after the attack and tried to resuscitate them.

In that spirit, there is plenty of evidence that barriers save lives. It may not be conclusive.

On the other hand, we do lots of things in society where there is merely evidence and not conclusive proof, particularly with respect to safety. Children do not commonly drink coffee, for example. Margarine instead of butter. etc. We often err on the side of safety.

I support the barrier for that reason... there *is* evidence that some lives will be saved, very good evidence, starting with the simple fact that jumpers are confounded at the barrier, and I don't think the probability is 100% that they turn elsewhere.

5/13/2008 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...

Hi hemlock,

Ah, I think I see the reason we are talking past each other.

What you have stated in your last paragraph is not really evidence, but a hypothesis. Your hypothesis is that a barrier will deter people from suicide, and when you say there is "evidence" that a barrier would save lives, what (I think) you're saying is "there is a logical reason to believe that barriers would save lives."

This is not an unreasonable conjecture. We do have some evidence that means restriction has worked for other methods of suicide, which is why researchers have been interested in suicide barriers.

However, your hypothesis, however reasonable, does not have any supporting evidence. You say it yourself -- you don't *think* barriers simply divert suicides to other locations. Other people think they do (they usually argue that people will be aware of the barriers, and so form alternate suicide plans and never go to the bridge in the first place).

Unfortunately, as of today we have no evidence (such as a drop in the suicide rate after a barrier is installed) that helps us distinguish between these two reasonable viewpoints.

To continue your crime analogy, you've told the jury a reasonable story about how a crime took place (the hypothesis). However, there are no bloodstains or fingerprints (empirical data) to demonstrate if your story is right or wrong.

All of the studies I cite in my report to Caltrans have been efforts to gather this evidence and settle the question, and unfortunately all of these studies have been inconclusive.

What you say about erring on the side of caution makes sense. However, there is a lot of safety money at stake here -- given our uncertainty about barriers, are there other projects we should be considering? For instance, for $2.8 million in safety money we could install suicide hotline phones on about 70 bridges, and there are experts who believe phones are more effective than barriers when it comes to saving lives. Shouldn't we also be considering projects like this?

5/13/2008 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Hemlock said...


I think it is evidence by any standard that most potential jumpers don't jump when a barrier is on a bridge.

The study of people found on the Golden Gate Bridge is certainly evidence that those found in a distraught condition on a bridge famous for suicide and not allowed to jump usually don't go on to commit suicide.

Yes, I know you find incompleteness in a link between these pieces of evidence leading to the conclusion that a barrier will save lives. But it is too extreme to maintain that there is no evidence that a barrier will save lives.

Your position is resembles a jury looking at the evidence of a suspect's fingerprints on the murder weapon and the evidence of victim's blood on the suspect's clothing and concluding that the suspect did not commit the murder. That may be a reasonable conclusion, but it is too extreme to say there is `no evidence' that the suspect committed the murder.

There are already 11 phones on the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge still has many, many suicides.

5/14/2008 6:44 AM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...


The Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena has a barrier, and they've had 4 suicides since the start of 2007 -- a higher rate than before the barrier went up. Does that demonstrate that barriers don't work?

I think you know that the suicide rate on the bridge isn't really the relevant question here. It is the suicide rate in the community. Barriers will always result in a lower suicide rate on the bridge, but if all they do is drive people away to commit suicide elsewhere, they aren't saving lives. In a similar vein, we might see more suicides from a bridge with phones, but if some people pick up those phones and get help, the phones might actually save more lives than the barriers. At least one prominent suicide prevention expert has explicitly stated that he thinks phones are better than barriers at saving lives.

So,let me lay this plan out again: Right now we have no evidence (or proof or whatever term you prefer) that barriers save more lives than phones. Further, we have testimony from a prominent expert (Gary Spielmann) who believes phones are better than barriers at saving lives. We can buy dozens of phones for the cost of 1 barrier.

So, if we care about saving lives, shouldn't we at least consider a plan that installs suicide hotline phones on 70-100 bridges for the same cost as one barrier on one bridge that sees one suicide a year?

5/15/2008 9:31 PM  
Anonymous hemlock said...


I guess the probability of the Pasadena fluctuation up to 4 (or more) in 16.5 months is about 9.5 ... hardly an unlikely situation.

If you think that barriers increase the suicide rate off the Pasadena Bridge, perhaps a careful study using *all* of the 95 years since the Colorado Street bridge opened, and correcting for the increased population within a few hours drive of the that bridge over the years would be more convincing than one fluctuation culled from 95 years or so of data.

There is very strong evidence that barriers on bridges do save lives in the community, obtained by probabilistic combination of the confounding of jumpers, and the Golden Gate Bridge study. Sure, it is not airtight, but it is more than sufficient to err on the side of safety and install the barriers.

It would be great to add a phone or two to the Cold Spring Bridge too. Belt and suspenders.

5/16/2008 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...


Let me ask my question in another, even simpler way:

Which is *more* important to you: saving lives or building the barrier?

5/17/2008 11:34 AM  
Anonymous hemlock said...

Saving lives, which is best accomplished by building the barrier.

There are already 11 phones on the Golden Gate, and lots of suicides still.

5/17/2008 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...

There are barriers on the Colorado Street Bridge, and there are still suicides, so what does your Golden Gate Bridge example prove? There are barriers on bridges in several communities, and the suicide rate in those communities remains unchanged, so where is the evidence that lives have been saved?

I'm wasting my time here. Nobody is as dense as you are pretending to be.

The real reason we are talking past each other is not because you don't understand what the word "evidence" means, but because I am trying to have an honest discussion about the best way to save lives, and you are running a PR campaign for the barrier.

I think it's clear to everyone what your real priority is.

5/18/2008 12:56 PM  
Anonymous hemlock said...

Sorry you feel that way, Garrett. Perhaps there is no room in your heart for folks who truly believe that the barrier will save lives.

As you know, your studies have not disproven the effectiveness of barriers. Your studies been incapable of deciding one way or the other. Nor have your studies proven that phones are more effective than barriers.

5/18/2008 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Garrett Glasgow said...

There's plenty of room in my heart for people who believe barriers will save lives.

I've just run out of patience with those who insist those beliefs constitute evidence.

5/19/2008 3:25 PM  
Anonymous hemlock said...

In addition to belief, there is good evidence that a barrier to cause a decrease in jumping from the bridge with the barrier.

There is good evidence that distraught people found on the Golden Gate Bridge and prevented from jumping do not go on to commit suicide.

Putting these two pieces of evidence together is not airtight, but they do make a strong case that barriers do save lives.

There is no statistical evidence that barriers do not save lives.

5/20/2008 8:31 AM  

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