The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments voted unanimously Thursday in support of building a suicide barrier on the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge.
The agenda item included 10-minute presentations from Dr. Lisa Firestone, director of research and education for The Glendon Association, and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown in favor of the project; a 20-minute presentation was given by Marc McGinnes of Friends of the Bridge in opposition to the project.
Firestone’s presentation focused on the facts and myths surrounding the issue of suicide. She cited numerous studies demonstrating the effectiveness of means restriction in saving lives. Brown’s presentation included video footage of deputies as they saved a suicidal individual’s life, preventing his jump from the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge, as well as the heartfelt presentation of Deputy Ken Rushing, who described witnessing the suicide of an 18-year-old boy who took his life by jumping off the bridge.
More than 30 individuals provided testimony during the public comment section of the meeting, overwhelmingly in support of the barrier project. Among those who commented was the mother of Matthew Ayedelott, the 46th and most recent person to jump from the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge.
Two other people who provided support for this project came from diametrically opposed positions: Nick Beeson, a liberal talk show host, and Tom Widroe, a conservative talk show host. They cited the frequent calls they received from listeners who supported the project. Others included mental health professionals, the president of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, teachers and suicide survivors.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone pledged his unwavering support of this project, even though he had concerns early on. Mayor Michael Bennett of Goleta spoke forcefully from the viewpoint of having been a first responder with the fire department.
Supervisors Salud Carbajal (1st District) and Janet Wolf (2nd District), Carpinteria Councilmember Joe Armendariz and Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum all mentioned having lost people to suicide. Even 5th District Supervisor Joe Centeno, who had reservations about the project ultimately supported it, stating that we must take care of our first responders who put their lives at risk.
Joni Kelly represents The Glendon Association.