After heated discussion, Pittsburgh City Council passed two bills to install surveillance cameras and a gunshot detection system in a three square mile area in Homewood at a cost of $1.15 million.
The bills were sponsored by Councilman Ricky Burgess, who said recent violence in the East End underscores the need for the surveillance cameras and the gunshot detection system, which has the ability to pinpoint the location of gunshots and notify authorities.
Councilman Patrick Dowd and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak opposed the package of bills. Ms. Rudiak said she was concerned about how the project was proposed and funded. The money for the project will come from the 2014 capital budget, banking on the fact the city will likely run a surplus this year.
She said the practice sets a bad precedent.
"We are essentially borrowing against next year's capital budget," she said, "without community input or proper vetting."
Mr. Dowd expressed concern that the project was not put out for competitive bid. Instead, the city will use two companies it already has a contract with, and extend the contracts to include the Homewood project.
Mr. Burgess accused critics of the bill of playing favorites with certain neighborhoods, noting council had voted unanimously to install cameras in other city neighborhoods without bidding out the projects in previous years. Those projects installed cameras Downtown, in the Mexican War Streets, at a park in Obsveratory Hill, at a Beltzhoover recreation center and at several police sub-stations.
He said those projects were passed with relatively little scrutiny from council. He believes the scrutiny now comes because "we're not really sure that the lives of the residents of [Homewood] have value."
Moriah Balingit: email@example.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.