Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Councilors not moved by public opposition to downtown cameras

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 4:54 PM

Brig Brother, cameras, downtown, police, Lisa Czelatdko

After several members of the public — including a former City Councilor — spoke against cameras in the downtown area today, Councilor Tim Leigh let them know he wasn't moved.

"The people I listen to all pretty much support the cameras," he told the crowd.

Apparently, Leigh hasn't been listening to the members of public, who have shown up in droves to oppose the cameras. Even at the final vote in Tuesday's formal City Council meeting, people took time out of their day to make their voices heard.

One man asked Council, "If you're trying to make downtown look safer, why put cameras downtown that make it look more dangerous?"

He went on to explain that as a taxpayer, he'd rather see the city spend $188,000 on revitalization efforts that might bring back the downtown economy and discourage crime.

Former City Councilor Tom Gallagher also spoke, noting that governments that demanded to know everything about their citizens are corrupt; and that he doesn't think there's any legitimate reason to watch Colorado Springs, which was recently named one of the safest cities in the nation in a national competition.

"Colorado Springs is a great place to live, and a safe place to live," Gallagher said. "... So don't drink the federal Kool-Aid."

Citizens weren't the only ones speaking up. Councilor Lisa Czelatdko spoke at length against the funding. Among her points:

* During budget discussions, the city vowed not to fund new programs. That's the excuse Mayor Steve Bach gave for not wanting to fund a bike race that could have pumped millions into the economy. Yet, for some reason, the cameras are being supported by the mayor.

* Council has yet to be clued in on any "big picture" ideas the mayor has for the downtown. Why fund different programs in a piecemeal fashion if there's no larger plan?

* The police have cut successful programs, such as an award-winning program that addressed domestic violence. There are only three police officers assigned to address the city's growing problems with the homeless and panhandlers. Groups on the west side are calling for more police presence in the wake of increased crime, along with aggressive and intimidating panhandling. Why then, are cameras the police department's biggest priority?

* Council asked the public in a public forum if they wanted the cameras. The vast majority said they didn't. Why create a new, high-cost program that the public doesn't want?

Czelatdko's pleas for Council to reconsider the cameras were largely ignored. Councilor Bernie Herpin expressed impatience. Councilor Leigh briefly patronized Czelatdko, telling her she was doing a "good job" as a Councilor, but that it was time to vote on the issue.

Council eventually gave final approval to funding 10 surveillance cameras in the downtown area. Council President Scott Hente and Councilors Czelatdko and Val Snider cast the dissenting votes.

The Indy has written about the cameras on multiple occasions, including here and here.

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