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San Diego’s Smart Streetlight Program Costing Taxpayers Millions More than Expected

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Back in 2016, the city of San Diego contracted General Electric for a sweeping smart streetlight program that would provide LED lighting and surveillance systems on streets. However, after an investigative report released by NBC 7, the city is learning the contract is costing taxpayers millions more than expected. 

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said that the $30 million contracts have suffered from a multitude of issues, including “lack of oversight,” a lack of “proper due diligence,” and city staff in charge of the program with “limited technological experience.” These issues were brought to light thanks to a memo released by San Diego’s Smart and Sustainable Communities Division, which was uncovered by NBC 7 Investigates. 

Deputy Chief Operating Officer Erik Caldwell reported that his department had uncovered serious errors in the contracts accounting along with vital missing information. The LED street lights that promised to save the city money on its energy bill was found to be exaggerated by nearly $800,000. In addition, Caldwell said the contract has spurred hundreds of thousands in “unanticipated operational expenses.”

Following these revelations, Mayor Faulconer’s office has promised to “aggressively renegotiate” the contract in the city’s favor. With millions more in expenses, many critics of the program expressed anger over the fact that taxpayers will be responsible for picking up the slack. 

City Council President Georgette Gomes told NBC 7 “Clearly, the issues are mounting. In the interest of full transparency and accountability, I am committed to revisiting both the cost and operation of this program with my Council colleagues.” 

While some have criticized the program for being a system of mass surveillance that can disrupt the privacy of San Diego residents, others view it as a necessary public safety measure worth the costs. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Scott Sherman wrote in a statement “The smart streetlight program is an important energy conservation and public safety tool that has already helped catch several criminals and more importantly, exonerated an innocent man accused of a serious crime.

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