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The Hilltop could have gotten Free Wifi for every resident. Instead it got Surveillance. Linden is next

Gerry Bello

On Tuesday February 5th Mayor Ginther, backed by the Uncle Fester meets Lee Ermey like polished head and dark sunken eyes of Deputy Police Chief Bash, announced the roll out of the ShotSpotter voice surveillance system in the Hilltop, which is targeted pilot neighborhood for a program that is budgeted to cover the entire City. Although it is marketed as a crime fighting tool, being capable of locating a gunshot within a 20 foot radius and determining the type and caliber of the weapon, ShotSpotter records everything it hears and simply selects what to detect.

The sensor system associated with the software, signals processing and alert system is designed to be incorporated into streetlights. ShotSpotter partnered with GE's CityIQ project that would incorporate surveillance cameras, ShotSpotter sensors, a wifi hotspot and intelligent on-demand low power consumption LED lighting into a single streetlight. This whole package is not what the Hilltop got.

A nighttime survey of the area by a Mockingbird researcher found not a single LED, merely the same old energy hungry bulbs in use throughout the city with their characteristic yellowish light struggling to illuminate anything. No free wifi hotspots were noted either.

Thus the Hilltop gets all of the surveillance without any of the benefits of the total infrastructure package. Like racist redlining that was official in the past and unofficial today, the neighborhood has been “greenlined”, it's people deemed unworthy of green infrastructure or free access to community and global communication systems. It is as if their speech is interesting only to police and not any other part of the government.

The ShotSpotter program was loudly touted by Mayor Ginther in mid July, on month before Columbus Police Vice Cop Andrew Mitchell murdered Donna Dalton in his unmarked car in a place that would have been covered by this pilot surveillance program. It could have easily recorded everything and been more evidence to be withheld from her family and public as a murdering police officer walked free without charges as they have done in every single case in Columbus in the last 25 years.

Linden, which has been aggressively targeted by Mayor Ginther for additional policing as the shock troops of gentrification will be the next greenlined neighborhood.

ShotSpotter is part of a program called Smart City, which is a partnership between the charitible foundation of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Columbus is one of seven finalist cities for the $50 million dollar grant. CityIQ is also a stakeholder in the competition turned national pilot program.

The seven finalist cities, Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; Austin; Denver; San Francisco; Kansas City and Portland, all appear to be going forward with their plans in whole or in part regardless of winning or loosing the grant. Many, including Columbus, tailored their plans to fit into the incentives package each planned to lure the second Amazon HQ that was won by New York City.

New York City got Amazon. Columbus got $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million from Vulcan, Inc, which is not the Paul G. Allen charitible foundation, but Paul Allen's venture capital firm with a history of CIA linked surveillance investment in online voting company Scytl, local election manipulator Airbnb, and neighborhood based blockwatch project

Indeed, CityIQ was part of the Columbus project until it suddenly disappeared. On the August 31st 2017 the offical website for Smart City Columbus announced it's plans to use CityIQ to watch every car in the City, ostensibly to “better plan parking.” A screen capture, shown below, reveals this claim “The Parking Planning service provides parking metadata that is collected from CityIQ’s intelligent nodes installed on all street lights along public roadways or in parking lots...”

Today that same webpage can be seen as error 404-dead as a doornail not found below. After searching the wayback machine at we found that the page had disappeared in August of 2018, right as ShotSpotter was announced as a program and budgeted through a line marked for Department of Police in the city utility budget as seen in the screen capture below.

It can be clearly seen the lights were planned, were advertised, were budgeted, paid for with debt, and not delivered to the pilot neighborhood. When they never arrived, the free wifi never arrived with them. However the listening devices that were basically a ride along service adjunct to the street lights did arrive, and with great fanfare.

The SmartCity initiative has moved forward with great fanfare, putting it's strategic partners, like AEP, Toyota and OSU front and center. They have not put GE, ShotSpotter or Vulcan Capital front and center, replacing them with the friendlier half of their Janus face as the Paul G. Allen foundation. The greenling is real, as some neighborhoods will get no benefits from this so-called smart and so-called green initiative only after the Columbus Division of Police is done with their slow motion ethnic cleansing. Because in mayor Ginther's new “smart” Columbus, the green smart things are only for wealthy people in selected areas.