The City of Santa Monica has agreed to award approximately $4.7 million to Complete Coach Works to enhance the city’s Big Blue Bus public transportation system.

With a five-to two-vote by Santa Monica City Council Tuesday, July 13th, a “mid-life reconditioning” of 88 buses will involve refurbishing wheelchair ramps and installing inserts between seats.

Video cameras will be installed on 125 buses to “help reduce vandalism and graffiti, improve security, provide information on passenger and driver disputes and lower fraudulent claims,” transportation officials said.

Santa Monica mayor pro tem Kevin McKeown and councilman Michael Feinstein voted against the $4,695,526 bid contract on grounds that video cameras violate the public’s right to privacy.

McKeown said he was “disturbed over the installation of video cameras.”

“Tracking the movements of citizens is something that happened in the totalitarian regimes before the Iron Curtain fell,” McKeown said.

Feinstein said the Big Blue Bus contract was the second time a “civil liberties issue” has been “buried” in the consent calendar.

Consent calendar items are usually approved by the Santa Monica City Council without discussion, unless a councilmember makes a motion to pull an item for discussion.

The previous consent calendar item Feinstein referred to was for an ordinance to place cameras near traffic signals to record drivers who run red lights.

“The issue of civil liberties needs to be taken seriously,” Feinstein said.

Other councilmembers said video cameras on the Big Blue Bus fleet would reduce public safety concerns.

The City Council majority indicated it believes video cameras on public transportation present more of a public safety benefit than a threat to civil liberties.

OTHER ACTION — The City Council also awarded approximately $1.6 million to The Dyett & Bhatia Company to conduct a study on Santa Monica land use plans and zoning ordinances.

The two-year study will help the city make urban design decisions for the next 25 years.

The Ferguson Group will be paid $63,600 to lobby politicians in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the City of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica officials are interested in federal issues and funding related to water pollution, infrastructure improvements, housing, transportation and other legislation.