A meeting on the distribution of Video Lottery Terminal slots funds drew roughly 100 residents, community stakeholders and city officials to Pimlico Race Course last week. Attendees had questions about the SUV that had been presented to neighborhood watch group Shomrim at a Nov. 11 event at Congregation Shomrei Emunah.
Some at the meeting challenged the Pimlico Community Development Authority, the body tasked with determining where slots money will go in the Greater Park Heights area. Others said they saw preferential treatment in the move and felt politics played a role. But mostly, they called for more transparency in how PCDA requests are handled.
“We can’t wait on PCDA anymore,” said George Mitchell, president of Neighborhoods United, an umbrella group for several communities in Greater Park Heights. “We are the community. These people work for us. They think they work for themselves, but they work for us.”
“How does consulting the neighborhoods fit into the plan?” another audience member asked. “The neighborhood organizations, the neighbors, what input do we have in all these initiatives that are being set up, specifically about the Shomrim SUV?”
The councilman at the center of the controversy, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, was not in attendance. Even in his absence, a letter he sent to Mayor Catherine Pugh requesting $100,000 of unallocated public safety VLT funds for the vehicle drew criticism. Tom Stosur, director of the city planning department who also serves as PCDA chairman, said the $100,000 was originally budgeted for CitiWatch cameras in Cheswolde, but there was not enough public infrastructure to implement that plan. So Schleifer asked Pugh’s office to redirect that money for the purchase of the SUV, Stosur said. “It was portrayed to us as supporting public safety initiatives in the city in the Northwest quadrant.”
The SUV cost $49,897.97.
Others disputed that account, saying that Shomrim also serves areas outside of the city.
“If Shomrim is going to use that vehicle, they need to bring it down to Wabash, Pimlico and other areas near here, not send it up to the county,” said Rachel Bloom, 62, a Jewish resident of the Glen neighborhood.