New Orleans council members call for school zone camera transparency from mayor’s office

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - New Orleans City Council members call for transparency from Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s administration after it lowered the baseline for school zone camera tickets without notice.

Some residents think it’s a money grab, while others say it’s needed for public safety.

City Council members unanimously called on the Cantrell administration to be open and explain why the speeding ticket threshold was lowered in school zones two months ago without an announcement.

“The first time I got a phone call about it was actually from a reporter the Friday before the story broke, saying, 'Have you heard anything about the school zones?’ I said, ‘No, I hadn’t heard anything yet,’" said Councilman Joe Giarrusso.

Giarrusso said the mayor never notified the council or the public about the enforcement change.

It's a sentiment shared by the rest of his colleagues.

“I think that the limit should be the limit, and if we were going to change that, we should have notified people that we’re going to change it,” said Councilman Jay Banks.

Council Members-at-Large Jason Williams and Helena Moreno requested that the administration send out public notice and policy reasons before changes are made.

Some residents who live near school zones believe it’s a speed trap.

“Any opportunity to get more money from us and not do anything with it. Look at the street we’re standing next to,” said Uptown resident Lydia Benson.

According to a City Hall traffic camera analysis, lowering the threshold in school zones would increase revenue by more than $7 million.

Giarrusso said there’s been a budget void ever since Cantrell removed 20 traffic cameras from school zones, but instead of the money going toward the general fund, he suggests dedicating it to infrastructure.

“That way, you could say, ‘Oh, I got a traffic camera ticket. I don’t like getting a traffic camera ticket, but I know that $75 is going to go be used to fill my pothole or clean my catch basin.’ That may be not quite as bitter a pill for people,” Giarrusso said

Some residents think the stricter enforcement is warranted because drivers speed through school zones.

"It was a little sneaky how they went about it, but overall, the speed limit's 20 during the school zones," Ben Wortmann said.

"Public safety is a critical thing that we've got to be concerned about, and I don't think it's a bad thing to lower it, I just think that there should have been much more notice in doing so," Banks said.

The mayor’s office sent a statement explaining that the speed limit has not changed, and driving over 20 mph in a school zone during school hours is illegal and creates a greater danger.

Council members say they will discuss the traffic ticket situation at the budget meeting next week.

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