NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For the first time, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell responds to criticism over her decision to lower the threshold for speeding tickets in school zones. But a local watchdog has concerns about how that response was given and what questions weren’t answered.
This week, Cantrell went on Facebook Live to talk about transportation issues in the city, including the controversial decision to lower the threshold for speeding tickets in school zones.
“It’s a school zone. Slow down, 20 miles per hour is the law. That did not change. We only brought that threshold, the ability for someone to violate the law, from 8 miles to 4, and I don’t apologize for that,” Cantrell said.
The Facebook Live video shows two members of the mayor’s staff with her. But the media isn’t there to ask her questions.
Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission has concerns about that.
“Everyone agreed on what the questions and responses were going to be. That’s not the type of accountability that the public expects from their leaders,” Goyeneche said.
In the video, the Mayor says her decision was based on safety and not revenue.
“It wasn’t and absolutely isn’t a money grab. This is about our children, and if people slow down and go the speed limit, then guess what? It can’t be a money grab. But the data showed us in our city that we have more people not abiding by the 20 miles per hour limit throughout the city of New Orleans, which makes it a behavioral problem that we have to reign in,” Cantrell said.
“I mean, when you look at the citations that were issued between January and February they almost doubled in February with that 2-mile-an-hour decrease. The study that the city said they undertook measured the revenue that they expected to take in, but it didn’t really address safety,” Goyeneche said.
According to that study, which was obtained by FOX 8 last week, the city learned the lowering of that speeding threshold in school zones could generate at least $7 million more in revenue.
“I’m going to tell you, if I could reduce it to 20, I would, because speeding in a school zone it’s - are you kidding me? It’s very dangerous,” Cantrell said in the Facebook Live video.
But the one question the mayor didn’t answer in her Facebook Live is why the public wasn’t notified about the lowering of the threshold before it was enforced in February. The City Council has called for transparency from the administration about the traffic cameras. On Monday there will be a meeting before the council to address that issue.
“I think the public’s perception is they’re disappointed that the mayor didn’t inform the public, and I would hope that the mayor and not her representatives would appear before the City Council next week and answer the questions that the media wasn’t allowed to pose to her,” Goyeneche said.
We reached out to the Mayor’s office today (April 19) and asked for an interview, but we were told she was not available. We also asked why reporters were not invited to ask her questions about the Traffic Camera Safety Program. An administration spokesman says the mayor’s response was that a Facebook Live broadcast allowed viewers the opportunity to pose questions and participate.