NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell was unapologetic as she defended a recent decrease in ticketing threshold in school zones before a city council budget committee Monday (April 22), but the council chairman was not satisfied with her response.
It is an issue that has incensed many citizens, including Larry Morgan, who spoke up at the committee meeting.
“The mayor has disrespected the council,” Morgan said. “People demand she should establish a better communication. Over the cameras, over the Cuba trip.”
Morgan was not alone in his angry, with any council members also calling out Cantrell for her lack of transparency. Councilwoman Helena Moreno questioned Cantrell over her claim that not disclosing the change was a choice rooted in concern for safety.
“Why would you not alert the public so they can change their behavior,” Moreno asked.
Cantrell said she made the decision to lower the ticketing threshold to 24 miles per hour in 20 mile per hour school zones when she said she learned that one in five drivers in New Orleans were speeding near schools.
“I’m a mayor and also a mother,” Cantrell said. “We are at four miles an hour. I did not disclose that because I didn’t want to feed into people who don’t want to follow laws in New Orleans.”
The administration said the change in policy resulted in 41,000 tickets, with fines totaling $1 million.
Budget committee chair Jared Brossett said he was not happy with the answers he received. He and others are asking for full notice whenever these types of programs are adjusted and is among council members asking for Cantrell to consider a ticket amnesty program for those who were caught off guard by the change.
But that chance might not ever come, based on comments from Norman White, the city’s chief financial officer.
“We have been looking at a broader program, but people who got tickets on that date, are not part of that program,” White said.
Cantrell promised to remove traffic cameras during her campaign, and 21 were taken down shortly after she took office. But, there may be more on the way -- to school zones in the East, according to Gilbert Montano, Cantrell’s Chief Administrative Officer.
“There is discussion for more cameras, ongoing assessments are underway now,” Montano said.
But, council members are making it clear -- they should not be added in secret.
Councilwomen Cindy Nguyen represents New Orleans East and echoed that sentiment.
“If we’re going to change policies, let people know so they can adhere to it and move forward,” Nguyen said.