Traffic Cameras Shut Off, But…

How keeping a campaign promise actually breaks a campaign promise.

To much fanfare and citizen delight, Mayor LaToya Cantrell shut off 20 traffic cameras around town last week.  But simultaneously, the mayor announced plans to rebuild the NOPD’s traffic unit and increase traffic stops by officers. Huh?  Citizens complained for years that the use of traffic cameras to collect fines is more like a Sean Payton double-reverse trick play than a legitimate public safety tool.  Ramping up NOPD traffic enforcement for the same offenses is a Mayor Cantrell flea flicker. 

According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, municipalities have traditionally targeted low-income communities to fund government operations. In New Orleans, visit traffic court on any given day and count the number of white people you see in line or in court.  In a sea of black faces, the two or three you see will be obvious and easy to spot.  Though gentrifying rapidly, New Orleans is still more than 60 percent black.  Does gentrification mysteriously shroud the newcomers in a cloak of invisibility? ’Cause easily 90 percent of those in traffic court are African American. 

The racial bias of police enforcement is a relic of the past which must soon be dismantled. Cities need to find  more equitable approaches to revenue generation.  This is why Mayor Cantrell’s decision to beef up traffic enforcement is dismaying.  Using aggressive police traffic enforcement methods to generate city revenue is not the creative, modern approach citizens hoped for when electing the California Dream as our first female mayor.  In fact, this tactic is the first play in the mass incarceration plague the state is now trying to undo. 

More egregious than the racial disparities in enforcement and collections is the shortsighted and reckless nature of this policy.  In a time when our city needs rules and regulations that uplift our most at-risk citizens, this approach is a continuation of the regressive governance that plagues our city and state.  Regressive governance, like regressive taxes, hurts the least among us disproportionately harder and with longer term effect. This contributes to cyclical poverty and increased crime. 

Having police officers handing out expensive traffic tickets to struggling citizens creates a criminal class out of well-intentioned, good people.  Traffic court is only open during business hours.  More than half of NOLA residents with a job live at or below the poverty rate. Working people will have to choose between paying rent or paying a ticket they cannot afford.  Not showing up for traffic court means an arrest warrant is issued.  Arrest means missing work.  This is a recipe for disaster.  We have to do better. 

Instead of policies that create hardships – regressive governance in a nutshell – we should offer resources which generate tax income from progressive sources like income and property.  Raise fees on building permits.  Institute fees on restaurants with average gross sales above $550K a year.  Raise fees on Mardi Gras krewes and other parading organizations.  Create new taxes for hotels and motels, with those revenues dedicated wholly and exclusively to the City of New Orleans.  Reduce the number of industrial tax breaks given to Big Business. 

Relying on the poor to fund the government creates the cycles of poverty we all claim to detest.  Why can’t people break the cycle of generational poverty?  ’Cause the government has its foot on their necks.

Mayor Cantrell is a smart, dynamic and brilliant mayor.  The new administration is filled with more smart and dynamic staffers.  Cleaning up the mess of the bedazzlingly incompetent previous administration is undoubtedly a monumental task.  But continuing the regressive governance approach will only lead to more of the same. 

And replacing traffic cameras with increased police enforcement is an equivocation that will produce worse outcomes. 

6 thoughts on “Traffic Cameras Shut Off, But…

  • January 7, 2019 at 7:22 am
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    Love your position. Hopefully Mayor Cantrell reads and changes this

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  • January 7, 2019 at 8:04 am
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    “Having police officers handing out expensive traffic tickets to struggling citizens creates a criminal class out of well-intentioned, good people. Traffic court is only open during business hours. More than half of NOLA residents with a job live at or below the poverty rate. Working people will have to choose between paying rent or paying a ticket they cannot afford. Not showing up for traffic court means an arrest warrant is issued. Arrest means missing work. This is a recipe for disaster. We have to do better. “

    I don’t follow your thinking here Jeff. Acknowledging the horrendous outcomes from violent crimes of murder, robbery, etc, how does giving low-income citizens a pass for breaking, what are essentially quality of life ordinances, okay. These laws are necessary to actually keep us from killing one another….without these laws, violators create dangerous driving conditions for ALL drivers, they create dangerous walking, biking conditions for pedestrians, they create potentially deadly outcomes for people who live along our roadways, they create hazards for our students trying to embark/disembark school buses. If low-income citizens would abide by these laws, they wouldn’t be cost-burdened with paying for them, like everyone else. I am by no means rich, but I understand the necessity of every citizen respecting common boundaries. When citizens are confused, and a lot of this today is intentional, especially in the school systems, about simple things like stopping for a red light before you make a right turn, how do we expect them to even move up to something that requires a more critical level of thinking, like politics, creating income streams for their family, etc. Yeah, one argument is that walking a straight white line, among other rules, is too strict….well, have you ever seen these students change classes—yelling, cussing, hitting each other, running…total chaos. It’s not necessarily about being regressive…but it is necessarily about learning how to BEHAVE. I walked a straight line for 8 years in Catholic grammar school. At Brother Martin, we had to stay to the right when we walked down the hall. Now, they don’t do that at Lusher, but at least they are not confused about proper behavior. When do we get around to telling the population you speak of, that misbehavior, breaking laws, killing each other, is actually detrimental to their very existence, and that anyone telling you otherwise, is probably making money off their confusion, and is intentional. I call these folks…SOCIAL CAUSOLOGISTS….for hire. I welcome your response…their should not be any confusion among people that say they are trying to help people, on the simplest of things out here.

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    • January 8, 2019 at 3:14 am
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      Touche’, DT! Thank you for stating the obvious.

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  • January 7, 2019 at 10:48 am
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    HELP ! Mister Jefft?
    My common core mathematics tells my trillions amount of neurological cells that
    if your city has engaged in the last 50 years to make it a “primarily black population”, and have been successful at doing so, then wise mathematical conclusion numbers when crunched would tell even those who got a grade of d minus in school that more of everything is going to happen and result from black people majority in the community, simply and logically because, they are the most people of the community demographics.
    Mentally, and Logic heralds this as wise common sense common core math!
    ***
    PS. NOTE – Abortion is Human sacrifice, Race Extermination, Global Depopulation !
    ***

    Reply
  • January 7, 2019 at 7:55 pm
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    DT,

    I think you are misguided. THe police should focus on serious crime not petty speeding offenses. If a guy is going 40 in a 35 what a waste of time for that officer to stop the man driving his car. The ticket is just a way for the city to make money. Now if the man is driving 60 in the city that is another story. You tripping with all that other stuff

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  • January 9, 2019 at 6:56 am
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    Is the increased traffic enforcement you speak of like the time a few weeks ago that I saw cops stop three lanes of traffic on S. Claiborne at rush hour (4:00 p.m.) so they could check for braketags? I saw cops pick out a few cars (from a stopped position -not speeding), then let the rest go, write tickets, then stop another batch. Is this mayoral dynamism and brilliance. This is sound strategy in Honduras, Guatemala, and most other banana republics. The People’s Republic of New Orleans: Leader of the Third World

    Reply

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