LaToya Cantrell's campaign went from a pledge to suspend the use of all traffic cameras to a more narrow policy targeting only the several dozen set up in the last year and then back again -- all over the course of a day.
So, just to be clear, the policy is now -- and according to campaign officials, was always intended to be -- a full suspension of all speeding and red-light cameras unless it can be proved that they increase safety.
The saga started as Cantrell announced during a platform kickoff speech Tuesday night that she would turn off the traffic cameras if she is elected mayor this fall.
“We don’t know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer,” the City Council member said in her speech. “But we do know those cameras are costing our residents money that could be spent on their families. As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended.”
But she walked that position back a step during a later interview with several reporters.
Asked how she would make up for the millions of dollars brought in each year by the city's traffic camera program, the candidate referred to reducing the amount the city receives from the "cameras that have recently been installed." That referred to the expansion of the traffic camera program as part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's 2017 budget, which nearly doubled the number of cameras throughout the city.
In response, a reporter asked, "Are you talking about suspending the whole program or just the new cameras that were installed this past year?"
Cantrell replied, "Based on the feedback from the community, it would only be those cameras that have been recently installed."
She went on to suggest she was skeptical of traffic cameras overall and reiterated her support for a study that would gauge all of their effectiveness. And, if they were found not to increase safety, Cantrell said she would do away with them altogether.
Cantrell spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday offered a "further clarification" on the issue, bringing the candidate's position back to the full suspension she pledged in her speech Tuesday night.
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The 55 new cameras, which nearly doubled the number in use across the city, were pitched as a way to improve safety near schools. But with estimates they would pull in $5 million in new revenue even as tickets from older cameras are flagging, they were also seen by many as a way for the administration to bolster the city budget.
Cantrell said the new cameras were typically the ones that drew the most complaints at a series of “listening sessions” she held across the city.
And having served on a committee looking at ways to improve school safety after 6-year-old Shaud Wilson was killed in a 2014 hit-and-run, Cantrell said none of the group’s recommendations involved cameras.
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“It felt like with the increase of new cameras it was just a way to make more money and bring more resources,” she said.