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Traffic cameras are now active in school zones as children return to classes across the city. 

They're baaaack: School zone traffic cameras turned on Aug. 12 

New Orleans drivers, slow down. Schools have started opening and school zone cameras are set to be switched back on Aug. 12. That date is after most city schools already will have started classes for the year. There are cameras near about half the city's schools.

About 50 school zones across the city are covered by traffic cameras, and the city is in the process of adding four more, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s spokesman Trey Caruso said. The new cameras will cover the streets near Lake Forest Charter, Einstein Charter, KIPP Morial and Fannie C. Williams Charter schools. That's in addition to mobile cameras that are deployed in school zones and about a dozen fixed cameras across the city covering streets and intersections outside of school zones.

While the school-zone cameras are turned off during the summer break, the other devices operate year-round.

The cameras had been deactivated for the summer, but not before they became a center of controversy over Cantrell's decision to quietly lower the speed threshold at which drivers would receive tickets.

The Cantrell administration raised the ire of some drivers earlier this year when it shaved 2 mph off the speed that triggers the cameras without providing a warning to drivers beforehand. That meant the school zone cameras now generate speeding tickets whenever a vehicle goes over 24 mph during school zone hours, instead of the longtime threshold of 26 mph. The posted limit is 20 mph.

A similar change was implemented for the other cameras, dropping the trigger from 10 mph to 8 mph over the posted limit outside of school zones.

With no announcement that there was less room for error, tens of thousands of drivers were ticketed at speeds that wouldn't have resulted in tickets previously. A New Orleans Advocate analysis found that in February and March, the average number of tickets issued each day jumped by 55%. The number of tickets fell off in early April after the media learned of the change and began reporting on it.

Through mid-May, about 62,200 school zone tickets worth about $4.7 million were issued at speeds that previously would not have generated a ticket.

Caruso said the speed triggers will remain the same when the school zone cameras are restarted next week. — JEFF ADELSON | THE NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE

Benefit for legal representation for undocumented workers, asylum seekers set

A barbecue and slip-and-slide event at Grow Dat Youth Farm Aug. 25 will raise money for an organization that provides free legal representation for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Louisiana.

Proceeds will benefit Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA), an organization that sends attorneys to visit those detained in Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Louisiana and represents immigrants in the state’s Oakdale Immigration Court. The organization also advocates for immigration reforms.

The event follows a report from Mother Jones that prison guards pepper-sprayed more than 30 individuals detained in the Bossier Sheriff’s Office Medium Security Facility who were protesting “long detention times.” Last week ICE agents also raided Mississippi food processing plants, arresting more than 600 undocumented workers.

According to the American Immigration Council, those in immigration court don’t have a legal right to government-appointed counsel, meaning they have to represent themselves against a government attorney in front of an immigration judge if they can’t afford a lawyer.

The benefit will take place at Grow Dat Youth Farm, a 7-acre site in New Orleans City Park that contains a sustainable farm aimed at increasing access to fresh produce for New Orleans families. Produce from the farm is sold at a farm stand and farmers markets run by youth employees. Nearly one-third of the produce is distributed to low-income residents.

Restaurants providing food and beverages include Bacchanal Wine, Blue Oak BBQ, Casa Borrega, Coquette, Coutelier, Marjie's Grill, Turkey and the Wolf, Tava Indian Streetfood, The Company Burger and Zasu.

A $35 ticket includes food and drinks from more than 25 New Orleans chefs and restaurants. Tickets can be purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/islabbq. The event will take place between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Raffle tickets will be available for purchase. — KAYLEE POCHE

Cantrell holding ‘affordable housing tour’ in all City Council districts

Mayor LaToya Cantrell last week kicked off the first of seven community meetings across the city "to engage the public in discussions regarding the future of affordable housing in the City of New Orleans." The first meeting was in the Lower 9th Ward in City Council District E at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology (5300 N. Rocheblave St.).

Attending all the meetings with Cantrell will be Ellen Lee, Director of Community and Economic Development; Marjorianna Willman, Director of Housing Policy and Community Development; Nicole Heyman, Deputy Director of Community Assets and Investment; and Alex Wiggins, CEO of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.

The rest of the meetings (all of which begin at 6 p.m.) are as follows:

Wed. Aug. 21 (District E, New Orleans East): Greater St. Stephen's Church (5600 Read Blvd.),

Thu. Aug. 29 (District D): St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church (3501 N. Miro St.),

Wed. Sept. 4 (District C, West Bank): L. B. Landry-O.P. Walker College and Career Preparatory High School (1200 L.B. Landry Ave.),

Thu. Sept. 19 (District C, East Bank): Stallings St. Claude Recreational Center (4300 St. Claude Ave.),

Wed. Sept. 25 (District B): Ashe Powerhouse Theater (1731 Baronne St.), and

Thu. Oct. 3 (District A): Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School (3201 Live Oak St.) — KEVIN ALLMAN