The New Orleans City Council agreed Thursday to ease up on booting vehicles for unpaid parking tickets, a step that's likely to please motorists but to cost the city millions of dollars.
The ordinance unanimously approved Thursday would let crews immobilize cars only after drivers have accumulated three unpaid tickets, instead of the present single ticket.
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell on Friday declared her opposition to a handful of bills moving through the state Legislature, hoping to head off n…
That’s a revival of a city law that was ended in 2008, before Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office. Landrieu’s administration began enforcing the tougher booting requirement in 2011 and quickly began to see a boost in parking enforcement revenue.
Restoring the old rule will cause the city to lose out on as much as $2 million annually, city officials said.
But council members said the boots have become an undue burden on drivers.
“Citizens coming to City Hall to pay property taxes, file some application to apply for a permit, or conduct any other business at the building, may have their day interrupted just because of an unpaid ticket,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who co-sponsored the ordinance.
“Many of the citizens and constituents I have spoken to are frustrated, and this policy is no longer sustainable.”
The return to the old policy was first proposed by state Sen. JP Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, who sought to push the change through the Legislature in a move Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell decried.
Cantrell, who will leave the council in less than three weeks to become the mayor, said she didn’t oppose Morrell’s goal, only his method of deciding local issues in Baton Rouge. Such decisions should be made in New Orleans, she said.
Working with Morrell and Cantrell, Brossett introduced a council ordinance on the issue earlier this month. The state lawmaker, in turn, agreed to shelve his Senate Bill 440 in the Legislature.
The ordinance passed Thursday would provide a reprieve for drivers who have been booted when parking on city streets because of unpaid parking tickets many may not even have been aware of, proponents said.
Drivers must pay their outstanding ticket plus a fee of $121 to have the boot removed. The city's contractor, Duncan Solutions, gets $73 of the fee, while the other $48 goes to the city's general fund.
Initially, officials said the move would result in a loss of at least $600,000 to the city’s Parking Enforcement Division, which collects roughly $1.2 million in fines from booting vehicles and which has a $13.5 million annual budget.
However, the total amount lost could be as high as $2 million, as the city expects to lose parking ticket revenue once the fear of booting is less of a deterrent to parking illegally, said Zach Butterworth, the city’s director of intergovernmental affairs.
Before the policy of booting after one ticket went into effect, the city had more than $91 million in unpaid fees and fines related to parking tickets, Butterworth added.
At present, before a vehicle can be booted, two written notices are sent to the vehicle’s owner about the initial ticket, and 110 days must pass without the citation being paid. However, many drivers change addresses or miss the warnings for other reasons.
The new policy is in line with Cantrell’s pledge to quit “nickel-and-diming” city residents, a promise she said last year she would fulfill primarily by taking down the city’s traffic cameras.
Those cameras are expected to generate roughly $16 million in 2018. Cantrell has not said if she intends to remove them immediately upon taking office, or what revenue source will replace the money they generate.