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Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTONÑNew Orleans Department of Public Works (DPW) Parking Division Officer Carr tickets vehicles on Baronne St. in the Central Business District in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

New Orleans drivers with unpaid tickets may soon be able to wipe the slate clean without all the late fees that normally penalize those who put off paying up.

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday calling for a “Ticket Amnesty Day,” when those with parking and traffic-camera tickets will be able to settle up.

The idea also has drawn the interest of officials in Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, but how it would work has not been decided.

Councilman Jason Williams said the proposal is aimed at recovering some of the money owed to the city.

“We want residents to get these tickets cleared up. We want people to come into compliance,” Williams said.

“We could bring in quite a large figure of revenue to the city while providing our residents with a fresh start when it comes to tickets,” he said.

Figures on exactly how much the city is owed in unpaid tickets were not available. However, a Fox8 story last month said its investigation found the city was owed $245.9 million for tickets dating back to 2008. 

Williams said he would favor making an amnesty a one-time event and requiring scofflaws to pay “close to the original cost of the ticket, rather than many late fees.”

Without such an amnesty, the only way to collect on those tickets would be to hire a collections agency, a potentially expensive process, Williams said.

“If there’s going to be a reduction in how much the city gets, I’d rather that money stay with the residents of the city,” he said.

The proposal comes as the Cantrell administration has been scrounging for cash, largely due to the financial instability at the Sewerage & Water Board. That’s led the administration into a fight with tourism and hospitality groups as the mayor has sought to force them to give up some of the tax money they receive to help plug what she has said is an $80 million to $100 million yearly deficit in infrastructure spending by the city.

Asked about the amnesty, Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said the administration was already looking into the idea.

“The mayor is glad to see the council being forward-thinking, and happy to have them take up this idea we’ve already been working on,” Tidwell said in an email. “The mayor supports a ticket amnesty day and is also interested in looking at how a property tax amnesty could be implemented for residents at a certain threshold.”

Williams said he hadn’t talked to the administration about the plan but was eager to move forward with it. “I just want to get it done,” he said.

However, Jeff Dye, an attorney who had called for improvements to bike safety earlier in the council's meeting, blasted the idea of an amnesty as antithetical to that goal since it would reduce the penalties for violating the city’s traffic laws.

“Some of the worst drivers in the city get tickets and they don’t pay those tickets,” he said.


Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​