Council continues push for more parking enforcement, private towing

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A trio of New Orleans City Council members led by Councilwoman Stacy Head pushed city officials Thursday afternoon for more citywide parking-law enforcement and the hiring of private contractors to tow illegal vehicles.

Stacy Head

After hearing during a budget committee meeting that the Nagin administration grossly overestimated the city’s likely collections from traffic fines this year – the budget reads $9 million, but only $2.7 million has been collected – Head returned to an issue she raised earlier this month: lax parking enforcement around the city.

“This, again, is a quality of life and a revenue generating opportunity that we are letting go,” Head said.

New Orleans Police Department quality-of-life officers do not have the ticket-books or the training to write citations and enforce parking laws, Head said that she and fellow councilwomen Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Susan Guidry have recently learned. Each of the city’s eight police districts have quality of life officers, and they should all be given this authority, Head said.

Further, these officers cannot get illegally-parked cars towed: One officer in Algiers said he had 50 cars he’d been trying to get removed from the streets, some for years, Head said. The city’s department of public works has been reluctant to answer her complaints, Head said, with Palmer noting that she too is “totally” unsatisfied with the city’s responses and Councilwoman Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson adding her agreement.

If the city is too short-staffed to tow the cars, it should hire private towing companies to do so, Head said, voicing frustration that the city has said this is not an option and that the earliest meeting she could schedule with officials was in three weeks. Jefferson Parish and others have companies that pay them – either through proceeds from selling junk cars or from a portion of their towing fees – and New Orleans should do the same.

“If we don’t have enough in-house tow trucks, that is no excuse,” Head said, describing the proliferation of towing companies in the area. “The answer we got was nonsensical, that we couldn’t do it. We need a solution, and three weeks from now to get a solution from the administration is unacceptable to me.”

Head also questioned city officials about other efforts to raise revenue in the city, especially with regard to sanitation charges. “In order to bring it anywhere near the realm of what we pay, we’d have to actually charge everybody twice. We have to raise that significantly.”

The sanitation issues will be addressed during the coming month’s budget process, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin replied, but he noted that the city is actively trying to renegotiate its sanitation contracts downward.

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