A friend of mine recently attended a lecture at the World War II Museum. She enjoyed the lecture but the night was ruined when she returned to her vehicle. It was booted. Besides the anger and feeling of invasion that comes when a car gets the boot, the friend, who is a single female, was double angered because the ticket was issued at 8:30 p.m. “That’s too late,” she told me especially for being left alone in the dark with an immovable vehicle.

She called and was told that she was guilty of having two unpaid traffic tickets. She was able to get the boot removed only after giving a credit card number to pay a fine of $490.

As unfortunate as the incident was she was a little lucky in that she had a credit card, an i-phone and money in the bank. But what about those without such benefits? Or, what if they don’t even have the money to take a taxi home? What if the victims work for only hourly wages and their job requires them to be at work on time, yet they don’t have access to a car?

What really irked the friend is that she did not remember receiving the tickets, the most recent of which dated back to 2015. There was never any notice that the fines were due.

Full disclosure here: I have been a victim of the boot too, though, I must admit, for several tickets. Like my friend I was parked in a perfectly legal spot but that did not matter. There’s a creepy van that goes around at night scanning license plates and applying the boot wherever it can.

Someone might argue, well, those who get a ticket should have to pay their fine. That was a better argument in the old days when a policeman stopped you, wrote out a citation and gave you a copy. There was a physical presence. Nowadays most people are caught by those omnipresent traffic cameras. Quite often they are issued tickets without even realizing they have committed an offense. 

While my friend was fined for traffic camera violations the same happens for parking tickets. Currently, anyone can get booted just from having one unpaid parking ticket. Fortunately, there is a proposed ordinance from Councilman Jared Brossett that goes before the council this week which raises the number of parking tickets before booting is allowed from one to three. That’s a great step, though I would argue to raise the number to five until the ticket Nazis can come up with better system of notifying people about the tickets they have and of warning them about the consequences. The administration’s argument for allowing booting after only one tickets is that if the number was any higher violators would not feel the need to pay until they reached that number. So what? Each ticket would serve as a warning sign about not getting to the booting level. Besides there is something fundamentally unfair about punishing a person twice for one tickets; the cost of the fine, plus the cost of the booting (and if the car is towed that’s another cost), plus the hardship of being booted.

And who are the prime victims of the city’s ruthless booting? Well it is locals, people who care enough about the city to live and invest in it, and then there are those from out of the parish who are nevertheless willing to come into the city for its services. To believe in the city is to occasionally get slapped down by it.

We urge the council members, meeting for the last time before the inauguration of a new council, to support Brossett’s ordinance; we urge Brosett to raise the number. We also urge the new council to make the traffic camera booting system, for which there is really no realistic appeals system, less predatory. As is, count on it, one evening someone who has been booted will also become a victim of a violent crime. No fine will be worth the city’s shame.






BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.