Gonzales’ Council introduced ten ordinances purportedly intended to prevent speeding in School Zones on Monday. Electronic Traffic Enforcement is being proposed (Section 19-75 through Section 19-84) to set up cameras and radar, along with hyper-technical procedures to enforce collection of fines issued via mail by an out-of-state contractor, envisioning the creation of a “City Court for the City of Gonzales.” But the ordinance also establishes fines for speeding when motorists are not traveling through School Zones.
“Lots of complaints from various areas about speeders, especially in school zones, Orice Roth (Road) being the main problem…(Electronic Traffic Enforcement) fits us perfect,” Police Chief Sherman Jackson lobbied for the ordinances. “Safety of our kids, that tops the list.”
No one would argue against such a declaration. Citing an unpresented traffic study, Councilman John Berthelot claimed that “40% of motorists drive 11 MPH or more over the speed in limit in our school zones.”
But nowhere in six pages worth of newly-proposed ordinance is placement of traffic cameras limited to school zones (enumerated by Jackson to include Orice Roth Rd, Burnside Ave, and Worthey Road).
“It’s about one thing, and one thing only,” assured the third-party provider. “That is to slow individuals down. And it’s not a money grab” (though the provider would retain 40% of all fines collected pursuant to an agreement which is not mentioned in the ordinance scheme).
Ample signage will be installed to alert motorists they are entering a School Zone with Electronic Traffic Enforcement; a warning sign posted 250-500 feet before speed calculated by laser, another sign identifying the School Zone, and a speed awareness display.
Ordinance 19-83 provides that, “Sums collected (minus the 40% to third-party provider we assume) under this Article shall be used as follows: (1) 10% shall be paid monthly to the City of Gonzales City Court (which does not exist at present); (2) 2% shall be paid monthly to the department of the Ward Marshall (unsure who/what that is); (3) 10% shall be paid monthly to the general fund of the City of Gonzales; (4) The balance shall be paid monthly to the City of Gonzales Police Department, earmarked for law enforcement pay and for law enforcement equipment only.”
If, indeed, the Electronic Traffic Enforcement, i.e. traffic cameras are restricted to school zones the citizen-motorists of Gonzales probably will not squawk too vehemently. But no such assurances are contained within the body of that six-page text. Additionally, if some out-of-state provider is responsible for issuing traffic tickets via the US Postal Service, officer discretion is eliminated from the equation entirely.
That last point was made by one of Gonzales PD’s most familiar traffic patrol officers, now retired Stephen Ussery who has announced his intention to succeed Sherman Jackson in 2024. Noting that certain speeding offenses expose the allegedly offending motorist to arrest, Ussery expressed opposition to “completely eliminating an officer presence.”
“It is also common practice to allow the officer to issue warnings in lieu of citation, especially when the driver is traveling a few miles an hour over the limit,” he said. “These ordinances, enforced by a laser, take away that officer discretion. Mixing criminal enforcement, which traffic is, with purely civil fine enforcement could also be problematic.”
Automated Stationary Speed Enforcement (ASE) and Manned Photo Laser (MPL) Systems would be implemented by proposed Ordinance 19-76 which casts “the owner of a vehicle…responsible and liable for a civil violation penalty as set forth (below) when and if the vehicle is traveling at a speed in miles per hour greater than the speed limit.”
- 1-10 MPH over the limit-$130.00 fine ($188.00 in a School Zone)
- 11-20 MPH over the limit-$140.00 fine ($212.00 in a School Zone)
- 21-30 MPH over the limit-$160.00 fine ($237.00 in a School Zone)
- 31 and above MPH over the limit-$190.00 ($267.00 in a School Zone)
Which begs the question; if the ordinance scheme’s only goal is to disincentivize speeding in School Zones, why does it include non-School Zone traffic fines?
A cursory inspection of the ordinance scheme revealed numerous holes to be filled in, kinks to be ironed out.