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Parking enforcement 'essential' during coronavirus outbreak, City argues

The continuing enforcement amid the coronavirus pandemic is not sitting well with many people who have posted their grievances on social media.

NEW ORLEANS — Many streets in New Orleans are empty. Parking has never been easier, even in the French Quarter. But despite emergency stay-at-home orders and government services stripped down to the essentials, New Orleans is still issuing parking tickets.

The continuing enforcement amid the coronavirus pandemic is not sitting well with many people who have posted their grievances on social media.

Sarah Rose posted a picture of a parking enforcement officer issuing tickets on a nearly deserted street and wrote directly to Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

“Please explain to us what we see here,” she wrote. “Writing frivolous parking tickets? Are your worker bees seriously reading meters right now? Ticketing people for more than two hours without a residential permit? What about elderly relatives or someone in need of help?”

 Elaine Cummins, a French Quarter artist, said she has seen the city officers issuing tickets on the street where she lives in a small apartment. She is disabled and taking emergency orders seriously, rarely venturing beyond her courtyard.

But to avoid getting a ticket, she moved her car to a meter around the corner for street cleaning on Tuesday, then back again.

Cummins feels venturing out to move her car put her at risk. She wants the parking rules suspended during the emergency.

“Even with the orders of the mayor and the governor saying stay in your house, I have to leave to go move my vehicle for something so petty,” she said. “This is aiding and abetting the spreading of coronavirus. So, one, I had to go out. Two, I had to move my vehicle. Three, I have to pay the meter. Tell me that's not putting me in harm's way.”

With life reduced to “essential services,” Cummins argues that minor parking issues should not be considered essential. And if she were to get a ticket, paying it would be a struggle given the sudden elimination of her income as a Jackson Square artist.

“My essentials is not a parking ticket. My essential is food, rent,” she said. “We're economically paralyzed with zero. Nothing can be paid.”

The city confirmed that tickets are being issued during the pandemic.

"The city is continuing to operate throughout the city, with the exception of the areas adjacent to major hospitals,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

“Parking Enforcement Officers are being transported in smaller numbers and are practicing the appropriate social distancing. We have relaxed enforcement around restaurants and businesses conducting carryout and delivery services.  All safety violations including blocking fire hydrants, blocking bike lanes, blocking fire lanes, blocking sidewalks and parking in the intersections are being enforced. These are critical to enforce and maintain access for emergency responders and other modes of transportation.”

But in addition to hydrants, fire lanes and driveways, tickets are also being written elsewhere, including ordinary meters and residential street parking.

“We're not talking about the safety of people,” Cummins said. “We're talking about congestion. And obviously, we don't have that issue now. No congestion, the intent of the law is moot.”

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