Thursday, December 24, 2015

Shreveport City Council Begins to Take a Look at Neighborhood Speeding

According to KTBS, the public safety committee of the Shreveport City Council is taking a look at addressing speeding through residential neighborhoods.  This is a move in the right direction and long overdue:

One of the hottest topics at the meeting is the need to crack down on speeders through residential streets. "It's one of the top complaints that we get and it's something that affects public safety quite a bit," said Councilman Jeff Everson.

My personal experience with this is as a resident on a street that is a cut-through between two major arteries in Shreveport.  After watching people flying down our street at speeds well over the posted 25 mph speed limit, we began a campaign to get some help from the Shreveport Police Department and city officials.

We began with an open letter to various officials to simply come sit out in our yard, have a glass of tea, and watch the races.   We got some response from our Caddo Commission member, Matt Linn, which helped get the ball rolling toward some action.  I began doing some research on traffic calming techniques that have been used in other communities.  Then KTBS did a story on our Operation Checkered Flag campaign and by mid-October we had a stealth box on one of the utility poles which began gathering data for SPD.  Immediately after placing the box, we had radar officers writing tickets  -- a lot of tickets.  But then it stopped.  They wrote tickets for a few days and then left.

So I wrote another letter on December 8 to Chief Willie Shaw and asked that the radar officers please keep us in their rotation and noted that the speeding is still a major problem.  I acknowledge that this is a city-wide problem and we certainly don't expect to have an officer here 24/7; we just want to be kept in the rotation.  I also challenged other city officials to find a viable option in conjunction with the radar such as speed tables or rumble strips.  (Speed tables are not the same thing as speed bumps.)
In response to my second letter, SPD wrote to tell me that only 10% of the cars on my street were going ten miles per hour or above over the speed limit; I was told that 119 tickets were written by those radar officers but "not all of them were for speeding."  But, they did place another stealth box.

I wrote again questioning this data and requesting to see what the stealth box collected and posed ten other questions:

1. I find it simply stunning that only 10% of the traffic on our street is going “over ten mile per hour over the speed limit.” Is this for a certain time period? Which data box does this statistic come from? Is this statistic derived over 24 hours, a certain time of day, or a general average? Ten percent is a very low number based on what I’m observing. I would like to see the data collected from both boxes. Please let me know when would be a good time that I might come pick that up from you.
2. If the officers wrote 119 tickets, but “not all of them were speeding violations,” what was the probable cause for pulling those cars over? Were they speeding? What were the citations for? My neighbors and I saw officers here on average about 3 hours a day – sometimes two, sometimes four, so say three hours on average. Each time the officer wrote one ticket after another, seldom able to reposition his car before pulling over another violation. That squares with your 119 number, but not with the 10% number. I’m curious about that.
3. Your letter indicates that “approximately 10% …were driving ten mph above the posted limit” with one vehicle over 60 mph. Was that one vehicle the only one between October 4 and December 8 that was going sixty or above? Again, that doesn’t square with what I’ve seen. What time period was this? Is ten mph over the speed limit the acceptable speed? So the speed limit on my street is really 35 mph (the posted speed is 25 mph)? If that’s the case, what would we need to do to lower the speed limit? I’m fine with five mph over, really – thirty isn’t so bad, but 35 is excessive on this narrow street that has neighborhood kids and pets outside and street parking.
 (The number of drivers who don’t understand “failure to yield to oncoming traffic” is astonishing – sometimes this narrow street is a three-laner.

Some of my questions were, of course, outside the purview of the police department such as why 18-wheeler trucks are allowed to come through a narrow residential street.  This is where the City Council must be involved.

I received a very nice letter in response from Captain Cleat Temple who answered every one of my questions that he was able -- again, some were outside his area of enforcement.  But, we did get another radar officer for a couple of days who wrote a who bunch more tickets.

I'm glad to see that the City Council is at least recognizing that neighborhood speeding is a problem.  On October 7, Mrs. Jessie Bradley was killed by someone driving over 100 mph on a residential street; the driver ran into Mrs. Bradley's car as she was driving to a National Night Out gathering.  Simply tragic.  How many more lives must be lost or threatened before action is taken?

In Bossier City, I know that some neighborhoods have double fines for speeding in residential neighborhoods.  This is one action I proposed that the City Council examine for Shreveport.  There are many other traffic calming measures that can be taken depending on the street.  There is plenty of research out there that other communities have done that our City Council can draw upon.  According to KTBS:

City leaders want to increase the traffic fines in residential neighborhoods to deter those speeders. "Our neighborhoods are where our children play and where our elderly members are working in the yard, and there's a lot of people who are close to the street," Everson said. "If you have someone driving through at 60 miles per hour, it presents real danger. We get a lot of calls about certain areas, especially cut through streets."  
 Everson said many of Shreveport's neighboring communities have already made their traffic fines higher in residential areas, which has helped to cut down on instances of speeding in neighborhoods. "We're paying attention to that and looking at what we can do help keep our neighborhoods safer and keep those speeds at a level that works better within areas that people are living and calling their home."
I encourage the City Council to be vigilant in their study of this problem and to take quick action.  In our neighborhood, for example, our neighbors are outside daily working in yards, watching children play, socializing, and just doing things that people do outside in suburban neighborhoods. There are joggers on the road, bicyclists, and families pushing strollers.  We sit outside daily and see drivers obliviously flying down the street; sometimes we can even see them holding up their cell phones and texting while driving.  It's only a matter of time until another tragedy occurs in some neighborhood, a tragedy which we should make some attempt to avert.

My offer from October stands:  any one of the City Council members, or all of them, are welcome to come sit, have a glass of tea, meet the neighbors, and watch the races.  They're still speeding with abandon even as we speak.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

TSR LA Baby Mommas: Making a Difference One Dog at a Time

Ruby: she's looking for a home.
One of the very good things about the Shreveport-Bossier area is its huge animal rescue community. There are several rescue groups that work very hard to find homes and save lives of the overabundance of unwanted animals in our area.

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation points out that the current population of dogs and cats in the United States "currently exceeds the capacity of our society to care and provide homes for them as companion animals."  Our local rescue groups each have some kind of specialty area but none will turn their back on an animal in need.

For example, Ninna's Road to Rescue specializes in small breeds while Lumberjack Rescue specializes in large breeds, and Port City Cat Rescue specializes in cats.  We also have PetSavers and the Humane Society, both of which work very hard to place animals.  Bossier City Animal Control does a fantastic job at adopting out animals over euthanasia. New rescues are forming and making their mark as well, such as Bark-la-Tex Rescue.  Nova's Heart is an organization that works to help and support the homeless and their homeless pets.  We even have a Mardi Gras krewe which works for and highlights the plight of homeless animals: Krewe of Barkus and Meoux.

One rescue that serves a specialized need is TSR LA Baby Mommas.  This group was launched in 2011 and specializes in puppies that require round-the-clock monitoring and critical care puppies.

These people are amazing.

They were one of the first to step up and help Braveheart, the pitbull puppy who was left abandoned and left to die in a storage building in August 2013.  Braveheart is now thriving and serves as an ambassador against animal abuse.

This rescue group has, for example, taken several cleft palate puppies and has supported them through multiple surgeries to repair their handicaps and ensure that they can adopt out and have healthy, normal lives.  One of those puppies was baby Summit who was fostered by Braveheart's
Summit on left, and Braveheart. Courtesy of A Voice for Braveheart
family; Braveheart helped nurture and care for baby Summit, an endeavor that included careful hand feeding across very short round the clock intervals under the monitoring of a vet tech.  Aspiration was a constant worry in those first few weeks.  Summit is now living a healthy life with his new family.

Some of the puppies that come into the rescue are preemies or have lost their mother at birth due to one circumstance or another.  These puppies literally require round the clock care; they require their now human mommas to get up maybe every thirty minutes for feeding or monitoring.  Someone to warm the sock filled with soft, cooked rice to snuggle next to for comfort.  Someone to change the potty pad and wipe the puppy off.  Someone to clean the face as a momma would.

I've seen these mommas come to adoption events with these very young puppies because they can't be left alone; so they're packed into warm, secure carriers and brought to events so they can continue to be fed are monitored.  The public is not allowed to touch or handle these very young ones just yet because the immune system is still very fragile and all care must be taken to protect them.

The homes and lives of these mommas (and some of them are men) have been taken over by their passion for these puppies; in some cases the dining room table has been put in storage so that more kennels can be brought in or another wire fence exercise pen set up.

LA Baby Mommas also manages a strong network of foster homes who offer safe places for the puppies and bring them to adoption events until they can find forever homes.  There are also folks who volunteer primarily in transport and will drive a puppy countless miles to its new home if need be.

The individuals that I know personally who are associated with this group have the biggest hearts I've ever seen.  Jean, Terri, Patt, Linda want no recognition or accolades for what they do.  They are quiet and humble about their work -- it's all about the puppies.  ALL about the puppies.  But their work can't go unrecognized.  These people spend countless days going to adoption events, caring for puppies, pulling puppies from various bad situations, taking puppies to veterinarian appointments, checking and validating adoption applications, transporting puppies, organizing supplies, fundraising, and managing an online presence.

Dig that cool green dog!
Finding creative ways to raise funds is always a challenge; for example, Jean and Loraine spent hours making ornaments for sale for a donation at the adoption event held today.

As we move toward the end of the year, the Christmas season, and that time when you may be looking for one more place to donate for a charitable tax deduction, why don't you consider TSR LA Baby Momma Rescue?   Every animal they adopt out is spayed or neutered (or comes with a voucher if not yet old enough) and every animal they adopt out is one that has been rescued from almost impossible odds or circumstances.

The work this group does is worthy of recognition (whether they want it or not) in my mind, and I can promise you that they would appreciate your donation, whatever the amount, and use it well.

And if you want one of those cool green dog ornaments, leave a comment here and we can hook you up!

Their Facebook page is here.

Donate here.