Sunday, December 10, 2017

Double-talking Zahn Sells Out Hispanics and Kenner Residents

“The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.”
-          Mark Twain

It must be difficult speaking out of both sides of your mouth.
It’s certainly not a skill that I have mastered or ever will. 
Unfortunately, talking out of both sides of your mouth comes easily to career politicians like Ben Zahn. 
But, sooner or later it will catch up to you. 
Because he panders to anyone and everyone, and is always looking for more and more money to grow government, while claiming to support public safety and defending his actions at places where he can’t be challenged, the walls are starting to cave in on Lyin’ Ben’s House of Cards. 
I could sit here and rehash the many missteps that Zahn and his administration have engaged in during their 11 month tenure at Kenner’s helm but I will refrain and just speak about some significant recent developments and point out Zahn’s continued hypocrisy. 
Considering that Zahn has grown the size of City government, added departments and political appointees, continuously pats himself on the back for the vast State, Parish and Local government experience that he has and has brought to the City, and that Zahn has been in Kenner or JP Government for the past 12 years, there should be far fewer missteps, if any at all.
But, since this is going to be a long post as is, let’s not digress and delve right into it. 
The "Hispanic" Resource Center
First, let’s get this straight – this is not a post about whether Kenner needs or should even have a "Hispanic" Resource Center. 
If you want to debate whether the trailer on Florida Avenue should be called the “Hispanic Resource Center”, the “North Kenner Resource Center”, the “Kenner Community Center”, or some other name, fine, we can do that. Just not now.
Personally, I believe that the City of Kenner should have more Community Centers that serve all facets of our community. The name is immaterial.
That being said, the fact is that we’ve had a “Hispanic Resource Center” for 14 years, it’s falling apart and the City and City Council have committed to rebuild it. 
For several years, the Kenner City Council has allocated funding and moved money around to build a new HRC to replace the trailers that currently house it. 
Just when it seemed like the City finally had the money put together to build a new Resource Center, Zahn and his council buddies pulled the wool out from under the Kenner Hispanic Community and Kenner residents.
At Thursday’s Kenner City Council meeting, Zahn moved $396,000 that was allocated for the HRC into capital budgets for the KPD and the KFD, and a “Loss Fund” to cover legal and other fees from lawsuits (including the lawsuit thrust on Kenner taxpayers by his own political appointees trying to overturn a Charter Change overwhelmingly approved by Kenner voters).
Both KPD Chief Glaser and Interim KFD Chief Bergeron have significant needs and, if you’ve read this blog in the past you know that  I have long banged the drum to try to get more money for the woefully underfunded KFD. 
While I have no issues with funneling more money to the KPD and KFD, the money should not have been reallocated from the HRC. 
And, clearly, not one cent from any community program or service should be used to pay for a lawsuit that Zahn himself has encouraged and will benefit from. 
But, let’s discuss the double-talk spewed from Zahn. 
Zahn claimed that he was opposed to building a new HRC on land that was being used by a local soccer group.
What he didn’t tell you was that only 2 months ago, he gave the soccer team the right to use the land without even discussing his plan with District 2 Councilman Keith Reynaud and knowing full well the condition of the HRC and the money that was allocated to rebuild it. 
Earlier in the year, Zahn himself approved a $12,000 change order for the contractor designing the new building, bringing the total already spent on the "new" HRC to $91,000. Of course, to hear Zahn tell it, he was just signing off on what the Council had already approved. 
But, if you know the money is allocated for the building and you approved additional money for the design, why would you give that land away and, isn’t there already ample land for the new HRC and the soccer team? 
Because Zahn claims that the City doesn’t need any more new buildings.  On that point, Lyin’ Ben and I agree. But, this money wasn’t going towards a NEW building – it was to replace a dilapidated, outdated temporary building that has long outlived its usefulness.
But wait…there’s more. 
Zahn falsely claimed that the current land housing the HRC and the soccer team wasn’t large enough and the plans for the new HRC building also weren’t big enough. 
Earlier in the meeting, District 2 Puppet, I mean, Councilman Mike Sigur, at the urging of Zahn, tried to get an item added to the agenda to allow the City to buy another piece of land for the larger Resource Center that Zahn now envisions. 
Why would the City want to buy another property when the existing property is more than enough? 
And, since the City doesn’t have enough money for new KPD and KFD capital expenses or to fund a “loss fund”, and needs to move money from the HRC funding, where will it get even more money to buy another property and build another, even larger Resource Center?
And, what about Zahn’s claims that the City doesn’t need any new buildings? Why buy property if you don’t need a new building? 
When discussing his plan with Hispanic groups in an attempt to secure their support, Zahn also has reportedly told several people that Kenner needs not just a soccer field but a soccer stadium that could hold regional tournaments.
Where will the money for that come from and isn’t a “stadium” a “building”?
It’s all very confusing but that’s what happens when you don’t speak the truth.

 The Staffing Issue
Both Zahn and his puppet Sigur also said that they were pulling the HRC funding because a new, larger HRC would need more staff and the City couldn’t afford it (but they will be able to staff an even bigger Resource Center?).
When you consider the amount of new departments and political appointees that Zahn has added to Kenner government, you know that this clearly is a ruse.
Zahn could move his new “Diversity Coordinator” to the HRC and make him actually work instead of just attending luncheons.
I mean really, does anyone even know what the “Diversity Coordinator” does aside from giving Zahn cover so Lyin’ Ben can point to the token Hispanic on his staff? 
Sorry Ben, Hispanics represent ¼ of the City’s population. They deserve more than token representation in your Administration. 
But, I guess 1 Hispanic “Diversity Coordinator” is still 1 more than the amount of African-American Directors Zahn employs. 
Yeah, having ZERO City Directors that reflect 50% of Kenner’s population really proves your “diversity” Mr. Zahn. 

The Real Reasons Behind This
There are two reasons that I can see as to why Zahn reallocated the HRC funding: 
1). To cover the legal expense incurred by the lawsuit from his political appointees.
2). Rebuilding the HRC wasn’t Zahn’s idea. 

3). Zahn can give out even more contracts to his campaign contributors. 
The Future of the HRC
While Zahn maintains that moving the funding from the HRC is not a death sentence and that he will build a new, bigger (to be named) Resource Center, several questions remain: 
1). When will the Resource Center be built?
2). How will the land and building be funded and staffed? Since we know Lyin’ Ben won’t cut his bloated political appointee budget, will Zahn steal money from other community programs or should we get used to seeing Bake Sales at future Council meetings to provide the funding? 
3). If and when a new HRC or Resource Center is built, will Kenner Hispanics and residents of all ethnicities feel welcome there?
4). What about the $91,000 that the City has already paid for design work? Do we just write that off because Ben Zahn says so? 
 One Last Thing
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the ugly, vile and unprofessional comments made by District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur regarding his fellow Councilman, At-Large Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch and District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud.
Sigur inferred that DeFrancesch and Reynaud were against moving the HRC funding because they will economically benefit from increased property values if the HRC stayed in its current address. 
Sigur claimed that there could be “ethics violations” and charges against DeFrancesch and Reynaud.
Of course, Sigur just threw these statements out there and didn’t elaborate or offer any proof to substantiate his claims. 
For those of you that follow Kenner politics, you know that it is incredibly hypocritical for Sigur to lecture anyone on “ethics”.
Consider this:
       -          While campaigning, Sigur lied about his support of then-Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s plan to                double property taxes. When he was presented with photographic proof that he had a yard                sign supporting the tax increase, Sigur claimed that he was simply supporting the KPD and                    not Yenni’s tax scheme. Yeah, right. 

-          Sigur allegedly removed thousands of dollars in excess floor tiles from the Kenner Police Headquarters for use in his residence.

-          He approved funding for the Kenner Italian Heritage Festival while receiving compensation for paid police details and advertising for his side hustle from the Festival. 

-          Sigur has received thousands of dollars in police detail work as a "Reserve Officer" while sitting on the Council (he did get an opinion from the State Ethics Board which foolishly allows this to occur but even with the Ethics Board’s ok Sigur receiving compensation from the KPD while a Councilman doesn’t pass the smell test). These lucrative paid details could have and should have gone to active KPD officers to help supplement their income – not pad a "Reserve Officer"/part-time City Councilman’s income. Around the KPD, Sigur’s nickname was “Detail Whore”.  
Like I said, Sigur lecturing anyone on “Ethics” is like Ben Zahn teaching a class on “Telling the Truth”. 
Councilman Sigur, and I use that term loosely, you owe Councilmen DeFrancesch and Reynaud, and the people of Kenner an apology for your unprofessional behavior. 

While we wait for Sigur’s apology, you better get started baking Ben. 
It takes a lot of cookies to buy another piece of land to build another building that Kenner doesn’t need.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

JP "Teacher Tax" Not Just About Teachers - And Not Needed

It's hard to write a post against Teachers.

Teachers are overworked and underpaid. They often spend their own money on supplies for their classrooms and, all too often, for students.

I haven't met anyone that thinks Teachers are paid too much or don't deserve a raise. In Jefferson Parish, the starting salary for a teacher is $40,949. Which, according to the School System, is the lowest starting salary in the Metro New Orleans area. The "Teacher Tax" would raise JP to $44,949, or 2nd in the area behind only Plaquemines Parish ($46,300).

Like I said, it's hard to write a post against Teachers, especially JP Teachers.

So, I won't.

But, if you believe the spin coming from the Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS), it's high-priced PR firm, and the Teacher's Union, if YOU vote No on the "Teacher Tax" YOU are against Teachers.

Sadly, that perception just doesn't match reality.

So, while I won't write a post against Teachers, I will tell you why I think the "Teacher Tax" is not needed and why you should vote NO.

Let's break things down a little and look at the numbers.

According to the school system, in 2015/16 (the last year noted on their website) the JPPSS had 48,835 students and 6,029 employees, of which only 2,892 are "Certified Teachers". That's a Student/Teacher ratio of 16.88/1. The US Department of Education only has data through 2013 and that shows that the average Student/Teacher ratio nationwide was 16.1/1. The State of Louisiana sets the maximum number of Students per Teacher at 20/1.

That also means that, the JPPSS has more non-teachers than teachers. 

The JPPSS has a FY 2017 budget of $579 Million which means it spends over $11,856 per student per year. Again, according to the Federal Government, spending per pupil in 2013 was $10,700. Louisiana averaged $10,490 in 2013.

So, if the amount spent per student is above both the National and State averages, what's the problem?

That answer is simple: like most government entities, and many people, the JPPSS has a spending and a debt problem.

They spend and borrow too much and, instead of being prudent and cutting back, the JPPSS simply comes back to the taxpayer for more.

On November 18th, it's an 8.45 mills tax for "Teacher Pay". This Spring it will be another tax for new buildings.

This despite the fact that in 2012, voters approved a 9 mill renewal for "Teacher Salaries and Benefits", and, in 2013, voters also approved a 7 mill renewal for "Buildings". In addition, in 2015 and 2016, the School System added over $89 Million in new debt and paid an almost $10 Million "Premium on bond issuance".

And, voters also approved an additional 1/2% sales tax for "increasing salaries and benefits of school teachers and other employees" among other things. This raised the amount the of sales tax the JPPSS receives to 2% of JP's 4.75%.

Oh yeah, and in 2015, the School Board approved a $32 Million settlement as part of the BP Oil Spill.

The new debt added to the School System's existing debt means that, as of 6/30/2016, the JPPSS had outstanding debt of $206,492,000. The annual interest payments alone on the debt are $28.4 Million. 

The new tax is estimated to generate $27 Million annually for 10 years, or less than the amount the JPPSS pays annually in interest payments.

In fact, the JPPSS is budgeted to spend $89 Million in "Purchased Professional & Technical Services" in 2017, up from $40 Million in 2016, and both more than the amount of revenue the new tax would generate.

What are "Purchased Professional & Technical Services"? Legal, accounting, engineering and architectural services primarily (or, things not directly related to educating our youth).

In addition, "General Administration" costs ballooned by almost 50% from $23.4 Million in 2015 to $31.2 Million in 2016.

Clearly, some money could be cut from both of those items to fund teachers and I'm certain there is even more fat that could be cut before asking taxpayers to dole out even more money.

The "Teacher Tax" will giver every JP Teacher an additional $4,000 per year. It would also give employees earning $20,000 per year a $3,000 increase and those earning less than $20,000 a 10% salary increase.

If we round things off and say that there are 3,000 teachers in JP, giving every one of them $4,000 would still only total $12 Million, so only about 44% of this tax will actually go to increasing teacher salaries.

The remaining 56% or so will go towards increasing the pay of other JPPSS employees, from Administrators to Janitors.

But, don't they deserve to be paid more too?

Perhaps, but not until all of the fat in the JPPSS budget is cut and teachers (which should be the #1 priority of the JPPSS) have their salaries increased.

And, we haven't even brought up the School System's continued mediocre performance.

The JPPSS says that it needs this tax to "be competitive".

In a statement supporting the tax, the JPPSS also says, "Teachers are the key drivers for improving educational outcomes in the classroom. We are losing teachers at all levels, but especially newer teachers."

What the JPPSS can't say is if newer teachers are leaving because of the pay or for other reasons and, if it is the pay, is another $76 a week (before taxes) going to get them to stay?

But, if MORE money from this tax is going to non-teachers, how is this tax about making our schools competitive and retaining and attracting quality teachers?

And, if the situation is as dire as the JPPSS would have you believe, why can't they cut some money from non-teacher spending to afford the raises?

Until the JPPSS can get it's non-teacher related spending and it's debt under control, no JP resident should support spending more of our money for below average performance.

Whether it's called a "Teacher Tax" or not.

Sorry if that makes you say that I'm "Against Teachers".

The reality is that I'm just a guy against more taxes, especially before you cut government first.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

JP Public Schools Decline Slightly, Keep "C" Grade

State rankings for the 2016-2017 school year show that the Jefferson Parish Public Schools System declined slightly overall but managed to keep their "C" grade finishing well below the state average.

Schools and school districts statewide are ranked according to several criteria including standardized test scores, high school graduation rates and level of coursework.

Overall, Jefferson Parish dropped from 79.4 to 78.9 on the 150-point scale, both within the "C" grade. The state average of 70 school districts ranked was 86.8 ("B"). Unlike JP however, the state average increased by 3.8 points.

13 JP schools were ranked "A" led by Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies with a 141.2 score. 20 schools received "B" grades. There were 28 "C" graded schools, 14 "D" rated schools and 8 "F" graded schools.

The 8 "F" graded schools are Woodmere Charter, the Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy (JCFA), Martyn Alternative, Wall Elementary, Theodore Roosevelt Middle, Westbank Elementary, Frederick Douglas Elementary and Livaudais Middle. Martyn Alternative and Roosevelt are on the Eastbank; the others are on the Westbank.

The Zachary Community School District finished 1st statewide with a score of 115.6.

Jefferson Parish finished 6th in the 7 District Metro New Orleans rankings. Plaquemines Parish was 1st with a score of 110.7 (#2 statewide); St. Tammany followed with a 104.1 score (#8 statewide); St. Charles Parish was third in the Metro with a 100 score (#17 statewide); St. Bernard Parish came in 4th in the Metro with 98.3 score (#21 statewide); St. John the Baptist was next with a 83.8 score (#42 statewide); Jefferson Parish was 48th statewide with Orleans Parish (including the Recovery School District) rounding out the Metro with a 70.8 score (#58 statewide).

Click here to search for individual school performance grades.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Deja Vu? Did Kenner Council And Mayor Zahn Screw Up Interim Appointment Again?

"It's deja vu all over again."
    - Yogi Berra

At the last Kenner City Council meeting, District 5 Interim Councilwoman Kelly Hand took her seat. Unfortunately, since the Kenner City Council prematurely voted to appoint her before Dominick Impastato's resignation took effect on 10/31, Mrs. Hand could only sit there quietly and not vote.

Unfortunately for District 5 residents who are left without any official representation, Mrs. Hand may be just sitting there for another meeting or even longer.

At a "Special" Council meeting (and really, aren't they all "Special"?), the Council voted again to appoint Mrs. Hand. But, City Hall missed the deadline for the resolution appointing Hand a second time to be published in the Official Journal (The Times/Picayune).

Article 2.18 of Kenner's Home Rule Charter provides that  ordinances and resolutions do not become effective until ten days after publication of the legal notice in the official journal.   Kenner's legal notices are usually published in the "Kenner Picayune" section of the Times Picayune every Wednesday.

Publishing the resolution in this Wednesday's (11/8) paper would mean that Mrs. Hand's appointment would not be legal for 10 days, thus not allowing her to participate (other than sitting silently) at the next City Council meeting on Thursday, 11/16.

Ironically, the City used the "10 day rule" both when it appointed Brian Brennan and Mrs. Hand, to convince the Secretary of State that the Council appointments were legal since they would not "take effect" until AFTER there was an actual vacancy.

The Zahn Administration scrambled to get the notice published in the Monday (11/6) "Newsstand" edition of the Times/Picayune. The "Newsstand" Edition is not home delivered and is only available for purchase at area retailers and newspaper boxes.

There is a question as to whether the "Newsstand" Edition constitutes "Official Publication in the City's Official Journal". If it is not considered "Official", any vote Mrs. Hand makes at the 11/16 meeting could be challenged and, possibly, illegal. It would also mean that Mrs. Hand would not be put on the Kenner payroll until 11/18, or two days after the next Council meeting  and District 5 would be without "Official" voting representation until December.

That is, assuming that the City of Kenner republishes the Legal Notice in the Wednesday, 11/8 edition.

If it is not republished in the "Official Journal", every vote Hand makes could be challenged and, possibly, illegal.

Of course, the Zahn Administration maintains that the "Newsstand" Edition qualifies as "Official". But, isn't the point of a Legal Notice to be published for the widest available audience? Clearly, the "Newsstand" Edition has a circulation that is not equal to the combined Home Delivered/Newsstand circulation. And really, how many people actually buy a copy of the newspaper at a store anymore?

Since he's been an elected official for over 12 years, shouldn't Ben Zahn get little things like this right? And shouldn't the City Council and Zahn actually know what's in the City Charter?

Several times during his 11 month term, Zahn has either tried to get around the City Charter or pushed for laws before they had been properly vetted.

Zahn has already allowed several  of his non-resident political appointees to get waivers so they could get around the Charter residency requirement that was voted on and approved by the people of Kenner.

Zahn pushed the City Council to "do something" regarding TNCs like Uber and Lyft so the City could get a new revenue stream from fees on drivers and passengers, and when the City Council passed an ordinance that Uber and Lyft said would drive them from Kenner, Zahn needed to call another "Special" Council meeting to repeal the ordinance and start again.

Regarding the controversial UDC provision that would ban Kenner residents from parking boats in their driveways, Zahn pushed for the UDC to be passed by the Council but deferred enforcing it for a year after public criticism.

Shouldn't WE push our elected officials to get it right instead of just plowing ahead? Isn't it better, especially regarding LAWS, to get it right rather than get it fast?

This isn't McDonald's - these are laws that impact all of us.

Since Ben Zahn has been on the public payroll much of his adult life, he should know the difference.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sexual Predator Yenni Fundraising For Reelection Attempt

You know when you're hosting a party and it's winding down and people start to leave? You're tired and you're starting to clean up but there's one guy that won't get the hint that the party is over.

You want to scream, "Go home now!", but this guy just doesn't take the hint.

Well, in Jefferson Parish, Mike Yenni is THAT GUY.

Tomorrow night (11/7), Jefferson Parish's Sexual Predator-In-Chief  is holding a $500 per person cocktail reception as he raises money for his reelection bid.

That's right - the man who a year ago was accused of attempting to have a three-way sex romp with two teenage boys is having a cocktail reception that his sexual prey couldn't even attend.

Unless, of course, they drank "Shirley Temples".

At $500 a person, that's s pretty expensive Shirley Temple.

Despite horrendous approval numbers in every poll and a recall effort that garnered more signatures than the number of people who voted for Yenni in the last election, he still thinks he can be reelected. Of course, when you've never had a non-government job in your life or owned a business and your only skill is feeding off the government trough and using your campaign account to fund your lifestyle, I'm sure the "Real World" is a scary place.

Obviously, Yenni is emboldened (or delusional) as this week also marks his return to the Jefferson Chamber-sponsored "State of the Parish" Address.

You will recall that Yenni's invitation to speak before the Chamber last year was revoked after the allegations of Yenni's improper sexting with at least one teenage boy.

Yenni tried to save face by claiming that he never agreed to speak at the Chamber event, an annual gathering that is always headlined by the Parish President and the Jefferson Parish Council President.

It is unclear why the Chamber would capitulate and invite Yenni this year. The Sexual Predator-In-Chief continues to embarrass most moral Jefferson Parish residents and business owners by his defiance in not doing the right thing and resigning.

At least Yenni didn't change Veteran's Day this year to Richard Simmons Day.

Like the guy that won't leave the party, Yenni can't put his own arrogant needs aside and think about what is best for our parish to move forward.

And, like it or not, the best thing for our parish is to forget about Mike Yenni.

Why are some people still supporting and enabling the Sexual Predator-In-Chief? Access, contracts and their own selfish needs.

Many JP residents and business owners are distressed, but not surprised, by both Yenni's fundraising and the Chamber's turn. The Chamber has always been a rubber stamp for Greg Buisson candidates and issued a statement in support of Yenni's 2030 Kenner Debt Plan minutes before the Kenner City Council voted on it (as did the Times-Picayune).

But have no fear Loyal Readers, for I have your backs.

Since I'm a little too conspicuous to attend either function (and, in all honesty, I have ZERO desire to be in the same room with the Sexual Deviant), I have arranged for folks to be inside and outside of both the Cocktail Reception and the Chamber meeting.

These folks will report to me and also take photos so that I can let you know what businesses and business owners and private citizens are contributing to and supporting Yenni's reelection bid. I'm not asking or even suggesting that you boycott them but, you deserve to know who is helping to attempt to keep our Sexual Predator-In-Chief in office and continue making our parish a laughing stock.

Yeah, it cost me a few bucks but I think it's an investment in transparency.

So, if you are planning to attend either event and showing support for JP's Sexual Predator-In-Chief please remember to smile and wear clean clothes:


In the meantime, I think I'll have a Shirley Temple.

Better yet, make it a Double.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Silly Fish: Kenner Council Must Redo Interim Vote

The other day, I told you about my "Fortune" and compared the Kenner City Council to "Silly Fish".

To review, my "Fortune" said, "It is the silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait."

And now there's news that the Kenner City Council has proven me right (again).

The Council has scheduled another "Special" meeting on Monday. The only agenda item is...wait for name an interim replacement for District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato.

As we noted in our last post, BEFORE a vacancy or anticipated vacancy can be filled on the Council, there must be an opening. In this case, as was the case in 2016 when the Council rushed the appointment of Brian Brennan to replace Keith Conley, Impastato's resignation letter had not arrived at the Secretary of State BEFORE the Council voted to replace him.

What is truly sad about this matter is, not that it happened again but, that the Council was warned AGAIN.

When I learned that the Council would be naming a replacement, I emailed and texted several council members. No, I didn't notify my councilman, District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur, since in almost 4 years in office, Sigur has NEVER returned a phone call or replied to an email from me.

Several other people also contacted the Council.

So, the Council knew they were screwing up but, in their arrogance, they ignored the warnings.

Silly fish...

For those of you that enjoyed my analogy/fortune, here's another one: the Kenner City Council is like a group of teenagers in a bad, scary movie where you know how it ends but you keep watching anyway.

You're sitting there watching the movie and talking to the movie screen and trying to warn the teenagers: "Don't go in there."

But the kids go anyway - and then they are killed.

Whether it's redoing yet another Council appointment or repealing the Uber/Lyft ordinance days after they approved it, or facing the maelstrom of criticism over their attempt to ban property owners from parking boats in their driveways, the Kenner City Council truly is "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."

 I laugh every time I think of the character named "Baccala".

For those of you that don't know, Baccala is salt cod, and it was a staple of my Grandmother's Christmas Eve Dinner. We had fried Baccala; Baccala soup; Baccala salad; Baccala in tomato gravy; and more. You ate the Baccala and always complimented my Grandmother because at the end of the Baccala Trail was the prize: Pineapple Pie - a true delight.

I know...I'm writing about food again.

"The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" was a funny book and movie.

Kind of like watching the Kenner City Council meetings.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Kenner Council Botches Interim Pick - Again

A few weeks back I was craving Chinese food, and one plate wouldn't satisfy my craving. So, I set off for my favorite Chinese buffet, Jumbo Buffet on Williams Blvd. in Kenner. Jumbo Buffet is really more than an average Chinese buffet - they truly have something for everyone. Whether you're craving sushi, hibachi, boiled seafood, or even roast beef, they have it along with a huge selection of Chinese food (My stomach favors the Black Pepper Shrimp and Honey Chicken - kind of a Yin/Yang thing).

Now, before you get the idea that we're now a food blog and not your favorite spot for opinions on Jefferson Parish and Kenner politics (we are, right?), let me get to the point.

At the end of the meal, the waitress brought the check along with the obligatory Fortune Cookies (which most of the time aren't really "Fortunes" at all).

At this gorging, my "fortune" said: "It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait."

Which is a perfect segue to discuss the Kenner City Council.

At Thursday's Kenner City Council meeting, the Council voted unanimously to appoint Kelly Hand to fill out the remainder of District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato's term.

This post isn't anti-Kelly Hand. On the contrary, I'm hopeful Mrs. Hand will do a fine job serving the residents of District 5.

But, the process surrounding her appointment is an abomination.

Let's take a step back in time to January 2016, when the Kenner City Council screwed up it's last Interim Council appointment.

After Jefferson Parish unwittingly voted for a Sexual Predator to become our Parish President, former Kenner City Attorney (and Mike Yenni Loyalist) and newly elected Kenner Councilman-At-Large Keith Conley jumped to JP Government to become Yenni's CAO.

In its haste, the Kenner City Council rubber-stamped Conley's choice and another Yenni Loyalist, Brian Brennan, as the Interim Councilman-At-Large representing the entire city. This despite the fact that when Brennan ran for the District 5 seat in 2010, he was trounced 59-41% by Kent Denapolis.

The people of Kenner had no clue who Brian Brennan was, what he stood for, or what qualified him to serve as a Councilman at all.

In addition, the Council approved Brennan before Conley had officially resigned. A citizen, Richard Brown, complained about the process and the Council had to take a second vote to approve Brennan.

But, again, the people of Kenner weren't given the opportunity to question Brennan, learn about him or have any say in his appointment.

Contrast the Kenner process with the this year's selection of Jack Rizzuto as Interim Jefferson Parish Councilman.

While I didn't like the drama surrounding the selection, in JP, three candidates were nominated by Councilmen. The public knew the names of the candidates and the candidates appeared at a council meeting to discuss their qualifications, answer questions and at least be partially vetted.

None of that happened with the Brennan selection and none of that happened this time with selection of Mrs. Hand either.

And, that lack of transparency is the problem.

Councilman Impastato added the resolution appointing Mrs. Hand to the council agenda with a blank space where the name should appear. Members of the public had no notice of Mrs. Hand's appointment. In fact, several members of the Council themselves weren't aware of the appointment until right before the meeting began.

Why the secrecy? 

Now I know that members of the Kenner City Council and Mayor Zahn think they are smarter than the public and they don't owe us any explanations for the actions that they take. Often, when members of the public attend a council meeting and speak at the end of the meeting about an issue or to ask questions or give their opinion, they are greeted with contempt by the same officials that were elected to allegedly represent them.

This council meeting was no different.

When District 5 resident Greg Tefft asked whether Mrs. Hand would be seeking election to the council after her appointment expired, Impastato lashed out at Mr. Tefft.

No citizen, let alone someone as mild-mannered as Mr. Tefft, deserves the smug contempt and condescension strewn upon him by Impastato.

And, why the rush? 

Councilman Impastato hasn't resigned from the Kenner City Council yet and that should have been the first step. It also makes zero sense that Impastato was allowed to vote on his replacement. It remains to be seen if any citizen will contest this appointment and if the council will be required to redo it as they did in 2016.

Again, this isn't an indictment of Mrs. Hand. When I ran for Jefferson Parish Council in 2011, I got to know Mrs. Hand since her husband, former Judge and State legislator Skip Hand, was one of my opponents. Mrs. Hand seemed like a very nice person and she has been involved in her civic association. Is that enough to be appointed to the City Council? Hey, we have folks on their now with even less qualifications.

But the people of Kenner should be given the opportunity to know much more about someone appointed to a council seat and the Kenner City Council should operate with much more transparency.

And, they certainly should learn from their past mistakes.

Hopefully, this Spring the people of Kenner WILL learn from our past mistakes.

Hopefully, the people of Kenner are not silly fish.

At a 2014 Kenner Mayoral candidate forum, Mike Yenni compared me to a crab in a pot of boiling water that kept climbing to the top of the pot and wouldn't die.

Well, it's better to be a crab than a silly fish.

Now, there's a fortune for you.