Thursday, August 3, 2017

Zahn Wants To Be "The Decider"

Despite the fact that I've refrained from using the "Lyin' Ben" moniker when referring to Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn, it seems that I've been ruffling more than a few feathers at Kenner City Hall.

To that, I have only a one-word response:

GOOD.

But now Kenner residents, you should be afraid. Very afraid.

On the Supplemental Agenda for tonight's Kenner City Council meeting is Item 13-A, "A resolution in support of the Mayor's implementation of a policy implementing an Apolitical Workforce for Non-Civil Service Employees based on The Hatch Act."

We've already discussed some of the pros and cons regarding the Hatch Act, a law first enacted in 1939 primarily to ensure that Federal employees were not participating in meetings with Communist organizations during World War II.

If I believed that Zahn were truly on the side of the people of Kenner, instead of caring primarily about his own interests, I'd say, "Ok. This is a good step."

But, it isn't.

Instead, Zahn wants complete authority to decide what is and isn't "political activity" for his political appointees.

Will Zahn implement a rigid policy to ensure an "Apolitical Workforce"? Doubtful. To the contrary, Zahn will offer a watered-down policy that will allow his appointees to make campaign contributions, attend fundraisers, solicit contributions from businesses and people, and pretty much do whatever they can to ensure the re-election of Zahn and "The Buisson Boys" as long as it isn't during working hours.

Look, I could care less if a city employee wants to put a "Ben Zahn for Mayor" sign in their yard or a bumper sticker on their car. If they want to devalue their property and auto, who am I to be concerned?

The issue comes down to influence.

I don't want Ben Zahn going from office to office like Aaron Broussard did soliciting campaign contributions from the City of Kenner's highest paid employees who fear that, if they don't pony up a contribution, they will lose their jobs.

I don't want Ben Zahn shaking down his political appointees like Harry Lee, and forcing them to sell tickets to a Zahn fundraiser.

I don't want Ben Zahn forcing his political appointees like Mike Yenni did, to go door-to-door canvassing neighborhoods and businesses for sign locations and intimidating businesses and residents who support a different candidate.

And, I really don't want Ben Zahn making a unilateral decision about what is and isn't "political activity" when, the lower he sets the bar, the more he will benefit.

No, banning political appointees from engaging in political only during working hours and not allowing them to use city resources is not enough.

If Zahn is sincere in his words to uphold the charter and in his desire for a true "Apolitical Workforce", now is the time to put his money where his mouth is.

Or, will the people of Kenner continue to get nothing but talk from Zahn?

William Faulkner wrote, "Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words."

Especially when they come from the mouths of politicians.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Losing Public Opinion, Zahn Offers A Compromise So He Can Still Win

Clearly losing in the "Court of Public Opinion" and trying his best to pull out a victory after a string of political losses, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn is trying a new tactic: offering a compromise which may still get Zahn his preferred result and allow his Band of 12 Malcontents to participate in his upcoming re-election campaign.

In a letter today (Tuesday, 8/1) to members of the Kenner City Council, Zahn discussed the lawsuit by the Malcontents and their attempt to overthrow the 2012 Charter Change which banned political activity by non-classified (political appointees) employees.

The Malcontents filed for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to allow them to participate in campaigns until the court had rendered a final verdict, which could occur long after the Spring 2018 elections.

While the Court ruled that the City could ban political activity by non-classified employees, they also ruled that the Charter Change was too vague and did not define "political activity".

Zahn is proposing that the Council introduce an ordinance that is similar to the Hatch Act, which bans certain political activity by Federal and some State employees.

The Hatch Act bans political activity during working hours; in government offices; while using a government vehicle; and while wearing an official uniform. It also bans employees from wearing political buttons while on duty; from accepting or soliciting political contributions; and from soliciting or discouraging political activity of anyone with business before their agency.

The Hatch Act does not ban political activity during non-working hours; stop employees from attending political fundraisers or contributing money to candidates; or preclude employees from being members of political clubs or endorsement groups.

As I said, if the Council approves an ordinance similar to the Hatch Act, Zahn will still get what he wants and he secures a political victory by claiming that he upheld the Charter and the will of the people of Kenner.

"I propose this ordinance as an interim step to support the people's wishes until such time as a Charter Amendment can be put forth. If adopted by you, we will then argue in the Permanent Injunction that the plaintiffs' claims as we now have in force limitations which are constitutional," Zahn wrote.

But why stop there?

Why not include additional activities that the Hatch Act doesn't cover like being members of the multitude of fake Endorsement groups out there or banning employees from contributing to campaigns or attending fundraisers?

When he was in office, for JP Parish President Aaron Broussard would routinely pass the hat and expect campaign contributions from his political appointees. And Broussard wasn't alone.

If you have 40+ political appointees as Zahn does (and that figure grows almost daily), and they each give a max $2,500 donation ($5,000 if there's a runoff), Zahn would receive $100-200k from his political appointees alone.

$2,500 or even $5,000 is a small price to pay to keep an $80-100k per year job with government benefits and a taxpayer-funded pension.

Of course, if Zahn or the Council were to take these additional steps, that wouldn't help the Zahn Campaign as much.

And, regardless of what he says or writes, we all know by now that Ben Zahn is all about Ben Zahn.

In closing his letter, Zahn continued to defend his Malcontents.

"Finally, when we do address this in public, I am reminded that the plaintiffs are our employees and many are our constituents. We work with them on a daily basis and they continue to be dedicated to their work for the citizens of Kenner. We may not agree with their opinions about government but we must support their right to express their opinions about government. The right to petition government for redress of grievances has been part of the United States Constitution since 1791. We can respectfully disagree, with, I hope, the emphasis on respect," Zahn wrote.

Gee, thanks for the lesson in Constitutional Government there Ben but, I think you really should spend some time with your Malcontents, particularly Stephen Petit, regarding the "respect" portion.

Again, regardless of what you say or write Ben, YOUR APPOINTEES clearly don't understand the meaning of the word "RESPECT" when it comes to members of the Council or the people of Kenner.

In fact, I sincerely doubt that you do either Ben.




Sunday, July 30, 2017

Zahn Lies, Defends Malcontent Political Appointees Suing City

For some time, I referred to Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn as Lyin' Ben. Recently, some people have taken offense to that moniker. While the overwhelmingly majority of readers (probably significantly higher than the 70% that approved the Charter Change regarding political activity), like my nickname for Zahn, out of deference to the few who are actually upset by the term "Lyin' Ben", I have stopped calling Zahn that.

Besides, I KNOW that Ben is a pathological liar.

So, while I have refrained from using the term "Lyin' Ben", I will still continue to point out most of the times where Zahn lies (sorry, can't point them all out since it happens almost every time he opens his mouth).

At the last Kenner City Council meeting, Zahn told some whoppers. If we were in Washington, DC, (or had a media that actually called out Zahn on his lies), the Washington Post would label Zahn's council performance as worthy of "4 Pinocchios", their highest rating of untruths.

During the citizen comments at the end of the Council meeting, there was an exchange between a citizen and Zahn. It began as a reference from the citizen to the frequent disagreements between the Council and the Mayor. Of course, with the reliable 4 "Buisson Boys" (Lenny Cline, Dominick Impastato, Mike Sigur and Tom Willmott) voting predictably as a block, they are just minor disagreements.

In all honesty, I don't mind disagreements between the Council and the Mayor, particularly if one of the parties is actually looking out for the people of Kenner.

Sadly, with Zahn and the "Buisson Boys", there aren't enough folks left on the Council advocating for the best interests of Kenner residents, thus the frequent 4-3 votes. And we know Zahn is all about Zahn and his campaign contributors, regardless of what the people of Kenner want.

After her comments regarding the Council-Mayor spats, she discussed the lawsuit by the 12 Malcontent political appointees who are suing the City to overturn the 2012 Charter Change, approved by a 70-30% vote, banning political activity by non-classified employees.

This is where the lies from Zahn really started flying.

When Zahn asked the woman what she wanted him to do about the 12 Malcontents, the woman replies, "I want you to fire them."

Of course, this is something that I've said since I first heard about the lawsuit.

Zahn replied, "The people of Kenner want an apolitical workforce. If I fired them, that would make it political".

What???

Yes, the voters wanted the non-classified employees to be like the civil service employees, the Kenner Police Department (except for the Police Chief) and the Kenner Firefighters, and stay out of politics.

While these non-classified employees are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the Mayor, they should work for ALL Kenner residents and shouldn't be out campaigning for one Kenner resident over another during every election.

The fact that these 12 Malcontents accepted their jobs knowing the rules laid out by the people of Kenner (including the residency rule which Zahn has also not upheld for a select few), is a show of contempt for the voters who approved the political ban.

As I said, these 12 Malcontents work for US. They cannot, and should not, disrespect US.

If you have a job working for someone else, and you disrespect your boss and decide that you want to change the rules and do what you want, you would be fired.

Why not these 12 Malcontents?

The reason that Zahn hasn't fired them isn't that he doesn't want to make this "political", it already is.

Zahn knows that he can use these people and their influence to help him get re-elected. It is really that simple.

What business owner, that wants to stay in business, would dare tell the Code Enforcement Director, "No, you can't put a Ben Zahn sign in front of my business"?

The intimidation factor alone of having a high ranking City employee pushing candidates on citizens and business owners, is what the Charter Change was designed to stop.

Regardless of the semantics or whether the term "political activity" is too broad and not specific enough in the Charter Change, the idea for the Charter Change is legitimate - whether a Judge agrees or not.

The bottom line is that 12 Malcontents (some of whom don't even live in the City of Kenner and couldn't vote on a Charter Change anyway), shouldn't be able to overturn the will of 13,000+ Kenner voters.

Instead of colluding with the 12 Malcontents and assigning an ill-prepared Attorney who couldn't answer the Judge's questions or offer citations for his own legal arguments, Zahn should have immediately terminated these Malcontents when he first heard about the lawsuit.

Perhaps I'm getting cynical in my old age but, since Zahn wins if the City and Kenner residents lose, there is nothing that Ben can say that would convince me that he wasn't behind this lawsuit every step of the way.

But, let's debunk another of Ben's lies fro.

During the exchange with the woman, Zahn said, "These are not my political appointees. They were appointed by Muniz and the previous Mayor".

More semantic word games from Ben Zahn from the Council meeting.

Here's some facts:

- When Zahn took over, Stephen Petit (the self-anointed "Ringleader" of the Malcontents) was the Code Enforcement Director. Zahn moved Petit over to the Mayor's Court as Prosecutor. Did Zahn hire Petit? No. But did Zahn transfer/promote Petit? Of course. Petit is still a political appointee of Zahn.

- After Petit was moved, Zahn promoted Rich Walther (another of the Malcontents), to Code Enforcement Director. Did Zahn hire Walther? No. But did Zahn promote Walther? Yes, thus Walther IS a political appointee of Zahn.

- Mary-Sharon Howland (another of the Malcontents and a longtime political operative in Kenner) was moved by Zahn into the new position of Mayoral Assistant in charge of Party Planning. Did Zahn hire Howland? No. But did Zahn transfer Howland? Yes, thus Howland IS a political appointee of Zahn.

- Zahn promoted Adam Campo (another of the Malcontents) into the unfilled position of Internal Auditor and made Campo the Director of Internal Auditing - a new City department and a new Director's position. Did Zahn hire Campo? No. But did Zahn promote Campo and create a new position and department for him? Yes, thus Campo IS a political appointee of Zahn.

I could keep going but I think you should get my drift.

Zahn is trying to fool the people of Kenner into thinking that he is upholding the Charter by not firing these Malcontents and he is also trying to fool the people of Kenner by claiming that these Malcontents were not his appointees and he is powerless to do anything about their disrespect and contempt for their employers, the people of Kenner.

How does that old saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me...

What happens when you try to fool the people of Kenner everyday?




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When Is A Raise Not A Raise? When Ben Zahn Says So

Normally, I don't get to write much about Civil Service Board meetings, particularly Kenner Civil Service Board meetings, but last week's Kenner meeting was very interesting.

There were several items of interest at the meeting but today we will focus on a request from Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn for a 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Kenner employees.

In the past, Kenner Mayors have sought simple salary increases for employees. Whether it was 2% of 5%, they were salary increases. But, not this time. Zahn's increase is a COLA.

While I have always maintained that Kenner's rank-and-file employees were, for the most part, underpaid, why call it a COLA when it's really a raise?

The answer is simple: many Kenner employees, particularly clerical employees, are longtime employees who are at or near the salary cap for their positions. A "raise" would push them over the cap.

However well intentioned, this is purely political on Zahn's part. With an election upcoming, Zahn is trying to spread the wealth and garner as many positive feelings as he can with the City of Kenner's workforce.

In short, he's buying votes.

As I said, I've always felt many Kenner employees were underpaid while the top of Kenner's food chain, the political appointees, were, for the most part, grossly overpaid.

That being said, a 2% COLA doesn't pass the smell test.

At a time when there is significant food deflation; gasoline prices are only slightly higher than this time last year; interest rates are low and the stock market is at record highs.

If you're on Social Security, the 2017 COLA was a meager .3%, yet despite the low inflation and positive economic news, Zahn wants to give Kenner employees a COLA of almost 7x what the Federal Government has allowed for people to get back the money that they've paid into a fund during their working years.

Look, if Kenner has the money, give the employees a raise - just don't try to justify it as a COLA when there is no real reason, other then political, to call it anything but a salary increase.

If employees are at the top of the salary range for their position, then they should get more training, more skills, or move up. Many clerical folks could and should move up to Assistant Directors or even Department Directors. They surely have the institutional knowledge required.

But, doing the right thing and promoting from within wouldn't allow Zahn the opportunity to bloat Kenner's payroll with his political appointees and multiple Mayoral Assistants who are nothing more than non-Kenner resident political operatives.

As always, with Ben Zahn, it's not about what's best for Kenner - it's what's best for Ben Zahn.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Zahn Hires Another Unqualified, Non-Resident Politico

In my last post, I mentioned that the Kenner Clerk of Courts (and Mayor's Court) is the employment dumping ground for Kenner Mayors to stash political operatives.

Mary-Sharon Howland, currently Ben Zahn's Mayoral Assistant in charge of Party Planning, and Bob Ross, currently Zahn's Mayoral Assistant in charge of Press Releases and Ribbon-Cutting Photos, both were stashed in the Clerk of Courts office.

Former Code Enforcement Director and Ringleader of the Gang of 12 Malcontents suing the City to overturn a charter change approved by 70% of Kenner voters, Stephen Petit, was moved into a slot as Prosecutor in the Mayor's Court.

Under Ed Muniz and Mike Yenni, the Clerk of Courts was someone whose previous job was as Promotions Director at a Bowling Alley. Perhaps if she were still around she might have given Mary-Sharon a run for her money as Kenner's Chief Party Planner. At least, she was qualified for that job.

Now Ben Zahn has hired a new Assistant Clerk of Courts. What experience does this person have in court operations? None. Is this person a Kenner resident? Of course not.

Zahn's choice as the new Assistant Clerk of Courts is former Westwego Mayor Johnny Shaddinger.

Shaddinger, who lost his bid for reelection earlier this Spring, has been looking for his next place to land at the taxpayer trough and he found that spot in Kenner.

Of course, like another recent non-Kenner resident, John Tobler (hired as Mayoral Assistant in charge of Economic Development), there was no press release penned by Bob Ross to trumpet the hiring. Perhaps Ross is swamped with Zahn photo ops because I can't seem to find a press release for Mary-Sharon's gig as Party Planner either.

The cynic in me (yeah, I fight the urge to be cynical constantly when it comes to Ben Zahn) could claim that Zahn realizes he doesn't have anything to really tout in the hirings of Howland, Tobler, and Shaddinger. I mean Howland is a career political operative that Zahn tried to get to replace him on the City Council; Tobler has ZERO Economic Development experience and is, for all intents and purposes, a joke in his role someone who is just taking up space and getting a taxpayer=funded paycheck to help Zahn's reelection bid; and Shaaddinger is the failed Mayor of Westwego who, like Tobler, isn't even a Kenner resident.

If these folks, and other questionable Zahn hirings and promotions, are what he considers to be the "the best and brightest", we are in trouble folks.

Of course, seeing how Zahn has bloated the Kenner payroll with Mayoral Assistants and new Departments and Directors during his first 6 months, we will all be in real in trouble if Zahn is elected to a full 4-year term in Spring.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Words Without Appropriate Actions Are Lies Mayor Zahn


“I’m tired of listening to you talking in rhymes
Twisting round to make me think you’re straight down the line
All you do to me is talk talk
Talk, talk.
Talk, talk.
All you do to me is
Talk, talk.”
-           Talk Talk (band and song of the same name)
  

When I think of Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn these days, I can’t get the haunting chorus from 1980’s one and a half hit wonder band Talk Talk out of my head.

Sure, Zahn talks a good game – he’s even fooled some folks that I respect into believing that he’s interested in their opinions and in working with them to improve Kenner.

The truth is, over the past 6 months, that’s all Ben Zahn has done – talk a good game. His actions don’t reflect his rhetoric. Ben Zahn is, and always has been, about Ben Zahn and his campaign contributors and surrounding himself with “Yes” people to the detriment of Kenner.

In fact, during his first 6 months, Ben Zahn has proven himself to be a terrible Mayor and terrible for Kenner.

Here are several examples to prove my statements:


The Kenner Housing Authority Debacle

This week, our old friend Connie Montgomery was in the news making a rash of allegations regarding the Kenner Housing Authority.

Now, despite the fact that Ms. Montgomery personally attacked me and several people close to me, I’m not going to disparage her. The facts will come out and, for the moment anyway, I’m willing to give Ms. Montgomery the benefit of the doubt and commend her taking a stand. Why Ms. Montgomery chose to attack me (someone she didn’t know) to curry favor with Mike Yenni is for her to know. It’s in the past as far as I’m concerned. I do wonder why an attorney would want to assist a Sexual Predator, but, again, that’s for her to reconcile. Hopefully, she got something more than an appointment to the KHA board. 

The fact is, allegations of mismanagement at the KHA have been going on for years. Al Morella repeatedly brought up misdoings at the KHA years ago when he was appointed to the KHA board by then-Mayor and current Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni.

Again, my issues aren’t with Ms. Montgomery. They are, however, with the response from Mayor Zahn.

After Ms. Montgomery’s allegations reached the press, Zahn put out a press release promising a full investigation.

While the Mayor has no direct jurisdiction over the KHA, he does make appointments to the board. You would think that Mayor Zahn would be very proactive in an investigation that could potentially result in criminal charges.

Instead, Zahn turned over the investigation to Adam Campo, a political appointee whose title is “Internal Auditor” despite that the fact that he is not a certified auditor. In addition, Campo has never done an official audit on a city department (if he was going to, perhaps Community Development might be a good place to start) and he has no authority to file civil or criminal charges, file subpoenas, or do any real investigative work.

No, Zahn should have taken charge of the investigation and called in the Jefferson Parish Inspector General, or someone with some teeth, independence and the experience to actually get to the bottom of Ms. Montgomery’s allegations and truly clean up the KHA, not a green, uncertified Internal Auditor who, like Ms. Montgomery and the KHA board, is a political appointee.

The Jefferson Parish Council has spent hours discussing/debating issues with the JP Housing Authority while Mike Yenni has sat back twiddling his thumbs and forming Education Committees stacked with his political cronies while attempting to find new teenage boys to manipulate and model underwear.

When faced with even more egregious allegations, Mayor Zahn turns things over to a neophyte, uncertified Internal Auditor.

Sorry but that’s not leadership in my book.



The Employment Exceptions (Or How To Skirt The Charter While Continuing To Claim That You’re Not)

At the last Kenner City Council meeting, the Council approved by a 4-3 vote a “Special Hiring Ordinance” allowing two non-residents to become Kenner City Directors.

While I give Zahn props for putting up an ordinance, I need to temper those props due to the fact that he had to manipulate the Council meeting and give us a long dissertation by Bob Breck-wannabe, Emergency Management Director Doug Dodt on why Kenner had so much rain and why the pumps couldn’t keep up. This bought Zahn the time he needed for the fourth “Buisson Boy”, District 4 Councilman Lenny Cline to arrive at the meeting and cast the deciding vote along with his fellow “Buisson Boys”, Dominick Impastato, Mike Sigur and Tom Willmott.

While semantically it could be argued that a “Special Hiring Ordinance” would only be for a new hire like Finance Director Mike Wetzel, how does that explain the curious case of longtime Personnel Director Wendy Folse?

Folse was already in place as Personnel Director for several years and knew the Charter and the residency requirement. Yet in 2015, she willfully disregarded the Charter (and the people of Kenner) and moved out of Kenner. She knew the rule, yet didn’t care and Mike Yenni followed by “Acting Mayor” Sigur simply did nothing.

It was laughable listening to Sigur try to justify his vote. “A vote either way is a vote to uphold the Charter.”

Every time Sigur opens his mouth he proves once again that he is out of his league and never should have been elected to the City Council. In fact, I don’t even know if he’s qualified to resume his former position as Barney Fife-wannabe and WalMart Greeter.

Again, if you’re the Mayor, you uphold the Charter – not look for loopholes and use your fellow “Buisson Boys” to run roughshod over the voters of Kenner. The voters clearly wanted all political appointees to be Kenner residents – not some. Yes, they Charter may allow for exceptions in extreme cases but, a $107k plus benefits Finance Director and a $60k plus benefits Personnel Director (who made a conscious decision to move out of Kenner) are not “extreme cases”.

What message does Zahn’s “Special Hiring Ordinance” send to the other Kenner employees who’ve played by the rules, accepted the Charter and the residency rule, and done the right thing? What message is Zahn sending to the people of Kenner who approved the residency rule? How many more “Special Hiring Ordinances” will there be because Zahn won’t uphold the Charter?

In an interview with Nola.com, Zahn claims to be the “Mayor for all of Kenner”. How exactly did he prove that with his “Special Hiring Ordinance” designed to go around the people of Kenner and help two non-residents (who also happen to be part of the 12 malcontents suing the City to overturn another Kenner voter-approved Charter Change they disagree).

How about residing in Kenner so you can actually vote on our Charter Changes? Perhaps then we will care what you think about our City Charter.




Code Sweeps – The Low Hanging Fruit

At the past Council meeting, as he has done several times, Zahn patted himself on the back for another neighborhood code sweep.

Code sweeps are great. In fact, I think Kenner should do several a week, instead of maybe one a month.

The problem is, code sweeps are only a small part of Kenner’s blight issue.

Yes, you do a code sweep but then don’t follow up. The problems are still there a week or two later. We all can list several Kenner neighborhoods where there have been multiple code sweeps. Are the neighborhoods better? Of course not. How many code sweeps have been done on Martinique Avenue?

Code sweeps without consistent follow up are Band-Aids. Zahn generates a press release, takes a victory lap at a Council meeting and the problem continues to fester.

Also at the last Council meeting, Zahn again brought up the recent code sweep at The Pavilion Shopping Center. Zahn on multiple occasions has said that if the owners didn’t improve the shopping center, he was doing to demolish it.

Really?

What about the current tenants? Is Mayor Zahn going to demolish the vacant portions while leaving a huge empty space next to operational businesses?

Again, all talk from Zahn with no appropriate actions behind his words.

He knows he could never demolish a shopping center that is partially rented. For one thing, the City doesn’t have enough money in the budget to deal with demolishing blighted houses let alone take on a large shopping center.

And the reality is, Zahn only picked out The Pavilion because they have out-of-state owners. If Zahn really wanted to attack to commercial blight, he would be focusing on portions of Williams Blvd. as well. But, those properties have local owners and Zahn doesn’t want to upset them.

But, let’s get back to code sweeps and blighted housing.

The City’s budget includes about $100k for demolishing blighted houses in the next year. That equates to less than 10 houses and that’s only because the Council added more money from an unfunded position.

Less than 10 houses that could be torn down when there are hundreds of homes in Kenner considered “blighted” and ready for demolishing.

Could Zahn find more money for demoing blighted homes? Sure he could. In fact, I can come up with several hundred thousand right now.

Zahn has several “Mayoral Assistants” who are nothing more than political cronies feeding at the trough of Kenner taxpayers and he’s getting ready to hire another (more on that in a minute).

Zahn has Mary-Sharon Howland, who he supported in 2012 when she ran against current District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud. Howland is the former Community Services Director under Ed Muniz and Mike Yenni. After her defeat by Reynaud, Howland became the Assistant Clerk of Courts. Her experience? ZERO. Then Howland became the Clerk of Courts.

Now Howland is Zahn’s Mayoral Assistant in charge of Party Planning, I mean, Events.

Here’s someone that has not had a non-City of Kenner appointed job in over 10 years, yet she keeps moving around from politically-appointed job to politically-appointed job (while her husband also works for the City. Don’t we have nepotism rules?).

Losing Kenner’s Party Planner would save $70k+ in salary and benefits.

Want more?

Yeah, I know you do.

Zahn has appointed Rafael Saddy as Mayoral Assistant in charge of Cultural Diversity. Saddy is a longtime political operative in the Hispanic community.

In the announcement of Saddy’s appointment, Zahn noted Kenner’s growing Hispanic population and that Saddy speaks Spanish.

Zahn also noted that Saddy will work with Code Enforcement.

C’mon.

Does anyone actually believe that Saddy will go out in the community with Code Enforcement and tackle the main complaints about the Hispanic Community:  multiple families and non-related adults living in one and two-bedroom apartments and single-family homes and non-permitted Hispanic block parties that blast loud music for miles and disturb and disrupt Kenner’s quiet neighborhoods?

My issue isn’t with Saddy, who is a decent man. My issue is, Kenner already has a Director of the Hispanic Resource Center. Shouldn’t she be responsible for outreach to Kenner’s Hispanic community?

Again, taking back Saddy’s salary and benefits would result in $70k+ that could be diverted to demolishing more blighted homes.

How about our old friend, former Times-Picayune reporter Bob Ross. After a stint in the Clerk of Courts employment wasteland (again, with no experience), and despite Mike Yenni’s vaunted Streamlining Budget Committee which recommended that Kenner didn’t need a Public Information Officer, Ross is…wait for it…Zahn’s Mayoral Assistant as Public Information Director.

Ross’s chief contributions to Kenner City government: he writes a few press releases, takes pictures of Zahn at ribbon cuttings, and he put out an Iphone video showing how bad the rain the Kenner was the other day.

A city the size of Kenner cannot afford a Public Information Officer, a glorified Party Planner or a duplicative Community Outreach person. These folks could easily go away not be missed and would save Kenner taxpayers over $200k in salary and benefits. That $200k could demolish another 20 or so blighted houses this year, next year, and for years to come until the hundreds of blighted Kenner homes shrank significantly.

Of course, if those positions went away, Zahn would have anything for this political cronies to do.

Well, there’s always the Clerk of Courts.



The “Economic Development” Director Who Isn’t

My last post described the curious tale of John Tobler, Zahn’s choice as Mayoral Assistant in charge of Economic Development. Zahn can’t name Tobler the City’s Economic Development “Director”, because like many others in the Zahn Administration, Tobler doesn’t reside in Kenner and would require yet another “Special Hiring Ordinance” to circumvent the Charter and the people of Kenner.

When I ran for Mayor in 2014, I released a list of 40 or so National, Regional and Metro New Orleans businesses that I would target to expand to Kenner. National grocers like Trader Joe’s (now open in Metairie), The Fresh Market (also open in Metairie) and Sprouts. Retailers like Belk’s. National restaurant chains like Outback, Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s and Regional Restaurants like WalkOns (now open in Clearview Mall).

I also discussed working with the owners of The Esplanade to attempt to lure new tenants to the mall.

Mike Yenni fired back, “The Esplanade is privately-owned. The Mayor of Kenner can do nothing to bring new business to the mall.”

I’ve always believed in the theory that, if you won’t get if you don’t ask.

Don’t you think that, the Mayor of Kenner sitting in Charlotte, NC, at the corporate offices of Belk’s with a great presentation on Kenner and The Esplanade, might mean something to bigwigs at Belk’s? Surely, it would at least put Kenner on the map for future Belk expansion and Belk’s is one of the few retailers that is actually expanding.

Yenni, as with the Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau (JCVB), opted to spend hundreds of thousands in Kenner tax dollars on JEDCO for work JEDCO should have provided to the City of Kenner for free. The reason: both are affiliated with Yenni (and Zahn’s) campaign manager, Greg Buisson.

As I mentioned in my post, when I learned that Zahn was cutting out JEDCO and bringing Economic Development in-house, I thought it was the right move.

No more.

In Tobler, Zahn is selecting yet another political operative. Someone who has never created a job in Kenner (possibly not in Jefferson Parish), never owned a business in Kenner, and has never recruited a business to Kenner (again, possibly not even in all of Jefferson Parish).

And, he doesn’t even live in Kenner.

 I can imagine the conversation between Tobler and the head of a large National retailer’s Corporate Real Estate department.

Real Estate Head: “So, Mr. Tobler, one final question: what’s the best part of living in Kenner?”

Tobler: “Well, uh, you see, uh, I don’t actually, uh, live in Kenner.”

Nice.

Anyone in sales knows that you can’t sell a product that you don’t know and, when it comes to Kenner, other than driving through it or driving to City Hall to kiss Zahn’s ring, Tobler is clueless. His hiring won’t help Kenner attract, recruit and retain businesses and jobs.

Now I’m certain that Zahn will prop Tobler up and trot him out for ribbon cuttings and publicly pat him on the back at every opportunity. Don’t be fooled. Tobler is yet another political operative connected to Greg Buisson, Zahn Campaign Manager and the Campaign Manager for the “Buisson Boys” on the Kenner City Council (Lenny Cline, Dominick Impastato, Mike Sigur and Tom Willmott). Those 4 “Buisson Boys” ensure that Zahn has the votes to get another Kenner non-resident political operative hired and yet another Buisson piglet feeding at the Kenner taxpayer trough.


So let’s summarize:


-          Zahn appoints an uncertified Internal Auditor to head up a possibly criminal investigation into the Kenner Housing Authority.

-          Zahn pushes through, with the help of the “Buisson Boys”, a “Special Hiring Ordinance” to give preferential treatment to 2 political appointees instead of upholding the Charter and the voter-approved residency rule.


-          Zahn takes a victory lap each time he has Code Enforcement do a code sweep, and threatens an out-of-state developer, instead of actually attacking residential and commercial blight in Kenner.


-          Zahn has loaded up on “Mayoral Assistants”, bloating Kenner’s payroll and squandering money that could be used for other priorities like tearing down blighted homes.


-          Zahn’s choice of Mayoral Assistant in charge of Economic Development is nothing more than another political operative with ZERO economic development experience.

And we haven’t even discussed the Uber/Lyft debacle, boats in driveways, and other Kenner issues.

Now, to be fair, Zahn has done some good things during his first 6 months. He got Kenner a street sweeper and that will help. He brought in former JP Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee as CAO. Foshee has thus far proven to be a solid hire.

Zahn himself put out a multiple-page press release highlighting everything he’d “accomplished” during his first 100 days. If you want a good laugh, you can read it on the City’s website or in the Kenner Pravda, I mean, Kenner Star.

But, the bad judgement of the “Special Hiring Ordinance” and poor choice of an Economic Development point person, and the lack of leadership regarding the KHA and loading up the payroll with political operatives who have meaningless positions, far outweigh any good things Zahn has done.

And, sorry, nothing could possibly make up for the hideous fake bricks painted into medians across Kenner. Whoever had that bright idea should be taken behind a waste treatment building and shot.

Yeah, it’s been a pretty inauspicious first 6 months for the Zahn Administration.  

Of course, if you know Ben Zahn like I do, you really weren’t expecting much more than Talk.



Monday, June 19, 2017

Zahn To Hire Buisson Political Operative For New Position

When Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn announced at the budget meeting that he was bringing Economic Development in-house and discontinuing Kenner's annual $75k stipend to JEDCO, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, I have long decried the fact that Kenner was paying JEDCO anything for doing what it should be doing for free.

Well, as with his friend and mentor, Jefferson Parish's Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni, nothing with Ben Zahn is ever as it seems.

Instead of searching for someone with a true background in Economic Development that could help Kenner attract, recruit and retain businesses and jobs for this newly created position, Zahn is hiring a political operative with strong ties to Zahn (and Yenni's) campaign manager, Greg Buisson.

John Tobler, who has also worked for Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (also a Buisson client that is said to be inline for a position in the Trump Administration), and is involved in several of the faux endorsement groups like the Greater New Orleans Republicans (GNOR) that routinely rubberstamp Buisson clients, will be hired as a "Mayoral Assistant" responsible for Economic Development.

Skrmetta's possible ascension to Washington would result in Tobler being unemployed. So, in rides Ben Zahn with a newly-created position for an unqualified Buisson political lackey at Kenner taxpayers expense.

Tobler will be named a "Mayoral Assistant" so Zahn can continue to disrespect the people of Kenner and circumvent the spirit of the City Charter which requires all Directors, but not all non classified employees, to be Kenner residents.

This is truly semantics by Zahn as the spirit and intent of the residency rule approved by Kenner voters was to mandate that ALL non classified employees (political appointees who are the highest paid employees in the City), are Kenner residents.

Tobler has ZERO Economic Development experience and will be paid $55k annually plus benefits. He will be Zahn's 5th Mayoral Assistant, surpassing the inflated total of Yenni.

Tobler will receive little resistance from the Kenner City Council since several of them including Mike Sigur, Lenny Cline and Dominick Impastato are also Buisson clients.

Tobler's hiring is yet another reason why Zahn is allowing a group of 12 disgruntled political appointees to sue the City to overturn the 2012 Charter Change regarding political activity by non classified employees.

A City of Kenner employee who asked not to be identified said, "Tobler will be coordinating non classified employees as they work on Zahn's re-election campaign and on other campaigns."

It is rumored that the self-appointed "Ringleader" in the group of 12 malcontents suing the City to overturn the political ban, Stephen Petit, will run for the District 3 Council seat currently held by Keith Reynaud.

Petit spent over 20 minutes at the last Council meeting personally attacking Reynaud and the Councilman's wife.




.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Zahn’s Political Circus Takes An Ugly Turn

Two weeks ago, I opined that things in Kenner City Government couldn’t possibly get much worse.

Well, Thursday’s Council meeting sadly proved that I was wrong.
Kenner City government under Lyin’ Ben Zahn has sunk to a new low.

No, I’m not talking about the reversal of Zahn’s Uber Money Grab (the City will still get $.50 from Uber and Lyft for every pickup).
I’m not even talking about the ridiculous dog and pony show put on by District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur as he wasted everyone’s time by calling almost every group known to man up to the podium to seek their approval for the revised Uber Money Grab.

No, I’m referring to the disgraceful actions and comments of City employee Stephen Petit as he personally attacked District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud and the Councilman’s wife, while Council President Lenny Cline and Lyin’ Ben sat idly by and let Petit’s “stunt” drone on and on and on.
Petit is the self-avowed “Ringleader” of a band of disgruntled malcontents masquerading as City of Kenner employees who have utter contempt for the people of Kenner and are suing the City to overturn a Charter Change approved by a 70-30% margin by Kenner voters in 2012.

13,665 Kenner voters approved the 2012 Charter Change which banned political activity by non classified employees (political appointees of the Mayor).
Those 13,665 Kenner voters totaled more people than those who voted in the most recent Kenner Mayoral election and several thousand more than those who voted for Lyin' Ben.
Clearly, the voters of Kenner wanted an apolitical workforce. They didn't want the highest paid Kenner employees out campaigning for politicians and using their influence over Kenner business owners and residents.
Petit was hired on the last day of the Mike Yenni Administration before Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-In-Chief ascended to Parish government. Despite having no background in Code Enforcement, Inspections, Municipal Government or Management, Petit was named Code Enforcement Director.

After Lyin’ Ben took over, Petit was shuffled over to a new position as Prosector at City Court, again, despite Petit having zero Prosecutorial experience.
At the end of every Council meeting, citizens are given an opportunity to address the Council on “Special Subject Matters”. Usually this consists of residents discussing issues that affect them or ordinances that the Council has or will vote on. Occasionally, a citizen will ask a question.

Citizens are given 3 minutes at the meeting.
It is extremely unusual, and I cannot remember a time when a City employee spoke (other than to respond to a citizen issue or question) during the time reserved for citizens to address the Council.

At Thursday’s meeting, not only did Petit sign up to speak, he arranged for others in his group of disgruntled co-conspirators to sign up to speak as well. Petit then used the time that should have been allocated to other malcontents, a clear violation of Council policy that was ignored by Council President Cline and approved by Mayor Zahn.
In fact, Petit used over 20 minutes of time questioning, hurling accusations, discussing the personal life of Councilman Reynaud’s wife, personally attacking Councilman Reynaud, and interrogating the Councilman as if he were a common thief on trial.

All the while, Council President Cline and Mayor Zahn did nothing.
Cline, as Council President, could have stopped this staged, coordinated stunt.

Zahn, as Mayor and Petit’s employer, SHOULD have stopped this and didn’t.
The fact that neither man did anything and allowed a City employee to publicly disrespect a Councilman is disgraceful.

The reason why Zahn and Cline did nothing to stop Petit's attack? Petty politics.

The tension between Zahn and Reynaud has been thick since Zahn's return to Kenner as Mayor.

The fact that they allowed a City employee to discuss the personal life of a non-public figure (the Councilman's wife) is shameful as well.


During his initial 3 minutes, before he began the attack and interrogation of Councilman Reynaud, Petit said that he wanted to stop any rumors that Zahn is involved in the employee lawsuit. Considering that I don’t recall anyone making that assertion (except me and I didn’t attend this meeting), for Petit to even bring up the question proves Zahn’s complicity and tacit approval of the lawsuit.
After all, if the Charter Change banning political activity is overturned, it will benefit Zahn and others in the Spring 2018 election.

And, let’s be real here: what employee, let alone 12 employees, would sue the City without the Mayor’s prior knowledge and approval. These employees are non classified and not subject to Civil Service protections. They serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. They wouldn’t jeopardize their cushy jobs if Zahn wasn’t on board.
If Zahn cared about the City of Kenner and respected the people of Kenner, he would have stopped this lawsuit in its tracks and terminated this disgruntled band of malcontents.

But Lyin’ Ben neither cares about the people of  Kenner nor has the backbone to actually take action to stop HIS employees from their public contempt and disrespect of the people of Kenner.
Petit also stated that, “Since day 1” of his employment over a year and a half ago, he began talking with other disgruntled employees and began researching ways to challenge and overturn the Charter Change.

Exactly how many of those conversations and meetings, and how much legal research was done on city time using city resources? That alone should qualify for Petit’s dismissal, as well as the others involved in this lawsuit, some of whom don’t even live in Kenner (another violation of the Kenner Charter approved by Kenner voters that Zahn is trying to weasel around).
The people of Kenner voted – they wanted an apolitical work force. Classified employees, those who meet the requirements to be employed by the City and not appointed, as banned from political activity. Policemen and Firefighters as well are banned.

Kenner is not the first city to ban political activity by non classified employees and we aren’t the first city to impose a residency rule.
In fact, Zahn's use of Petit as the instrument of this political attack proves the point that the voters of Kenner were correct in approving the Charter Change banning political activity.
It is selfish and self-serving for Zahn to attempt to circumvent the Charter and simultaneously condone a lawsuit by his political appointees to overturn another portion of the Charter.

Petit's own comments at the Council meeting could be construed as a violation of the Charter and should be grounds for his dismissal - that is, if we had a Mayor who actually enforced the Charter and respected the people of Kenner.

Since it is extremely unlikely that Zahn will take any punitive action against his appointees, if Stephen Petit and these other malcontents are so unhappy with rules approved by the voters of Kenner that pay their salaries, they should quit or never accepted their positions.
The late Comedian George Carlin once said, “If you don’t like the weather…move!”

Well Stephen Petit, George Bode, Adam Campo, Gerald Dillenkoffer, Wendi Folse, Mary-Sharon Howland, Kenneth Marroccoli, Theresa Nevels, Johnnie Sullivan, Ronald Vitellaro, Richard Walther, and Mike Wetzel, if you don’t like the rules approved by your bosses (the people of Kenner) and you are so unhappy that you feel the need to sue, quit your jobs. The people of Kenner deserve to be respected and you are clearly putting your self-interests and the interests of a select few politicians above the best interests of the people of Kenner.  
It’s really that simple: quit. Move on with your lives. Kenner will function just fine without a bunch of disgruntled, selfish malcontents.

And, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The City doesn’t need to spend more tax dollars to defend another ridiculous lawsuit.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Zahn Tries To Thumb Nose At Kenner Voters - Will Council Too?

Our old friend, Lyin' Ben Zahn, is at it again.

Zahn, who swore an oath to uphold the Kenner City Charter, now wants a "Special Hiring Ordinance" to allow 2 of his political appointees to be exempt from the City of Kenner's residency rule that requires non classified employees (political appointees) to reside in Kenner.

On tomorrow's (6/15) City Council Supplemental Agenda, is Item 16-F which, if approved, would allow Personnel Director Wendi Folse to keep her job and Interim Finance Director Mike Wetzel to lose the "Interim" title.

Folse has been the Personnel Director for several years and formerly resided in Kenner. In 2015, despite her knowledge of the City Charter's residency rule, she moved to New Orleans. Former Kenner Mayor and current Jefferson Parish Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni and former Acting Mayor and current District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur both looked the other way and didn't enforce the residency rule. With this proposed ordinance, Zahn wants to make it official - the voters of Kenner that approved the residency rule don't matter.

I have nothing against Ms. Folse or Mr. Wetzel (or others in the Zahn Administration that are also circumventing the Charter either through the semantic distinction of "not being a Department Director" or using the "Interim" title). But, rules are rules and the voters of Kenner decided that it was important that Kenner's highest paid employees are also residents of Kenner.

In the height of irony, Folse and Wetzel are also named plaintiffs in the suit by several non classified Kenner employees against another City of Kenner Charter Change approved by voters that bans political activity.

What???

You don't live in Kenner but you want the right to support the candidate of your choosing and exert your influence on others in Kenner?

So, thanks to Lyin' Ben Zahn, you now have an ordinance proposed to circumvent the charter for 2 non classified employees who are also suing the City because they disagree with the wishes of Kenner voters on another matter too and they don't even live in Kenner.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.

How many of us when we've applied for or accepted a job, were told what the Company policies are? It's the same with Folse and Wetzel and the other non classified employees that are suing the City.

If you don't like a Company policy, or in this case, the City policy, don't accept the job.

If you are going to be paid with City of Kenner tax dollars, then adhere to the rules that are set by City of Kenner voters.

Period.

Like Zahn, the Kenner City Council was also voted in to uphold the Kenner City Charter and do what is best for the people of the City of Kenner, not circumvent the Charter and draft ordinances that only apply to a select few who have the audacity to thumb their noses at the people that are paying their bills. 

Let's hope the Council does a better job of understanding their responsibilities to the Charter and the people of Kenner than our Mayor does.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Zahn’s Political Appointees Sue City Over 2012 Charter Change




After reports that City of Kenner political appointees were coerced into helping political candidates that they did not support in order to keep their jobs, the Kenner City Council passed an ordinance in 2011 to bar political appointees, many of whom are the most-highest paid employees in City government, from publicly taking part in political activity.

The logic behind the ordinance was valid: political appointees, while appointed by the Mayor, work for all of the city and should not be forced to campaign in order to keep receiving a paycheck. In addition, it is unfair for a non-incumbent if, for example, the Code Enforcement Director is out soliciting businesses for sign locations. What business owner would say “No” to the Code Enforcement Director? What reprisals could there be if a business owner didn’t allow the Public Works Director to put a political sign in front of their home or business?

The Council ordinance was promptly vetoed by then-Mayor Mike Yenni, himself a beneficiary of political appointees involvement in political activity. For years, the Buisson Machine has stacked organizations like The Alliance for Good Government and other faux endorsement groups with political appointees who pushed for the groups to endorse their favored candidates.

The next year, in 2012, the voters of Kenner approved a change to the city charter that mirrored the Council’s vetoed ordinance. The charter change was approved by a 70-30% margin.

Now, several of Lyin’ Ben’s political appointees, including many political operatives, have filed a Federal lawsuit challenging the restriction on political activity.

These employees are appointed regardless of their background and experience (or lack thereof) and aren’t subjected to the typical employment screening and testing that other city employees required. These employees are put in charge of Millions of tax dollars and dozens or more city employees whether they are qualified or not, simply because they support the person in power, Lyin’ Ben Zahn.

The employees claim that the charter change infringes on their 1st Amendment rights, among other things.

The lawsuit also mentions that the political appointees want to be empowered to support their candidate of choosing (Zahn) in the 2018 election. They must be concerned that Lyin’ Ben will be facing a challenger next year. 

The bottom line is, these employees want to secure their future paychecks and want to openly campaign for their preferred candidate, the man who appointed them, Lyin’ Ben Zahn.

Instead of concentrating on working for the people of Kenner (who ultimately pay their bills), these employees want to thumb their noses at the voters of Kenner who overwhelmingly understood that their political activity was abused and abusive.

These political appointees have clearly forgotten that they work for ALL of the people of Kenner not just the political elite.
Hopefully,

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Zahn and Sigur’s Next Act – No Rules For Taxis


After their failed attempt to strap onerous and possibly illegal anti-competitive regulations on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft that would have essentially run TNCs out of Kenner, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn and District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur have disclosed their new strategy. If they can’t regulate Uber and Lyft out of Kenner, they can unregulate the Taxi industry.

Admittedly, the Taxi industry and taxi drivers in Kenner have had to work under some ridiculous rules,  an annual health screening for drivers and other rules that have little to do with the driver or passenger safety, but to completely unregulate the taxi industry is also ridiculous.

And, again, it has nothing to do with public safety or the best interests of consumers which should be the paramount goal of a Mayor and a City Council.

It’s all about favoring local companies versus non-locals and trying to decide who wins and who loses.

Set rates from Armstrong International Airport are in place to prevent price-gouging by the Taxi industry. On the surface, deregulating prices appears to be a good thing and should result in lower fares as the Taxi industry attempts to be more competitive with Uber and Lyft.

But, what if it has the opposite effect and prices rise significantly, irritating locals and visitors alike?

One of the biggest complaints about TNCs, particularly Uber, is “surge” or “dynamic” pricing. Essentially, when there is a “surge” in the amount of customers trying to book an Uber, the company puts out a call to its drivers offering them more money, in the form of higher fares, to get on the road and accommodate the increased usage.

This can result in nightmarishly high fees.

A trip that may have cost $10 to get somewhere can now go for as much as $300 or more to get back home.  Uber implements “surge” pricing automatically and any event can trigger it, from a concert to a disaster like Hurricane Katrina to the London terror attacks last week.

While London taxi drivers were giving folks free rides so they could get home safely after other forms of public transportation were suspended, Uber’s computer algorithms triggered surge pricing resulting in numerous complaints.

Uber has announced that they will be offering refunds to affected London passengers which helps now but, does little to remedy the situation, or someone’s wallet, at the time.  

“Surge” pricing at Armstrong could be an issue and, rather than allow Uber to utilize “surge” pricing and simultaneously remove fixed-price taxi fares from Armstrong, Kenner should opt to keep the price-fixed fares but as a maximum fee that can be readjusted annually. This would protect consumers while still allowing the free market to set standard fees.

As I’ve discussed for months now, since Zahn, Sigur, Council President Lenny Cline and other members of the Kenner City Council were so focused on regulating TNCs (while benefiting the local Taxi industry), they have completely ignored consumers and public safety.

"We've got to find that (regulatory) balance," Sigur told Nola.com.

Perhaps if you would think about what is best for your constituents, the majority of your constituents anyway, and focus on public safety instead of trying to decide winners and losers, the task wouldn’t be so difficult Mr. Sigur.

If you, Lyin’ Ben and Stumblebum Lenny had started there Mr. Sigur, it wouldn’t have taken you over a year to get where you are now.
And the three of you wouldn't have embarrassed Kenner in the process.


Monday, June 5, 2017

At “Emergency” Meeting Zahn, Cline, Sigur Show Their True Colors - Yellow


After getting grief from everyone, with the exception of Kenner’s Taxi Companies, over their ill-fated ordinance to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn called an “Emergency” meeting of the Kenner City Council to reconsider the ordinance and amend it.

Instead, before a packed council chamber filled with Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as taxi drivers and members of the community, the Kenner Council voted to defer adding any amendments to the ordinance.

It is expected that, at the next council meeting, the council will amend the ordinance to remove the imposition of a $50 “Occupational License” on TNC drivers, pushed by District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur, as well as the mandating of trip fees to and from points in Kenner.

The ordinance will still include a $.50 per trip fee imposed on TNC fares. Mayor Zahn has long pushed for a fee, any fee, that would raise money for Kenner.

Since the $.50 per trip fee is identical to what New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and other governmental entities already charge TNCs, Uber and Lyft will not contest this fee.

District 4 Councilman and Council President Lenny Cline said that the reason for the deferral was because two council members, Councilman-At-Large Maria DeFranchesch and District 1 Councilman Greg Carroll, were absent.

The reality is that the council had a quorum and all three members of Cline’s Transportation Committee (Cline, Sigur and Councilman-At-Large Tom Willmott) were present.

Zahn, Cline and Sigur simply didn’t want to listen to  comments from the TNC and Taxi drivers that filled the council chambers.

Without any public comment, the Council voted to defer any amendments and adjourn the meeting.

As a resident of Kenner, I want to apologize to all of the Uber/Lyft and Taxi drivers, and members of the community that took time out of their day (and possibly lost revenue) to attend an “Emergency” meeting, not have the ability to offer their comments on an ordinance that will impact their livelihood, and for viewing the dysfunction that is Kenner City Government with Lyin’ Ben Zahn as Mayor and an impotent Council that can’t get out of its own way.

By refusing to sit there and listen to the public that they were allegedly elected to serve and represent, Zahn, Cline, Sigur and the rest of the Kenner City Council proved once again that they are cowards who care little about the people of Kenner.

In the end, the “Emergency” Meeting was a colossal waste of time since this ordinance as written, should never have seen the light of day.

And it wouldn’t have if Kenner City Government had any true leaders instead of clowns and cowards.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Zahn, Kenner Council Bring the Circus, and Price-Fixing, To Town


I'm sure you've heard the line, "Elect a clown, expect a circus".
Despite the recent shuttering of Ringling Bros. Circus, the circus is alive and well in Kenner.
Just when you though that Kenner Politics has hit rock bottom, the Kenner City Council, under the watchful eye and tutelage of Lyin’ Ben Zahn, takes it even lower.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner endured a Mayor who was stalking teenage boys, following them into public restrooms and kissing and fondling them (all well campaigning for his next job).

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner endured an ethically-challenged interim Mayor who never should have been elected dog catcher, let alone to the City Council.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner had to endure Lyin’ Ben Zahn, doing anything and saying anything he could to get elected.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner has to endure Council meetings where Lyin’ Ben lashes out at a Councilman and his wife (while I disagree with the Councilman’s wife and her personal attacks, every citizen has a right to speak at a Council Meeting and cannot be censored by anyone, let alone someone with as little personal integrity as Ben Zahn).

Now, we have this – a Mayor and Council approving an ordinance that would essentially drive out an industry due to onerous regulations, a short-sighted money grab, and an attempt to fix prices.

That’s right: a “Republican” Mayor and a “Republican” majority Council engaged in price-fixing.

As I noted in my prior post, I had several issues with the new Kenner ordinance (approved by a 6-1 vote) that regulated Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.

One of the points I disagreed with was that the City of Kenner was now attempting to tell Uber and Lyft what they would be required to charge passengers on trips to and from Kenner and Armstrong International Airport and other points.

Essentially, Kenner wants Uber and Lyft to charge the same amount as a taxi.

This is big government price-fixing at its worst, and it was done by “Republicans”, allegedly the pro-business party and it’s something that even Marxist Mitch Landrieu and the inept New Orleans City Council didn’t attempt.

Yet, there are no emails or statements of outrage or condemnation emanating from the Jefferson Parish or Louisiana Republican Party. Certainly, no outrage from our Republican Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni.

No, the Parish and State Republican Party leadership continues to let fake Republicans run roughshod over businesses and economic theory that they clearly don’t understand and add more and more regulations, instead of cutting government and letting the market (and consumers) decide.

During the public comment about the TNC ordinance, representatives from Uber, Lyft and the airport implored the Council to defer this ordinance and stated on more than one occasion that they (Uber and Lyft) would be unable to continue to pickup passengers at Armstrong and in Kenner if the ordinance were allowed to become law.

Despite being 2/3rds of the committee that was formed to discuss and provide input into the TNC ordinance, District 4 Councilman (and Council President) Lenny Cline and the afore-mentioned ethically-challenged District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur, are clearly clueless when it comes to understanding how Uber and Lyft operate.

Several times, Cline discussed the imposition of a $50 “Occupational License” for Uber/Lyft drivers.

“If your fare from the Airport is $36, one fare almost covers the cost of the license,” Cline said.

Except for the fact that the driver doesn’t get the entire $36 from the fare. Cline obviously forgot that Uber/Lyft get their cut first.

But, the amount of money a driver receives per fare isn’t the issue or the point.

The point is, you can’t regulate an industry without having a basic knowledge of it.

District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud is in the Heating and A/C business. I’m not qualified to inspect repairs and installation of the heating and cooling units his company services and sells. I couldn’t tell you the proper amount of tonnage that a unit should have to properly cool a 2,000 sq. ft. home.

Similarly, after a year of discussion and countless hours of meetings, input and debate, this Council (and Zahn) still don’t get it.

After spending Thursday night and most of Friday listening to complaints about the ordinance, Zahn has (rightfully) called for a special council meeting on Monday to reconsider the ordinance.

But what did Zahn, Cline, Sigur and the rest of the council expect would happen?

First, while the TNCs, particularly Uber, whine and complain about any regulation imposed on them that would impact their profits, this ordinance went way beyond the line.

And Zahn should have known that.

Now Zahn is attempting to spin this and make himself out to be the good guy – the guy that will make certain that Uber and Lyft don’t leave and the Mayor that will straighten out what the City Council screwed up.

He’s already begun trying to distance himself claiming that the Council is responsible since they are the Legislative Branch and the Mayor simply implements the rules and regulations that the Council gives him.

Don’t believe that line of bs for a second.

While the council, particularly Cline and Sigur (as well as Councilman-At-Large Tom Willmott who was the 3rd committee member) are to blame for this debacle, the ultimate blame rests upon Zahn.

As Cline mentioned several times during the council meeting, “This council, the Mayor and his administration have spent countless hours working on this ordinance.”

The ordinance was written by an Assistant City Kenner appointed by Zahn.

Zahn, as Mayor, holds agenda meetings with council members before the council meeting to discuss the items that are coming up for a vote.
While Lyin' Ben may want you to believe that he is blameless, clearly his fingerprints (and foreknowledge) are all over this ordinance.

If Zahn had the foresight and leadership that is required of a Mayor, he could have stopped this ordinance in its tracks and we would have never gotten to this point.

Each time that an ordinance regulating TNCs was deferred, Zahn bemoaned that fact that, even if all the Council did was impose a $.50 pickup fee on Uber and Lyft, that $.50 would be better than the nothing the City was getting now.

As I’ve said from the beginning, the TNC ordinance was NEVER about Public Safety and always a money grab for Zahn and the Council.

Lyin’ Ben, Cline and Sigur just tried to keep pushing beyond $.50.

What City in America, let alone one as small as Kenner, has successfully passed a law telling Uber and Lyft what to charge its passengers?

While we can debate Uber and Lyft, their business models, and whether they are good or bad for the transportation industry, one thing that is not up for debate is that TNCs like Uber and Lyft have been good for consumers (even if they are woefully bad for drivers who aren’t savvy enough to realize that they are being taken advantage of).

Case in point: Last Summer, during the peak of my eye issues, I used Uber to go from Kenner to Gonzales to visit my mom for a week. The cost, one way, was $50.

When I wanted to return to Kenner, I was unable to use Uber since they didn’t have any drivers that originated in Gonzales. I had to use a Kenner taxi company for my return trip. The cost: $120 one way.

On the return to Kenner, I heard the taxi dispatcher discussing pickups with drivers. The dispatcher was offering drivers $80 to pickup a passenger in Laplace and drop them off at the Airport.

“Make it $90 and I’ll do it,” one driver said.

“Standby,” the dispatcher said.

“$90 it is,” the dispatcher said when he returned.

I wonder what Zahn and the Kenner City Council would have to say about that kind of “surge pricing”?

As I’ve said, clearly, while I believe that TNCs like Uber and Lyft are really unregulated taxi companies and require some regulation, it is anti-competitive, business unfriendly (and certainly not consumer-friendly), anti-free market and anti-American, for Zahn and the Kenner City Council to tell a business how much they can charge consumers.

If Zahn and the Council didn’t know it then, they surely know it now.

The question is, why didn’t they know it before embarrassing Kenner yet again?

And when are we, as voters, going to start holding these people accountable, stop electing and promoting the same clowns and accepting the circus that they give us?  


Friday, June 2, 2017

Kenner’s ‘Uber’ Money Grab Proves It’s “Business Friendly” – But Only If You’re The Right Business


After the death of State Rep. Havard’s bill that would have provided statewide regulations for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, the Kenner City Council approved its own ordinance by a 6-1 vote providing more regulations and fees on TNCs operating in Kenner and at Armstrong International Airport. District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato, who is seeking to quit on his constituents and seek a promotion to JP Council before he even completes his first term in office, opposed the ordinance.  

While I am firmly a small government guy, I do believe that TNCs need regulation, but since they operate throughout the state, they should be regulated primarily through a statewide law. Having TNCs jump through hoops for every Parish and Municipality that seeks to impose its own rules, regulations and fees is anti-competitive.

If you’re an Uber/Lyft driver, or a Taxi driver, the rules should be similar, if not identical, whether you live, pickup or drop off in New Orleans, Kenner, or any other city.  

As I wrote earlier, since Rep. Havard’s bill was essentially written for him by TNCs, I was opposed to it. I am also strongly opposed to Kenner’s ordinance as well, but not for the obvious reasons.

The new Kenner ordinance adds new fees and regulations and doesn’t go nearly far enough when it comes to Public Safety – which should have been the focus of the ordinance.

The new Kenner ordinance imposes

…a $.50 per trip fee for trips originating in Kenner.

…fees on trips to and from Kenner to the Airport and fees from the Airport to other destinations that are identical to Taxi fees (meaning consumers pay the same fee instead of possibly a lower fee for using a TNC).

…a $50 per driver Occupational License, since TNC drivers are independent contractors (they pickup and drive when they want to versus having a set work shift). TNCs are also required to pay a $10,000 fee.

The ordinance also requires that TNC drivers submit to random background and drug testing, do not pickup passengers other than those that use the APP, and have a valid Driver’s License (yes, out-of-state drivers are permitted which I believe is a mistake).

While the Occupational License (particularly for non-Kenner residents who drive for Uber/Lyft) is a debatable question, the City of Kenner has no place in imposing fees per passenger or assigning a cost to trips – that’s for the marketplace (and consumers) to decide.
If TNCs like Uber and Lyft can provide a quality service at a price that consumers think is a good value, who is Kenner to determine that for consumers? If Uber/Lyft don't provide a good service and value, consumers won't use them.

Clearly, there needs to be a level playing field for TNCs, airport shuttles, limo and taxi companies. ALL companies providing point-to-point transportation of passengers or goods should either be regulated similarly or unregulated, depending upon your viewpoint.

However, unlike Uber and Lyft, which would prefer to remain unregulated (which benefits them), I would prefer that TNCs and their drivers have the same regulations as Taxi companies and their drivers.

Regardless of your opinion, you will never convince me that Uber/Lyft drivers aren’t unregulated taxi drivers. Simply using an app on a smartphone or other device, instead of a placing a call on a dumb phone to a taxi company, does not warrant enough of a distinction.

The issues with me and TNCs and Taxi Companies have always centered around fairness and public safety.

The new Kenner ordinance does nothing to fix those issues.

In attempting to provide a level playing field for Taxi Companies and TNCs, the Kenner ordinance goes backwards and provides more onerous regulations on TNCs and their drivers.

Requiring a $50 Occupational License for a part-time job (for many drivers) is ridiculous. TNC drivers should be licensed according to Taxi Drivers and should have the same level of state Driver’s License that Taxi Drivers operate with. TNC Drivers (or their companies) should also be required to have the same level of insurance coverage that Taxi Drivers/Companies do.

Since a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) could be suspended for driving violations including DUI and would not be granted if a driver had criminal violations in his/her past, I think requiring TNC drivers to have a CDL would be prudent. Unfortunately, requiring a CDL wouldn’t result in any money flowing into Kenner’s coffers, thus the reason for the $50 Occupational License.

Requiring TNC drivers have a valid Louisiana Driver’s License is something, but not taking the further step of mandating they also drive Louisiana-registered vehicles subject to the same vehicle inspections as Taxis, is a glaring omission.

Requiring random drug tests is also a good thing but, allowing drivers to move to another app if they are suspended from one TNC due to a criminal or driving violation also does not improve public safety.

Currently, if a TNC driver is using both Uber and Lyft to procure passengers (as most do), if they are accused of dui and suspended by one company they are not precluded from accepting fares from the other – or any other competitor on the horizon.

The bottom line is that Kenner’s new ordinance is, in reality, yet another money grab and bends over to protect the operations of local Taxi Companies and local Taxi drivers. It does not provide a level playing field, instead it tilts it in favor of Local versus National.

In their haste to protect the Local Taxi industry, the Kenner City Council has proven again that it is “Business Friendly”. But only if you are the right kind of business with the right ownership (local). Calling yourself “Business Friendly” and actually being “Business Friendly” are drastically different.

The Kenner City Council should not be in a position of saving the local Taxi industry while killing TNCs. They weren’t elected to choose who wins and loses in the “New Economy”. In fact, I’m not even sure they’re smart enough to know what the “New Economy” is, let alone set rules and regulations and pick winners and losers.

That’s not their job.

The Kenner ordinance also does not improve Public Safety.

On Nola.com, District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur was quick to point out that the ordinance, which doesn’t take effect for 6 months, could be amended at any time.

What that really means is, “We’re not smart enough to draft an ordinance that does the right thing but, at least we can put the process in motion to start collecting new fees and ripping off our constituents while we work out the details.”

Unfortunately, that’s Kenner Government the Lyin’ Ben Zahn/Mike Sigur way.

And that’s wrong on all counts.