At Thursday’s Kenner City Council meeting, the Council approved naming the Kenner Police Department Complex after former KPD Chief and current Causeway Police Chief Nick Congemi. I said “current Causeway Police Chief” because Congemi is very much alive.
I know what you’re thinking: isn’t there a law saying that buildings (like postage stamps) can only be named after dead people?
Yes, there is such a law.
However, when you’re an elected official you quickly learn that there are exceptions and exemptions for every law if you just do your research and pass another law.
Former Kenner City Councilman and current D92 State Rep Joe Stagni authored HB 205 in the past Regular Session. The bill authorized the City of Kenner to name the Kenner Police Department Headquarters after Congemi.
As with most local bills, the bill passed 83-0 in the House and 32-0 in the Senate. State legislators normally vote “FOR” such local bills because they don’t want their own local bills defeated.
Look, my issue isn’t with Nick Congemi who did some good things as Kenner Police Chief, although he did many things that I disagree with too and I am vehemently opposed to him continuing to feed at the public trough as a grossly overpaid Police Chief of a Police Department that is a “Police Department” in name only.
No, my issue is with exceptions to laws.
If you don’t like a law or if it doesn’t adequately reflect the views of residents, it should be repealed. There should never be exceptions to a law that favor one city or, in this case, one person. Period.
Laws are, or should be, designed for the PUBLIC benefit.
In a conversation, State Rep Stagni told me that during the 2017 Legislative Session, several bills were put forth by legislators to get around this same state law and honor folks that were still living by naming buildings after them.
Had I known about those exemptions last year and in prior years, I certainly would have written about them too.
And, while the fact that there were other exemptions in prior years may be true, that doesn’t make it right.
The bottom line is: we are a nation of laws, not a nation of exceptions and exemptions.
Are there existing state laws that should be repealed? Of course.
Isn’t it a legislator’s job to repeal antiquated laws rather than find loopholes and file additional laws to allow for exceptions and exemptions? Well, I think you know my answer to that one.
Isn’t a legislator’s job to discuss and debate laws that impact the “common good” rather than one city, one business or one person? You probably already know my answer to that one too.
No legislator or legislative body should pick winners and losers. That’s not what we elected them to do.
When he was a Kenner City Councilman and as he is now as a State Representative, Joe Stagni has always done his homework, researched the issues and been responsive to his constituents. I can’t compare him to other State Reps because I don’t know but, while he was on the Kenner City Council I don’t think that any Councilman could claim that they outworked or out-researched him.
For the record, he was my councilman for 8 years and we often spoke about issues. Compare that to my former Councilman in Kenner's District 2 who, to this day, has not replied to an email or returned a call regarding an issue in District 2 or the City of Kenner.
Now, I am not inferring that Rep Stagni is not doing his job or not voting on difficult issues and making hard decisions. Has he cast every vote in agreement with me? Of course not. But, he has always listened and tried to explain the rationale behind his vote, whether we agreed or not.
But, when a Legislative Body whose primary role is to discuss, debate and approve a state budget, can’t accomplish that seemingly simple task within a Regular Session and needs 3 “not-so” Special Sessions to pass House Bill #1, filing, debating and discussing bills and finding exceptions and exemptions to state law seems like it should be last on the list of priorities for our State Legislature.
Again, if you don’t like a law, whether you’re a legislator or a citizen like me, work to get the law repealed.
That’s the American way.
There’s nothing “Right” about finding exemptions and exceptions.
And, there’s nothing “Right” about honoring someone who is still eating from the public trough.