Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gov. Jindal's Speech; "Super" Biden; and Mary Landrieu is Bi, partisan that is.

This morning, I was a guest on "The Ken and Bernie Show" with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette. We talked about Governor Jindal's speech to the Republican National Committee; "Super" Joe Biden and his claims that Senator Landrieu is bipartisan; and Senator Landrieu's belief that entitlement spending is not out of control.

Here's a link to the interview.

Biden: Mary Does Things On The Senate Floor No One Else Could Do

I didn’t personally attend the Landrieu Family Reunion Saturday night starring Vice President Joe Biden but I did hear several nuggets from a fly-on-the-wall.

While praising Senator Landrieu as being bipartisan and being the “one of the most effective Senators he’s seen during his 40 years in the Washington”, Biden later said, “Everybody knows if they don’t vote with her, she’ll make their lives miserable.” Sounds pretty bipartisan to me.

The biggest head scratcher of the night though was this Biden statement: “This woman has a way of doing things on the Senate floor that, if anyone else did it, would be exiled.”

Unfortunately, the Veep didn’t elaborate.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another Perk Of Elected Office

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson offered Louisiana State Representatives and Senators a significant discount on Super Bowl tickets according to The Advocate.

State Legislators were reportedly offered the opportunity to buy up to two tickets each for the game at a cost of $850 per ticket, a significant discount from the $3,000+ average ticket price. The face value of the tickets ranges from $850 - 1,250.

Several Legislators purchased the tickets, some for constituents. Some others complained about the price and location of the seats. At least one, did both.

State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said, “They’re in the nosebleed section,” he said. He is watching the game from home but he did take advantage of the offer for a constituent.

It’s Against the Law To Sing and Masturbate When You See A Police Officer? Now You Tell Me…

Gretna Police arrested a naked man on Friday night on Huey P. Long Blvd. When they asked 33-year-old Osmar Hernandez of New Orleans to put on his clothes, Hernandez began to sing and fondle himself.

Hernandez eventually dressed and was charged with public intoxication and obscenity.
Officers were unable to recognize the tune Hernandez was singing but they can’t get it out of their heads for some reason.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Advocate Latest To Ask About Kenner Mayor's Prayer Breakfasts

As you read here first, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni's Annual Prayer Breakfast is the subject of some controvery in Kenner.

Billed as a fundraiser for the Kenner Food Bank and sponsored by the non-profit group Kenner City Events Inc., a group formed by then-Mayor Ed Muniz and then-CAO Yenni and composed of their friends, tax records show that no money has been donated to the Food Bank and the money instead has been deposited in a bank account and used for other matters.

At the last Kenner City Council meeting, Mayor Yenni admitted that the Prayer Breakfasts haven't raised enough money for a donation, yet the bank account of Kenner City Events continues to grow every year and the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast is its only source of income. As of their last tax form, Kenner City Events had almost $18,000 in the bank.

Mayor Yenni, as he is known to do when facing criticism, tried to deflect the conversation to discuss another fundraising event and attack his critics (myself among them).

At the January 3rd council meeting, CAO Mike Quigley gave a different answer regarding the Prayer Breakfasts saying that the proceeds were never meant to go to the Food Bank and were instead used as "seed money" for the next event. Of course, Mayor Yenni can't answer why he doesn't use his own personal or campaign funds as "seed money" or what the "seed money" is needed for. Since the events are held at a venue managed by his wife (and owned by his father-in-law), I don't think the "seed money" is needed for deposits and, since the speakers are primarily friends of the Mayor, there are no deposits for speakers.

As I mentioned, Kenner City Events has almost $18,000 in the bank. That's alot of "seed money".

The Mayor also cannot answer why the events, which have generated $12,000 - 14,000 each, have expenses over 80%. Of course, as Mr. Quigley says, the people attending are served a "tremendous breakfast".

At $30 a plate, with no money generated for the Food Bank, I guess I would say that's a "tremendous breakfast". Tremendously expensive, that is.

Kinda makes you wonder how the upcoming Slidell Mayor's Prayer Breakfast can charge $15 a plate. Maybe it's ok for the Mayor of Slidell to serve only an "ok breakfast".

In any event, The Advocate is also joining the party and asking about Mayor Yenni's Prayer Breakfasts. You can read the article by clicking here and read how the Mayor and Quigley try to deflect and attack.

Read all the way to the end and see the comments from the City of Kenner's Community Development Director, Arleeta Terrell. Ms. Terrell's department includes the Food Bank. It's interesting to note that Ms. Terrell said "she never knew the food bank was supposed to receive money from the prayer breakfast." I guess that, along with the Mayor's own words, confirms the fact that this sham went on for years.

Mayor Yenni, Mr. Quigley, and others in the Yenni Administration, should be ashamed of themselves for using the Kenner Food Bank as a prop for the Mayor to funnel business to his wife's company, generate sponsorships from city contractors and contributors, and not donate one cent to the Kenner Food Bank from the Prayer Breakfasts.

To his credit, Mayor Yenni does hold another event (again, at his wife's business) that does raise money for the Kenner Food Bank. Thankfully, for Kenner citizens and the Food Bank, it's not a breakfast and that event doesn't need any "seed money".

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Sons Of Guns" Star Discusses Gun Ownership Laws

Today, Glenn Fleming of the Discovery Channel show “Sons of Guns” visited ‘Mornings With Ken and Bernie‘ on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette to discuss proposed changes to gun ownership laws. Pretty interesting interview. Check it out here:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

State Rep. Connick Wants Tolls In New Orleans

State Representative Pat Connick (R-Harvey) is drafting legislation to impose tolls on motorists in New Orleans using the Pontchartrain Expressway.

Connick, who fought hard In an attempt to defeat the Crescent City Connection tolls renewal, is proposing an electronic toll system for drivers leaving downtown New Orleans and using Camp, O’Keefe and Calliope streets or the exit ramps on St. Charles Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street. He thinks that this will eliminate some of the traffic congestion on the East Bank-bound Crescent City Connection from the West Bank into New Orleans.  
There are currently three toll bridges in the entire state and all of them impact Jefferson Parish: the outbound Crescent City Connection; the inbound Causeway; and inbound on the LA1 bridge to Grand Isle.

Since Orleans Parish voted to keep the toll on the Crescent City Connection, perhaps it’s time that they paid the brunt of a toll themselves. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obama, Jindal and Edwards - Oh My!

This morning, I was a guest on the Ken and Bernie Show with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette. We talked about the President's Inauguration Speech, Taxes, Edwin Edwards and more. Here's a link to the article and the audio of the interview.

Edwin Edwards: The Gift That Keeps On Taking

Well, now it seems that the producers of former Governor Edwin Edwards' new "reality" show have indeed filed to be eligible for State film tax credits.

Here's a link to Jeremy Alford's report in

Monday, January 21, 2013

Freedom of Speech? Not In Kenna Brah.

At the end of every Kenner City Council meeting, there is an opportunity for citizens to address the council for 3 minutes each. Citizens regularly address the council to discuss their complaints, compliment our elected officials, or promote various community events.

Many times, I sign up to address the council.
To be honest, more often than not, I use my time to criticize a policy or a proposed ordinance. I root my arguments in facts and do not make personal attacks against the City Council or the Mayor.

No, I am critical of Mayor Yenni because of his actions, his proposals and his thoughts (or lack thereof).
The same cannot be said for Mayor Yenni and members of his administration.

Here’s the back story:
At the December 20th council meeting, I discussed Kenner City Events, Inc., their promotion of the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts, and their claims to donate the proceeds of this event to the Kenner Food Bank. According to Kenner City Events tax records, it appeared that they were not donating anything to the Food Bank and were instead using the proceeds to increase their bank account. I also questioned the considerable expenses incurred by the Prayer Breakfast. Over 80% of the money raised from ticket sales (at $30 a plate) and sponsorships went towards expenses.

When I asked Mayor Yenni how much money was donated from the Prayer Breakfasts to the Kenner Food Bank, the Mayor sat there silently.
At the council meeting on January 3rd, which I did not attend, Kenner CAO Mike Quigley made several inaccurate comments regarding my December 20th comments and personally attacked me. Mr. Quigley stated that the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast was a “spiritual event” and never intended to make money and that money earned from one Prayer Breakfast was simply rolled over to support the next Prayer Breakfast. This contradicts Mayor Yenni’s own statements that the Prayer Breakfast was designed to support the Food Bank.

At the most recent council meeting, I spent my 3 minutes addressing Kenner CAO Mike Quigley’s personal attack against me at the last council meeting, and correcting Mr. Quigley’s inaccurate comments (the text is below).
After I spoke, Mayor Yenni and Mr. Quigley, again felt the need to go on the attack. Mayor Yenni said that he was tired of me coming before the council and making “fraudulent accusations”.

Mayor Yenni then went on to say that since the Prayer Breakfasts have not raised the kind of money that was expected and that “has contributed to us having to use that money for the next event.”
So, now the proceeds from the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts didn’t go to the Kenner Food Bank because there wasn’t enough to give but there was enough to put in the bank and use for the next event? Wasn't that what I said? What am I missing here?

Since I used Kenner City Events tax records and Mayor Yenni’s own words to show that Kenner City Events did not donate the proceeds from the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to the Kenner Food Bank and Mayor Yenni just acknowledged that, how could the Mayor deduce that I was making “fraudulent accusations”?
After Mayor Yenni finished his spiel, Mr. Quigley started again.

Mr. Quigley stated that the reason for the high expenses at the Prayer Breakfast was because “Everybody eats a tremendous breakfast. That’s the point of the whole thing.”
Really? Here I thought people came to support the Food Bank.

And $30 a plate is a lot of money for breakfast, especially when the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts are held at a venue that Mayor Yenni’s wife manages and is owned by his father-in-law. You would think that they would give the Mayor a discount, not charge him triple.
I can eat a “tremendous breakfast” like Mr. Quigley, for about $8 at Golden Corral and still have $22 left to write a check to Kenner Food Bank. At Golden Corral, I can eat all I want and, it’s not just breakfast. If you go there in the late morning, they start serving lunch too – for the same $8! But, I digress.  

But, that wasn’t all.
After more speakers discussed other issues, Kenner City Attorney Keith Conley took to the microphone.

Mr. Conley said, “During the week, someone gave me information about Mr. Bennetti and he has 3 open violations” at the Ethics Board and that I owed “thousands” of dollars.
On this, Mr. Conley is partially correct. I did file three campaign finance reports late. One was filed on paper when it should have been filed online and two of them had no activity from the prior period and I was unaware that I was required to file.

That’s right. Mr. Conley felt the need to tell the world that I filed some campaign reports late. Of course, he didn’t say that. He said, “violations” and the late fees total $840 (a far cry from “thousands”).
Of course, I could have done worse things.

No, my ‘crime’, that Mr. Conley felt compelled to publicize, was filing a form late.
Now, I take full responsibility for my actions in filing the reports late. The Ethics Board did assess me some late fees and we are discussing a resolution of those fees.

But why would the City Attorney receive and then disclose confidential information about a private citizen at a televised, public meeting? Was this supposed to intimidate or embarrass me?
I thought that the role of the City Attorney was to defend the city in legal matters. Is the role of the City Attorney in Yenni Administration to intimidate and embarrass private citizens?

Between his allegedly full-time position as City Attorney, his part-time position as a Personal Injury Attorney, and his possible lawsuit against the city to overturn the vote of Kenner residents who overwhelmingly supported a ban on political activity by unclassified City of Kenner employees, doesn’t Attorney Conley have enough on his plate without worrying about me?
Shouldn’t citizens have the right to discuss issues publicly without being harassed and attacked by elected officials and unelected employees who are paid by the citizens that they are attacking?

Next week, is Attorney Conley going to call a Press Conference to alert the media that, due to Hurricane Isaac, I renewed my driver’s license late?
This is not the first time that opponents of the Yenni Administration have been publicly criticized at a council meeting. Many private citizens have been personally attacked simply because they voice their opposition to Mayor Yenni.

It is troubling that citizens are attacked when they disagree with Mayor Yenni and his administration and the continued unprofessional attitude of City Attorney Conley should not be allowed to continue.
Here are my comments to the Kenner City Council on Thursday, January 17th 2013 along with links to the Tax Forms of Kenner City Events Inc. You can decide if my claims are “fraudulent” or not. Mayor Yenni said they were but then he confirmed them. Certainly not the first time that he's flip-flopped on an issue and I'm sure it won't be the last.  

At the Dec 20th Council meeting, I discussed Kenner City Events and their sponsorship of the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to benefit the Kenner Food Bank.

I discussed the fact that, according to their tax records, in 2010 Kenner City Events raised $14,000 from the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, had $11,130 in expenses and finished the year increasing their bank account by $4,000.

In 2011, Kenner City Events raised $12,525 from the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, incurred $10,435 in expenses and ended the year increasing their bank account by $839.

The tax records show that for both years, expenses averaged 80% or more, which is surprising.

 From their tax records, it would appear that Kenner City Events is not using the proceeds from the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to benefit the Kenner Food Bank.
At the January 3rd Council meeting, which I was unable to attend since I was in Florida visiting my mom for Christmas, Mr. Quigley took to the microphone to answer a question from Mr. Morella, regarding my comments.

Mr. Quigley went on to discuss the event “Sipping With Santa” and how much that event raised. I never discussed “Sipping With Santa”. Mr. Quigley further stated that the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast was a spiritual event and never designed to raise money. In fact, Mr. Quigley stated that the money raised from the proceeds of the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast were simply rolled over, “seed money” I think he called it, for the next year’s prayer breakfast.

Mr. Quigley’s assertion contradicts the tax records of Kenner City Events. There are also other contradictions.
According to an article published by on October 22nd, 2010, “More than 400 people attended the breakfast and proceeds will go to the Kenner Food Bank, according to Valerie Waguespack, an executive assistant in Yenni’s office.”

In an article dated November 12, 2012, written by Mr. Broach in the Times-Picayune and discussing the plaque listing elected officials that Kenner City Events was contributing money to, Mr. Broach writes, “Kenner records say the rest of the money is coming from Kenner City Events Inc., a charity run by Dan Kelly, a close associate of former Mayor Ed Muniz. Kenner City Events finished 2011 with $17,299 in the bank, after sponsoring one event to benefit Laketown Park and a prayer breakfast to benefit the Kenner Food Bank, according to its tax records.”

In the November 2012 issue of the Kenner Star, in Mayor Yenni’s own column, Mayor Yenni writes:

"The traditional Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, which benefits the Kenner Food Bank, is sponsored by Kenner City Events…”

Mayor Yenni goes on to write:

“The common theme among the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, Sipping with Santa and the city of Kenner’s 2012 Food Drive, is the effort to support the Kenner Food Bank,…”

Since I made the same statement that Ms. Waguespack, Mr. Broach and the Mayor himself made, would Mr. Quigley like to tell them that they’re wrong or would he like to apologize?”

Kenner City Events Inc. 2010 Tax Form:

Kenner City Events Inc. 2011 Tax Form:

Happy MLK Day!

While there are many great quotes and statements, please indulge me. This is my favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

If you work at for the Post Office, a Bank, or the Government, enjoy your day off.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JP Councilwoman Sheng To Receive Award For Fat City “Redevelopment”; Up Next, Sainthood

Jefferson Parish District 5 Councilwoman Cynthia Sheng, who in 2010 led the charge to trample the property rights and values of Fat City business and land owners, is scheduled to receive an award from the Louisiana chapter of the American Planning Association “for her dedication to the community and leadership”.

Sheng, along with Sheriff Newell Normand, championed the Fat City Rezoning Ordinance which limited the hours of any business selling alcohol, eliminated the opportunity for businesses to have live musical performances, and imposed significant restrictions on building size and offsets. These changes caused several dozen businesses including restaurants, bars and convenience stores, among others, to close and left an estimated 600 people looking for work.
The ordinance set up arbitrary boundaries for the Fat City area and included numerous exclusions and exemptions. The ordinance said that Fat City’s southern boundary was Veterans Blvd. however businesses on Veterans were excluded from the ordinance. It also banned several businesses from the Fat City area including grocery stores and any store that sold fresh produce, but grandfathered in Breaux Mart. Breaux Mart also received an exemption to sell alcohol at a time earlier than any other business in Fat City including 24-hour convenience stores. The ordinance also did not address what many feel is the main culprit in the area’s crime rate, the high density of apartments in the area.

Over two years into the Fat City revitalization, the area is a literal ghost town with numerous businesses shuttered. In their place, a new coffee shop has opened and plans are in the works for 3 new restaurants – 2 of which will replace longtime Fat City establishments which closed in the aftermath of the ordinance.
Perhaps the Councilwoman will receive even more prestigious awards when a second coffee shop opens.

At Wednesday’s Jefferson Parish Council meeting, Sheng was loathe to take credit however, for her role in the ordinance preferring to give credit to Sheriff Normand and the Jefferson Parish Planning Department.
“It was a team effort,” Sheng said.

Comparisons to Mother Theresa are unnecessary.

More on Governor Jindal's Tax Plan

This morning, I was a guest on the "Ken and Bernie Show", with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee, on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette. We discussed Governor Jindal's plan to eliminate the state income tax and increase the state sales tax.

Here's a link to a recap and the audio of the interview:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Crime Down 4% In Kenner – Let’s Triple Property Taxes

It’s hard to believe that it was less than two years ago when Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and Police Chief Steve Caraway were literally going door-to-door (along with Yenni's political appointees)  seeking support for Yenni’s plan to double property taxes.

If the voters didn’t pass the taxes, Kenner would face cuts “that everyone will feel”, or so the Mayor claimed.
For his part, Caraway said that there would be mass layoffs and a huge increase in crime, if voters didn’t act to increase his take of property taxes.

As we know now, the taxes were defeated and there were no significant cuts to Kenner City Government. In fact, Mayor Yenni increased the already top-heavy Kenner Administration adding more Directors and Assistant Directors, creating additional departments, and granting huge raises to his political appointees disguised as “auto and cell phone allowances”. I don’t know about you but my unlimited everything cell phone plan costs $50 per month, or $100 less than Yenni’s top aides receive and I don't get a $400/month auto allowance to drive from my house to city hall. The Mayor has also failed to disclose that the City has run a budget surplus for the past three years.
We also know that the amount of Kenner’s police officers has remained the same. In discussing Mayor Yenni’s tax plan, Chief Caraway conveniently failed to mention that Kenner must maintain a minimum level of officers to continue to receive many grants.

And now we know that not only was there not a huge increase in Kenner’s crime rate, crime actually was down in 2012 compared to 2011.
Overall crime was down 4% in 2012, with decreases in six of the seven measured categories. Rape increased in Kenner from 10 in 2011 to 12 in 2012.

Maybe Mayor Yenni will now try to triple property taxes. That will show those pesky criminals.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Is Governor Jindal’s Tax Proposal A Bold Move or Just Politics?

Governor Jindal’s plan to eliminate the state income tax and raise the state sales tax is being met with opposition on both political fronts but will actually bolster the Governor politically whether it passes or is defeated.

While bits and pieces of the Governor’s plan are leaking out, we don’t know the full details yet. As such, any discussion is purely speculation.
This much is true: eliminating the state income tax and replacing it with an increased sales tax will only marginally increase the tax burden on Louisiana residents. It will result in more money in the pockets of Louisiana residents, who, in turn, will spend more on goods and services that may be taxed.

In addition, the elimination of corporate income taxes could lead to Louisiana becoming more competitive in recruiting corporations and lead to more jobs. More jobs equal more potential spending on goods and services.
In theory, the plan should be essentially revenue neutral.

So, what’s all the fuss about?
Democrats believe that sales taxes impact lower income residents who are the least able to pay the taxes. Given that most lower income residents pay ZERO in income taxes and little, if any, in property taxes, lower income residents currently pay little to nothing in real taxes, other than sales tax, and only contribute pass-along taxes like gasoline and cell phone taxes to the state treasury.

Of course, Democrats fail to consider that any increase in the state sales tax will also include exemptions to it. Exemptions for grocery sales and prescription drugs will lower the impact on lower income residents. Exemptions on grocery purchases made with the Louisiana Purchase Card, will also lessen the impact.
Republicans, as well as some Democrats, are also concerned about a potentially bitter budget battle as the state faces a large deficit.

Currently, seven states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming) have no personal income tax. Two additional states (New Hampshire and Tennessee) only tax dividend and interest income.
Given that they are close neighbors, Florida and Texas are often discussed regarding their lack of a state income tax.

At 4%, Louisiana’s current state sales tax is among the lowest in the country. Texas assesses sales tax at a 6.25% state rate while Florida imposes a 6% state sales tax. Both allow liberal exemptions including exemptions on grocery purchases for home consumption.

Texas also imposes a sales tax on many personal services including Escort Services. That alone could help balance Louisiana's budget.

While the state rates are fairly comparable, there is an alarming difference between Louisiana, Florida and Texas regarding the local sales tax option.
In Florida, the maximum combined local/county sales tax is a 1.5%. The local/county sales tax in Texas is capped at 2%.

Louisiana has no caps on local/parish sales tax. Because of the local/parish additions, Louisiana’s average sales tax is 8.85%, 3rd highest in the country. The additional local/parish taxes range from 3% to 7% making the total sales tax rate range from 7% to 11%. The maximum sales tax in Florida is 7.5% and is 8.25% in Texas. With a projected 3% state sales tax increase, Louisiana’s sales tax range will increase to 10% to 14%.
In unincorporated Jefferson Parish, we pay 8.75% - 4.75% for the Parish (2.5% to the Parish Council, 2% to the School Board, and .25% for Law Enforcement) and 4% to the state. Kenner also pays 8.75% but it is divvied up differently with the same 4.75%/4% split. In Kenner’s case, the city receives 2.58%, Jefferson Parish gets .17% and the School Board receives 2% of the 4.75% local sales tax.

In Louisiana, the reality is that the state typically gets less than the local/parish governments when it comes to sales tax revenue.
As local governments have kept property tax rates artificially low, and with the inclusion of one of the most generous Homestead Exemption rates in the country, the pressure to raise more money has led to increased local/parish sales tax rates.

According to the Tax Foundation, Louisiana pays the lowest percentage of property taxes in the country at .18% of home value. Texas residents pay the 3rd highest rate at 1.81% of home value.
So, a better solution might include an increase in the state sales tax coupled with a reduction in the local/parish sales tax rate with an increase in property taxes to keep local/parish government tax revenue also neutral.

Of course, this could all be an exercise in futility if the Governor is unable to persuade a majority of the State House and Senate to approve any sales tax increase with a corresponding elimination of the income tax.
That alone may be no easy feat.

But, even if loses, the Governor still wins politically. As a term-limited Governor, Jindal has nothing to lose in Louisiana and is playing to the national stage. The national press will surely discuss Jindal's plan and Conservative pundits will toss Jindal's name around in lofty terms. If the plan is defeated, it will be because the State Representatives and Senators couldn't see Jindal's "vision" or they bowed to pressure from outside forces.
And, if he wins, Jindal will gain even more national prominence setting him up for potential future campaigns for President or Vice-President, or significant cabinet positions in a Republican Administration (assuming he’s not part of the ticket).

Let’s hope that the Governor is sincere about reforming Louisiana’s tax system and will also couple that with “real” spending reform.

That could help Louisiana more than having a former Governor in Washington.


Feds Respond To Louisiana Succession Petition: Tell Us To Leave

No, not really.

The Federal Government finally responded to Louisiana’s online petition seeking to succeed from the Union.
The petition, which was filed on November 7th, a day after President Obama was re-elected, asks that Louisiana “…withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.”

Residents from 47 of the 50 states filed similar online petitions and Louisiana’s garnered just under 39,000 signatures, second only to Texas’ almost 126,000. Louisiana’s was the first online succession petition posted. Only Connecticut, Maryland and Vermont did not file.
In its response, White House Director of Public Engagement Jon Carson said, “Free and open debate is what makes this country work, and many people around the world risk their lives every day for the liberties we often take for granted. But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart.”

So, if you were holding your breath waiting for Louisiana to become its own free country, you can exhale now. There will be no President Jindal. At least, not President Jindal of Louisiana.
Here's a link to the response:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Orleans Fire Department Moves To Adopt National Standard; Why Hasn’t Kenner?

Friday, officials from the New Orleans Fire Department announced a reorganization plan that will move the NOFD towards the adoption of the national standard of 4-men-on-a-truck ( This standard, known as “NFPA 1710”, has long been the standard for the Jefferson Parish Fire Department and fire departments across the state and the country. Sadly, it has not been adopted in Kenner.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) adopted standard 1710 in 2001, after 10 years of research and discussion. Standard 1710 sets the minimum criteria for staffing of fire fighter crews, and the time guidelines for their response to emergencies.

According to the NFPA, “These guidelines were developed for your safety, fire fighter safety, and the safety of your property.”
The first requirement of NFPA 1710 is “Fire Fighters will respond with a minimum of 4 personnel on each apparatus”, the standard that New Orleans is moving toward with their personnel reorganization.

Kenner fire crews respond with 3 men on a truck. To reach the NFPA standards of safety, Kenner must roll out 2 3-man crews and 2 fire trucks. This places additional stress and incurs more maintenance costs for each vehicle.

Kenner could improve its fire safety rating, provide the public with better fire protection, and reduce equipment costs by moving to this national standard.

While it would create some additional personnel costs, the benefits of 4-men on a truck far outweigh the minor incremental costs. In addition, the move could be made by simply changing the schedules of the existing fire fighters and hiring an estimated 9 new firefighters.

Unfortunately, the Yenni Administration and Kenner Fire Chief John Hellmers have made no effort
to adopt this standard. Rather than taking proactive steps to protect the residents and businesses of Kenner, Mayor Yenni would rather place blame on Kenner voters refusal to double property taxes.

The fact remains that there is money available within Kenner’s current budget to adopt NFPA 1710 and provide better fire protection to Kenner. Sadly, Mayor Yenni would rather increase the compensation of his political appointees by adopting raises disguised as “auto and cell phone allowances” than provide a true service to the people of Kenner.

Now, before the next budget cycle begins, is the time for the Kenner City Council to begin taking the steps that Mayor Yenni won’t and begin to discuss and take the steps necessary to move Kenner toward adopting NFPA 1710 and providing better fire protection to Kenner and a better safety level for our Kenner fire fighters.

Unlike what Mayor Yenni contends, this standard won’t require further taxes on Kenner citizens and, frankly, don’t the citizens of Kenner and our fire fighters deserve it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kenner Mayor Yenni Continues Trying To Muzzle Dissent

Not content with trying to stop citizen criticism of their policies and ethics, the administration of Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni is now trying a new tactic: stop its appointments to boards from speaking to the media.

Kenner resident Al Morella is one of Mayor Yenni's appointments to the Kenner Housing Authority Board. The Housing Authority, which manages Kenner’s Section 8 program, has been under increasing scrutiny from the public. Recently, the Federal Government got involved.

In November, HUD inspectors paid a visit to the Housing Authority offices to begin an investigation. Here’s a report from Fox 8’s Rob Masson:

Morella has been complaining of mismanagement at the Housing Authority for some time.
HUD gave the City of Kenner a deadline to submit a plan for the reorganization of the Authority. Only one board member, Morella, and no one from the Yenni Administration, submitted a plan.

While Mayor Yenni publically boasted that he welcomed the HUD investigation, clearly he is concerned with yet another black eye for Kenner under his watch.
Now, Yenni is trying to silence Morella, admittedly not an easy task.

In a veiled attempt to intimidate Morella, City Attorney Keith Conley fired off a letter to the President of the Housing Authority asking if Morella understood his duties and responsibilities on the board.
Contacted by Fox 8, Conley said:

“I have instructed him (Morella) to work with the board. It does him no good to go outside of the membership of that board.”

“I did not say he’s not within his rights to speak to the media, or anyone else. He’s just not going to get anything accomplished.”

Mayor Yenni appoints members to the Kenner Housing Authority Board and appointed Morella last year.   


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New AG Opinion Renews Debate On Kenner Car Allowances

Is it a reimbursement or extra compensation for political appointees?

For several years, the people of Kenner have pondered that question. Kenner officials have claimed that auto and cell phone allowances, even without the appropriate documentation or mileage, were legitimate reimbursements.
It didn’t matter that the City of Kenner is only about 11 square miles and most of the political appointees that were receiving $300 – 500 per month in auto allowances rarely, if ever, left their offices.

It didn’t matter that the IRS has said that mileage commuting from home to work is not reimbursable.
It didn’t matter that this policy went on for years since former Mayor Ed Muniz, and then-CAO now-Mayor Mike Yenni, came under criticism for reducing the amount of employees who received city take-home vehicles while simultaneously significantly increasing the number of employees receiving extra money in their paychecks in the form of these allowances.

It didn’t matter that employees were paid a flat, monthly fee regardless of their vehicle or cell phone usage.
It didn’t matter that these allowances were listed on employees’ W-2 forms as income.

It didn’t matter that the Kenner City Council never approved these payments until earlier this year.
And, it really didn’t matter that many Kenner residents have long complained about this wasteful and abusive spending.

Now, the Louisiana Attorney General Office has weighed in and we’ll see if their opinion matters.
In an opinion sought by Mayor Yenni after receiving more criticism from the public, Assistant Attorney General Emailie Boyce said that the allowances should be considered compensation. This flies in the face of Kenner City Attorney Keith Conley who repeatedly referred to the allowances as “reimbursable expenses”.

At a Kenner City Council meeting earlier this year to discuss and, finally, attempt to legitimize these payments, the Council almost universally discussed how hard these city employees worked and how they deserved this extra compensation. discussed the auto allowances in June:

The AG opinion clearly falls on the side of “compensation” instead of “reimbursable expenses”.
Regarding the fact that employees received a flat fee and a payment not based on actual mileage, Boyce wrote, “These facts seem to contradict the assertion that the car allowance is merely a reimbursement of the employee’s expenses.”

Boyce further states, “(I)t is the opinion of this office that the car allowances provided to certain City employees are compensation, rather than reimbursement.”
Regardless of how the Kenner City Council, Mayor Yenni or City Attorney Conley want to spin this, clearly the auto and cell phone allowances that certain Kenner employees have received for years has been excess compensation. Unfortunately, since the City Council, instead of prudently waiting for the AG opinion, has already voted to legitimize these illegal payments, Kenner residents have no recourse to stop the practice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More on Edwin Edwards and Reality TV

This morning, I was a guest on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee discussing Edwin Edwards and the forthcoming reality show featuring the ex-con/governor and his really young 3rd wife.

Here's a link to some excerpts from the interview and the entire audio portion courtesy of

“The EWE Show”

On Friday, Entertainment Weekly magazine spilled the beans on the worst kept secret in Louisiana: former Governor and ex-con Edwin W. Edwards and his new, really young wife would be starring in an upcoming reality tv show.

Called “The Governor’s Wife”, although they married after Edwards was released from prison and 15 years after he was last Louisiana’s Governor, the show will follow Trina Edwards as she transitions into married life with the ex-con/governor and new stepmom to Edwards’ four children, including two daughters who are both 60+ themselves.

Picture a Louisiana octagenarian former governor ane ex-con meets "Honey Boo Boo". And, yes, that will be the first and last time that Honey Boo Boo is mentioned on

Trina, who is 35, and Edwards, 85, married in July 2011 after Trina began a pen-pal relationship with Edwards while he was in prison. Of course this begs the question: what is a 30+ year-old woman with two of her own kids, doing having any kind of relationship with a man in prison. Only in Louisiana and ready made for tv.

At least, ex-con/governor Edwards thought so.

Edwards has been pitching a reality show since before the pair was married. Reality producer Shaun Sanghani (a Tulane grad formerly involved in the energy business and Creator/Executive Producer of several reality shows including “Girls, Guns, Gators” and “Guardian Angels”, about the citizen crime fighters of the same name) has been travelling the country trying to sell cable nets on the project. Finally, A&E bit.

The show has been in filming since last year and Friday it was announced that A&E bought an initial run of 12 episodes that will premiere Wednesday, February 27th at 9pm CT.

A&E knows that Louisiana is fertile ground for reality shows. The 2nd season finale of Duck Dynasty drew a record 6.5 million viewers, making it the most watched A&E telecast of all time.

Edwards was always colorful and is known for his off-the-cuff quips. Regarding allegations of illegal campaign contributions, Edwards said, “It was illegal for them to give, but not me to receive”. When asked about his impending race for Governor against Dave Treen, Edwards said, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.”

And, who can forget Edwards reply to a reporter who asked what he had to do to win the 1991 Gubernatorial election against David Duke: “Stay alive,” Edwards said.

I’m sure that Edwards has been saving up his one-liner while he was in prison. Unfortunately, the nation will have yet another reason to laugh at Louisiana starting February 27th.

Kenner Council Rounds Up Some “Usual Suspects” For Aviation Board Slot

The ink wasn’t dry on the Times-Picayune article announcing that David Campbell, Kenner’s longtime representative on the Armstrong Airport Aviation Board was resigning, and the Kenner City Council had already declared three possible candidates as his replacement. Unfortunately, rather than choosing truly independent candidates, two of the three candidates are familiar faces with potential conflicts of interest.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Council nominated:

-          Jules Corona, a former airline executive who is now retired

-          Jim Hudson, former head of Omni Bank and now Vice-President of IberiaBank (which bought Omni in 2011)

-          Todd Murphy, current President of the Jefferson Chamber and a former executive of Omni Bank who served under Hudson

Readers of will recall that Hudson has a long and, in my opinion, inglorious history of serving on boards and committees in Kenner and Jefferson Parish. Some of Hudson’s notable “achievements” include:
-           Serving on the Fat City Advisory Board, which was responsible for the controversial Fat City rezoning ordinance. It’s been over two years since the rezoning ordinance was approved which caused dozens of businesses to close and hundreds to be unemployed. Fat City may be revitalized one day. Of course, that may not be in our lifetime.

-          Serving on Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s hand-picked Streamlining Government Committee. That committee was formed after the voters of Kenner overwhelmingly defeated Yenni’s plan to double property taxes. One of the committee’s recommendations for “streamlining” Kenner was to close 6 playgrounds. So much for quality of life. Thankfully, after public outcry, Yenni backed away from this “brilliant” idea.

-          Serving on Yenni’s “Economic Development Committee”. This committee is supporting Yenni’s 2030 Vision which calls for Kenner to borrow $30 Million dollars to fund beautification projects. I don’t need a “committee” to tell me that putting some trees in the median of Chateau Blvd. won’t create much “economic development”. Unless, of course, you own a tree service.

Hudson has also served on Greater New Orleans, Inc., the Jefferson Business Council and the East Jefferson General Hospital Board.

Hudson also was instrumental in denying a license to The Blue Monkey Bar. The Blue Monkey was a proposed night club that was in development months before the Fat City rezoning ordinance was approved and wasn’t even located in Fat City but was subjected to “Fat City rules”. In addition, according to court documents, Hudson, and others associated with Omni Bank, contended that The Blue Monkey “would not be consistent with the character of the businesses in the neighborhood and that it could damage property values”. This despite the fact that there were other bars in the area open 24-hours and The Blue Monkey would be open for significantly reduced hours. Here’s a link to a lawsuit that was filed by Blue Monkey LLC against Jefferson Parish and the Jefferson Parish Council regarding the refusal of the parish to approve the Blue Monkey’s zoning:

Aside from the questionable actions and decisions of these boards, there are also other potential conflicts regarding Hudson and the Aviation Board including the disposition of 260 airport buyout properties. In time, the Aviation Board will approve the sale of these properties to individuals and developers for their return to commerce as commercial properties. As a long-time banker and financier, Hudson has numerous potential conflicts with many area developers. Will he recuse himself from voting on matters involving those developers and, if so, how will that serve to protect the interests of the citizens of Kenner?

Murphy also has many of those same potential conflicts.

At this critical juncture with so much riding on the development of these buyout properties and the expected property tax boost to Kenner, can the city afford any potential conflicts of interest?

The Kenner City Council voted 7-0 to send these three nominees to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu for his ultimate approval.
While I generally applaud government acting swiftly, with something this important I wonder, after over 10 years of David Campbell, what was the rush?
Be sure to listen to Walt Bennetti Monday mornings at 7:07am on the Ken and Bernie Show on KPEL 96.5 in Lafayette. Click here to listen live:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saints Fan Takes Matters Into His Own Hands - Literally

A 26-year-old St. Tammany Parish man is accused of hiding his genitals under a Saints Santa hat and exposing himself in a WalMart parking lot.

Brian Harris was arrested after a woman complained of the flashing as Harris sat in his 1998 Honda Civic. The woman said that Harris made eye contact with her and grinned. Unfortunately, the woman did not get Harris' license plate but did give detectives a description of his car.

About two weeks later, a WalMart security guard was tipped off about a man masturbating in his car, again in the WalMart parking lot. The security guard was given a partial license plate number, which police used to track down Harris at his Covington residence.

Harris admitted to fondling himself under the Saints Santa hat, but denied that he exposed himself. Why someone would even admit to that is mind boggling. Just deny everything, dummy.

Harris is out on bond. If he is convicted, he could get up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500 on each obscenity charge. Anyone know the value of a 1998 Green Honda Civic?

Here's a link to the Times-Picayune article:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Indian Women Beat Politician Accused Of Rape

So, you think you're having a bad day? Be happy that you're not Indian politician Bikram Singh Brahma.

Brahma is accused of "seducing and subsequently raping" a married woman. It's unclear whether Brahma actually "raped" the woman or whether the relationship was consensual. Brahma is reported to have been sexual with the woman for sometime and allegedly strung her along by making her promises of a high position in government. Certainly not the first time that a politician has lied or used his position to get into another position with a woman. Here in Louisiana, they make movies about our politicians and their philandering ways and soon we'll have a new "reality" show starring former Governor Edwin Edwards and his less than 1/2 his age 3rd wife.

What is unusual about this case in India is that the public actually took the law into their own hands. Women are caught on camera beating Brahma, while men in this village just looked on. The women also ripped off Brahma's shirt in an attempt to shame him.

Here's a link to the story on GlobalPost and a video:

Do you think that we in America could learn something from this story? Perhaps we could walk up and punch our elected officials when we know they are lying to us? It doesn't need to be hard or draw blood - just enough to bruise or leave a mark and let them know that we know they're lying.

Of course, the humiliation of being bruised might make some politicians get out of office but, maybe that's exactly what we need right about now.

I've got my video camera. Who wants to punch a politician?