Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kenner Mayor Begins Constituent “Listening Sessions” By Showing Up Late

One year before his re-election campaign, and as part of his “2030 Vision”, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni began a series of “Listening Sessions”. Showing his true concern for hearing his constituents, the Mayor showed up over 30 minutes late to his own 1 hour meeting.

The Mayor was at a political endorsement meeting in Harahan.
Those in attendance, split about 50/50 between members of the public and City of Kenner employees, were led through a list of Kenner’s “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” (SWOT) compiled by the Mayor’s Economic Development Committee through a survey of their members, elected officials and the public.

The public was invited to choose from among several preselected answers to rank Kenner’s SWOT. According to the survey, here’s a breakdown of the results:
Kenner’s Strengths

-          Airport

-          Recreation

-          Public Safety

-          Convenience

-          Affordability

-          Entertainment

Kenner’s Weaknesses

-          Street aesthetics

-          Quality of schools

-          Job scarcity

-          Condition of commercial properties

-          Residential aesthetics

Kenner’s Opportunities

-          River and lake frontage

-          Airport

-          Esplanade Mall

-          “Boutique City” transformation (Obviously a "planted" answer as I don't think any Kenner residents would describe Kenner as a "Boutique City")

-          Redevelop blight

-          Corridor redevelopment

-          Redevelop Airport “Buy-out” properties

-          Improve Public Education

Kenner’s Threats

-          Negative perception

-          Inability to attract new generation

-          Disinvestment

-          Blight

-          Vacant commercial properties

-          Loss of major employers

It was obvious that the public did not like the preselected category answers as “Other” was the highest ranking option for each of the four categories.
After the presentation, Moderator Dominick Impastato III, an attorney and member of the Mayor’s Economic Development Committee, asked the audience if the committee had missed any possible options.

Questions and comments ranged included:
      -          The aesthetics on Williams Blvd.

-          Code enforcement, specifically “selective” code enforcement, the need for increased enforcement and enforcement on rental properties.

-          Kenner’s embrace of “Smart Growth” while other cities are rejecting this plan

-          Increasing entrepreneurship, small business opportunities and making Kenner more business friendly

-          Why Kenner is not participating in the “Pump To The River” program to help drain South Kenner after a storm or heavy rain

-          The high rate of teen unemployment
Members of the Mayor’s Administration were on hand to discuss issues raised by the audience.
Code Enforcement Director Tamithia Shaw described the complaint process and the steps that the city goes through before it can take corrective action on a residence.

Moderator Impastato also interjected that one of Kenner's Weaknesses and an Opportunity was to improve the political climate through "better collaboration and cooperation" between the Mayor and the City Council.

Of course, Impastato failed to note that Mayor Yenni is not the "King of Collaboration and Cooperation" either.

Where was the Mayor's "Collaboration and Cooperation" when he unilaterally renewed the Ramelli trash contract without any input from the council or the public and didn't even announce the renewal until it was disclosed by the media 6 months after the Mayor signed it?

Where was the Mayor's "Collaboration and Cooperation" when he fought the Council and the public when the Council proposed changing the City's charter to allow for Council review and public hearing on contracts valued at $100,000 and over that were previously signed off on by the Mayor without any input?

Where was the Mayor's "Collaboration and Cooperation" when he tried to double property taxes and wanted to close playgrounds so he could balance the budget without cutting any of his political appointees or their lucrative cell phone and auto allowances?

The Mayor’s Office is planning more such “Listening Sessions” in the future although none have been scheduled at this time.
As for me, I appreaciate that the Council doesn't always cooperate with the Mayor. In fact, I think this Council perhaps collaborates and cooperates too much with Mayor Yenni.
Dissent is not always a bad thing. Without citizen dissent, we would still be subjects of the Queen, and I'm not referring to Michelle Obama.
Hopefully, when the next meetings are scheduled, Mayor Yenni won’t have another candidate that he needs to endorse.