Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hypocrisy Rules The Day On Kenner Council

At almost every Kenner City Council meeting, at least one item on the agenda is deferred for one reason or another. Often, a Councilmember needs more time to learn about the item. Sometimes, they will defer an item to give the author more time to line up enough votes to get the item passed. Many times, the Kenner Council defers items without giving a reason or “as a courtesy” to another Councilmember.

It’s a common occurrence.
 This past meeting, the Kenner City Council voted 7 – 0 to defer some new regulations on taxi cabs. No reason was given and there was no public discussion. After the meeting, District 4 Councilwoman Maria DeFranchesch told The Advocate that she didn’t want to pass an ordinance only to revise it in the future.

“I believe it’s inappropriate and totally wrong to vote on something unless you have a copy of it,” and it is complete, DeFranchesch said.
I buy that. The Council did too and the item was deferred.

About two months, District 2 Councilman Joe Stagni reintroduced legislation to move the boundaries of 2 precincts within his district. Previously, Councilman Stagni had introduced this same legislation but deferred it because another governing body was not ready for it. When they said that they were ready, Councilman Stagni reintroduced it.
Sounds like a simple bill, right? Move one precinct’s boundaries about 2 blocks, impact about 110 voters, and make it easier for them to get to their new polling place. Council President Jeannie Black supported the legislation saying, “Anything that makes it easier for people to vote, I am in favor of.”

But District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud said – SLOW DOWN.
Reynaud, whose district wouldn’t be affected by this change in boundaries, said that he didn’t have enough time to study this issue. He said that he just received the legislation on Monday and that the Thursday meeting just wasn’t long enough.

Councilman Reynaud asked Councilman Stagni and the rest of the Council to grant him a “courtesy” deferral so he could take more time.
Now, again, this change in boundaries was for 2 precincts within Councilman Stagni’s district, they weren’t near Councilman Reynaud’s district and wouldn’t impact him or his constituents at all.

Councilwoman Black again said that she supported the legislation and would be voting for it but, as a “courtesy” (there’s that word again) to Councilman Reynaud, she would vote FOR the deferral.
Councilman Stagni was mildly upset but, he too said that he would support the deferral as a “courtesy” to Councilman Reynaud.

So, the entire Kenner City Council was willing to hold up legislation that would impact about 110 people, people who supported the change in boundaries, and that the Council President said would make it easier for these people to vote, all as a “courtesy” so Councilman Reynaud could have more time to “study” legislation that didn’t impact him, his residents or his district.
That’s what makes the situation at Thursday’s council meeting so puzzling.

Mayor Yenni introduced a Resolution calling for the Council to approve fast-tracking his plan to increase the city’s debt by 32% and bond out 75% of Kenner’s sales tax revenue through the year 2033 to finance some beautification projects.
Councilwoman DeFranchesch said, “The projects that were mentioned (in the Mayor’s plan) are not written in stone,” yet the Resolution clearly calls for Kenner to ask the State Bond Commission to approve Kenner bonding “an amount not to exceed $47 Million”. The $47 Million figure is eerily close to the projected cost of $46.4 Million for Mayor Yenni’s plan.

“All this is, is a dialogue; it is not a commitment,” Defrancesch said.
So, if the projects aren’t “written in stone”, doesn’t that also mean that, like the Taxi legislation that Councilwoman DeFranchesch and the rest of the Council deferred earlier in the meeting, the Mayor’s plan could very well be changed and revised as we go along?

Since it is also incomplete and will be revised, shouldn’t Councilwoman DeFranchesch (and the rest of the Council) want to defer this Resolution too?
Makes sense to me, probably you as well. That’s the problem.

I guess that it also made sense to Councilmen Stagni and District 1 Councilman Gregory Carroll too. Unfortunately, they were the only 2 Councilmen that it did make sense to.
Councilman Stagni introduced an Amendment (seconded by Councilman Carroll), to defer the Resolution until he had time to poll his residents and see if they actually wanted to take on so much debt for these projects proposed by Mayor Yenni.

“We got this piece of legislation on Monday; today is Thursday,” Councilman Stagni said. “We want to make it a transparent, open and collaborative process with the public and ninety-five percent of the people that this affects, they don’t really know what’s going on right now.”
“We are talking about refinancing and going into debt and strapping our children and grandchildren (with this debt),” Councilman Stagni continued. “Is it more important to do beautification projects or infrastructure?”

“It is our job (to get resident input); we’re the closest to our contstituents.”
Councilman Carroll talked about the length of his district and said that he, too, was not comfortable with the pace of the Resolution.

“It is my opinion that I still need more time,” Councilman Carroll said.
The other Kenner Councilmen disagreed.

Without elaborating on what specifically she had done to seek input and inform the resident of Kenner, Councilwoman-At-Large Michele Branigan said, “We’ve had time to discuss this with constituents.”
Councilwoman Branigan represents all of Kenner’s 66,000 residents.

Councilwoman DeFrancesch agreed. “There’s no purpose in deferring this. I don’t see the point to have a deferral. This is not the time.”
Claiming that the Mayor and Council were starting the process prematurely, Councilman Stagni made one last attempt to appeal to his fellow councilmen.

“This is a slap in the face to the numerous citizens who don’t know what’s going on,” Stagni said.
In the end, the Council voted 2-5 on the Deferral with only Councilmen Carroll and Stagni voting “FOR” the Deferral. Similarly, the Resolution authorizing the Bond Company to take the next steps with the State Bond Commission passed by a 5-2 vote with Councilmen Carroll and Stagni “Opposed”.

Despite not having any Town Hall meetings or any polling data, Mayor Yenni contended that “I have listened to the people.”

Late Friday afternoon, Mayor Yenni finally agreed to hold a single Town Hall meeting this Wednesday to discuss the plan with Kenner residents. According to his Facebook page, Councilman Reynaud is taking credit for setting up the Town Hall.
If you have questions about the 2030 plan that has been proposed by the economic development committee please come to this meeting that I asked the Mayor to set up,” the Councilman’s Facebook page said.

So, the only Town Hall that the public is invited to to discuss the largest debt issuance in Kenner history wasn't even Mayor Yenni's idea.

It sounds a bit hypocritical to me that Councilmen Black, Branigan, DeFranchesch, Denapolis and Reynaud, who also held ZERO Town Hall meetings with their constituents, sent out ZERO mail surveys, and did ZERO telephone polling, would not want to defer a Resolution on the largest issuance of debt in Kenner history when they previously sought deferrals on items that didn’t concern their districts, were also incomplete or delivered on a Monday for a Thursday vote as this item was.
Of course, we’re talking about Kenner so, I shouldn’t be surprised.

As I've said previously when discussing Mayor Yenni and his Administration:

"When you live in the land of hypocrisy, the skies are always sunny."

Sadly, for Kenner residents, the sun is shining in Yenniville.