Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Kenner Bond Debt: The Aftermath

Ok, it’s been almost a week since the State Bond Commission and the Kenner City Council voted to approve Mayor Mike Yenni’s plan to increase the city’s debt by 32% and borrow $27 Million plus an additional $17 Million in interest through the year 2033 to fund beautification and aesthetic projects presumably designed to stem the tide of 30-year of outmigration from Kenner.

As you know if you’ve read this blog before, I strongly advocated for the Mayor and the Council to provide more information to the people of Kenner so they could be informed about Mayor Yenni’s plan. Since Mayor Yenni didn’t need a public vote, as is required in many cities including Lake Charles, I thought that the people of Kenner deserved more input into this plan, including deciding whether they wanted to incur this much debt for the next 20 years.
But, that part is over now.

The Council voted 6 – 1 in favor of Mayor Yenni’s plan with 1st District Councilman Gregory Carroll stating that, while some of his constituents supported the plan, many more were concerned about the amount of debt that would be handed down to their children and grandchildren.
According to Mayor Yenni, the City will be able to sell the bonds in June and get the money shortly thereafter.

So, now that there’s a lull in the process, this is the perfect time to ask once again for the Mayor and the Council to poll the people of Kenner. If he desired and wanted public support for his plan, Mayor Yenni could send out a full-color mail piece, describe the proposed projects and their costs, and ask the public if they wanted these projects or not. Maybe, just maybe, the people might have different or better ideas for their money.
Perhaps now, we can put aside the “concepts” and show the citizens of Kenner what Mayor Yenni is actually proposing for his $65 Million bond deal (including the refinancing of about $14 Million in debt that would have expired in 2018). Perhaps we can set aside the Photoshopped pictures and get to reality.
That is, if Mayor Yenni actually cared about what the people of Kenner wanted.
As 4th District Councilwoman Maria DeFranchesch has said on multiple occasions, “These projects aren’t written in stone.“

Why not get public input? Why not hold more town hall meetings? By most estimates, about 120 – 150 people attended the 2 town hall meetings Mayor Yenni held after the Council voted on the Resolutions to move forward with the bond debt (which the Mayor had already done in advance of the vote anyway).

120 – 150 people means there are still 66,000 other Kenner residents that still know little about this plan (except those “lucky” enough to find Mayor Yenni's "concept" video while flipping through the channels on Cox Cable and landing on KTV).
In addition to seeking more input themselves, the Council should also take steps to ensure that whatever projects are put before them are completely open and transparent and that the bid process is completely inclusive to ensure that the people of Kenner are getting the most bang for their debt-laden buck. No member of Mayor Yenni’s Economic Development Committee should be allowed to bid or profit from their participation in this plan. I know that’s wishful thinking on my part but, I can dream about an open and transparent Kenner Government.

If the projects “aren’t written in stone” now really is the perfect time to get more public input, hold more town hall meetings, and really poll the people of Kenner to find out what they want.
After all, it’s their money, right?