Sunday, May 5, 2013

CCC Toll Crushed

It’s a beautiful Spring Sunday in Jefferson Parish. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the People have spoken – AGAIN.

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again” and that’s how I felt last night watching the election returns come in.
Two Springs ago, a ragtag group of 12 Kenner residents beat back the political machine and defeated Mayor Mike Yenni’s plan to double property taxes. 6 taxes were defeated, many by a margin of 70 – 30%. This vote saved Kenner residents and business owners about $12 Million per year in added property taxes.

Yesterday, another group of citizens led by Mike Teachworth and Patrick Hand, one-upped the vote in Kenner and defeated the plan to extend the toll on the Crescent City Connection Bridge for another 20 years.
In November, the original vote to extend the toll won by 36 votes with almost 309,000 votes cast. Yesterday, with an energized West Bank, the toll was defeated 77.45% to 22.55%.

Unlike November however, when Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes voted against the toll but Orleans Parish voted for it, this time Orleans Parish voters came along for the ride too.
In fact, only two precincts in the three parish voting area voted FOR the continuation of the toll, and they were in Orleans Parish.

Plaquemines Parish, led by early No Toll supporter President Billy Nungesser, voted 86.5% to 13.5% against the toll. Jefferson Parish, also led by a Parish President in John Young that was also an early No Toll supporter, voted 81.3% to 18.7% also crushing the toll. In Orleans Parish, where Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his Pro Toll supporters like Jackie Clarkson saw the writing on the wall and kept quiet this vote, sent the toll to defeat by a 69% to 31% margin.
While it was expected that the West Bank of Jefferson would get out the vote to end the toll, the shift on the East Bank was significant.

In Harahan, November’s vote was Against the toll by a slim 51 – 49% margin. This time, Harahan voters defeated the toll again but by a 74.4 – 25.6% margin. While turnout was lower, the margin grew from 84 votes Against to 900 votes Against.
In November, Kenner voters approved the extension by a 50.6 – 49.4% margin. Yesterday, Kenner voters defeated the toll by a 76.4 – 23.6% margin. Again, with lower turnout, the vote still swung significantly. The vote margin in Kenner flipped from 227 For the toll extension to 2,023 Against the toll.

In Kenner, 5 Kenner City Councilman (Michele Branigan, Gregory Carroll, Kent Denapolis, Keith Reynaud and Joe Stagni) publicly came out in support of ending this unfair and unnecessary tax.  Citizens For a Better Kenner (of which I am President), also strongly advocated for the NO Vote.
Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, Police Chief Steve Caraway and Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn all supported the toll extension and, like their counterparts in Orleans Parish, read the tea leaves and knew they were going to lose this vote, so rather than “man up” and stick to their convictions, they sat this one out.

In fact, all of the elected officials in JP who spun their gloom and doom tales about the CCC and the need for the toll to be extended for another 20 years all sat silently like their brothers in Kenner and Orleans.
Perhaps ace Political Consultant Greg Buisson determined that not enough money could be raised to make it worth his while to fight the toll extension this time.

Buisson, who worked extensively with Bridging Progress, the Pro-Toll PAC funded by several prominent Jefferson Parish business owners, business groups and elected officials, was the longtime Political Consultant of disgraced former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, former JP Councilman Byron Lee and current disgraced St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan. Lee and Galvan aren’t  in jail – yet.
Buisson’s clients also include Jefferson Parish Assessor Tom Capella, JP Councilmen Paul Johnston, Chris Roberts, Ricky Templet and Ben Zahn, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway and Kenner Councilwoman Maria DeFranchesch along with former Kenner Mayors Ed Muniz and Louis Congemi, and Kenner Police Chief Nick Congemi.

When I think of Buisson, I’m reminded of an old joke.
A man is sitting in a bar and he says to a woman, “Would you sleep with me for $100?”

The woman says, “$100? Of course not.”
The man says, “Well, would you sleep with me for $1,000?”

The woman replies, “No.”
The man again asks, “Would you sleep with me for $1 Million dollars?”

The woman says, “Ok.”
The man says, “Well, to be honest, I only have $60 bucks on me. Will you take it?”

The woman says, “No, what do you think, I am a common street corner prostitute?”
The man says, “We’ve already determined what you are. Now, we’re just negotiating the price.”

If you’re an elected official or aspiring politician, and you’ve got money, Greg Buisson will sleep with you. Buisson was also the Media Mastermind behind Hilary Landry's defeat last night in the 24th JDC Division D race to Scott Schlegal.
Of course, when you lie down with dogs, you’re bound to catch some fleas.

But, I digress.
This post is about a group of citizens who, despite the odds, fought for a revote and then mobilized to ensure success. It truly was Democracy in action. They are truly to be commended.

From the volunteers who phone banked and made thousands of calls to likely voters, to the sign wavers on corners, to the people behind the scenes who did the heavy lifting and kept everyone organized, to the people who squeezed donated nickels into quarters for signs and literature, to the contributors who donated, Thank You!
Thank You to the hundreds of volunteers who gave of their time so they could help beat this unfair tax.
Thank You for ending 20 more years of wasted spending.

Thank You to the voters who came out and voted on a Saturday when there really wasn’t much else to vote on.  
Thank You for your part in defeating this unfair tax and allowing us all to keep more of our money in our pockets and not in the pockets of the politicians.

It is our money. Thanks for reminding the politicians of that fact.

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