Saturday, June 22, 2013

“A Self-Proclaimed Vigilante”

At Thursday’s Kenner City Council meeting, some statements were made regarding my lawsuit against the City of Kenner, Mayor Mike Yenni and the Kenner City Council over the sale of $47 Million in bonds for some beautification projects. These statements were printed online on and in Friday’s edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Please indulge me as I show you that these statements are lies and misinformation perpetuated by Mayor Yenni and have no basis in fact.
My Lawsuit is Costing the City ”as much as $2 Million in Financing Costs”

Prior to Thursday’s council meeting, Council President Jeannie Black approached me and made that claim. She said that she had heard that “from several people” but she would not disclose who those people were or how they arrived at that number. She asked me to stop the lawsuit and ask Mayor Yenni, during the televised meeting, to elaborate on what I was costing the city.
Obviously, I declined to do both which frustrated Councilwoman Black.

In the first case, myself, individually and as President of Citizens For a Better Kenner (CFBK) entered into the lawsuit. The CFBK Officers voted to pursue the litigation because they believed, as I do, that Kenner residents should have the right to vote on an important matter like this which will tie up $3.2 Million in sales tax revenue for the next 20 years.
While I could remove myself as a Plaintiff (which I wouldn’t because I believe that the residents of Kenner should have the right to vote), I couldn’t eliminate CFBK from the lawsuit unilaterally and without the approval of the other Officers.

Second, the litigation is ongoing, so I’m not going to make any public statements regarding it. In fact, my only statements here will be to refute these false allegations.
Since I refused to engage Mayor Yenni during the council meeting as Councilwoman Black requested, another council member, District 4 Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch, did.

During the discussion regarding the second reading of an ordinance to officially approve the sale of the bonds, Councilwoman DeFrancesch asked Finance Director Duke McConnell to discuss what the delay in selling the bonds due to my lawsuit had cost the city. Mr. McConnell estimated that it would cost the city an additional $1.5 – 2 Million in financing costs if the bonds were sold now versus what the city could have spent had it sold the bonds a month ago when I filed the lawsuit.
What neither noted was that the sale of the bonds involves a process, a process which is still not complete.

Thursday’s council meeting would have been the final piece in the process as the council would have voted to approve the sale of the bonds. Prior to the council passing this final hurdle, the bonds could not have been sold.
Yes, due to the lawsuit, the council deferred voting on the matter for 1 meeting. However, since the bonds couldn’t have been sold a month ago, without the council passing this ordinance and giving its approval for the actual sale of the bonds, any discussion regarding the interest rate, the financing costs, etc. are purely speculation.

Hypothetically, if I had not filed the lawsuit and the council had delayed giving the bonds their final approval, would Mayor Yenni be blaming the council for increasing these “phantom” costs?
Let me put this another way. Your boss tells you that, next month, you’re going to get a raise. Can you spend that money now or do you need to wait until the raise is actually in your paycheck and your bank account?

These bonds aren’t close to being in Kenner’s bank account yet and, without council approval, they wouldn’t be – with or without my lawsuit.
Yes it’s true that interest rates could rise before the bonds are sold. It’s also true that they could decline.

So, if the bonds haven’t been priced to determine their interest rate and if they haven’t been sold because the council hasn’t given them the final approval to be sold, how can anyone estimate what the lawsuit has cost the city when there are other variables to include?
Just as Mr. McConnell pulled a figure out of the air, I could also blame Mayor Yenni for costing the city Millions since he didn’t try to sell bonds a year ago when interest rates were even lower. 

But, you won’t see an article about that in the Times-Picayune.

“V for Vendetta or is it Vigilante?”
Since he has been mayor, Yenni has engaged in attempting to discredit anyone who opposes his ideas. He has even resorted to childish antics like name-calling.

It is no surprise that I am a lightning rod for the Mayor’s disapproval, or his name-calling.
In 2011, in Mayor Yenni’s column in the Kenner Star, Yenni criticized citizens who attend the council meetings and speak at the end of the meeting to address the council.

Yenni called these citizens, “a dozen or so well-practiced but familiar mouths that appear from meeting to meeting” and said, “we are hearing from a core group of constant complainers who seem choreographed to create chaos”. He even claimed that some council members were using these citizens as puppets.
Of course, when I asked Mayor Yenni who he was referring to, he denied that he was talking about me or any members of CFBK. However, at many council meetings, myself and other CFBK members are the majority of those, and sometimes the only citizens, who speak.

In addition, Mayor Yenni has labeled my group, Citizens For a Better Kenner, as “Bitter” and “Sinister”. He even said that CFBK should be called “CAVE – Citizens Against Virtually Everything”.
Thursday’s article on was posted at 8:25pm on 6/20 (Thursday). It was updated on Friday, June 21st at 11:16am to include the following paragraph:

‘In a statement, Yenni said, "It is disturbing that one man with a personal agenda can single-handedly act on his own behalf and claim that it is in the name of all people. Bennetti has cost Kenner millions of dollars. He is a self-proclaimed vigilante, but he's nothing more than vengeful and selfish."
I don’t know if the time lag in updating the article was so Mayor Yenni could call his Political Consultant Greg Buisson and write a statement or why Mayor Yenni couldn’t simply answer the Times-Picayune reporter’s questions at the council meeting as I did.

But, in any event, it seems that I have now progressed up the food chain from “Bitter” and “Sinister” to “Vengeful and Selfish” along with being “A self-proclaimed vigilante”.
Glad to know that Mayor Yenni is getting his money’s worth from his Political Consultant and that they are now using multi-syllable words and even hyphens.

Could someone please explain how advocating for a voter referendum makes me “selfish”? I’m not receiving Millions in government contracts for this work. I’m not receiving anything – in fact, this lawsuit is costing time and money. How is it “selfish” if you have nothing to gain except the right to vote on the future of your city?
Now, to be fair, I have been critical of Mayor Yenni on the radio, on TV, in print and, of course, online. But, I’m critical of a lot of people who I think are inept or corrupt and I’ve never personally attacked Mayor Yenni although I frequently attack his “ideas”.

Regarding inept politicians, I was critical of former Governor Kathleen Blanco who I believed was extremely inept. I was critical of former Kenner Mayor Ed Muniz who I believed not only was also inept but scored the Daily Double by also surrounding himself with people (like former CAO and current Mayor Yenni) who were even more inept than he was. Now that, is the mark of a true leader!
Speaking of Mayor Yenni’s background, prior to his appointment as CAO for then Mayor Muniz, Yenni’s claim to fame was being in charge of Jefferson Parish’s Mardi Gras Parades. I know that many of you will enjoy the irony in that bit of information.

And, I’ve also been critical of elected officials who I believe are both inept AND corrupt including former Parish President Aaron Broussard, former Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee and former State Senator Derrick Shephard. Long before two of the three (Broussard, Shephard) were indicted, I was critical of them.  
And, there have been many others. But, they are not whining about me in the media.

So, my criticism is not limited exclusively to the Mayor Mike Yenni. If it were, that would constitute a “vendetta”.
But, it’s not personal. I simply disagree with Mayor Yenni on many issues and basic philosopy.

Truthfully, I would disagree with any Mayor, whether they were named Yenni, Muniz, Capitano, Congemi,  or any name, if that Mayor

-         Expanded the illegal Executive Pay Plan even after myself and many others told him it was illegal and was costing Kenner over $250,000 a year. Finally, the Attorney General said it was illegal and Mayor Yenni had to eliminate it.

-          Tried to Double property taxes.

-         Tried to balance the city budget by closing playgrounds and limiting recreational opportunities for our youth instead of consolidating departments and eliminating costly perks for his political appointees.

-         Fought against good government Charter Changes that were approved by a 70-30% voter margin.

     -          Shifted Kenner’s Hotel/Motel tax to a group controlled by his Political Consultant instead    
             of forming or finding a Kenner group to exclusively promote Kenner.

-         Endorsed extending the Crescent City Connection tolls for an additional 20 years despite the bridge, and the toll money the bridge generating, having absolutely nothing to do with Kenner.

-         And is now trying to do an end run around city of Kenner residents by significantly increasing the city’s debt without a vote of the people.

So, while I am sorry if, disagreeing with Mayor Yenni when he claims to be a “Fiscally Conservative Republican” while attempting to double property taxes and mortgage Kenner’s future for some beautification projects that include public art in medians and bike paths to nowhere, makes me “Bitter”, “Sinister”, “Vengeful”, “Selfish” and, my personal favorite, “A self-proclaimed vigilante” (maybe that should be the slogan for my next political campaign should I ever run for office again), so be it.
The fact is, Mayor Yenni, members of his Administration, City Council members and his Political Consultant can call me all the names they want. They just can’t say that I’m wrong.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to debating the issues and leave the name-calling, the lies and the misinformation to the Mayor.
He does it much better than I ever could.