Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Slidell, Sulphur Lower Garbage Rates; Kenner Residents Not So Lucky Due To Mike Yenni

Last night, the Slidell City Council authorized Mayor Freddy Drennan to sign off on a new garbage contract that reduces residential rates by $.50 per month. The new rate will clock in at $18.81 per month. The city currently receives twice-weekly service and recycling.

In May, the City of Sulphur approved a new trash collection contract that reduced residential rates by $2.50 per month. The new rate is $14.39 per month for 1x weekly pickup and does not include curbside recycling.

Thanks to Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and his renewal of the City’s trash contract in 2012 with Ramelli (a campaign contributor to Yenni) without putting the contract out for competitive bid, there are no reductions in sight for Kenner residents.

In June 2012, even the Times-Picayune’s Editorial Board, which foolishly endorsed Yenni not once but twice, blasted his handling of the Ramelli extension. They called Yenni’s claims that Kenner might jeopardize its relationship with Ramelli if the City sought new bids “bogus”.

"Kenner residents are paying less per month than their counterparts in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, New Orleans and other metro area localities. But they are reportedly paying more than some local communities, including Westwego and St. Charles Parish. That suggests that a better price could be available.

Mayor Yenni argued that the city risked losing Ramelli's competitive price if it sought proposals from other companies. That's bogus. Kenner could have tested the market and agreed to renew the existing contract only if a better offer didn't come along. And in almost every case, local governments that have opened professional contracts to competition in recent years have saved money.

Indeed, when Kenner in 2010 opened its auditing contract for competition, the city's annual cost dropped 19 percent."

In addition, despite a stipulation in the contract to the contrary, the City continues to pay Ramelli hundreds of thousands in “Fuel Adjustments” that began in 2008, less than 1 year after Ramelli began picking up Kenner’s trash.

Ramelli also illegally operated for over a year without a performance bond, which was also part of their original contract. This discrepancy was only caught after then City Attorney Keith Conley reread the contract when Ramelli asked for the fuel adjustment payments.

This could have cost the City of Kenner millions if Ramelli had walked away from the contract. 

At the time, then Council President Joe Stagni said, "This is one of the biggest and most important contracts we have. To not have a performance bond is not a simple oversight. It put the city's finances at risk."

Why Conley also didn’t note the illegal “Fuel Adjustments” is a subject of debate.  

Then Mayor Ed Muniz (and CAO Mike Yenni) took no action against Ramelli’s illegal operation – no fines, no sanctions, nothing. They simply told Ramelli that, now that you’re caught, you need to fix things.

Kenner residents shouldn’t expect any further scrutiny into Ramelli’s affairs. The company contributed $1,000 to then District 4 and current incoming Councilwoman-At-Large Maria DeFranchesch; $300 each to incoming District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur and District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato; and $5,000 to Yenni.


Currently, Kenner residents pay about $12 per month for 2x weekly pickup (whether they need it or not) and curbside recycling is available through another company for an additional $2.50 per week fee. In addition, Kenner residents also pay a property tax millage for trash pickup.

Yenni failed to include curbside recycling in the contract extension with Ramelli and has instead opted for recycling bins scattered across the city for residents to use. In addition to the added inconvenience, Kenner also is forced to pay Ramelli to pickup the recycled material. 

Last year, Kenner moved $40,000 from the Code Enforcement Department's Demolition fund to pay for recycling. 

If you choose to pay for curbside recycling, a Kenner resident’s monthly fee for trash collection would range from $22 – 24.50, or as much as 30% higher than Slidell’s new agreement, without factoring in the property tax.

At a Mayoral Debate in March 2014 sponsored by, Yenni said, "We have the best garbage contract in the region."  

Obviously, the numbers don’t support his claims.

The City of Gretna is currently working on a new trash collection contract that will lower resident’s rates to $14.50 per month, including curbside recycling.

St. Charles Parish, with a population of 52,780 and a population density of 186 people per square mile, pays $9.75 per month per residence.

St. John the Baptist Parish residents pay $11.60 per month. St. John has a population of 45,924 with a population density of 163.75 people per square mile.

Slidell has a population of 27,000 and their population density is 1,828.9 people per square mile. As mentioned, Slidell’s new trash collection rate is $18.81 per month including curbside recycling.

Kenner, with a population of 66,000 and a population density of 4,659 people per square mile, dwarfs these other areas and, logically, should pay significantly less since the population is denser meaning that there are lower pickup costs for the collector. Ramelli can use less trucks and manpower to cover more houses.

Obviously, that overhead savings isn’t being returned to Kenner residents in the form of lower monthly bills.


Per the original 2007 contract with Ramelli, Kenner residents were supposed to receive new, 96-gallon containers beginning on October 29th, 2007. The entire city was supposed to have their old containers replaced during the nextgarbage pickup cycle.

"Ramelli plans to provide the burgundy and white containers to all residents starting on October 29 who are on the Monday/Thursday pickup route. In case delivery to all residents is not completed on Monday, the replacement will continue on Thursday - the route's second pickup day.

This same procedure will be used to continue delivering new containers to residents who have a Tuesday/Friday pickup and a Wednesday/Saturday pickup route until all the new containers are distributed throughout Kenner."

While some residents have received new containers, after 7 years, over 40% of the city still uses old Waste Management trash containers that were distributed before Hurricane Katrina.

I actually called Ramelli today to request a replacement for my cracked, per-Katrina, Waste Management container. Since my container has been cracked for months (and was actually cracked by Ramelli employees during a pickup), I expected that they would note the damage and automatically bring me a new trash bin.

That isn’t the case.

The woman that I spoke with at Ramelli was very nice and took down my information. She noted that there was a list of people who requested new trash bins and she would forward my information up to a supervisor.

Despite the fact that in Ramelli’s original 2007 contract they promised to replace all trash bins (and factored that cost into their bid), it seems that Kenner residents who want a new trash container are put on a list and distributed new containers as Ramelli purchases them.

This, "Pay-As-You-Go" policy, instead of the original, contracted total replacement of all old trash bins, also saves Ramelli money. 


Ramelli operated illegally and wasn’t sanctioned by former Mayor Ed Muniz and then-CAO Mike Yenni, is receiving illegal “Fuel Adjustment” payments, has not lived up to its contract and Kenner residents are NOT receiving the lowest rates possible.

Yet, Mayor Mike Yenni still extended Ramelli’s contract tying the City’s hands, and finances, for an additional 5 years. The current extension runs through 2017.

One good thing did occur after Yenni’s unilateral approval of the Ramelli contract extension was uncovered: in November 2012, Kenner residents approved a Charter Change by a 73-27% margin to take steps to ensure that no Mayor can enter into professional services contracts over $100,000 without Council approval and an opportunity for the public to comment.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mike Yenni, Kenner’s “Name-Caller-In-Chief”, Lashes Out Again

I’ve written in the past about Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s name-calling towards me. Even, which despite repeated editorials slamming Yenni endorsed his candidacy not once but twice, took a swipe at Yenni’s pettiness.

I've always laughed off Yenni’s name-calling ("Self-proclaimed vigilante" is my personal fave) and viewed it as a sign of immaturity and insecurity. I mean, after all, the guy has led a sheltered life. How many 30-somethings are there in the world who have never held a job in the real world or had the spark of an idea and wanted to start a business? And that’s not even bringing up the whole name-changing deal.

Yeah, not all of my businesses have been successful but, at least I’ve tried. And, my parents had an acrimonious divorce but I never changed my name to disavow my father.

Yenni has always shown a pattern of personally attacking his enemies and those who disagreed with him. He can’t debate and win on the issues. It’s always his way or, well, you know the rest.

He has systematically gone after private citizens who worked to defeat his proposal to double Kenner’s property taxes and Kenner City Councilmembers who dared to question or vote against him.

Rather than stop acting like a 4-year-old playground bully and grow up, Yenni continues to resort to doing what he does best, name-calling.

In a article that discusses a proposed new law to force the Mayor to disclose all legal financial settlements with the Kenner City Council, rather than debate the merits of the issue, Yenni slithers back to the gutter in his attempt to stave off another attempt at making Kenner’s City Government more transparent and holding himself accountable.

Discussing an old case, Yenni claims that Kenner District 2 Councilman Joe Stagni, a Chiropractor in real life, is not qualified to offer his opinion on legal matters.

"(Former City Attorney) Keith Conley is an attorney. Joe is a chiropractor," Yenni said. "I believe the legal minds we hire -- that are approved by the council -- are the ones that should make the decisions, based on their knowledge of the legal system."

I’m sorry Mayor Yenni but I’ll take the opinion of a Doctor over someone who has never held a non-appointed or elected job or owned a business in his life especially when that Doctor-Councilman is probably the hardest working and most studied member of the Council.

Rather than discuss the facts of the ordinance and that the Council doesn’t want to advise the City Attorney or provide him with legal advice, Yenni would rather take a personal shot at an outgoing Councilman.

The proposed ordinance that Yenni is fighting calls for the City Council to be advised of proposed settlements and to make the Council aware of where the money to pay the settlement is coming from, not offer legal advice.

Only in Yenni’s mind can notifying the elected governing authority, the Kenner City Council, about anything, let alone a Federal lawsuit, be a bad thing.

In fact, Yenni actually believes that outgoing District 5 Councilman Kent Denapolis was out of line in even proposing an ordinance discussing transparency without Mayor Yenni’s prior approval.

"I think Mr. Denapolis should have had the courtesy to contact my office before he even introduced something like this," Yenni said. "Because last time I checked he is a furniture salesman."

Excuse me?

Did Mayor Yenni just say that Councilmen need to discuss proposed laws with him BEFORE they introduce them? Does Yenni have to give his stamp of approval before a law can move forward? 

Is this what Kenner residents have to look forward to for the next four years with Yenni and his “Consensus Team” (DeFranchesch, Conley, Cline, Impastato and Sigur) on the City Council?

I’m sorry but I want a City Council that will represent the people of Kenner and not simply be a rubber stamp for an autocratic 4-year-old schoolyard bully dressed in a Seersucker suit, who has ZERO real world experience. I want a Council that will debate with and hold the Mayor accountable.

It makes little difference to me what Councilman Denapolis does for a living or the other Councilmembers for that matter. They were elected by the people of Kenner, the same as the Mayor, and they approve the City budget. They should know what they are paying for instead of it being hidden and swept under the rug by Mayor Yenni.

How many other lawsuits have been filed by citizens and lost by the City of Kenner? How many tax dollars have been paid out in lawsuits that might have embarrassed Yenni or members of his Administration?

And, if a member of Yenni’s Administration is sued and loses, especially in a case where it is determined that he lied to a member of the public, why is that person still employed? Doesn't the City of Kenner have an employee handbook that addresses "embarrassing the City" or "lying to the people who pay your salary"?

How many other times has Kenner Fire Chief John Hellmers been sued and how much has it cost the people of Kenner?

Why doesn’t the City Council have a right to know that?

And, why don’t the people of Kenner know?