Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Yenni Wants To Keep Growing Kenner Government

Not content with already having more Department Directors than any other Mayor in Kenner’s history, Mike Yenni wants to add another department. 

Unfortunately for Kenner residents, it’s the wrong department.


Yes, that’s correct. Just a few short years after crying about how poor the City of Kenner is and trying to double property taxes, and continuing the ruse that he is a “Conservative”, Yenni wants to staff another new city department.

This time, rather than bringing the management of the Pontchartrain Center in-house and ending annual $400,000+ subsidies to multi-national corporation SMG; bringing tourism marketing in-house and having a dedicated tourism group for Kenner instead of diverting $150,000 annually to a group controlled by his campaign manager/political consultant; or bringing economic development in-house (which Yenni promised to do during his 2010 campaign) instead of diverting still more tax dollars to JEDCO (which should be assisting Kenner for free anyway since we, Jefferson Parish taxpayers, already foot their exhorbitant bill), Yenni wants to possibly create the new Department of Sewerage.

Now, I’m no raving fan of Veolia Water, the company that currently has the contract to manage Kenner’s water and sewer contract, but clearly Kenner has other priorities and could save more money and get better service by instituting other measures first.

Cutting the $400,000 annual subsidy to SMG would afford Kenner the opportunity to hire the 9 new firefighters needed to get 4-men-on-a-truck, a national standard that the KFD cannot meet now. Add  those SMG overpayments for the past 10 years and Kenner could have the newest fleet of fire trucks in Louisiana. 

Or Kenner could hire and equip more street-level police officers to get KPD above the 160 officer level that it has hovered at for years.

Or Kenner could make additional upgrades to the Kenner Recreation Department.

Instead, Kenner gets dog shows and gun and knife shows for a Convention Center that should be filling Kenner’s hotel rooms and generating Millions in economic impact for Kenner’s retailers and restaurants. You don’t need to fill up your gas tank or your feed bag if you’re driving in from Metairie.

The point that I’m trying to make is, Mayor Yenni isn’t proposing to create the Department of Sewerage for cost saving measures or to provide Kenner residents with markedly better service or lower bills – at least he hasn’t articulated those points.

"The functions of a sewerage department are being done right now.”

The article also notes:

Yenni said the creation of a department "could eventually lead to cost savings," but he declined to elaborate.

So, if the functions “are being done” and the Mayor can’t substantially quantify cost savings either to the city or its residents, and the City already has a Deputy CAO for Public Works who earns over $100,000 a year, why is proposing to create a Department of Sewerage a priority for Yenni?

"Nothing is happening other than giving us the authority to do that should we need to, and if we do it we are going to bring it to the council," Yenni said. "They will have to approve anything we do."

And Kenner residents can certainly sleep well knowing that the “Consensus Team” on the Kenner City Council will thoroughly scrutinize and vet every aspect of this proposal just as they thoroughly vetted the Millions of Professional Services Contracts that have gone before them for Yenni’s 2030 Plan without any discussion or comment at the Council meetings.

Well, I guess I can dream, can’t I?

Rather than analyze all aspects of Yenni’s proposal, and despite the fact that Yenni hasn't made a clear and compelling argument for even considering creating the Sewerage Department, I’m relatively certain that, while there may be some “Dog and Pony Show” for KTV, it will be a 7-0 or 6-1 vote to move forward.

Yenni will say, “The Council approved it” and, when the time comes, that will be that.

Yenni is always the first one to jump up and say, “The Charter says I can create departments”.

And, on that, he is correct.

But, having the ability to do something and justifying it to the people who elected you are two different things.

The Kenner City Charter, approved by voters in 2007, calls for 9 city departments – Law, Finance, Public Works, Fire, Police, Planning, Community Service, Personnel and Civil Service.

The Yenni Administration has 16 city departments – Law, Finance, Public Works, Fire, Police, Planning, Personnel, Civil Service, Purchasing, Fleet Management, Inspection and Code Enforcement, Community Development, Clerk of Court, Parks and Recreation, Office of Emergency Management and Information Technology & Telecommunications.

And, possibly, a 17th.

Each of the 16 city departments has a Director or Manager and the accompanying support staff (secretaries, clerks, etc.) and most have an Assistant Director too.

That number doesn't include the additional positions like Assistant Clerk of Courts that Yenni created or Public Information Officer that Yenni refilled after his handpicked Streamlining Budget Committee recommended the position be cut after Kenner voters overwhelmingly rejected his property tax scheme. 

During the recent Mayoral campaign, Yenni continued to tout how many positions he cut (while carefully avoiding the amount of political appointees that he increased).

Of course, that defies logic but, if you tell a lie loud enough and often enough, people will believe it. Enough voters and members of the media certainly believed it.

Here’s another Yenni whopper.

Despite the fact that Yenni claims that “Public Safety is my first priority” and his “Conservatism”, how can he rationalize the fact that he can add political appointees and create more staff positions but can’t afford additional firefighters to get to a national standard or increase the amount of street-level police officers?

The number of KPD officers has remained flat for the past several years and the KFD is undermanned and under equipped and the Fire Chief needs to move equipment from truck to truck to fake out State Fire Inspectors so Kenner can keep it's low 2 ranking.

If you took the amount that Yenni annually subsidizes SMG for the Pontchartrain Center and the amount that the City of Kenner overspends on new Department Directors (political appointees), staffing and benefits (and we know how expensive government benefits are) and spent that money on Public Safety, we could have larger and better equipped police and fire departments. 

 Yeah, I sure am glad that Yenni's "first priority" is Public Safety.

The problem is, Yenni will say whatever he needs to say to continue pulling the wool over the eyes of Kenner residents, and reporters.

Unfortunately for us, the partly elected/partly anointed Kenner City Council won’t do their jobs and scrutinize Yenni’s words and ‘plans’ and hold him accountable.

Until that day comes, if it ever does, Kenner will never get the government, or the public safety, we deserve.

Two things that you can believe: as long as Yenni is Mayor, his political allies will continue to feed at the Kenner trough and Kenner City Government will continue to grow.

Oh, and Yenni will keep telling everyone who will listen that he’s a “Conservative” and he’s reduced government.

But, you don’t need to be an expert on Common Core Math to know that 16 (or 17) is bigger than 9. 

Or that Public Safety isn't Mike Yenni's first, second, third or even 17th priority. 

And, unless you work at 1801 Williams Blvd., that just doesn't add up.