Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Merry West Bank Christmas

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during my 8 years or so of writing ClickJefferson.com it’s that I could write a critical column every day of the week if I desired.

After all, this is Louisiana and this is a (primarily) political blog.

And, since we continue to have the “Gold Standard” of Ethics (thanks again, Governor Jindal!), there is ALWAYS new material. If I ever tire of going to the State Ethics Board web site and looking up what candidates spend other people’s money on, there’s always a Jefferson Parish, Kenner, Gretna, Harahan or even Westwego Council meeting right around the corner.

Yeah, it’s easy to criticize when there’s so much material out there.

And, I know that I’m a grenade thrower. When the mainstream media is literally in bed with the powers that be (they can’t criticize or their access will be denied), someone needs to be.

What’s funny to me, whether I’m the one criticizing or not, is to watch the reactions (and actions) of politicians when they are criticized.

I’m not a politician, although I have run (unsuccessfully) for office. I’ve never received or even sought a contract with any governmental organization. But, I get more than my share of criticism.

Unlike many politicians, I don’t take it personally.

At a Mayoral Forum this Spring, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni was asked to say one positive or nice thing about me.

Just one.

Now, knowing how petulant and vindictive Yenni is, I was curious myself to hear what he would say about me, arguably his biggest critic.

Well, maybe I’m tied with Jack Zewe for that 'honor'.

As the audience (and I) listened intently to hear what platitude Yenni would throw my way, the Mayor declined to answer.

That’s right – he couldn’t come up with one good thing to say about me.

Not a positive comment about my civic activism.

Not even a positive comment about my use of grammar and punctuation.

No, Mayor Yenni couldn’t say one nice thing about me.

And, that’s sad.

When I was asked the same question, I doubled down and came up with two positive comments about Yenni.

“I think he’s done a great job getting low-interest DEQ loans to improve Kenner’s sewerage system. We’ve received far more than many cities have,” I said.

“And, his hair is thicker than mine.”

Ok, the hair thing might be a stretch, but, at least 2 is more than 0.

The truth is that I don’t write a lot of positive commentaries about politicians. By definition, they are supposed to be “public servants” so they should be doing good things on a daily basis anyway without me writing about it.

Not to spoil politicians or risk the criticism from you that I’m going “soft”, I read a 'feel good' story today on Nola.com about some politicians that I have criticized in the past.

Since it is the Christmas Season and the reality is that I probably don’t do this enough, I thought I would share it.

We can always go back to our regularly scheduled criticism in the New Year. 

Through the years, I have been critical of West Bank State Rep Bryan Adams. We’re not going to rehash those issues here but, I will say that during the past year I’ve learned a lot about Adams and his character.

Early this year when I was seeking support for the Louisiana Property Insurance Clarity Act (a bill that was passed to make homeowner’s insurance more transparent and allow consumers to learn how much insurance companies collected in premiums and spent on claims in their zip code and parish), I reached out to Rep. Adams. The truth is, I reached out to many State Reps and Senators across the state.

Given my past criticism, I didn’t expect Adams to respond.

To my surprise, not only did he respond, he was enthusiastic about the bill and agreed to arrange a meeting with himself and fellow State Rep. Jeff Arnold to discuss it.

Despite our differences, both State Rep Adams and State Rep Arnold, were very supportive of the bill and it passed. We’ll begin to see numbers later this Spring.

I’ve also been critical of the actions of former State Rep and current JP Councilman Ricky Templet and State Senator David Heitmeier.

For the past several years the three, along with several West Bank organizations, have organized a program to donate bikes to needy children at Christmas.

This year, over 850 bikes were distributed to West Bank children.

There’s a quote from Marrero resident Sandy Terrebonne that summed up the thoughts of many of the participants.

"We don't have much. My son, who has autism, has never had a bike," Terrebonne said. "This is his Christmas."

"The bike giveaway is important for families who are struggling," Adams said. "It's a great community event with a lot of hard work from volunteers."

And, that’s what the Spirit of Christmas is all about.  

Thanks to Rep Adams, Councilman Templet, State Senator Heitmeier and Gretna Mayor Belinda Constant for being true public servants this Christmas and thanks to all the organizations, churches and businesses that helped support this effort and make Christmas special for many West Bank families.