It must be extremely difficult to lead the life of contradictions and hypocrisy that is Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni.
Without delving into his personal contradictions and demons, and there are many, the Mayor can’t figure out who he wants to be when he grows up.
That is, if he ever does.
Despite repeated claims to be a “Conservative”, Yenni has attempted to double property taxes, grown the size of Kenner government by adding unqualified political appointees, failed to take any responsibility or provide any leadership as The Esplanade and other retail areas are vacant, took on the largest debt in Kenner’s history without voter approval, promoted the extension of the CCC toll for another 20 yearsand plowed through an ill-conceived 2030 Plan that has no basis to support his concept of a revitalized Kenner.
That doesn’t sound very “Conservative” to me.
Four years ago, after his property tax plan was trounced by Kenner voters, Yenni tried to hide behind his hand-picked “Streamlining Budget Committee”, led by his pal, former JP Assessor Lawrence Chehardy, as the Committee recommended closing 6 of Kenner’s playgrounds.
Yenni failed in his attempt to portray himself as the White Knight, or Good Witch if you prefer that analogy, by offering to close only 3 playgrounds, all in Districts 1 and 2 and serving predominantly minority neighborhoods.
The public blasted Yenni’s plan and the playgrounds were spared, although one was leased to a third-party.
Now, Yenni is at it again in his continued attempt to close more playgrounds.
This time, as before, Yenni is hiding. Only there's no committee.
Yenni is hiding behind Freshman District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato, who Yenni supported and is a member of Yenni’s “Consensus Team”.
In doing so, Yenni spares himself of any community pushback. If there is pushback, it was Impastato’s idea. If there is none, Yenni will ultimately claim credit and the media will hail him for his “Progressive” idea.
As a candidate for Parish President, Yenni can't be known as the Mayor who demolished Kenner's Recreation Department in addition to being known as the Mayor who tried to double property taxes and took on the largest debt in Kenner's history.
That would certainly make an interesting campaign theme. Vote for me - I tried to double property taxes. This time, I will succeed!
But, we all know that anything that goes before the Kenner City Council for a vote that is not authored by District 1 Councilman Gregory Carroll, is really Yenni’s plan in drag.
Oops, did I just say that?
Well, you know what I mean.
Impastato is claiming that the playgrounds that he is seeking to “privatize” are under-utilized and can’t field teams. He also claims that because Kenner has so many playgrounds, and so many teams, that it can’t field a travel team.
While it may be true that not every playground can field a full football squad, that doesn’t mean that the teams of a few playgrounds couldn’t be merged.
And, the idea that Kenner couldn’t field a travel team is laughable.
Many cities Kenner’s size and smaller, have travel teams of All Star players in several sports from several playgrounds and neighborhoods.
Impastato wants Kenner to have a baseball travel team. And it should.
The problem is that it could without giving up city assets.
So, Impastato’s claim is false. Unfortunately, the media didn’t call him on his flawed premise.
No, in fact Ben Myers from Nola.com revealed that Kenner is already seeking to divest a “lagging” playground.
Recreation Director Ken Marroccoli, a former police officer with no governmental administration experience, would not disclose which playground the city wants to give up.
This is the same Ken Marroccoli who, as Recreation Director, sought to sell the naming rights to a playground that Kenner didn’t even own.
Yeah, that’s not fraud or anything.
Perhaps Yenni should move Marroccoli to the new position of “Director of Street and Median Naming Rights”. Marroccoli’s first task could be getting a snazzy sponsor to pony up the big bucks to rename I-10.
I-10 just sounds so, I don’t know, Federal.
While Marroccoli wouldn’t say which playground the Yenni Administration was seeking to divest, it’s a solid bet that it will be one serving a minority neighborhood.
Yenni would never close a playground in a non-minority area.
A question that needs to be answered is, if Yenni's closes/leases/sells playgrounds will he also cut Marriccoli's significant salary?
No, I don't think so either.
Marroccoli cited declines in population as the reason for Kenner’s need to close playgrounds.
And here’s another of Mike Yenni’s contradictions.
At a time when Yenni is seeking to “transform” Kenner and bring in young families, he continues to want to close playgrounds and limit recreational opportunities.
When people select where they want to live or move to, there are several factors involved including how much house they can afford, the amount of property taxes, the age of housing stock available, public safety, recreation, employment opportunities, proximity to retail, etc.
Kenner has an old and aging housing stock; the Mayor is closing playgrounds; and he has done nothing to attract quality jobs or improve Kenner’s commercial blight problem.
And, let's not forget Yenni's frequently repeated statement that "Kenner is a dying city".
Who would want to move to a "dying city" with a dying mall and retail climate, and that is closing and selling/;easing city playgrounds?
I’d say it will take more that bike paths to the lake and some flowers in medians to attract young families to Kenner.
And, while Kenner is a relatively safe community, Kenner’s Fire Department requires significant investments in equipment, buildings and personnel. All have been neglected by Yenni.
But, if there’s no money in it for Yenni or his political contributors or the promise of more political appointees, the KFD like Kenner’s Recreation Department, will continue to languish.
And Yenni, who has already burdened Kenner residents with 30 years of debt tied to declining sales tax revenue, will continue selling off or leasing buildings and land that Kenner taxpayers own and use.
But, what does he care?
He doesn’t want to be Kenner’s Mayor anyway.