Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yenni Continues Playground Closing Crusade

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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mike Yenni: “I’m a Visionary”

No, that’s not a misprint or an April Fool’s joke. Those words actually came out of Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s mouth proving what an egotistical, delusional man he really is.

Less than a year after he was re-elected as Kenner Mayor, Yenni is already campaigning for the Parish President gig that is being vacated by John Young.

Aside from the fact that Jefferson Parish doesn’t need a “vision” or a "visionary" as Parish President, Yenni’s delusion of grandeur is laughably pathetic.

While his only other announced opponent, JP Councilman-At-Large Elton Lagasse, is hardly a visionary himself, at least Lagasse has significant administrative and government experience.

As the former head of JP’s School System, Lagasse oversaw a budget that was then only slightly smaller than the Parish budget he will oversee if elected. Lagasse has also spent 12 years on the Jefferson Parish Council giving him a significant leg up in the experience ladder.

And while Yenni has presided over a Kenner budget roughly 1/10th the size of JP’s, Yenni has never held a private sector job in his life or run a business.

But, we’ll have more time to delve even deeper into Yenni’s “experience” as we move closer.

For now, let’s focus on Yenni’s “vision”.

For the past 5 years in Kenner, Yenni’s “vision” has included:

-          Attempting to double Kenner’s property taxes and throwing a fit when the people rejected his plan. 

-          Attempting to close at least 3 Kenner playgrounds.

-          Significantly increasing the number of Kenner Departments and the number of political appointees while simultaneously cutting back on non-politically appointed employees.  You know, the ones who actually do the work in Kenner and keep Kenner running.

-          Sitting on his hands and watched as The Esplanade has withered.

-          Watching as Academy Sports left Kenner. 

-          Lying about Kohl’s coming to Kenner – 5 years ago. 

-          Shifting funds from the Kenner Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, closing it down, and funneling the money to the Jefferson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau controlled by his political consultant. 

-          Siphoning money from the Kenner Fire Department for the Pontchartrain Center and reluctantly gave the KFD some of the money back when Katrina insurance proceeds came in. That money was promptly squandered by Yenni’s incompetent Fire Chief, John Hellmers. 

-          Hiring an IT Director with no IT experience who was his former Secretary. 

-          Promoting the extension of the Crescent City Toll for another 20 years. 

-          Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds from contractors receiving city work on personal items including lavish meals, gifts and Mardi Gras beads (purchased from another contributor’s company) to enhance his personal lifetyle. 

-          Actively campaigning against Good Government Charter Changes approved by more than 70% of Kenner voters. 

-          Setting up bogus Streamlining Budget, Economic Development and Charter Review Committees comprised of his friends and allies instead of a mix of Kenner citizens.

-          Repeatedly circumventing Kenner’s Department Head Residency rule specified in the City Charter and affirmed by Kenner voters by hiring “Interim” Directors who seemingly last forever. 

-          Taking on the largest debt in Kenner’s history without a vote of the people and without first seeking State and Federal grants. This debt will take over $3 million a year in Kenner tax dollars away from Kenner’s budget through 2033. 

Yeah, that’s some “vision” alright.

Enrich your contributors and friends while robbing the people who elected you, attempting to leave your term early and spending time campaigning when you should be governing and trying to strengthen Kenner so it can pay for the debt you forced down our throats.

Is that the kind of “vision” Yenni thinks Jefferson Parish needs?

In his announcement, Yenni made even more ignorant comments as Nola.com’s Ben Myers illustrates here:

He also said he would prioritize blight remediation. "People will comply with the rules and regulations of their neighborhood, or they will deal with the consequences of being carefree and careless," Yenni said.

 A quick drive around Kenner shows that it has more residential and commercial blight than ever before and even more than after Katrina.

Until they conveniently fudged the numbers and recatigorized blight, Kenner had several hundred houses considered “blighted” and on the way to be torn down. Unfortunately, until this year, the Yenni Administration only allocated about $50k per year for demolition, or enough to do about 5-6 houses per year.

At that rate, Kenner will still have blighted houses even after the taxpayers pay off Yenni’s 2033 Debt Plan.

What should really gall Kenner residents, aside from Yenni’s attempt to double property taxes and the mountain of debt he incurred, is that Yenni has been effectively jockeying for the JP Parish President job for at least a year.

The none too bright unlicensed florist turned Councilman, Ben Zahn, let the proverbial cat out of the bag.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn, who previously served on the Kenner City Council, said in a text message he "committed to Mike well over a year ago."

So, even before he was re-elected, Yenni was plotting his next job. How much time has he wasted this past year campaigning, schmoozing supporters and reaching into their checkbooks when he should have been trying to grow business in Kenner, working to rehabilitate Kenner’s image, working to turnaround The Esplanade and brining jobs to Kenner?

And, if he didn’t want to be Mayor, why did he run again?

In his 2014 inauguration address, Yenni said,

“I pledge to every Kenner resident that we will remain a community of progress throughout these next four years. No resident or residential neighborhood will be ignored.”

How many lies can one man tell in a single sentence?

The only good thing about Mike Yenni becoming Parish President is that he won’t be Kenner’s Mayor.

But, the reality is, he’s already checked out.

Is that the kind of person and "vision" you want as Jefferson Parish President?