Did you really think I was gone? No, just taking a holiday break and trying to let our elected officials enjoy their holidays.
But, all good things must come to end. As I once told an ex-girlfriend as we were having the “breakup” convo, “Valentine’s Day is over.”
Before we move on to 2016, there was an exchange that occurred at the last Jefferson Parish Council meeting of 2015 that I thought merited a comment or two and, since I didn’t want to break my holiday spirit or endure any bad karma before Santa Claus came (he must not have received my list again this Christmas. I’m blaming the Postal Service), I’m tackling it now.
When I’ve written in the past about Lil Ben Zahn, some folks have taken umbrage with me calling him “Lil Ben”.
“You shouldn’t make fun of his height. He had no control over that.”
And, that’s a fair comment.
Unfortunately, it is incorrect.
When I call him “Lil Ben”, I’m not referring to his height or his size in any other physical measurable (although I have heard about men trying to compensate for being small in certain physical attributes).
No, when I call him “Lil Ben”, primarily I’m referring to the intellect of the unlicensed florist/councilman.
Can’t argue with me on that.
“Lil Ben” could star in a sequel to ‘Dumb and Dumberer II’ and play both parts.
Calling “Lil Ben” a mental midget does a disservice to unintelligent little people (although, now that I think about it, the term does fit).
So, the ‘Lil’ in “Lil Ben” isn’t about height at all.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the incident in question.
At the end of every JP Council Meeting, citizens are allowed 5 minutes to discuss any issue on their minds.
At the last Council Meeting, a gentleman stepped up to the microphone to discuss the cutting of funds for the Jefferson Parish Council on Aging. He questioned, and rightfully so, all of the discretionary spending in Jefferson Parish on aesthetics, while programs serving the elderly were being cut.
To me, that seems like a valid question and one that I’ve asked many times through the years in both Kenner and JP.
During his discussion, the man touched a nerve with the unlicensed florist when he brought up the decorative lights on a small portion of West Esplanade near the Kenner/Metairie line in Councilman Zahn’s district.
Zahn could barely contain himself.
With his face getting as red as a 10-year-old child who spent too much time playing on the beach during the middle of Summer, Lil Ben stammered, “Do you know where the money for the lights came from?”
When the man came back to the podium to explain that he did know, Zahn said questioned why the man would discuss things that he knew nothing about.
As he has many times during his career as a Kenner and JP Councilman, Zahn showed again that he can’t handle criticism.
It is the right of every citizen to question where every public dollar is spent and, rather than showing his adolescent temper (or his attempt to make up for his visible and not-so-visible physical shortcomings), Zahn should have let the man express his opinions without interruption or comment.
And, what was Zahn’s answer regarding the payment for those decorative lights?
“They came from dedicated tourism dollars. We had to spend it on tourism.”
Aside from the fact that Lil Ben should have sat there and kept his pie hole shut instead of getting surly with a citizen who was exercising his rights, the unlicensed florist didn’t think that perhaps spending tourism dollars to promote Kenner – the largest city in Jefferson Parish, the Pontchartrain Center, the Esplanade (Lord knows they could use it), or something that would actually attract tourists to Kenner or his district would be a better use of funds than putting up some decorative lighting on a small portion of a street?
Now, to be fair, the lights do look nice and I see them almost every Sunday driving from my humble Kenner abode (within the unlicensed florist’s district) to St. Clement of Rome Church. During my travels, I have yet to see any tourist pulling over on a side street and walking over to take a souvenir photo standing next to one of the light poles.
I also must have missed the brochures from the Jefferson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, controlled by Zahn’s campaign manager the infamous Greg Buisson, that included photos of the lights to entice tourists to drive on that portion of West Esplanade.
Aside from the fact that it only covers a small portion of West Esplanade and there’s no money to complete the project, even if there were money available, JP, and his council district, have more pressing issues than some decorative lighting.
Personally, I don't care what pile of taxpayer money the funding for the lights came from - they are out-of-place and the money could have been put to better use.
Again, it’s another half-baked idea, poorly executed by an incompetent councilman but I’m certain that one of his campaign contributors received a juicy contract for the project.
And, sadly, that’s what politics in Jefferson Parish and Kenner is all about: contracts for contributors.
Decorative lights paid for with tourism dollars on a street not heavily traveled by tourists.
Ironically, after the man left the podium, the next citizen discussed issues with the horse farm on upper Williams Blvd. on the way to the Treasure Chest Casino, also in the unlicensed florist’s district.
The woman complained about the odor, the poor sanitation and treatment of the horses.
Since he was not being criticized, or because the citizen was a woman, the unlicensed florist was a bit more polite.
“That’s not far from my house. I’m very aware of the odor.”
It is a surprise to no one that horse manure is a subject that Councilman Zahn is an expert on.
Yes Lil Ben, Valentine’s Day is over.