Third in our series of Kenner Mayoral candidate profiles.
If you are like me, and God help you and Mike Yenni if you are, you really want to like Kenner Councilman-At-Large Maria DeFrancesch.
She reminds me of a Grandmother, or, more appropriately, a slightly senile Grandmother.
When you talk to DeFrancesch, she seems empathetic. She asks how you are feeling but, deep down, you know that she really could care less.
She attends every civic meeting possible (and, why wouldn’t she? She’s retired) and never fails to let everyone know that she was there to hear your issues.
But, she never fixes anything.
Perhaps it’s the senility or the Adult ADD, but DeFrancesch just moves along to the next group and the next issue. It doesn’t matter to her that the issue wasn’t resolved in your favor – all that matters is that she can say that she was there and tried to help you but someone (or something) stood in the way.
Case in point, when she was narrowly reelected to her then-District 4 Council seat in 2010, at the last moment, DeFrancesch (along with then-Mayor Mike Yenni) dropped the bombshell that the department store Kohl’s was coming to Kenner.
Of course, DeFrancesch was front and center in leading the charge for Kenner.
As you already know, Kohl’s still hasn’t come to Kenner and may never.
DeFrancesch blamed a “management shakeup” at Kohl’s for them not opening a store in Kenner.
A few years later, DeFrancesch claimed that another department store chain, Belk’s, was interested in moving into The Esplanade.
I contacted Belk’s myself and was told that they had no expansion plans for Kenner.
I bring up Kohl’s again because DeFrancesch herself brought it up at a recent Kenner City Council meeting.
While discussing the lack of inclusion by acting Mayor Mike Sigur of other councilmen, particularly the At-Large Couuncilmen, in meetings regarding new businesses to Kenner, DeFrancesch again threw Kohl’s up as an example.
“Regarding Kohl’s,” DeFrancesch said, “We did everything right. The Administration and I worked closely with JEDCO on a TIF and incentives. The only reason they didn’t come here was because a big management shakeup. We did everything right.”
Right…Keep telling yourself that Maria and then click your heels three times and you will magically become Mayor.
Of course, DeFrancesch has never explained why Kohl’s bypassed Kenner and opened stores in Houma and Slidell without any TIFs and only state tax exemptions for job creation.
Why would Kohl[s go to two significantly smaller cities, with much more limited incentives?
Obviously, the tag team of DeFrancesch and Yenni DID NOT do everything right.
“I’m Not Part of the Machine”
In a direct mail piece, DeFrancesch goes to great lengths to try to convince us that she’s not part of the Political Machine.
Not now, perhaps, but she was.
Now, with Ben Zahn as THE ANNOINTED ONE, the machine doesn’t need her. They used her during the Yenni Administration, promised her the world for her vote (and for turning her back on the people of Kenner and following Yenni blindly down the Yellow Brick Road), and now that they’ve gotten everything they need, they spit her out like an old piece of chewing gum.
But, you can’t claim to have NEVER been part of the machine when you sucked up to Yenni for years and you’ve used the propaganda firm of Greg Buisson and Associates in the past.
It doesn’t work like that Maria.
When you lie down with dogs, you’re going to get fleas.
Why Mayor When You Just Became Councilman-At-Large?
When I ran for JP Council and Kenner Mayor, I knew why I was running. I had very clear reasons and ideas of what I wanted to accomplish.
I don’t think that DeFrancesch has a clue other than that she feels (like Ben Zahn), that she is entitled to the job.
DeFrancesch was the Distric 4 Councilman for 8 years. When she was term-limited there, she got lucky and ran unopposed for Councilman-At-Large. She got VERY lucky.
Now, about a year and a half after moving up to Council-At-Large, she thinks she deserves to move up again.
Like her other Republican challengers, Ben Zahn and Keith Reynaud, DeFrancesch has done nothing to make Kenner better. She has no track record of achievement, of standing up for the people of Kenner, of fighing for the little guy.
DeFrancesch, like her former BFF Yenni, has never run a business, never struggled to meet a payroll, never created one job.
She is, however, one of the largest owners of Section 8 properties in Kenner.
In fact, I have labeled DeFrancesch “Kenner’s Slumlord-In-Chief”.
Now, that isn’t exactly fair. There’s nothing particularly wrong with providing affordable housing and receiving government subsidies if you do things properly (screen your tenants, maintain your properties, etc.).
According the a Kenner Housing Authority report, that hasn’t always been the case with DeFrancesch’s properties. Some of her properties weren’t audited by HUD or the KHA for years.
As an elected official seeking our vote to move up and run our city, DeFrancesch should go above and beyond in ensuring her properties not only meet, but exceed the standards expected and she hasn’t.
The Experience Question
DeFrancesch, like the other four candidates seeking the Mayor job, has never run a business or even a government department anywhere near the size of the City of Kenner and its $60 Million budget.
DeFrancesch was a public elementary school teacher and, later, an Assistant Principal.
And that’s great.
If they City of Kenner was comprised of 6-13 year olds, she might qualify.
But, for now, like Zahn and Reynaud, to quote the movie “A Knight’s Tale”, she has been weighed and measured and found lacking.
She will top out at 18% and return to her Council-At-Large seat for the rest of her term.
But, keep looking behind you Maria and save some of your campaign kitty. Lil Ben and Mikey have already cut deals with someone to run against you in thr Spring of 2018.