Monday, June 19, 2017

Zahn To Hire Buisson Political Operative For New Position

When Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn announced at the budget meeting that he was bringing Economic Development in-house and discontinuing Kenner's annual $75k stipend to JEDCO, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, I have long decried the fact that Kenner was paying JEDCO anything for doing what it should be doing for free.

Well, as with his friend and mentor, Jefferson Parish's Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni, nothing with Ben Zahn is ever as it seems.

Instead of searching for someone with a true background in Economic Development that could help Kenner attract, recruit and retain businesses and jobs for this newly created position, Zahn is hiring a political operative with strong ties to Zahn (and Yenni's) campaign manager, Greg Buisson.

John Tobler, who has also worked for Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (also a Buisson client that is said to be inline for a position in the Trump Administration), and is involved in several of the faux endorsement groups like the Greater New Orleans Republicans (GNOR) that routinely rubberstamp Buisson clients, will be hired as a "Mayoral Assistant" responsible for Economic Development.

Skrmetta's possible ascension to Washington would result in Tobler being unemployed. So, in rides Ben Zahn with a newly-created position for an unqualified Buisson political lackey at Kenner taxpayers expense.

Tobler will be named a "Mayoral Assistant" so Zahn can continue to disrespect the people of Kenner and circumvent the spirit of the City Charter which requires all Directors, but not all non classified employees, to be Kenner residents.

This is truly semantics by Zahn as the spirit and intent of the residency rule approved by Kenner voters was to mandate that ALL non classified employees (political appointees who are the highest paid employees in the City), are Kenner residents.

Tobler has ZERO Economic Development experience and will be paid $55k annually plus benefits. He will be Zahn's 5th Mayoral Assistant, surpassing the inflated total of Yenni.

Tobler will receive little resistance from the Kenner City Council since several of them including Mike Sigur, Lenny Cline and Dominick Impastato are also Buisson clients.

Tobler's hiring is yet another reason why Zahn is allowing a group of 12 disgruntled political appointees to sue the City to overturn the 2012 Charter Change regarding political activity by non classified employees.

A City of Kenner employee who asked not to be identified said, "Tobler will be coordinating non classified employees as they work on Zahn's re-election campaign and on other campaigns."

It is rumored that the self-appointed "Ringleader" in the group of 12 malcontents suing the City to overturn the political ban, Stephen Petit, will run for the District 3 Council seat currently held by Keith Reynaud.

Petit spent over 20 minutes at the last Council meeting personally attacking Reynaud and the Councilman's wife.




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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Zahn’s Political Circus Takes An Ugly Turn

Two weeks ago, I opined that things in Kenner City Government couldn’t possibly get much worse.

Well, Thursday’s Council meeting sadly proved that I was wrong.
Kenner City government under Lyin’ Ben Zahn has sunk to a new low.

No, I’m not talking about the reversal of Zahn’s Uber Money Grab (the City will still get $.50 from Uber and Lyft for every pickup).
I’m not even talking about the ridiculous dog and pony show put on by District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur as he wasted everyone’s time by calling almost every group known to man up to the podium to seek their approval for the revised Uber Money Grab.

No, I’m referring to the disgraceful actions and comments of City employee Stephen Petit as he personally attacked District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud and the Councilman’s wife, while Council President Lenny Cline and Lyin’ Ben sat idly by and let Petit’s “stunt” drone on and on and on.
Petit is the self-avowed “Ringleader” of a band of disgruntled malcontents masquerading as City of Kenner employees who have utter contempt for the people of Kenner and are suing the City to overturn a Charter Change approved by a 70-30% margin by Kenner voters in 2012.

13,665 Kenner voters approved the 2012 Charter Change which banned political activity by non classified employees (political appointees of the Mayor).
Those 13,665 Kenner voters totaled more people than those who voted in the most recent Kenner Mayoral election and several thousand more than those who voted for Lyin' Ben.
Clearly, the voters of Kenner wanted an apolitical workforce. They didn't want the highest paid Kenner employees out campaigning for politicians and using their influence over Kenner business owners and residents.
Petit was hired on the last day of the Mike Yenni Administration before Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-In-Chief ascended to Parish government. Despite having no background in Code Enforcement, Inspections, Municipal Government or Management, Petit was named Code Enforcement Director.

After Lyin’ Ben took over, Petit was shuffled over to a new position as Prosector at City Court, again, despite Petit having zero Prosecutorial experience.
At the end of every Council meeting, citizens are given an opportunity to address the Council on “Special Subject Matters”. Usually this consists of residents discussing issues that affect them or ordinances that the Council has or will vote on. Occasionally, a citizen will ask a question.

Citizens are given 3 minutes at the meeting.
It is extremely unusual, and I cannot remember a time when a City employee spoke (other than to respond to a citizen issue or question) during the time reserved for citizens to address the Council.

At Thursday’s meeting, not only did Petit sign up to speak, he arranged for others in his group of disgruntled co-conspirators to sign up to speak as well. Petit then used the time that should have been allocated to other malcontents, a clear violation of Council policy that was ignored by Council President Cline and approved by Mayor Zahn.
In fact, Petit used over 20 minutes of time questioning, hurling accusations, discussing the personal life of Councilman Reynaud’s wife, personally attacking Councilman Reynaud, and interrogating the Councilman as if he were a common thief on trial.

All the while, Council President Cline and Mayor Zahn did nothing.
Cline, as Council President, could have stopped this staged, coordinated stunt.

Zahn, as Mayor and Petit’s employer, SHOULD have stopped this and didn’t.
The fact that neither man did anything and allowed a City employee to publicly disrespect a Councilman is disgraceful.

The reason why Zahn and Cline did nothing to stop Petit's attack? Petty politics.

The tension between Zahn and Reynaud has been thick since Zahn's return to Kenner as Mayor.

The fact that they allowed a City employee to discuss the personal life of a non-public figure (the Councilman's wife) is shameful as well.


During his initial 3 minutes, before he began the attack and interrogation of Councilman Reynaud, Petit said that he wanted to stop any rumors that Zahn is involved in the employee lawsuit. Considering that I don’t recall anyone making that assertion (except me and I didn’t attend this meeting), for Petit to even bring up the question proves Zahn’s complicity and tacit approval of the lawsuit.
After all, if the Charter Change banning political activity is overturned, it will benefit Zahn and others in the Spring 2018 election.

And, let’s be real here: what employee, let alone 12 employees, would sue the City without the Mayor’s prior knowledge and approval. These employees are non classified and not subject to Civil Service protections. They serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. They wouldn’t jeopardize their cushy jobs if Zahn wasn’t on board.
If Zahn cared about the City of Kenner and respected the people of Kenner, he would have stopped this lawsuit in its tracks and terminated this disgruntled band of malcontents.

But Lyin’ Ben neither cares about the people of  Kenner nor has the backbone to actually take action to stop HIS employees from their public contempt and disrespect of the people of Kenner.
Petit also stated that, “Since day 1” of his employment over a year and a half ago, he began talking with other disgruntled employees and began researching ways to challenge and overturn the Charter Change.

Exactly how many of those conversations and meetings, and how much legal research was done on city time using city resources? That alone should qualify for Petit’s dismissal, as well as the others involved in this lawsuit, some of whom don’t even live in Kenner (another violation of the Kenner Charter approved by Kenner voters that Zahn is trying to weasel around).
The people of Kenner voted – they wanted an apolitical work force. Classified employees, those who meet the requirements to be employed by the City and not appointed, as banned from political activity. Policemen and Firefighters as well are banned.

Kenner is not the first city to ban political activity by non classified employees and we aren’t the first city to impose a residency rule.
In fact, Zahn's use of Petit as the instrument of this political attack proves the point that the voters of Kenner were correct in approving the Charter Change banning political activity.
It is selfish and self-serving for Zahn to attempt to circumvent the Charter and simultaneously condone a lawsuit by his political appointees to overturn another portion of the Charter.

Petit's own comments at the Council meeting could be construed as a violation of the Charter and should be grounds for his dismissal - that is, if we had a Mayor who actually enforced the Charter and respected the people of Kenner.

Since it is extremely unlikely that Zahn will take any punitive action against his appointees, if Stephen Petit and these other malcontents are so unhappy with rules approved by the voters of Kenner that pay their salaries, they should quit or never accepted their positions.
The late Comedian George Carlin once said, “If you don’t like the weather…move!”

Well Stephen Petit, George Bode, Adam Campo, Gerald Dillenkoffer, Wendi Folse, Mary-Sharon Howland, Kenneth Marroccoli, Theresa Nevels, Johnnie Sullivan, Ronald Vitellaro, Richard Walther, and Mike Wetzel, if you don’t like the rules approved by your bosses (the people of Kenner) and you are so unhappy that you feel the need to sue, quit your jobs. The people of Kenner deserve to be respected and you are clearly putting your self-interests and the interests of a select few politicians above the best interests of the people of Kenner.  
It’s really that simple: quit. Move on with your lives. Kenner will function just fine without a bunch of disgruntled, selfish malcontents.

And, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The City doesn’t need to spend more tax dollars to defend another ridiculous lawsuit.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Zahn Tries To Thumb Nose At Kenner Voters - Will Council Too?

Our old friend, Lyin' Ben Zahn, is at it again.

Zahn, who swore an oath to uphold the Kenner City Charter, now wants a "Special Hiring Ordinance" to allow 2 of his political appointees to be exempt from the City of Kenner's residency rule that requires non classified employees (political appointees) to reside in Kenner.

On tomorrow's (6/15) City Council Supplemental Agenda, is Item 16-F which, if approved, would allow Personnel Director Wendi Folse to keep her job and Interim Finance Director Mike Wetzel to lose the "Interim" title.

Folse has been the Personnel Director for several years and formerly resided in Kenner. In 2015, despite her knowledge of the City Charter's residency rule, she moved to New Orleans. Former Kenner Mayor and current Jefferson Parish Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni and former Acting Mayor and current District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur both looked the other way and didn't enforce the residency rule. With this proposed ordinance, Zahn wants to make it official - the voters of Kenner that approved the residency rule don't matter.

I have nothing against Ms. Folse or Mr. Wetzel (or others in the Zahn Administration that are also circumventing the Charter either through the semantic distinction of "not being a Department Director" or using the "Interim" title). But, rules are rules and the voters of Kenner decided that it was important that Kenner's highest paid employees are also residents of Kenner.

In the height of irony, Folse and Wetzel are also named plaintiffs in the suit by several non classified Kenner employees against another City of Kenner Charter Change approved by voters that bans political activity.

What???

You don't live in Kenner but you want the right to support the candidate of your choosing and exert your influence on others in Kenner?

So, thanks to Lyin' Ben Zahn, you now have an ordinance proposed to circumvent the charter for 2 non classified employees who are also suing the City because they disagree with the wishes of Kenner voters on another matter too and they don't even live in Kenner.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.

How many of us when we've applied for or accepted a job, were told what the Company policies are? It's the same with Folse and Wetzel and the other non classified employees that are suing the City.

If you don't like a Company policy, or in this case, the City policy, don't accept the job.

If you are going to be paid with City of Kenner tax dollars, then adhere to the rules that are set by City of Kenner voters.

Period.

Like Zahn, the Kenner City Council was also voted in to uphold the Kenner City Charter and do what is best for the people of the City of Kenner, not circumvent the Charter and draft ordinances that only apply to a select few who have the audacity to thumb their noses at the people that are paying their bills. 

Let's hope the Council does a better job of understanding their responsibilities to the Charter and the people of Kenner than our Mayor does.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Zahn’s Political Appointees Sue City Over 2012 Charter Change




After reports that City of Kenner political appointees were coerced into helping political candidates that they did not support in order to keep their jobs, the Kenner City Council passed an ordinance in 2011 to bar political appointees, many of whom are the most-highest paid employees in City government, from publicly taking part in political activity.

The logic behind the ordinance was valid: political appointees, while appointed by the Mayor, work for all of the city and should not be forced to campaign in order to keep receiving a paycheck. In addition, it is unfair for a non-incumbent if, for example, the Code Enforcement Director is out soliciting businesses for sign locations. What business owner would say “No” to the Code Enforcement Director? What reprisals could there be if a business owner didn’t allow the Public Works Director to put a political sign in front of their home or business?

The Council ordinance was promptly vetoed by then-Mayor Mike Yenni, himself a beneficiary of political appointees involvement in political activity. For years, the Buisson Machine has stacked organizations like The Alliance for Good Government and other faux endorsement groups with political appointees who pushed for the groups to endorse their favored candidates.

The next year, in 2012, the voters of Kenner approved a change to the city charter that mirrored the Council’s vetoed ordinance. The charter change was approved by a 70-30% margin.

Now, several of Lyin’ Ben’s political appointees, including many political operatives, have filed a Federal lawsuit challenging the restriction on political activity.

These employees are appointed regardless of their background and experience (or lack thereof) and aren’t subjected to the typical employment screening and testing that other city employees required. These employees are put in charge of Millions of tax dollars and dozens or more city employees whether they are qualified or not, simply because they support the person in power, Lyin’ Ben Zahn.

The employees claim that the charter change infringes on their 1st Amendment rights, among other things.

The lawsuit also mentions that the political appointees want to be empowered to support their candidate of choosing (Zahn) in the 2018 election. They must be concerned that Lyin’ Ben will be facing a challenger next year. 

The bottom line is, these employees want to secure their future paychecks and want to openly campaign for their preferred candidate, the man who appointed them, Lyin’ Ben Zahn.

Instead of concentrating on working for the people of Kenner (who ultimately pay their bills), these employees want to thumb their noses at the voters of Kenner who overwhelmingly understood that their political activity was abused and abusive.

These political appointees have clearly forgotten that they work for ALL of the people of Kenner not just the political elite.
Hopefully,

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Zahn and Sigur’s Next Act – No Rules For Taxis


After their failed attempt to strap onerous and possibly illegal anti-competitive regulations on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft that would have essentially run TNCs out of Kenner, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn and District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur have disclosed their new strategy. If they can’t regulate Uber and Lyft out of Kenner, they can unregulate the Taxi industry.

Admittedly, the Taxi industry and taxi drivers in Kenner have had to work under some ridiculous rules,  an annual health screening for drivers and other rules that have little to do with the driver or passenger safety, but to completely unregulate the taxi industry is also ridiculous.

And, again, it has nothing to do with public safety or the best interests of consumers which should be the paramount goal of a Mayor and a City Council.

It’s all about favoring local companies versus non-locals and trying to decide who wins and who loses.

Set rates from Armstrong International Airport are in place to prevent price-gouging by the Taxi industry. On the surface, deregulating prices appears to be a good thing and should result in lower fares as the Taxi industry attempts to be more competitive with Uber and Lyft.

But, what if it has the opposite effect and prices rise significantly, irritating locals and visitors alike?

One of the biggest complaints about TNCs, particularly Uber, is “surge” or “dynamic” pricing. Essentially, when there is a “surge” in the amount of customers trying to book an Uber, the company puts out a call to its drivers offering them more money, in the form of higher fares, to get on the road and accommodate the increased usage.

This can result in nightmarishly high fees.

A trip that may have cost $10 to get somewhere can now go for as much as $300 or more to get back home.  Uber implements “surge” pricing automatically and any event can trigger it, from a concert to a disaster like Hurricane Katrina to the London terror attacks last week.

While London taxi drivers were giving folks free rides so they could get home safely after other forms of public transportation were suspended, Uber’s computer algorithms triggered surge pricing resulting in numerous complaints.

Uber has announced that they will be offering refunds to affected London passengers which helps now but, does little to remedy the situation, or someone’s wallet, at the time.  

“Surge” pricing at Armstrong could be an issue and, rather than allow Uber to utilize “surge” pricing and simultaneously remove fixed-price taxi fares from Armstrong, Kenner should opt to keep the price-fixed fares but as a maximum fee that can be readjusted annually. This would protect consumers while still allowing the free market to set standard fees.

As I’ve discussed for months now, since Zahn, Sigur, Council President Lenny Cline and other members of the Kenner City Council were so focused on regulating TNCs (while benefiting the local Taxi industry), they have completely ignored consumers and public safety.

"We've got to find that (regulatory) balance," Sigur told Nola.com.

Perhaps if you would think about what is best for your constituents, the majority of your constituents anyway, and focus on public safety instead of trying to decide winners and losers, the task wouldn’t be so difficult Mr. Sigur.

If you, Lyin’ Ben and Stumblebum Lenny had started there Mr. Sigur, it wouldn’t have taken you over a year to get where you are now.
And the three of you wouldn't have embarrassed Kenner in the process.


Monday, June 5, 2017

At “Emergency” Meeting Zahn, Cline, Sigur Show Their True Colors - Yellow


After getting grief from everyone, with the exception of Kenner’s Taxi Companies, over their ill-fated ordinance to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn called an “Emergency” meeting of the Kenner City Council to reconsider the ordinance and amend it.

Instead, before a packed council chamber filled with Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as taxi drivers and members of the community, the Kenner Council voted to defer adding any amendments to the ordinance.

It is expected that, at the next council meeting, the council will amend the ordinance to remove the imposition of a $50 “Occupational License” on TNC drivers, pushed by District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur, as well as the mandating of trip fees to and from points in Kenner.

The ordinance will still include a $.50 per trip fee imposed on TNC fares. Mayor Zahn has long pushed for a fee, any fee, that would raise money for Kenner.

Since the $.50 per trip fee is identical to what New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and other governmental entities already charge TNCs, Uber and Lyft will not contest this fee.

District 4 Councilman and Council President Lenny Cline said that the reason for the deferral was because two council members, Councilman-At-Large Maria DeFranchesch and District 1 Councilman Greg Carroll, were absent.

The reality is that the council had a quorum and all three members of Cline’s Transportation Committee (Cline, Sigur and Councilman-At-Large Tom Willmott) were present.

Zahn, Cline and Sigur simply didn’t want to listen to  comments from the TNC and Taxi drivers that filled the council chambers.

Without any public comment, the Council voted to defer any amendments and adjourn the meeting.

As a resident of Kenner, I want to apologize to all of the Uber/Lyft and Taxi drivers, and members of the community that took time out of their day (and possibly lost revenue) to attend an “Emergency” meeting, not have the ability to offer their comments on an ordinance that will impact their livelihood, and for viewing the dysfunction that is Kenner City Government with Lyin’ Ben Zahn as Mayor and an impotent Council that can’t get out of its own way.

By refusing to sit there and listen to the public that they were allegedly elected to serve and represent, Zahn, Cline, Sigur and the rest of the Kenner City Council proved once again that they are cowards who care little about the people of Kenner.

In the end, the “Emergency” Meeting was a colossal waste of time since this ordinance as written, should never have seen the light of day.

And it wouldn’t have if Kenner City Government had any true leaders instead of clowns and cowards.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Zahn, Kenner Council Bring the Circus, and Price-Fixing, To Town


I'm sure you've heard the line, "Elect a clown, expect a circus".
Despite the recent shuttering of Ringling Bros. Circus, the circus is alive and well in Kenner.
Just when you though that Kenner Politics has hit rock bottom, the Kenner City Council, under the watchful eye and tutelage of Lyin’ Ben Zahn, takes it even lower.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner endured a Mayor who was stalking teenage boys, following them into public restrooms and kissing and fondling them (all well campaigning for his next job).

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner endured an ethically-challenged interim Mayor who never should have been elected dog catcher, let alone to the City Council.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner had to endure Lyin’ Ben Zahn, doing anything and saying anything he could to get elected.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner has to endure Council meetings where Lyin’ Ben lashes out at a Councilman and his wife (while I disagree with the Councilman’s wife and her personal attacks, every citizen has a right to speak at a Council Meeting and cannot be censored by anyone, let alone someone with as little personal integrity as Ben Zahn).

Now, we have this – a Mayor and Council approving an ordinance that would essentially drive out an industry due to onerous regulations, a short-sighted money grab, and an attempt to fix prices.

That’s right: a “Republican” Mayor and a “Republican” majority Council engaged in price-fixing.

As I noted in my prior post, I had several issues with the new Kenner ordinance (approved by a 6-1 vote) that regulated Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.

One of the points I disagreed with was that the City of Kenner was now attempting to tell Uber and Lyft what they would be required to charge passengers on trips to and from Kenner and Armstrong International Airport and other points.

Essentially, Kenner wants Uber and Lyft to charge the same amount as a taxi.

This is big government price-fixing at its worst, and it was done by “Republicans”, allegedly the pro-business party and it’s something that even Marxist Mitch Landrieu and the inept New Orleans City Council didn’t attempt.

Yet, there are no emails or statements of outrage or condemnation emanating from the Jefferson Parish or Louisiana Republican Party. Certainly, no outrage from our Republican Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni.

No, the Parish and State Republican Party leadership continues to let fake Republicans run roughshod over businesses and economic theory that they clearly don’t understand and add more and more regulations, instead of cutting government and letting the market (and consumers) decide.

During the public comment about the TNC ordinance, representatives from Uber, Lyft and the airport implored the Council to defer this ordinance and stated on more than one occasion that they (Uber and Lyft) would be unable to continue to pickup passengers at Armstrong and in Kenner if the ordinance were allowed to become law.

Despite being 2/3rds of the committee that was formed to discuss and provide input into the TNC ordinance, District 4 Councilman (and Council President) Lenny Cline and the afore-mentioned ethically-challenged District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur, are clearly clueless when it comes to understanding how Uber and Lyft operate.

Several times, Cline discussed the imposition of a $50 “Occupational License” for Uber/Lyft drivers.

“If your fare from the Airport is $36, one fare almost covers the cost of the license,” Cline said.

Except for the fact that the driver doesn’t get the entire $36 from the fare. Cline obviously forgot that Uber/Lyft get their cut first.

But, the amount of money a driver receives per fare isn’t the issue or the point.

The point is, you can’t regulate an industry without having a basic knowledge of it.

District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud is in the Heating and A/C business. I’m not qualified to inspect repairs and installation of the heating and cooling units his company services and sells. I couldn’t tell you the proper amount of tonnage that a unit should have to properly cool a 2,000 sq. ft. home.

Similarly, after a year of discussion and countless hours of meetings, input and debate, this Council (and Zahn) still don’t get it.

After spending Thursday night and most of Friday listening to complaints about the ordinance, Zahn has (rightfully) called for a special council meeting on Monday to reconsider the ordinance.

But what did Zahn, Cline, Sigur and the rest of the council expect would happen?

First, while the TNCs, particularly Uber, whine and complain about any regulation imposed on them that would impact their profits, this ordinance went way beyond the line.

And Zahn should have known that.

Now Zahn is attempting to spin this and make himself out to be the good guy – the guy that will make certain that Uber and Lyft don’t leave and the Mayor that will straighten out what the City Council screwed up.

He’s already begun trying to distance himself claiming that the Council is responsible since they are the Legislative Branch and the Mayor simply implements the rules and regulations that the Council gives him.

Don’t believe that line of bs for a second.

While the council, particularly Cline and Sigur (as well as Councilman-At-Large Tom Willmott who was the 3rd committee member) are to blame for this debacle, the ultimate blame rests upon Zahn.

As Cline mentioned several times during the council meeting, “This council, the Mayor and his administration have spent countless hours working on this ordinance.”

The ordinance was written by an Assistant City Kenner appointed by Zahn.

Zahn, as Mayor, holds agenda meetings with council members before the council meeting to discuss the items that are coming up for a vote.
While Lyin' Ben may want you to believe that he is blameless, clearly his fingerprints (and foreknowledge) are all over this ordinance.

If Zahn had the foresight and leadership that is required of a Mayor, he could have stopped this ordinance in its tracks and we would have never gotten to this point.

Each time that an ordinance regulating TNCs was deferred, Zahn bemoaned that fact that, even if all the Council did was impose a $.50 pickup fee on Uber and Lyft, that $.50 would be better than the nothing the City was getting now.

As I’ve said from the beginning, the TNC ordinance was NEVER about Public Safety and always a money grab for Zahn and the Council.

Lyin’ Ben, Cline and Sigur just tried to keep pushing beyond $.50.

What City in America, let alone one as small as Kenner, has successfully passed a law telling Uber and Lyft what to charge its passengers?

While we can debate Uber and Lyft, their business models, and whether they are good or bad for the transportation industry, one thing that is not up for debate is that TNCs like Uber and Lyft have been good for consumers (even if they are woefully bad for drivers who aren’t savvy enough to realize that they are being taken advantage of).

Case in point: Last Summer, during the peak of my eye issues, I used Uber to go from Kenner to Gonzales to visit my mom for a week. The cost, one way, was $50.

When I wanted to return to Kenner, I was unable to use Uber since they didn’t have any drivers that originated in Gonzales. I had to use a Kenner taxi company for my return trip. The cost: $120 one way.

On the return to Kenner, I heard the taxi dispatcher discussing pickups with drivers. The dispatcher was offering drivers $80 to pickup a passenger in Laplace and drop them off at the Airport.

“Make it $90 and I’ll do it,” one driver said.

“Standby,” the dispatcher said.

“$90 it is,” the dispatcher said when he returned.

I wonder what Zahn and the Kenner City Council would have to say about that kind of “surge pricing”?

As I’ve said, clearly, while I believe that TNCs like Uber and Lyft are really unregulated taxi companies and require some regulation, it is anti-competitive, business unfriendly (and certainly not consumer-friendly), anti-free market and anti-American, for Zahn and the Kenner City Council to tell a business how much they can charge consumers.

If Zahn and the Council didn’t know it then, they surely know it now.

The question is, why didn’t they know it before embarrassing Kenner yet again?

And when are we, as voters, going to start holding these people accountable, stop electing and promoting the same clowns and accepting the circus that they give us?  


Friday, June 2, 2017

Kenner’s ‘Uber’ Money Grab Proves It’s “Business Friendly” – But Only If You’re The Right Business


After the death of State Rep. Havard’s bill that would have provided statewide regulations for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, the Kenner City Council approved its own ordinance by a 6-1 vote providing more regulations and fees on TNCs operating in Kenner and at Armstrong International Airport. District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato, who is seeking to quit on his constituents and seek a promotion to JP Council before he even completes his first term in office, opposed the ordinance.  

While I am firmly a small government guy, I do believe that TNCs need regulation, but since they operate throughout the state, they should be regulated primarily through a statewide law. Having TNCs jump through hoops for every Parish and Municipality that seeks to impose its own rules, regulations and fees is anti-competitive.

If you’re an Uber/Lyft driver, or a Taxi driver, the rules should be similar, if not identical, whether you live, pickup or drop off in New Orleans, Kenner, or any other city.  

As I wrote earlier, since Rep. Havard’s bill was essentially written for him by TNCs, I was opposed to it. I am also strongly opposed to Kenner’s ordinance as well, but not for the obvious reasons.

The new Kenner ordinance adds new fees and regulations and doesn’t go nearly far enough when it comes to Public Safety – which should have been the focus of the ordinance.

The new Kenner ordinance imposes

…a $.50 per trip fee for trips originating in Kenner.

…fees on trips to and from Kenner to the Airport and fees from the Airport to other destinations that are identical to Taxi fees (meaning consumers pay the same fee instead of possibly a lower fee for using a TNC).

…a $50 per driver Occupational License, since TNC drivers are independent contractors (they pickup and drive when they want to versus having a set work shift). TNCs are also required to pay a $10,000 fee.

The ordinance also requires that TNC drivers submit to random background and drug testing, do not pickup passengers other than those that use the APP, and have a valid Driver’s License (yes, out-of-state drivers are permitted which I believe is a mistake).

While the Occupational License (particularly for non-Kenner residents who drive for Uber/Lyft) is a debatable question, the City of Kenner has no place in imposing fees per passenger or assigning a cost to trips – that’s for the marketplace (and consumers) to decide.
If TNCs like Uber and Lyft can provide a quality service at a price that consumers think is a good value, who is Kenner to determine that for consumers? If Uber/Lyft don't provide a good service and value, consumers won't use them.

Clearly, there needs to be a level playing field for TNCs, airport shuttles, limo and taxi companies. ALL companies providing point-to-point transportation of passengers or goods should either be regulated similarly or unregulated, depending upon your viewpoint.

However, unlike Uber and Lyft, which would prefer to remain unregulated (which benefits them), I would prefer that TNCs and their drivers have the same regulations as Taxi companies and their drivers.

Regardless of your opinion, you will never convince me that Uber/Lyft drivers aren’t unregulated taxi drivers. Simply using an app on a smartphone or other device, instead of a placing a call on a dumb phone to a taxi company, does not warrant enough of a distinction.

The issues with me and TNCs and Taxi Companies have always centered around fairness and public safety.

The new Kenner ordinance does nothing to fix those issues.

In attempting to provide a level playing field for Taxi Companies and TNCs, the Kenner ordinance goes backwards and provides more onerous regulations on TNCs and their drivers.

Requiring a $50 Occupational License for a part-time job (for many drivers) is ridiculous. TNC drivers should be licensed according to Taxi Drivers and should have the same level of state Driver’s License that Taxi Drivers operate with. TNC Drivers (or their companies) should also be required to have the same level of insurance coverage that Taxi Drivers/Companies do.

Since a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) could be suspended for driving violations including DUI and would not be granted if a driver had criminal violations in his/her past, I think requiring TNC drivers to have a CDL would be prudent. Unfortunately, requiring a CDL wouldn’t result in any money flowing into Kenner’s coffers, thus the reason for the $50 Occupational License.

Requiring TNC drivers have a valid Louisiana Driver’s License is something, but not taking the further step of mandating they also drive Louisiana-registered vehicles subject to the same vehicle inspections as Taxis, is a glaring omission.

Requiring random drug tests is also a good thing but, allowing drivers to move to another app if they are suspended from one TNC due to a criminal or driving violation also does not improve public safety.

Currently, if a TNC driver is using both Uber and Lyft to procure passengers (as most do), if they are accused of dui and suspended by one company they are not precluded from accepting fares from the other – or any other competitor on the horizon.

The bottom line is that Kenner’s new ordinance is, in reality, yet another money grab and bends over to protect the operations of local Taxi Companies and local Taxi drivers. It does not provide a level playing field, instead it tilts it in favor of Local versus National.

In their haste to protect the Local Taxi industry, the Kenner City Council has proven again that it is “Business Friendly”. But only if you are the right kind of business with the right ownership (local). Calling yourself “Business Friendly” and actually being “Business Friendly” are drastically different.

The Kenner City Council should not be in a position of saving the local Taxi industry while killing TNCs. They weren’t elected to choose who wins and loses in the “New Economy”. In fact, I’m not even sure they’re smart enough to know what the “New Economy” is, let alone set rules and regulations and pick winners and losers.

That’s not their job.

The Kenner ordinance also does not improve Public Safety.

On Nola.com, District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur was quick to point out that the ordinance, which doesn’t take effect for 6 months, could be amended at any time.

What that really means is, “We’re not smart enough to draft an ordinance that does the right thing but, at least we can put the process in motion to start collecting new fees and ripping off our constituents while we work out the details.”

Unfortunately, that’s Kenner Government the Lyin’ Ben Zahn/Mike Sigur way.

And that’s wrong on all counts.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Yenni Attempts Victory Lap – Falls Flat On His Face


Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni, the man who skipped out on giving the Parish President’s State of the Parish address because he was in hiding after his sexting scandal with an underage boy was disclosed, has now issued his own performance assessment.

In typical Yenni fashion, he issued a written statement (probably prepared by Jefferson Parish’s Minister of Propaganda, Greg Buisson). And, in typical fashion, Nola.com took the bait.

In the release of his version of "accomplishments" during his first 500 days, which Nola.com calls “midterm” (the last time a looked a year had 365 days and 4 years equaled over 1,400 days, so 500 days isn’t really “midterm” now is it?), Yenni pats himself on the back for numerous accomplishments, most of which he had little or nothing to do with.

Yenni claims the renewal of tax mileages as his #1 accomplishment. The reality is, Jefferson Parish residents should have easily renewed taxes for sewerage and drainage, roads, recreation and for the Sheriff’s office. While there was some talk of a NO Vote to protest Yenni’s remaining in office after the disclosure of the sexting scandal, there was never a real protest effort on that front. JP voters were smart enough to know that they would be hurting themselves, and not Yenni, by voting NO.

Yenni’s 2nd claim is a $34 Million Federal Head Start grant. Parishes, counties and municipalities nationwide receive Federal, State and Regional grants. Often, they simply apply for them while others are automatically doled out based upon population. Yenni and his administration didn’t go out and get anything that wasn’t available to anyone else.

Yenni claims that his 3rd accomplishment was reform of the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority. The Housing Authority Board is run by Terry McCarthy, a longtime political fixture in Jefferson Parish who has been accused and is under investigation for using thousands of Housing Authority dollars for his own expenses. The Board and McCarthy are close to naming the daughter of another longtime political fixture, former interim Parish President Steve Theriot, to become its new Executive Director at a salary of $170k per year plus benefits and expenses.
Housing reform? Great job there Mikey.

Fourth on Yenni’s list is “App-based Transportation”. Wait…Mike Yenni brought Uber and Lyft to Jefferson Parish? That’s like saying Kenner Councilman Mike Sigur and Mayor Lyin’ Ben Zahn are bringing Uber and Lyft to Kenner. Wait, I’m sure that will be in Zahn’s re-election flyers.  

Yenni claims “Coastal Protection” as his 5th accomplishment, citing his hiring of a new Coastal Zone Management Coordinator hired in December. Obviously, in 6 months, this Coordinator has done little, if anything, of note and is still getting his feet wet (no pun intended). How this ranks as an “accomplishment” is beyond me.

Yenni claims to have straightened out JP’s finances as his 6th accomplishment. As noted by Nola.com, the parish’s finances were in such bad shape that workers got 5% raises each of the past 2 years.

Getting JP more input into the Port of New Orleans and projects that would impact JP is Yenni’s 7th accomplishment. Should JP have more input in projects affecting JP? Of course. While the Port of New Orleans board has said they will consider input from JP, there hasn’t been any significant issues yet. Again, how this is an “accomplishment” is beyond me.

 Library, Parks and Recreation is another of Yenni’s alleged accomplishments. The Library has its own board and voters approved the recreation tax renewal. Again, Yenni has nothing here to hang his hat on.

Yenni’s Education Taskforce is his 9th “accomplishment”. The Taskforce, which carries little weight and can do nothing more than offer suggestions, also hasn’t done anything noteworthy or accomplished anything. Only in Yenni’s delusional mind is it an “accomplishment” to form a taskforce that has no juice to take any action. Yenni pulled the same nonsense in Kenner with his Streamlining Budget Committee and his Economic Development Committee (which created ZERO jobs, assisted in adding ZERO new businesses to Kenner and was simply a smokescreen to get Yenni’s 2030 Plan to borrow Kenner into oblivion approved – and not by the voters).

The new Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter is Yenni’s 10th “accomplishment”. Of course, the Animal Shelter’s funding was approved by then-Parish President John Young and construction began under Young’s watch. But, it did OPEN while Yenni was Parish President so, in his mind anyway, Yenni can take all the credit.

Sadly missing from Yenni’s list of “accomplishments” are his two most important ones:

1). Staying in office despite a recall effort favored by the vast majority of Jefferson Parish residents and calls for his resignation from every elected Parish elected official (except DA Paul Connick) and City elected officials across the parish.

2). Ducking the media and the public and never telling the truth about his sexting scandal.

Whether you like it or not, those are Yenni’s 2 primary “accomplishments” during his stint as Parish President thus far.

Oh, and making Jefferson Parish government an embarrassment and the butt (no pun intended) of jokes and ridicule nationwide.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gas Tax Hike Death Great News For Louisiana; Even Better for Kenner


When I heard the news that Baton Rouge State Rep. Steve Carter, a Republican no less, had proposed a $.17 gas tax hike, I almost lept out of my seat.

Aside from almost doubling the current $.20 cent per gallon gas tax, taxes on gasoline are one of the more regressive forms of taxation out there. Gas taxes disproportionately impact lower income individuals. Everything is impacted by gas taxes. Farmers pay more to run their equipment. Public transportation costs increase. The cost of transporting goods to retail stores and food to grocery stores and restaurants increases. Costs increase at all levels and we all know who pays for that added cost – you and I.

So, essentially, a gas tax hurts consumers in multiple ways – directly at the gas pump and indirectly as the cost of goods increases.

 Proponents of the gas tax increase, including Kenner State Rep. Julie Stokes (who is campaigning for the State Treasurer’s job), point to the high cost of vehicle maintenance on Louisiana drivers and the backlog of state projects that aren’t funded.

And, after all, the average cost to drivers for the gas tax hike is only a few hundred dollars per year. Clearly it’s worth that cost for improved roads and less time in traffic, right?

Wrong.

First, while the backlog of state projects is massive, there is no panacea for reducing traffic congestion. Besides, the main traffic bottlenecks in most Louisiana cities, from New Orleans to Shreveport, is the antiquated Federal interstate system.

Sure, there are state road issues. But adding $.17 to every gallon of gas won’t make the fix the potholes in New Orleans or make rush hour traffic on Williams Blvd. in Kenner (or Johnston Street in Lafayette, or any road in Baton Rouge) any better.

Besides, many municipalities, including Kenner, have tax dollars already allocated for road maintenance.

And, we haven’t even touched on the waste, fraud and abuse at the Louisiana DOTD.

As is typical in Louisiana, only 11% of the current $.20 per gallon state tax actually goes to roads, bridges, etc. You know, the things that a gasoline tax should actually go for.

Where is the other 89% spent?

DOTD salaries; the State Police; and a chunk is diverted to pet projects across the state that have little to nothing to do with transportation.

So, I was relieved when State Rep. Carter pulled his gas tax bill, even after he dropped it down from $.17 to $.10.

Whether it’s $300 Million annually that would have been collected at the revised $.10 rate, or the $500+ Million from the original $.17 figure, that money will be better spent by you than our state government.

While I realize that there were amendments added to the bill and other bills requiring the money to go to actual projects (other than the State Police and DOTD salaries), that would not have fixed the already bloated DOTD and the 89% of the current tax NOT spent on roads and bridges.

Our Governor and Legislators should fix those issues FIRST, before coming to us and making us pay higher taxes.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t need better roads and our bridges don’t need to be maintained and the backlog of road projects aren’t needed. Clearly, we need to maintain what we have and add where we can. But, I am saying that there needs to be a better option than almost doubling a tax.

As is the case with elected officials today, instead of fixing a problem (DOTD waste, fraud and abuse; diverting the current gas tax from roads), they try to spend themselves out of the problem (at our expense).

The death of the gas tax hike means we won’t have more money taken from our pockets and that’s good news for all Louisianans, but it’s even better for Kenner residents and it all has to do with Louis Armstrong International Airport.

The Airport? What does that have to do with the gas tax increase?

When it was announced that Armstrong Airport was expanded, I tried to sound the alarm that the expansion would be bad for the City of Kenner.

Then-Mayor and current Jefferson Pairsh Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni, was giddy over the expansion and could only see $ signs as he thought of ways to add permits and fees to make some short-term money from the expansion.

The bigger issue to me was the addition of flyover ramps from the airport that would divert traffic from Kenner intersections (and businesses). While less traffic in Kenner is certainly a plus, the loss of sales tax dollars from motorists and car renting tourists stopping to buy food, fuel or other items, would impact Kenner’s finances (and our businesses) for years to come.

While the construction of the flyovers is years behind, Yenni took the additional step of making the funding of the flyovers a top priority for the Jefferson Parish Legislative Delegation.

Since the flyovers will cost Kenner (and Jefferson Parish) sales tax revenue, this makes absolutely no sense.

In an effort to get additional votes for his gas tax bill, Rep. Carter tried specifying projects in his bill that would be funded with the increased gas tax revenue.

Sure enough the Armstrong flyovers were included.

While the flyovers will be constructed eventually, I’m told that the construction is 6-8 years behind schedule, the further this can be kicked down the road the better for Kenner and our businesses.

In addition to the loss of sales tax revenue, the flyovers will also require the Loyola Fire Station to be moved, costing the City of Kenner and its residents more money.

Yes, the short term fees and permit revenue from the Airport is nice, but they would have been nicer if our City Council hadn’t already spent every last penny on pet projects instead of saving the money and allocating it towards the fire station relocation and the businesses that will be hurt by Mike Yenni’s deal with the Devil (yes, I’m talking about you Mitch Landrieu).

In the end, the Armstrong Airport expansion will hurt Kenner. Instead of doing their jobs and putting Kenner First, Yenni and the then-City Council only thought about themselves and how they could funnel more money to their campaign contributors in the form of lucrative no-bid engineering contracts for meaningless projects.

Perhaps Kenner State Rep. Julie Stokes should also do her job and put Kenner First instead of campaigning for another job.

While I didn’t ask him, I seriously doubt that John Kennedy, the man Stokes is trying to replace, would have approved of the $.17 tax hike and I also seriously doubt that Louisiana wants a new State Treasurer that looks to increase taxes first.

With the death of the gas tax, and without the full funding for the flyovers, Kenner is safe – for a bit. At least until the next time a politician tries to reach into your pocket and raise your taxes instead of rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work of actually reforming our state and its finances.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lyin’ Ben Starts To See The Light – 6 Years Later


I don’t often laugh out loud and I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed out loud while watching the annual Kenner Budget Meeting, but this year I laughed out loud on several occasions.
The fact that I watched the Budget Meeting on a replay on KTV at 3am, is proof of my insomnia. This year, unlike in years past, I was forced to watch the meeting on TV since Kenner's Public Information Officer (a former T/P reporter) does such a great job of informing the public of "Public Information".
No pun intended but "Information" is in the middle of your job title although the truth is, I've always believed that Kenner having a "Public Information Officer" was a complete waste of tax dollars. But hey, it's better than him being the Deputy Clerk of Courts, right? Oh, that's right - he WAS the Deputy Clerk of Courts in the Yenni Administration.

Normally, the budget meeting is a pretty dry affair – nothing overly contentious and nothing earth shattering. The Department Directors parade up to the microphone and give out terse details about their departments and where our money is being spent. Typically, each Department Director is at the mic for a few minutes and, almost always, they parrot the same lines: “It’s a pretty much standstill budget with only increases for insurance and pensions.”

Some larger departments, like Recreation, receive more time than others.

During the Muniz years, Mayor Edmund barely spoke. Since his back was to the audience, and since I knew Muniz, I often believed that his silence was because he was nodding off. Truth be told, I’ve nodded off at a few budget meetings myself and I’m probably 20 years younger than Ed.

During Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-In-Chief’s tenure as Kenner Mayor, Mike Yenni also barely spoke differing to then-CAO Mike Quigley or then-Finance Director Duke McConnell. I cannot confirm that Yenni’s silence was due to him sexting underage boys  or daydreaming about stalking them in public restrooms (although that certainly is a possibility).

This year’s budget meeting was a little different affair with Lyin’ Ben Zahn, in his first swing at the budget (and, with any luck, his last).

While new CAO Deborah Foshee did the bulk of the heavy lifting (just as in real life where Lyin’ Ben can’t carry his own weight), Zahn did speak more than Muniz and Yenni combined.

Not sure if that is a good thing or not, but it certainly did make me laugh.

When Lyin’ Ben defeated me in 2011 for the Jefferson Parish District 4 Council seat, I made an issue of the over funding that Kenner sent to Jefferson Parish. I highlighted 3 areas that Kenner was drastically over funding JP and not receiving the proper amount of services for our tax dollars:

1). The RTA. Kenner tax payers were spending several hundred thousand dollars (at the time, I think it was about $800k) along with more from the City’s General Fund, for poor bus service.

2). The JP 911 Service. Kenner tax payers were also spending about $500k more to fund JP’s 911 call center despite the fact that Kenner had its own 911 call center and doesn’t use JP’s.

3). The Lafreniere Park tax. On every water bill, Kenner residents pay a tax to support Lafreniere Park. In 2011, the tax generated about $400k for Lafreniere Park. There was a time when this may have made sense but, Kenner has its own parks now and that funding could better be utilized by Kenner for Kenner recreation.

None of the three were original ideas by me. I merely tried to cast more light on them and, if I were elected, I would have made it a priority to get Kenner its fair share.

While I doubted that I would be able to secure the almost $2 Million annually in over payments sent to JP annually, it was clear that even if ½ came back to Kenner, the City could use that money for infrastructure, recreation and public safety.

On the campaign trail, on the few times where Lyin’ Ben would debate me or meet me at a community forum, Zahn scoffed at getting this funding back from JP.

To be fair, after some citizen pressure and with Mike Yenni taking credit for it, Zahn was able to secure about $250k in rebates from the RTA. At the time, it was supposed to be a one-time deal but at the budget meeting it appears that Kenner is receiving slightly more than the $250k Zahn secured but nowhere near the $900k in annual tax dollars or the $500k city subsidy that the RTA currently receives for the Kenner loop.

During his time on the JP Council, Zahn never addressed the 911 fee or the Lafreniere Park tax.

Now, it appears, that Zahn has changed his tune and wants more money back from the RTA or better service (or both).

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, Lyin’ Ben suggested that the Kenner City Council write a letter to the JP Council seeking the RTA rebate.

What?

You were on the JP Council representing Kenner for 5+ years and now a letter from the City Council is all it will take to get more money?

If you’re like me (and God help you if you are), you laughed heartily at that.

One of my other “laugh-out-loud” moments came when Lyin’ Ben discussed JEDCO.

For years, I’ve advocated against Kenner paying $75k annually to JEDCO. After all, Kenner is part of JP and JEDCO should be working for us anyway.

When Yenni contracted with JEDCO, he said that the costs involved in having an in-house Economic Development Department in Kenner would far outweigh the $75k sent to JEDCO.

Now, Lyin’ Ben wants to hire a Mayoral Assistant in charge of Economic Development and pay him/her $50k, saving Kenner $25k, although the bulk of that savings will go to benefit costs.

This is a good thing for Kenner, assuming that Lyin’ Ben can find a quality Economic Development person for $50k and, there was no money allocated in the budget for travel and other expenses which would be crucial for visiting potential companies that might consider Kenner.

So, for the moment, pending an announcement on who will be Kenner’s new Economic Development Guru (since clearly, no one wants Lyin’ Ben the unlicensed Florist in charge of Economic Development), I guess we should be giving Zahn props yet.

Even Lyin’ Ben isn’t giving himself props.

“Let’s try it for a year or two and, if it doesn’t work, we can always go back to JEDCO.”

Since the JEDCO experiment didn’t work, why don’t we just drive down Williams Blvd and throw 75,000 $1 bills out the window.

Now, if Lyin’ Ben were truly bold, he would also stop the JCVB money grab that robs Kenner of its Hotel/Motel tax dollars with no accountability.

In the years since Yenni dissolved the Kenner Convention & Visitors’ Bureau (KCVB), Kenner has funneled our tax dollars to the JCVB, which is controlled by Yenni and Zahn’s campaign manager, Greg Buisson. If you want to read about Lyin’ Ben’s part in the KCVB issue, click here.

The JCVB has provided no accounting of where Kenner’s tax dollars have been spent and there has been no benchmarks set regarding hotel occupancy or conventions attracted to the Pontchartrain Center, etc.

Where has the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually sent to the JCVB (and the “Marketing Fund” promised by SMG for Yenni’s covert renewal of the Pontchartrain Center management) gone?

Aside from Greg Buisson’s greedy pockets, your guess is as good as mine.

So, while Lyin’ Ben is starting to see the light and taking steps with the RTA and in-house Economic Development, these are only baby steps. He hasn’t done anything yet regarding the RTA and hasn’t hired the Economic Development person, so, for now anyway, they are only baby steps.  

And no, I’m not taking a shot at Lyin’ Ben’s small stature.

Although I just made myself laugh out loud again.
Thanks Ben.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Kenner Councilman Offends White People and Women In The Same Breath


I have long riffed on the intelligence or rather, the lack of intelligence, of Kenner District 4 City Councilman Lenny Cline.

Cline is the posterchild for the indisputable fact that having a college degree, let alone two, is not a sign of intelligent life.

Don’t believe me? Attend a Kenner City Council meeting while Cline is still Council President. How someone can still screw up minor procedures like calling for a vote to open a public hearing is beyond me.

And please explain to me how you can put together a three-person committee (with yourself being one of the three) and screw that up?
When a major project for a new apartment complex in his District was up for approval at a Council Meeting, Cline said, "I don't have any negative or positive thoughts on the project until I see all the evidence. I want to know what's going there and why, and what quality of units will be there."

Need more proof?





It’s ok…I will wait.

As if the mountain of verbal faux pas spewing from Cline weren’t enough, at Thursday’s Kenner City Council Meeting Cline stunned even me.

Near the end of the meeting, Cline was attempting to make a point about Kenner’s diversity.

After saying that all White people “look alike” (sorry Lenny – you and I look nothing alike), Cline stated that “Kenner even has a Female City Attorney”.

The horror!

I know you are as shocked as I am that the City of Kenner, the 6th largest City in Louisiana, would have a woman as its City Attorney.

Since the departure of former Mayor and current Jefferson Parish Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni to Parish government resulted in many Yenni-Loyalists including one of his most trusted lap dogs, former Interim City Attorney Mike Power (who was “Interim City Attorney” so that Yenni could circumvent the will of the Kenner people and dodge Kenner’s residency requirement for Department Directors, a circumvention that is continuing in the Lyin’ Ben Zahn administration), former Kenner Assistant City Attorney Leigh Roussel was promoted to Kenner City Attorney.

Roussel, who was Assistant City Attorney for several years, is eminently qualified. My dealings with her in the past have always been professional, even when we’ve disagreed.

Her promotion to City Attorney was long overdue and Kenner is lucky to have her.

Even if she is a woman. Right Lenny?


Well folks, for Lenny Cline’s sake, I sure hope he too has really small feet.

We already know that he has a really small brain.  




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

$40+ Million And We Get Fake Bricks? Only In Kenna Brah


When former Kenner Mayor and current Jefferson Parish Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni took on the largest debt in Kenner’s history for “beautification” and public art in medians, I don’t think the good people of Kenner thought they would be getting fake bricks painted with stencils.

After all, we’re talking about the medians of some of Kenner’s most trafficked roadways, not a grade school art project.

But, if you drive down many Kenner streets including 32nd Street from Williams Blvd. into The Esplanade or Williams Blvd. through Rivertown or many other streets in Kenner, you don’t see public art in the medians or trees or anything that would remotely be considered “beautification”.

What you do see is fake bricks painted over the concrete medians.

It was almost 4 years when I sat down with former Times-Picayune columnist Jim Varney to discuss the largess of Yenni’s 2030 Plan and the excessive spending involved in the Yenni Administration. If you want a refresher, here’s a link to the article.

In the nearly 4 years since that article appeared, in addition to the $42 Million or so in debt that Yenni sold, the City of Kenner has received Millions in Federal, State and Regional grants that went towards many of the road projects involved in Yenni’s scheme.

In addition, Kenner received $6.9 Million from the BP Oil Spill Settlement and over $1 Million more from permits and fees involving the new Armstrong Airport Terminal.

And, a few short weeks ago, voters in Kenner approved the renewal of property tax millage for road maintenance costing property owners several Million more for the next ten year. 

When he discussed the BP Oil Spill Settlement money, Yenni said,

"Imagine how those funds will be put to good use as we reshape Kenner for generations to come." He gave no hint of his administration's plans for the money.

And this is on top of the supposedly transformative $42 Million from the 2030 Plan debt that was supposed to remake Kenner into a pedestrian-friendly suburb that young millennial families would flock to.

So, where did all the money go?

Was the money spent on making the intersection of Williams and Vets more “pedestrian-friendly”? After all, that was one of the topics that Jim Varney and I discussed 4 years ago.

No. The City did build a bike path on Williams Blvd. under I-10 for the thousands of bike riders that traverse up Williams Blvd. daily. Ok, maybe it’s not “thousands” but I have seen more than 1 person riding his bike under I-10. Sadly, I’ve never seen more than 1 at a time though.

Kenner also got another overpriced bike path on David Drive that is also lightly used.

Ok, was the money spent on making Williams Blvd. safer? After all, that was one of the largest projects in Yenni’s 2030 Plan.

No, Williams Blvd. has changed much except for the repair of the sinkhole near the Circle K at Williams and Vets.

So, again I ask, where’s the money?

4 years after the bond debt was sold and the people of Kenner have never received an accurate accounting of not only the 2030 Plan Debt, the amount of grants received, or the funding of the projects, and, if grant funding was used for the projects and replaced money that was budgeted, what was the budgeted money spent on?

Kenner is building a $1.5 Million shed though.

I guess when Yenni was talking about all the projects that would “reshape Kenner for generations” and some folks foolishly believed the lines about the need for “beautification” to attract young, affluent families to Kenner, we should have known that the priorities were building “The Taj Mahal of sheds” to keep outdoor generators secure and buying stencils and paint for fake bricks in medians.

Well, I guess it’s better than spending tourism money for decorative street lighting, right Lyin’ Ben?

Only in Kenna Brah…


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kenner Council Punts Zahn/Sigur Uber Money Grab


If you’ve read this blog before or if you’re unfortunate enough to actually know me, you know that I’m a “Limited Government” guy. I firmly believe that the less government involvement in my life, the better.

So, when I learned months ago that the Kenner City Council was discussing an ordinance to regulate Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), I was torn.

On the one hand, Kenner has been behind in the regulation and oversight of companies like Uber and Lyft and, yes, I believe that they should be regulated. While on the surface Uber and Lyft (and their accommodation companions like AirBNB) are primarily middlemen connecting consumers to individuals offering their personal items and time for a fee, TNCs are essentially providing vehicles for hire (albeit without the cost of owning their fleet, local licensing and other regulations faced by other “Vehicles for Hire” companies like Taxicabs or Limo Companies).

As a “Vehicle for Hire” company, a term that the TNCs distance themselves from, I believe that Uber, Lyft and others should face the same licensing, insurance and other regulations (and fees) that burden Taxi and Limo Companies especially regarding public safety issues like criminal background checks, drug tests, and licensing.
If there are going to be regulations, there needs to be regulations for all companies in an industry. The playing field must be level.

On the other hand, while Kenner was way behind in regulating Uber and Lyft, I really didn’t want Mental Midgets like Lyin’ Ben Zahn, Lenny Cline, Mike Sigur and others involved in regulating anything related to the economy and certainly not the New Economy. Remember this is the group that decided that Kenner shouldn’t allow boat owners to park their boats in their driveways before boat owners rebelled forcing Sigur, Cline and the minions to take a step back for a year.  

I mean, let’s get real: Lenny Cline couldn’t form a three-person committee to study TNCs (with himself as one of the three) without screwing it up; the duplicitous, ethically-challenged Sigur, while professing the proposed ordinance was about “Public Safety”, simply saw Dollar Sign$ and money from new fees pouring into Kenner; and Lyin’ Ben isn’t qualified to write a grocery list let alone an ordinance impacting the future of transportation.

And, if it wasn’t a money grab, why only limit the fees to rides picked up at the Airport, since there are no other “Transportation Facilities” in Kenner?

I know that Lyin’ Ben keeps professing to have had little to do with the ordinance but his money-grubbing fingerprints were all over the legislation (as were the obvious errors in the proposed legislation that would have landed Kenner in court for years).

On more than one occasion, Zahn publicly stated that doing anything – even attaching a small fee like $.50 per Uber trip, would be “something”.

Yes Lyin’ Ben, it would be “something” – more shekels for the Kenner Treasury. Adding a fee would amount to nothing, I repeat nothing Mr. Sigur, for the public safety of consumers using TNCs or for other drivers navigating Kenner’s roads.

The truth is, I’m sure Uber and Lyft would much prefer a $.50 fee than the $4+ fees proposed by Kenner.  But, $6 per passenger for Airport Shuttles? Who on the Kenner City Council didn’t communicate with the shuttle company and learn that they are under a bid contract and can’t increase their fees to accommodate the Zahn/Sigur money grab?  

So, after months of debate (and wasted time), the Kenner City Council finally indefinitely deferred their TNC ordinance.  

At Thursday’s Kenner City Council meeting, the rationale for deferring the ordinance was pending State legislation, including a proposed bill by newly-elected District 92 State Rep Joe Stagni, would soon supplant any City legislation.

Stagni is a former Kenner City Councilman and his House District includes a significant portion of Kenner.  

At the meeting, Lyin’ Ben said he spoke with Rep Stagni several times regarding TNCs and would continue lobbying Stagni, Rep Julie Stokes (whose District includes the Northern section of Kenner) and others to get a bill passed that would benefit Kenner.

There is also a proposed bill by Republican District 62 Rep Kenny Havard regarding TNCs. Havard’s district includes portions of East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes. I could take a cheap shot and ask, who knew that Uber was even available in East and West Feliciana, but that would be too easy.

But, if neither bill passes and isn’t signed into law, Kenner will be back where they are now – without any regulations regarding TNCs and, even if one of the two bills does pass, it will be months before the legislation will take effect which, again, leaves TNCs unregulated in Kenner.

That being said, while both bills impose a lower fee on TNCs than the Zahn/Sigur Money Grab, is either bill good for Kenner, public safety and consumers?

Not in their current forms.

Rep Havard’s bill, HB 527, while more comprehensive than Rep Stagni’s HB 672, has some very clear holes in it.

Havard’s bill imposes a 1% “local assessment fee” compared to Stagni’s $.25 per trip fee.

By his own admission, Rep Stagni’s bill is “not complete” and simply assesses a $.25 fee per TNC trip. Currently, the money collected under Stagni’s bill goes to the State Highway fund.

But, let’s talk about what neither bill includes.

Neither bill provides regulation regarding  "Dynamic" or “Surge pricing”. “Surge pricing” is when Uber/Lyft significantly increases their fees for very high demand usage like fleeing a natural disaster or even special events like JazzFest. Complaints about “surge pricing” (essentially price-gouging) have been rampant regarding Uber for years. In 2014, Austin (TX) residents complained about paying almost $300 for an 11-mile ride home during Halloween. The normal fare would have been less than $20.
Uber also faced numerous complaints regarding "Surge pricing" from residents fleeing Hurricane Sandy.
“Dynamic Pricing” indeed.

Neither bill requires Uber/Lyft drivers to obtain a chauffer’s license or Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). If you’re hauling people or making deliveries, even if part-time, you should be required to have more than a simple Driver’s License.

Neither bill mandates minimum insurance requirements for drivers other than normal state minimums. As Uber/Lyft drivers are independent contractors, they may or may not be covered in Louisiana by the TNC’s blanket insurance policy, and they clearly do not have commercial insurance coverage.

While Havard’s bill addresses service animals, neither bill adequately includes provisions for disabled riders or accessibility that remotely meets ADA guidelines. In 2014, a lawsuit was filed in California alleging Uber denied service to blind passengers. In the suit, it was alleged that an Uber driver put the service dog of a blind passenger in the trunk of his vehicle.

Neither bill mandates that TNC drivers or their vehicles be licensed in Louisiana.

Neither bill mandates that TNC drivers possess local occupational licenses. If TNC drivers are “Independent Contractors” as defined in Havard’s bill, a local occupational license should be required. An occupational license is required for Uber drivers in many cities including San Francisco, where Uber is headquartered.

Labeling TNC drivers as “Independent Contractors” has also been a legal bone of contention both among several States and the Federal government and many TNC drivers themselves.
The California Labor Commissioner's Office ruled that a former Uber driver was indeed an "employee". A Florida ruling granted a former Uber driver unemployment benefits.
Uber has vigorously fought the "Employee" designation which would make the company liable for collecting employment taxes and subject them to additional regulations.

Neither bill mandates that TNC vehicles are subjected to the same inspections as Taxis. In many cities, TNC vehicles are required to have annual comprehensive safety inspections, not simply a brake tag.

While Havard’s bill discusses a “Zero Tolerance Policy” regarding allegations of driving while intoxicated and imposes a driver suspension if there is an allegation, it does not preclude the TNC driver from simply joining a different TNC and continuing to operate.

Havard’s bill states that TNC drivers are required to complete a background check by the company but doesn’t specifically require a fingerprint background scan. Fingerprint scans are required for TNC drivers in New York City (the same as Taxi drivers) and Houston and are considered significantly more reliable than other background checks.  Uber shuttered operations in Austin, TX, after voters there defeated a proposal to allow Uber to continue using only the company-mandated background checks.  

Havard’s bill also curiously states that “a TNC or TNC driver is not a common carrier, contract carrier, or motor carrier, does not provide taxi or for-hire vehicle service, and is not required to register the TNC vehicle as a commercial motor vehicle or for-hire vehicle.”

Ok.

If an Uber/Lyft driver is not a “vehicle for hire”, what are they?

If you are moving a passenger or goods from point A to point B, and you're not a delivery or taxi company, what does that make you? Essentially, a non-regulated Taxi.

If you think that I’m anti-Uber or pro-Taxi, you would be mistaken. In fact, I’m not even anti the Kenner City Council. We need the Kenner City Council and Lyin’ Ben the Mayor to continue to remind us what truly inept government is.

Since I’m feeling generous, I will throw the Kenner City Council a bone – a Taxi related issue that they can actually fix (if they have the intestinal fortitude, which is debatable).

Four years ago, when I was on the Kenner Code Advisory Committee, we spent hours debating multiple vehicles parked in front of houses and commercial vehicles (including Taxis) parked in residential areas.

There are examples all over Kenner (including several in District 2, Councilman Sigur’s District) of 3 or more Taxi cabs parked in front of a residence. This is truly a public safety issue and one that could be easily rectified.

Driving down a narrow street and seeing multiple Taxi cabs parked on the street is both an eyesore and a safety hazard (certainly much more of both than someone’s boat parked in their driveway).

Back then, after several meetings and hours of debate, it became apparent that the political appointees of then-Mayor Mike Yenni wouldn’t let the rest of the committee proceed regarding recommendations for establishing rules regarding multiple commercial vehicles operating out of a residence.

Within the committee, we speculated that Kenner Taxi drivers/owners might have stopped the process by going directly to Yenni. That was never able to be proven and I was asked to resign from the Committee when I qualified to run for Mayor  against Yenni (although I’ve yet to see the legal precedent for that request, I’m sure Keith Conley would whip up some legal nonsense to prove his point).

Commercial vehicles should not be parked overnight on the street in residential areas.
Period.
Again, a problem that is easily fixable.

Who said that  I wasn’t “solutions oriented”?  

Since Kenner clearly has been either unable or unwilling to adequately protect consumers and drivers, while providing a level, competitive playing field for TNCs and Taxi, Limo and Shuttle companies, let’s hope that either Rep Havard or Stagni amend their bills to include specific regulations that can benefit us and not just large companies like Uber and Lyft.

It would also help if any legislation were more than just a money grab.

We have enough of that in Louisiana (and Kenner) as it is.