Thursday, April 6, 2017

Strollin’ Down Memory Lane Courtesy of Facebook and an Ex-Friend

Like many folks, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. While I enjoy seeing my friend’s accomplishments, achievements and life events (sorry, what you had for lunch is not a “life event”), the anonymity of Facebook can make it a pretty dark place. When folks you’ve never met (and will never meet) or who barely know you, make judgements about your life and your character, something is wrong.

And, we’ve all done it.

Two things happened to me in the past few days on Facebook that made me stop and think.

First, courtesy of Facebook, I was unceremoniously reminded that, three years ago (against the advice of Doctors and many others) I ran for Mayor of Kenner. Obviously, Facebook was not aware that was not one of most positive “life events” in my now 55 years on this Earth.

We all know how that story ended, Mike Yenni beat me, but how many of us could have foreseen what the three years since that election would bring?

We now know that, even before the election, Mike Yenni was campaigning for his next job as Parish President.

We now know that, after his re-election as Mayor and before his ascension to Parish President, Yenni (a married father) was trying to hook up with teenage boys to add to his sexual conquests.

We now know that Yenni sexted at least one high school boy, bought him gifts, kissed him in a public restroom, suggested the two add another teen for gay threesome, and suggested that he and the teenage boy leave the state for a sexual rendezvous in Mississippi.

I wonder if Yenni’s Facebook page will remind him of those “life events”?

In Kenner, we now know that, after Yenni moved to Parish Government, we had a first-term, ethically-challenged Councilman appointed as “Interim Mayor”.

We now know that Kenner received Millions in the BP Oil Settlement that the Council promptly squandered on unnecessary buildings and projects loaded with contracts for their campaign contributors. This, on top of the $40 Million from Yenni’s debt sale for more unnecessary buildings and projects.   

We now know that, like Yenni, Lyin’ Ben Zahn quit on the job that he was elected to do (for a second time) and was elected Kenner Mayor leaving us with an Interim JP Councilman for almost a year.

I could say something snarky like, “See what happens when you don’t vote the right way?” but, that wouldn’t make me feel any better about myself or the state of the City of Kenner.

Being right doesn’t make things right.

The fact is, even if the voters in Kenner knew that Mike Yenni was a sexual predator trolling school events to hook up with young boys, he still would have beat me.

And, I’m ok with that.

But having Facebook throw my election defeat back in my face did make me think (for a second anyway) about what happened and what could have happened differently if circumstances had changed.

Which brings me to the second Facebook item that made me stop and think.

A person that I once considered a friend (yes, we ALL have those on Facebook) made a post that was critical of another person that I once considered a friend while simultaneously extolling the virtues a third person that I know is scumbag (for lack of a better term).

I hope you followed that because there will be a quiz at the end of this post. The “Winner” will get to read the pieces of paper contained in the infamous envelope with the word “TEXTS” written on it that George Peterson carries with him everywhere.

I can’t win since, while I don’t know if what’s inside the envelope is the actual texts that Mike Yenni sent to a high school boy, I have already seen many of the actual texts that Yenni sent and I don’t need to subject myself to seeing them again and I surely won't write about them. We all know what happened when JP Councilman Chris Roberts wrote about Yenni's texts to fellow JP Councilman Jennifer Van Vrancken. I don't need the "Investigative Unit" at Fox 8 following me around.  

But, back to the Facebook post.

Normally, I just roll through Facebook and don’t comment unless it’s to congratulate someone on a positive “life event” (again, lunch is not a “life event” imo).

As I read the post, I came upon a comment from a “friend” of my ex-friend. In the comment, he threw out words like “integrity” and “honesty” and tried to correlate them to Ben Zahn.

Yes, Lyin’ Ben Zahn.

Since I’ve known Ben Zahn for easily 10 years, I felt compelled to reply to this comment.

I know that I shouldn’t, but I did anyway.

You know how it is when you come to a fork in the road and you go left but after you’ve gone you realize that you should have gone right but you’ve gone so far that it’s too late to turn back.

That was me on Facebook.

Rather than just go on with my life, I questioned my ex-friend’s friend and whether he was on drugs. I mean, discussing “integrity” and “honesty” along with Ben Zahn in the same sentence is grounds for a sobriety test.

At the least, this person should not be operating heavy machinery.

As soon as I posted, I regretted saying it. After all, who am I to question someone else. Perhaps this person was on drugs or perhaps he was fooled by Lyin’ Ben.

Or, maybe Lyin’ Ben actually did something nice for this person or actually did his job and followed up on a complaint.

Or, maybe this person has a man-crush on Lyin’ Ben.

The point is, I don’t know and I should have stopped myself.

It wasn’t long before the haters came out.

Of course, aside from ex-friend, I didn’t know who any of these people were (and, they don’t know me). But that didn’t stop them from throwing their bricks at me.

That’s fine. After everything that I’ve done in my life I’m used to the “haters”.

But, when my ex-friend said that I was an “underachiever”, I had to shake my head (smh for the Facebook crowd).

You see, I’ve known this person for maybe 4 years. He was introduced to me by a mutual friend because he wanted my help.

That’s right – he wanted my “underachieving” help.

The fact that this person, who knows little about my life and what I’ve done felt the need to publicly call me an “underachiever” is truly ironic.

Now, I’m not going to go into his background or make comparisons. That’s not right. His life and his life choices are between him and God, as are mine.

But, his “underachiever” comment did get me thinking.

There are some things that I do well and some things that I’ve done in my life that were pretty damn good.

I like animals. I can cook pretty good. I write ok (I mean, you’re reading this aren’t you?).

I think I’m a good person. I've owned successful businesses and some that were not as successful as they should have been.
Have I always hit homeruns when I’ve been up at bat? Of course not.

But, “underachiever”?

Since this person doesn’t really know anything about my life, and he has only known me for a few years, I’m assuming that he was referring to my impact on Kenner.

Yes, I ran for office twice and lost. Since I wasn’t expected to win either time, my losing can’t be considered “underachieving”. In all honesty, considering the amount that I was overspent and the uphill battles I fought, I actually did much better than I ever imagined.

So, how exactly have I “underachieved”?

In 2011, I led a group of citizens and we beat back Mike Yenni’s plan to double property taxes. This saved Kenner property owners $12 Million a year, over $70 Million thus far. Despite Yenni, Zahn and others proclaiming that the City of Kenner would go down the tubes and criminals would rule Kenner if the taxes weren’t approved, neither happened and Kenner property owners have more money in their pockets. Since the tax wasn’t imposed on businesses, Kenner’s non-property owners also have more money to spend.

In 2013, I helped a predominantly West Bank group of citizens defeat the attempt to continue the Crescent City Connection toll for another 20 years. Another group of average citizens standing up to the politicians. The CCC toll took $20 Million annually from the folks who crossed the bridge and kept it out of the hands of politicians who took the money from here for projects across the state. Another $80 Million thus far in our pockets and not the politician’s pockets.  

Also in 2013, I sued the City of Kenner and Mike Yenni to stop him from taking on the largest debt in Kenner’s history without voter approval. While my lawsuit was dismissed, I still stood up for what I believed. We’re now 4 years into Yenni’s 2030 Plan. Aside from some public art (a tax deduction for Henry Shane) and a bike lane near Williams and I-10, have you seen any significant improvements to Kenner? Has there been an accounting of the 2030 Plan and the budget? Has there been an accounting of Federal, State and Regional grants that replaced 2030 Plan funding and where that money was reallocated?

Of course not. That was my primary issue with the 2030 Plan – there was never any transparency. We (the people) didn’t approve the projects or approve the money and we have no idea where the money went.

But, again, I stood up for what I thought was right despite the “haters” and the personal attacks.

In 2014, I helped another citizens group gain support for the passage of the Louisiana Clarity Act, a law that provides for transparency in the property insurance industry statewide and should lead to more educated consumers and lower property and flood insurance rates for everyone.

Again, more money in your pocket (although this time at the expense of the insurance industry).

Those are just 4 big examples. I’ve also been involved in lots of projects and issues that impact Kenner and Jefferson Parish.

I guess that if standing up for what I believe in despite the personal costs, trying to live with integrity and honoring God daily, make me an “underachiever”, I will gladly wear that badge and buy the matching t-shirt.

I can only hope that my ex-friend is as much of an “underachiever” as I am.