“The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.”
- Mark Twain
It must be difficult speaking out of both sides of your mouth.
It’s certainly not a skill that I have mastered or ever will.
Unfortunately, talking out of both sides of your mouth comes easily to career politicians like Ben Zahn.
But, sooner or later it will catch up to you.
Because he panders to anyone and everyone, and is always looking for more and more money to grow government, while claiming to support public safety and defending his actions at places where he can’t be challenged, the walls are starting to cave in on Lyin’ Ben’s House of Cards.
I could sit here and rehash the many missteps that Zahn and his administration have engaged in during their 11 month tenure at Kenner’s helm but I will refrain and just speak about some significant recent developments and point out Zahn’s continued hypocrisy.
Considering that Zahn has grown the size of City government, added departments and political appointees, continuously pats himself on the back for the vast State, Parish and Local government experience that he has and has brought to the City, and that Zahn has been in Kenner or JP Government for the past 12 years, there should be far fewer missteps, if any at all.
But, since this is going to be a long post as is, let’s not digress and delve right into it.
The "Hispanic" Resource Center
First, let’s get this straight – this is not a post about whether Kenner needs or should even have a "Hispanic" Resource Center.
If you want to debate whether the trailer on Florida Avenue should be called the “Hispanic Resource Center”, the “North Kenner Resource Center”, the “Kenner Community Center”, or some other name, fine, we can do that. Just not now.
Personally, I believe that the City of Kenner should have more Community Centers that serve all facets of our community. The name is immaterial.
That being said, the fact is that we’ve had a “Hispanic Resource Center” for 14 years, it’s falling apart and the City and City Council have committed to rebuild it.
For several years, the Kenner City Council has allocated funding and moved money around to build a new HRC to replace the trailers that currently house it.
Just when it seemed like the City finally had the money put together to build a new Resource Center, Zahn and his council buddies pulled the wool out from under the Kenner Hispanic Community and Kenner residents.
At Thursday’s Kenner City Council meeting, Zahn moved $396,000 that was allocated for the HRC into capital budgets for the KPD and the KFD, and a “Loss Fund” to cover legal and other fees from lawsuits (including the lawsuit thrust on Kenner taxpayers by his own political appointees trying to overturn a Charter Change overwhelmingly approved by Kenner voters).
Both KPD Chief Glaser and Interim KFD Chief Bergeron have significant needs and, if you’ve read this blog in the past you know that I have long banged the drum to try to get more money for the woefully underfunded KFD.
While I have no issues with funneling more money to the KPD and KFD, the money should not have been reallocated from the HRC.
And, clearly, not one cent from any community program or service should be used to pay for a lawsuit that Zahn himself has encouraged and will benefit from.
But, let’s discuss the double-talk spewed from Zahn.
Zahn claimed that he was opposed to building a new HRC on land that was being used by a local soccer group.
What he didn’t tell you was that only 2 months ago, he gave the soccer team the right to use the land without even discussing his plan with District 2 Councilman Keith Reynaud and knowing full well the condition of the HRC and the money that was allocated to rebuild it.
Earlier in the year, Zahn himself approved a $12,000 change order for the contractor designing the new building, bringing the total already spent on the "new" HRC to $91,000. Of course, to hear Zahn tell it, he was just signing off on what the Council had already approved.
But, if you know the money is allocated for the building and you approved additional money for the design, why would you give that land away and, isn’t there already ample land for the new HRC and the soccer team?
Because Zahn claims that the City doesn’t need any more new buildings. On that point, Lyin’ Ben and I agree. But, this money wasn’t going towards a NEW building – it was to replace a dilapidated, outdated temporary building that has long outlived its usefulness.
But wait…there’s more.
Zahn falsely claimed that the current land housing the HRC and the soccer team wasn’t large enough and the plans for the new HRC building also weren’t big enough.
Earlier in the meeting, District 2 Puppet, I mean, Councilman Mike Sigur, at the urging of Zahn, tried to get an item added to the agenda to allow the City to buy another piece of land for the larger Resource Center that Zahn now envisions.
Why would the City want to buy another property when the existing property is more than enough?
And, since the City doesn’t have enough money for new KPD and KFD capital expenses or to fund a “loss fund”, and needs to move money from the HRC funding, where will it get even more money to buy another property and build another, even larger Resource Center?
And, what about Zahn’s claims that the City doesn’t need any new buildings? Why buy property if you don’t need a new building?
When discussing his plan with Hispanic groups in an attempt to secure their support, Zahn also has reportedly told several people that Kenner needs not just a soccer field but a soccer stadium that could hold regional tournaments.
Where will the money for that come from and isn’t a “stadium” a “building”?
It’s all very confusing but that’s what happens when you don’t speak the truth.
The Staffing Issue
Both Zahn and his puppet Sigur also said that they were pulling the HRC funding because a new, larger HRC would need more staff and the City couldn’t afford it (but they will be able to staff an even bigger Resource Center?).
When you consider the amount of new departments and political appointees that Zahn has added to Kenner government, you know that this clearly is a ruse.
Zahn could move his new “Diversity Coordinator” to the HRC and make him actually work instead of just attending luncheons.
I mean really, does anyone even know what the “Diversity Coordinator” does aside from giving Zahn cover so Lyin’ Ben can point to the token Hispanic on his staff?
Sorry Ben, Hispanics represent ¼ of the City’s population. They deserve more than token representation in your Administration.
But, I guess 1 Hispanic “Diversity Coordinator” is still 1 more than the amount of African-American Directors Zahn employs.
Yeah, having ZERO City Directors that reflect 50% of Kenner’s population really proves your “diversity” Mr. Zahn.
The Real Reasons Behind This
There are two reasons that I can see as to why Zahn reallocated the HRC funding:
1). To cover the legal expense incurred by the lawsuit from his political appointees.
2). Rebuilding the HRC wasn’t Zahn’s idea.
3). Zahn can give out even more contracts to his campaign contributors.
3). Zahn can give out even more contracts to his campaign contributors.
The Future of the HRC
While Zahn maintains that moving the funding from the HRC is not a death sentence and that he will build a new, bigger (to be named) Resource Center, several questions remain:
1). When will the Resource Center be built?
2). How will the land and building be funded and staffed? Since we know Lyin’ Ben won’t cut his bloated political appointee budget, will Zahn steal money from other community programs or should we get used to seeing Bake Sales at future Council meetings to provide the funding?
3). If and when a new HRC or Resource Center is built, will Kenner Hispanics and residents of all ethnicities feel welcome there?
4). What about the $91,000 that the City has already paid for design work? Do we just write that off because Ben Zahn says so?
One Last Thing
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the ugly, vile and unprofessional comments made by District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur regarding his fellow Councilman, At-Large Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch and District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud.
Sigur inferred that DeFrancesch and Reynaud were against moving the HRC funding because they will economically benefit from increased property values if the HRC stayed in its current address.
Sigur claimed that there could be “ethics violations” and charges against DeFrancesch and Reynaud.
Of course, Sigur just threw these statements out there and didn’t elaborate or offer any proof to substantiate his claims.
For those of you that follow Kenner politics, you know that it is incredibly hypocritical for Sigur to lecture anyone on “ethics”.
- While campaigning, Sigur lied about his support of then-Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s plan to double property taxes. When he was presented with photographic proof that he had a yard sign supporting the tax increase, Sigur claimed that he was simply supporting the KPD and not Yenni’s tax scheme. Yeah, right.
- Sigur allegedly removed thousands of dollars in excess floor tiles from the Kenner Police Headquarters for use in his residence.
- He approved funding for the Kenner Italian Heritage Festival while receiving compensation for paid police details and advertising for his side hustle from the Festival.
- Sigur has received thousands of dollars in police detail work as a "Reserve Officer" while sitting on the Council (he did get an opinion from the State Ethics Board which foolishly allows this to occur but even with the Ethics Board’s ok Sigur receiving compensation from the KPD while a Councilman doesn’t pass the smell test). These lucrative paid details could have and should have gone to active KPD officers to help supplement their income – not pad a "Reserve Officer"/part-time City Councilman’s income. Around the KPD, Sigur’s nickname was “Detail Whore”.
Like I said, Sigur lecturing anyone on “Ethics” is like Ben Zahn teaching a class on “Telling the Truth”.
Councilman Sigur, and I use that term loosely, you owe Councilmen DeFrancesch and Reynaud, and the people of Kenner an apology for your unprofessional behavior.
While we wait for Sigur’s apology, you better get started baking Ben.
It takes a lot of cookies to buy another piece of land to build another building that Kenner doesn’t need.