Kenner residents sent a loud message to Mayor Mike Yenni Saturday night overwhelmingly defeating 6 tax propositions, many by an 80%-20% margin. In fact, the closest margin was for a straight renewal of the sewerage tax and it was defeated by a margin of 57%-43%.
For months, the message residents were sending to Mayor Yenni was that he should Cut Spending First and Consolidate Government. The City of Kenner has 13 Departments each with its own Director and Assistant Director. The City also has 3 sub-departments. Many of these employees are politically-appointed and serve at the will of the Mayor.
Households and Government everywhere are cutting back and the residents of Kenner want Mayor Yenni to cut back too.
There are numerous areas within the City and KPD Budget that can be trimmed without impacting Kenner’s Quality of Life. Those cuts should be made first before beginning to eliminate other programs and services.
As we’ve discussed here on ClickJefferson.com, at Civic Association meetings and forums, BEFORE Mayor Yenni starts cutting services that impact residents, he must consolidate departments.
There is no logical reason that Recreation, Community Services and Community Development could not be combined leaving Kenner with 1 Director and Program Supervisors. Mayor Yenni has been reluctant to even consider this option.
Kenner’s Purchasing Department should be once again placed under the Finance Department and the Purchasing Director and Assistant Director positions eliminated. KPD should have no Purchasing Department or staff at all.
The employee and Council car allowances should be eliminated. If the city is in tough times, we must all pitch in.
While Mayor Yenni and Chief Caraway have taken steps with take-home vehicles, neither comprehends the perception problems surrounding take-home vehicles for civilian employees. Kenner is only 11 square miles and take-home vehicles and car allowances for civilian employees are a luxury, not a necessity, and they are perks that the City of Kenner and KPD can no longer afford.
In addition, salary caps should be instituted. There are many KPD employees that earn more than Chief Caraway and many City staffers both Administrative and Clerical that earn significantly more than their positions should allow. I appreciate longevity but we cannot afford employees and the increased salaries and benefits of employees that stay in the same position for 20-30 years.
In addition, the travel expenses at all city departments and the Council should be frozen.
Only after Mayor Yenni has made deep and significant personnel cuts, eliminated employee perks and consolidated departments, should he begin cutting programs and services that could impact residents. In addition there should be means testing for any program or service that is eliminated or reduced.
Again, we’ve talked about these and other ideas and suggestions for months but Mayor Yenni wasn’t listening to us or the suggestions of any resident.
As we’ve also discussed many times, the Kenner Fire Department has been woefully underfunded for many years. Mayor Yenni should make improving and upgrading the Kenner Fire Department his first priority and dedicate the savings from the elimination of the Executive Pay Plan and Department Consolidation to the KFD. If Mayor Yenni followed our suggestions regarding Department Consolidation, and if he dedicated the savings generated, KFD could afford to hire and train new fire fighters to get 4-man crews and begin purchasing new equipment.
Undoubtedly Mayor Yenni will attempt to put the taxes back on the ballot again, particularly the renewals for sewerage and the renewals with or without increases for Fire and sanitation. It is possible that Kenner residents will support the renewals if offered separately and not as a package with millions of dollars in new taxes.
The support for any taxes, new or renewal, will not be there unless Mayor Yenni starts listening and doing the right thing. Acting in a punitive or vindictive manner, as evidenced by his comments after the votes were tabulated Saturday night, will not serve the interests of the citizens of Kenner, and now, more than ever, Mayor Yenni needs to consider the citizens of Kenner over his own political ambitions and friendships.
Kenner residents clearly sent a message to Mayor Yenni that they are tired of politics and want to see real and significant spending cuts and department consolidation. The voters spoke loud and clear on Saturday. I know that Mayor Yenni heard us. Time will tell if he listens to us.