A battle has been raging in Kenner concerning a project to repair the entrance to Woodlake subdivision, one of the wealthier communities in the city. There is controversy about whether the structure belongs to the city of Kenner and whether Woodlake should receive this enhancement when other subdivisions need improvements and repairs as well. (Some civic association leaders have complained that the city has not accepted responsibility for repairs to other neighborhood entrances.)
At the Jan. 2, 2003, meeting of the Kenner City Council, members voted 6-1 to accept the lowest responsible bid for repairs to the entrance to the Woodlake subdivision. Lambert and Associates had administered the bid process, which was won by Ahern Construction with their bid of $142,500 for the entrance repair. The money would have been used to fix a 600-square-foot entrance structure and a separate stucco wall. This same entrance was repaired three years ago.
The Council approval led to an uproar from some Kenner citizens and various civic associations who believed that Woodlake was receiving special treatment. City Council President Terry McCarthy lives in the Woodlake subdivision. Two weeks after approval was initially given, Council member Phil Capitano asked the Council to reconsider the motion to accept the lowest responsible bid, a request the entire council unanimously approved. This resulted in Ahern Construction sending the city a letter of objection demanding the mayor sign the contract under threat of legal action.
The entire matter will be revisited at the Feb. 20 Council meeting, when members will vote in executive session. Council members should expect to hear opposition from members of the Place Pontchartrain Civic Association, the Southlake Civic Association and the University City Civic Association, among other groups.
There will be changes in leadership for both the Republican and Democratic State Party organizations in this critical election year. The Louisiana Republican Party has already announced the appointment of new executive director Jason Hebert. Hebert replaces George Bonnett, who served in the position for the past two years and will now serve in the newly created position of assistant to the chairman. Hebert previously worked as a campaign aide for Vice President Dan Quayle, as an executive with Innovative Advertising in Covington and as the political director for the Republican Party of Louisiana. He says he will be working to mobilize a grassroots network throughout the state with the goal of increasing Republican seats in the Louisiana Legislature in this year's elections. Hebert also hopes to reach out to African-American voters in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Democratic Party will be selecting a new state chairman at the March 8 State Central Committee meeting. Ben Jeffers, who served as state chairman for six years, recently resigned to work as a consultant on political campaigns. Jeffers is expected to play a leading role in the gubernatorial campaign of Lake Charles Democrat Buddy Leach. One of the top candidates to replace Leach is New Orleans Democratic activist Madelyn Schenk. Schenk, who has been a very involved Democratic Party organizer for many years and has worked closely with numerous Louisiana labor groups, has reportedly been making phone calls to key Louisiana Democrats to line up their support in advance of the March meeting.
Jefferson Evacuation Plan Criticized
Metairie resident Donald Grush has been leading a one-man crusade to change the emergency evacuation plan in Jefferson Parish. Grush became concerned after he saw the immense traffic delays during the Hurricane Georges evacuation. The retiree, who worries about the safety of his children and grandchildren who live in Kenner, has studied this issue and met with Kenner Council members, state representatives and others involved in emergency evacuation to express his concern.
In the current I-10 West Contra-Flow evacuation plan, evacuees using the Loyola exit will have to exit I-10 at the I-55 split and travel toward Hammond. They will not be allowed to exit I-10 at LaPlace or to travel toward Baton Rouge because State Police vehicles will be blocking I-10 at those points. Grush believes that massive traffic delays will result from the confusion of the current plan, which could lead to catastrophe for Kenner residents exiting at Loyola. "How can people save their families if they do not know what is going on?" Grush asks.
In addition to changing Kenner's evacuation plan, Grush would like a television program aired on local stations informing area residents of the evacuation plan in detail so there will be no confusion if an actual evacuation is ordered.