When the rains came on August 5, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wound up saddled with an issue he didn't want: How to rebuild a broken system and restore public confidence in an agency that had been patently dishonest with residents about conditions on the ground.
Over in Jefferson Parish, though, it seems as if Mike Yenni wound up with an issue that he did want — or at least one that he can use.
Like New Orleans leaders, Jefferson officials know what can happen when their constituents decide they didn't do everything humanly possible to keep floodwaters at bay. Before the scandal that sent him to prison, former Parish President Aaron Broussard nearly lost his job over his decision to evacuate pump station operators ahead of Hurricane Katrina.
In the wake of the surprise floods of Aug. 5, Gov. John Bel Edwards has been on the front li…
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni sent a caustic letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards last we…
They also know that one way to prove themselves is to show they're on it.
Yenni, still in office but somewhat sidelined ever since his sexting scandal, has been on it. His parish didn't see much damage but did get a wake-up call over issues concerning shared reliance on parts of New Orleans' antiquated system. He has since negotiated better access for Jefferson personnel.
He also jumped on an issue first raised by a couple of local legislators, Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto of a $2 million capital outlay request for a flood control project. In an over-the-top letter to the Democratic governor, the Republican parish president cried "political payback" against his legislative critics, described imagined "grins and snickers of your close aides" as he vetoed the item, and offered a cheeky reminder that some of Yenni's own adversaries had crossed party lines to back Edwards.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said Friday he intends to revisit a 2007 agreement the…
"Your veto didn't only hurt (state Rep. Cameron) Henry and (state Sen. Conrad) Appel, it also hurt your close allies who endorsed you from their Republican ranks like Sheriff Newell Normand, Councilman Chris Roberts, Senator Danny Martiny and more. Perhaps you will consider them when determining whether to punish all of Jefferson Parish strictly out of spite," Yenni wrote.
Edwards quickly countered, and asked why, if the project was so important, Yenni never reached out to him directly. "I appreciate the need to advocate for local projects that are important. I would, however, suggest that you convey the importance of these projects in advance, rather than sitting back and watching the process play out without your involvement," the governor wrote.
He has also cited fiscal constraints caused by legislative Republicans' unwillingness to raise more revenue. Henry, of course, is the leader of the House faction that has fought Edwards' budgetary agenda.
There are two sides to that debate, but when it comes to flooding there's only one: firmly, staunchly against. It's not too often that such gimmes come along, particularly for a politician who's been marginalized for so long. Clearly Yenni was ready for this one when it did.