Kenner will no longer require that the money the city gets from selling streets, buildings and other property be spent in the City Council district in which those assets are located.
Proponents said the change will increase transparency, put the needs of the entire city over those of individual districts and increase funding for the Police Department.
The 4-1 vote by the Kenner City Council on Thursday night came over the objections of District 1 Councilman Gregory Carroll and other critics who said it will hurt Kenner’s oldest areas and could mean money will be used inappropriately.
Under the new law, 76 percent of the proceeds from the sale of movable and immovable property will go into a citywide capital projects fund, to be directed to projects voted on by the full council after receiving public input.
The other 24 percent will go to the Police Department, under the same split applied to undedicated sales and property tax revenue.
The ordinance, sponsored by new Councilmen Keith Connelly and Mike Sigur, effectively reverses a 2006 ordinance proposed by former District 2 Councilman Joe Stagni.
Connelly, Sigur and Councilmen Dominick Impastato and Leonard Cline all lauded the measure.
Impastato said it sends a message that the city has set aside “territorial and parochial” politics. “There are no district assets; there are city assets,” he said.
Carroll, however, said the older parts of the city tend to have the most street and infrastructure sales and that the money should go to the district that loses the asset.
“I believe when you deplete a district of something, it’s only fair you put (money) back into the district,” he said, adding that he cannot remember a street or asset sale outside of Districts 1 and 2.
District 2 is represented by Sigur.
Carroll said council members know the needs of their own districts best, and he took issue with the implication of the talk of increased transparency that there was something secretive about the way things have been done.
He said he has never left a meeting without saying what district project would get the money from a street sale.
Sigur said he doesn’t know of any instances where money was used inappropriately but that the change was still for the best. Sigur, a retired Kenner police officer, said the cash-strapped Police Department deserves a share of the revenue from asset sales.
Impastato said money may, in fact, be spent in the district where the asset was sold, “but if it’s not, we need the discretion to address the city’s top priority at that time.”
Street and asset sales are sporadic, and the amount of money they produce can vary widely.
The sale of several streets, for example, is typically in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the appraised fair market value of a large parcel of property can be in the millions, Finance Director Duke McConnell said.
The ordinance had been deferred a few times before Thursday’s vote. It first surfaced two months ago when Carroll cited it, as he protested Mayor Mike Yenni’s plan to use proceeds from street sales in Carroll’s district to fund the new Kenner Food Bank building.
The financial implications of Thursday’s decision will become clearer as the new half-billion-dollar expansion of Louis Armstrong International Airport — in Carroll’s district — gets underway.
Carroll said it remains to be seen just how depoliticized the process will be when council members “haggle” over the money from sales, but Impastato replied that he has faith the council will make appropriate decisions.
Kenner resident Al Morella, who spoke in opposition to the change along with another former mayoral candidate, Walt Bennetti, said he’s not so sure.
Morella said he’s seen instances where “factions have deliberately put their foot on district council members who are opposed to their agenda.”
“The opening would be there in case you do want to engage in any kind of reprisals,” he said.
Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch, who was sitting in for a traveling Mayor Mike Yenni and, therefore, didn’t vote, said she also supports the change.
Councilman Keith Reynaud did not attend the meeting.