Council defends $12,000 wall

Kenner’s council members forcefully defended their decision to approve a mildly controversial wall honoring the city’s politicians, arguing that the project has serious historical value and no real downside.

Council members took turns rebutting swirling criticism about the city’s decision to build a $12,000 metal wall in the council chamber that will list all of the city’s past and present politicians. Several council members said initially they were concerned about the wall, but it became more palatable as they learned more about it. They said if Kenner didn’t accept the money, someone else would.

The project is being paid for with $10,000 from the Jefferson Parish Historical Commission and $2,000 from Kenner City Events Inc. Councilwoman Jeannie Black said she’s upset that the wall has even become a controversial issue.

“We’re having to defend something we should be proud of,” said Black, noting that the city didn’t pursue the funding. “We didn’t go after them, they came after us.”

Kenner resident Richard Brown said that when he learned of the wall, he wasn’t disturbed by the idea of honoring the city’s politicians, but he was concerned by the funding sources. Brown said the historical commission receives some public funds, and he thought Kenner City Events was created to fund projects in Laketown and the Kenner Food Bank.

“I would hope that all of the funding for something like this could come from private sources,” Brown said.

But Chief Administrative Officer Mike Quigley said no Kenner city funds were used, and it’s debatable whether any public funds were used at all. The historical commission does receive some funding from Jefferson Parish, but it also raises money from other sources, he said. In addition, Kenner City Events can spend its money on educational and civic beautification projects, Quigley said. The wall qualifies for funding under those rules, he said.

“This whole thing will be fully funded,” Quigley said. “It won’t come out of any Kenner taxpayers’ money. We feel that this is an opportunity that we’re grateful for and can’t pass up.”

Council Chairwoman Michele Branigan said it’s a little ridiculous that some people have criticized the wall as an attempt by politicians to seek attention. Branigan argued that most of the city’s politicians shun the spotlight.

“Honestly, we’re not jumping in front of the photographer,” she said.