Jefferson Parish Councilman John Lavarine Jr. has been campaigning for the position of mayor of Kenner for several weeks now, so it came as a surprise last week to hear that he had decided to forgo the race.
Lavarine is term limited and cannot seek re-election to the Jefferson Parish Council. His race against incumbent Mayor Louis Congemi was expected to be an interesting race matching two experienced and powerful politicians. According to one Kenner insider, "Lavarine's poll numbers probably didn't look good. Louis Congemi is going to be hard to beat."
With Lavarine out of the picture, what other candidates are going to challenge Congemi? One name being touted is Kenner Councilman Phil Capitano. Capitano was being encouraged to run by those opposed to Congemi, although it appears doubtful that he will make the race. One scenario being discussed had Capitano running on a ticket with a prominent Republican member of the State Central Committee who would challenge Nick Congemi for Kenner police chief. With Capitano bowing out and running for reelection to his council seat, the Republican police chief candidate will also forgo the race, thereby insuring easy reelections for both Congemi brothers. The Republican State Central Committee member had been generating a lot of enthusiasm and would even have had the support of the top Republicans in the state. "Nick Congemi would be in serious trouble if a major Republican candidate runs against him," the committee member claims.
The one candidate who may not get an easy reelection is Capitano, who will be challenged by Congemi ally Vic Carona. Another prominent name surfacing is well known Democrat Joe Stagni as a potential candidate for a Kenner council-at-large seat.
Brouhaha in Bucktown
Plans to develop Bucktown with expensive hotels, condominiums and a marina are causing concern for a group of neighborhood activists.
Angelo Persica, president and founder of the East End Bucktown Civic Association, is concerned about what is happening to the area he grew up in. "You used to be able to hunt and fish out here," Persica says.
Other members of his organization are worried about views of the lake being obstructed by new buildings, as well as the noise created by construction vehicles. And with the widening of the bridge on Metairie Hammond Highway, the 40 members of the East End Bucktown Civic Association are also concerned about increased traffic.
Persica claims that "traffic is already bumper to bumper on Hammond Highway" and cites the support of Roger Swindler, a Corps of Engineers project engineer, who has expressed concern that the area is not permitted for expansive construction outside of green space and boat slips.
The centerpiece of the redevelopment plans is a new marina, but Persica is concerned that the marina will not have public access. The plans that were discussed, he says, include no boat ramp and no trailer parking: "Everything they seem to build out there is going to have a fence around it, so where is the public access?"
The development site is a 68-acre parcel that already includes the headquarters for the Coast Guard and might include a marina, harbor, hotels and condominiums. If all of this becomes a reality, Persica -- who says he could live with the idea of just a marina -- worries that the area will become another Fat City.
The next step is for the public to give their input. A meeting of Envision Jefferson 2020, a group focusing on a comprehensive land-use and transportation plan, will be held for the entire Lake Pontchartrain area 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Lakeshore Playground, 1125 Rosa Ave., Room 3, in Metairie.
Jefferson Alliance Honors Public Servants
At a banquet attended by more than 200 activists, the Jefferson Alliance named Kenner Mayor Louis Congemi and W. Henry Shane Jr. of Favrot and Shane Companies as the Outstanding Public Servants of 2002. These two men were honored for their contributions to enhancing the quality of life of the citizens of Jefferson Parish.
The Jefferson Alliance is a bipartisan, ethnically diverse coalition of concerned citizens residing in various parts of Jefferson Parish. The organization is lead by President Michael Sigur and Vice President Sal Lejarza.