JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Amid persistent calls for Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni to resign over improper text messages he sent to a young man, representatives of the business community and parish council leaders huddled to plot strategy.
They do not want proposed tax renewals to suffer because of the ongoing controversy.
"You don't want to, you know, end up having a situation where you're not funding recreation because a circumstance like this," said Councilman-at-Large Chris Roberts.
Roberts and Councilwoman-at-Large Cynthia Lee-Sheng met with the heads of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and the Jefferson Business Council to talk about how to adequately educate voters about the importance of the proposed tax renewals on the December ballot, even as the parish president's controversy continues to make headlines, both locally and nationally.
"Certainly, the parish president controversy is not something that any of us would like for this reason, or for any reason, but these tax renewals, and again they're not new taxes, they're renewals, are much bigger than any individual," said Todd Murphy, President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.
Yenni's top aide, Chief Operating Officer Keith Conley represented the administration at the meeting in the Joe Yenni Parish Government Building.
"Yes, I think it's going to be successful. Everybody is working together towards that end, it was a very good meeting, and I think between the council, the administration and the business community as a whole, our message will get out," Conley told FOX 8 News following the meeting.
One of the millages up for renewal supports the parish's library system, another the drainage system.
"Consequences of saying, no, we're not going to be able to move water, streets, we're not going to be able to repair operations and maintenance on sewage lines," said Tony Ligi, Executive Director of the Jefferson Business Council.
There is also a millage renewal for parish playgrounds and parks.
They said recreational activities cannot afford to suffer.
"To keep the kids off the street and give them a place to go," said Murphy.
"I think if you talk to the law enforcement community they'll tell you that having constructive things for our youths to do and teaching them sportsmanship at a very young age has helped contribute to a very low crime rate we have in Jefferson," said Councilman Roberts.
Voters will also decide a sales tax renewal for parish infrastructure projects.
"There's over 75 road projects that we need to renew these taxes in order to get federal matching dollars to do some really great projects in all areas of the parish," said Murphy.
The meeting came one day after a recall drive against Yenni was launched.
In recent days, council members have said they are getting a lot of feedback from their constituents.
"We certainly have gotten calls, we've gotten emails, people encouraging the parish president to resign and passing along that sentiment to us," said Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken on Wednesday.
And the controversy prompts concerns that some voters could be less likely to support the ballot measures.
"There's a reality of that and we were very frank today in those conversations, and I think the administration gets that, too," said Roberts. "I think once they understand the impact it has on their quality of life they will make the right decision and hopefully support the renewals."
Roberts shares that optimism.
"I'm confident that voters in Jefferson Parish, if we get the message out and explain the importance of these, that they're going to be able to separate the two issues," said Roberts.
Yenni controversy aside, Murphy pointed out that working to educate voters happens with other millages.