[StBernard] Rodriguez explains veto of St. Bernard Council FEMA trailer park phase-out

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Jun 26 22:16:18 EDT 2007

Rodriguez explains veto of St. Bernard Council FEMA trailer park phase-out
Posted by St. Bernard bureau June 26, 2007 12:02PM
By Paul Rioux
St. Bernard bureau

St. Bernard Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez said Tuesday he will
veto an ordinance to begin closing government-run FEMA trailer parks because
the timeline is too ambitious and the ordinance does not include a guarantee
the parks will stay closed.

The Parish Council voted 4-2 last week to shut down the first three parks by
Aug. 15, with the remaining eight sites to be phased out by March 30.

Rodriguez announced late Friday that he would veto the ordinance, but at the
time did not say why. Contacted by phone Tuesday, Rodriguez, who has been
away from St. Bernard on parish business this week, said residents in 600
trailers at the 11 sites slated for closure need more time to prepare for
the transition.

"I'm not opposed to consolidating the parks because we need to get people
into permanent housing," he said. "But we need to make sure we do it in an
orderly manner so no one falls through the cracks."

Rodriguez also said the ordinance is too vague and does not guarantee that
the parks will be closed once the residents move out.

"There is nothing in the ordinance that prohibits FEMA from repopulating
these trailers," he said. "As we move people out, FEMA could move other
people in."

Rodriguez said he will submit paperwork to officially veto the ordinance in
the coming days.

Councilman Craig Taffaro, the ordinance's most outspoken proponent, said he
has not decided whether he will try to muster the five votes needed to
override Rodriguez's veto.

"We haven't even received the formal veto yet," Taffaro said. "But I still
think it's important to demobilize the group sites as a way to forge ahead
with our recovery."

Joining Taffaro in voting for the ordinance were council members Mark
Madary, Judy Hoffmeister and Kenny Henderson. Councilmen Joey DiFatta and
Lynn Dean opposed the ordinance, and Councilman Ricky Melerine did not
attend the meeting.

Several residents of parks slated for closure spoke against the ordinance,
saying they have nowhere else to live. Parish officials have said residents
would have help in finding alternate housing, including FEMA rental

The ordinance would have exempted trailers housing parish employees and
parish offices at the government complex on West Judge Perez Drive in
Chalmette. It also would have excluded FEMA trailers on residential property
or in commercial trailer parks, two categories that account for about 90
percent of the parishes roughly 6,000 trailers.

Taffaro and Rodriguez had a heated exchange during a discussion about
whether to exempt trailers at the government complex at last week's council

Rodriguez questioned whether Taffaro has enough compassion for parish
employees who earn as little as $6.50 an hour and would have to move because
of the ordinance.

Taffaro stood up and challenged Rodriguez to look those same employees in
the eye and explain why his presidential assistant and driver/body guard
draw annual salaries of $60,000 and $45,000, respectively.

Taffaro said Monday he is weighing a run for parish president this fall,
while Rodriguez has already said publicly that he plans to run for

Taffaro said he intends to announce a decision soon, but he said the
possible face-off with Rodriguez shouldn't affect the trailer ordinance.

"This isn't about what I want or what the parish president wants," he said.
"It's about what's best for the parish. Hopefully, we can come up with some
language for the ordinance that reflects that."

Rodriguez said he, too, is willing to consider revisions to the ordinance,
saying the potential challenge from Taffaro "shouldn't affect the operation
of parish government."

"It makes no difference who runs against me. In fact, I welcome the
opposition," he said. "Jump in, boys. The water's fine."

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