Monthly Archives: October 2010
While making a presentation last June, a friend introduced me to a powerful idea: “The ‘first follower’ transforms the ‘lone nut’ into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that really makes the fire.”
At a public meeting held at the Omni Royal Orleans on Tuesday, 9/21/10, the French Quarter-Marigny Historic Area Management District (FQMHAMD) also pitched a presentation including a slide that cited “24 murders” as having occurred in the French Quarter since January 1, 2007. This information was also published in the FQMHAMD’s “Management and Operations Plan” approved at its 9/7/10 Board of Commissioner’s meeting: “Within [a] 1/2 square mile, there have been 23 murders since January 2007.” (Source: Page 1, “Executive Summary.”)
Among the French Quarter residents in attendance at this meeting, this statistic caused a profound stir — while its accuracy was questioned at that moment, no one of appropriate authority was on hand to confirm its veracity.
NOPD Eighth District Commander Edwin Hosli was contacted and verification of this statistic was requested. When it became known on Wednesday, 9/29/10, that the NOPD would be correcting this data publicly, I was contacted and asked to facilitate distributing the corrected data far and wide, as quickly as possible.
Given that I’d already written about the parcel fee measure and was interviewed as a “vocal opponent” of the security district proposal by the media during the prior week, I was concerned about over-saturating the issue. I did not want to have the release of the corrected data to be perceived as being another “me-against-them” gambit and feared that it might be dismissed out-of-hand, i.e., “We already know you don’t support this.” It was critical that the corrected data be initially released by someone other than myself.
I contacted a friend who had also attended the 9/21/10 meeting, who’d immediately doubted the accuracy of the murder statistic as presented, and shared with her what needed to happen after the correction was published. I then asked for her help by releasing the corrected data in her own words.
The Times-Picayune issued its correction on the morning of Thursday, 9/30/10. I forwarded the relevant media source links to the friend I’d contacted the day before, who wrote and posted a blog entry independently. I was no longer the “lone nut” in this scenario; a powerful and articulate spark had been ignited, and the correction resonated with those who had also questioned the statistic’s accuracy when it was presented by the FQMHAMD.
Later that afternoon I sent out an email blast detailing how the misinformation had been communicated by FQMHAMD and the media, which also featured a link to this friend’s editorial blog post.
A few hours later, a “second follower” (a prominent citizens group) reported the correction of the data through a separate and widely-circulated email blast: ” …we’d like to mention an important correction that has just come to light. The FQMHAMD Management and Operations Plan states, and media outlets have reported, that there have been 24 murders in the French Quarter since January of 2007. However, according to Captain Hosli of the Eighth District NOPD, ‘The correct number for the time span in the French Quarter is seven.’”
On Friday, 10/1/10, word on the street indicated that the distribution of the corrected information had made a significant impact — the credibility of the security district proponents was being questioned and eroding rapidly. While a second citizens group attempted to explain away the FQMHAMD-issued misinformation that same day by sending out its own members-only email blast, it became evident that this effort was too little and too late.
(At a members-and-invited-guests-only meeting of this pro-tax citizens group held during the evening Wednesday, 9/29/10, NOPD Eighth District Commander Hosli addressed the attendees and corrected the murder statistic error verbally. It is disappointing that this group chose to not share notification of his in-person correction until two days later — after it was formally published by the Times-Picayune and distributed in the manner described the day before.)
In a span of six hours’ time, a movement was started. Its momentum carried over to the polls two days later, resulting in 589 votes against (65%) to 317 votes in favor (35%).
The FQMHAMD and its supporters were quite well-organized with a professionally-produced “Management and Operations Plan,” mailers, flyers, telebanks, banners, gate signs, t-shirts, buttons, email distributions, volunteers trooping door-to-door, plus multiple political endorsements… And yet, two-thirds of our community voted to reject this property tax measure.
It is unfortunate that the FQMHAMD did not use the resources at its command to verify the data being used to justify the need for tax payer-funded private security.
There was no “organized opposition” fighting this, nor was there any financial support. The only things required were a consistent emphasis on fact-checking, plus one “lone nut” and one “first follower” who were willing to start a movement.
Those who were backing the security district tax measure should take note: The revolution has been digitized, where it travels faster and more accurately than word-of-mouth at cocktail parties hosted behind the closed doors of private residences.
If “misinformation” defeated the parcel fee ballot measure, then who was truly its source?
The Kern family is currently embroiled in a legal mess over control of Algiers Mardi Gras World. The elder Kern, who recently married a much younger, allegedly gold digging wife, is in the process of squandering the company’s assets according to the lawsuit filed by his son Barry Kern.
Here is a video of the “lovely Mrs. Kern” and her new husband, you can make your own call.
and here is the text of the Times Picayune article
Mardi Gras business royalty mired in Kern family lawsuit filed by son
Published: Friday, October 01, 2010, 7:05 PM Updated: Friday, October 01, 2010, 7:33 PM
John Pope, The Times-Picayune
Claiming that his father, the legendary Carnival impresario Blaine Kern, is no longer fit to run the business he founded 53 years ago, Barry Kern filed suit Friday with the hope of seizing control of the company that makes floats for many of the most prominent parading krewes, including Rex, Bacchus, Zulu and Muses.
The suit, filed in Civil District Court and assigned to Judge Michael Bagneris, depicts Blaine Kern Artists as a company in crisis. The Algiers firm has been unable to meet payrolls and repay loans, the suit says, and it has had to furlough employees. Within the past month, according to the suit, company checks have bounced.
Barry Kern lays much of the blame for the turmoil at the feet of Holly Brown Kern, 34, whom the 83-year-old Kern married in July. She is his fourth wife.
Since she came into his father’s life several years ago, the elder Kern’s expenditures on such items as houses, cars and entertainment “skyrocketed,” as did his debts, forcing him to ask for cash advances from the company, according to the suit.
“Barry Kern directly implored Holly Brown to stop badgering his father for more and more money, without success,” the suit says. “Instead, Holly Brown has manipulated her 83-year-old husband and largely alienated him from his family, friends, business associates and employees.”
In filing the suit, Barry Kern issued this statement:
“I love my dad and will continue to support him, but recent actions have forced me to respond to protect him, my family and our employees. Furthermore, we have an obligation to preserve the integrity of Mardi Gras and to ensure that it remains a world-class celebration of our rich culture and heritage.”
He declined further comment. His father did not return calls seeking comment.
Blaine Kern Artists has about 70 employees, and it provides floats for 21 parades, including those of Babylon, Muses, Hermes, Tucks, Endymion, Orpheus and Alla.
Barry Kern had been its president from November 1994 until Aug. 31. On that day, the younger Kern said in the suit, his father, the chairman of the company’s board of directors, announced that he was accepting a resignation that the younger Kern said he had not offered.
The elder Kern’s action came as a complete surprise, the suit says, because he “had never voiced any significant criticism of the service of Barry Kern.”
Moreover, Barry Kern claims, his father had no authority to sack him because, he said, that is something that only a majority of the company’s board can do.
Despite his contention that the firing was “unauthorized and unwarranted,” Barry Kern resigned on Sept. 15 because, the suit says, he had been shut out of participation in the company’s activities.
In a letter to his father, which is included in the suit, Barry Kern said it is “painfully obvious” that his father and his wife, whom he describes as “your former paramour,” “have been engaged in a course of conduct designed to undermine me and my reputation and are incapable of working with me in a rational, business-like manner.”
Relations between father and son have disintegrated, according to the suit, and attempts to patch up the situation have been futile.
Five days after Blaine Kern told his son he intended to force him out, he issued a letter saying Barry Kern was “terminated” as president and chief executive officer of Blaine Kern Artists and Blaine Kern Mardi Gras World, as well as “any other position with any companies that I am involved in,” according to the suit.
Since then, the suit says, he “has publicly disparaged Barry Kern to employees, customers and business associates … (and) misrepresented the role of Barry Kern and Blaine Kern Artists Inc. in prominent business deals, requiring the issuance of cease-and-desist letters.”
Before his departure, Barry Kern loaned the company “tens of thousands of dollars” to meet its payroll, the suits says. Since he left, the suit says, payroll checks have bounced.
However, Barry Kern says, his father has continued to receive money from solvent company accounts.
“Under Holly Brown’s influence, Blaine Kern . . . has used his recent control of (the company) to aggrandize his own financial situation,” the suit says.
The elder Kern furloughed employees on Sept. 21, claiming he couldn’t afford to pay them, the suit says, and the company has failed to make payments on loans and to the Internal Revenue Service.
“If the payments are not honored, (the company) may be saddled with penalties and interest,” the suit says, adding that the company “lacks sufficient cash reserves to operate for any significant period of time” and that Blaine Kern owes Whitney National Bank “in excess of one-half million dollars on a commercial note that has matured.”
Based on these developments, the suit contends that the elder Kern is unable to operate the company.
Barry Kern is asking the court to appoint a receiver to take over the company and its property. He also wants the court to force his father to show the authority he has to control Blaine Kern Artists “and ultimately to declare that he has no such authority.”
Blaine Kern was an artist’s son who painted a hospital mural to cover his mother’s medical expenses, according to the suit. It caught the eye of the captain of the Krewe of Alla, who hired the young man and his father to build Alla’s first float in 1932.
He moved on to design increasing numbers of parades and to build his business. Along the way, he acquired the moniker “Mr. Mardi Gras.”
While Blaine Kern was the company’s “artist, dreamer and visionary” and public face, day-to-day operations were taken over by, among others, Barry Kern and Jerelyn Hall “Pixie” Naquin, a precise, detail-oriented woman who rose from secretary to executive vice president during her 47 years with the company.
“I was the puppet, and Pixie was the puppeteer,” Blaine Kern said in an interview earlier this year.
But her health began to decline as she battled cancer. Naquin, whom the suit describes as a “voice of reason,” died in June.
As Naquin’s influence diminished, Holly Brown started taking over not only Blaine Kern’s finances but also, in 2009, company accounts, the suit says.
Now I saw FOX-8 news last night and the elder Mr. Kern was painted in a somewhat sympathetic light, but the gravity of the situation is palpable. Personally, I think the elder Kern has gone daft.
So for everyone interested in preserving the fragile cultural history of New Orleans, this bears watching. It is a HUGE deal, because if Blaine Kern goes under, Mardi Gras as we know it will collapse. City Hall needs to get up close and personal with this imbroglio because this is a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of city revenue if Blaine Kern goes under.
Bottom line, everyone involved needs to take a step back and look at the big picture instead of their own selfish motives…