New Orleans Advocate

Newell: Mayor Zahn - individual patriotism does not trump the First Amendment

Newell Normand
September 13, 2018 - 7:28 pm

Ben Zahn, Mayor of Kenner, announced yesterday that he rescinded the presumably unconstitutional policy of restricting the spending of city dollars…as well as private donations…through playground booster clubs from being spent on Nike products.  

In a minutes-long press conference, Zahn stated that advice from the city attorney served as the impetus for that decision.  

When asked if he consulted with the city attorney prior to the implementation of said policy - the Mayor Zahn stumbled and responded that there was some consulting, and because of his motivation - they were okay with that!

Problem #1 - in the future the Mayor of Kenner may want to get a second opinion.  Pretty elementary review for a lawyer - individual patriotism & appreciation of an elected official does not trump the First Amendment.   

The mayor went on to say that his memo divided the city and also cast Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage.  

Problem #2 - anytime an elected official places his personal beliefs above the U.S. Constitution and implements a policy reflecting those beliefs deserves to be cast in an unflattering light.  To call it “false” means that Mayor Zahn continues to exhibit a lack of understanding of the implications of his actions.  This is not about Colin Kaepernick nor Nike.  This action is about using a taxpayer funded public office to advocate a personal belief, while suppressing the rights of another to express their views.   

Mayor Zahn has every right to call a press conference in front of a military set and express his views on any subject he desires.  But, once he finished delivering his completely prepared comments, the mayor stated, “I will take a few questions; I have another engagement to get to.”  

Problem #3 - discourteous, condescending, insensitive and totally devoid of the implications of his actions.  Mayor Zahn controls his schedule.  To not provide adequate time for the media and the citizens of Kenner to explore why the city is facing the on and off implementation of an unconstitutional policy is selfish.  

Mayor Zahn stated he wanted to look to the future and focus on the needs of Kenner.  In my view he missed the perfect opportunity to do just that.  I know his displeasure with Nike, however, the mayor should consider their slogan - just do it!

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