This truly seems to be the best and worst of times for civic engagement in Lafayette. In all of the years I’ve been active in local, state and federal politics, this is the first that I’ve seen swaths of young people energized and paying attention to what’s happening in their local government. Unfortunately, this comes as a response to increasingly hostile policies. While Lafayette Consolidated Government has never been perfect, the common denominator for this new wave of recklessness and blatant disregard for serving the people is the newly appointed Mayor-President, Josh Guillory. Guillory’s win brought on cautious hesitation from Black community leaders, but it seems that his first questionable steps have escalated into a growing list of civil rights infringements. Josh Guillory is not only failing the Black citizens of Lafayette; He’s failing us all.
The best place to start with the list of grievances I have for Guillory goes back to March, when the coronavirus escalated to a point where our government finally saw fit to address it. From the beginning, Guillory hasn’t taken this global pandemic seriously. In several of his own press conferences addressing the disease, notably his update on March 18, which is available on the LCG facebook page, he was clearly disregarding the same guidelines being put in place.
There were over ten people in close quarters, and not one of them with a mask on. Attorney General Jeff Landry was also in attendance, unmasked. Several outlets including The Advocate reported that Landry later contracted coronavirus and still went on to criticize the governor’s mask mandate.
Guillory has also reportedly been sighted in several restaurants in River Ranch unmasked. In a reddit post that later went viral on other platforms, Guillory is shown in his LCG shirt walking into a restaurant that was identified as Another Broken Egg, unmasked, with a sign noting the requirement clearly labeled on the door. Is Guillory just oblivious or does he not care about Lafayette citizens? Either way, we should be appalled.
In addition to this, none of his initial COVID-19 responses specifically addressed the disproportionate amount of cases affecting Black people until an article published by yours truly on April 19. On April 22, Carlos Harvin, “chief of minority affairs,” made an appearance: one that had been absent from virtually every other press conference.
To add insult to injury, during a pandemic that severely limited activities for children and young people and historic unemployment rates, Guillory also made the tone-deaf decision to fire 37 employees and close four recreation centers only on the Northside, a part of Lafayette that is historically Black. Guillory cited the decision as a necessary evil, due to a projected deficit in the budget. This rightfully caused the Lafayette community to call the decision into question. Why is it that not one single park in any other area of Lafayette was closed? This move by Guillory has been further picked apart: The Current reported that the four centers were actually cheapest to operate, and were operating in the lowest deficit.
After several demonstrations, committee hearings, and budget meetings, the parks will remain open at least until the end of the year to give LCG the opportunity to find a more permanent solution. However, the damage is already done. This administration has already made it clear that they don’t care about Black lives in Lafayette. From his actions, it’s not just Black lives that don’t matter to Guillory — no lives do, considering he’s fine with spreading the biggest pandemic the world has seen in decades.
Will Guillory ever put Lafayette first? With tear gas on peaceful protesters, suing comedians and a virtual anti-protesting law the ACLU called unconstitutional, I’m not optimistic. However, I know that we’re going to fight his continued attacks every single step of the way.