Josh Guillory on LUS, I-49, Pride Month and ‘traditional values’

One thing we learned about Josh Guillory, he’s a creature of habit. A Caesar salad with chicken is his go-to lunch order, regardless of the spot. Last week, we spoke with him at length on a range of topics, controversies and issues facing Lafayette over the next year or more. 

Since taking office, Guillory has spun up an eventful news cycle, week after week, following through on his promises to shake up Lafayette Consolidated Government. Up front, he declined to answer questions about the announced pursuit of a criminal investigation into an alleged coverup at LUS, connected to a 2019 inquiry into millions in payments the utility system made to LUS Fiber over the last decade. 

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The I-49 Connector

Why we asked about it: The Connector is back. Next month, community planning groups will reconvene to work on designs intended to soften the impact of the urban highway and attempt to make it fit in with the surrounding neighborhoods. Guillory says local, state and federal leadership are in an unprecedented alignment. 

The Current: Where do you land on the Connector’s urgency? Do we need to make sure we build the right project? Or is it more important that we get it done?

Josh Guillory: The cop out answer is a little bit of both. I think getting it right is important. But, what, 35 years we’ve been at this? I think we’ve exhausted any patience that people have. I know my patience is exhausted with this just as a citizen. We can’t do things that needlessly delay it, you know, coming up with different possible options that could slow us down for 10 years. We have a safe model. We have studies out there that take into consideration businesses and communities, you know, the diverse communities that are affected through this project. So timing wise, I mean, I think we’re ready.

Let’s say it’s Lafayette’s responsibility to fund a big improvement the community wants, like a signature bridge, and we don’t have the money to do it. Would you wait to get it done? Would that be a needless delay? 

The problem is we don’t know [the cost]. So I think, on our side, it’s for me as a parish president to continue to push to get the answers to what is the estimated cost overall and nail down exactly what is our match. I mean, I think it’s safe to bet 20 percent is probably the match, but maybe there’s some sources in Washington that we haven’t thought about. This is not a Lafayette issue. It’s a regional issue. So we need regional support.

Consolidating IT departments at LUS, Fiber and LCG

Why we asked about it: The administration wants to fold the LUS and Fiber IT departments into LCG’s, a plan that’s been met with some pushback on the LUS side. Guillory claims the move could save $500,000 a year by eliminating “duplications” of personnel and software licensing. 

Where are those cost savings actually coming from? From the LUS ratepayer side or the LCG taxpayer side?

Savings will be on the LCG side. All right. I mean, because guess what, LUS answers to LCG, so it’s always LCG. All I have to say, that the possible reorganization is focused on saving money, doing more with less. Having one centralized call center so that we can use items like the 311 app, things like that, as opposed to LUS being siloed as if it’s a sovereign nation. Some people need to remember that LUS is a department of LCG, just like the police department.

Here’s a link to a pitch deck for the plan to create a Department of Innovation.

It is a department, but it’s different in the sense that it’s got a different set of obligations.

Finance is too. I don’t want the Finance Department to have a call center; I want LCG to have a call center. I don’t want Public Works to have its own call center. I want LCG. So we can do more with less. Synergy. things like that. 

Smart cities and cryptocurrency

Why we asked about it: Joel Robideaux pursued Smart Cities aggressively, paying a consultant $150,000 to develop a “Smart Cities Roadmap” that included initiatives like Digital 311, blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Robideaux’s political adviser, Joe Castille, a controversial figure, now advises Guillory and had a hand in Robideaux’s interest in cryptocurrency.

What is your general view of Smart City initiatives? A lot of conservatives are skeptical of that stuff and feel like it moves into territory better served by the private sector. How do you square that with your values as a conservative? 

My position is that we should use technology to further services for our people while simultaneously protecting people’s privacy. That’s my position. We use technology all the time. You get in an automobile. Technology. Because before we didn’t have that, we had horses. So as a conservative, I appreciate it. Asphalt, a wonderful, wonderful use of technology and we use a lot. In fact, I was driving on West Bayou just now and they have crews out there putting asphalt in the potholes. I like to use technology. And as conservative. I like that. It’s really good.

Do you see yourself going into things like cryptocurrency? 

I’m open to any ideas about this. That’s not even a priority. I’m open. Look, here’s why we can’t run from new ideas, just because they’re brand new. I’m a creature of habit. I go to a lunch place (CAO Cydra Wingerter chimes in that he always orders a Caesar salad with chicken). But I’m not going to avoid change just for the sake of it’s uncomfortable or it might be scary sometimes. It is scary, but who knows what the future holds? 

A pledge to hardline conservatives

Why we asked about it: Guillory’s decision to push out his CAO just a week into his administration appears to be linked to a rift in the local Republican Party. During the campaign he signed a pledge — which he edited — with property developer and Republican donor Will Mills, committing to several very conservative policy planks. (Guillory says Mills donated to his campaign, though we could find no campaign contribution from Mills or his well-known company, MPW Properties). Among the commitments, according to a copy of the pledge obtained by The Current: replacing the UDC, defunding LEDA and overhauling the library.

When you first ran or maybe when you ran for Congress, our perception of you as a political figure was perhaps not as conservative as, say, Will Mills.

Now why would you think that? I think it’s because I was a Republican who challenged an incumbent Republican that’s perceived to be very conservative. And my problem was [Clay Higgins’] voting record didn’t replicate a conservative voting record. Now, he’s done a hell of a job since. But I’m conservative, I hate to say it. It is what it is. I mean, what I find in this job is probably 99 percent of what I do is policy, maybe 1 percent is politics.

You’ve gone forward with plans to replace the Unified Development Code. 

Yes. Very exciting. You know I want to make sure we take our time, do it right. I mean, I would love doing a two-week process, but that’s the kind of a problem we got into. It was rushed through; it was ramrodded through to the constituents, and it was a one-size-fits-all. I don’t want that. That’s why you saw in the group [at last week’s meeting], a very diverse group representing the Northside, representatives from Downtown, representatives from the unincorporated area, city of Lafayette, Homebuilders Association, commercial developers, LEDA. And if there’s a group on this list that’s missing, we’ll include them. Because when we’re done with this process, replacing the UDC, it’s going to be a product that truly everybody can generally work with a lot better now. It really is one-size-fits-all.

Here’s a transcription of the pledge signed by Josh Guillory, including his edits.

You pledged to roll down LEDA’s millage or put it on a ballot and rededicate it for infrastructure. Do you support that?

Now, I would entertain any of those. I mean, let’s talk about it. I would encourage the dialogue. I will say this, though, LEDA is healthy for Lafayette. I feel like their mission is helping us out. I think Gregg goes out of his way to find ways to help us out or help our economy. I have a good relationship with them. But here’s the deal. I’m interested in reviewing it and looking at every tax. I think that’s my duty. All the time. Continuously put everything under scrutiny. 

The pledge says you’ll revamp the library board to reduce spending and then you added “reform the library system” to perform as a library. What did you mean by that? 

Meaning stop getting into issues such as Drag Queen Story Time. Teach literacy. That’s just one thing.

Pride Month and Lafayette’s traditional values

Why we asked about it: Guillory’s predecessor was heavily criticized for his posture toward the LGBTQ+ community, highlighted by rancorous public controversies around Drag Queen Story Time and an effort to formally recognize Pride Month. Joey Durel’s administration faced similar controversy when he dismissed pursuing an LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination ordinance. In his pledge to Mills, Guillory committed to not supporting a “government sponsored” Pride Month in defense of Lafayette’s “traditional values.”

Would you support recognizing Gay Pride Month in Lafayette? 

I wouldn’t support that. I don’t think that’s a function of government. If people want to have Gay Pride Month, go have Gay Pride Month. I don’t care who you marry. I support equality. Do what you gotta do. It’s not the role of government. I want my local government to fix drainage. I want my local government to focus on infrastructure. I want government to focus on economic initiatives. I want the government to keep us safe. Just like I wouldn’t support the government having a resolution that this is anti-gay month. That’s not the function of the government. The government shouldn’t dive into those issues. 

If it’s not a function of government, why not just wipe it all clean and do away with resolutions? 

You know what it is? It’s needlessly provocative. Just this conversation is needlessly provocative. Needlessly. There is no fruit. This is a fruitless discussion. There’s no good that comes from this. I’m saying I support equality. We’re all God’s children. Marry who you want to marry, I don’t care. The government shouldn’t get into all that. Just focus on the drainage. Focus on infrastructure. Focus on priorities. 

What are traditional values?

Traditional values are in the eye of the beholder. You tell me. 

Respectfully, we’re not setting policy.

Neither am I, and I’m not setting policy on that. That ain’t the role of government. The role of government is not to define traditional values. I would further say that you can turn to sources such as the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions of faith. I think people turn to those institutions for guidance, meaning old traditional values. And I think that they should continue to turn to those institutions as opposed to the government.