Columnist Geoff Daily explores Lafayette’s economy and government, providing critical commentary about what’s working and what’s not.

COLUMN: How Guillory has fallen short

Mayor-President Josh Guillory
In an ideal world, Lafayette’s mayor-president is the primary leader of our entire community. Photo by Travis Gauthier

Accusing Mayor-President Josh Guillory of corruption, as his opponents have, is one thing. Lost in that discussion, and during last week’s court proceedings, is a more basic accounting of his performance. 

Unfortunately the limits of space and time prevent me from writing a complete analysis. But the bottom line is that, when we evaluate how well he’s done his job, he has fallen terribly short of the standards we should be setting for the person who is supposed to lead us.  

He doesn’t respect the law

Guillory has run roughshod over Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter, our local constitution. He laid off dozens of parks employees without getting the City Council’s approval first. Blocked the City Council from securing its own legal counsel and sued the lawyer they hired. Used his veto to spend tens of millions of city ARPA funds without the City Council’s authorization. And bought property in St. Martin Parish without the legal authority to do so. 

These actions, at best, are on shaky legal ground, and they are just the examples I could think of off the top of my head. 

His new pace of government appears to be driven primarily by twisting or, worse, ignoring the law.

It’s costing Lafayette dearly in the form of endless legal fees, fines, settlements and misappropriation of funds, plus the reputational cost of losing trust with the other agencies and stakeholders Lafayette needs to be working with to solve complex issues like drainage.

That chaotic style spills over into a disregard for individual rights. 

Guillory’s administration unlawfully expropriated hundreds of acres for the massive Homewood detention pond project near Milton, paying millions to settle the case, and cut a property owner out of the botched acquisition of land for the spoil banks project, currently still in litigation. These actions trample the rights of property owners, and are costing us millions. 

But that’s not all. His administration also violated the First Amendment rights of panhandlers. And his response to a satirical Facebook post was to embark on a yearslong legal crusade against a broke comedian.

The common thread here is that Guillory wields our government to bludgeon anyone standing in his way. 

He’s wasted tens of millions of dollars

The amount of money Guillory lit on fire for his new pace of government is astonishing. 

The Homewood ponds alone are projected to cost as much as $72 million, with scant evidence this project will prevent any flooding. The best case presented is that these ponds will lower the Vermilion’s elevation during 10-year storms. The problem with that is properties tend not to flood during a 10-year storm. 

So if these ponds won’t prevent flooding during major storm events, why did we spend tens of millions of our money digging giant holes in the ground?

What appears clear about this project is that Guillory’s approach to major initiatives is to decide what he wants to do and then do less than the bare minimum of planning to justify the project before starting to throw money at it. That’s a pattern he’s repeated over and over. Look at millions budgeted for super parks. Or the plan for a new Lafayette City Court

There is no way he can be trusted to lead large-scale projects like this when he has shown an inability or unwillingness to take the time required to do things the right way. 

He doesn’t know how to lead

In an ideal world, Lafayette’s mayor-president is the primary leader of our entire community. The person who brings people together, rallies support for common causes, and gets stakeholders to buy in. The person everyone trusts to represent their interests fairly.

But that’s not Josh. For pretty much every major city initiative he’s announced, the City Council and other stakeholders didn’t hear about it until it hit the news. He’s repeatedly ignored the input of the committees he’s commissioned. 

And he’s openly worked to undermine the efforts of committees he doesn’t like. He refused to provide answers to the Protect the City Committee, never mind refusing to answer City Council questions about the drainage projects that got LCG in legal hot water. They called his bluff and launched an investigation.

He has proven capable of just one gear, which is the political equivalent of shock and awe. Deciding what he wants to do, and then railroading it through by any means necessary, what one ex-LCG official called Guillory’s “go, go, go” attitude, which meant everything was hurried along without internal and other required reviews.

Though this approach may work in the short-term to show some progress in some areas, long-term I believe it destroys trust and cohesion in our community. It cuts stakeholders out of the process. And dramatically increases the risk that whatever Guillory gets done won’t be in Lafayette’s best interests. 

While the mayor-president may be getting things moving faster, as his supporters say, he’s doing so in the wrong direction. And he’s creating serious liabilities and abusing his authority in the process. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s corrupt. It means he’s bad at his job.