Give Lafayette’s new mayor-president and members of the city and parish councils some credit: They are venturing where no local elected leaders have gone before.
With ceremony and solemn oaths, these 11 brave souls this week accepted responsibility for ensuring Lafayette city and parish governments will function efficiently and above board for the next four years, which is no easy task given new complexities. The burden of making that happen rests with those who sought these jobs. Lafayette people should wish these elected leaders success; their success is our community’s success.
Here’s what has changed: The former nine-person council that led Lafayette Consolidated Government has split into two new five-person councils that will meet separately with Mayor-President Josh Guillory, a political newcomer. One council oversees the city of Lafayette, including the city police and fire departments and Lafayette Utilities System. The other oversees taxes and services for government parishwide.
Historically, the city has provided the lion’s share of funding for consolidated operations. Citizens in the unincorporated areas, less willing to part with tax dollars, have reaped benefits — undeservedly so, critics say — at the expense of city taxpayers, who willingly pay more.
How this newly fashioned government, with two councils, will sort that out effectively and fairly is unsure. There is no certain path. The mayor-president may help guide the councils, but his authority is rightly limited. Nonetheless, all elected leaders hold responsibility to voters, especially in a newly formed government, to work faithfully and transparently for outcomes that are just and beneficial to all.
While campaigning for office, Guillory insisted his administration would be transparent in its public dealings. That’s an important pledge. He and council members won election fairly. Transparency in how they conduct the public’s business will go a long way toward maintaining voter confidence.
The new mayor-president remained resolute in his expressions about transparency Monday, when he took the oath of office. Fair enough: He talked the talk. How he conducts himself going forward will provide proof he means it.
There have been some stumbles in transparency. The runoff debates for mayor-president crumbled for candidate delay or lack of commitment. The city’s police chief has been ousted, and few people know why. The new mayor-president seems resistant to answering questions fully.
Our elected leaders are no longer beholden first to political parties or supporters or even themselves. They represent us all.
The new leadership has big plans and big responsibilities. First among them should be keeping the public fully informed.