LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Reaction to four recreation centers closing in Lafayette’s Northside dominated hours of conversation in Tuesday’s parish and city council meetings.
The Lafayette Consolidated Government building was close to letting in as many people as it could while maintaining social distancing. Many lined the halls while others marched outside in protest.
“I believe, truly believe, that this attack to shut down our centers is not only an attack on our kids and their futures. It is also a racist attack on the black community,” stated Damon Arceneaux, a concerned citizen during public comment.
Lafayette Mayor-President Johs Guillory and his budget cuts on four recreation centers and 37 jobs faced the criticism from over 100 people Tuesday night.
“This is what Lafayette is, and I welcome it, so keep talking to me,” Guillory encouraged after being accused of racism and segregation.
Guillory refuted the closures were not made with any intention to harm any particular group of citizens nor for political reasons, “When you look at six remaining rec centers, two out of six remain in the northside while the northside does not represent 33% of the population of the city or 33% of the parish.”
The mayor-president argued $61M have been paid to subsidized Parks and Recreation since 2000.
Another concerned citizen, Leroy Barrington, argued, “These centers are not meant to generate money. They are a convenience for the citizens of that area to come in.”
One woman asked, “If we don’t help Parks and Recreation and activities for the children, then what are they to do? If we don’t help them, the devil will take them.”
Guillory said the chosen recreation centers are underused, but he wishes he could go back and not use the word “closed”, rather “restructured operations.”
“I am confident that we can reopen fully these rec centers,” Guillory told the crowd. “Many of you are saying, ‘Reopen the rec. centers. Reopen the rec. centers.’ I’m on your side. We just don’t have unlimited funds.”