News broke last week that Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. James Gilmore turned in his resignation letter to Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. In the past few weeks news about BRAVE contracts given to minority business owners has been in the press. The contracts which ranged between $5,000 and $17,500 were given in an attempt to spend some of the remaining BRAVE grant dollars before the remaining funds have to be turned over to the federal government. The feds denied the cities request for an extension to spend the dollars because of the failures of the previous administration to properly report where the funds were being spent, as well as the lack of spending the funds on some of the very things Dr. Gilmore ensure dollars went to.
I believe the whole BRAVE media circus was really about attacking Mayor Broome, and an attempt to expose that she was giving small contracts to black vendors. The city of Baton Rouge under Kip Holden gave less than 1% of city parish contracts to minority vendors. Mayor Broome campaigned on a promise to change this. Dr. Gilmore was clearly on a mission to help the mayor accomplish that goal. I believe Mayor Broome needs to sit down with Dr. Gilmore and ask him to remain with her. Allowing him to leave gives the impression that something was wrong and by all accounts, nothing about his actions were wrong. These are the reasons I believe Dr. Gilmore should stay.
- EQUITY SHOULD BE OUR MISSION: WAFB released a report on Friday that detailed emails from Dr. Gilmore to different leaders in city parish government. Back in February Dr. Gilmore sent an email saying, “Do you all have a system for tracking the amount of business, contracts, (or sub contracts) awarded to DBE/Minority?Women owned businesses? I am reviewing the documents you provided and I would like to know this information?” In another email Dr. Gilmore said, “The Mayor’s vision is to increase participation from this disadvantaged groups.” This is exactly what we need. Leaders in city hall who are working daily to ensure that all ethnic groups are getting a seat at the table. No matter who you are in this city you pay taxes. The local government makes a huge chunk of it’s dollars from sales taxes, so even if you aren’t a home owner, you’re paying into the system every time you purchase a loaf of bread. Yet, the city primarily does business with white, male owned companies — and constantly makes excuses to why we can’t change this rather than find solutions. Which appears to be exactly what Dr. Gilmore was doing. This should be the mission of all leaders in city hall, equity.
- HE DID NOTHING WRONG: The report released from the Mayor’s Office about the BRAVE contracts vindicated Dr. Gilmore and the Mayor’s office from any wrong doing. The contracts given fit into the scope of the grant. The contracts were given to qualified vendors. In the report, it notes, “The Office of the Mayor was informed that the grant would likely not be extended because of poor programmatic performance, lack of enough youth and adults being served, two extension requests having already been approved and funding still had not been spent, and other findings from a previous audit.” This means in short, the city is sending back over one million dollars, because the previous administration did not do it’s job with the dollars. After getting two program extensions from the feds. This is in no way reflective of Dr. Gilmore. This falls on the previous administration and likely would’ve been the result regardless. If indeed there was no serious error done by the mayor’s office, there is no need for Dr. Gilmore to leave.
- NOW IS NOT THE TIME: The mayor is in the process of building the budget for the next fiscal year for the city of Baton Rouge and Dr. Gilmore is the only person on record fighting to ensure that blacks and other minorities are included in the process. You don’t allow someone who is working to carry out the vision of equity to leave, because the local media and republican goons attack the office. Now is the time to stand up and fight for what is right, which is equity. Dr. Gilmore should be the head of the mayor’s efforts to bring equity. On October 21, 2016, at the mayoral debate hosted by The Rouge Collection, Mayor Broome committed to a 10% goal in year one of her term in minority contracts and by year four to reach 25%. That doesn’t happen without people like Dr. Gilmore at the table for the budget building process.
The mayor is short a Chief Administrative Officer, a Chief of Police, and will be down an Assistant CAO if Dr. Gilmore leaves. At the 9 month mark, coming so close to critical bench marks in her first year in office, now isn’t the time to allow strong people to fall off. Especially not under the pressure of the scrupulous local media of Baton Rouge. The attacks on this mayor have been nothing short of racist, sexist, witch hunts against the first black woman mayor of this city. I encourage the mayor to stand up against them, and tell these people they don’t get to have a say on who she puts in the game.
For 200 years, blacks have been denied equal access in this city. It didn’t change under the first black mayor, Kip Holden and the first sign of some change this mayor gets attacked. I encourage Mayor Broome to stand up against those attacks and be bold. No one is perfect, and we aren’t expecting a perfect administration, what we desire is to see change and that requires taking risk. The truth is, it should be a badge of honor in the mayor’s office to get attacked by the local media for trying to ensure equity in contracts and all the leaders in city hall should aspire to get that attention. If the best the news can do is attack this administration for giving small contracts to a few black businesses in order to try and help reduce crime, and create equity. That should be the mission and a competition in the mayor’s office, especially among black leaders in city hall. The one thing we must remember is, the media in Baton Rouge profits from those who have benefitted from the old way of doing things. We must end the cycle, and that starts by keeping Dr. James Gilmore in his position.
I have not spoken to Dr. Gilmore on this issue, but I understand that in this positions leaders serve at the pleasure of the official. If the mayor were to request Dr. Gilmore to stay on, a man of his integrity would grant the mayors request.