The FAA has told the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, and the surrounding parishes to get rid of a rule that requires at least one of the seven members of its airport commission to be Black. The Baton Rouge Advocate is reporting the FAA has ruled the practice is discriminatory and must end. The city appoints three of the commission’s members and has an ordinance requiring that at least one of those be a Black person. The surrounding jurisdictions that have representation on the commission do not have that rule.
The FAA discovered the long-held practice in a review and fired off a letter to the commission saying the racial requirement “does not comply with the Commission’s nondiscrimination obligations.” As well-meaning as the policy might be, the FAA said it might actually create less diversity on the board. “With the quota for the single position satisfied, decision makers and the public might be unconcerned that the remainder of the Commission members are not representative of the local community,” Gene Roth, director of the National External Operations Program, FAA Office of Civil Rights, wrote. “Even if that is not the current result, it is a risk in any future selections.” There are now two Black members on the commission.
Airport Executive Director Steven Picou said the airport has received more than $40 million from the FAA in recent years for various improvements, including a new terminal. “If the council doesn’t adopt this, then we are not in compliance with our grant assurances and we are jeopardizing millions of dollars for the airport potentially,” he said. “The FAA could pull funding for the airport.”