Council gets into heated discussion over redistricting

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FRANKLIN—A discussion concerning redistricting started by Councilman Greg McLemore led to a heated exchange between council members Monday.

McLemore suggested creating a committee of residents, council members and city employees to develop options for redrawing district lines from the 2010 Census information. Other council members opted to let a current committee gather more information first.

This discussion led to a shouting match between McLemore and Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson.

“You have set up here and called us all dummies,” Johnson told McLemore.

“You are dummies,” he replied.

Johnson then thanked McLemore “for respecting” her, to which he replied, “I don’t respect you.”

City Manager June Fleming informed council that she asked City Attorney Taylor Williams, Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard and Community Development Coordinator Donald Goodwin to gather the data to begin the redistricting process.

State law mandates that it is the responsibility of a locality to redraw district lines every 10 years. Citizen input is required by law, but only in the form of a public hearing.

McLemore said his proposed plan would consist of a committee made up of council members and citizens, which would develop plans to redraw ward lines.

McLemore accused Williams and Goodwin of being members of the last group in charge of redrawing the lines 10 years ago that he said “disenfranchised” voters in his ward. He added that a committee made up of residents would help remedy that.

Mayor Jim Councill corrected McLemore, saying Williams was not a member of the committee last time. McLemore apologized.

“Thank you for that public acknowledgement,” Williams responded.

Councilman Benny Burgess said he felt it would be inappropriate for council members to serve on the committee devising a plan to be voted on later by council.

In response, McLemore referenced Burgess’ seat on the city’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority board. Councill quickly advised McLemore he was out of order.

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard also saw no need to have council members on the committee.

Burgess then made a motion to require Fleming’s committee to proceed with the redrawing of ward lines with input from citizens along the way, but before the public hearing. The motion failed to gain a second.