City considers redistricting options

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FRANKLIN—The Franklin City Council will not organize a formal committee to look at the city’s redistricting options.

By a 5-2 vote during Monday night’s meeting, the council voted down a proposal made by Councilman Greg McLemore to form an 11-member committee, including a resident from each of the city’s six wards, to help create new voting district lines based on 2010 U.S. Census figures. Councilman Don Blythe also supported the proposal.

McLemore said a committee is necessary to keep some of the city’s residents from becoming disenfranchised.

“If we don’t get it right, we have to live with it for 10 years,” he said.

The council was introduced to three options during a Monday work session. The options were formulated by City Attorney Taylor Williams, Community Development Coordinator Donald Goodwin and Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard; however, council members were quick to point out that these might not be the only options and the creation of other plans would be welcomed.

“Nothing says a group of volunteers can’t make a recommendation to council,” said Mayor Jim Councill.

McLemore wanted to form a committee including citizens, two council members plus Williams, Maynard and Goodwin to look at other options for redistricting as well.

Each of the three options split the city into three wards with a majority of black residents and three wards with a majority of white residents. In the first option, 82 percent of Ward 1 is white, 63 percent of Ward 2 is white and 60 percent of Ward 6 is white. In the first option 89 percent of Ward 3 is black, 87 percent of Ward 4 is black and 93 percent of Ward 5 is black.

In the second proposed option introduced to the council Monday, 82 percent of Ward 1, 63 percent of Ward 2 and 59 percent of Ward 6 is white. In that same option 88 percent of Ward 3, 84 percent of Ward 4 and 95 percent of Ward 5 is black.

The final option presented to the council shows the biggest difference between the three proposals. In the third option 84 percent of Ward 1, 77 percent of Ward 2 and 47 percent of Ward 6 consists of white residents. In the plan 93 percent of Ward 3, 76 percent of Ward 4 and 94 percent of Ward 5 consist of black residents.

According to the 2010 census, Franklin consists of 3,333 white residents and 4,867 black residents out of a total population of 8,582.

McLemore said the black majority in the city’s population should be represented better in the redistricting options and that adding a committee containing citizens experienced in redistricting would help address this. He said he wants to review an option that gives black residents representation equal to population data.

“When the last redistricting was done the population was nearly 50-50,” McLemore said. “Now there is a majority of African Americans in this city.”

Council members argued that if citizens wanted to tweak current options or help create new ones they could, adding that citizens could attend two public forums and public hearing on redistricting.

“We are on a timeframe for this and we have public forums on this,” Councilwoman Mary Hilliard said. “Any citizen can come in and speak with Donald or the city attorney. I support sticking with the timeframe.”

Councilman Benny Burgess said citizen participation is encouraged and a process for citizen input is already in place.

“If I could get to where I thought a committee would be necessary I don’t want council members involved,” he said.

Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said she would like to see citizens get involved and make recommendations to city staff.

The public forums will be held in council chambers in City Hall on Thursday, July 14, and Wednesday, July 20, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Maps and information packages will also be placed in the City Hall lobby, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library and the office of the city’s voter registrar.

A public hearing is scheduled for the city council meeting on Monday, July 25. The meetings are held at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

The city must have any redistricting plan that is approved by council members pre-cleared by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice before it can be enacted. The DOJ has 60 days to object to a plan once one is submitted or to request additional information.