Hilliard, Johnson need to weigh in on redistricting

Published 4:47 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

To the Editor:

During the July 11 Franklin City Council meeting, the council received three options for redistricting the city’s voting wards developed by City Attorney Taylor Williams, Community Development Director Donald Goodwin and Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard.

Their plans split the city into three wards with a majority of black residents and three wards with a majority of white residents.

The Tidewater News reported in its July 13 edition that 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 residents.

Councilman Greg McLemore said he believes that the city’s black majority should have a majority of black wards to reflect the black residents’ majority status in the city.

However, the newspaper did not report any comments on this option by any of the other council members.

If this option is a possible alternative, I would like to see what the other council members have to say about it, especially Councilwoman Mary Hilliard and Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson.

The city adopting black-majority rule would be a historic and momentous change in our city governance. Do they think this power change would impact city economic development efforts in a positive way?

If they support black rule, why do they think this is fair to all of the citizens of Franklin?

Councilwomen Johnson and Hilliard have not supported any motions made by Councilman McLemore. They voted down his motion to get kids off the streets by increasing the city recreation department’s budget, saying it was more important to save the surplus, while also supporting Councilman Benny Burgess’ position that the money would be spent if they gave the recreation department money for children’s programs.

The recreation vote was especially interesting since citizens in their wards were very vocal in showing support for doing something for the kids. The citywide recreation youth programs get about $12,000 from the city with the rest of the hundred of thousands of recreation dollars going to salaries.

Most folks in the wards couldn’t understand and still don’t understand why Hilliard and Johnson chose Mayor Jim Councill, Burgess and Councilman Barry Cheatham over their children’s needs.

History has shown us that if McLemore says “up,” “day,” and “go left,” Hilliard and Johnson are going to say “down,” “night,” and “go right.”

But, if their wards want black control of the city, maybe they will support the desire of their wards.

Either way I think they should make it clear where they stand on redistricting for black rule of the city of Franklin.

Thomas H. Councill