Redistricting will not weaken minority-majority wards, city says

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011


FRANKLIN—City officials assured citizens Monday night that new redistricting options would not result in the dilution of voting strength in the city’s minority-majority wards.

Thomas Councill told the council he was concerned about the city’s redistricting options leading to a change in the voting power of the city’s minority citizens.

Councill said he was concerned that continued redevelopment in the city’s south side would lead to a dilution in voting power as some residents of those minority wards would be moved to make way for less dense housing options. Councill brought up Suburban Gardens as an example. The Franklin Housing and Redevelopment Authority is seeking to change the zoning on that property to allow for 34 townhouses rather than the 75 units that were there before.

Councilman Benny Burgess, who sits on the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board, told Councill that dilution concerns at Suburban Gardens had already been taken care of with 2010 census numbers as the housing development had been torn down for three years.

Meeting the requirements needed for Department of Justice approval of redistricting plans, including making sure there is no dilution of voter strength, is a chief concern, said City Attorney Taylor Williams, who is on the three-person staff redistricting committee with Community Development Coordinator Donald Goodwin and Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard.

“There is no dilution of minority voting strength in these plans,” Williams said.

Councilman Greg McLemore again asked the council to consider allowing citizens to be part of the committee in charge of redrawing the lines. His motion to do so failed to gain a second and was not considered for a vote.

“These things need to be taken into consideration,” McLemore said of dilution concerns. “We need to vet the plans and get citizen input before we approve them.”

The staff committee introduced two revised plans, which it submitted to the council during the public hearing. The revisions were made to alleviate the problem of split districts caused by state Senate and House lines, which were drawn in the spring.

Dr. Linwood Johnson introduced his own plan to the council during the hearing and said he would be able to give more information on it once he was able to run a mapping program with his information.

The revised plans will be on display for the public in City Hall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library and Maynard’s office.