Race-based agendas cannot move Franklin forward

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

by Mary Hilliard
and Raystine Johnson

This is an open letter to Thomas Councill.

We were very disappointed to read your letter (“Hilliard, Johnson should weigh in on redistricting,” July 24). You continue to pursue a racist agenda, attacking anyone, especially those of your own race, who disagrees with you.

We believe a racist agenda benefits no one, neither the citizens of our wards nor the citizens of Franklin. We consider each matter that is brought before our council and do our best to support those that are in the best interest of Franklin, as the oath of our office requires us to do.

Addressing the specific issues used in attacking us, we would respond as follows:

n We voted against increasing the budget of the Department of Parks and Recreation, not because we do not support programs for our children but because we must cut spending, and we must cut it now to prevent our city from creating deficits requiring higher taxes and future debt increases.

The city cannot spend more than its income. As long as we are on the council, we will follow a policy of fiscal responsibility. Neither the citizens of our wards, nor Franklin citizens in general, want us to tax, spend and borrow.

n In your letter, you referred to “surplus.”

In an attempt to clarify, starting in 2013, the city will be confronted with a severe shortage of revenue due to the closing of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill. As a result, the council decided to restructure a portion of the city’s debt, and the funds that were saved due to this restructuring would be allowed to accumulate in an account. These funds have been set aside to make up some of the expected shortfall. This is an attempt to perhaps relieve some of the burden that would be placed upon our taxpayers.

n You are incorrect when you state that we have not supported motions made by Councilman Greg McLemore; however, it is correct to say that we do not normally agree with him.

Mr. McLemore has his own agenda. Mr. McLemore is not a team player. He has yet to learn that taking an adversarial position on every issue, and in general, being disruptive and combative, neither benefits him nor the citizens he represents. He proclaims that he is for the citizen, but in reality, he is out of touch with those he represents. He, like you, promotes his own specific and self-serving agenda, whether or not it is beneficial to Franklin.

n Redistricting is not a simple matter, as we assume you must know, since you state that you and Mr. McLemore want a majority of black wards “if this is possible.”

We doubt seriously that creating four majority-minority wards is a possibility, considering the stringent requirements that govern this process.

The citizens of our wards, as well as the citizens of Franklin, can be assured that we will consider all options that are placed before us and vote according to what we believe to be best for Franklin.

Mr. Councill, you should be made aware that, as members of the City Council, we do not view our city in terms of black rule or white rule. These terms are racist and create an atmosphere of divisiveness.

We are all citizens of Franklin, black, white and otherwise. We must work together to deal with the overwhelming issues facing us as a result of the economy and the closure of the paper mill. We simply do not have the time to deal with petty issues, which tend to separate us instead of binding us together for the common good.

You have been a member of our community all of your life. You know our city well. We respectfully ask you — and Mr. McLemore also — to join us in moving Franklin forward rather than pursuing a biased and divisive agenda.

MARY HILLIARD and RAYSTINE JOHNSON serve Wards 4 and 5, respectively, on the Franklin City Council. Their email addresses are ward-5@franklinva.com and ward-4@franklinva.com.