Subject of letters, guest columns defends himself

Published 9:17 am Friday, August 5, 2011

by Thomas Councill

Recently, The Tidewater News reported that Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore said that because blacks are the majority within the city that the wards should be redrawn to reflect the black majority status (“Redistricting will not weaken minority-majority wards, city says,” July 27).

I didn’t attend that meeting, and I wanted to know the details of what everyone said; therefore, I wrote a letter to the editor saying that if his statement was a legitimate option, it would be good for the rest of the City Council to comment on this option.

I assumed that all of the remaining council members would be against this proposition. I also didn’t think that the councilwomen would support this option, but since they represent black-majority wards, I thought that maybe they might want to address this proposition.

This column is in response to the letters written by James E. Rainey (Black, white agendas not answer to city issues,” July 31) and former City Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence (“Letter writer does not speak for black community,” July 31) and the guest column by Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson and Councilwoman Mary Hilliard (“Race-based agendas cannot move Franklin forward,” Aug. 3).

Lawrence said that I have my own agenda. She’s correct on that point.

I’m for God, family and country. I support lowering taxes and anything that helps the children of Franklin grow into responsible citizens and gives us safe streets.

I believe what former President Ronald Reagan used to say about a rising tide lifting all boats. So, I’m for business development, support downtown and jobs creation. I go and work where unwilling hands refuse to work, so that’s my personal agenda for Franklin.

Lawrence said that I don’t speak for her. I agree that I don’t. I never said that I was speaking for anyone and it wasn’t my intention to represent anyone but myself.

Mrs. Lawrence is a former City Council member, defeated by Mr. McLemore. He is the official spokesman for Mrs. Lawrence and the ward that he represents.

Rainey said I advocated racial divisiveness by asking Councilwoman Hilliard and Vice Mayor Johnson if they agreed with Councilman McLemore. I don’t understand his reasoning and I think it is best that he explains this himself. He also says that I’m implicating Councilman McLemore.

McLemore is a properly elected city councilman. He’s fighting for his ward. From what I read, he wanted this option on the table, and I think if he puts it on the table, the rest of the council should take the time to consider it and comment on the value of the proposition.

McLemore overwhelmingly defeated Mrs. Lawrence when he ran against her. He represents around 1,420 residents.

Mrs. Lawrence used to constantly tell me when I was supporting her that I was only one vote and that she didn’t have to listen to me.

The same is true for Mr. McLemore. I tell him what I want and believe in, and he does what he wants to. He speaks for the people. I speak for me. We don’t get permission from each other to do what we think is right. I’m my own man, and he’s the man with the vote that counts with the voters.

I feel that Vice Mayor Johnson and Councilwoman Hilliard have done their wards a disservice by not making it clear where they stand on issues. McLemore makes his positions clear. He takes action where they just react.

McLemore has made motions to improve his ward, where Hilliard has not made a meaningful motion since she has been on the council.

Vice Mayor Johnson wants to redevelop her constituents out of the city. Hilliard wants to raise light bills, which will break the backs of a lot of her constituents.

I fight for lower taxes, lower light bill rates, and the elimination of waste within the government. They can call me names and try to link me to foolishness, but the facts are the facts and the truth is the truth. It is going to come out.

My grandparents were from this area. My parents are from this area. I was born and raised in this area. I don’t want my home to go to ruin. I don’t want divisiveness of any kind because Mr. Rainey you are right when you say that we don’t need any of that because of our current economic situation.

But, I realize that you, Lawrence, Vice Mayor Johnson, and Councilwoman Hilliard are a team with a political agenda and politics is what it is. If I can’t stand the heat, I need to get out of the kitchen. Sir, I’m not going anywhere.

I challenge you and your team to debate me on Vice Mayor Johnson and Councilwoman Hilliard’s agendas, their failures to represent their wards, and any other accusation that you and your team want to level against me. I’ll meet y’all anytime you like.

THOMAS COUNCILL is a Franklin resident. He can be reached at