Voiceless in the 3rd ward

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, October 22, 2014

At Monday night’s joint meeting of Franklin’s city council and school board a familiar seat sat empty, the one reserved for ward 3 city councilman Greg McLemore. McLemore has made quite a habit of skipping council meetings of late, but more on him in a moment.

Dating back to the first city council meeting in May — the first meeting after election results were announced — three council members, Barry Cheatham (ward 1), Benny Burgess (ward 2) and Mary Hilliard (ward 5), have had perfect, 100 percent attendance. Three others have missed only one meeting each. Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn (at large) and Mona Murphy (ward 4) both boast an attendance rate of 94 percent, while the group’s newcomer, Frank Rabil (ward 6), has an attendance rate of 86 percent because only seven meetings have been held since he took office on July 1.

Yet over the same time period, McLemore has skipped seven of those 17 scheduled city council meetings, giving him a paltry attendance record of 59 percent.

Are we surprised? Not at all. But we feel for the people of the 3rd ward who he has promised, and failed, to represent.

Prior to being re-elected to serve a second term on city council, McLemore struck a much more humble tone than the one to which we had become accustomed. An article in The Tidewater News (Sunday, April 27, Ward 3 candidates hope to address utility concerns, Cain Madden) just days prior to the election:

If reelected, McLemore vowed that he would be calmer.

“I assure the citizens and residents that in the second term I will be a lot less volatile,” he said. “When you first come in, you jump in and try to change the world. But it’s not new to me anymore, and I’ve had some time to mellow.”

Overall, he said people should vote for him because he will give them a voice on council, and because he would work to make sure council conducts business in the best interest of the people.

“I’ve proven to be true to the people and for the people,” he said. “I’m willing to work with the other officials, as long as their priority is the citizens, as opposed to the corporation of the city.”

Then, the day after the election (Wednesday, May 7, Mayor Johnson-Ashburn wins in landslide, Cain Madden), The Tidewater News reported:

In ward 3, Greg McLemore was reelected to serve with 122 votes. Rosa Lawrence received 105 votes and Jamaal Whitehurst 33. There were 4 write-in votes.

McLemore said that the people of Franklin have spoken.

“I feel vindicated for the abuse I have received on council,” he said. “I feel vindicated by my constituents. I thank the people of ward 3 that have stood by me.

“But it is not all about me. It is about getting the votes that are needed to change things,” McLemore added. “My heart is broken for ward 5 and Sanford. I am just glad the people of ward 3 will have a voice.”

While both the pre- and post-election McLemore made the point — and rightfully so — that the people of his ward deserved representation, there continues to be a distinct disconnect between what he says and what he does. What McLemore promised his constituents was a seat at the table and a voice in the process. What he has actually done is rob the people of the 3rd ward of having either.