Franklin redistricting Map C adopted on 5-2 vote

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

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Franklin City Council voted 5-2 during its Monday, May 9, meeting to adopt the proposed Franklin redistricting Map C, which establishes four majority minority districts in the city.

Map C – click to enlarge

Voting against the adoption were Ward 1 Councilman Mark R. Kitchen and Ward 2 Councilman Ray Smith.

Map C takes Smith out of Ward 2. While this will ultimately take him out of the Ward 2 council seat, City Attorney Vivian Seay Giles confirmed he can remain in the Ward 2 seat for the remainder of his current term, which does not end until Dec. 31, 2024.

City Council was unable to come to a decision on redistricting at its April 25 meeting. The vote on Map C during that meeting resulted in a 3-3 tie, with Mayor Frank M. Rabil joining Kitchen and Smith in voting against it and Ward 6 Councilman and Vice Mayor Robert “Bobby” Cutchins abstaining.

In a staff report addressed to the council, Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt noted that proposed maps A and B maintain three majority minority districts, as has been the scenario under the 2010 final districts. Map C was the lone option featuring four majority minority districts.

Map C had drawn criticism from some members of the public who said it was an example of gerrymandering.

Proponents of Map C stated that it most accurately represents the population out of the three maps proposed, with census numbers having indicated the city’s population consists of approximately 5,000 African Americans and 3,000 non-African Americans. Map C proponents have also emphasized that all three proposed maps, including C, were confirmed by the city as being legal.

Two members of the public spoke in favor of the map during the May 9 meeting. 

Jarratt’s staff report noted that city staff worked with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission to prepare the three map options for the council’s consideration.

On Monday, McLemore made a motion to renew his previous motion from April 25 to adopt Map C for redistricting, and Ward 5 Councilwoman Wynndolyn H. Copeland ultimately seconded it.

Cutchins led off the council’s discussion before the vote.

“I abstained my vote two weeks ago, probably not for the right reasons, but at times, people can kind of be insensitive, toxic and disrespectful trying to present something,” he said, indicating that this put him in a situation where he was not really convinced which way he wanted to vote. “But I feel much better about how I want to vote tonight, and it is time for Franklin to come together.”

Kitchen spoke next, saying, “I still respect the opinions of all the people I spoke with in Ward 1 and other wards. I will stand firm in our beliefs. At the same time, I’m like the vice mayor, I want this to come to a conclusion, whichever way it turns out, bring back some peace and tranquility, stop the infighting, the arguments, the name-calling and let’s shake hands at the end of the night and go home and be at peace.”

Ward 4 Councilman Dr. Linwood Johnson said that at the end of the day, “we’re working for peace, love and development for the city to move forward.

“So basically what I’m saying is I’ve talked about the statistics before of how the numbers represent the majority, and I think we need to move forward with that, with Map C, but I would like to say, we must work together to heal the city and move forward,” he said. “That’s important for us to do. Without that, our city’s not going to grow.

“So I agree with the vice mayor, basically,” he added. “We need to move forward with this and show that we are together, because when the city comes together, there’s progress.”

He pointed out that this was illustrated in the past when the city came together in the wake of floods.

McLemore stated in his comments that he does not look out for citizens just based on a demographic. 

“I care about all people, and in this case I have asked for what is fair to the majority of the people,” he said. “That’s all. So I hope that this council will see that the only fair thing to do is vote for the population of the city, which is represented by Map C.”

Rabil opened his comments by saying that regardless of the council’s decision, people need to get out and vote.

“We have an atrocious record of averaging only 20% for local elections, which I think is abysmal, quite frankly,” he said.

Shifting his focus to the council’s impending vote on redistricting, he said that as an example to the current council and to other councils, he hoped the vote would stop the bickering, name-calling, backstabbing and so forth that had been occurring and that the vote would instead lead to people starting to use the collective “we” for things instead of “I did this” or “I did that.”

“So I would hope that the healing not only happens in the community, it happens on this council, and not only on this council but other councils that will succeed us,” he said.

He administered a roll call vote, with Cutchins’ “aye” vote coming next-to-last, clinching the adoption of Map C, and Rabil concluding with the fifth “aye.”

A moment after Rabil had announced that the motion had carried, McLemore initiated a round of applause, the participants of which included Smith and some members of the public in attendance.

Rabil quickly banged his gavel against the table to stop the applause, saying, “We don’t need to be doing that. I think what we were just saying, that we wanted this to be in the spirit —”

“— of celebration,” McLemore said.

“Mr. McLemore,” Rabil replied, “at this point in time, I think you’ve just exemplified what we’ve all been talking about.”

“Thank you, Bobby,” McLemore said to Cutchins.

Later in the meeting, McLemore asked when citizens will be affected by the council’s decision on the redistricting map, and Franklin Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard confirmed the new map will be in effect for the November election.

“The state is currently working on the statewide stuff that’s already in place, and those notices won’t be mailed out till around June 1,” she said. “We do have a Republican primary June 21, so the changes in our system won’t be pushed through until after that.”

Giles also informed the council on what the next steps will be following its decision, noting that with the map now determined, an ordinance will come before the council containing something similar to a metes and bounds description of each ward.

“Once that’s adopted, that thing goes to the attorney general’s office to be certified, and then it completes the process from there,” she said.