Archived Story

Madison Street project draws heated debate

Published 10:50am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FRANKLIN—While ultimately the Madison Street Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) resolution was unanimously passed by the Franklin City Council, the debate was fiery.

Before the vote happened, Ward 3 Councilman Greg McLemore packed up his things and left, after Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn called police to the front of council chambers.

The project, which started in 2012, revolves around the revitalization of a neighborhood centering on Madison Street. A management team was created, which surveyed the community and found that areas with the greatest areas of need were Cobbtown, Banks-Cobb and Riverview-Meadowbrook neighborhoods. Ultimately, through public meetings, the Citywide Neighborhood Needs Assessment management team unanimously chose the Madison Street area.

The grant will help rehabilitate homes and make infrastructure improvements, mostly dealing with sewage and drainage.

The money, if awarded, will provide $1.23 million, while the city is expected to match a total of $312,004. The project will be worth approximately $1.6 million.

Of the people surveyed, 20 lower-middle income homeowners were willing to accept the aid, and 10 LMI tenant-occupied housing units also expressed interest. It could benefit 69 people. And there could be money left over to benefit more homeowners, if more interest is shown after seeing the rehabilitation of the homes. There are 54 total households in the area, which includes two duplexes.

As part of a new state requirement, residents receiving the benefits will be asked to pay a minimum of $25 a month over a 10-year period.

The debate centered on McLemore’s concern over the $25 per month and stated problems with a previous CDBG project on Langston Street, where the city acquired a tract of land from a homeowner. City Manager Randy Martin said the homeowner was paid for the property, and also given the building, which was relocated.

The most heated portion of the debate happened as Councilwoman Mona Murphy was talking about how the $25 a month could buy you something that you could not ordinarily get for that price, and McLemore interrupted her.

The mayor banged the gavel, and asked him to stop talking. Not long after, Murphy shouted McLemore down after another interjection, where he wondered why poor African-Americans were being asked to pay for something that would benefit the city. Johnson-Ashburn called for the assistant police chief and another officer.

“What infuriated me and caused me to walk out was the dictatorial way that Mrs. Johnson is handling these meetings,” McLemore said later. “I thought, that if any place would be open to debate or discussion, it would be during a council meeting.

“It wasn’t until I mentioned black people that she called the police.”

He said it was that discussion, not the interruption itself, which caused the police to be called.

“Whenever I am talking, she will interrupt me and start talking,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. I see it as spirited conversation. I didn’t say what I said to stop Mrs. Murphy from talking, I just wanted to interject something into the discussion.”

Johnson-Ashburn later said she wouldn’t entertain McLemore’s theory. She only acted to maintain order.

“I am charged with maintaining order in the meeting, and I am going to do that,” she said. “I gave everyone ample time to address the Madison Street project. At the point a councilor gets repetitive or disruptive, then I have to act.”

McLemore said he felt like the $25 a month might be too much to ask for some in the neighborhood.

“The city should take part of the $1.3 million grant and pay the fee,” he said. “I know $25 a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but suppose you are on a fixed income and you can barely afford the high utility bills, food and gas. You can’t afford an additional $25 a month.”

He also wanted to make sure that no citizen would be put in a position like the homeowner on Langston Street, where the project may turn into something a homeowner didn’t think he or she signed up for.

“I don’t want them in that situation, unless they are fully aware,” he said. “I asked for the housing authority to put in writing that this would not switch to become a redevelopment project, which could put them in jeopardy of a lien or foreclosure.”

The assurance has not been put in writing McLemore said.

“The people are skeptical, why can’t they put it in writing?”

Johnson-Ashburn and Murphy worried that scare tactics could cost people an opportunity to improve their lives, as the payments could get homeowners an average of $23,887 worth of work.

“I would like to say shame on the few people who have gone to our friends, neighbors and families and scared them into not signing on for this grant,” the mayor said. “For them to not take part in this when they need things done to their homes is just a shame. I would hope people will read for themselves.”

The mayor encouraged citizens to seek an attorney to help read the document if needed, or to talk with the city manager or Donald Goodwin, community development director.

“The budget does not include a line item for acquisition,” she said. “It is not possible. I would hope a few people would not penalize the people most in need.”

With Councilor Donald Blythe and McLemore absent, the resolution was unanimously passed.

McLemore said had he been there, he would have abstained, partially due to living in the area. He also didn’t want to vote against a project that could help people, should the potential problems be addressed.

  • jaymarshall

    Speaking of paying taxes, has McleBORE paid his property taxes and brought his arrears current? Probably not.

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  • baseball1


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  • johnhenry

    Some seem to wonder what charges could be brought to Macleemoor for his actions. One charge would be disorderly conduct in public. No one can continue to yell and scream at another person in public on city property. Macleemoor does this to much, to often in council meetings. He is a wild man without reason when grandstanding.

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  • employee2

    “The City gets 1.3 million dollars free money ” I hate the term “free money”, it is TAXPAYER MONEY. Nothing is free, because someone pays.

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  • Councilman

    At employee2 I live on Madison st and am against accepting this grant an a resident, Committee member and Councilman for Ward 3. I don’t think the rest of City Council should force a grant on my Ward when several of the citizens in the target area don’t want it. Research what other Council member has a house on Madison st and voted for getting the grant. The City gets 1.3 million dollars free money by using low to moderate income residents as their reason and the ONLY one that has to pay back a dime is the LMI residents it was granted to help. The LMI residents don’t get a grant, they get a loan with a MINIMUM of $25.00 per month. The City gets the free money and then pays a part time employee 87,000, that’s where your tax money goes, Those participating LMI residents are the ones that don’t get free money, their the only ones paying for anything. THR MONEY THEY PAY BACK, GOES TO RIGHT BACK TO THE CITY

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  • employee2
  • handkusp45

    I am really tired of my taxes constantly being raised largely to give to people who won’t work and continue to have babies without being married. The recent fire in Franklin had two women with a dozen children living together. Where are the babies daddies? Don’t these people including city council realize that the government can’t give you funding without taking it from us?

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  • wiskeymike

    Franklin is digging deeper and deeper in the dumps . The Langston street project was a foreclosure domino effect. Our govt spends more money on helping people that will not help themselves . The working class people get the shaft and the Obuma administration is making it worse . Our local leadership is mediocre at best. Rant over

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  • olbones

    25.00 a month for 10 years is only 3,000 dollars , I would love to that oppourtunity to be able to have my property fixed up, what are complaining about. some people always want something for nothing. NOTHING IS FREE sounds like a good deal to me, McLemore needs to be run out of town !!!!!!!!!

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  • Makalani

    Re: “…the taxpayers are always willing to help a few non taxpayers….”
    “Excuse — me simplifying it” — This characterization/stereotypical comment is patently absurd and unfair!

    It’s very doubtful that the homeowners/tenants/landlords/households/recipients of these CDBG$$s are exempt from paying Franklin city property taxes — excise taxes on their utility/phone/cable bills — ad valorem taxes on their vehicles — personal property/decal fees — gasoline taxes — sales taxes — Federal/State income taxes and the portion of their city utility bills that subsidizes/keeps Franklin’s millage rate down!

    The article did not say that these homeowners/tenants/landlords/households/recipients/ “non-taxpayers” demanded/petitioned/lobbied/begged the City of Franklin to secure these CDBG funds. Your contempt/derision at a “few non taxpayers” is misdirected!

    Your disgruntlement/dismay at Councilman McLemore’s attention-publicity-seeking over-the-top behavior may be fully justified. But letting that anger segue into stereotyping/maligning a group of citizens that you probably know little about personally is not OK!

    Carry on badmouthing Mr. McLemore ….

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    • simplifyingit

      in short…..You can defend the few on Madison if you want, and i have personal knowledge/friendships with two families there,but myself and the majority of WORKING americans, Virginians and Franklin residents are fed up with our EARNED INCOME being given away to “needy” who have free cell phones, partial electricity paid, heating oil/gas supplements, welfare and MUCH more. I know a 27 year old female that brings in over $1800 a month in “benefits” and doesn’t work. Meanwhile i work 46-54 hours a week and only bring home a couple hundred more. Over 1/4 of my check goes to taxes every week and i still have to pay personal property and all the other “fees” to be a resident of this goat roping of a city.

      So Mak—while you and a few others may have worked all your lives and earned your stake of the neighborhood you too are being taken advantage of by the majority your very neighbors you’re defending.

      down from soapbox now

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    • chilimac72

      The problem is McLemore speaks for “his people” which I am assuming is the people of his ward. They elected him to represent their desires which would lean me to believing then that they do not want this grant. If they do, then they need to speak up and vote him out. It seems to some this is a forgone conclusion that is is being voted out of office, but I am not as sure.

      BTW, I had to look up the name to see if it had some message to it and in the Wiki description I found this (thought you would find it funny) “The inner core is white with a dark brown skin, the size of a golf ball, and it is hollow inside.”

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      • broman

        LOL @chili. That was funny/accurate/hilarious/spot-on/fitting/humorous/….

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  • spider68

    The homeowner that McLemore is defending so adamantly just happens to be the local southside activist who has had a terrible grudge against this city for years.
    This is a perfect example of what will continue to occur if McLemore is re-elected, and if Rickey Sykes is elected. Both of these individuals are puppets of the activist, and will do practically anything he says.

    I say again, to all Ward 3 and 5 residents who read these comments. Talk to your neighbors, and ask them to vote for Mrs. Lawrence, and Mrs. Hillard. Return some civility to this City Council. What company would want to locate in this City when they see this kind of behavior by a Council member?

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  • 2fishy

    this is why no companies want to come to franklin va, bad schools, and bad publicity all the time. franklin is the laughing stock of hampton roads

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  • simplifyingit

    excuse me—-councilman! Here is a way, if all 54 households participate, for you ward to receive over 1.5 mil in govt money and only have to repay 162k, over 10 yrs. Thats a positive for your “caunstituences”! A negative for the city budget, but hey the taxpayers are always willing to help a few non taxpayers, really, we are!
    As for you believing Raystine called PD to the front because you mentioned african-americans only and not because you’re a buffoon, try to refrain from making everything racial for a little while and see how far you get!She is not running the meetings like a dictator but rather trying keep some semblance or ORDER when you begin acting like a 8yr old throwing tantrums!! Grow up and get real with yourself. You’ll do much more for your ward by not bringing up racism in every conversation, blog, and breath you take!

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    • viewing

      It is City Council’s job to set policy and the City Managers job to carry out the policy. There has been much discussion regarding Council members directing city employees in the past. If Council members are forbidden from directing city employees; how is it that the Mayor can direct a city employee (police officer) to remove another Council Member? Did General Roberts miss something when he wrote the Rules of Order? Or did the City miss something when they read them? Or do they just do what they want?

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      • Councilman

        @ viewing, I don’t know who you are but I am so happy to hear or read a voice of reason and intellect. Thank you

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      • simplifyingit

        Anybody can ask for police help, like calling 911, when it is needed.Just not sure what law he is breaking and what they’d say their grounds for forceful removal are, other than being asked to by the mayor.
        Maybe Mcnomore isnt breaking a law when he is unruly and he should force the PD to “show cause” or arrest him so that he can see what the charges are and if they’ll hold up in court?

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      • Really

        City ordnance 19-19, disorderly conduct in public places.
        “make the PD show cause” what an idiot!

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