In a split vote, city directors rejected a resolution Tuesday night that would have urged landlords in Little Rock not to evict tenants during the coronavirus pandemic.
The resolution, which also would have exhorted Gov. Asa Hutchinson to consider a statewide moratorium on evictions and late fees, would not have halted evictions, nor would it have had any legal ramifications for landlords.
Still, it garnered opposition from property owners who said it would hurt their livelihoods, including a group of about a dozen from the Arkansas Real Estate Investors Association who held protest signs outside the room where the Board of Directors met.
Those who favored the resolution said they wanted to see the city support its most vulnerable.
"I wanted us to go on record saying that we are supportive of all of our citizens," Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson said. "I want to say that we're concerned about the impact that this is having on renters in our community."
Voting for the resolution were Richardson, Ward 3 City Director Kathy Webb, Ward 4 City Director Capi Peck and at-large City Director Dean Kumpuris.
Ward 5 City Director Lance Hines, Ward 6 City Director Doris Wright and at-large City Director Joan Adcock voted against it.
Ward 1 City Director Erma Hendrix voted present.
Ward 7 City Director B.J. Wyrick and at-large City Director Gene Fortson recused from the vote because they own or have investment holdings in rental property.
The resolution would've required support from the majority of the board.
City directors on both sides cited confusion over the resolution. Kumpuris said it seemed like people speaking against it thought that it would ban evictions.
Several property owners told the board during the meeting's public comment portion that they feared that tenants who had not paid rent before the pandemic would take advantage of the situation.
"Basically what we do tonight, one way or another, doesn't change your legal or moral or business prerogatives in how you want to proceed," Kumpuris said.
Randy Thomason, with the Arkansas Real Estate Investors Association, said the resolution would still send a message to judges, lawyers and the police. Another speaker said people would hear what they wanted to hear.
"Even though this is just a resolution, it is sending a message. It doesn't send a message to the people that are good, but unfortunately, when you're a landlord, you don't always get the good ones," Charles Clifton said. "People hear what they want to hear. They hear, 'Oh, we don't have to pay our rent.'"
Matthew Ramsey, a public health professional who spoke in favor of the resolution, said a moratorium ordinance would have been more appropriate, but that a resolution still would send a strong message to landlords and to the governor to be compassionate. Ramsey is also a member of the city's Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission.
"I've been in multifamily property management, so I understand the challenges of both parties," he said. "Compassion goes a long way toward solving this kind of conflict."
Also at Tuesday's board meeting, city directors pulled two separate ordinances that would have levied penalties for people who keep inoperable vehicles in their yards, though they asked that City Attorney Tom Carpenter continue to work on ways to address the issue.