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Little Rock city director 'disappointed' after officials reject effort to create small-business advisory council

by Joseph Flaherty | September 23, 2021 at 6:53 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock City Hall is shown in this 2019 file photo.

At-large Little Rock City Director Antwan Phillips expressed disappointment and surprise this week after colleagues on the city board punted on his resolution to create a small business advisory council.

The city board voted Tuesday to table Phillips' resolution until a meeting early next month.

"I'm disappointed that we couldn't get this passed this time, "Phillips told colleagues after the vote. He remarked at one point that "this seemed to be an easy one," adding, "I don't know why this is complicated."

At the meeting, Phillips said he brought the resolution forward based on feedback from small business owners, with the idea the council could advise the board on issues affecting the operations of small businesses.

If approved, the committee would exist for six months and have seven members -- all residents of Little Rock -- selected by the mayor in consultation with board members, according to the resolution. Two staff liaisons would work with them.

They would be tasked with producing short- and long-term recommendations by June 2022, according to the measure.

During the meeting, Phillips suggested the group could become a permanent committee if the effort succeeds.

Their review would encompass "the Request for Qualifications process, how [the] City of Little Rock's resources are spent to promote and regulate small businesses, regulations that need to be implemented and regulations that need to be removed or amended," according to the resolution.

Phillips, an attorney with the firm Wright, Lindsey and Jennings in his first term on the city board, did not return calls Wednesday.

On Tuesday, at-large City Director Joan Adcock asked for the resolution be tabled until the board's first meeting in October.

The board's third at-large member, City Director Dean Kumpuris, seconded her motion and it was approved in a 7-2 vote, with Phillips and Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson dissenting.

Phillips asked for city officials to explain their decision to table the resolution and sparred briefly with City Attorney Tom Carpenter, who said the question was out of order because the item had been tabled.

Other board members declined to respond to Phillips, but moments later Adcock asked the mayor to invite Derrick Rainey, the city's small business development coordinator, to address the board.

"I think he's only been in this position for a year, and I would like for him to address us with what he plans to do, his vision and how we can assist him," she said.

Phillips then noted that he had spoken to Rainey, whom he said was supportive of the proposed advisory council. He questioned how Rainey's presentation "would have any impact on what we decide as a board, as a policy-making board."

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said he would consider Adcock's request.

In comments at the meeting, Richardson suggested the board's action "goes back to the messenger rather than the message."

"It just reinforces, unfortunately, what I feel about how we conduct our business and how we move policy and move issues forward in our city to advance our city," he added.

Ward 6 City Director Doris Wright said she, too, would like to hear from Rainey. She also asked for clarity about the activities of a small business development center in Little Rock.

At one point, Scott urged board members to use the agenda meetings -- which take place every other week and are used to set the agenda for the formal meeting that follows a week later -- as the venue to ask questions and thus not have "as many tabling discussions."

He commended Phillips for his efforts.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Adcock said she became aware of Rainey's new role with the city recently when he came up to the podium at a board meeting to answer questions about renovations to a neighborhood resource center.

Adcock thought Phillips' proposal would pair the small-business council with "a young man that we don't know what his vision is, what his experience is and what we really need to do to help him," she said. "So what we need to do is have him come before us and talk to us about his vision and what his plans are and what we can do to help him, and would this be a help to him?"

She said she had asked Phillips in private prior to the meeting Tuesday to table the measure for a couple weeks. He indicated he did not want to, Adcock said.

Asked if she would support a council of this sort after potentially hearing from Rainey, Adcock said she would if it fits into Rainey's plans or if he could give input on the type of people he thinks would be beneficial.

Print Headline: Little Rock board tables plan for business advisory body

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