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Small business program killed

ALBANY -- An attempt by two Albany City Commissioners to have the board reconsider implementing a small business program that was voted down in March was thwarted Tuesday thanks in part to a little-used rule in parliamentary procedure.

The city's proposed small business program was developed after the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business was disbanded following a recommendation from a consultant who conducted a disparity study to determine if there was overt or passive racism in the local marketplace.

After months of consideration, the city voted 5-3 against adopting the program on March 23.

But during Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Jon Howard asked that the topic be put back on the agenda in hopes of clarifying questions that still remained about the program, he said.

But under Robert's Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure adopted by the commission, if a measure fails, it has to go through the reconsideration process before the body can take the issue up again.

That process requires that any commissioner who was on the

prevailing side of the vote -- in this case it would be any commissioner who originally voted against the program -- make a motion that the issue be reconsidered by the board. Then, according to City Attorney Nathan Davis, the motion must be seconded by another commissioner who also voted against the program during the first go-round.

After broaching the subject, Commissioner Tommie Postell attempted to make the motion for reconsideration, when Davis said that because he had originally voted for the program he was ineligible to make the motion.

So then Howard, who was eligible because he had previously voted against the program, made the motion for reconsideration.

Postell tried to second the motion as required before a vote can be called, and was told again that since he had voted to support the program he couldn't offer the motion. The former school teacher became irate.

"If I can't second it, it means I can't vote, if I can't vote on it, you're taking my rights away from me," Postell said. "You can't just take away someone's right to vote."

Under the parliamentary rules, if a motion fails to garner a second, then it dies without the commission having to officially vote on it.

In this instance, there were four others at the table, according to Davis, who could have offered a second to Howard's motion for reconsideration. They didn't and the motion died from a lack of a second.

After the meeting, Howard said that he feels as though the city should make every effort to ensure that small businesses are able to fairly compete with larger companies for city contracts.

"The city needs to put forth a concerted effort to make sure that small businesses are getting their fair share of the work," Howard said.

The discussion by the city commission comes just one day after some on the Dougherty County Commission expressed their concern over the lack of local business participation on bids to do roofing work on three county buildings.

Despite some local contractors showing up at a pre-bid conference for the projects, not one bid was made from a business in Dougherty County. All three bids were ultimately awarded to a Macon-based roofing company.