A resolution to renew a contract with Macon’s Washington-based lobbying firm fell apart Tuesday during the Macon City Council meeting.
The council voted 7-6 to approve a contract with Blank Rome Government LLC, which has represented the city’s interests in the nation’s capital for the past year. The measure needed support from at least eight of the 15 council members to be approved.
The resolution would have called for the city to continue to pay Blank Rome $10,000 a month for the next nine months, coinciding with the end of the city’s fiscal year. The money already had been earmarked for Blank Rome when the council approved its current budget at the end of June.
Council members supporting the resolution were Nancy White, Lauren Benedict, Tom Ellington, Miriam Paris, Larry Schlesinger, Ed DeFore and Mike Cranford.
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Those opposing were Virgil Watkins, Charles Jones, James Timley, Elaine Lucas, Lonnie Miley and Rick Hutto. Councilman Erick Erickson was absent.
Lucas was vocal in her opposition to rehiring Blank Rome, saying Tuesday night that she hasn’t seen any tangible grant awards the firm has brought to Macon, particularly with so much federal stimulus money available now.
“I’ve tried to find anything that would make me vote for them,” she said. “It’s an expense the city can’t afford at this time.”
Lucas also expressed disappointment that the city didn’t find a way to combine lobbying efforts with Bibb County, which hired two lobbying firms in July.
Ellington and Cranford said that while Blank Rome didn’t necessarily have many tangible results to show the city over the past year when it comes to grant money, the firm has paved the way for future grant awards and worked behind the scenes on the city’s behalf.
“It’s an unfortunate fact that you need professional representation in Washington,” Ellington said.
“I think it’s fair to give the firm another year. They do have a history of bringing money to Macon.”
Cranford likened having a lobbying firm in Washington to having insurance.
“You don’t need it until you need it,” he told the council.
Timley had offered an amendment that might have allowed the resolution to pass.
He advocated returning the contract to the council after 90 days to see if Blank Rome had achieved “positive results.”
That amendment also fell short by one vote.
In other business Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a resolution to sell a parcel of land to Mercer University.
The sale had been a point of contention between the university and local resident Michael Ryan.
The university wants the property to build a welcome center and admissions center near the campus entrance, while Ryan wanted to keep the land as-is, preserving it as a greenspace.
Cranford added an amendment to the resolution which provides that Mercer would cover all legal costs should anyone contest the sale in court.
Also Tuesday, the council recognized former Councilman Alveno Ross with a plaque for his nearly three terms of service.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.