A bill, known as the "Free Speech Amendment" , which would allow Wildwood residents to ask questions of their council members is facing new resistance from the mayor who is opposed to such a change. In a meeting Friday with Mayor Bowlin, the bill's author, Councilman Steve Taylor, was told by the mayor that he should expect a motion this Monday to send the bill back to the committee from whence it came.
"After surviving numerous attempts by the administration to divert the "Free Speech Amendment" from the normal legislative order, Wildwood's mayor will now encourage the city council to bail out on its unanimous vote to place the bill on the council's agenda and to send the bill back to a committee that has already voted it favor of it," said Taylor.
Originally, the bill was introduced in the Administration/Public Works Committee. It was thoroughly discussed, debated and vetted over several hearings prior to its passage on 9/11. After being voted out of committee, the bill encountered unusual treatment by the administration. Instead of being placed on the agenda as is typical, the mayor diverted the legislation by refusing to place it on the agenda 9/24 agenda or allowing it to even be discussed by the Council on the dais. The mayor even suggested that the amendment may not be placed on the subsequent 10/8 agenda and that he thought he might deem it "out of order" .
After the mayor even refused to have the bill discussed by the council at the 9/24 Council meeting, Taylor spoke during the public participation part of the meeting. Since the mayor had barred any discussion of the bill being placed on the agenda, Taylor had to first move from the dais to the podium used by residents before addressing the bill's status. Arguing that the bill was voted favorably out of committee and that the city attorney participating intensively in the discussion, Taylor made a motion that the bill be placed on the 10/8 agenda. Rejecting the mayor's objections, the council voted unanimously 16-0 to place the bill on the 10/8 council agenda for its first reading.
But refusing to accept the decision of the council, the mayor now seems to be leaning on some council members to immediately turn back their decision.
Clearly concerned with the advance of the legislation, the mayor invited Taylor to a meeting this Friday to discuss the bill's status .
"During the meeting it was clear that the mayor was doubling down on his attempted to stall the bill's momentum," said Taylor. "I believe he is attempting to cajole the council into returning the 'Free Speech Amendment' to committee on the thinnest of rationales."
"Even though the city attorney was involved throughout the entire process and had found no problem with the legislation throughout the committee hearings, the mayor is now seeking to find legalistic red herrings to delay and stall the bill at the last minute," stated Taylor. "I am optimistic that free speech has enough support that a needless 'motion to refer' the bill back to committee will be defeated, and that any attempts to amend, dramatically alter or kill the bill will be done in the proper light of day before the entire council."