After threatening to return it to committee, the Wildwood City Mayor decided Monday night to institute "the gist" of the Free Speech Amendment.
In what looked as if it was going to be the reconciling of legislative momentum and Mayoral resistance, Mayor Bowlin informed council member Taylor moments before the beginning of Monday night's meeting that he had removed the warning lights from the dais, and was going to allow residents to make direct inquires of the council. "He told me that he was basically institute the "Free Speech Amendment", when just hours ago he was dead set on sending it back to committee," said Taylor. "I told him that if that was the case and he was supporting the bill, I would publicly recognize him as a partner in the effort. He seemed to appreciate that."
It was a turn of events that stunned many on the council and in the room. Mayor Bowlin had made numerous controversial moves to stall the legislation. He had told Taylor at a Friday meeting with the city attorney that there would be a motion to refer the legislation back to committee, a move seen by many as a last-ditch attempt to kill it.
In fact the motion to "refer back", albeit a tentative one, did come. It was made by Ward 5 Councilmember Dave Bertolino. "The Mayor just threw me a curveball," said Bertolino as he made his motion to refer back to committee.
In the end Bertolino, with unanimous consent, withdrew his motion to refer as arguments base upon legal concerns once advanced by the Mayor evaporated in the face of the fact that the Mayor had within the hour "instituted" the amendment for the current meeting.
During the debate it was clear that although the Mayor had "instituted" the provisions in the legislation, he was still refusing to support its passage.
"It was kind of bizarre. He initially indicated that he was on board and would be a partner then seemed to equivocate midstream" said Taylor. "I think he is frustrated as he has seen the legislation continue to advance despite his ardent opposition."
"I think he was trying to say, OK I will institute this as Mayoral prerogative but I still don't want it in our code," stated Taylor. " Until it is code, it will be tentative. Let's get this across the finish line and have the right to address our city representatives part of our code."
The Free Speech Amendment is now scheduled for its second reading on at the October 22nd Council meeting. If it passes it will become code unless vetoed by the Mayor.