Wildwood Mayor, Jim Bowlin, intends to veto the Free Speech Amendment passed by a 12 to 4 majority at the Council's October 22 meeting. The amendment, which along with other reforms, allows residents to ask a direct question of a Council Member or Mayor and for a response to be given during the public comment portion of the meeting.
In a phone conversation with the legislation's chief promoter, Council person Steve Taylor, the Mayor stated that he still objects to a sentence in the bill that allows the Council to set public participation rules with a majority vote of the council. The language was center of a high profile debate that was featured in a story on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After much debate, the City Council voted to not remove the language by a 11-5 vote at its October 22nd meeting.
"Even after it has been debated in committee and at length before the Council, the Mayor is not letting go of his squabble over wanting complete control over what happens during public participation," said Taylor. "The sentence guarantees that a single person cannot change the rules at a whim, which has already happened under this administration. It is a guarantee and a guardrail against ill advised changes. It protects our residents and our city."
The legislation has already overcome unusual hurdles to be passed by the City Council. The Mayor had originally opposed the bill being placed on the Council's agenda. As a result the Council had to act unilaterally to have the legislation heard by unanimous vote.
"It is disappointing that such a popular bill, that does so much for our residents and our city is again facing extraordinary resistance by Mayor Bowlin," stated Taylor. "It has been such a good story about Wildwood leading the way regarding citizen involvement and free speech!"
"It was hoped that the Mayor would have been a partner in moving the City forward by accepting a majority decision promoting greater free speech," said Taylor. "Unfortunately he has chosen otherwise."
The Council may vote to override the veto. Such a motion would require a two thirds majority. "I remain cautiously optimistic that the free speech amendment will survive this veto attempt," Said Taylor. "It will if the bill's supporters on the Council make the right decision on Tuesday."