McBride wants to ban political ‘criticism’ from Trenton website ahead of election – Trentonian

TRENTON — This turf war is live.

Council Speaker Kathy McBride has proposed a measure that would prevent elected leaders in Trenton from using the city’s official website to criticize opponents over policy decisions ahead of the November election.

Mayor Reed Gusciora said Wednesday that the proposal, which was to be presented at Thursday’s meeting, smacks of censorship and likened it to a modern “aliens and sedition law”, referring to a set of laws passed by Congress in 1798 to suppress government dissent. for fear of a war with the French.

“How do you decide what ‘critique’ is?” asked the mayor. “Every post should be reviewed by her.”

The question first arose during a June 16 council meeting, when former Trenton clerk Matthew Conlon drew attention to a press release issued by the administration and posted on the Trenton website.

Calling from his home in Atlantic City, Conlon suggested the missive was being logged as a potential violation of election law and urged lawmakers to take steps to ensure no other political demands appear on the site. .

“It is taxpayers’ money that is used to further the efforts of a political candidate. This is not a public information message,” said Conlon, who still acts like he’s a sniper in Trenton after settling his $140,000 whistleblower lawsuit with the city.

In the news release, which appeared June 15 on the news and announcements section of the city’s website, Gusciora accused legislative leaders of “play chicken” with city services and job security for Trentonians amid a still unresolved budget standoff with council.

Before the 4th of July weekend, Gusciora issued an executive order to ensure workers were paid after the McBride faction at a recent meeting rejected a temporary credits measure.

Budget hearings resumed for the first time in months this week as officials seek to work out differences on the mayor’s proposed $226 million spending plan.

One of McBride’s main issues with the budget is a $24 million tax levy to support Trenton Public Schools. Headteachers blasted McBride for refusing to allow a funding vote.

The ability to criticize government leaders — even if that criticism comes from a leader — is what separates democracy from dictatorship, Gusciora said.

“Our press releases are publishable. We believe that transparency should prevail,” he said.

McBride said she would respond to the mayor’s claims “in writing, but declined to respond. The Trentonian questions about the bill ahead of Thursday’s meeting, saying she didn’t “have time right now.”

This is not the first time that this legislative body has attacked freedom of expression.

In recent weeks, Councilor Robin Vaughn introduced a resolution that would have limited public comment to residents and city stakeholders because she said meetings were taking too long.

The bill fell through after Vaughn left the meeting before his measure was put to a vote.

It came after a measure sponsored by then-Council Santiago Rodriguez passed 4-3, urging US lawmakers to review laws governing online speech.

The bill targeted Trenton Orbit co-founders Michael Ranallo and Bill Kearney, who were critical of the councilman’s political stances.

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