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Ahead of a vote last August on whether the City of Fort Worth should join a lawsuit to block Texas’ anti-sanctuary cities law, known as Senate Bill 4, councilman Cary Moon asked residents what they thought.
Their response? Just-released results show a resounding 61 percent of the 684 residents who participated in Moon’s survey said “No,” the city should not join other cities in a lawsuit against SB 4; 39 percent said “Yes.”
Yet that’s not the headline from anti-SB 4 advocates who’ve been pressing Moon to release the full survey data.
United Fort Worth – a group formed last year specifically to push the city into joining a lawsuit against SB 4 – wasn’t happy when Moon voted with the majority of Fort Worth City Council members against involving the city in the lawsuit. Mayor Betsy Price and councilmembers Brian Byrd, Jungus Jordan, and Dennis Shingleton sided with Moon.
The group filed open records requests for councilmembers’ correspondence regarding the vote, including Moon’s survey results. UFW was convinced the results would show that Moon had voted against the wishes of his constituents.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Jeff Caplan echoed UFW’s accusations in a November 2017 headline: “Did mayor, councilmen vote against residents’ wishes on ‘sanctuary cities’ lawsuit?” Like UFW, the paper submitted requests for Moon’s survey results.
But because the SB 4 survey was conducted by Moon’s campaign and most participants had opted to keep their votes private, Moon declined to release the full results pending a ruling by the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Earlier this month the attorney general ruled that Moon did not have to release information gathered by his campaign, meaning he could disclose the overall survey results but keep names of individual respondents private.
On January 25, Moon released the full survey results, giving UFW and Caplan their answer: Moon voted in line with a 61-percent majority of participating residents.
Caplan’s headline following the release: “Fort Worth councilman releases SB4 survey results. Here’s what they do and don’t reveal.”
What the results revealed is that Caplan and UFW had pushed a false narrative – so they shifted gears to focus on transparency while challenging the validity of the data.
“It is increasingly common for politicians to use so-called campaign websites to solicit surveys, including Gov. Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump,” Caplan writes. “The surveys are not deemed scientific because they are voluntary and are not monitored to ensure that participants don’t submit multiple surveys to tilt the results.”
He then quotes a political science professor calling constituent polls like Moon’s “junk surveys.” Caplan only questioned the survey’s validity after the results were known.
In a tweet linking his article, Caplan glossed over the data he and UFW had been clamoring to see, saying the story is really about the “bigger question” of “the spirit of transparency:”
UFW also changed its tune about the survey results.
Last November, when partial survey results showed 210 of 287 participants voting “Yes” to join the lawsuit, UFW claimed it was proof of Moon ignoring constituents’ views. Now that full results show just the opposite, UFW organizer Mindia Whitter dismisses them, saying, “We have no assurance of their accuracy.”
In a Facebook post linking Caplan’s article, UFW doesn’t mention the actual SB 4 survey results it sought to reveal at all. Instead, the post claims, “This is a deliberate attempt by an elected official to avoid transparency.”
But Moon didn’t attempt to avoid transparency, just protect people’s privacy, as promised. And as Moon notes in his press release, his campaign has conducted similar surveys on issues ranging from transportation to panhandling, without any similar uproar about transparency.
UFW’s and Caplan’s interest in transparency has been specific to one issue: efforts to block SB 4’s anti-sanctuary cities provisions.
SB 4’s main purpose, Moon explained in his survey results release, was to ensure that all elected officials and law enforcement officers comply with federal immigration detainers placed on criminal aliens. He noted that 260 criminal aliens accounting for 420 crimes are currently in Tarrant County’s jail under federal detainer.
Moon also explained how the city had addressed concerns about how SB 4 would be implemented.
Despite months of scaremongering from the media and activist groups, SB 4 specifically prohibits racial profiling, protects those who report crimes, adds a presumption of innocence to drivers with a driver’s license, and does not add any new powers to law enforcement officers.
“My office will continue to work to make the City of Fort Worth a safe place for our families to Live, Work, and Play,” Moon concluded. “We will continue to ask for your input and welcome your engagement.”