While elected officials across Texas disregarded their own coronavirus mandates, city officials in Austin and Fort Worth ticketed the most citizens for disobeying local and statewide COVID mandates in November.

On November 30, Texas Scorecard sent open records requests to highly populated Texas cities—Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston—asking for “all citations and/or warnings issued to any individual, business, and/or non-profit entity for violation of COVID-19 related ordinances.”

The documents received showed the City of Austin led all of the cities in the number of issued COVID tickets; there were six citations in November—mostly against bars—for violating social distancing and occupancy mandates.

Surprisingly, Fort Worth—thought to be a Republican stronghold and not typically associated with Austin—was in second place with five citations that month, mostly against bars for violating social distancing and lack of face masks.

The City of Dallas was in third place with only one citation for “overcrowding.”

Both Houston and San Antonio reported they could find no citations issued in November for COVID mandate violations.

Fort Worth officials’ response to the Chinese coronavirus—including banning in-person worship at one point—has jarred the common perception that the city is more conservative than Dallas or Austin.

“We’re faced with Betsy’s Brownshirts in Fort Worth,” 2017 Conservative Leader Award winner Joel Starnes said about Mayor Betsy Price. “She’s proven over and over that she does not understand limited government in any way, shape, or form. They’re out of control.”

Regulating businesses in the way they’re doing is not good for the citizens; it’s not good for this town.

Additionally, the citation numbers come after county officials in North Texas, and local officials in Austin and Dallas, were found violating the very COVID guidance they told citizens to follow.

“Perhaps Abbott and the various county judges and commissioners should make sure they are following their own rules before handing out citations to anyone else,” True Texas Project CEO Julie McCarty told Texas Scorecard.

Since March, Gov. Greg Abbott has decreed statewide shutdowns, closed bars, set occupancy limits, temporarily banned families from being with their loved ones in nursing homes, and issued a statewide mask mandate while allowing local officials to fine businesses for not enforcing mask wearing within their establishments.

Rollbacks in Abbott’s current executive orders were triggered in North Texas earlier this month, shutting down bars again and reducing occupancy for most businesses to 50 percent.

This is in stark contrast to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R). In September, DeSantis ended all coronavirus restrictions, and he extended his statewide ban on mask mandates last month. From the start, Noem rejected issuing statewide COVID mandates.

Members of the medical community dispute the effectiveness of mask-wearing and other government mandates in combatting the Chinese coronavirus, with one doctor calling Abbott’s approach a “failed strategy.”

Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West has also spoken out against both Abbott’s and local officials’ COVID mandates, calling for the Texas Legislature to address “executive overreach” in the 87th legislative session.

“Government exists to protect our rights, not to protect our health,” West said. “That is an individual responsibility.”

The 87th Texas Legislative Session starts on January 12, 2021. Concerned citizens may contact their elected state representative and state senator.

If you or someone you know has been cited for violating government COVID mandates, please email rmontoya@texasscorecard.com

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.


The Deafening Silence of Fear

It's better we live courageously, fighting for rights and freedom, than cowardly, capitulating to tyranny out of fear, for a little comfort.