The Fort Worth City Council in August voted against joining other Texas cities in a legal challenge to SB 4, a new Texas law that empowers local police with authorities otherwise reserved for federal immigration officials.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board supported joining the lawsuit but respected the council’s decision to do otherwise.
That was at least in part because we believed city leaders when they said that public input regarding the city’s participation in the suit was evenly, or close to evenly, divided.
But records obtained through a public information request and shared with the Star-Telegram by immigrant advocacy group United Fort Worth suggests that at least in documented correspondence, the overwhelming majority of people who contacted the five city council members who opposed the suit were in favor of joining it.
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The source of this information is relevant. United Fort Worth formed explicitly in response to the Legislature’s passage of SB 4, successfully rallied community support and aggressively campaigned against the law and for the lawsuit.
The energy in the SB 4 debate was clearly with United Fort Worth and its allies. No doubt, at least some of the correspondence received by the council members was prompted by the group’s efforts.
That does not change the fact that there is a dramatic discrepancy between what council members said regarding public input and what records, call and emails logs revealed.
It suggests a remarkable lack of transparency at best.
District 4 Councilman Cary Moon, who voted against joining the lawsuit, has added to our concerns about openness by refusing to release the full results of a Facebook survey he conducted regarding the council decision.
According to reporter Jeff Caplan, the survey’s apparent results went 210 in favor of joining litigation to 77 against, but Moon says it also contained a substantial number of “hidden” votes opposing the suit from people who did not want their vote made public.
Moon says he is not required to make those results public since he conducted the informal study on non-government computers, and he has declined to release them voluntarily. That’s disconcerting.
As our elected city representatives, council members must strike a balance between the will of the people they represent and the knowledge and expertise they possess as our leaders. That means there will be times when their votes do not appear to represent public sentiment.
But given the significant disparity between public statements and public records, we believe some members of the council have some explaining to do.
Specifically, we’d like to see Moon’s “hidden” votes. More broadly, residents across this city deserve to know why elected officials did not vote in accordance with what appears to be their intent.