The Phony Phone Survey:
Duping People Into Listening to An Attack Ad
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
Last evening at about 8:20 p.m., I received a call on my cell phone. The caller spoke very quickly and told me that she had a two-question “survey” for me. I have to confess that I’d been tipped off about these calls, so I was pretty sure this wasn’t really a “survey.” So, I asked some questions.
First, I asked the caller what her first question was, and she responded with a question about who I would vote for in the Addison mayoral election, if was held right then. I told the caller that before I would consider sharing that information, I needed to know who was conducting this “survey.” The caller gave me a company name, describing it as a third-party provider hired to conduct this “survey.” The caller repeated that a couple of times as I pressed for the name of the customer who requested the “survey.” I was put on hold for a few minutes. The caller returned and gave me the name “Assion” or “Affion,” I’m not sure which. She talked very fast.
I then asked the caller what the second question was. She sounded somewhat surprised, but finally read the second “question,” which was not a question at all. Rather, it was an inflammatory attack on Joe Chow stated in the form of a faux question. And at that point, I terminated the call.
So, as I had suspected, the call wasn’t a “survey” at all. Rather, it was a somewhat clever but deceptive way of delivering an attack ad against Joe Chow. And, it targeted people who responded to the first question by stating that they intended to vote for Joe Chow (although as I demonstrated, you can hear the second “question” without answering the first).
Speaking for myself, I find such tactics to be invasive and entirely unpersuasive. I’m far more interested in knowing how the current candidates intend to HEAL and UNITE Addison. And it’s hard to see how these types of attacks do either.
Addison has much healing to do, and I’ve been direct in laying blame for the division at the feet of Todd Meier. Meier has harmed Addison with his deceit, concealment and other divisive tactics. I’ve backed it all up with facts. I’ve shown again and again how Meier has acted to consolidate his power, using various bully pulpits to spew propaganda, all the while suppressing opposing views. I’ve demonstrated Meier’s lack of transparency. Never forget that it was on Meier’s watch that the lawyers were directed to handle Open Records Act requests by finding a way to withhold responsive documents. No one can believe that that is “transparency.” And also remember that it did not change until Councilmembers Duffy, Walden and Angell were elected last year. They – not Meier – started the process of returning transparency to Addison.
Meier has turned council meetings into one-sided trials. Meier declines to lead real discussions, instead dominating meetings and then publicly attacking those on the council who disagree with his views. AMLI is a prime example. The AMLI development was approved by a 5-2 vote, despite Meier’s filibuster and his hostile and unprofessional treatment of the AMLI representatives. But Meier refused to accept the will of the council. Meier immediately distorted the issues presented, and then falsely claimed that Councilmembers Duffy, Walden and Angell had campaigned on an anti-apartment platform. Meier then targeted AMLI, falsely claiming that the land suffers environmental issues, despite the TCEQ’s findings to the contrary. Meier’s conduct sent a message to applicants: if Meier doesn’t approve of your development, it doesn’t matter what the council does. You will pay a price. It’s a bad message that is entirely at odds with Addison’s business development efforts.
Addison needs to recover from all of it, and return to the Addison Way. Addison’s Charter establishes a council of seven, with the clear intent that they deliberate openly, in good faith, and in the best interests of the Town. To be effective, the council must work to create a healthy deliberative environment. This requires putting personal egos aside in favor of the greater good. It is a system that hasn’t existed on Meier’s watch, and Addison has suffered the consequences.
To recover, Addison’s residents must populate the council with people who are respectful of different opinions, and who commit to agreeing to disagree agreeably. As for me, I want to understand how the current candidates intend to accomplish that, and to be a constructive part of returning Addison to the Addison Way.
Calling me on my cell phone with a phony “survey” by way of delivering an attack ad doesn’t help me answer these fundamental questions. And I submit that it isn’t the Addison Way.