Don’t Rely on Last Minute Negative Spin:

Don’t Rely on Last Minute Negative Spin:
 If Issues Are Legitimate, They Are Raised In Time
For Open, Honest, and Thorough Debate
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

For the third election in a row, the negative spinners have circulated inaccurate and misleading information on the eve of early voting. Their timing is unquestionably intentional.  After all, these last-minute ambushes make it difficult to correct misstatements before votes are cast.  I guess the negative spinners never lose hope that Addison voters will fall for such tactics, despite the fact that they have been repeatedly rejected.

I believe that Addison voters are way smarter than the negative spinners think. Addison voters understand that legitimate issues are raised early on during any election season.  That allows voters to be fully informed, and it allows candidates to have a full, honest and open debate about them.  Elections should be decided by having a full understanding of where candidates stand on important issues.  Nonetheless, the negative spinners persist, most recently attacking Councilmember Paul Walden and the Addison Police Association by circulating a purported “open letter” to the APA’s President, Cameron Carter.  I believe Addison voters are thoroughly skeptical and suspicious about these last-minute attack pieces, as well they should be.  Let me show you why by addressing some of the many misstatements contained therein.

First, the Addison Police Association does not give money to candidates. Neither does the Addison Firefighters Association.  The veiled suggestion that the APA gave money to Councilmember Walden’s campaign is false.  Equally inaccurate are the suggestions that the APA is somehow subject to the Freedom of Information Act (it is not), or that the letter writer has any right or ability to demand information “to be made available within 30 days” (he has no such right or ability).  As but one example of what the APA is really about, consider donating to help Santa’s Heroes; it is a project funded jointly by the APA and AFA.

Second, between 60 and 70 public safety personnel working in Addison have formed the Addison Public Safety Political Action Committee and make voluntary contributions thereto. By majority vote of these members, the PAC makes political contributions unrelated to the APA or the AFA.  Perhaps it is with a full understanding of this PAC that the “open letter” misleadingly suggests that there is “evidence” that “leads to the conclusion” that Councilmember Walden received funds from the Addison Police Association, when this suggestion is simply false.  It is the PAC that has made contributions to Councilmember Walden and other candidates, as is its legal right.

Third, the Addison Police Association and the Addison Firefighters Association have endorsed candidates during Addison’s three most recent elections. In Texas, police and fire personnel have a statutory right to participate in political activity when off-duty and out of uniform pursuant to the express terms of the Texas Local Government Code.  Endorsing candidates is their statutorily protected right.  Contrary to the claims made in the “open letter,” they are far from alone in endorsing candidates, as even a casual search reveals:

  • The Frisco Police Officers Association has endorsed a mayoral candidate.
  • The Allen Police Association and the Allen Fire Association have endorsed at least one council candidate.
  • The McKinney Police Association has endorsed a candidate for District Attorney.
  • The Richardson Police Association has endorsed a candidate for State Representative.
  • The Carrollton Police Officer’s Association has endorsed a mayoral candidate and three council candidates.
  • The Flower Mound Professional Firefighters Association and the Flower Mound Police Association have endorsed a council candidate.
  • The Garland Police Association has endorsed a mayoral candidate.

I suppose I could keep going, but you get the idea. It is not unusual for fire and police associations to exercise their statutory rights in connection with elections.

Fourth, compensation for police and fire personnel was ignored by the ex-mayor and his cadre, to the point of becoming a critical issue for Addison. At various points in time, both police and fire were understaffed, with no list from which to draw and few qualified applicants seeking to undergo testing.  In a 2017 survey comparing firefighter compensation in Addison to 13 neighboring communities, Addison finished 11th.  On the police side, Addison was paying to train officers who were leaving after three or four years because the compensation packages offered in competing communities were far more competitive.

Ignoring these problems was penny-wise and pound-foolish and the entire situation needed to be addressed. The current council, under the leadership of Mayor Joe Chow and Councilmember Paul Walden, took it on and worked to fix it.  Having supported the prior administration’s choice to ignore the issue, it is no surprise that the negative spinners are now attacking Councilmember Walden, without fairly explaining the underlying issues.

Fifth, the endorsement of the Addison Police Association and the Addison Firefighters Association is by majority vote of their respective members. The decisions are made based on questionnaires completed by some candidates, followed by interviews with the candidates.  Those who conduct this process are the men and women who work hard and put their lives on the line to keep us safe on a daily basis.  They have taken the time to investigate and evaluate the candidates, and they have a right to have a say in the process.

Sixth, the negative spinners seem to draw some measure of joy in continually referencing the embezzlement of money from the Addison Police Association, as did the toxic ex-mayor whose lead they seem to constantly follow. They bring it up every chance they get, trying to somehow connect it to their issue of the moment, even when no plausible connection exists.  This is simply more of the same nonsense.  So let’s be clear: The fact that the APA was the victim of a criminal act is irrelevant to any issue in this or any other election.  It happened years ago, the perpetrator was convicted and is now a felon, and he made full restitution to the APA.  End of story.

The real story is the continuing hostility of the negative spinners to police and fire personnel. It’s exactly what led Addison to the staffing crisis described above, which has finally been corrected by a courageous council that has spent the last year trying to clean up one mess after another.

Addison, we can’t go back. Keep us moving forward.  Ignore the negative spinners, and their efforts to mislead Addison voters just as they did during the last two elections.  We have a solid council, with seven members who believe in our form of government.  Keep Addison moving forward!

The Addison Way is finally back. Let’s keep it that way!