Collin County Politics: Activists Needed!

December 13, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 264,116 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 2,310 more cases than I reported 3 weeks ago and 1,598 of our Collin residents have died (9 additional deaths). Our transmission remains Low but that’s based on reported cases.

It isn’t just Covid now though. Public health officials say we’re in a tripledemic, a combination of Covid, influenza, and Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Local pediatric beds are approaching 100% capacity for kids with RSV and flu hospitalizations are outnumbering Covid ones. Parents are once again exhausted and struggling to balance childcare, work, and their own health.

I’m sure that’s one reason why railroad workers were so desperate to get paid sick leave. They’re not alone. Roughly 33 million workers have no paid sick days. This is rare among industrialized countries because they (but apparently not we) understand that sick workers are bad for both the community and the economy. Sigh. When will we learn? If we cared at all about workers, paid sick leave would be a natural part of employment, not something to be “won.”

Commissioner’s Court: Buried in the Consent Agenda for their November 14th meeting was a small item adopting a policy authorizing the payroll department to deduct only benefit-related costs from employees’ paychecks. For employees belonging to groups like the Collin County Deputies Association (CCDA), this means that their dues will no longer be deducted from their checks. Huh. I’m sure it’s entirely a coincidence that the CCDA endorsed Chris Hill’s opponent, Josh Murray, and that this policy was passed during the first meeting after the election. This is how Republicans in Collin County operate: fear and intimidation. It has nothing to do with their actual jobs to, you know, provide us with services and a good place to live.

Sadly, the commissioners took the results of the election as permission to have little to no decency and never demonstrate the will or the courage to do the right thing. That’s probably one of the many reasons why Collin County is known as the most lawless county in the state. Doesn’t it make you proud, Collin County residents? It’s no wonder that we keep shelling out thousands of dollars for lawyers for the commissioners and various county employees. I’d love for someone to ask Chris Hill if that’s fiscally responsible. Can I opt my tax dollars out of that?

Speaking of their lawyer bills, Josh encouraged the commissioners to have a consistent policy about when to hire lawyers for county employees and how much they should pay them. The legal team they hired for Deputy DA Bill Wirzsky (sued in his personal, not professional capacity) costs $980/hour. Wow! How can I get that rate? It’s even more amazing when you realize these are the very same commissioners who sued the prosecutors THEY HIRED to prosecute Ken Paxton because they were charging too much (around $200/hour). Imagine that. Josh made the excellent point that the court is unlikely to pay that much to defend a public works or janitorial employee sued in their personal capacity. That’s unfair. If they don’t want to do it for those lowly employees, why should they for upper-level employees? We all know the answer to that. It’s an excellent demonstration of corruption and classism, about who they believe is worth defending and who isn’t. It’s also about their butts on the line for being terrible at their jobs. Like Josh, I want to know how we’re paying for this firm.

The December 5th meeting was the 3rd in a row where Chris Hill was gone from Public Comments, a fact not missed by Josh Murray who wondered aloud if Cowardly Crybaby Chris (that’s my pet name for him, not Josh’s, although he’s free to use it if he’d like) was trying to avoid him since he shoved and slapped Josh. At least he had a good excuse for the meeting since he missed that 24-minute meeting entirely. Duncan Webb was absent too. Since the end of the year meetings historically don’t have a lot to consider, several of the commissioners seem unwilling to attend. This brings up an issue I’d like for someone to educate me on: how many commissioners are needed for a quorum? During this meeting, Susan Fletcher did her usual recusal of all things computer related to her husband, so only Darrell Hale and Cheryl Williams voted on those items. That doesn’t seem legal.  

Fletcher brought up the $165,000 they’re planning on using to renovate Keith Self’s office. Since his term is only 2 years – unless he’s re-elected, something I devoutly hope doesn’t happen – this means they’re spending thousands on a short-term lease. Surprisingly, she said she was against it. Perhaps she was influenced by Josh’s comments. He pointed out that no landlord would ever spend around $200,000 for a 2-year rental and mentioned that the commissioners are stewards of taxpayer money. I imagine this is news to them. He recommended that if they want to be landlords, they need to bid it out. Let someone bid more than Self, then pay to fix it up themselves. Or they could use that money to fund the animal shelter (yes, please!) that currently can’t serve the community’s needs or have it go towards upgrading the Juvenile Detention Center. Of course, they’d never want to do either of those things because they don’t benefit them! Fletcher’s comments against this monetary distribution were barely out of her mouth before Williams moved to approve it and Hale seconded. I wonder what Self has promised them if they voted to approve. Let’s all say it together now: Baaa!!!

Josh also went off on them refusing to take the money for dues for the CCDA, telling them that they’re treating them like they’re a union instead of a necessity (I, for one, believe unions are a necessity) and gave a good example of the importance of the group. He wasn’t alone. Tony Rike, a lifelong Collin County resident, decades-long police officer, and field representative from the Texas Municipal Police Association also asked them to reconsider that vote. Fat chance. With this group, pettiness will always win over helping people.

They’re also all about terrible policy. Some dude from Copeville complained about loud noises and automatic gunfire occurring late into the night. He asked if there was anything they could do. Fletcher told him that they’re limited as to what they can do about noise issues because they have to follow state law (which is what exactly?). The good news (she said with a smile) is that people can do almost whatever they want while on their own property. The bad news is: so can your neighbor. That’s such a bad take on living in communities that it almost takes my breath away. Typical. We all know what a hellscape we’d be living in if Republicans got their way on everything. In Texas, we’re already halfway there.

Allen City Council: During the last meeting, Mayor Fulk proclaimed it to be Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. He presented the Collin County Homeless Association (CCHA) with this utterly useless proclamation. It’s good that the council is trying to raise awareness (which they can pat themselves on the back for) but what are they really doing to deal with issues that absolutely shouldn’t be happening in one of the richest counties in the state? The CCHA is a great organization but there’s only so much a private organization do to combat such a systemic issue. I’d hate to say that the leadership in Allen just doesn’t care about their lower-income residents but it’d probably be true.

The council did adopt the 2021-2022 Comprehensive Annual Performance Evaluation Report (CAPER) for the Community Development Block Grant Program. This is probably their “something is better than nothing” attempt to look like they’re compassionate. CAPER works on affordable housing by rehabbing existing residential properties, encouraging the expansion and accessibility of social services, and responding to coronavirus issues for very low to moderate-income people. This sounds great except that it’s basically small potatoes. About 15 houses were rehabbed, 74 families got rental assistance, and 95 people received services pertaining to Covid. Huh. If you take 5% of the population in Allen living below the poverty line (5,250), then this program helped only 3% of the group it needs to reach.

Add to that the fact that Allen ranks 8th in the county for the number of residents receiving low-income housing tax credits. That’s 1 affordable apartment for every 1, 116 people. What else is the city government doing for its lower to moderate-income residents? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess not much. I’d love to be wrong but I bet I’m not. This is not even close to good enough, Allen!

If you’ll recall, at least 2 of the city council members (Dave Shafer and Dave Cornette) almost refused to approve the budget because they believe the city is spending too much money on services. It’s no accident that these guys were partying it up at the We the Selfish People of Allen PAC holiday party. Given their reluctance to spend anything, imagine my surprise when they both passed – without any of their usual whining – a resolution to purchase ten bullet-resistant shields for law enforcement use. Is Allen so crime-ridden that police officers truly need these shields? If not, it seems like a bit much, especially given their concerns about expenses.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Frederick Douglass

Allen School Board: The school board has been truly filled with drama recently and it’s mostly their own fault. This situation is somewhat complicated, so I’m going to do my best to simplify it. As is the case for many of the school districts in Collin County, AISD is struggling with finances due to the unsustainable recapture funding theft by the state. As such, they’re looking to save money. This is compounded by the fact that AISD is no longer growing (growth is less than 1%) with the decline in enrollment – roughly 3,000 empty seats – on the east side. Enrollment on the west side is still growing.

The other issue is that AISD has paused for 2 years the state-mandated implementation of a full-day Pre-K program which will also include children with disabilities. It’s time to get that done. There are only 15 districts in the entire state that have yet to incorporate full-time Pre-K and AISD, the district with the $80 million football stadium, is one of them. Oops.

Those are the issues board members were dealing with and, had they explained all this in a direct way, they could’ve saved everyone a lot of heartache. But this board has never been respectful or transparent, so here we are. What they needed to do was explain that the overcrowding on the west side is an entirely separate issue from the 3,000 empty seats on the east side. Whichever way they sliced it, they were going to have close schools and moving kids around to balance enrollment wasn’t ever a workable solution. But the board allowed the narrative to be about high and low enrollment instead of school closures, thereby letting the community believe they could fix things by moving students.

Another thing they should’ve done was to hold meetings at the schools that were likely going to be closed. They could’ve answered questions and validated parent concerns. But they didn’t. Instead, the parents at Rountree and Anderson Elementary Schools found out right along with everyone else that their schools will cease to exist at the end of this school year. That’s incredibly rude, disrespectful, and short-sighted. Again, not a surprise from this board. If that wasn’t bad enough, the board also allowed the community to believe they actually had a say in what was going to happen. They formed a committee of 70 people to provide “input” into the Superintendent’s plan but were only given two options to vote on. People were incensed.

After that, things went from bad to worse. Board President Amy Gnadt instructed the board members not to talk to the parents and called the police on Anderson parents preemptively when they’d done nothing to warrant the call (although perhaps they did; I’m hearing differing reports). I have no idea how the board thought that was going to go over but I’ll remind you that this is the very same board that was so terrible during Covid when parents were desperate for schools to keep their kids safe.

As you might expect, Anderson and Rountree parents showed up to meetings, pleading with the board to reconsider. They brought up some good points, like wondering why AISD is so top-heavy but no plans are made to reduce the number of administrative personnel and pointing out that AISD has among the highest administrative costs and lowest teacher pay per student as compared to other districts of the same size. The Board really does need to address these issues but, of course, they won’t.

Where some of these parents lost me was when they complained about the 36 students in Allenwood Estates who are being moved from Norton to Boyd. Norton is a school with a 9 rating while Boyd has a 4 rating. According to these parents, the problem isn’t that Allen has schools that are struggling; it’s that their precious darlings will now have to attend them. That’s just gross and entitled. One parent actually asked why apartments are getting more consideration than people who’ve committed to being home buyers. Yuck, yuck, yuck! Some people can’t afford to buy a home, ma’am (see the above discussion in the Allen City Council section).

I have a hard time sympathizing with these parents’ distress about the lack of transparency and being ignored/disrespected by the Board. Where were they when we were trying to demand AISD put Covid protocols backed by the CDC in place to ensure the safety of vulnerable students and teachers? Did they care when the Board changed the rules for how Public Comment was to be handled or personally handpicked the MAGA people who got to speak back then? Did they get upset at the heavy police presence at school board meetings? The problems with this Board aren’t new and it’s only gotten worse with the addition of Sam Abiog and Elle Holland. Many of these people just didn’t care before because it didn’t impact them. I’d love to know who they voted for (or even if they voted) in the school board elections last May.

I also didn’t think much of School Board Trustee Vatsa Ramanathan resigning during the meeting in a fit of pique. He claimed he did so because he was frustrated that he wasn’t allowed to talk with community members and was irritated that he was supposed to vote with the majority due to the rules for unity put in place by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). That’s bunk. I disagree with the TASB pressure to present a unified front but their suggestions are just that. School board trustees are elected officials. If they want to talk with parents, who’s going to stop them? If they vote their conscience (which Ramanathan did), what are the TASB or fellow board members going to do about it? The TASB can dictate anything it wants but, at the end of the day, the only people with the power to influence school board trustees are the voters.

I was frustrated by Ramanathan’s resignation because it was deeply short-sighted. Sure, he was annoyed but is his absence going to make things better? Reverse the vote? No, all it did was present an opportunity for the Board to become even more terrible. Rumor had it that the Board was considering appointing someone affiliated with the We the Selfish People of Allen to fill his seat, someone who would’ve then run as an incumbent. We lucked out that they decided to keep the seat open until May instead. Now this position is an open seat, which is much easier to win. Good people of Allen: consider running for the school board in May. We need you!

McKinney School Board: At the beginning of the meeting (prior to public comments), Board President Amy Dankel read her usual l-o-n-g statement detailing what will happen if there’s bad behavior. It’s exhausting. Thanks, Republicans! Because of you, everyone has to be treated like children. The extremists in particular hate for their misbehavior to result in consequences. Several of the 9 public speakers complained not only about the potential disciplinary actions but also Dankel’s reading of the statement. Whatever, sheep! I’m sure she hates having to read it more than you do.

The topic of the day was the “change” to the EF(LOCAL) policy about how to handle books objectionable to certain people (spoiler alert: there was no change). The board wanted to clarify that their policy was one of opting out. If parents don’t want their precious darlings to read certain books, they can specify which ones their children can’t check out. Problem solved, right? Nope! What about those poor, ignorant parents who have no idea what evil books the diabolical librarians have put into our libraries? The whiners mention pornography constantly but what they really mean is books containing ideas – equality, democracy, sexuality for fun – they’re scared of. Their new demand is to have this policy be opt in instead. In other words, THEY want to be the ones dictating what the rest of us can read. No thanks!

If every trustee was reasonable, the discussion about approving the EF(LOCAL) would’ve been short. But, you guessed it, Chad Green (Ole Hathole himself) had to drag it out. He claimed parents don’t know what books are bad and that McKinney has books that are inappropriate. He believes these super dangerous books – apparently, the 282 books Greg Abbott has labeled bad (I couldn’t find this list) – should be kept behind locked doors. Students can read them there so as not to expose other students to inappropriate content. LOL. Hey, Hathole! Books aren’t like Covid: you can’t be exposed to them through the air. I have no doubt kids reading books they think are salacious will take pictures of whatever and talk about the content with their friends. Making them read these books behind locked doors will only amplify, not extinguish, that behavior. What an idiot.

Then it got fun. Phillip Hassler, Chik-Fil-A Republican Extraordinaire, actually started arguing with Hathole! He said Hathole is undercutting parents and then asked if he personally had challenged any books. Hathole said no – of course not, that would require effort – and asked Hassler if he had. Philip Hassler said no, he’s comfortable with what’s in our libraries. He told Hathole that if he keeps complaining but doesn’t do anything about it, then his comments will fall on deaf ears for him. Hathole cleverly says that he sure would’ve gone through the process but he’s been busy with the lawsuits from the board. Wow! He’s using the lawsuits as an excuse for his laziness! That’s a new one. Hassler continues to argue with Hathole. Dankel puts her hand on Stephanie O’Dell’s arm to keep her from jumping into the fray.

Our own Larry Jagours ended the kerfuffle by recommending parents who are upset opt out of the 282 books provided by our “beloved” Governor. I appreciate his snark. He goes on to point out that the board has been dealing with this issue since he’s been there and they have other things to do. He mentioned that the next target will undoubtedly be public libraries. I think I’m a little in love. Never one interested in doing legitimate work, Hathole tried to continue the discussion by saying there are numerous bills coming up in Texas legislature that will hold school boards, librarians, and superintendents “to a felony” if they continue with the current process. Let’s hope that’s not true! Lynn Sperry got the last word by pointing out a typo. I’m so grateful she’s focusing on the meat of the matter.

I can’t believe more people don’t want to be a part of watching and participating in these meetings! The only thing missing is popcorn.

Local Politics: As I mentioned in my last column, voting is no longer enough. I hate to break it to y’all but keeping our democracy takes work! We were asleep at the wheel long enough; now we must fight to right the ship. We need teams monitoring all our local government outlets and we need task forces tackling the overarching issues, like affordable housing and access to mental healthcare. This is how we meet our like-minded neighbors, prepare for the next election, and make a difference. Please sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. Contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 6

  1. Your nicknames are def a high point for me! But the rest of the report is just one disappointment after another as I watch our elected officials fail in their duties (although MISD school board provided a tiny bright spot this week). *sigh*

  2. “Josh also went off on them refusing to take the money for dues for the CCDA, treating them like they’re a union instead of a necessity . . .” What have you got against unions? Is it you or Josh or both? Almost every legislative session, unions fight against bills to outlaw payroll deduction of dues for ALL public sector unions or associations in the whole state (so that includes teachers). Usually there’s a proposed exemption for police and fire!
    (Recently, the state comptroller used administrative means to make it harder for a state employee to join a union [like mine] through payroll deduction.)

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      After all my posts and pictures celebrating unions, you truly believe I’m against them? My mom was a union rep for the NEA! That was a Josh quote. I’m with you. Unions are incredibly necessary!

      1. THANK YOU!!! I don’t know you, and I didn’t know about your mom. Good for her. I’m sure you know that a lot of teachers still think it is illegal for them to even join unions in Texas. I even heard the outgoing Dallas school superintendent say, on TV, that we don’t have unions in Texas–even though there is an activist union (Alliance/AFT) right there in Dallas ISD! There are a couple of NEA unions in Collin County, and I wish more people would join them/start them.

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          I was referring more to all the pictures of union representation I’ve featured (at least 3 if I recall, including one of you!). But point taken. I edited the post to make my feelings about unions clear. The movie Norma Rae should be essential viewing.

        2. Well, now that I think of it, I should’ve remembered that you have posted pictures of union members, including me with the legendary “mic guy,” Tevita Uhatafe, of the Fort Worth Central Labor Council.
          Sorry for the memory problems of my elderly brain! And thank you again.

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