Collin County Politics: Be a Bell

October 4, 2022

Picture: Democrats Sharon Stark, Hava Johnston, Virginia Burgan, and Jesse Ringness (running for HD66) at Frisco’s Beto Debate Watch Party.

Covid Update: Collin County has 257,719 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 694 more cases than I reported last week and 1,557 of our Collin residents have died (5 additional deaths). Our transmission remains Low.

Elections: I love how a DMN article about the new voting changes makes it sound like they’re a regular procedural hassle instead of a dastardly attempt by Republicans to prevent Democrats from voting. The article somehow forgets to mention that Texas had some of the most restrictive election rules in the country even before SB7 implemented these new rules. Many people have no idea that Texas is a severely voter-suppressed state but we are. Republicans do absolutely everything they can to suppress the vote.

Since the 2020 election, Republicans have eliminated drive-through and 24-hour voting to decrease the votes of people of color and those working second shifts, especially if they live in Houston. People voting by mail will need to provide further proof of ID so they can decrease the votes of college students and those without driver’s licenses or ID cards (often people of color, especially those with disabilities). Republicans also are making it more cumbersome for people to help elderly voters or those with disabilities. They tried to put in other restrictions, like limiting voting on Sundays and making it illegal for someone to drive more than 2 non-family members to the polls, but the Democrats were able to prevent those from being included in the final bill.

Do not let these losers prevent you from voting! If you have questions or concerns, the Texas Democratic Party website will help. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 11.

ICYMI –Ken Paxton is finally told no: In an “it’s about freaking time!” ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Felonious Punk’s motion for a rehearing of its December 2021 ruling that undid a 1985 Texas law empowering his office to go after election fraud. In his concurring opinion, Judge Scott Walker said granting the attorney general the power to unilaterally prosecute voter fraud violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution and “usurps” the power of district and county attorneys. “If we ruled that the legislature could give the Attorney General the unfettered power to prosecute all election cases, we would be giving every future Attorney General the power to bring possibly fabricated criminal charges against every candidate running for public office in the State of Texas who disagrees with the Attorney General’s political ideals.” Yep. That’s exactly what they want.

Punk and his cronies want to take away the power of district and county attorneys. Even though Republicans are supposed to be the party of small government, they’ve thrown that to the wind in search of being able to enact total control. They don’t want local officials or residents to decide our fate. They want to decide for us. Punk wants to charge people with election fraud and go after abortion providers. While Texas Republicans have already started fundraising on the ruling, I wonder how eager they will be for this ruling to get overturned should Rochelle Garza beat Punk in November. Somehow, I think their self-righteous outrage will immediately disappear and they’ll start celebrating the decision. Hypocrisy, thy name is Republican.

Education: The State Board of Education continued to demonstrate Republican cowardice in the face of conservative bullies by delaying their vote on revised social study standards until 2025. Instead, they’re only making limited changes this year to align lessons with SB3. This horrible new law prohibits teaching certain concepts about race and largely prevents schools from giving credit to students for advocacy work. We wouldn’t want our youth to work for better futures for themselves, now would we? It’d be amusing to see how afraid Republicans are of young people if it wasn’t so tragic. SB3 also encourages educators to teach only that slavery and racism are “deviations” from the founding principles of the United States. Sure. That’s going to fly. These kids do have access to the internet. Or maybe that’s their next target.

The Board approved only minor changes that included helping students discern credible information so they can “evaluate a variety of historical and contemporary sources for validity, credibility, bias and accuracy.” They also want them to learn to “use voting as a method for group decision making.” That sounds good but, clearly, the Republican members of this board cannot be trusted. Democratic board members unsuccessfully tried to include amendments adding more women and diverse historical figures into the revised state standards. No such luck. That’s why we need people like Alex Cornwallis on the Board!

In better news, the Biden administration is giving Texas nearly $94 million in grants to provide students with safer and healthier learning environments. Schools can use the money to support community partnerships that seek solutions that address bullying, violence and hate; that boost the mental health and wellness of students and staff; and that address the needs of underserved students. I’m cautiously optimistic about this since many Texas municipalities used federal Covid funds (like ARPA) inappropriately. I also don’t like that the grants will be administered by the TEA; we all know how terrible they can be. Let’s just hope they’ll follow the example of Santa Fe Public Schools in New Mexico. That district is using federal funds to expand its existing restorative justice program, hire additional school psychologists and expand school counseling programming. Regardless, we need to keep an eye on what TEA does.

Remember how the right-wing Patriot Mobile PAC bought several Grapevine-Colleyville ISD board seats? We thought they got what they paid for when their puppet board members pushed through terrible, fascist policies despite strong public opposition. Well, they’re not finished. Trustee Becky St. John accused the bought board members, especially president Casey Ford, of making her the target of a political “witch hunt” after allegations that she had violated an ethics pledge. During a tense executive session, Ford accused St. John of calling another board member a bitch at a previous meeting and of falsely accusing the school board’s lawyer of sleeping during that same meeting. Since when is accurately noting reality (the snoozing lawyer) a problem? St. John denies the allegations.

She said he put her name on the agenda without even telling her beforehand. Another GCISD trustee, Jorge Rodríguez, chastised Ford for not having a simple conversation with St. John first, noting he also saw the lawyer sleeping. He added, “Putting someone on the agenda without telling her what it is, that’s unprofessional. We don’t behave like that.” Maybe he doesn’t but conservatives sure do. This is what we all have to look forward to if these blowhards continue to win seats on school boards.

The community is not amused. Many public speakers said they feared that the divisive, “petty” politics of GCISD prompted longtime superintendent Robin Ryan to retire. Several speakers accused board members of working to oust Ryan (they probably did) and criticized “the political circus” the board has become, saying the strain could eventually cause teachers to leave the district. Yeah, that absolutely will happen. Other speakers pleaded with the trustees to find a way to put differences and outside political influence aside to work on behalf of students. That only works if you’re dealing with people who want to compromise and the right-wing extremists don’t. This is why we must oust them at the ballot box!

A fun throwback: the Liberal Women’s Action Network Painting Party in 2018

Collin College Board of Trustees: A federal judge dealt a devastating blow to Collin College when he decided that the Collin College administrators who fired Dr. Suzanne Jones for her public speech can be held personally and financially responsible for violating the First Amendment. After she was fired, Dr. Jones filed a federal lawsuit alleging a substantial amount of administrative misconduct. Defendants Neil Matkin and Toni Jenkins — Collin College’s president and senior vice president of campus operations, respectively — moved for dismissal, requesting their actions be shielded by qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects government officials from lawsuits unless they violate clearly established constitutional rights. The judge said no, saying their actions were “clearly unconstitutional.” Yay! I’m certainly glad to see some federal judges doing the right thing!

Another professor suing the college also got a win. A federal judge agreed that Dr. Michael Phillips has plausible claims for relief. Dr. Phillips claims he was fired by the college by speaking in public about Confederate memorials (he’s against them), race relations (he wants them to improve), a shooting (he’s against it), and masks (he’s in support). Collin College, as run by authoritarian president Matkin, disagrees with these stances and fired him. Dr. Phillips says the college can’t do that because they violated his constitutional rights by retaliating against him for speaking as a private citizen about public issues. In legalese, the college placed a prior restraint on his speech. That’s illegal and, apparently, the court seems poised to agree. Yay again!

In other positive news, Trustees Dr. Stacey Donald and Stacy Arias recently proposed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) director be hired at the college. They’re asking for Matkin to report back on this in December. We’ll see if he will. Perhaps the losses in court will chastise him a bit. We can hope anyway.

Commissioners Court: Susan Fletcher was absent from the blink and you missed it 17-minute meeting. I wouldn’t even bother summarizing this poor excuse for governance except for 2 of the public comments. Warrior for Democracy Judy Dishong continued speaking truth to power as she took Chris Hill to task for disrespecting her after last week’s meeting. He told her she hasn’t voted for a Republican in a long time. That’s right! Because Judy has common sense and compassion. But why was that any of his business and what does her voting record have to do with anything? Is it Hill’s belief that Democrats should have no say in how we’re governed? That sounds mighty fascist to me. Judy was having none of it. She correctly pointed out that who she votes for has nothing to do with her status as a citizen of Collin County, a taxpayer, and someone who does a lot of research on who she votes for. She told them they need to recognize that they aren’t her boss or her dictator and, as citizens of Collin and as taxpayers, we are their employers. Sing it, sister! Judy went on to complain about the lack of information they provide. She said many of her friends don’t even know that the commissioner’s court exists (which, btw, is exactly what they want) and that our voter turnout is shamefully low (another thing they want). She asked them to increase information about elections. As if.

Josh Murray (running for County Judge) is always fun to hear and this meeting was no exception. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he was on fire again. Unlike Hill, he just keeps getting better! Josh mentioned that a grand jury gave him a No Bill – insufficient evidence exists for an indictment on a criminal charge – for the contempt of court Hill leveled against him in May of 2021. During that meeting, Hill told Josh he was dismissed after speaking, something Hill’s never done to anyone else. When Josh responded, Hill became a bully and moved to hold him in contempt. Like the sheep they are, the other commissioners quickly complied with Hill’s demand. The amount of time that passed from when Hill “dismissed” Josh and the court found Josh in contempt was 35 seconds. He rightly called out their behavior as tyrannical and in violation of the Constitution. If they want to abide by the Constitution, they must enforce rules equally. Josh, they’re Republicans. That’s never going to happen. How else can they abuse their power?

Allen City Council: In a divisive and heated 4½ hour budget meeting, the council chamber was standing room only. What was at stake was whether the council would vote in a No New Revenue (NNR) tax rate and what the budget will look like. I’m a psychologist, not an economist, so these terms are hard for me to understand. But while I can’t explain how to calculate the NNR (try this article, one of the few not written by rightwing extremists), I do know it’s bad for governments to implement and ends up costing everyone more in the long run, both in decreased services and higher taxes. One thoughtful citizen pointed out that NNR sets the city up to need to raise taxes significantly to make up the deficit caused by two consecutive years of NNR. And this was from a guy who voted for the Three Stooges (Daren Meis, Dave Cornette, and Dave Shafer)!

It started off with the City Manager recommending a proposed Tax Rate is above the NNR. He defensively added that this is designed to provide the community with the services they desire and demand, for as low as a Tax Rate as possible. What followed was 26 public speakers (plus 11 non-speakers recording their wishes), several quite angry with each other. Apparently, there was a petition against NNR that some took offense to. A few speakers called out other speakers by name! Yikes. But that was nothing compared to how the council members argued with each other, with several (can you guess who?) actively confused about how the budget works. If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that experience in and knowledge about government matters.

The Three Stooges insisted that the anti-NNR narrative was misleading, saying things like there wasn’t forced overtime with the Allen Fire Department (there was), some sitting council members don’t understand NNR (they do), everything in the budget is funded with NNR (it isn’t), and it will guarantee they received the same tax bill as they did last year (it won’t). Ironically, the Stooges were thrilled that the city used federal Covid relief ARPA funds – which, by the way, NO REPUBLICAN VOTED FOR – to cover their NNR-caused shortfalls in street repair. Street and bridge repairs were a huge issue during the meeting since everyone seemed to understand they need to happen. Mayor Fulk pointed out that Allen must spend at least $5 million dollars a year for the next five years to even maintain the current streets, let alone attempt to improve upon them.

A note about ARPA funds. Although I’m sure Allen technically adhered to federal guidelines for ARPA spending, I’d love to hear them explain how money designed to help people handle Covid-related disasters applies to street repairs. Other cities, like Denver and Baltimore, used their ARPA funds to lease hotels as homeless shelters but sure, street repairs are the same.

Chris Schulmeister was clearly disgusted by the Stooges and their base. He called out the We the People idiots specifically, “We have a polarizing and mean-spirited political group that’s active in our city. In my mind, they don’t have any interest in what’s best for the City. They are just interested in the NNR, no compromise, no nothing. What matters is NNR because that is their political mantra. In fact, it’s all about political power.” Yep. That sums up a number of North Texas groups trying to dominate our political bodies.

He went on to point out that NNR isn’t sustainable, roping in the Collin County commissioners to prove his point. “Even the County proved [NNR isn’t sustainable] and, boy, are they making up for lost time. They bragged about how they hit NNR for 10+ years and now the citizens are paying to make up the difference. They have facilities that are broken down, and now they’re trying to make up for it.” Preach! He added a devastating prediction about Allen, that if they continue down this NNR path, it won’t matter because people won’t want to come live “in a broken-down city.” They’d all have been better off if they took the vote right after Schulmeister’s speech but the night was just getting started.

Meis in particular was a terrible grandstander, self-righteously proclaiming that cities don’t stockpile cash (umm…shouldn’t you have some reserves in case of emergencies or unexpected projects?) and that taxes are the people’s money. I’m so sick and tired of all these people who see taxes as “their money” that’s being taken away instead of a vital part of the social contract. I wish we could chuck out all the people who don’t want to pay any taxes and let them live in a society in which they get to keep all their money but enjoy no services. No roads, no public education, no FEMA, no library, no fire or police department, no ER, etc. Then we’d see how they liked it. They’re just selfish and ignorant. If I heard one more time about how Allen has the second lowest Tax Rate in the area, I’m going to vomit. On them! A low tax rate means nothing other than a severe lack of services. It isn’t something to be proud of!!

The back and forth between council members went on for a while until they finally got down to the voting. This is where it gets confusing. The initial vote for the budget passed 4-3 with Carl Clemencich, Fulk, and Schulmeister voting no. The vote to approve the Tax Rate failed with Clemencich, Fulk, Schulmeister, and Ben Trahan voting no (clearly, Trahan is the swing vote). Since the item requires a super majority, it didn’t pass. Fulk pointed out that they must reconsider one of the motions because they we passed an NNR Budget but not the ordinance to put in place the NNR Tax Rate. Everyone seemed confused as to what they voted on and the city attorney was consulted several times. They voted 4 more times which got them an approved budget but one that didn’t match up to the Tax Rate.

Fulk asks for compromise and is told no by the Stooges. Fulk points out that if Allen doesn’t have these ordinances in the hands of Collin County by September 21st, the Tax Rate will become NNR and Collin County will charge them a fee of approximately $500,000 for their inability to agree. Council members start talking, even yelling, at each other with Meis being especially rigid. They took a 10-minute recess (reconvening at 11:30 pm!!) after which Cornette and Shafer agreed to bend. The council approved the new budget total of $302,652,181 (with the Street Repairs line back in the budget) with only Meis voting no. They voted 6-1 to ratify the increased taxes (about the amount they would’ve had to pay in county fees) for the budget with Meis voting no. They also voted to approve a .4212 Tax Rate (less than originally proposed). Only Meis voted no which meant it passed with the supermajority needed.

Wow! That was pretty terrible to even just summarize. A huge shout-out to LWAN member Vicki Sanders for recapping an almost 5-hour long meeting filled with mind-numbing terms and numbers, ludicrous speeches, and ridiculous drama. Not only did she do that but she also (as we all should) contacted council members to let them know her wishes. Vicki is a true Warrior for Democracy!

I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.

Annie Dillard

Allen School Board: At their September workshop meeting, the board received an update on Counseling Services from their new Director. I wonder what happened to their former one. She mentioned that, in accordance with SB179, school counselors spend 80% of their time directly with students. Is there nothing the Republicans in the state legislature won’t stick their noses into? Aren’t they supposed to be the party of small government? While I agree counselors should spend the majority of their time with students, the percentage and method of how they do that should be up to qualified professionals, not politicians. Arrgghh! Please make it stop! Seriously, vote out these idiots!

Another interesting tidbit was that the Texas model of counseling recommends a ratio of 1 counselor to every 350 students. That still sounds like a large ratio to me but AISD isn’t even meeting that! The Lowery Freshman Center has a 1:355 ratio, the high school has a 1:414 ratio, and elementary is even worse with a 1:626 ratio. These numbers are for guidance counselors. Fortunately, the ratios for support counselors are much leaner but these counselors are only available for crisis counseling. A future priority is to have enough support counselors for preventative counseling as well. When is this “future” going to arrive? Everyone agrees that students need help now!

Instead of focusing on how to get preventative counseling into place soon, a trustee started hammering questions on Rhythm, a check-in tool recording how students feel in an effort to get them back on track to learn. I don’t know who the trustee asking questions was because the videographer kept the camera on the uninteresting PowerPoint slides. Very frustrating. Based on the voice and the questions, I strongly suspect it was Sam Abiog because she’s obsessively focused on parent rights. She wanted to know who has access to the Rhythm data, what restrictions are in place to protect the student’s data, and if parents can opt out. Her poor kids. It isn’t healthy for parents to have such obsessive control over every aspect of their kids’ lives.

Another trustee asked questions about social-emotional learning and restorative practices. Based on her focus and the fact that she started out with “god bless,” this had to be Elle Holland. What is with the right-wing extremists and their stance against SEL and restorative practices? Do they not want people to emotionally regulate themselves (which is a key problem with school shooters)? Are they just against any kind of empathy and compassion? Or is it that they want only harsh discipline, like what law enforcement would mete out? That reeks of fascism, so it’s par for the course. The staff did a good job of explaining how things work but I’m sure it didn’t satisfy her because that isn’t what she’s after.

The next question – also had to be Abiog – was about teletherapy. This is actually an exciting resource AISD recently was able to offer students. Perhaps one of the only positive things the Texas legislature did was to call for mental health accessibility for schools at no cost. This service provides students, under parental consent, to have scheduled screen appointments with therapists from Children’s Health. These appointments are completely private and normally held in the counselor’s office. When staff was explaining that there is parental consent for this (which is mandated by law for a minor), Abiog asked if it was done in front of the parents. The staffer took this to mean parental consent but I’m pretty sure Abiog wants any counseling done in front of parents. Yikes! Thankfully, that’s not what happens.

I recently saw the formal picture of the entire board. It’s weird. None of the other larger ISDs in Collin County had pictures of the entire board. Is this one of those One Allen things? The picture looked very southern. Except for Dr. Polly Montgomery, they all were dressed in dark blue or black, dresses for the women and suits for the men. Dr. Montgomery wore a lighter blue dress. The women sitting on the front row were posed with their hands in their laps, knees demurely positioned to the side. I’m sure they were told what to wear and arranged by the photographer but it just felt very 1950s. Yuck.

Local Politics: Things are getting bad, fellow Democrats. You must be like Annie Dillard and, once your bell is struck, let your reverberations motivate your friends and family to vote for Democrats: the people who are qualified, passionate about democracy, and interested in solutions. If our democracy is to survive, we all need to step up and get engaged in local politics. 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 4

  1. Alled ISD’s vision statement is fairly lazy as well. “Where Eagles Soar”. I didn’t know children could fly. Compare it to something like Plano ISD which is
    “Committed to Excellence
    Dedicated to Caring
    Powered by Learning
    Plano ISD Proud.”

  2. I know I’m not versed in city budgeting, so forgive my naïve questions. Is one point of NNR to lower tax rate if the assessed valuations have grown a bunch? I think McKinney lowered its tax rate a smidge, but will still be bringing in more revenue.
    To me, being naïve, it seems ridiculous to keep your revenue unchanged when your population is growing. That means there will be less money per resident, and you’ll be falling further and further behind on city services each year.
    Am I out to lunch on this?

    1. Post

      If I understand NNR correctly, yes. I agree with you that keeping revenue unchanged as the need for services grows is ridiculous. That’s why only a few municipalities are still doing NNR. They’ve discovered (although I thought it was evident from the get-go) that NNR isn’t good. The only reason Allen wasn’t in dire straits after doing NNR this year and last was because they used the ARPA money as a way to counteract the shortfalls. It’s amusing how much they’re willing to spend federal money even when they denigrate it. Typical Republicans. I wish more people would wake up!

  3. Goodness, Allen was busy this time. I don’t blame them for being confused by the NNR Tax Rate. I’m confused too. All I know is that, most people who SAY they like it, don’t really seem to understand it, and it seems like it causes more harm than good.

    YAY for Collin College beginning to experience some consequences to their bad governance. It’s about time!

    Thank you for summarizing all that!

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