Collin County Politics: BETO! 

August 16, 2022

Picture: For those of you living in a cave, that’s Beto O’Rourke, candidate for governor.

Covid Update: Collin County has 246,713 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 3,208 more cases than I reported last week and 1,531 of our Collin residents have died (1 additional death). Our transmission level is still High.

Monkeypox Update: Whoever is running the public health system in Texas needs to be fired, retrained, or something because the system is terrible. Trying to find out how many cases of Monkeypox we have in Collin County often feels like a fool’s errand. We already know the Collin County Public Health Department will be useless but I was hoping for better from the state. Nope. While the website for the Texas Department of State Health Services does provide a description of what Monkeypox is and what they’re doing to combat it, information about specific cases is sparse. It lists cases by region (you have to search to figure out your region) which isn’t incredibly helpful. What I know is this: our region (2/3) has 465 cases, the most of any region in Texas.

You know who is taking Monkeypox seriously? Colleges and universities. They realize that the campus environment is one that lends itself to risky behavior (especially skin-to-skin contact) and some are doing all they can to mitigate an outbreak. They’re publishing detailed guides (Texas Tech), emailing students about both Covid and Monkeypox (UT Dallas), and having on-campus clinicians go through training (Texas A&M). Most have dedicated pages on their websites with basic information about the virus, testing availability on campus, and instructions for those who may have symptoms. However, in a move that should surprise no one, Collin College only has updates related to COVID-19 for the fall semester.

Education: The new school year is here and public schools face more threats than ever. We must keep an eye on the State Board of Education’s work on adopting a social studies curriculum since they can’t be trusted after the “involuntary relocation” disaster. Many schools are vastly understaffed with almost all of them either desperate for teachers or managing with an abundance of teachers who are brand new. As Beto pointed out, Governor Abbott hasn’t done anything substantive on school safety since Uvalde, so everyone is terrified of more school shootings.

Many school districts in Collin County are struggling with the decades-old recapture law, or Robin Hood as it’s commonly known. Although our schools are dealing with all sorts of new financial challenges – teaching and staff shortages, higher inflation, security and technology upgrades, and catching students up amid an ongoing pandemic – we’re still required to send billions back to the state. This is incredibly frustrating because the state isn’t pulling its weight. Texas has a massive surplus of funds for public education that it’s holding hostage. The money is just sitting there being used as a political talking point for Republicans who don’t give a damn about our public schools.

Case in point: Greg Abbott is using “school choice” as a major part of his campaign platform. Abbott has been blabbing on about “parental rights” for months now and supports vouchers (although he’s avoiding that word) that use public education funds to pay for private schools. Although Democrats and rural Republicans oppose the idea vehemently (as do most Texans in general), they’re still going to try it because it plays to their ignorant, selfish base and because they’ve been wanting to decimate public education for decades. If we can’t oust Abbott, Patrick, and Paxton in November, they may get their wish.

Beto in Frisco

Frisco School Board: Although they didn’t show up at the beginning of school ceremonies, trustees Marvin Lowe and Stephanie Elad managed to attend the most recent meeting. They joined the other trustees in unanimously voting for the Consent Agenda and all 8 Action Items, including setting the tax rate, giving employees 5 paid leave days for Covid absences, offering $1,000 as a staffing incentive for eligible positions, and providing $250 for teaching supply stipends. However, they still found ways to strut their stuff for their cult followers.

During a discussion on the Future Ready Framework and Community Based Accountability, Lowe asked how we differentiate the student who passes the first time around from the student who has multiple opportunities to pass. Chief Academic Officer Dr. Wes Cunningham patiently explained that some students need more time than others, so FISD utilizes reassessment as a tool for mastery. Lowe wouldn’t let it go, demanding to figure out who is best in a hierarchical fashion based on what he – someone with zero experience in education – believes should matter. Cunningham didn’t take the bait and politely informed him that FISD wants to provide an equal opportunity for kids to be the best when they are in FISD and when they leave.

Not wanting to be left out, Elad pulled the Agreement with Imagine Learning (IL) from the Consent Agenda for further discussion. She has concerns and asked about the outcomes students are getting from the program. Poor Dr. Cunningham (probably questioning his job choices at that moment) patiently explained that FISD uses IL for credit recovery, lesson mastery, and tier one programs at the secondary level and that they’ve had great success with this program in the past. Like Lowe earlier in the evening, Elad wouldn’t let it go insisting some Plano parents pulled their kids from online learning because of this program (gee, I wonder who those parents are) and that she’s done her own research about IL being investigated for some reason by some school in California. Dr. Cunningham was less polite as he explained that a lot of really smart people curated this program for students, they aren’t just “set loose” on the platform, and it aligns with the FISD curriculum. The Agreement with Imagine Learning passed 5-2 with (you guessed it) both fascists voting no.

McKinney City Council: The big issue at the last work session was the development of a 7-Eleven at Wilmeth and Hardin. The developer says this will be a swanky 7-Eleven because it’ll have a Laredo Taco. Apparently, tacos = elegance. Residents were against it and both Dr. Gere Feltus and Justin Beller agreed, saying it’s too close to a single-family residential neighborhood for a gas station. But they were the only ones who cared about the residents’ quality of life. Patrick Cloutier mulled over having a fancy 7-Eleven now versus a crummy QuikTrip later (is there a difference?). Rainey Rogers, our resident sexist racist uncle everyone tries to avoid at family gatherings, rhapsodized eloquently about how vagrancy doesn’t exist in McKinney (umm…), that a McDonald’s would have a higher car count, and how developers have a right to build whatever. They do? Then why do they have to get approval from the city council? Mayor George Fuller asked for photos and when the developer finally “found” them, pictures revealed a regular old 7-Eleven with that taco bar from your middle school that nobody used because… gross. When it came time for the vote, everyone agreed they hated it (except Sexist Racist Uncle) but it passed 5-2 with Feltus and Beller opposing. If only the council had some kind of authority over such matters or ANY experience with builders.

One argument we hear frequently from council members regarding the more unpleasant developments is that if they don’t approve this one, we might get something worse later. That might sound good in theory if the council didn’t have the power to veto any development they don’t like. But they do. And things start to really smell fishy once you start looking at their donors. Fuller and Charlie Philips both receive money from David Craig (and his associated organizations), Priscilla Darling (and her associated organizations), and the Roeder Law team (who represent developers). Rogers gets money from the Texas Association of Realtors. And Fuller – who has a mountain of campaign cash – accepts money from the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas plus SO MUCH directly from realtors, builders, landfill owners/managers, etc. When in doubt, follow the money.

Ernestine Williams, a housing voucher recipient, spoke during Public Comments. She’s concerned about how McKinney is “stacking people on top of each other” in apartment rentals. She recommends voucher recipients be mixed in with residents of “regular” apartments to avoid unsafe conditions she’s experiencing (e.g., mold, vermin). That sounds like a good idea to me! For a so-called classless society, we sure do separate ourselves according to income. One might even say we ensure we have a permanent underclass. During his time to talk, Sexist Racist Uncle made it clear he didn’t care for Ms. Williams standing up for herself. “She needs to know that nobody on this council had anything to do with those apartments she’s talking about,” he sniffed. It’s interesting that Rogers often refuses not to address women of color, almost as if he’s intimidated by them. He does this with Dr. Feltus, even when she is sitting immediately to his right. Instead, he will talk about her to the nearest white man, Charlie Philips or Fuller. He’d better be careful because this behavior isn’t likely to be tolerated at fine establishments like Laredo Taco! Fuller condescendingly informed Ms. Williams that McKinney offers Habitat for Humanity as an affordable housing option and said her hat is just super. Yeah, that’ll make up for living with vermin.

City Manager Paul Grimes used his speaking time for good by reminding folks of watering guidelines (60% of usage is outside watering). McKinney recently set a record for using way too much, so we can only sprinkle our dry, cracked ground twice a week which will totally make a difference to our lawns amid a massive drought. Frisco only waters once a week because they’re not as special. Or perhaps they care more about the planet and scarce water resources than we do. Oh, Frisco!

My dad at the Cooke County Beto rally

Plano City Council: With the budget season upon us, council members had to vote on the proposed Ad Valorem Tax Rate or, as it’s more commonly called, our property tax rate. They had to decide whether to accept the rate of .4265 per $100 of valuation or go with the No New Revenue Tax Rate (NNR) of 41.76 cents. The Voter Approval Tax (the calculated maximum tax rate allowed by law without voter approval) is 43.77 cents. To get down to the Voter Approval Rates, council members would have to remove $4.5 million from Operations to reduce to the NNR. Shelby Williams and Anthony Ricciardelli were in favor of this but thankfully other, more reasonable council members, especially Maria Tu and Mayor John Muns, disagreed. They were clear that Plano must keep up with the services and maintenance their residents deserve. I’m grateful several council members understand the function of government is service. The rate of .4265 passed unanimously.

Plano School Board: The last meeting was long as the 2022 Future Forward Bond Committee Task Force presented their recommendations to the board. Overall, they said the district is out of ‘growth mode’ and is in ‘renovation mode.’ The recommended bond amount is: $1,495,638,000 and will include major renovations to a number of schools and the stadium plus upgrades for infrastructure, transportation, safety and security, and facilities for fine arts and athletics. Cody Weaver, David Stolle, and Nancy Humphrey spoke strongly in support of the bond. Due to recapture, PISD has been ‘doing more with less’ and needs to upgrade facilities to remain competitive. None of the board members spoke against any issue in the bond.

The trustees also discussed the tax rate which won’t change. Due to PISD’s high bond rating, the district can issue up to $1,520,000,000 before raising the tax rate. The Voter Approved Tax Rate Election (VATRE) was also discussed. PISD has the 2nd lowest tax rate in Collin County although VATRE doesn’t consider recapture. I get grumpy when the leadership of Collin County seems way too focused on lower taxes. However, it seems clear the trustees understand how important renovations are to the district overall. Speaking of recapture, Plano’s 2022 recapture payment to the state was a whopping $220,000,000. Yikes!

Richardson School Board: For those wanting a good model for how to get back to normal, RISD is a shining star. Richardson residents wisely refused to vote for any pro-fascist school board candidates, earning themselves the kind of “no drama district” many of us are desperate to achieve. One of the ways they did that was by electing four women of color, giving RISD a board more diverse than it’s ever been. School board president Regina Harris (a Black woman) ran unopposed while Rachel McGowan (also a Black woman) won an open seat. Latina Vanessa Pacheco defeated a right-wing conservative incumbent, helping incumbent Debbie Renteria expand the Latinx influence on the board. The elevation of interim superintendent Tabitha Branum to the top position creates a board with stability, experience, and a wide array of perspectives from people dedicated to public education. We should all be so lucky.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

Marion Wright Edelman

Local Politics: The Beto rally tour was incredibly exciting last weekend. He showed up in Gainesville (where my dad is running for Cooke County judge) on Friday and in Frisco on Saturday. The Gainesville event packed the historic Black church where it was held but it was the Frisco event that was the real head turner. Between 3,000 to 6,000 people turned out to hear him speak. Our local candidates got a ton of great exposure and the Democratic clubs are gaining members and volunteers. The excitement around here is palpable and we need to capitalize on it.

It’s budget season and we must keep up with how our city councils, school boards, and commissioner court are spending our money. No one else is going to keep them honest, so it’s up to us to track how much money they’re putting toward services we need, like healthcare, road maintenance, and infrastructure. Make sure we know what decisions they’re making! 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 2

  1. Rainey Rogers’ new name … very entertaining. Less entertaining is the fact that he completely deserves the new nickname. Also WHY do we need another 7-11? I don’t understand. We have gas stations everywhere in the community, and I doubt a residential neighborhood is going to enjoy the 24/7 lights, noise, and traffic brought by one outside their boundaries. Grateful to read the good news about Richardson. I’d like to give a shoutout to the Richardson Area Democrats, who worked HARD to get those candidate (re)elected. Democratic clubs make a huge difference. All readers should join their local clubs NOW. If you live in McKinney, go here to join:

  2. “Rainey Rogers, our resident sexist racist uncle everyone tries to avoid at family gatherings”.

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