Collin County Politics: Elections Matter

May 4, 2021

Commissioner’s Court: This week was Darrell Hale’s turn to miss. Individual commissioners are absent so often that having a full-functioning court is more the exception than the rule. Must be nice to be a politician! Perhaps Hale was in hiding because he was embarrassed by his “self-immunization” comment although I doubt he has the capacity for shame. He should be hiding from that stupid comment because it’s downright dangerous. According to local epidemiologist, Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, India’s Covid surge is demonstrating just how inadequate “natural immunity” is. Populations that have high “natural” immunity are getting re-infected, so it’s obvious that natural infection won’t protect us for long. Get your vaccine, folks.

It was mostly a quiet week (although the citizen comments criticizing the court were very fun – more of that, please!) but there were two things of note. First, Susan Fletcher once again recused herself from a vote. This happens so often that I’m starting to wonder what that’s about. Second, they expressed concern over how the refusal of the state legislature to expand Medicaid and the subsequent elimination of the 1115 waiver will affect funding. Hill said it’s the Biden administration’s fault we’ll be losing $6 million in funding for mental health services. In fact, he sent out an email to that effect just today. Don’t fall for his usual Republican malarkey.

In an effort to force Texas to actually provide services (like they’re supposed to) for low-income adults by expanding Medicaid, the Biden administration rescinded changes to a federal funding agreement that would’ve extended Texas’ healthcare safety net for uninsured residents. The 1115 waiver reimburses hospitals for “uncompensated care” and pays for innovative health care projects that serve low-income Texans, often for mental health services. Texas has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured residents but our Republican “leadership” is still refusing to expand Medicaid. The waiver was supposed to be temporary coverage for low-wage workers until the state implemented a coverage option. Texas got its first waiver 10 years ago but, true to form, has done nothing to help the uninsured. The Biden administration is simply trying to get Republicans to do the right thing for all their constituents, not just the ones who can pay. I’m sure you’re just as shocked as I am to hear that they won’t.

Plano City Council: The April 26th meeting was the last regular meeting for Mayor Harry LaRosiellere. Although he’s not a Democrat, I’m still sorry to see him go because he’s been instrumental in keeping the Empower Texans crowd (including Lily Bao who, thankfully, lost her bid for mayor) in check. I hope incoming mayor John Muns is up to the task as Plano City Council deals with the upcoming comprehensive plan for the city and eminent domain issues.

The 16-member review committee for the comprehensive plan is in the process of generating a new property master plan document after the Plano Tomorrow plan was repealed. Plano’s currently working off a mixture of the PT plan, the 1986 Comprehensive Plan, and a new interim plan in the works. This seems to have been a much bigger task than expected. The committee recently unveiled a full draft of their new plan complete with 11 “guiding principles” for the city. Bao praised the committee on their guiding principles, especially the one related to keeping Plano’s “suburban character.” I’m frightened to even contemplate what she means by that. One of the new guidelines severely restricts new apartments to certain areas. Bao liked this guideline so it’s sure to be horrible. The new plan is supposed to be approved by November. Much of the holdup is because the committee has to get 75% agreement on things and is also still planning on taking in public comments. Some of the more reasonable members of the council (Rick Grady, Maria Tu, and LaRosillierre) fear this will add to the already existing scheduling delay.

Eminent domain was everywhere recently. The council held a special meeting on April 20th to allow speakers for a case of eminent domain where the city is seeking to buy part of a daycare’s property for a bike path expansion. The bike path has been in the works for many years. This has the potential to blow up as a few of the speakers made implicit threats like, “we sure would hate to see this turn into a prolonged battle like the Plano Tomorrow comprehensive plan.” Additionally, the property owners seem to have the same lawyer working for them as the Plano Tomorrow comprehensive plan opponents did (yikes!). Whatever your feelings about individual property cases, the tactics these folks are using are expensive and exhausting. Per city staff, the property owner presented a petition to the city. It took several hundred hours of city staff time to determine that almost 50% of signatures could not be verified.

Apparently, this case is unusual. According to LaRosiliere, in his 15 years on council, fair agreements between property owners and city have been reached without need for lawsuits or forcing an eminent domain seizure. Despite this, Bao and Anthony Ricciardelli introduced a proposal for future consideration to require 75% approval on future cases of eminent domain property seizures. There was a concern that this isn’t even legal. LaRosiliere pointed out that since Plano doesn’t have a history of riding roughshod over property owners, changing the rules by requiring a supermajority is unnecessary and risky as it would increase the likelihood of gridlock. Most of the council agreed (5 to 3), so this idea is tabled for now. However, if Kayci Prince loses in the run-off, the votes next time might be split. Go vote, people!

Chaos descended again when DART asked for city approval for eminent domain authority as they negotiate with property owners to acquire land for the Silver Line project along 10th Street. Preauthorization has been DART’s standard operating procedure for 30 years. Shelby Williams and Ricciardelli asked to table this until after property owner negotiations are concluded as this would give DART an unfair advantage. DART’s concern is the schedule and cost. LaRosiliere reminded the council that DART has been working in North Texas for years without being an evil villain. Although he made great points, Rick Smith and Prince still joined the Empower Texans crowd in tabling the motion and making DART come back later for permission to get eminent domain if needed. Apparently, part of the Empower Texans strategy is to delay the momentum of government by stupid motions and the wasting of time via irrelevant questions and comments.

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