Collin County Politics: Embrace the Struggle

July 5, 2022

Picture: McKinney Area Democratic Club car in the July 4th Parade.

Covid Update: Collin County has 228,308 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,142 more cases than I reported last week and 1,516 of our Collin residents have died (2 additional deaths). As you know, people not reporting their positive home tests are skewing our numbers. However, according to the Department of Labor (which keeps tabs on Covid transmission rates around their field offices), Collin County has moved into the Medium transmission category. In an interesting twist, that’s just us. Denton and Dallas counties are both still Low. That should tell you everything you need to know about Collin. Cases are going to rise following the holiday weekend.

Abortion: I know a lot of you are feeling hopeless about the overturning of the civil liberties of 51% of our population. I won’t lie. The situation is indeed grim but I don’t believe it’s going to go the way the anti-abortionists think it will. We’re going to resist, not just going to sit back and enjoy it. There are actions we can take.

For one thing, in what could be a delicious turn of events, we can use the GOP’s idiotic reactions to the pandemic against them. During the brouhaha over mask mandates, AG Ken Paxton argued that the state government lacked the authority to seek penalties for violating the governor’s emergency order. He insisted that power rests with district attorneys elected at the county level. In other words, prosecutorial discretion is key. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot took that to heart and has already said his office will not prosecute violations of Texas abortion law. More DAs need to be encouraged to do that.

The mask mandate lawsuits also showed how the state refuses to allow itself to be sued and demonstrated the strong protection Texas law gives to the exercise of spiritual belief in matters of personal autonomy. People claiming a masking or vaccination requirement violated their personal conscience were taken seriously in those legal cases. Thus, while no entity can disregard a Texas statute, if a local authority chose to facilitate its residents’ access to out-of-state abortion resources as a matter of public health or if a faith-based organization did something similar as a matter of conscience, those entities would be able to assert immunity defenses in good faith based on what anti-maskers did back then. Wouldn’t it be fun to throw that back in their faces?

The mask mandate debates also displayed the power of local ordinances. Although a locality cannot disregard state law, the mask cases showed us a surprising feature of Texas jurisprudence. A county is considered a subdivision of the state of Texas. But a home-rule city is not and, as such, has its own “sovereignty” that’s at least somewhat independent of the state. Particularly in the context of public health regulation, a city’s lawmaking power could be the basis for regulation in the abortion area, like by clarifying unclear language in state law. As such, we can ask our city councils to de-prioritize enforcing Texas abortion laws. While this may not help those seeking abortion find healthcare, it’s a good first step. It’s important symbolic support and could lead to better things.

We need courageous and compassionate city officials pushing back at a local level to eventually make headway at the state level. The Denton City Council is leading the way by asking their police department to not investigate, store data on, or report abortion, miscarriage, or any pregnancy outcome as a violation of state law. The El Paso City Council is considering a resolution similar to Denton’s. They already voted in May to create a commission to protect women’s rights. We need to start pushing our mayors and city council members to do the same. Don’t stop even if they say no or are dismissive, like McKinney Mayor George Fuller. These men may think it isn’t that big of a deal. Make sure they know it is.

Another thing we need to do is let federal authorities know we’re not going to allow them to shut down our rights to free speech and protest. After the news of Roe v. Wade being overturned was made public, a woman in Garland tweeted (in colorful terms), “Burn every … government building down right … now. Slaughter them all,” in reply to a video in which President Biden urged protestors to remain peaceful. While I understand why Biden felt the need to urge caution, it did feel mansplain-y and dismissive of the severity of the decision. The tweet (with only 31 likes) came to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which sent an agent and 2 police officers to her door less than a week later with a cease and desist letter.

The Garland woman took down the tweet but was unapologetic and rightfully so. Men, including those with much greater followings, have said much worse and had their words labeled free speech. Many of the J6 insurrectionists said a lot worse and were either ignored or got off with a slap on the wrist. We routinely see hate speech against women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA community go unremarked. So no, the DHS doesn’t get to single us out, particularly not something that was clearly just angry spouting. Make sure they understand that, until another case limiting our rights occurs, women still have freedom of speech and assembly.

HD61 Candidate Sheena King

Schools: It must be incredibly difficult to work in public education at every level these days. I even wonder if Commissioner of Education Mike Morath – the dude appointed by Greg Abbott to ruin public schools – is wishing he’d never said yes to the position. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be forced to make stupid recommendations like telling officials that they need to ensure that each exterior door at schools closes and locks. Seriously? Has he even visited a campus lately? They all do that to the best of their ability and have been doing it for years. But no, he continues to issue ridiculous “guidance” to schools and relying on them to figure out how to fund it since the state provides minimal financial support.

For those worried that Texas doesn’t have a workable plan to help keep schools secure: never fear, Greg Abbott is here! In their ultimate wisdom, Abbott and his gang of fools – aka GOP legislative leaders – are transferring $105.5 million from state school funds to go toward school security and mental health initiatives. That sounds great, right? We’ve been begging and pleading for them to take mental health treatment seriously and now they have! After the massive screwup by the police in Uvalde, they understand law enforcement options may not be the answer because, clearly, they can and do fail. Right?

In all seriousness, I wish that were the case. But this is Texas under GOP rule and of course it isn’t. They’re stealing $105.5 million from us to spend 90% of it on useless things like bullet-proof shields, active shooter training, and travel expenses for police officers who undergo the training. Yay. The measly 10% they’re spending on mental health (which you know they only did to look good) will be funding necessary programs, like those dedicated to helping at-risk youth, specialty care teams providing rapid help to youth experiencing a first episode of psychosis, and offering telemedicine to kids. While I absolutely support these programs and am glad they’re getting some much-needed funding, it isn’t enough. Not even close.

First and foremost, they did nothing to solve the provider shortage in mental health. They can throw money at all the programs they want but if they don’t have anyone to administer the treatment, they’ve got nothing. Where is the funding for increasing provider reimbursement or offering incentives to train to become counselors or social workers? We’re the most valuable resource and they’re giving us nothing. Without us, good luck staffing your programs!

Another issue is that they’re putting bandaids on a gushing wound instead of focusing on the source of the problem. Most school shooters aren’t experiencing psychosis; they’re in the throes of toxic masculinity. If we truly want to prevent these young men from shooting up our schools (and parades, stores, malls, churches, movie theatres, political events, concerts, nightclubs, etc.), we need a whole range of social programs, everything from parenting classes and addressing hunger and housing to drug rehabs, anti-bullying programs that work, positive relationship skill programs, and ESL programs for the community at large. In other words, we need to give a damn. Greg Abbott doesn’t.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s using our recapture money – the very money our schools desperately need – to fund his stupid plan. Sure, it’s technically going to schools but it won’t do any good. The only people benefitting are law enforcement which, given how badly they screwed up in Uvalde, is ironic at best. While we’re on the subject of recapture, if you’ve been paying any attention at all to your local school board, you’ll see what a huge problem it’s become. Our ISDs are trying to manage massive deficits in their budgets because of this. Please mention to your Republican voting friends and family that the GOP is stealing from us without giving much back. Maybe that will get them to vote blue!

Commissioner’s Court: All commissioners managed to show up for their 11-minute meeting last week. Per usual, they headed into executive session (for an hour!) right before Public Comments. It’s important to remember that the public comments section is not only for people to bring attention to certain matters but also so we can comment about items on the agenda. Since the commissioners don’t have a work session (which is a whole other issue), this is the only time we can let them know what we think. By putting public comments last, they’re denying our right to participate in our own governance. That’s undemocratic.

Josh Murray again used his time to ask for a policy ensuring county officials and staff use their official email accounts and not any personal ones. Of course, Chris Hill tried to deny his occurrence of impropriety but he’s lying. Last week, Hill sent out an email about the annual inspection of the jail from the Jail Commission. And wouldn’t you know it! The email came from Hill’s campaign account, not his official Judge account. I don’t know what his official account even looks like because I’ve never received anything from it. So, once again, Josh Murray is 100% correct in his criticism of Hill.

If you care, the jail passed inspection for the 35th year in a row. Given the problems we have there, it stands to reason the inspection is not that rigorous. It was hilarious to read the email though. Hill mentions several laudatory statements from the inspector like “the best jail in my territory!” Uh-huh. If that’s true, the inspector must have some truly heinous jails under his purview. Hill also quotes himself about how great the jail is. That would be like me quoting myself about how awesome this column is. It doesn’t count unless someone objective says it.

Members of the Muslim Temple wore their Kindness shirts

McKinney School Board: The most recent meeting continued to be a zoo. There were 36 public speakers (yikes!), 23 of whom were negative. Their main meal consisted of words like indoctrination, tyranny, and wokeness with a side helping of Christofascism, including one person who claimed to be a “radical extremist for Jesus.” Huh. I sure wish some people would sit down with a tutor and actually read the New Testament. Maybe then they’d understand it.

Given what happened in Uvalde, the board requested a presentation on security and safety in the schools. For me, the main takeaway was that our kids are trying to get an education in a prison-like atmosphere. They must enter through security vestibules, wear ID badges at all times, be watched on security cameras, and endure K-9 units coming by twice monthly to check for drugs. This doesn’t even include the random drug tests students in extracurricular activity have to endure! There are also uniformed police officers at athletic events, socials, prom, fundraisers, and other events as deemed necessary.

The presence of uniformed police is ubiquitous in MISD schools. We currently have 19 armed Security Resource Officers (SROs) and they want to add more. This is a bad idea. It’s almost as if the trustees – along with Greg Abbott and his gang of fools – have learned nothing from Uvalde. Like taking off your shoes at the airport, SROs are nothing but security theatre designed to make you feel better without having any significant effect on the problem at hand. Instead of implementing programs that might work, this is what those in charge offer.

One problem with SROs is that their perspective is not what we want it to be. They’re police officers, not educators. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That’s why there have been allegations of excessive force and overzealous arrests that send students – black and brown kids in particular – into the criminal justice system for minor infractions. But the real issue is that there’s no empirical evidence that SROs keep our kids safe. In fact, some studies have shown the opposite. That isn’t surprising. Psychological research is clear that even the mere picture of a violent object, like say an armed police officer, is enough to make people angry and more prone to violence.

The presence of SROs sure didn’t make a lick of difference during the Parkland or Uvalde shootings. Those don’t appear to be exceptions either. Although the number of SROs in schools has increased significantly since Columbine (more than 65% of public schools have one), shootings in schools are up as well. Since many of the shooters are students themselves, this raises the question of whether increasing school security is all that helpful. I get that we want to do something but we need to do the right thing.

Offering “solutions” that are unproven by research is dangerous. How can schools teach science and critical thought when the programs they offer don’t utilize either one? But this seems to be the case in MISD. Another example is the program 180 Degrees that they use for sex education programming in our middle and high schools. If you look at the 180 Degrees website, you can clearly see the use of religious morals in their “sexual risk avoidance” curriculum, including waiting for marriage. But the biggest issue here is that the program is entirely made up by the founder and has zero evidence to back it up as effective. There are other evidence-based programs available but this is the one we’re using?

If you disagree with them using a unscientific and religious-based program to teach our students about their bodies and sexual interactions, be sure to watch the Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) committee hearing on Zoom on July 14th at both noon and 5 pm. It should be reconsidered at the high school level as the SHAC committee was out of legal compliance regarding its makeup when they voted on using this program at the high school level. Let your voices be heard on this important issue!

Plano City Council: The last meeting was almost completely focused on what to do about Short Term Rentals. Several citizens spoke against them, most emphasizing a total ban. The majority of the council, however, was interested in a more nuanced approach. Anthony Riciardelli and Shelbie Williams were predictably for a rigid solution (put a moratorium on them immediately) but most council members were in support of registration for STRs to gain more information about how many exist, who is paying taxes, and who the owners are to be sure they’re operating within city guidelines. This seems reasonable.

MADC members proudly show our values.

Plano School Board: If you want to see the damage recapture is wreaking on local ISDs, look no further than Plano. In last month’s meeting, the trustees had no choice but to adopt a budget with a deficit of $38.9 million for the 2022-23 school year. Although the general fund revenue is likely to increase to $698.2 million, expenditures will be $736.7 million. This expenditure includes a state recapture payment of $226.9 million. If that isn’t bad enough, it’s estimated that there be a 500-student decline in enrollment as well. This means that recapture payments will increase faster than collections. This is bad. PISD has made more than $1 billion in recapture payments over the last six years and it looks like there’s no end in sight.

What this means is that students will have to make do with less. Although the board rightfully approved a 4% pay raise for teachers, librarians and nurses and a 3% increase for all other employees, this can’t continue. If people in Plano want their school system to be the best, they need to stop voting for Republicans and replace them with people who truly care about public education.

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want the rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.

Frederick Douglass

Local Politics: Many prominent thinkers are talking about encroaching fascism and what to do to prevent it from getting worse. People like historian Heather Cox Richardson and lawyer Teri Kanefield have gone from giving historical and legal precedents to giving specifics about what we can do. Both of these accomplished women as well as many others emphasize the importance of local action. They point to the success of the Tea Party because they organized locally and put pressure on local officials. Republicans realized long ago that all politics is local which is why they fight for those all-important local offices. We must do the same.

But you don’t have to do it alone. 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 3

  1. The Plano School Board section could not be more true and saddening. Our students and future students shouldn’t have to suffer because of the ridiculous idea that Plano ISD has excess revenue. We do not have excess revenue, what we do have is a government who wants to use our district funds as a scapegoat for the lack of STATE support of underfunded districts.

  2. In a bit of good news, the McKinney Democrats enjoyed the reception we received in the parade. Lots of claps and cheers. I’m hoping that bodes well for November. But we have to keep pushing that we aren’t the radicalized GOP that is insisting that 10-year-olds have babies and that “guns everywhere for everyone” is a solution to the killing fields our country is becoming.

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