Collin County Politics: Ethics Needed

March 22, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 207,484 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,210 more cases than I reported last week and 1,479 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 12 people). The continuing downward trend is good news which begs the question of why I’m continuing to include this section. One word: BA.2. It’s fueling increasing cases in Europe and China and has made its way to the United States as well. New York and New Jersey are already seeing more cases. As we know from history, we’re a month or two behind them. This means that even though masks are coming off and social gatherings are coming up, we need to continue our vigilance.

Schools: Who knew we could get under Greg Abbott’s skin? I guess if something makes him look bad enough, he’s willing to bend a little. That’s clearly what happened when educator groups started lambasting him about his stupid teacher retention task force. Unlike Abbott, groups like the Association of Texas Professional Educators and the Texas American Federation of Teachers actually took it seriously. They complained when only 2 of the 28 spots on his task force went to teachers. To get them off his back, the TEA is adding two dozen members so the group has an “equal representation” of teachers and school administrators. No word yet if the additional members will include teachers from larger or more rural districts. The task force is still only meeting every other month, so it’s not like they’re going to get anywhere fast.

Abbott faced another setback when a new Texas appeals court decision sided with the 19 school districts – including Dallas and Fort Worth – in the battle over mask mandates. One of the judges stated that, because the governor’s order “prohibits schools from requiring the use of face-covering as a means of controlling the spread of COVID-19 within their jurisdictions, it inflicts an irreparable injury on school districts and community college districts.” Are you listening, Collin College? Ask Iris Meda about irreparable injury. Oh wait, you can’t. While it may seem passe at the moment, this is an important ruling. If the signs in Europe and China are portents, we may be needing masks in schools again.

There are other issues brewing as well. In an American Psychological Association survey, nearly 1/3 of teachers admitted experiencing verbal abuse or threats from students and parents. But teachers weren’t parents’ only targets as 42% of administrators also endured verbal aggression and intimidation from these oh so virtuous community members. As a result, almost 49% of teachers said they plan to quit their jobs due to fears about school climate and safety. Other school personnel are wanting to quit as well. Who can blame them? We need to do something about this and fast if we want to save public education. The Dallas Morning News article suggested paying more attention to school staff’s mental well-being. While I agree with the overall sentiment, just who are they expecting to step up? Counselors are at the end of our rope too.

Commissioner’s Court: Darrell Hale was absent for the 37-minute meeting. Apparently, he was on vacation in Fredericksburg looking at stars on a sheep farm. I know this because he mentioned it in his weekly newsletter. While I applaud him for offering his constituents updates (my commissioner certainly doesn’t!), we need to hear more about what the Court is doing and less about his personal business. Whether Hale eats good German food isn’t nearly as important as how they plan on managing the next pandemic crisis (answer: badly) or the ways in which they address homelessness and healthcare for those with lower incomes.

The commissioners voted to pay defense attorney Mark Fratter $15,000 for his work with indigent clients. Hill dissented, of course, because he’s petty. If he had a better reason than that, I didn’t hear it. Duncan Webb gave his usual Regional Transportation Update. It’s good to know the area has plans for traffic congestion with (among other things) the 380 bypass, conversion of the HOV lane to the plan for incentivizing people to use it, and the outer loop segment from 30 to 380. By the way, the RTU plans are open for public comment during April and May, so if you want to weigh in, now’s the time. Webb also mentioned some exciting technological innovations. McKinney and Dallas are splitting $5 million to put in some driverless vehicles for delivery services while the region is spending $1.5 million to put in a test site for self-parking. That’d be great!

Sadly, there aren’t any plans to expand DART north from the Parker Road station. Although DART owns the right-of-way and could expand on their own, they don’t want to do this unless they get support from Allen, Fairview, and McKinney. You know what that means: start contacting your city councils in those areas. We need the expansion badly especially since the Red Line is running out of capacity. We also need D2, the Dallas downtown subway expansion, so they can handle more trains. Webb thinks we should add parallel tracks for an express train that goes directly from Parker into downtown, cutting ride time down to 20 minutes. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

McKinney City Council: The council continues to grapple with how they’re going to find $20 million for much-needed road improvements. Since most of them are Republicans, they’re almost allergic to the idea of raising taxes. No one enjoys paying taxes but money is required to fund the services we enjoy, like having good roads. If we want a better quality of life, we’re going to have to pay for it. McKinney is growing and we can no longer act like we’re a small town. If the people currently on council can’t make the hard choices, then we need for vote for those who can.

The option most council members seemed to agree upon (Justin Beller was oddly silent) included taking money from the budgets of the McKinney Community Development Corporation (MCDC) and the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and combining them with money taken from the General Fund and a bond. As you might imagine, the MCDC and MEDC board members didn’t seem to like this idea. Jackie Brewer from MCDC even went so far as to speak against the plan during public comments. She pointed out that her board already provides most of their budget to city projects like roads and parks, leaving them minimal amounts for other needed items, like lower-income housing. This is an important point, especially given the issues McKinney has with housing.

During an earlier work session, Mayor George Fuller and council members Charlie Phillips and Rainey Rogers all agreed that developers shouldn’t be required to provide workforce housing as a condition for building. Workforce housing is for people who make a middle income and aren’t dependent on government-subsidized rents. If the council required it, builders would have to set aside a certain percentage of their development for those with moderate incomes (like teachers or firefighters). But the council rejected this possibility. Fuller led the way in suggesting we incentivize builders instead. It’s possible this could work but I’d have to see the statistics on the number of builders who agree and the kind of subsidies the city has to provide to entice them into doing the right thing. I’m guessing it’s not going to go well but the idea has the added benefit of making the council look as if they care about affordable housing without actually doing anything to get it.

And they certainly don’t want multifamily housing (aka apartments). We’ve seen the opposition to this all across Collin County with NIMBYs – Not in My Back Yard – coming out in Plano, Allen, and now McKinney. At the regular council meeting, NIMBYs came out in force in opposition to the proposed Willowood development. Some of their arguments were quite discouraging for those of us wanting to believe in the goodness of humanity. Calling it urban and saying it doesn’t blend with the neighborhood, isn’t worthy, and doesn’t meet the standards of McKinney just makes me want to gag. Those fine, upstanding citizens aside, we must figure this out. People need affordable housing and if they can’t get it, they may become homeless. Which do you prefer?

Plano City Council: During the last meeting, someone spoke about the council’s inequitable voting system. Four out of the eight council members must live in certain districts. The rest can live anywhere in the city. Think for a minute about what that inevitably will mean, especially as each council position is voted on by all Plano citizens. Since it takes a lot of time and money to successfully run for a council position, that means most council members will live in certain areas in the city leaving many citizens without a voice. For example, two areas of Plano comprising 31% of the city’s population (east and south-central) currently have no representation. This is deeply problematic.

Although it isn’t surprising that Texas – especially North Texas – is behind the times, most people (including fair-minded judges) realize that having everyone in the city vote for all positions is discriminatory. It serves to minimize the voices of marginalized communities and areas. The solution is to change from at-large to district voting. That way every citizen can be heard. If you agree, those in at-large areas (like Plano and Richardson) should contact their city council members and request a referendum on the method of election.  

“Ethics are particularly important — and apparent — within local government, due to the direct presence of local services in many citizens’ lives.”

Mary Christine Dory

Sachse City Council: Their last meeting was going along well until the board started considering the removal of Spencer Hauenstein from the Board of Directors of the Sachse Economic Development Corporation (SEDC). Then all hell broke loose. Councilmember Jeff Bickerstaff read an email that Spencer Hauenstein sent accusing him of dishonesty and misconduct as liaison to SEDC. Hauenstein threatened to “inform the voters” about the issues if Bickerstaff continues his campaign for mayor. Hauenstein said he took this action because the council refused to take action/protect him. They unjustly tried to remove the SEDC CEO and manipulate the Board of Directors. He said there’s a lack of accountability in the city council and he’s been raising these issues for over a year. He asked the council to appoint a new liaison in March 2021, but the council wouldn’t agree to a joint session to discuss the issue.

A very lengthy discussion ensued. Hauenstein answered questions and let everyone know he had just filed a formal complaint against Bickerstaff because he lied in order to get an agenda item he personally wanted and he used his liaison position to give direction that wasn’t what the council directed. He claimed he was just following his conscience and never threatened to slander Bickerstaff; he just wanted to reveal his conduct. The discussion was quite chaotic, with people interrupting and talking over one another. Several council members said Bickerstaff was unethical while others didn’t like Hauenstein seeming to threaten him. Two members of the public showed up to support Hauenstein, including Carmen Franks, wife to council member Brett Franks.

Michelle Howarth finally moved to remove Hauenstein from the SEDC and the motion carried 4-3, with Millsap, King, and Lindsey voting no. Franks voted to remove despite his wife speaking in support of Hauenstein. Their car ride home was probably interesting. From what I could tell, it sounds like Hauenstein got frustrated and lashed out (which he shouldn’t have done) but the council didn’t do what they were supposed to do either. Also, since Bickerstaff was the topic under discussion, ethics dictate that he should’ve recused himself from the vote (without him, the vote was tied). Given that he was accused of being unethical, this isn’t a good look. He seems sketchy, so it’s not great he’s running for mayor.

Finally, the board nominated two likely conservative people to the Library Board. Given the local environment regarding book banning, it’s deeply concerning if the board becomes loaded with conservative members. There are 3 board members whose terms end in 2022, so there is an opportunity for liberal-minded citizens to apply for these positions. Start thinking about your applications now, fellow Democrats!

Local Politics: In the 2022 Freedom House report on the dire threats to global freedom, the authors noted that “democracies are being harmed from within by illiberal forces, including unscrupulous politicians willing to corrupt and shatter the very institutions that brought them to power.” Their primary example was that of the United States. Really, it should’ve been Texas with a nod to the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals that’s been upholding our most grievous practices. In 3 separate cases regarding voting, these guys ruled against the forces of democracy and upheld the corrupt Texas secretary of state office.

In the first case brought by the Texas NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Texas, and the Texas Alliance of Retired Americans, the court decreed (in a 2-1 ruling) that the ban on straight-ticket voting will remain. Apparently, the plaintiffs should’ve sued all 254 local election officials because the secretary of state’s office has no authority to enforce the ruling as they don’t administer elections. The dissenting judge (nominated by Reagan versus the other two nominated by Trump) wrote that the court was minimizing the secretary of state’s role in elections and that as the chief election official of Texas, the office does have standing. Umm….ya think? Where do these Trump yahoos believe local election officials get their orders? Isn’t the secretary of state charged by law with protecting the voting rights of Texans?

The second case involved the Texas NAACP, Voto Latino, and the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans. They challenged mail-in voting provisions related to voters paying postage to mail a ballot, signature verification, and a rule in Texas election law that requires all mail-in ballots to be postmarked by 7 p.m. on the day of an election and received the following day. The suit also challenged a section in the law that made it a crime for someone to possess another person’s mail-in ballot. In another 2-1 ruling, the Trump idiots said the plaintiffs can’t sue the secretary of state because the office doesn’t enforce those provisions. The office has the ability to kick voters off the rolls but I guess that’s another thing entirely.

The third case was brought by the League of Women Voters of Texas, MOVE Texas Civic Fund, the Austin Justice Coalition, and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. It also challenged signature verification rules that require election boards to match the signature on a mail-in ballot envelope with signatures on file at election offices. If you guessed that the 5th Circuit ruled 2-1 against them because the poor secretary of state office is so weak, you’d be right! If the secretary of state’s office is so ineffectual, why do we even have one?

So yeah, Texas is a shining example of a weakening democracy. As the Freedom House report points out, “Undemocratic leaders and their supporters… have promoted the idea that, once in power, their responsibility is only to their own demographic or partisan base, disregarding other interests and segments of society and warping the institutions in their care so as to prolong their rule. Along the way, the democratic principles of pluralism, equality, and accountability—as well as basic stewardship and public service—have been lost, endangering the rights and well-being of all residents.” The emphasis is mine.

The courts have made it clear that we have no injunctive relief at the larger levels. Thus, our only place of influence in Texas is at the local level. As such, we must – absolutely must – know what’s going on at the municipal level and see what we can do to change things (like promoting affordable housing, multifamily dwellings, and ethics in council dealings and representation). Please sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. All you need to do is contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 11

  1. I hope you continue to post about Covid-19. I look forward to the information every week. 🙂

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  2. I’m going to be the fly in the ointment here since I attend most McKinney City Council Meetings and have run for city Council in the in the not too distant past.

    McKinney’s mix of multi-family residential falls directly in line to its proportional growth of single family residential when compared to the population growth,

    That has not always been the case, In order to starve on a potential lawsuit regarding fair housing opportunities, McKinney encouraged a great deal of multi-family residential in the west and south portions of the city over the past 5 years.

    Homeowners are rightfully concerned about additional multi-family residential coming to McKinney that will adversely affect single family residential home values.

    For this reason, many city council members, to include Democrat leaning Justin Beller and Dr Gere Feltus, have agreed to keep an eye on and vote against additional multi-family residential growth in the city.

    More multi family is already approved and waiting financing to start, including a mixed use multi-family and commercial project planned around the area where the new municipal complex will be located in the near east side.

  3. Regarding multifamily housing in McKinney, opposition to it is nothing new. Watching City Council meetings over the last 2 years, I saw Frederick Frazier and Rainey Rogers opposing just about every multifamily proposal that came up. Frazier attacked “workforce housing“ as “Section 8” housing, which it certainly isn’t (this is barely coded racism).
    Now Frazier is running for state representative, HD 61. I’m not sure there’s anyone worse running for the state legislature in this area – except maybe Frazier’s primary opponent.
    BTW, teachers’ salaries are low, but there are a lot of people with significantly lower salaries who also work in McKinney. Retail, restaurant, assisted living centers, even state employees who work at the Health and Human Services office downtown. None of these folks could possibly afford a house here, unless they’ve owned one for decades with a fixed-rate mortgage. Many can’t afford a nice-quality apartment, either. Many commute from quite far away (e.g., Sherman and Denison) and are now getting eaten up by gas prices.
    So at least let’s have some affordable apartments!

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  4. I continue to appreciate your research and writing, Misty.

    Even without the future likelihood of increasing cases, we should be seriously addressing the current pandemic. If 12 people are dying and 1,210 people are newly ill from any new disease any week, a county health department along with the rest of county government and the community should be actively working to prevent further deaths and illness. As the families of 1,479 individuals can now attest, just letting this run its course is not acceptable.

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      Thank you, David. I totally agree that our county public health department isn’t doing nearly enough to address the pandemic. They never have. I haven’t seen public health addressed in a commissioner’s court hearing in quite some time.

      1. I was shocked to hear at the Collin College board of trustees meeting Tuesday that the monoclonal antibody infusion center located at the McKinney campus is closing next week! I benefited from that treatment in January when I tested positive for Covid. These were centers that Governor Abbott announced with great fanfare when the state was setting them up. I guess the Covid pandemic is over…

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          That and I think they realized they weren’t getting enough results out of them. Vaccination is truly the key but you’ll never find them promoting that!

  5. Thank you, as always, for your information. The court cases are maddening and disheartening.

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