Collin County Politics: Hold Their Feet to the Fire

November 22, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 261,806 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 537 more cases than I reported last week and 1,589 of our Collin residents have died (23 additional deaths). Our transmission remains Low but that’s based on reported cases. There are a number of people in my life who have gotten Covid recently who probably didn’t report it. Although I feel like I’m just shouting into the void at this point, we still must be vigilant and not just about Covid. About 96% of inpatient beds at pediatric hospitals in North Texas are full and adult hospitals have also noted increases in flu patients.

Education: The policies around education in Texas tend to move fast these days. One of the latest suggestions is to install panic buttons in schools and require all doors and windows leading into school buildings to be locked and monitored. Districts would also be required to conduct twice-yearly maintenance checks to ensure two-way radio equipment used by law enforcement and first responders works inside school buildings. As if they don’t already have enough to do! Once again, Abbott and his cronies are doing everything they can to avoid addressing the negative impact of guns. I guess an argument can be made for making our schools more like prisons (I wouldn’t make that argument but others will) but mass shooters always seem to find a way in. And panic buttons are used after the danger is already in the building. Not super helpful.

If you want to weigh in, do so now! Members of the public can weigh in on the proposed rule from Nov. 11 to Dec. 12, before a final version is submitted to the Texas Register. More information on the bill can be found here.

The upcoming legislative session already seems terrible, so we must keep an eye on them. Representative Tom Oliverson (Do I even have to mention he’s a Republican? Of course, he is!) wants to give the sheep bleating about censorship at school board meetings some political cover. He filed a bill that would create state-mandated ratings for school library books based on what’s age appropriate. The ratings would have to be on the book’s cover and if publishers fail to comply, schools could be barred from buying books from them. A national free speech organization is raising the alarm, pointing out that such a system gives unprecedented power to government officials to dictate what students and families can read, creating the potential for politicized decisions. And you know what that’s going to look like. This is a clear authoritarian move. If you don’t want our state moving ever closer to fascism, then your representatives need to hear from you!

They also need to hear from you on the subject of vouchers because they’re for sure going to try enshrining them into law this session. Mayes Middleton has already filed SB176, a bill that would establish the “Texas Parental Empowerment Program,” or an education savings account program (otherwise known as vouchers). Not to be outdone, Collin County’s own toad, Matt Shaheen, filed a similar bill (HB619) that would give tax credits to those contributing to eligible educational assistance organizations, such as donating to a private school’s scholarship fund. I hope I don’t have to tell Democrats that vouchers are a terrible idea. They only serve to further underfund and destroy public education.

What You Talkin’ About, Willis: In keeping with Collin County being the most lawless county in the state (Yay us! We’re Number One!), District Attorney Greg Willis called a press conference to offer his side of the federal lawsuit filed against him by 6 (!!) current and former employees for sexual harassment. That used taxpayer property– the Collin County Courthouse – to do so is an abuse of discretion as Mr. Willis was sued as an individual. Not great. Other DAs probably would’ve gone with the usual, “I’m completely innocent but no comment on a current lawsuit” but not Willis! No, he made the extremely odd decision to create a website dedicated to “proving” his accusers wrong.

On this website, he provided audio recordings from a specific plaintiff (which violates the rule in the Collin County employee handbook prohibiting the recording of conversations in the Collin County DA’s office and other county workplaces), a letter of support from 11 female felony chiefs, and 28 handwritten notes written to him by the plaintiffs. He clearly thinks these are going to prove what a great guy he is but he couldn’t be more wrong. Besides the violation of privacy in recording a plaintiff (terrible in and of itself), it’s clear he enjoyed receiving hugs. Anyone in business will tell you that’s a terrible idea. Just don’t do it. Hugs are for friends and families, not coworkers. Willis should know that.

Then there’s the letter from the female felony chiefs. That makes me so incredibly angry because it promotes the myth that if he didn’t harass all women, then he couldn’t have harassed others. Wrong! These specific women were leaders in their departments and had more power than other women in the office. That they seem ignorant of the role power dynamics play in sexual harassment is discouraging although it’s very possible they were “encouraged” to write the letter in the first place. That’s especially likely given the thank you notes.

There are several things wrong with the thank you notes. Who sends thank you notes to their boss for every little thing he does? That in and of itself is creepy. Besides that, what does thanking your boss for hiring you have to do with whether he sexually harassed you? As it turns out, a lot. As the plaintiffs’ attorney pointed out, their lawsuit alleges that Willis demanded his employees “show incessant gratitude and effusive praise of him as a requirement of job performance.” In fact, employees received a text “reminding” them to send thank you notes to the “Boss.” If they didn’t, they might have to face his wrath.

Anyone who knows anything about sexual harassment knows that many people will try to appease their abuser. This helps them keep their jobs and avoid the rage and retaliation sure to follow if they express discomfort or don’t follow the rules. It’s just icing on the sexual harassment cake that Willis likes to be referred to as Boss. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word boss comes from the Dutch word baas, meaning master. Power play indeed. It’s ironic that Willis thought his stupid website would prove his innocence when, in reality, it kind of proved the opposite. Even the Dallas Morning News thought so! If the DMN isn’t on the side of a Republican, you know it’s bad.

Commissioner’s Court: Everyone was present at the beginning of their 18-minute public meeting. I assume they were all present for the Executive Session which went on for a while. However, when they returned from their secret meeting, both Chris Hill and Cheryl Williams were missing. Hill did the same thing last week. Is Cowardly Criminal Chris just going to avoid Josh Murray excoriating him in public forever? What a baby!

Webb, Hale, and Fletcher voted to buy a bunch of land. Is 3 commissioners out of the 5 a quorum? If not, they’re in big trouble because they take 3-0 votes all the time. Oh, who am I kidding? They can do whatever the hell they want! The following is just a case in point. Fletcher asked for reconsideration on a consent agenda item – engaging the legal services with Flowers, Davis, P.L.L.C. and granting an exemption from the bid process – because Josh Murray wanted to comment on the County purchasing legal representation for First District Attorney Bill Wirskye in his personal capacity (this has to do with the sexual harassment case discussed above). Josh encouraged the commissioners to have a consistent policy about when to hire lawyers for county employees being sued in their personal capacity and how much they should pay the lawyers. Apparently, this particular legal team costs $980/hour. Wow! How can I get that rate?

All kidding aside, these commissioners who didn’t bat an eyelash about paying $980/hour for a guy being sued for sexual harassment are THE VERY SAME commissioners who sued the prosecutors THEY HIRED to prosecute Ken Paxton because they were charging too much (around $200/hour)? Aargh!! Make it make sense! Josh made the excellent point that the court is unlikely to pay that much to defend a public works or janitorial employee sued in their personal capacity but, if they don’t want to pay those hourly rates for lowly employees, why should they do it for upper-level employees? Once again, Josh makes an excellent point about corruption and classism, about who is worth defending and who isn’t. It’s also about the commissioner’s butts on the line for being terrible at their jobs. Josh ended with another devastating question: how are we paying for this legal defense? Are taxpayers paying for some idiot to harass women? If so, I’m against it. As we all knew they would, the remaining commissioners unanimously passed the item quickly without discussion. The entire court is the worst!

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy… the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Frisco School Board: Much has been made about the Board’s 7-0 vote on a policy regarding who can use what bathroom but this seems to be much ado about nothing. They merely voted to have a written policy that reflects what they do currently. Every student uses the bathroom based on biological sex unless a trans student receives an accommodation to do something different. The accommodation can include using an individual bathroom or the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

This seems reasonable although the ACLU disagrees with me. They want the Office of Civil Rights to investigate Keller ISD for its new policy prohibiting books about gender fluidity and FISD for its bathroom policy. Although I’m all for them going after Keller (they may want to check out Mansfield ISD and GCISD too!), I’m not sure what they want FISD to do differently. The district must have rules about who can use which bathroom or cis-gender boys could pop into the girls’ bathroom whenever they want (the opposite situation is unlikely to occur). The district offers accommodations for those who request them. The whole thing is silly because, unless the district wants to start policing bathroom usage (which would be problematic), students will do what they want.

The whole bathroom policy nonsense is manufactured outrage designed to decimate public schools. The administration clearly is comfortable with the way things are and, left to their own devices, the students themselves have no issues. Of all the disciplinary problems in bathrooms, none involved trans students. Besides, students generally don’t have the time or inclination to police the gender of everyone else in the bathroom with them. What I imagine happens is that all trans students (regardless of gender identity) use either an individual bathroom or the girls’ bathrooms because they offer more privacy. Besides, who in their right mind wants to use the yucky boys’ bathrooms?

While this policy seems fine for the moment (Marvin Lowe threatened to revisit it), we must remain watchful toward those parents who show up to school board meetings spewing hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. As we’ve seen with the protests at family drag events and the shooting in Colorado at an LGBTQ club, hate speech has consequences.

Another troubling issue is the management of library resources or, as we know it, book banning. FISD removed 307 books although 194 were merely moved up a campus level. Parents can still request those books for their children. This seems OK but I worry about the 59 books evaluated for obscene content. I couldn’t find information about which books were removed completely and I find that deeply disturbing. We can’t let the fascists get away with banning books.

The extremists have been prolific with their skullduggery, leading FISD to pull 130 district staff (from an already stretched-thin employee base) to handle their numerous reconsiderations. The right-wing crazies demanded quick turnarounds which, unfortunately, the district accommodated. Reconsiderations now will be done in 1-2 days with notification given within 5 days of the initial complaint although there is an extended deadline if the number of reconsiderations overwhelms them. Thank goodness for that! Clearly, someone realized that if they didn’t do that, the extremists would flood them with requests.

The good news is that the district is recommending a pool of people for the Reconsideration Committee to choose from as requests come in. The pool will be chosen by Board, so people must apply for the Reconsideration Committee by December 7th. Each committee will have an equal number of parents and district staff.

FISD mentioned that they used ESSER funds to balance the general operating budget, thereby keeping them from debt. If I recall correctly, Plano did too. We need to make sure that everyone knows it was DEMOCRATS who passed that bill and provided those funds. The Republicans on school boards may not want to admit it but they need to be reminded to thank Democrats for keeping them solvent!

McKinney City Council: Given that Mayor Fuller proclaimed last week National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, perhaps it was fitting that the entire work session was centered around affordable housing. The presentation showed that (for a family of 4) an efficiency apartment is out of range for fast food and childcare workers. Maintenance workers and administrative staff can afford an efficiency but only in the 75069 area code. A government worker or teacher’s salary can barely cover a 2-bedroom apartment in McKinney. Sexist Racist Uncle Rainey Rogers thought this meant McKinney is seriously committed to affordable housing. I honestly don’t know what goes on in his brain (anything?) because the data indicates we have a serious problem.

It could be that he was looking at the slide I’ve included below because it’s something we all must see. Unlike Sexist Racist Uncle, Justin Beller has critical thinking skills and points out that comparing the different cities is like comparing apples to oranges. For example, Plano has separate mechanisms to address affordable housing issues other than Low Income Housing Tax Credits. That’s a fair point but looking at the slide below: damn, Allen! I hope they have a LOT of other mechanisms.

Plano City Council: I’m sure the council members were seriously reconsidering their commitment to the city as they listened to the public comments. While some citizens there were to comment on legitimate issues, others were hyper-outraged by the idea of drag brunches. Two of the public speakers apparently view local government as a forced audience for their lack of talent because they’ve been making the rounds. I wish they’d find another county to bother. Perhaps whatever county houses Kellar and GCISD? One comment was deeply disturbing as this guy went on for his entire allowed time making terrible, misogynistic comments about women, even going so far as to mention the names of the female council members. Is hate speech allowed during Public Comments? Does the council want stochastic terrorism – the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act – to be enacted in their presence? If they don’t (and they shouldn’t), that guy should’ve been escorted out pronto.

The best speaker of the night was Dolly Thomas who was there to speak for the homeless population. She mentioned the Neighborhood Services presentation a couple of months ago about the plan to purchase a $4 million hotel and provide homes for people. She liked the idea but said the state legislature prohibits cities from doing those things. They do? Why in the world would they do that? Thomas wanted to know what the alternate plan is for that $4 million. Me too. The council seems to be a lot of talk with little follow-through on this issue. She’s heard they’re doing an RFP for $1.9 million for rental assistance and utilities for those people in danger which is great but they need to get the funds to organizations that have an already established method to get monies to the people who need it. Thomas pointed out that this needs to be done now. Winter is coming. As I expected, Rick Grady responded. He’s always on top of this issue but several of the other council members (glaring right at Shelbie Williams and Anthony Ricciardelli) aren’t.

Although there was a lot of excitement around what the council was going to do about Short-Term Rental Properties (STRs), the council voted to table the discussion to a future meeting because they need more information. Lori Schwartz, Director of Neighborhood Services, mentioned that the Planning and Zoning Committee has this item on their agenda for discussion on November 21. As of now, all short-term rentals will be required to register with the City of Plano by January 2023. Despite tabling the issue, speakers on the topic were allowed. All of the 13 speakers thanked the council for tabling the issue and expressed their desire for them to ban STRs completely. While I don’t know if they can do that, several of the speakers made very good points regarding excessive noise, traffic, and the loss of community. Something does need to be done.

Local Politics: As we’ve heard so often since the 2016 election, no one is coming to save us. WE are the only ones trying to keep our elected representatives honest and decent. It’s an uphill battle and Republicans aren’t going to help. If anything, they’re getting in our way with their emphasis on manufactured outrage and scapegoating of particular groups. But guess what? They show up to meetings. They consistently speak up. If we don’t want to just hand them our democracy, then we must show up and let them know we’re here. Please 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 1

  1. The prices for a studio apartment were simply shocking (in the McKinney City Council presentation). A studio! And you’re right about Allen. I sure hope they have other units for people to live in, otherwise their unsheltered numbers will keep climbing.

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