Collin County Politics: Ignore It at Your Peril

February 1, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 191,994 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 8,247 more cases than I reported in last week and 1,311 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 41 people). While the number of increased cases is significantly down (7,101 fewer), the number of deaths is much higher. Let’s hope the omicron surge is ebbing but our healthcare system is still floundering. A lot of healthcare providers are seriously considering leaving the profession. What will we do without them?

Commissioner’s Court: Cheryl Williams was absent last week. Since there was no point in putting off public comments during a quick 30-minute meeting, Chris Hill allowed them to return to the beginning of the meeting. Josh Murray was the only speaker and, per usual, he got under Hill’s skin. It’s beautiful to watch! He wanted to know if the commissioners are going to be proactive in distributing information and assisting in testing or if they’re going to continue sitting on the bench doing nothing. He also wanted to know if they’ve developed any operational plans for the new jail. I’m not going to call it a detention facility since I don’t want to soften what the place is.

Hill asked City Manager Bill Bilyeu to let Josh know about the information regarding vaccines and testing sites they have on their website. I guess Hill doesn’t realize (or care) that just providing information on a website isn’t being proactive; it’s the very least they can do. Other counties do far more. Plus, the information on their website is useless. Some of the hyperlinks haven’t been working for weeks and, as someone who recently needed to know about testing sites, I can tell you that their website is of minimal assistance. The lack of information about decision-making or services, the minimal amount of marketing, and the outdated website design all reflect the commissioners’ attempts to spend little, thereby keeping taxes low. They run around pretending low taxes are awesome when what it actually means is that we have very few public services.

Regarding his plans for the jail, Sheriff Skinner said they’re consulting with a national expert on mental health to help them with operational plans. Well, that’s super! I sure hope this expert also weighs in on how to retain staff (which they’re struggling with), how to find treatment options in the community after leaving the jail (good luck; you can’t get blood from a stone), and how diversion programs should be designed so people struggling with mental health issues don’t end up in jail. But wait! If they’re not treated in jail, then there shouldn’t be an expansion of the jail at all. So, that can’t be right. Seriously, take a seat, Hill and Skinner. You don’t know anything about mental health.

The commissioners also appointed people to boards and commissions. Every single one of the appointments were people who’ve already served terms in these seats. I know for a fact the court receives a ton of applications for these positions, so it isn’t as if they don’t have options. Most successful businesses (since that’s the metric they like to use) prefer fresh ideas and new talent for positions in order to make progress on thorny issues. But not our county leaders. They prefer to keep their cronies in place so they can pad their resumes. Dandy.

School Boards: Schools continue to be a mess, as attempts at book banning are now ongoing in most districts. Since he must distract constituents from realizing he has no good ideas for governing, HD106 Representative Jared Patterson sent letters to every school in his district asking if they have pornography on their shelves. He settled on Prosper ISD, probably because he has backup from their stupid PAC. Although they want 82 books removed from shelves, their current fight is over Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. Prosper ISD has already caved on that book but are trying to push back by pointing out that a review of 82 books will take months. I’m sure they have nothing else to do with their time right now since things are going so swimmingly for everyone.

Plano ISD is showing some cracks in its foundation as superintendent Sara Bonser becomes the 9th North Texas superintendent to leave in the last three months. She said it’s due to family issues (her sister is sick) but it’s also likely because the trustees aren’t supporting her efforts to keep PISD students safe (with mask mandates) and truly informed. The Dallas Morning News published an op-ed from a Dallas School Board Trustee who hopes the Great Resignation of Superintendents will result in an opportunity for innovation and collaboration. That’s a nice thought but I don’t have such high hopes. I suspect we’ll get people who will be eager to toe the line of our conservative boards and screeching community members.

If we don’t want our school boards overrun with people uninterested in students but desperate to score political points, we need to start showing up to these meetings and calling out the right-wing funding of these groups. This strategy works, as demonstrated by Rickie Farah, a teacher in Carroll ISD, who was reprimanded by the board (over the objections of her principal and superintendent) for teaching an anti-racist book in her classroom. Farah fought back by filing a complaint against the school board alleging they’d violated state law in the way they handled the grievance against her. An examination of campaign finance records revealed a conflict of interest since several board members received donations tied to the parent who’d filed the complaint. Imagine that. After a 2-hour executive meeting, the school board voted 6-0 to recognize the responsibility of a principal. In other words, they screwed up.

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.


Collin College Board of Trustees: If they’re not careful, Collin College won’t have any good professors left! This time, they fired (er, pardon me, failed to renew the contract of) long-time history professor Michael Phillips. Although he’s a popular teacher and award-winning author, the college decided to let him go because he’d dared to violate their gag order on mentioning masks in the classroom (not demanding students wear them, just encouraging them) and has been an outspoken critic of college president Neil Matkin. Really, anyone who cares about higher education should be a critic of that guy (#MatkinTheMenace), but apparently, most of the Board don’t care about severely damaging the institution they were elected to protect. They also don’t seem to care about violating the First Amendment rights of their employees.

Perhaps they should care about it though, at the very least from a fiscal perspective, because they just had to hand over close to $200,000 to another history professor they fired, Dr. Lora Burnett. Although they’re desperately trying to claim they didn’t admit liability so Dr. Burnett wasn’t victorious, that’s bunk and they know it. She won. Plus, there are at least two other lawsuits against them still pending – one from Dr. Suzanne Jones who alleges the same violation of constitutional rights as Dr. Burnett – and now Dr. Phillips should consider suing as well. Lest you think this doesn’t involve you, rest assured it does. The monetary awards being paid out come directly from taxpayers. If you care about the college wasting your money, you might want let Matkin and the Board of Trustees know your thoughts.

Frisco City Council: Just when you thought I was done plugging the Special Election, it turns out that none of the 3 candidates received the 50%+1 needed to declare a win. So now, there’s going to be a run-off in March in which the one with the most votes wins. Frisco Dems, this is where you can truly have an impact! Less than 3% of the entire city voted, so if you all show up and vote for Tracie Shipman, she can win! I’m like a broken record but municipal races are incredibly important because they’re the ones that have the most impact on our lives. They’re also where our votes count the most. Make a plan to go vote in this run-off. Early voting starts on February 14th.

McKinney School Board: Whoever ran the video for this meeting used such a tight focus that I couldn’t see all members of the board. But from what I saw at their December meeting, Larry Jagours was the only one wearing a mask and Chad Green continues to wear his ginormous cowboy hat, even inside. Isn’t that against the rules of good manners? I’ve been told he started wearing the hat shortly after being elected to the board. The most generous interpretation is that he thinks it looks cool, so note to Green: it doesn’t.

Some interesting issues were raised at the January 25th meeting. The first public speaker was a mom of students at McKinney North High School who wanted to talk about what happened on campus the previous week. Although she was perhaps deliberately vague about what the events were, her main points were that the district needs to provide more timely communication and to collaborate with parents so everyone’s on the same page. She did a lovely job of showing what a thoughtful response to challenging incidents looks like.

What happened at North was that there was a big fight between several students on Thursday. Pepper spray was used on the brawling students to stop the fight but many other students who were close to the area were sprayed as well. It was bad enough that the school sent an email to parents with instructions for how to deal with burns from pepper spray. Ouch! On Friday, there also was an unsubstantiated rumor that there was a gun in the school and there was another fight, this time between two girls. Their altercation was broken up by putting them both in headlocks. In both fights, School Resource Officers (cops) were involved.  

SROs in our schools is something we need to address. There’s no evidence they make schools safer and their presence often comes with a lot of unintended consequences, like higher rates of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, especially for students of color. It also seems to lead to students being handled roughly, as was the case at Little Elm High School and again here. No student should be pepper-sprayed or put into a headlock. But when your point of view is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.

McKinney Mayor George Fuller showed up to praise the board for doing their jobs despite dealing with a minority of fools (yep, he said that) who are being divisive and getting in the way of students with their antics. He even called out Chad Green for attacking the school district from within! I have no idea what prompted his speech but am dying to find out!

Making Fuller’s point for him was the next speaker, failed city council candidate Steven Kallus, who was mad about Critical Race Theory and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs. What, Social Emotional Learning didn’t make the cut? I’m shocked. He also wanted to complain about another failed city council candidate Vicente Torres being arrested at the December school board meeting for open carrying. This is against the law (given the kind of people showing up to speak, this law is smart) and he was removed. Kallus was furious about this. Perhaps he thinks conservative men shouldn’t have to follow the rules if they don’t want to.

Just a note about what those who don’t follow politics aren’t seeing. I looked in vain for news reports on either the North situations or the Torres arrest. Local beat reporters – the kind who used to regularly cover city councils and school boards – are practically non-existent, so people not paying attention have no idea what’s truly happening. We need to tell them! An engaged and informed populace tends to vote.

Jim Herblin, one of the many crazy Republican candidates running for HD61 (please, please donate to Sheena King, our wonderful candidate for HD61), showed up at both the Prosper and McKinney School Board meetings. If I didn’t believe Republicans were well-funded, a look at his website would confirm it. Although he’s definitely living in Crazytown, his website is beautifully put together and whoever did the pictures of him worked hard since he seemed like a regular guy instead of the creepy perv he looked like at the school board meeting. Herblin was one of five speakers in favor of banning books. He encouraged the board to stop living in fear of the TEA, the NEA, and any other educational agency and instead do the right thing by removing “filth” from the library shelves. He twice encouraged them to “Inhale God and exhale fear.” Someone should tell him the inhale/exhale thing comes from Buddhism. Maybe then he’d stop saying that. Superintendent Rick McDaniel assured everyone there is a process involved in removing a book, that they can’t just take them off shelves on a whim. Currently, there are no books being challenged within MISD. The young adult novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, survived its challenge though I’m sure there will be more.

I won’t dignify the rest of the speakers by going over their obnoxious speeches. Their quoting of the Bible and emphasis on pornography convinced me of one thing only and it wasn’t that they’re interested in saving kids. I’ll let Shakespeare (an author they undoubtedly hate) handle this one: Methinks thou doth protest too much.

Local Politics: I hear from a lot of people who are deeply anxious about our political situation and want to do something to help change it. However, when push comes to shove, they don’t do even the most basic of civic duties: they don’t vote. In city after city – most recently McKinney and Frisco – municipal elections have low voter turnout. McKinney’s special election for a city council seat saw less than 5% of registered voters turn out while Frisco’s saw less than 3%. That’s unacceptable for many reasons but it’s especially abhorrent from Democrats. If the GOP isn’t turning out, that means we have the opportunity to vote in the people we want. If we want a seat at the table, local races are how we get it.

We also need to know what’s happening at the local level. An educated populace tends to vote and, often, they end up running for office. If we want that to happen, we must put in the work. 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 if you’re interested. Let’s do this!

Comments 4

  1. Great newsletter! I sometimes wonder how some of the people you write about have made it this far in life.
    The very thought that thy could have power over anything to do with children is frightening.

  2. Great reporting, Misty! Your insight and pithy comments are a local treasure. We really need to see your reporting in a widespread forum. Thank you!
    And by gosh, by golly, VOTE!

  3. I’m always grateful for your reporting. And I’m ever hopeful that, someday, people will listen and SIGN UP TO WATCH local political meetings.

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