Collin County Politics: It’s Time to Show Up 

February 15, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 200,365 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 2,863 more cases than I reported last week and 1,374 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 28 people). Thankfully, Collin joins the statewide trend of decreasing cases.

While this is good news, there are two big issues surrounding the pandemic we can’t keep ignoring: uncompensated hospital care costs and provider shortages. As many of you may know, a short hospital stay is expensive; Covid hospitalizations were even worse. Although information about the price of all Covid hospitalizations isn’t publicly available, it’s estimated the average pandemic stay costs around $20,000. That’s a huge price to pay for anyone but especially for those without insurance. They usually can’t which means hospitals end up eating the costs and they are enormous. Texas has the dubious honor of having both the highest number and the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the country. Thanks, Republicans!

This problem is exacerbated in Collin County because we don’t have a publicly funded hospital. Even though we have over 1 million residents, there are few places people can go if they don’t have insurance. For years, those who can’t pay have been shuttled to Parkland because the privately owned hospitals don’t want them and our county commissioners haven’t offered up good alternatives. And although Parkland has been generous in overlooking our freeloading (or more likely they can’t force Collin County to pay our debt for them treating our residents), that could end at any time, especially since they’ve struggled greatly during the pandemic. What will we do then?

But having a hospital to go to means nothing without healthcare providers. We had a nationwide nursing shortage prior to the pandemic and the situation is much worse now. Who wants to work long hours under difficult conditions only to be treated terribly by employers and patients alike? Even if we do a major culture shift in how we treat healthcare providers, there’s also a nursing faculty shortage and it takes five years to train a nurse. This is going to be a troublesome issue for a long time, especially since our Republican lawmakers aren’t inclined to do much about it.

Mental health providers are facing difficulties as well. We’re experiencing burnout and dealing with low reimbursement rates and a lack of structural support. It takes several years to train a master’s level counselor (longer for a psychologist) and a decreasing number of people seem inclined to choose this profession. This comes at a time when pandemic-related issues have sent demand for services sky-high and society at large is finally realizing just how vital good mental health is to our overall well-being.

I keep telling you we’re in trouble. Start talking to your representatives!

Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health care. I’m not selling insurance.

Dennis Kucinich

Commissioner’s Court: Last week’s meeting was low-key, especially with Duncan Webb and Cheryl Williams absent (that’s two consecutive missed meetings for Williams) and not much on the agenda. There was absolutely no mention of the inmate found dead in his jail cell on Friday. Texas Rangers are investigating the death but no details have been given in several days. This is the second death at the jail in less than a year. Marvin Scott III died in custody last April. The county is also facing a lawsuit from a female prisoner who suffered a miscarriage in 2019. She claims the miscarriage occurred because she was denied access to medical care. Given the persistent staffing problems and mounting deaths, we need to fix whatever’s going wrong at the jail instead of expanding it.

The commissioners don’t seem too concerned about the health and well-being of those with lower incomes. For example, take a look at the Health Care Foundation’s FY22 Grant Application form. The grants are intended to provide reimbursement to healthcare facilities and providers who give care to our indigent population. There were some shocking restrictions for reimbursement, including denying coverage for vision, dental, and mental health services (I assume substance abuse treatment isn’t covered either). For an indigent population, mental health services are extremely necessary but, for some reason, they’re not covered. The form also mentioned that anyone who isn’t a U.S. citizen or a Residential Alien with less than 40 months of work cannot receive services. This isn’t a surprise since Republicans don’t want to pay for noncitizens. Regardless of that uncharitable impulse on their part, everyone deserves help. Refusing to give them assistance is denying their humanity and our responsibility.

Part of the problem rests with who serves on the Health Care Foundation’s Advisory Board. As far as I can tell, all are Republicans (which tells you the problem right there), many are retired, and the vast majority have no direct service provider background or experience with indigent populations. While boards should have a cross-section of backgrounds, I’d hope that at least one or two members would have personal experience with the issues at hand but they don’t. Most have also served on the board for far too long. Of the seven for whom I could find information, the average number of years on the board is 12 with some having 15, 16, and 22 years of service. That’s unacceptable, especially now when the pandemic has raised the stakes for many people and climate change is already having an impact.

We need people with fresh eyes and new skillsets serving on this board, not the same people doing the same things that don’t work. Perhaps new board members would be willing to push for a public hospital and several homeless shelters.

Collin College Board of Trustees: Hey, the Dallas Morning News finally gave the Collin College situation its due by making a big deal about the First Amendment issues at stake. Nice of them to catch up! Perhaps if they’d given the first three dismissals the attention they deserved, we wouldn’t have had a fourth. What probably caught the DMN’s attention is that the overall education community is noticing a pattern of problematic behavior from Collin College. National groups like the American Historical Association and the Academic Freedom Alliance as well as statewide groups like the Texas Faculty Association and the Texas American Federation of Teachers — which represents more than 65,000 teachers and higher-education employees across the state – are all angry over the most recent firing of Dr. Phillips.

Some of the groups are even taking action. A number of Texas historians are asking the agency that gives accreditation to Collin College to investigate the school’s compliance with its academic freedom provisions. This call for accountability is on top of the investigation launched last year by the American Association of University Professors into Collin College’s dismissal of Drs. Suzanne Jones and Lora Burnett. Such an investigation by the AAUP is rare since they only do two or three investigations for academic freedom violations per year.

Who can blame them for wanting to do a deep dive? Collin College has consistently demonstrated years of poor behavior. In 2021, in addition to their refusal to keep students safe by implementing a mask mandate or even suggesting students wear masks, the college attempted to prevent public speakers from expressing “anger” during board meetings. Good luck with that! It’s so odd when Republicans don’t want to deal with the natural consequence of their own rules.

Since Republicans have to be the worst in every circumstance, most of the BoT refused to follow their own policy when they don’t like what’s happening. When Trustees Stacey Donald and Stacy Arias proposed items about the reinstatement of two Collin College professors and the creation of an administrator of diversity, equity, and inclusion, they were overruled by that crusty reprobate, Bob Collins. He outright refused to place those items on their May 25th agenda even though college policy dictates that the board chair “shall not refuse to assign a topic requested by two Board members to an agenda.”

All this is why Collin College was named by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as one of the nation’s 10 worst colleges for free speech for the second year in a row. You truly should read the explanations for why each college made the list. There’re some shady things going on in higher education. It will surprise no one that Texas had two colleges on the list. What is puzzling though is that, in response to a tweet from a Princeton professor about Collin College needing to protect academic freedom, our favorite Senator Ted Cruz replied, “Amen.” Knowing Cruz as I do (I was able to shut down his “town hall” in McKinney in 2017; I’m sure he remembers me fondly), that was either a mistake or an unusually sharp staffer went off-brand.

Every election is determined by the people who show up.

Larry J. Sabato

Local Politics: Valentine’s Day marked the first day of early voting in this year’s primary. Here are a few things to know. Primaries have notoriously low turnouts. That offers a big opportunity to have a true impact. If you have someone you want to see advance to the general election, get everyone you know out to vote for them! And please, for all that’s good in Texas, vote in the Democratic party primary. I understand the pull of voting in the Republican primary. We don’t have as many contested races and Republicans have some truly heinous candidates running. This leads some to believe voting in their primary is a good idea. Trust me, it isn’t.

For one thing, it doesn’t work. I realize you want to ensure the worst Republican candidates lose. It’s a worthy impulse but people have tried this strategy for years and it never turns out the way we’d like. Thus, you’ve wasted your vote and hurt Democrats for nothing. And not voting in the Democratic primary does indeed hurt us. Primaries pave the way for general election fundraising. One of the metrics used to assess how likely it is a candidate can win is by how many votes s/he received in an election. When fundraising for the general election, donors often look at the tally in the primary and donate accordingly. That’s true even if Democratic candidates don’t have a primary opponent, so make sure you vote for them regardless.

Voting in the Evil Primary also hurts the long-term ground game strategy of the party. We use a database known as VAN (Voter Access Network) to track the long-term electoral habits of individual voters. If you vote regularly in Republican primaries, we have no idea you’re a solid Democratic voter. This means you’re harder for candidates to find and alters how campaign managers plan to reach voters overall. Thus, the more people who cross over the aisle, the less accurate VAN is and the worse our campaigns do. This results in fewer Democrats elected and a worse outlook for the future of the party. Believe me, Republicans are making our lives extremely hard right now. We don’t need any further obstacles.

In addition to voting in the Democratic primary (which you absolutely must do, so make a voting plan NOW), you can also make a huge difference by participating in our local governance. If you don’t want the inmates to run the asylum, step up. If you don’t want to be living in the Weimar Republic, inching ever closer to the Third Reich, get active. There are plenty of things you can do, including attending meetings, speaking up, and reporting on what’s happening. 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. Let’s do this!

Comments 7

  1. Pingback: Collin County Politics: Citizenship Requires Effort | The Psychological Hook

  2. Thank you for ALL this, Misty.
    My favorite part is the education about our complete lack of healthcare infrastructure.
    Growth without necessities like healthcare is unsustainable.

  3. I totally agree regarding the lack of diversity you noted for the Health Care Foundation Advisory Board (HCFAB). This is an issue for all the county boards and committees. One problem is the unwritten rule that only Republicans are appointed. Further, each board or committee should reflect the entire Collin County community and include subject matter experts. The HCFAB membership should include the perspective of providers as well as those who receive the services funded by the foundation.

  4. Great reporting, as always. I loved the “crusty reprobate” description, too. And I was there when you shut down Cruz’ town hall in 2017. Good times.
    I attended the Plano Zoning & Planning Committee’s meeting last week as our condominium’s direct neighbor to the West ramps up expansion efforts. We are not happy. More helicopters, construction woes, and loss of sunset views. Thanks again.

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  5. As always, thank you. And “crusty reprobate” for Collins is kind. He leads a Board that (except for two members) is actively participating in shutting down free speech AND not keeping students and faculty safe in a public health crisis.

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