Collin County Politics: It’s Time to Step Up  

February 8, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 197,502 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 13,755 more cases than I reported last week and 1,346 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 76 people). While the overall trend of new infections is down, that didn’t seem to be the case in Collin County last week. I’m not sure why; all I know is we still need to be cautious.

Commissioner’s Court: There wasn’t a meeting last week but the winter weather got me thinking about something that rarely gets mentioned in the court: homelessness. The issue doesn’t get a lot of attention but it should, especially since we do so little for people struggling with housing insecurity. For the freezing weather last week, Collin County had two places listed as warming stations: the Salvation Army locations in both McKinney and Plano. Hopefully, other cities had places people could go but who knows? What if private organizations (like religious organizations or charities) can’t manage it? This is why we have a government: to provide services. Dallas, Fort Worth, and Denton all offered public locations for people to go to but not us. Warming stations, homeless shelters, housing assistance, and programs for our homeless community are all services that should be coordinated by the county government and listed on our website. But good luck finding any information about those services. We have a link for information about Cattle Brands but nothing about Homelessness or Housing Insecurity. Typical.

In 2020 (right before the pandemic), I did a deep dive on homelessness in Collin County. I knew the problem was bad but I didn’t know it was this bad. I thought we had some systems in place to offer those in need a helping hand but all we truly have is a patchwork of individual groups with no overarching structure. We have no official homeless shelter and no city wants to build one. That’s why the county must step in. Those struggling with housing insecurity are at the mercy of our overburdened and underfunded healthcare and legal systems and most don’t get the help they need. The pandemic only made it worse. That’s why systemic solutions are a must. If you’ll recall, back in September, Plano City Council had an opportunity to offer some systemic programs to their residents via a HUD grant but they don’t appear to have taken advantage of it yet.

The most important political office is that of the private citizen.

Louis D. Brandeis

School Boards: I’ve had a number of people ask me what to do about the conservative parents demanding certain books be removed from our school libraries. First, attend school board meetings and demand we listen to librarians and teachers, our subject matter experts, as to what books belong in our schools. They need our support. Second, support the campaigns of Democrats and reasonable people running for school boards. We cannot let right-wingnuts dominate our school boards or we’ll be in serious trouble. We’ve already seen how cavalierly some of our current school board members treat the safety of students and staff; we don’t need it to be worse. Finally, get educated about what’s going on and why.

As I’ve mentioned previously, right-wing groups are funding the school board battles. Conservative parents didn’t just wake up one day and decide as one that there were hundreds of terrible books in their public schools. They were led (like sheep) to this conclusion by groups like Moms for Liberty. They’ve been given specific talking points. Watch a few school board meetings across the metroplex (and across the US as well) and hear the same words falling out of many different mouths. This is what internalized propaganda looks like. It isn’t an accident that most of the books designated as problematic have to do with the experiences of women and marginalized communities (black and LGBTQ prominent among them). These are the groups most at risk within fascism.

The aims of the right-wing groups are many. They want to use school board seats as stepping stones into a larger office (I suspect Plano Trustee Cody Weaver will make that leap soon). Name recognition is often key to getting votes and holding elected office lends legitimacy to a candidate. They also want the power to control what happens in classrooms and schools. This starts with restricting what students are taught and goes all the way up to who gets to be in charge. If young people are unaware of the ways in which marginalized communities have been treated or the contributions they’ve given, it becomes easier to treat them poorly.

Representation matters, especially when determining who gets to be in positions of authority. That’s why when schools were forced to integrate after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, black teachers were left behind. They’re doing it again (see: Colleyville firing black principal James Whitfield). If students don’t see those who are different from them in high-ranking jobs and hear about their lived experiences, they might start believing only white men can be leaders.

These groups also want to destroy public education so they can privatize it. Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tried paving the way for this switch but she didn’t start it. Republicans have been hacking away at this foundational piece of our democracy for years, via private school vouchers, reduced funding for education, and overloading schools with testing and unfunded mandates. This strategy works. Given the persistence with which Texas state legislators chip away at public education, is it any wonder we consistently land in the bottom 1/3 of educational ranking by states?

So yeah, the right-wing groups are trying to destabilize public education by any means possible and they now see an opportunity. The last time the issue of banning books was taken up by the Supreme Court was in 1982 in Island Trees School District v. Pico. In a 5-4 decision, they decided “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” However, since Justice White provided the 5th vote to allow the case to proceed in the lower court but refused to rule on the First Amendment issues at play (thereby leaving a 4-4 split), the case set no precedent. With the Supreme Court now firmly in the conservative camp (ethics be damned), Republicans may believe a case about banning books will get a different decision.

Collin College Board of Trustees: The firing of Dr. Michael Phillips is getting national coverage, especially since he’s the 4th professor to be let go by Collin College for First Amendment issues. Be sure to sign the petition to reinstate him. Besides the First Amendment, the other large issue at stake is academic freedom. The reason the BoT is able to fire professors at will is because the college doesn’t allow tenure. Board member Bob Collins – a morally suspect guy who’s served on the board for 36 years – said in 2015 that the lack of tenure is “by design,” because tenure allows the “ultra-liberal, anti-capitalism, socialistic professors” to become entrenched in the system. Clearly, Bob hasn’t done his homework (shocking).

Those who care about higher education know tenure is necessary for faculty to advance knowledge, provide first-rate teaching, and allow for free inquiry, free expression, and open dissent. When teachers and researchers are controlled by corporate, religious, or political interests, they shy away from controversial opinions and only give the company or party line. It should surprise no one that those are the kind of teachers you find in fascist countries. That’s not education, it’s indoctrination and is probably something we’d like to avoid. Tenure will help do that by providing faculty stability, encouraging integrity, and promoting the common good.

If you’ve noticed similarities in what’s happening in school board meetings and with Collin College, you’re correct. The two are strongly connected. All areas of public education are under attack by people determined to control the content of what’s being taught and what educators can do. This is what happens in authoritarian regimes, not in democracies. These are scary times we live in and we must speak up while we still can.

McKinney City Council: Rick Franklin was missing because he tested positive for Covid while Charlie Phillips was newly returned from his bout with Covid. Hey guys, if you wore masks (as demonstrated by Dr. Gere Feltus and Justin Beller during the meeting) perhaps you wouldn’t have gotten it. Masks have been shown to work! The meeting was mostly taken up by land use issues. An eminent domain resolution along Main Street between Lamar and East Virginia passed 6-0 (new council member Patrick Cloutier abstained) in order to give the city leverage to bully property owners into selling the land to them for the upcoming City Hall project. Rainey Rogers self-righteously said, “So we don’t take it from them. We pay them for it.” It’s hypocritical for Republicans to push eminent domain issues since they’re usually all about FREEDOM and minimal government intervention. But I guess it’s different when property owners stand in the way of something they want. Handy.

Other land use issues included a request to rezone so Kriss USA, a firearms manufacturer that’s moving their headquarters to McKinney, can have an indoor shooting range for internal testing. It passed 6-0 with no public comment. However, the following item – an application for an Independent Living Facility permit – had several speakers freaking out about “high-rise complexes” and multi-family units.  Their complaints followed the usual script about affordable housing: newly found concerns about traffic and the environment (if they can show me what else they regularly do to protect the planet, I might believe them) and whining about the decrease in privacy and lowered property values in the neighborhood. The council members didn’t seem to be buying their objections but, since the item was tabled by the applicant, no action was taken. It’s interesting how no one blinks an eye when a firearms manufacturer comes to town but the mere suggestion of building a place for people to live that doesn’t break the bank leads to a lot of pearl clutching.

Local Politics: Private citizens can make a huge difference (Justice Brandeis said so!) but only if we participate. If you don’t want to watch us slide into fascism, then step up. 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 5

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

  2. As always, brilliant reporting on the best kept secrets in plain sight.

  3. I appreciate how you show the spider web of indoctrination and intimidation that these right-wingers are using to advance their view on what should be taught … and learned … and discussed … and approved in our communities. It’s downright scary.

  4. Absolutely we need to do more to address homelessness in our county, and there are initiatives underway. Stay tuned for a general population emergency shelter initiative including the City of Plano. City Manager Mark Israelson made a statement about this in a recent Neighborhood Leadership Council meeting (in response to my question). Virtually all the work in this area is done by members of the Collin County Homeless Coalition. Check them out at

    1. Post

      Thanks for the information, David. It’s great to hear Plano is finally doing something but the commissioners should be taking the lead on this issue. It’s terrible that they aren’t.

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