Collin County Politics: Let’s Practice Democracy

March 15, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 204,432 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,842 more cases than I reported last week and 1,467 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 14 people). Signs are looking good, so it’s tempting to think we’re over the worst of it. We may not be. Among countries that make their data available, some are showing rising hospital admissions. Again. We know where this leads. Please keep wearing your masks, do more outside gatherings, and social distance. I’m going to assume everyone is vaccinated and boosted. If you aren’t, do it.

Schools: Things have been going downhill at the state level for the last 2 years and it’s getting worse. The number of teachers available to work in Texas has been decreasing in recent years and the pandemic just exacerbated the problem. Instead of truly addressing the underlying issues for why educators are leaving the profession – you know, obvious things like minimal teacher pay, too much testing, not enough teacher support, and generally being overworked – Greg Abbott put together this performative task force. You can tell how important he thinks it is by how often they’ll meet: once every other month for a year. Can’t you just feel the urgency?

Although the media treated this task force like it was thoughtful and serious, it clearly isn’t. Of the 28 spots on the task force focused on teachers, only 2 teachers (7%) were chosen. One teaches in Highland Park, which isn’t representative of most places in the state. Few of the big city districts like Dallas, Houston, or Fort Worth are included. Neither are rural districts nor those with low economic issues. Even though the field of education is comprised mostly of women, only 39% of the task force are women. This is so typical of Texas Republicans because they don’t value women’s experiences. Finally, on a task force that’s focused on teachers, there are no campus-level administrators. Fully 93% of the representation is made up of executive-level administration. There’s absolutely no doubt Abbott put on people who’ll tell him what he wants to hear.

The book banners are still at it. In Granbury, the library review committee elected to remove 8 books from their shelves: 5 books from author Abbi Glines and Out of Darkness, We Are the Ants, and This Book is Gay. All 8 were designated to have “sexually explicit content” but I doubt it. They just didn’t like the message. The library review committee was composed of equal numbers of community members/parents and educators. That sounds wrong. The district has been cagey about how these people were chosen and what criteria were used for determination even though Freedom of Information Act requests have been made. If they have nothing to hide, giving out that information should be easy.

Commissioner’s Court: Everyone was present (finally!) but not a lot happened during the 44-minute meeting. The commissioners discussed whether to offer a resolution against allowing guns in the deer hunting season, an item that arose from two public speakers last week. Darrell Hale put the item on the agenda and was against high-powered rifles being allowed. Two public speakers opposed it as well as did Sheriff Skinner. He established the usual Republican bona fides about loving guns and hunting while also mentioning that his department has dealt with 744 complaints involving high-power rifles just within the last 12 months, 33 of which involved damage to property or people. Wow! That’s a lot of gun-related problems which seem to go relatively unmentioned. How many of these incidents get covered by the local press? If people realize just how much damage the free flow of guns actually caused, they might be more inclined towards gun safety.

Skinner wasn’t opposed to expanding the hunting method to shotguns. Neither was Susan Fletcher who, after confirming her gun-loving ways, went so far as to make a PowerPoint presentation! The best part though came when they were discussing what kind of motion to make. Cheryl Williams moved to make a resolution voting no on the petition. As I knew he would (so predictable), Chris Hill made a huge speech on how he cannot support anything that would limit the 2nd amendment and hunters’ rights. Are the rights of hunters formalized in the Constitution? I had no idea! Hale humorously commented that 2nd amendment rights were to bear arms against a tyrannical government and he had not met any tyrannical deer. He pointed out that Hill is conflating two separate items. Hale is such a bootlicker that this disagreement came as a pleasant surprise.

Then, out of left field, Williams said Hill’s statement was so absurd it didn’t even deserve a rebuttal. That was so awesome and unexpected that I had to rewind the video to make sure I heard correctly. What got into Hale and Williams? Were they taken over by body snatchers? Hill also was shocked by this disagreement because he’s so used to the other commissioners rubber-stamping everything he does. Williams and Hill actually glared at each other for a moment, then he had to have the last word – such a child – by saying, “I disagree with you.” The resolution passed 4-1 with Hill voting against it so he could preserve his gun-happy political stance.

“The only way to practice democracy, is to practice democracy.”

Hu Shih

Collin College: As I’d hoped he would, history professor Michael Phillips is suing Collin College for improperly firing him. This makes him the third professor to sue the college for freedom of speech issues. This didn’t go unnoticed by his attorney who noted, “This is the first time FIRE [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education] has represented multiple professors against a single college and its president at the same time.” Phillips himself mentioned the repercussions this could have on the faculty by pointing out that any time a controversial subject crops up, professors will have to think: “Will this be the classroom discussion that gets me fired? They created an atmosphere of fear, and then students get denied the quality education they deserve.”

I admire all 5 of the professors who’ve been fired for standing up for faculty and student rights. What they did took a lot of courage and I hope we take that to heart. During these perilous times, we all must stand up for what’s right, even if it’s difficult. What amazes me most though is the cowardice and poor decision-making of the Board of Trustees. Especially with the latest firing of Phillips, they had to know they were inviting a ton of negative publicity as well as risking large payouts for lawsuits and lower student participation. This begs the question of why. What are they hiding? Why are they so determined to promote an authoritarian atmosphere throughout the college? It sure seems like many of them would be very comfortable in Russia. I know some people who’d love to pay for their one-way ticket.

McKinney City Council: In their March 1st work session, council members discussed the issue of homelessness. While I’ll give them props for trying, they didn’t get very far. It’s disturbing that of the $175,000 originally designated to spend on homelessness, the budget only asks for $60,000. This isn’t acceptable. I found myself in the awkward position of agreeing with Rainey Rogers who repeatedly asked why we aren’t spending more money directly helping people. Instead, we’re spending money on non-profits, biohazard cleanups, and transit services. While all of those are necessary, they’re also problematic because they’re reacting to homelessness instead of being proactive towards it.

Services like warming stations (there were 1,000 visits across 40 nights!) and showers help mitigate the misery but they don’t prevent it. So, while these are good to have, we need to do better. Other services seem almost punitive in nature, like a program that tracks people who have had contact with the city (via the police or social services) and the police task force that deals with the unhoused. These programs deal only with our “criminal” or mentally ill unhoused neighbors. What about everyone else? They also reinforce the idea that homelessness is a crime. This is particularly infuriating because homelessness is often only a “crime” because our lawmakers have made it so.

The police officer in charge of helping people in the Unhoused Encampment contributed to the misinformation and stigmatization about the homeless by referring to them as “mental health camps” because folks inside may be “psychotic.” That generalization is deeply problematic. While I’m sure there are challenges involved with this work, it was hard to take it seriously since he wants to decrease police training from 4 hours down to 2 in order to save money. Perhaps some of that unused $110,000 could be spent on appropriate training first responders of all kinds to avoid future conflicts.

There are many problems with the issue of homelessness, one of which is that people aren’t sufficiently educated on the issue. Charlie Phillips asked how we can ensure McKinney residents are educated about homelessness. The answer was by the city’s existing social media accounts. They’ve got to be joking; that’s not nearly enough. What about a city initiative in which they hold seminars and other public events? The lack of knowledge is a gigantic problem. Many people believe there aren’t very many people struggling with being unhoused, that most are single adults, or that they’re in this position because they’re mentally ill or made bad choices. The truth is that many people find themselves dealing with housing insecurity (a situation made worse by the pandemic), a large number are families with small children or older people living on fixed incomes, and while some are mentally ill, most have jobs but can’t find affordable housing. In short, this is a community issue, not an individual one. As long as we focus on individual solutions, we’ll never make any headway.

Local Politics: Our election integrity is getting even more perilous than it has been. Thanks, Republicans! The primary was the first test of our elections since the passage of SB1, the voter suppression bill, which created new identification requirements for mail voting, imposed new criminal penalties for a variety of election-worker infractions, and added new vote-count reporting requirements on election night. This made much more work for those brave and hardy souls who staff our elections. It surprised no one that it didn’t go well, especially in Harris County where SB1 was specifically designed to do the most damage.

Voting machines failed to power up. Poll workers handed out the wrong-size ballots. Optical scanners rejected hundreds of votes. An exhausted election worker who’d been on the job for at least 30 hours (!!) neglected to include about 10,000 votes in an unofficial tally published a day after polls had closed. Harris County officials said their own canvassing procedure would’ve caught the error before the election results were certified but the demands to publish unofficial results within a day of the election contributed to the error. All hell is breaking loose there as Republicans are suing, the elections supervisor resigned, and they’re scrambling to fix what they can before the November elections.

Although this happened in Harris County and isn’t technically local, this could definitely happen here as the effects of SB1 have been felt all across the state. As a result of the mess in Harris County, state senator Paul Bettencourt, a co-author of SB1 (of course he was) plans on introducing more legislation in 2023 to further suppress Democratic votes. Of course, that’s not what he said but it’s exactly what he meant. Republicans have already gerrymandered the hell out of this state. What’s a little more voter suppression thrown into the mix?

What can we do? We can focus on local politics, especially our non-partisan municipal races. But in order to do that, we must know what our local entities are doing and what solutions we can enact (like in dealing with homelessness). 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 4

  1. Thank you for reporting on what’s going on. Yours is the best comprehensive Collin County report around … oh, wait. It’s the only one around. If we don’t know what’s happening, we can’t try to fix it. Thank you.

  2. Instead of reporting what the city is doing and that it’s indifferent- can the CCCP Political machine come up with a white paper strategy endorsed by the CEC that outlines a generic program and best practices that all cities should adopt? Simply reporting what a city is or is not doing doesn’t resolve the issues.

    Steven Spainhouer
    Precinct Chair Elect, 131

    1. Post

      While I would love to see many local issues resolved, the purpose of my column is to report and comment upon what our local governmental entities are doing or not doing. By informing Democrats in Collin County about what’s going on in our area, my hope is they’ll take that information and get engaged.

  3. On the book banning: “Out of Darkness” was also taken off the shelves in Keller ISD. It caught my eye because it’s set against the backdrop of the New London, TX, school disaster of 1937. It involves “forbidden love“ in an atmosphere of intense racism, so you can guess what the book banners mainly objected to. I’m going to read it and see what I think, and then give it to my 16-year-old granddaughter and see what she thinks of it.

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