Collin County Politics: Let’s Safeguard Democracy

June 7, 2022

Picture: HD67 candidate Kevin Morris helps McKinney Area Democratic Club’s Julie Luton with a service project at Holy Family School.

Covid Update: Collin County has 220,612 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 3,041 more cases than I reported 2 weeks ago and 1,509 of our Collin residents have died (no change). Our transmission rate is still low but hospitalizations are increasing. An average of 244 cases per day were reported in Collin County this week, a 36% increase from the average 2 weeks ago. Remember, this is a low estimate since people aren’t reporting at-home test results.

As is usually the case following pandemics, a mental healthcare crisis is happening as people absorb losses and fatigue. This is especially true for overworked medical professionals who risked their health and their families’ well-being to help get us through the pandemic. Not only are they dealing with the usual anxiety and depression that follows a pandemic but they’re also facing a sometimes hostile and distrustful public. Thousands of healthcare workers are quitting the profession or retiring. Add in staffing shortages and an untenable healthcare system and you’ve got major burnout. The issue is of such concern that U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a surgeon general’s advisory, a call for attention and action reserved for urgent public health issues.

Collin College: President Neil Matkin is so fearful of criticism (just like a bully) that he can’t tolerate any, including from professors in other states. Earlier this year, Loyola University history professor Benjamin H. Johnson circulated a petition calling for an investigation into whether Collin College had flouted its accrediting agency’s academic freedom standards. In response, Matkin emailed Loyola’s president asking whether Dr. Johnson was “speaking for the institution” with the petition. Johnson tweeted, “Of course I wasn’t, and he knew that; this was an effort to intimidate me and possibly to enlist Loyola in his efforts to squelch freedom of assembly and academic freedom.”

Matkin may have overplayed his hand. Johnson is a top scholar of Texas history and isn’t easily intimidated. He quickly took to Twitter comparing Matkin’s leadership to that of Russia. Plus, more than 80 professors in Texas and historians of Texas signed the petition, a good indication that other academics are taking notice of what’s happening at the school. This is sure to negatively impact faculty recruitment. Matkin may also be experiencing consequences for his authoritarian style of governing. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), an important accrediting body, is asking questions of people with connections to Collin College. This is a step they take before launching formal investigations. If Collin was to lose their SACS accreditation, that would be bad. You have to wonder at what point the board of trustees will realize that their support of Matkin (and the accompanying loss of reputation and lawsuits) is bad for the school.

Allen City Council: The council said goodbye to Baine Brooks (a moderate and the only council member of color) who left because of term limits. With him gone, the council is now completely white and male. Yay. Chris Schulmeister was sworn in for another term. Ben Trahan also took the oath of office, saying he wants to give his best to the City. We need to hold him to that!

Mayor Ken Fulk proclaimed May 24th as “Teen Court Day.” The Teen Court of Allen was established in 2000 and provides juveniles with an alternative to the criminal justice system in an educational and rewarding way. Teens serve as prosecuting and defending attorneys, bailiffs, jurors, and clerks with 71 volunteer attorneys and 133 jurors in its present pool. Presiding Judge Cyndi Porter Gore informed the council that they’ve had 82 cases go through the program in the last year. The vast majority of teens complete the program and have their cases dismissed. They also created the Teen Court Academy where twice-monthly teens attend to learn how to be attorneys in Teen Court, with 17 kids (8th-12th grade) slated to be attorneys for the upcoming year. This sounds like an excellent program and is just the creative touch we need to make our judicial system better.

Steve Massey, Director of Community Services, presented on what an appropriate Consumer Price Increase (CPI) for Community Waste Disposal (CWD) should be. The current contract (which runs through May of 2024) allows for a 5% CPI adjustment annually but CWD asked for a 9% adjustment based on the increased costs of pay and benefits, fuel, and equipment maintenance. City staff recommended this adjustment pass. Although there was no residential rate increase proposed right now, it’s coming. Allen residents pay one of the lowest rates in the North Texas area (there was a chart!) and the last residential rate increase was in June 2010. Surprisingly, the Daves (Shafer and Cornette) both agreed this seems fair and Schulmeister said the council wants to be a good partner to CWD. I wasn’t expecting even semi-reasonableness, especially from the Twin Idiots.

In response to Trahan’s query about why this is happening, Greg Roemer, President of CWD, mentioned several considerations. Covid caused the company’s volume to rise by 15% while the February freeze brought about an additional 34% increase. The company increased both retention and new hires by implementing a 20% wage increase for drivers and helpers (good for them!) and they doubled their Customer Service Department from 8 to 16 people and gave them a 25% increase in wages (as they should). Now CWD’s dealing with increased inflation. The company went so far as to share confidential files with city staff to validate the increase they’re asking for. I don’t love that part. It sets a very dangerous precedent, especially since companies shouldn’t have to provide confidential information in order to get a fair hearing from government officials.

In another surprise, every council member agreed the city should raise the CPI rate because CWD provides good service and times are challenging. Although they didn’t approve the original request of 9% (which CWD said was already a compromise given the 12% increase in their costs), a motion for a 7% increase passed. While I’m pleased the council went over and above the 5% CPI adjustment allowed by their contract, 7% was still cheap. But perhaps that’s the best we can hope for from this council.

Other Allen news isn’t so great. Even though the city of Uvalde didn’t formally ask for help, Allen Police Department was one of a group of police departments across Texas that sent officers there to “assist in any way they can.” In addition to Allen PD (which sent six officers and two dispatchers), state-wide police departments represented in Uvalde include Fort Worth, Lubbock, Del Rio, Conroe, Pearland, Grand Prairie, College Station, and Bedford. Having additional police show up to provide a conspicuous law enforcement presence at the funerals for the 19 children and two teachers killed in the massacre without a formal agreement with the city seems unwise at best.

No one knows for sure why all these police officers are needed, especially since they’ve had tense exchanges and made questionable decisions regarding interactions with journalists. Officers have threatened to arrest journalists for walking on public streets near funerals. Police have been seen mingling with motorcycle club members who’ve illegally interfered with journalists’ efforts to observe and photograph funerals by physically surrounding them and obstructing their view, even in designated media areas. Although police give lip service to the value they place on the First Amendment, this seems suspect given the shellacking they’ve taken for the poor performance of late. History is replete with examples of authorized police overreach leading to authoritarian violence.

Lest you think I’m being too tough on the police, that’s exactly what we saw in Uvalde with the police tasing and handcuffing parents who were begging them to go into the school and do something. This is also what we’ve seen with a Uvalde police officer threatening Angeli Gomez, the mom who ran in and got her kids, that she’d be charged with “obstruction of justice” if she didn’t stop telling her story. Y’all, we seriously need a big conversation about the role of the police and their accountability to the community.

McKinney School Board: The crazy was somewhat subdued at their 4-hour long(!!) regular board meeting on the 17th since Board President Amy Dankel added a request for each speaker to state their address publicly. This was an effort to be transparent about which speakers are actually stakeholders in the district. It may raise some privacy/security concerns but still is important since we know bad faith actors are traveling the state in order to facilitate chaos. Supporters of the Public Schools First McKinney PAC stood in sharp contrast to the others in that they were calm, factual, and spoke positively about the district.

The board voted to formally request inclusion in the TASB Advocacy Agenda. Items submitted from district boards across the state that are agreed upon by TASB committee will create a platform that is then shared with state leaders and legislators. If you’ll recall, TASB formally withdrew from NASB, so I’m a little leery about what the Texas group will do without national guidance. Votes for this agenda included allowing only local community residents or business owners in the district to speak at board meetings (Green and Hassler voted no), not allowing any voucher programs that take funding away from public schools (Green voted no), insisting funds recaptured by the state must go toward public education (unanimous consent), and ensuring the pay rate formulation for district employees to, at a minimum, keep pace with the rate of inflation (unanimous consent).

The board discussed the District of Innovation plan, a program that’s been in place for years. Former school board candidate and major annoyance Serena Ashcroft mentioned the District of Innovation Plan during her public comments. As usual, she was wrong in her assumptions but now we know what the new complaint for the Angry Crowd, otherwise known as Greenie Meanies (GMs), will be. A District of Innovation has local control, can customize for different campus needs, and has a great deal of flexibility. There’s a lot of opportunity for parent and community input but the GMs have latched onto this as another way they’ve been silenced (remember, critical thinking skills aren’t big with this mob). Accordingly, both Hassler and Green acted concerned that we have enough community involvement.

It wouldn’t be a recent McKinney school board meeting without the GMs getting their chance to be disruptive. Their usual schtick about the dangers of porn, grooming, and Marxism would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous. One woman read her speech from her phone. She must’ve forgotten she’d included a line saying “I am weeping” so she immediately had to start crying in order to justify it. But then she stopped her crocodile tears for the rest of her speech. That was comedy gold! Another woman told Green that God’s pleased with him. How does she know? Does she believe God’s speaking to her? If so, she probably needs to talk with someone about that. Yet another speaker blamed the district for her son being arrested and ending up in juvenile detention, due to something (unspecified as to what) he was “exposed to” by another student at school. Uh huh.

The final GM speaker was Paul Davis, Chad Green’s attorney, who lost his job at Goosehead Insurance in Westlake after taking part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Stellar friends he’s got! Davis accused Dankel of “trampling on the First Amendment rights” of MGs at the April meeting by disallowing signs and clapping (the horror!), and for using the McKinney police as her “personal Gestapo” to remove disruptors. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest Davis doesn’t truly know much about the Gestapo if he thinks the gentle way the police handled the GMs is at all equivalent. With all the showmanship of a carnival sideshow crier, he announced that he and his clients are filing a civil rights lawsuit against Dankel and had her served on the spot.

The board moved on to the EF(LOCAL) discussion that described district policy regarding instructional resources (i.e., the library book issue). Superintendent Rick McDaniel reiterated that no one in district leadership supports pornographic materials being in our school libraries, and urged members of the public to go through the current book review process for any book of which they disapprove. He then asked board members for input on any changes that should be made to the current process, as the policy is in review by district administration. The Big Hathole offered his opinion that the district should immediately remove any disputed book from the shelves while it’s being reviewed. If I read the Pico decision correctly, that’s against the law but, as we know, rules with this crowd are definitely for thee, not for me. He accused Dankel of threatening him with removing him from office when he brought up the issue in the fall.

McDaniel shared how many times each disputed book has actually been checked out from MISD libraries, all of them with very few check-outs, if any. He said the district’s Media Resource Specialists (librarians) should be the ones reading the books because they have the expertise and authority to pull books based on not meeting the standards outlined in EF(LOCAL). Hear, hear! We absolutely MUST start valuing expertise instead of relying on the “do your own research” kind of knowledge. The new district process for reviewing new acquisitions for the library will have campus librarians meeting by grade level to collaborate on deciding which new titles would or would not be appropriate to add to MISD collections. Hathole proposed all new books be reviewed by a committee of parents and teachers (oh, hell no!). He mentioned that Plano ISD puts disputed books behind a locked door and makes parents opt-in in order for their kids to check them out. If true, that seems dangerous.

While much of the discussion about the EF(LOCAL) policy sounded reasonable, I’m worried the board is assuming some books should be removed. It also appeared as though they may be trying to appease people who are dead wrong and will never be satisfied, in essence giving squeaky wheels some grease. That would be a big mistake. Dankel tried to split the difference by giving a lame anecdote about how, when she was a librarian, she wanted every book about Bill Clinton to be removed from the school library (you know, because of his troubles; I wonder if she feels the same about Trump) but she knew it couldn’t be done. It sure looks like she’s starting her campaign early and wanted to establish her Republican bona fides. Later in the meeting, she commented that being a Republican doesn’t mean you’re a bigot. Ummm….are you sure?

The interminable meeting kicked into high gear as the board tried to figure out what to do with Green. Most of the board went into closed session to confer with their attorney with Dankel giving Hathole the choice of voluntarily staying out of the closed session, or, if he refused, for the rest of the board to vote to keep him out. Remember this point because it will be a HUGE issue during the special meeting (more on that next column). Once they returned, Dankel moved that the board ask Hathole for his resignation as MISD trustee. O’Dell seconded the motion, which then opened the discussion of the matter.

The major issue at hand was the photo of Green taken at an anti-book rally. Hathole was pictured sitting in a chair, holding a sign that called out Larry Jagours and Harvey Oaxaca by name, holding them responsible for the “porn” in MISD libraries. Dankel said this photo gave the impression of racism. Hathole claimed it wasn’t his sign and he was merely holding it because he was “overheating” (truth isn’t big with this crowd). I suspect Hathole didn’t think he’d get pushback from either Oaxaca or Jagours but he was wrong.

Oaxaca reminded him that part of the oath they took as trustees encouraged them to act as “a body corporate” (a team) and Hathole shouldn’t be causing public division among members of the board. Jagours added that the action by Hathole may have made him (Jagours) a public target, including possible bodily harm. Hathole once again claimed that he was “seriously overheating” and simply needed shade. I was shocked by this lame excuse. He had a ton of time sitting alone on the dais to come up with a plausible excuse but I guess he simply couldn’t. Brains aren’t big with this crowd either. Instead, Hathole gave a weak apology which Oaxaca said was a month too late. I’m so glad Oaxaca and Jagours spoke up, especially Jagours because he was in a take-no-prisoners mode. He told everyone that this hate and venom is similar to what he saw in the 1950s and 1960s. I laughed out loud when he asked if we’ve returned to idiocracy. Spoiler alert: yes.

The rest of the board wasn’t buying Green’s lame excuse either. They pointed out that the sign was in his lap, not over his head, and that even if Hathole personally did not make the sign, he was among the group that did. Lynn Sperry said that she felt Hathole’s actions violated the mutual trust that must exist among board members. The motion to ask for Green’s resignation carried, with only Hathole voting against. Legal counsel was directed to resolve the investigation findings and report back to the board in a special session meeting. I’ll be covering that meeting in my next column.

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Local Politics: Remember when I complained about the zoo on Election Day at the John and Judy Gay Library? I reached out to all of the McKinney city council members to ask they do something to change Election Day rules so everyone could vote without harassment. Three of them responded and agreed to put it on the next work session agenda. For all who doubt they can make a difference, I participated in local politics and, as a result, there may be change. This is the power of working at the local level.

In the near future, local politics is going to be even more important. While most of the country was preoccupied with mass shootings, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez. The case is complex but the defense lawyer summed it up: “The majority’s Kafkaesque decision will condemn many to wrongful imprisonment, or worse, death. All in the name of state’s rights.” The last 2 words are the most important here and should terrify us all. Yeah, I thought we’d won the Civil War too but here it is, raising its’ ugly head. After they eliminate Roe v. Wade (and they will) so abortion becomes a state issue, the next federal rights they could gut include the right to marry (affecting interracial and same sex couples), the right to a lawyer, the right to a speedy trial, the right to vote, and many others. Until such time as we can get the Supreme Court back to sanity, all of these issues could get kicked back to the states. That’s why who represents us locally matters so very much.

As FDR said, safeguarding democracy requires education which means all of us need to get engaged and learn about what’s happening. One way you can do that is to 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. Your second to the last paragraph is terrifying. We should all be very afraid, especially those of us in states like Texas: “After they eliminate Roe v. Wade (and they will) so abortion becomes a state issue, the next federal rights they could gut include the right to marry (affecting interracial and same sex couples), the right to a lawyer, the right to a speedy trial, the right to vote, and many others. Until such time as we can get the Supreme Court back to sanity, all of these issues could get kicked back to the states. That’s why who represents us locally matters so very much.”

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