Collin County Politics: Passing the Torch

January 10, 2023

ICYMI: When I was a professor (in the early 00s), abortion was a major topic in my psychology of women class (a fun and informative course everyone should take). I’d end the lecture by saying that the fight against abortion was just a shot across the bow, that conservatives would be coming for birth control next. My students scoffed, insisting no one would dare try to take away birth control from American women. Uh-huh. I wish I could tell you I was wrong but, of course, I wasn’t. It truly sucks to be Cassandra.

To wit: the latest tussle in the fight for women’s reproductive freedom is that teenage girls in Texas will now need their parents’ permission to get birth control at federally funded clinics. These clinics, funded through Title X, provide free, confidential contraception to anyone regardless of age, income or immigration status. Or they used to. That changed when U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk – a religious liberty lawyer before being appointed to the bench in 2019 – ruled that the program violates parents’ rights (where have we heard that phrase before?) and state and federal law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has asked the court to reconsider that decision.

The Title X program was created during the Nixon administration to provide family planning services to low-income women. Federal regulations forbid them from requiring parental consent or notifying parents that a minor has received services which, quite frankly, is as it should be. As we all know (and as a family psychologist, I definitely know!), some parents can’t be trusted. They use religion and morality as a cudgel and try to keep their children ignorant and dependent.

For example, take the state’s hopelessly outdated and harmful policies on comprehensive sex education and access to contraception, all in the name of parents’ rights. We could educate adolescents about options and provide them with the tools to help keep themselves safe but apparently, we prefer to put our children directly in harm’s way. Thanks to funding cuts by the Texas Legislature in 2011, family planning programs are few and far between. I’m sure that has nothing to do with Texas having one of the highest teen birth rates in the country.

But they’re not going to stop there! In 2021, state lawmakers made it even harder for students to learn about safe sex. Parents must now give written permission before their children can learn about human sexuality, family violence, child abuse, or sex trafficking. Texas is one of only five states in the nation, along with Nevada, Utah, Mississippi, and North Carolina, to have such a requirement for sex education and is the only state requiring parental permission to teach about child abuse. We certainly cannot have children knowing that what’s happening in their families isn’t normal. There are no words.

Covid Update: Speaking of being a prognosticator, remember how I kept warning everyone that Covid wasn’t through with us? Well, it isn’t! Word on the street is that there’s a fun new variant, XBB.1.5, that’s the most transmissible descendant of the omicron variant. Yay! More fun in store for us! Hospitals and healthcare providers in North Texas are already seeing an uptick in Covid cases although, thankfully, it isn’t as bad as it’s been in previous years.

Collin County has 269,565 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 4,336 more cases than I reported several weeks ago and 1,607 of our Collin residents have died (9 additional deaths). Our transmission rate has been bumped up to Medium and several of the counties surrounding us are at High. Let’s be careful out there!

On Your Radar: Although there are many individual issues plaguing our cities and schools, there are a number of county-wide problems as well. We don’t have a public hospital. We need a coordinated effort to combat homelessness. All of our school boards erroneously believe adding police and hardening schools will solve our safety problems. Women and people of color are in short supply in leadership positions across Collin County. And then there’s racism.

In late December, a racial slur was painted on the garage of Mike Hawkins, Jr., the starting quarterback for Allen High School and one of the nation’s top high school football recruits. It’s believed it was done in response to the biracial family listing their house for sale and some believing he was moving out of the district. The Hawkins family was actually planning on moving to another house in Allen but, following this terrible display of racism, decided to move out of the district altogether. Allen Mayor Ken Fulk said, “This language and behavior are inexcusable and have no place in a supportive, welcoming community such as Allen.” That sounds nice but I work in Allen. I’m going to need some hard evidence to support this supportive and welcoming claim because I don’t see it. I haven’t forgotten that the El Paso shooter was raised in Allen.

To be fair to Allen though, there’s been an increase in racist incidents all over Collin County. Last month, nearly a dozen homes on Hidden Cove Drive in Plano were vandalized with racial slurs and Bible verses. Last summer, Stonebridge United Methodist Church in McKinney was vandalized with racist slurs and swastikas two times in two months. In both instances, teenage boys were suspected of being the culprits.

Leaders in each of these communities insist that these are isolated incidents, that their cities are filled with people offering compassion and warmth. Sure. North Texas has one of the highest rates of insurrectionists. Our commissioner’s court used funds supposed to go towards helping people survive the pandemic to expand the jail. Our city councils consistently beef up police departments, vote down affordable housing options, and ignore effective solutions for homelessness. Our public healthcare options are a mess and racial equity initiatives are few and far between. So no, we’re not a supportive and welcoming area at all. Republicans apparently take great pride in keeping out those who don’t look or think like them. That means it’s up to Democrats to come up with workable solutions.

I should probably mention that we don’t need to worry about Allen High School’s football program. Oddly enough, there’s already a new quarterback in town. Mikey Gow is an ambidextrous and much sought-after QB with a big social media presence. He previously played in Nebraska but, with his dad now working in Dallas, jumped at the chance to play in a market that’s better for recruitment. How nice for him that his competition just left.

Allen School Board: If you thought AISD’s troubles ended with the resignation of a trustee and some parents big mad over school closings, think again! Faithful readers of this column may remember that AISD has been pretty terrible to the families of students with special needs since the beginning of the pandemic. One student with a brain tumor had services taken away and was retroactively unenrolled. AISD refused to make their school accessible for another child, Nicholas Arredondo, and threatened to unenroll him should his family not bow to their wishes. It’s almost as if they’re not supportive and welcoming. But that can’t be right. Just ask Allen’s mayor.

Christina Cabral, Nicholas’ mom and former school board candidate, refused to accept a substandard education for her child. With the help of Karen Mayer Cunningham, a nationally recognized special education advocate, a complaint was filed with the federal Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), alleging that AISD is violating Nicolas’ legal rights in multiple ways. On Friday, Ms. Cunningham held a press conference at the AISD Administration Building. Parents of other students with special needs who’ve been badly treated by AISD were also there to speak to the press about their experiences.

Instead of acting like professionals, AISD attempted to obstruct the press conference by saying the families couldn’t be on school property because it was private property (ummm…), tried to intimidate the press conference attendees, and threatened to make arrests. AISD also called the news stations and told them the press conference was canceled which, of course, it wasn’t. Way to be classy, AISD. I’m sure the federal investigators will be impressed. The students – all students – deserve better.

Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.

John Lewis

Local Politics: The Passing of the Torch Edition: The 2016 election was a wake-up call. Like many of you, I was both blindsided and devastated. After a day spent in despair, I knew I had to do something. I joined a bunch of political groups and started having eye-opening experiences. I was present for Spitgate (a scandal involving State Representative Jeff Leach), twice harassed Ted Cruz (super fun!), participated in a streamed Facebook panel on the ACA (nerve-wracking!), and, for the first time ever, met with elected officials like CD3’s Van Taylor. Nothing changed.

Why? Because all politics is local and I was punching too high. As I’ve said repeatedly until I’m literally blue (heh) in the face, the place where we can most affect change is at the local level. Republicans figured this out in 2010 (remember the Tea Party?) and we needed to get on board. Fast. That’s why I started writing this column: to let my fellow Democrats know what’s going on and where they can get involved. I hope many of you will heed my call. Voting is no longer enough.

When I wrote my very first column in November 2020, I had no idea how massive a project it would become. The first column was less than a page long! But it quickly became apparent just how intricate and complicated local government is and the column kept getting longer and longer. It hasn’t helped that the Republicans got more extreme and decided to take over school boards and (eventually) city councils. Keeping track of all their nonsense is practically a full-time job and I already have a full-time job, one that’s also impacted by the craziness of those around us. The load has been heavy and I’m tired.

That’s why this column will be my last. Although I’ve truly enjoyed piecing together the puzzle of local politics, being someone who knows a lot about what’s going on locally (the stories I can tell!), I need to devote my energies elsewhere. Fortunately for all of us, Dr. Suzanne Jones volunteered to step forward and take over the LWAN organization. She’s now in charge of our local monitoring projects. I look forward to seeing all the great things I know will happen under her leadership.

But Dr. Jones can’t fight for democracy alone. She needs teams to report on all our local government outlets and fight like hell against the extremists. So, please sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. Contact her at and let her know you’re interested.

My heartfelt thanks and a tip of the hat to the Collin County Democrats who’ve read the column and used it as a springboard to participate in our democracy. You all rock!

Comments 10

  1. I have looked forward to The Rally emails because of your column. Thank you for your insight and for being a sane voice in our county… we have so few. Good luck in whatever you do & see you on twitter.

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  2. Misty you are so right about the local politics. Allen also was the city where we had a huge ice raid on a business in April of 2019. Estimated 400 people were taken away in busses. Allen is also the city where someone showed up open carrying to a city council meeting and demanded the one democrat on council resign. And no one but her supporters objected to this. In fact the 2 other guys with the armed one are now city council members. One of them recently voted against the DEI permanent board being established, luckily it passed but ugh they continue to show who they are.

    I just watched the new expose about the oath keepers being entrusted to provide training for sheriffs and constables, that teaches them that sheriffs have authority over federal agents like fbi etc. So called “constitutional sheriffs” are walking a dangerous path here. A path that could lead to them arresting someone for their political views, arresting a school librarian for approving a book with lgbtq characters because he feels it contains porn. Arresting a teacher for teaching social studies because he thinks they taught crt. We really need the federal government to protect us here in texas because we seem to have an outbreak of the Stupids. I turn it over and over in my head trying to understand why people here are this way. So many other states had a midterm result where Democrats won, but Texas didn’t seem to get very far, even with Roe playing a major part, and an AG that is so egregious, and a state legislature that gets more extreme because the 2 oil billionaires control everything. I keep coming back to the extreme religious beliefs. One of the legislators gave a seconding speech to try to elect Tony Tinderholte to speaker talked at length about promoting Christian biblical policy. They say it out loud and no one objects. I listened for groans or hissing when he said that, but there wasn’t any- it just is acceptable. I think if a legislator said that on the house floor in Pennsylvania we would see a different reaction. We must must must teach tolerance and diversity equity and inclusion in schools and try to get church leaders to preach it instead of what some are doing now.

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      You do get the feeling that Texas is sinking lower and lower, in part because Republicans who might be reasonable (emphasis on the might) refuse to call out the extremists. Profiles in courage they are not. And our electoral disappointments were, in many ways, largely due to gerrymandering and voter suppression, neither of which are going away. We’ve definitely got a big fight ahead and we need all hands on deck!

      Thanks so much for all of your hard work in local politics.

  3. Thank you for keeping us informed. Your columns have been eye opening. I will miss them.

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  4. Thanks so much, Misty! As a relative newcomer to Collin County, I’ve been EDUCATED (not just informed) by your columns. To some extent, your column helps make up for the fact that our county is essentially a media desert (and yes, I’m on the email lists for Star Local Media, Community Impact, and Local Profile).

    I’m guessing (?) that you didn’t get as much response as you would have liked to your entreaties for people to take on the job of covering their own city councils and school boards. I’m one of the ones who thought about it but didn’t feel adequate to the task.

    Big thanks to Suzanne Jones for stepping up to the challenge of this very big undertaking!

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      Thanks for the kind words, Leslie! I have appreciated your continued engagement with the column and with local politics. And yes, I completely agree about Collin being a media desert. The news outlets you mentioned are better than nothing but are more informative than actual journalism. There’s a difference between reporting on what people say and do versus doing actual investigations and providing context. Many of our elected officials are so corrupt that we absolutely need the investigations. Hopefully, more people will get on board with providing that. And yes, I feel very fortunate to have Suzanne taking over.

  5. Thank you for your knowledge, your leadership, and your snark. You’ve been an inspiration for those who know how important local politics are. Thank you.

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