Collin County Politics: Practice Freedom

October 18, 2022

Picture: Waiting for Beto in Plano: Mihaela Plesa (HD70), Sheena King (HD61), Sandeep Srivastava (CD3), David Brignac (District Clerk) Irvin Barrett (JP3), Jesse Ringness (HD66), Jeff Williams (Commissioner’s Court), and Kevin Morris (HD67)

Covid Update: Collin County has 258,941 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 578 more cases than I reported last week and 1,563 of our Collin residents have died (3 additional deaths). Our transmission remains Low. Cases are rising again in countries like Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. Those trends have been a pretty reliable indicator of what we might expect in the US weeks later. Go get your boosters!!

ICYMI: Not only does Texas treat women like second-class citizens – men don’t have to get lawyers to weigh in on whether healthcare professionals can offer them life-saving care – but we also pay more for necessary feminine hygiene products (known as the “tampon tax”). Other products for wound care such as Band-Aids and gauze aren’t taxed because they’re considered basic necessities. But since the 1990s, menstrual-care products, ones that prevent bacterial contamination and are medically necessary devices for modern life, are subject to sales tax. It’s incredibly discriminatory, something other states have noticed. Since 2016, 14 states have repealed their tampon taxes. But not Texas.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. Austin Democrat Donna Howard has introduced a bill repealing the tampon tax during the last 3 legislative sessions. No one objected to the bill but it didn’t get out of committee the first two times and died in Calendars Committee, which controls which bills go to the House floor in 2021. In other words, the Republican men in control just don’t care enough about women to try and help us. Typical. If this isn’t more evidence that Republican men don’t care about women, then I don’t know what to say anymore. If this upsets you, then VOTE THEM OUT!

The good news is that people are working on more creative solutions. Since the State Comptroller could make that change today (but, of course, hasn’t), the Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition filed a formal protest in April 2022 of a decision by Comptroller Glenn Hegar. This sets the stage for a lawsuit in state court challenging the tax on grounds that Hegar and his predecessors haven’t fairly applied a new sales-tax exemption begun in the late 1990s for “wound care dressings.” Good for them!

CVS has also waded into the fray by paying the tax on period products bought online or in-store across the state. CVS will ensure equitable pricing for men’s and women’s products, like razors and shaving cream. Their MinuteClinic will offer new menstrual, contraception, and menopause services in most states for a variety of women’s health services, from heart health and thyroid monitoring to birth control consultations and behavioral health assessments. Sounds good to me!

Commissioners Court: An interesting thing happened at the 17-minute meeting on October 3rd. Duncan Webb asked to pull a resolution supporting the budget of the Meals on Wheels program from the Consent Agenda for further discussion. This was unusual. While most governmental entities have Consent Agendas – items of a routine nature that get passed without discussion – the Commissioner Court’s is a bit different. They put practically everything in the Consent Agenda which means they’re passing a list of items as long as I am tall. A lot of things get buried. This is purposeful but I’m not exactly sure of the reason. It could be because they don’t want to work very hard (possible), they haven’t read the materials (very possible), or they don’t want people to know what they’re doing (probable).

They are the only governmental agency that doesn’t have a work session. You’d think this would mean they’d have more discussion in their regular meetings but they don’t. There’s barely any discussion at all. Darrell Hale once told me they get binders of more than 200 pages every week and they ask staff questions from that material. Whoop-de-doo. For people who are making $176,559 (Fletcher, Hale, Webb, & Williams) and $212,572 (Hill) per year, they need to be working harder than that, especially when they’re doing it on my dime! What do they think about the material they’re reading? What questions are they asking? How do they determine whether they’re OK enough with something to pass it? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions. For all we know, County Administrator Bill Bilyeu may be earning his $285,576 salary (which is 636% higher than average) by telling them what to think.

Webb pulled the item so he could ask the County Auditor if she approved of their accounting system and if it meets the financial system requirements. When she said yes, he moved for approval on the item and it passed 5-0. It appears as though he read the item about 5 minutes before the meeting because he could’ve asked her that question at an earlier point in time. This doesn’t inspire confidence. It also makes me wary because I don’t know what he thought was going on. This is why we need more transparency from the commissioners. What would poverty-stricken seniors do if they go after the funding for Meals on Wheels?

Cynthia Jacobson from HR presented on the Early Paid Time Off Usage Program. During Covid, they implemented a program where new employees could take paid time off within their first 6 months of employment for Covid-related purposes. Previously, they couldn’t do that. And people wonder why “quiet quitting” is a thing. Seriously? Let people take time off if they’re sick no matter when they were hired!

Sadly, Collin County isn’t alone in this terrible policy. Most other statewide entities have discontinued their Covid time off policies but there are two exceptions. Travis County is continuing theirs until December 2022 and Dallas County is allowing people who’ve been vaccinated and have up to 80 hours to take time off. I hope it isn’t escaping your notice that both of these counties are blue. Still, this whole thing seems ridiculous. Jacobson recommended they get rid of the policy. Of course, she did. If she wasn’t horrible, she might not be worth her annual salary of $229,100 according to public records (which is 311% higher than average). The commissioners eagerly voted unanimously to revert the policy back to pre-Covid times, thereby solidifying the fact that they’ve (once again) learned nothing from a global pandemic.

Six minutes of the 21-minute meeting on October 10th were spent in a battle between Josh Murray and Chris Hill. It was beautiful to watch. Josh spoke about the court vote on 9/12/22 to use $200,000 to renovate county property in preparation for former judge Keith Self to lease office space should he become the CD3 representative. Josh mentioned his discomfort with the conflicts of interest given the strong relationship between Hill and Self, who has contributed $27,500 to Hill, making him the second largest contributor to Hill’s campaign. He correctly pointed out that the $200,000 could be used in more constructive ways, like expanding the Animal Control Center, funding the Juvenile Detention Center (which they’ve neglected for over a decade), or increasing janitorial staff pay. To put this into perspective, Josh said they gave Lifepath (our county mental health provider) $100,000 which isn’t enough to cover inflation, let alone population growth. He’s asked the court to reconsider those funds and reallocate them towards something else that serves everyone in Collin County and not just Hill. He also suggested Hill recuse himself from any future votes involving Self so as not to give the perception of impropriety.

In violation of their own rules – which they do whenever it suits them – Hill said he’d respond since Josh addressed him directly. I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist! He never can. Hill said Self donated $25,000 to Hill 5 years ago when he left office. He said Josh’s comments were “ridiculous” 4 different times, showing how much the comments upset him. He wasn’t the only one who was uncomfortable. The body language of the other commissioners (who one and all found interesting things to look at on their desks) was hilarious. Hill said, “Mr. Murray spends his time campaigning to make the record look bad.” LOL. Watching Josh get under Hill’s skin so much that his comments don’t even make sense will never get old! Hill claimed no taxpayer dollars will be spent until they have a contract with the winner of the race. Overall, Hill took over 3 ½ minutes to respond to Josh’s 3-minute speech and was so rattled that he tried to end Commissioner’s Court without doing the usual Healthcare Foundation dance. Webb had to remind him. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!! The only oversight these clowns have is us which is why it’s vital for us to make them understand that being nibbled to death by ducks (the only power we have at the moment) is still uncomfortable.

Last week, a Collin County detention officer was arrested after a cell phone was found in an inmate’s cell. Officer Tyler Moody, 21, faces a felony charge of prohibited items in a correctional facility. Moody, who’s been a department employee for three years (since he was a TEENAGER!), admitted that he took the items into the jail and gave them to the inmate. No word yet on why although I’m guessing he knew the guy. Sheriff Jim Skinner immediately fired Moody, making sure the video of his termination and arrest was available for all to see. After all, he has to seem tough on crime. Whatever.

We must be free not because we claim freedom but because we practice it.

William Faulkner

Allen School Board: In my last column, I mentioned that a number of parents were upset at the closing of 2 schools on the east side. As it turns out, those parents may not be the most reliable narrators. Many are members of We the People of Allen PAC and are strongly in favor of school vouchers. They recently distributed an opposition flyer about this situation with one of the proposed solutions being to give parents “more choice” in which schools their children attend. Uh huh.

It sounds like the changes are being made for good reasons. Anderson Elementary will transform into a PreK and early childhood development center. Anderson had the lowest population of all the schools in the district and was costing AISD twice the money of students at other schools. AISD needs 30 classrooms for the number of students predicted for PreK. The district put this off for 3 years with a waiver from the TEA but the piper now needs to be paid given the Texas law requiring a full day PreK for special populations. The early childhood development program is for Special Education families with children under 5 getting services for either a half or full day. This has been a requirement for a long time. AISD has been changing this program to a new school every year but now finally gave it a home. Anderson meets the safety requirements and structural requirements for both programs.

Rountree is closing to students but is becoming an administration building. This school had low enrollment and its location alongside a six-lane street doesn’t allow it to work for the special populations early childhood education programs. It’s exhausting to be on your toes for every issue but the right-wing extremists demand it of us. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it means all hands on deck.

Local Politics: The election is getting closer by the day. If you know of people who aren’t sure who to vote for, please direct them to our “Dem Talks” video (our second one is coming soon!) on the Democrats running in Texas. Five strong Democrats took a fun afternoon to put this together for everyone’s viewing pleasure. Please feel free to pass it along!

Although elections are the lifeblood of our democracy, the work of governing never stops. If you want to positively impact democracy long-term, please 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 3

  1. If Chris Hill would have debated Josh Murray in a public forum, he wouldn’t have to break the rules and address him. But it is the only way for his radical behavior to fly under the radar.

    As for Bill Bilyeu, I woulds hope he knows what he is doing by now, but that type of role and salary level seems as if it should be reserved to someone with the education level it would require, such as an MPA. But our back woods mentality in the Court also has an RN running the piece meal health department rather than an MPH (which even Denton County knows they should have).

    The salaries of the Commissioners Court are gross.

    1. Post

      I agree with everything you said. I especially am frustrated with the way groups that host candidate forums, like the League of Women Voters, refuse to allow candidates to speak if their opponents don’t show up. That just encourages a lack of participation from incumbents in particular, the very people we need to hold accountable. In other words, I wish there had been enough pressure on Hill to force him into a debate with Josh.

      Their salaries ARE gross, especially since we have no idea how much work they’re doing for that large of an amount. How many hours a day do they work? What do they do? Your guess is as good as mine because they aren’t transparent at all.

  2. Awww, now I have to go watch Josh Murray enraging Chris Hill. I have to get my entertainment when I can. Because after that, I’m headed to the McKinney City Council meeting to hear them discuss redistricting. It’s anybody’s guess whether they’ll vote to reduce the power of our majority minority district AND our only councilmember of color. *sigh*

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