Collin County Politics: Secure the Good for Us All

August 9, 2022

Picture: CCDP Local Politics Director, Dr. Misty Hook, and MADC Board Member, Julie Luton, at the Cooke County Democratic Party for an outreach presentation on growing their local Democratic Party. They were also there supporting their dad, Denny Hook, who’s running for Cooke County Judge.

Covid Update: Collin County has 243,505 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 2,886 more cases than I reported last week and 1,530 of our Collin residents have died (4 additional deaths). Our transmission level is still High.

Monkeypox Update: If we don’t get our public health system under control, soon this column might consist of nothing but virus updates. Our response to Monkeypox hasn’t been great. As John Oliver said on Sunday night, “From 1 to 100, we rated a No!” We went quickly from a few cases to 8,934 infections. Texas is one of the hardest hit states with 702 cases. In looking at the map, it makes sense that our largest states and those areas with large populations (like New York City) would have a large number of infected people but what’s going on in Illinois? It must be Chicago.

To John Oliver’s point, I tried to get information about the number of cases in Collin County and it was difficult. The Texas Department of State Health Services website is supposed to be updated daily yet there’s been a significant lag. Chris Hill finally sent out an email today (from his campaign account, not an official one) saying we’ve had 14 cases in Collin County. Of course, he had to mention the people infected “are related to a specific lifestyle.” What a loser. Dallas County has the highest number of monkeypox cases than any other county in the state. And if we learned anything from Covid, we know that a virus never stays in one place.

Education: The State Board of Education (SBOE) continues to work on adopting a social studies curriculum to be used for the next 10 years. During this process, one of the History Work Groups submitted a draft proposal replacing the word “slavery” with “involuntary relocation” for 2nd-grade public school children. The outcry was fierce and forced an immediate change to the verbiage, with some board members pretending they’d never agree to such awful wording. Maybe but maybe not.

Last week’s special session began well with plenty of supporters requesting inclusive TEKS. The SBOE agreed to pass all ethnic studies courses. Workgroup members were allowed to explain how they developed the suggested standards. However, after the session ended, board member Pat Hardy introduced edits and TEKS created by her own group of conservative educators. As you might suspect, these weren’t great and weren’t nearly as inclusive as most people wanted. Tellingly, only conservative board members knew about the standards ahead of time. As such, the public hasn’t been given access to them and they haven’t been vetted by all members of the board, especially Democrats. Yet the board voted to allow the workgroups to move forward with their work or they could choose to use what Hardy presented.

Delaying the process brings its own risks though. The SBOE will lose 6 Members next year and 3 are being replaced by extreme far-right conservatives. These include Julie Pickren who was at the insurrection and Aaron Kinsey who promised to “fight CRT like I fought the Taliban.” Fantastic. If we can’t get a social studies curriculum before these extremists get onto the SBOE, they’ll have the final say in the history standards SBOE adopts. Elections matter, folks, as does active participation in the Democratic process.

Commissioner’s Court: All commissioners were present for the close to 2-hour meeting last week. Much of the time was spent listening to presentations about the salaries and benefits of county law enforcement personnel. It was a dry, hard-to-hear presentation that went on for far too long. Perhaps that was Chris Hill’s plan as he, once again, put Public Comments last on the agenda. He was successful in getting 2 scheduled speakers to leave. I recognized their names. They’re election conspiracy theorists so I didn’t miss them but that isn’t the point.

Six of the right-wing extremists remained. One guy complained about ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit organization with the sole mission of assisting states to improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls. They don’t believe ERIC’s numbers are accurate, so his group “traced” over 200 Collin County voters to figure out if they were eligible. This is ominous.

The ramblings of older white Republicans about “free and fair elections” seems harmless until you look at the larger historical picture. The construction of a world based on lies is a key component of authoritarians’ takeover of democratic societies. Philosopher Hannah Arendt said, “The ideal subject for [a] dictator isn’t those who are committed to an ideology, but rather people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist.” In other words, if Beto or any other Democrat manages to win in November, will these people accept the victories? I’m afraid they won’t which is exactly what our local Republican party wants.

Another thing to keep in mind. North Texas is home to 24 people arrested in connection with the insurrection, including Stewart Rhodes of Granbury, leader of the Oath Keepers. Guy Reffitt, the January 6th rioter just sentenced to 7 years, is from Wylie. Many of the homegrown terrorists are still here.

Allen School Board: During the Safe and Secure Schools Initiative presentation, they bragged that AISD has been at the forefront of School Safety and Security. This is doubtful, especially given the leadership and some of their proposals. The Director of District Safety and Transportation is Kyle Purcifull, who went from teacher to several leadership roles including “security specialist.” Let’s hope he’s completed a LOT of external training. The Director of Safety and Security, hired in May, is Todd Blessing who is former FBI, SWAT leader, and Active Shooter Trainer. These are great qualities for storming the building after a shooter is already inside but I wonder if he knows how to keep people out and be proactive.

After Uvalde, you’d think AISD would want every bit of security and protection expertise they can get but you’d be wrong. A group consisting of someone with 20+ years of federal law enforcement experience plus other Secret Service Agents with kids in AISD repeatedly offered free facility surveys and any other advice they could provide – that’s what they do for a living, protect people so know they how to secure facilities – but the individuals in charge had no experience in facility protection and refused all volunteer help because were focused only on what the insurance would cover or allow. I’m shocked but not shocked at AISD’s lack of rigor in the hiring process of school security. After all, look what happened in their hiring process for cybersecurity last year: they got hacked. Apparently, they didn’t learn the lesson that you need to hire people who actually know what they’re doing. Let’s just hope AISD students and employees don’t suffer from the hubris of the school board like they did with the cyberhacking.

The chiefs of both APD and AFD were present to indicate “their level of partnership” and received all the accolades the board could provide. I’m all for praising a job well done but I wish the board would have the same level of congratulation for their educators. Both APD and AFD worked with the district on their Threat Assessment Program and said they have a coordinated response system from both entities that doesn’t exist in many cities. That’s good. What’s less good is when Pursifull mentioned 3M Window Film as “hardening” our vestibules and front facing windows. It makes it harder to see through but does NOT harden anything. This seems misleading.

It’s also not great that, when covering the Personnel part of this plan (including SROs, Campus Security Officers, Safe and Secure Schools Department, etc.), counselors were never mentioned. Perhaps this was merely an oversight but maybe not. People always underestimate the contribution of counselors because our work is often preventative in nature, especially when it comes to security. But then we have to clean up the mess after our efforts have been undermined and devalued. It’s galling that Blessing seems to believe untrained individuals, like those in the Watchdog program, are going to be the key instead of relying on highly trained professionals, like counselors. Watchdogs is a volunteer program run by each Elementary PTA where one dad per day is on campus. It’s weird that AISD seems to be relying on untrained men being reactive to a threat instead of working closely with a profession that’s mostly women in order to be proactive. Regardless of whether or not they’re being sexist, believing the Watchdog program is a boon to security is ridiculous. I sincerely doubt one undertrained dad will make a lick of difference in an active shooter situation.

After Elle Holland asked if they monitor text messages between students (because she apparently is “alarmed” by her own daughter’s texts), they discussed “tip reporting” and “crime stoppers” as ways the community can get involved. That’s weak. There are plenty of ways the community can get involved, ones that would be more useful, but the board is satisfied with useless jargon (“threat-base, intel driven”) and platitudes (“We’re all about Allen around here”) instead of actual solutions. True empirically driven fixes come from gun safety measures, building relationships, and other mental health-based programs but no one wants to hear that. They’re way too busy congratulating themselves for making our schools more like prisons while also keeping them unsafe.

For example, later in the meeting, the board unanimously passed a second amendment to Interlocal Agreement for School Resource Officers Program which will increase the number of SROs from 13 to 15. I’ve talked about the problems inherent in SRO programs in a previous column and will again in another one. I continue to find it amazing that so many school districts place so many resources into SROs when there’s little empirical data to show effectiveness and a ton of data that demonstrates harm, especially to students of color.

In yet another move to make students feel more like they’re in prison, the board voted unanimously to make 2 changes to the Student Code of Conduct. They removed language asking students to agree to the code since school districts have the right to impose any and all sanctions and there’s no actual need for the student to agree to the terms. If you’re a student in Allen ISD, you by default agree to the Student Code of Conduct. They’re also removing the requirement for administrators to have reasonable cause to search student desks, lockers, or other school-owned property. They still need reasonable cause to search personally owned items. This approach feels very punitive. Surely there’s a better way to get students on board with acting ethically other than shoving it down their throats. Come on, AISD. Do better.

McKinney City Council: If you’ll recall, at their July 19th meeting, Rainey Rogers got all upset when Dr. Gere Feltus and Justin Beller refused to vote for the worst plan that Rogers wanted. He snapped at Beller that he just likes affordable housing. I don’t think it’s an insult to want people to be able to have a roof over their heads. Then he accused Feltus of telling him one thing earlier and now telling him the opposite (lying), putting her desire to get re-elected before the interests of her constituents (selfishness), and claiming that she gave up something but is now giving up nothing (lying and cheating). When Rogers threw his tantrum, other than Beller, no one said a word. There was a long silence though so it’s doubtful it went unnoticed. Way to police yourself, guys! That’s a good look!

At their work session last week, Rogers haltingly and reluctantly apologized to Beller but not Feltus. I’m not certain if that’s an indication of his sexism or his racism or both. This is problematic. Clearly, Rogers needs both a sensitivity course and a lesson on the 3 steps of an apology. This is especially infuriating because back in January 2020, Mayor George Fuller seemed willing to address problems like this. In a meeting with Flourish, a community group dedicated to better and more inclusive government, he agreed to develop a Race and Culture Task Force made up of a cross-section of citizens and leaders; establish a Cultural Awareness Training as ongoing practice for the Mayor, City Council and City staff; and create space for difficult conversations around issues that may impact the City and community from ethical and business vantage points (covering challenging topics like affordable/balanced housing in high-impact areas). Then, he apparently just forgot about his promises and nothing happened. Pathetic. Perhaps if we got a group of realtors or developers to suggest it, Fuller would make it happen.

The city of McKinney has had a number of problems around racial issues, from the police brutality against teens at a pool party to recalling a Black city council member in a shady way to refusing to remove an ugly Confederacy-tainted statue from the town square. We need to do better than this if we are to move into the future and we can’t do that with a city council member who can’t seem to behave in a fair and equitable way even to his own peers.

I have my own history with Rogers, or rather, his wife. Several years ago, I emailed the remarks I planned to give at the city council meeting about the problems McKinney has with racial issues to the city council. I was new to speaking at meetings and thought I was supposed to do that. Imagine my surprise when I received a response, not from any of the city council members, but from Tammy, Rainey Rogers’ wife. She informed me that I was wrong about McKinney having a problem with race (I wasn’t), requested I not speak at the meeting (I did anyway), and offered to meet with me so she could show me the error of my ways (she clearly doesn’t know me). After my speech at what was an extremely confrontational meeting, I agreed to meet with Tammy. I never heard from her. It’s almost as if she wasn’t sincere about having a dialogue.

Richardson City Council: The last several months have seen problems within the city government come home to roost. In March, two police officers (now out on leave due to harassment) filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the department requires illegal traffic ticket quotas and uses them as criteria for advancement and demotions. Such quota systems are illegal under the Texas Transportation Code. Police Chief Gary L. Tittle denied RPD has traffic ticket quotas and an outside law firm hired by the to investigate the allegations concluded that there was no evidence of a quota system. That would be all well and good except that documents obtained by the Dallas Morning News directly contradict this. Oops.

A second scandal wound down last week when a court decided that former mayor, Laura Maczka, and her now husband, developer Mark Jordan, will each be serving 6 years in prison for bribery and tax fraud. In 2013, Maczka was elected to a two-year term as mayor after running on a platform that included opposition to apartments near homes. However, she soon started voting for Jordan’s Palisades development despite intense opposition from hundreds of nearby homeowners, some of whom had been her friends. In total, she voted three times to approve his rezoning requests and also to allow the city to negotiate a $47 million reimbursement deal with him. During this, the two started an affair and ended up marrying. They’ve had two trials and now will have to serve their sentences.

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

Jane Addams

Local Politics: It’s a struggle to convince people how important our local political entities are to our democracy. As I keep saying: this is where the decisions are made that affect you the most. It’s the heartbeat of democracy. But if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Steve Bannon. Earlier this year, he laid out his plan for how his right-wing extremist followers would take over: through school boards and city councils. Given the low voter turnout for municipal elections, Bannon believes it won’t take much for Republican crazies to get elected (he’s right about that), and then “You can kind of deal out death [to democracy] by a million paper cuts.”

I keep telling y’all: this stuff matters! The takeover is already happening. School board members are supposed to care about…you know…schools, like teachers and students. Yet many of the anti-CRT people recently elected to local school boards couldn’t be bothered to show up for teacher orientation or convocations. Chad Green of McKinney was missing as was Elle Holland of Allen and (as far as I can tell) Marvin Lowe of Frisco. Stephanie Elad of Frisco chose to attend CPAC to further her career instead of doing dull school board stuff. Unless we get it together and stop people like this, our democracy gets worse and it’s already hanging by a thread.

I don’t know how else to emphasize that we must show up to these meetings and make sure we know what decisions they’re making! It can be fascinating and it’s definitely necessary. 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 2

  1. Re: racism in McKinney. I watched a city council meeting recently where an African-American woman described how she was out jogging (in her own neighborhood, as I recall) when a pickup drove by and the occupants yelled racist epithets at her. She tried to see where the truck went, but no luck. The mayor—who does have some humanity—sounded rather upset (but he’s not going to do anything).

    Re: local elections. I am also frustrated at how little attention most people pay to state legislative elections. The legislature is the body that passes anti-abortion laws! Also anti-CRT laws! Also the budget that determines how much state money goes to public schools, to state hospitals, to Child Protective Services, to foster care programs, to teacher pensions, to the governor’s border debacle—and on and on.
    The new HD 70–I think it’s mostly Plano with a sliver of north Dallas—is a “Democratic opportunity” district, but it’s not a sure thing by any means! It’s really important for us to get Mihaela Plesa elected. I was in the old HD 70 (with Scott Sanford!) but now I’m in the new HD 61–with the wonderful Sheena King as our candidate. I’ve met many people who don’t know what Texas house district they’re in after redistricting (even though we’ve had primaries). Please find out.

  2. Why, what a lovely photo that is opening your blog post! :-). “Death by a million paper cuts” is exactly what’s happening. They are sneaky, determined, and without morals. We have to be aware and fight (morally) for our democracy.

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