Collin County Politics: Take an Interest in Government

September 6, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 252,496 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 3,472 more cases than I reported last week and 1,543 of our Collin residents have died (7 additional deaths). While many of the counties around us – Dallas, Denton, Rockwall, Hunt – are all Low, our transmission level remains Medium. I wonder what we’re doing differently. Don’t forget that the new omicron booster rolled out this week! The updated Pfizer booster is available for people at least 12 years old who have received their primary vaccinations at least two months prior. New booster doses of the Moderna vaccine are only available for people 18 and older.

ICYMI: Oddly enough, employees at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) don’t like investigating the parents of transgender youth and they’re doing something about it. In an August 25 brief filed with the Austin appeals court, 16 current and former DFPS employees said the agency is on the brink of collapse as many have left the agency. They asked the court to keep the politically-motivated abuse investigations on hold while the policy is litigated. They’re afraid that if the court doesn’t do that, more DFPS employees will quit and the agency won’t be able to perform basic and necessary functions.

The DFPS is filled with dedicated employees trying to do their best for children and families even though they’re perpetually understaffed and underfunded. No wonder they’re furious that Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, and their Republican cronies are making their jobs much harder by encouraging them to break up loving families simply following medical advice. If the agency buckles under the pressure, our most vulnerable children will pay the price. Please tell your Republican friends and family: Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton don’t care about children or families.

Education: The Grapevine-Colleyville School Board is still in the news as a group of pissed-off parents hired a law firm to demand several North Texas schools – Carroll Southlake, Keller, and Grapevine-Colleyville ISDS – remove posters emblazoned with “In God We Trust” donated by a Patriot Mobile, a conservative (performative) Christian company. You see, instead of fixing the grid or passing laws that would actually make life better for Texans, the state legislature passed a fun new statute requiring schools to display posters of the national motto if donated. The bill also stipulates that such signs cannot depict words other than “In God We Trust” or images other than the state and American flags.

The Patriot Mobile posters feature light stars in the background and are noncompliant for other reasons as well. As such, the Kaplan Law Firm is issuing cease and desist letters to area districts that do not replace those signs with new ones being donated by parents which feature rainbow lettering. Those sound nice. Is this whole thing stupid? Yes but our state legislatures are clearly fine with Texas becoming a Fight Club in which all of us snitch on and sue each other. Fun!

It’s clear that if we want a diverse and inclusive school curriculum, we’re going to have to fight for it. This year, the State Board of Education was supposed to update the social studies curriculum. Things were looking good as they were evaluating a recommendation for Texas students to spend kindergarten through second grade learning about Texas, U.S., and world history. From the third to fifth grades, students would have focused on world history. In grades sixth through eighth, students would have focused on American and Texas history.

The proposal would have eliminated dedicated years — fourth and seventh grades — for students to study Texas history specifically. Other proposed updates included teaching second graders about Juneteenth with a book that describes George Floyd’s murder as “brutal” and “race-driven” and how the incident spurred national attention to the holiday. The LGBTQ Pride movement would have been taught in eighth grade alongside the Civil Rights and women’s liberation movements. All of that sounds great! In other words, they would’ve been taught actual history instead of glossing over the difficult parts. You can imagine how well that went over with the extremists.

While the TEA applauded the increased teaching of Texas history overall since it would’ve been taught in more grade levels, the extremists argued it diminished the teaching of Texas exceptionalism and promoted a “globalist” agenda. Typical. They don’t like facts, so they try to avoid them. Since our current Republican legislators in the state house have nothing better to do with their time – they certainly don’t want to fix the grid or deal with the healthcare debacle they created with their stupid and tragic abortion law – the Texas Freedom Caucus wrote a letter to the education board threatening legislative intervention if no “substantial changes” were made to the proposal.

Their bullying worked. The SBOE members took a step to delay the revision until 2025. This is bad because delaying the process could allow more conservative, “anti-critical race theory” candidates to be on the board when the standards are finally revisited. If so, they probably will ignore the darker parts of American history and insist students learn the value of patriotism and hear about Christianity and the role of Jesus. If we want to prevent this nonsense, you know what to do: donate to and vote for Alex Cornwallis in November!

On the heels of the allegations against a Prosper school bus driver sexually assaulting students came news about 3 other local teachers who’ve been arrested for having sex with underage students. An Allen middle school teacher was indicted for two separate incidents of abusing children, an Irving teacher (who previously worked in Plano ISD) was arrested again – yes, you read that correctly, AGAIN – for indecency with a child, and a teacher’s aide in Mesquite has been charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child.

I know only minimal details about each case but as far as I can tell, most of these events happened during and after 2020. As we all know, schools have been literally besieged during that time by issues related to the pandemic, school safety, and harassment by Republicans. Hundreds of educators have quit and schools are doing their best to survive. Is it any surprise that some things have fallen through the cracks?

Allen School Board: Leave it to AISD to fly under the radar in figuring out how to cave to parents. Buried in the consent agenda was an item spearheaded by Jennifer Wilhelm, Assistant Superintendent of Learner Services that recommended a reorganization of EF (LOCAL). This is how the board selects and reviews instructional resources, including instructional materials (those used in the classroom) and library materials. In April, the TEA provided districts with a handy option to address instructional materials and library materials separately. In May, the Texas Association of School Boards followed suit. The policy recommended by Wilhelm does just that: EFA (LOCAL) will pertain to instructional materials while EFB (LOCAL) will address library materials.

The one public speaker (the McKinney School Board is jealous!) thought the split option was a dandy idea but had some suggestions. She wanted to add parent committees so they can have input into both policy areas. Isn’t it sad that I’m deeply suspicious of parental involvement in schools these days? I simply don’t trust the parents arguing in support of “parent empowerment” because it’s code for vouchers and book banning and is done in bad faith. This lady was no exception since, based on the policy, it’s clear parents already have input. Did she want more? No thanks! She also wanted to put deadlines on the reconsideration process so it isn’t drawn out. That isn’t doable, especially if there are multiple challenges. Good.

Elle Holland commented that the public should be reassured that textbook publishers cannot make edits or change the content in any way without getting permission from the district to do so. Glad we have that squared away. She also wasted time wanting to change the word complainant to challenger in the policy because it’s “softer” for the upset parents. Boo hoo. Holland was informed that it’s a complaint process and is the word used in many of their formal processes. Sam Abiog smiled in what I’m sure she believed was a winning fashion as she thanked Wilhelm and her staff for answering her questions and telling them to direct parents to their specific campus. Yeesh! These two!

Board President Amy Gnadt said she likes the split policy because it aligns the appropriate personnel with their policy and cleans up the process for complainants. That sounds reasonable (as does the policy) but I don’t buy it. The timing of this policy by the politically motivated TEA is suspect. Why did they change it now? And why is AISD spending time on it? Unlike McKinney ISD, AISD hasn’t had any complaints this school year or last. Are they expecting some or is this their way of siding with the extremists without looking like they are? Who determines “community standards” and “prurient interest”? Also, both Holland and Abiog seemed fine with it which automatically makes me suspicious. It seems like the split process will make it easier for the extremists to ban books.

AISD has more pressing issues though with Curtis Middle School teacher, Tony Mattei, indicted for “intentionally and knowingly” engaging in sexual contact with a child under the age of 17 in two separate incidents in August and September of 2021. One of the big problems for AISD is that Mattei faced a misconduct allegation back in April. The district investigated, was “unable to sustain the allegation” and returned him to the classroom. I’m sure there are going to be lots of questions about how that investigation was conducted.

McKinney City Council: They held a Special Session to consider appointments to boards and commissions. The City Secretary read out suggestions from council members and noted whether there was “consensus” (at least 3 council members who made the same recommendation) in the suggestions. Huh. How likely is it that 3 members independently made the same recommendations without discussions? Maybe that doesn’t meet the quorum restrictions, but it still smacks of “putting their thumbs on the scales.” Given the propensity of 4 of them to do it before, this feels shady.

The first board to be considered was the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), aka “the money board” which directs and coordinates the expansion of the city’s business tax base and promotes sustainable job growth. It’s incredibly important and what happened with it gave the flavor of what happened during the rest of the meeting. The current board has 1 woman, 1 person of color, and no representation at all from District 1 (D1), the district with the largest number of people of color. Mayor George Fuller tried to quickly push through a white guy, Mark Dennison, because he has a “wealth” of experience (my pun is intended). Justin Beller and Dr. Gere Feltus weren’t having it.

Beller insisted there needs to be a better nomination process so that boards & commissions look like the people they represent. He pointed out that, not only has there not been anyone from D1 for at least the last 10 years but Beller himself is unable to attend the MEDC executive sessions (where they make all their big decisions) because there are already two Council liaisons and the mayor attending. This is a quorum issue in that 4 council members would mean requiring the meetings to be public. I’m not against that but apparently, they are. Thus, there’s no D1 representation on the board at all. To change this disparity, Beller nominated Derrick Robinson, a black man so qualified he should be a shoo-in. Feltus agreed, pointing out that no candidates east of 75 have ever been on MEDC. Fuller smugly said geography will never be a deciding factor for him. There’s no doubt about that since money is his deciding factor.

Fuller went on to say he will always look at life experience instead. Exactly! I mean, where you live has no impact at all on your life experience. I’m sure Rick Franklin (aka Clueless, Greedy Sheep) growing up wealthy in a good ole boy majority white town had no impact whatsoever on who he knows, the opportunities he’s had, and how he’s lived his life in general. Ugh! This is the kind of classically banal racist and classist nonsense Fuller, Rainey Rogers (aka Sexist, Racist Uncle), Clueless, Greedy Sheep, and Charlie Phillips say ALL the time. We need to stop letting them get away with it.

The back and forth went on for a while with Feltus saying that year after year the Council struggles to put someone east of 75 on MEDC but continues to make the same excuses as to why they can’t. Her pleas went unheard though as most of the council aren’t interested in democracy or fairness. Sexist, Racist Uncle (of course) agreed with Dennison. Patrick Cloutier said he could support Robinson as an alternate or for another board. This didn’t happen, so nice try Cloutier. Don’t make me come up with a name for you! The motion to approve the white guy passed 5-2. I guess community service doesn’t matter if you’re black and going up against a white dude. Typical.

Another disturbing issue came up with the other money board, the McKinney Community Development Corporation. It turns out that the council actually created an Ad-Hoc position (Sexist, Racist Uncle didn’t know what Ad-Hoc meant) on the board for Joy Booth, she of the anti-mask craziness, so they could appoint her to a “placeholder” position with the understanding that Booth would be made a regular member the next year. Well, would you look at that! They can find a way to put their own VIPs on boards when they put their minds to it. Good to know. Booth’s husband, Greg, was made a regular member of another board. How cozy! There are over 200,000 people in McKinney and a ton of applications for boards and commissions but somehow one married couple managed to get on 2 important boards. I wonder why.

The takeaway from these appointments was that women are in short supply, especially on “important” boards. There isn’t one at all on Planning and Zoning. People of color are also under-represented as are residents from D1. Prominent MAGA Republicans, toxic people like Matt Hamilton of Local Yokel, not only get appointed regularly but also have good ole boy council members talk about how great they are. Yuck! Brian Magnuson, a public school teacher who homeschools his kids and has indoctrinated them thoroughly to be “patriots” (he ran for council and his campaign was awful) is now an alternate over a board member of the McKinney Area Democrats. And how odd that 2 council members had to step out for votes since family members were being considered for positions. What are the odds?

If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.


Plano City Council: The topic of short-term rentals continues to dominate the public speaking time as 6 of the 10 speakers commented on it. One speaker was very insulting towards renters, while another speaker defended them. She mentioned the lack of affordable housing is bad and hopes the council will come up with creative solutions. Me too. Alex Stein, whose brand of personal comedy is uncomfortable and serves only to waste time, showed up. He rapped at a Richardson City Council meeting not too long ago, so expect him to do the entire tour of North Texas city councils. Other than showcasing his lack of talent, I’m not sure what Stein thinks he’s achieving.

Council members discussed approving a contract with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for roughly $140,000 for the Homeless Housing and Services Program (HHSP). The State allocates general funds for an HHSP grant to any municipality with a population of 285,000 or more. I wonder why that number was chosen. Both Frisco and McKinney are almost there but not quite. Plano is one of only 9 cities that receive HHSP funds used for helping homeless persons find housing.

In 2022, Plano chose the Salvation Army to administer the Rapid Re-Housing Program. Since 2018, the Plano HHSP program has helped 73 people obtain housing, 18 of whom were children. To date, 46 people have maintained their housing at least three months after exiting the program. While I’m deeply grateful Plano is at least trying to assist its homeless residents, the number of people helped seems small. Perhaps it’s because $140,000 doesn’t go very far, especially since it’s supposed to cover a city of almost 300,000 people. Given the vast amount of funds the state has in the Rainy Day Fund and in the General Reserve gained from recapture, it’s clear Texas doesn’t care about our unhoused population. I’m shocked. Council members unanimously approved this contract as well as a similar one for $44,473 for a Youth Set-Aside program.

During the public hearing on the 2022-23 Recommended Budget for the Proposed Community Investment Program (CIP) and the Proposed Ad Valorem Tax Rate, the Director of Budget & Research told the council that city staff lowered the No New Revenue tax rate, decreased the operation budget, and CIP is now higher than it was. Rick Grady warned everyone to tighten their belts as property tax rates may have to go up to fund the projects. Rick Smith wants to take care of today’s citizens and not worry about the future. That seems short-sighted. Shelbie Williams wanted a maintenance projection for 30 years but the City Manager shut that down. He told him that 5 to 15% is reasonable because we can’t foresee 30 years in the future.

Council members also heard from the Comprehensive Planning Manager about the Tax Exemption Program for Historic Structures. He proposed procedures be modified so the Heritage Commission would consider appeals, as was done prior to 2019. He also proposed a one-time waiver from eligibility requirements that allows property owners to receive a 50% reduction in their eligible exemption percentage. The council will take some time to consider this. Perhaps they should ask why we’re beautifying historic commercial buildings in a suburb of no historical importance while there are people who can’t afford to rent a home, let alone buy a historic one.

Prosper School Board: I’m sure the Prosper School Board trustees wished to be anywhere other than at their last meeting as lots of angry parents (with nary a mask in sight) packed into the building to yell at them over how the district handled the sexual abuse allegations against a school bus driver. They were furious that the district hadn’t immediately told parents whose kids rode that bus what was going on. The district told the press they’d notified the parents ahead of the lawsuit but this clearly isn’t true. Several speakers called for the superintendent to resign.

One of the reasons why it’s important to let people know about sexual assault allegations is that there may be other victims who will need help. That’s exactly what’s happening now as other Prosper ISD families are contacting attorneys with similar stories about the bus driver. One attorney said, “And something this brazen, it’s not going to be the first time that he’s done something like this.” As a family psychologist, I completely agree. That’s likely true for all of the teachers arrested recently. It’s ironic (and deeply tragic) that many extremist parents are running around complaining about the books grooming kids when they ignore the actual grooming going on right under their noses.

The Prosper school board has since hired an independent law firm to review and investigate the district’s response to the allegations and overall situation. In other words, they’re trying to get cover from this situation. Yeah, good luck with that.

Local Politics: I don’t assume for one second that the nonsense surrounding appointments to boards and commissions is only happening in McKinney. I fully expect the same profile (white, male, heterosexual, evangelical Christian, over 60, real estate/banking affiliated, upper-socioeconomic class, and donors to council members/Collin County Commissioners) to be true of leadership positions all over Collin County. This is how Republicans build their bench! This is also how they gain footholds in important local decisions. We need to do the same.

One way to build your credentials with city council members is for them to get to know you. And what better way to do that than to attend council meetings? If nothing else, we need to know who they’re considering for future leadership positions and make sure we let them know who we support and who we don’t. But to do that, each and every one of us must get engaged in local politics. 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. I can’t even imagine the horror of finding out your little girl had been abused on the school bus over 100 times. I don’t know how the child recovers from that. Just horrifying.

    On the bright side in McKinney, I do feel the council did slightly better this year on their appointments to boards and commissions. Slightly. But there is still much room for improvement.

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