Collin County Politics: Take the Fight to Them

March 29, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 208,771 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,287 more cases than I reported last week and 1,479 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 11 people). I’m not sure what it means that new cases and deaths from Covid are holding steady. The BA.2 strain that’s been spreading in Europe is already in North Texas. It’s been here since January. Although new cases are still decreasing, a higher percentage of them are BA.2. Keep your fingers crossed.

Schools: The school situation is getting worse. It’s time to stop playing defense and start playing offense. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, parents and community members aren’t abusing school boards in good faith. They don’t truly care about our kids or public education. They don’t even really care about book banning; that’s just the current issue of outrage. They’ve gone from protesting mask mandates, to being outraged about CRT, SEL, and now it’s porn on library shelves. Soon it will be something else. That’s why we have to stop letting them call the shots.

Instead of keeping to their narrative, we must be laser-focused on what this is truly about and start calling them out. Republicans want to destroy public education so they can send our kids to private schools where they can dictate what they learn and make a profit along the way. Check out the section on the McKinney School Board below to see how Republican politicians are denying needed money to schools and controlling what little revenue we do have. If we don’t want any of this to happen, show up to school boards and talk about the importance of public education to our communities, our businesses, and our democracy. Tell the Angry Crowd that we’re on to them, that they’re being used in service of the Almighty Dollar and aren’t truly protecting children.

We also need to start calling them out for supporting Republicans who are definitely harming our children. For example, the first Covid aid package allowed schools to serve free meals to all students, regardless of income. This allowed 10 million students to eat for free every day. That authority is set to expire on June 30 and Mitch McConnell absolutely refuses to support extending it. If this happens, schools will have less money to cover the cost of higher-priced food and will face additional financial penalties for not meeting federal nutrition requirements. Kids will go hungry, especially children in rural communities. We must take the fight to these parents by accusing them of supporting leaders who don’t care if kids are hungry (which inhibits their ability to learn). Quit being nice and don’t mince words. They support people who hurt children.

Collin College: Earlier this month, the Tarrant County College board of trustees unanimously voted to fire Chancellor Eugene Giovannini, because he’d unlawfully retaliated against an employee. Apparently, they take ethics seriously and know that part of their job involves protecting their employees from harm by corrupt administrators. Collin College should take note.

They’re unlikely to do so, especially if the last board meeting is any indication. UTD professor Dr. Ben Wright told them that their “anti-intellectual intimidation, embarrassing mismanagement, and obvious political kow-towing has made Collin national news.” He added that the institution is broken and its reputation is in jeopardy since educators in the area and around the country are now telling students and faculty members to look elsewhere. It was a devastating speech that fell on deaf ears since the board quickly voted to give their heinous president, Neil Matkin, not only a raise but also a bonus. The only Nay vote came from Stacey Donald. Stacy Arias was absent. After all the men approved his raise, Raj Menon twisted the knife deeper by congratulating him. It’s enough to make you wonder what kind of blackmail material Matkin has on them.

Commissioner’s Court: Everyone was present for the 15-minute meeting. Three residents from Pecan Creek Farms spoke again on the issue of a property owner building a retaining wall so that their properties are flooded. This has been an ongoing issue for well over a year and they aren’t happy. One guy told the commissioners they’re going to be liable for the damage because they aren’t doing their job to uphold the laws on the books. He pointed out that they issued the permit to build a wall that diverts water onto their neighbors, something Texas law expressly forbids. In other words, he was insinuating that the commissioners don’t know what they’re doing. That was fun.

Josh Murray spoke on the agenda item about changing Cornerstone Temporary Staffing Agency from secondary to primary vendor for Elections Support Personnel. AppleOne Staffing was the primary vendor but the court wants to make them secondary because they increased their rates to$13.60/hour. The nerve of them wanting to compensate their employees more fairly! Cornerstone agreed to renew at the same price as last year, so they’re who we’re using now. This is how we staff our elections, by shortchanging the people willing to do the vital work of democracy. Given how much Republicans talk about election security, it seems odd they’d want low-paid workers doing this important job. But that’s our Commissioner’s Court: never willing to pay for anything, even when it’s essential.

Josh was making a larger point though. In 2013, when Collin’s population was a little over 850,000, we had 13 people in our Elections Department. In 2022, when our population is a little less than 1.2 million, we have 14 people in our Elections Department. Clearly, we’re not adequately staffing which means we must rely more heavily on temporary workers and the commissioners aren’t willing to pay them more than the bare minimum. None of this should be a surprise. They don’t pay their full-time employees enough to keep them and they can’t recruit new employees. What’s their plan for when we don’t have enough people to do the county’s work? Answer: they don’t have one. Remember that guy saying they don’t know what they’re doing? Here’s clear evidence he was right.

Frisco City Council: Welp, Tracie Shipman – our hope to balance Frisco City Council from its conservative tilt – lost by 125 votes. Her opponent, Laura Rummel, hangs with book banner Jared Patterson (HD106) and is affiliated with other far-right people. Shipman isn’t a Democrat and didn’t ask for our help. It’s downright infuriating that, despite all the evidence of Republican crazies, moderate Republicans still keep their distance from us. If they think the crazies will embrace moderate candidates, I’ve got news for them: they won’t. Not ever. We desperately need our own people to run for these positions but, in the meantime, we must support those who are at least moderate-ish. We didn’t. In fact, most of Frisco didn’t even vote.

Voter turnout was pathetic. Less than 4% of Frisco voters showed up. If we could’ve gotten more Dems to the polls, we could’ve won this seat! That’s true of every municipal election and especially run-offs. The VERY LEAST people can do to participate in our democracy – which we’re quickly losing, by the way – is vote and most can’t even take 10 minutes to do that.

If you can’t tell, I’m absolutely livid by our low turnouts for this and other local elections. If Democrats want ANY say in our local government, we MUST get out and vote!! This is why we can’t have nice things.

McKinney School Board: The school board meetings continue to be ridiculous. Before the craziness reached fever pitch though, they had a budget presentation. Although the numbers given were specific to MISD, the general issues apply to all Texas ISDs. I wish Republicans would listen to this information because the news isn’t good and it’s solely the fault of Greg Abbott and the Republicans in the state legislature. Simply put, the schools don’t have a lot of money and aren’t going to get a lot more in the coming year. Due to the utterly stupid No New Tax Rate law (passed by Republicans because they want to starve the state), even if property taxes go up, the state will lower other measures so the net gain to schools is zero.

If that isn’t bad enough, House Bill 3 (passed in 2019) ensured state control of school finances. The presenter actually said, HB3 has “put us in that situation.” Clearly, the guy isn’t a fan. This is part of Greg Abbott’s opposite of conservative idea about big government taking away local control. What this means for schools is that most of the additional revenue is from federal ESSER funds. You know, the Covid monies provided by the Democrats. However, the state legislature even found a way to mess that up since ESSER I and ESSER II are completely padding the state contribution, not what school districts pay. It’s exactly what they did with the Lotto money intended for education. Instead of adding more money to public education funding in general, they just subbed in the Lotto money as part of the state contribution. This is what Republicans do.

That’s not the end of the bad budgetary news. Since our state legislature inexplicably meets every other year (although given who’s in control, that may be a blessing), school funding formulas are frozen for the year they don’t meet. In 2020 when the legislature was in session, teacher and staff raises were at 2%. That means this year’s raises will be at 2% as well. In this period of significant wage inflation, that’s a tough pill for everyone to swallow, especially as it will be difficult for the district to do. The schools also may need to “right-size” existing teachers and staff if the student population decreases. We’re still going to have a balanced budget though. Yay?

The room was packed with people wearing green. One would hope they were there to hear about funding teacher raises and all the great programs we have for their precious little ones but that would require actually caring about education. No, the reason the Angry Crowd was present was that the board may censure Board Member Chad Green for violation of a penal code. Their lawyers told them not to say anything else and every single one of them, including Green, voted for an independent counsel to investigate.

Although the Board wouldn’t say what happened, here’s what we think occurred. Last fall, Green escorted Rachel Elliott (head of a book-banning PAC) and her 9-year-old daughter to all three MISD high school libraries where Elliott checked out The Perks of Being a Wallflower on her daughter’s behalf. She then claimed her daughter had access to “porn.” Can you imagine how awkward and weird it was for those librarians to have both a school board trustee and a parent show up out of the blue asking to check out a book? Setting up district employees and acting in bad faith isn’t a good look for a board member. Hopefully, it’s also illegal.

You’d think Republicans would be used to their leaders being in trouble with the law but apparently not. All his followers knew was that their guy (he of the gigantic hat) was in trouble and they were going to support him no matter what. At one point they were yelling at the Board, “Tell us what he did!” like the angry mob they are. It got so bad Board President Amy Dankel had to ask the police officers present to escort out anyone who continued yelling. It calmed down a bit after that although the public comments section of the meeting was a joke.

The Elliots forced their poor daughter to speak about how she dislikes assigned seating in the cafeteria. She’s obviously been coached. Most of the speakers said they’re against sex (how I wish that were true, then we wouldn’t have to worry about them breeding), CRT, and SEL. Several read from the Bible (only the nice parts though) while others read aloud from books they didn’t like. One high school student pointed out that reading all 282 books would take close to a year and is impossible. He also said there’s no logical consistency to why books are on the list. Needless to say, the audience started yelling at him. Imagine specifically stating you’re trying to protect children while verbally harassing one.

Although he’s not supposed to comment on non-agenda item speeches, Green – clearly not one who cares about obeying rules – asked if they could put the books on the agenda to deal with. Amy Dankel replied (with barely concealed irritation) that he knows there’s a process but they’ll consider it. It seemed like she just said that in order to move forward. At least, I hope so because if they choose not to follow their own rules, that’s terrible. The book banners have been repeatedly told there’s a review process in place they must follow. They don’t want to do that though because they want their say so to be the only method used to remove books. That way, banning books is much easier. Sheesh!

Prosper School Board: The district is going down a dangerous path (much like Granbury ISD) in that they’re removing books without going through the official review process. The district says they’ve removed 22 books while other reports have the number as 30. In their official statement, they mentioned they’re also re-evaluating the vendors they use to buy books and have consulted with their state representatives on this matter. Oh, dear. This means Justin Holland and (cue Darth Vader music) Jared Patterson, a big fan of being a jerk and banning books. It seems like someone high up in the administration has taken it upon themselves to implement this ban since some of the school board had no knowledge of this until questions started being asked. At least one asked that the ban be overturned until they can investigate.

LWAN member Holly Draper has been spearheading efforts to read and write reviews about the books on the ban lists. What she and her group have found are thoughtful books exploring difficult topics, many of which have good lessons for young readers. Some books had nothing objectionable at all but were only on the list because the Angry Crowd doesn’t like the authors. As you might expect, the book banners don’t like these reviews because they show them in a bad light. We all need to get out our tiny violins!

Richardson City Council: Something interesting and positive happened at the meeting of the District Boundary Commission. This is a group formed after a new census is taken (every 10 years) to determine if changes should be made to city council district boundaries in order to even out the district after the most recent population changes. Although Richardson currently has at-large voting for all city council positions – something I’ve mentioned in previous columns – that could change. Richardson ISD was forced to move to single-member districts via a Voting Rights Act lawsuit in 2019. The city of Richardson and Richardson ISD governing areas share approximately 35% of the same area, so the city could be flipped to support either single-member districts or ranked-choice voting. Hopefully, it won’t take a lawsuit for them to realize this change.

City staff recommended a maximum population deviation of no more than 10% across all districts and presented 2 options to the commissioners. Option A met all requirements. However, Option B doesn’t quite meet all the requirements because it would split the CityLine neighborhood. This is a major mixed-use development that centers around the State Farm corporate hub and includes many different apartment communities along with retail, dining, and open spaces to enjoy concerts, etc. Interestingly, both options move the Mark Twain neighborhood from District 4 to District 1 and could create a minority opportunity voting district if we move to a single-member district voting system.

Until this public hearing, several commissioners didn’t see the CityLine neighborhood as something that should be given the “neighborhood splitting” consideration (neighborhoods aren’t supposed to be separated). LWAN member Justin Neth submitted the only public comment in which he corrected some assumptions about the CityLine neighborhood and pointed out how they’ve been working to establish a community. He asked for all of CityLine to stay in District 4 and urged commissioners to choose Option A.

This is where it gets good because the majority of the commissioners actually listened to citizen input! At least 4 of the commissioners admitted that Justin’s thoughtful public comment raised issues they hadn’t considered and, as such, changed their minds. They voted 7-1 to approve Option A. Sam Chavez, Director of Development Services for Richardson said, “What’s unique in the public comment received today is that the vision for CityLine was to create a community. And this gentleman, in writing, said that ‘We are a community’. And so, that vision came to fruition today…” Wow! Justin for the win!!

Local Politics: Although this isn’t necessarily local, it’s still important to note that Willie Nelson had a difficult time voting absentee in the primary. If that happened to him, it’s certainly going to happen to others and that includes voters in Collin County. Constant vigilance is needed!

If we want to save our democracy, we must be willing to fight. That means we must know where the fight is, like protecting your neighborhood from redistricting, engaging with school boards, or showing up to vote. It’s vital to know what’s going on at the municipal level and what we can do to change things. Please sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. As you’ve seen, LWAN members are at the forefront of our fight but we need you to join us. Everyone is welcome. All you need to do is contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 2

  1. Wow. Stellar, wide-ranging review. Thank you for writing. And thank you to the LWAN reporters. You’re doing an awesome job!

  2. Thank you. Clearly we all need to be more involved in our communities, otherwise the Angry People will take it over and make it in their own image

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