Collin County Politics: The Rumbling of the Volcano

December 14, 2021

Covid Update: Collin County has 135,270 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,617 more cases than I reported last week and 1,190 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 15 people who died since last week). Just because the death rate is down is no reason to get complacent! The word from skilled nursing facilities is that post-Covid patients – almost all unvaxxed – are overtaxing their resources, including lots of healthcare provider burnout. Patients are spending months recuperating and are dealing with negative effects to a number of areas, including their kidneys, lungs, and heart. They’re also experiencing a decrease in cognitive abilities and problems with neurological functioning. Some are paralyzed. Here’s my weekly broken-record plea: Wear. Your. Mask.

State-wide: Since Covid is still a problem, you’d think school districts would do everything they can to secure the safety of their students and staff. You’d be wrong. An $800 million federal grant for Covid testing in Texas schools is being largely unused. Reasons for the refusal to use the money include logistical hurdles and paperwork issues, families uninterested in getting their children tested on campus (because then they’d have to quarantine and not be able to infect others), and a dearth of campus nurses to administer the tests. I looked at several Collin ISDs to see if any have used their allotted millions. Of the Allen, Frisco, McKinney, and Plano ISDs, only Allen used any at all. They used $4,800 out of the over $2 million they were given. The schools need to do better. Start contacting your school boards!

“When Fascism came into power, most people were unprepared, both theoretically and practically. They were unable to believe that man could exhibit such propensities for evil, such lust for power, such disregard for the rights of the weak, or such yearning for submission. Only a few had been aware of the rumbling of the volcano preceding the outbreak.”

– Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

The Texas Workforce Commission issues a letter to Texas businesses last week reminding them of the governor’s executive order restricting their ability to mandate vaccines for workers. Workers were encouraged to report their employers to a newly created hotline and email address if they are subjected to a vaccine mandate at work that would violate the executive order. Verified tips will be passed along for prosecution. You know who else demanded people spy on their employers and neighbors if they disagreed with the government? You guessed it: Nazis! Seriously, does Greg Abbott have a Nazi Playbook by his bedside for nighttime reading?

Abbott and other Texas Republican leaders seem determined to make Texans live in fear of each another, with everyone wondering who will be informing on us next. First, it was SB8, the abortion law, in which private citizens are allowed to hunt down women they suspect might have had abortions and sue anyone who helped them. By the way, if you look at the picture of the signing of the bill, you’ll notice all the women scrunched together. I’m sure that was to make it appear as though women’s voices were included in discussing female reproductive issues although the number of men dwarfing them makes it clear they weren’t.

Now that the Supreme Court refused to block the enforcement of SB8, Texas Republicans have turned their attention to encouraging workers to snitch on their employers for having the temerity to care about people’s health. They’re also “investigating” books in school libraries that might be pornographic. I don’t know why this suddenly became a major concern. I’m sure it’s only a coincidence that most of them are written by and about women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.

Commissioner’s Court: There were some interesting items on the agenda for the court’s meeting on December 6th. One item involved the salary for a non-licensed counselor or therapist victim advocate for the sheriff’s department. Why is this position unlicensed? It requires working closely with people in the throes of trauma, yet they aren’t demanding the appropriate background and training?! Does this employee even have a background in mental health or is she coming from law enforcement? This drives me crazy! It’s like having EMTs be the only providers in the ER. A similar position, a counselor or therapist victim’s advocate within the District Attorney’s office, has more reasonable requirements, including a bachelor’s degree and 2 years of experience in Victim Services. The Sheriff’s Crime Victim Advocate requires neither. These people either don’t understand or don’t care about mental health.

Another item involved establishing the budget for the 2022 JABG-SOAR Juvenile Mental Health Court grant. Both the Juvenile Court Mental Health Case Manager and Juvenile Probation Officer (with a mental health caseload specialization) positions are currently vacant. This is interesting since the court is so invested in the mental health treatment of prisoners that they’re expanding the jail’s infirmary to accommodate them. In fact, Lifepath – Collin County’s answer to why we don’t have a public hospital – was at the meeting to request to buy property from the county for a new office building and treatment areas.

Cheryl Williams rambled on about how this is critically needed, especially as it relates to the jail diversion program. Of course, her focus is ALWAYS on law enforcement, not on helping people in general. Williams continued talking about mental health funding like she actually knows what’s going on. She mentioned that mental health funding isn’t what it should be. Huh. If only someone in a position of power could do something about that! She went on to say that the court has greatly expanded its spending on mental health since 2011 even though some of that funding should be coming from others and that the court has filled the gap! Is she delusional? If their minimal funding on mental health resources is filling the gap, then why are there so few services available? These people! They ended up agreeing to lease, not sell, the property to Lifepath.

Lifepath CEO Tammy Mahan also discussed their contract to provide services to the detention center. The plan is to provide 24-hour coverage for prisoners who have mental health issues. Sheriff Skinner mentioned that 50% of prisoners have mental health issues which, of course, begs the question of why we’re not focusing our funding on the front end instead of the back. Shouldn’t we want to prevent people from getting to jail in the first place? It’s great that Lifepath employees will be there to schedule additional treatment once prisoners leave but just where are they going to send them? Perhaps they’ve missed the fact that there are few low-cost mental health resources available in Collin County. If the commissioners truly cared about mental health, they’d be focusing on prevention and treatment options for the entire community, not just on those running afoul of the law. They’d find ways to help a lot more people and keep costs down. Prevention is always more cost-effective than punishment.

Speaking of cost-effectiveness (or lack thereof), there were 26 voluntary terminations in October FY2022, 9 within the Detention Center. While 9 people were retiring or relocating, 14 left to take other jobs or due to dissatisfaction, and 3 left for other reasons. Duncan Webb seemed to be the only commissioner who cares about this as he pointed out that turnover is approaching 30% in certain departments, particularly within the Sheriff’s Department. His suggestion was to allow department heads to consider remote working and flex schedules since that’s what “the young people” want (how would he know?). I’d imagine good working conditions and appropriate pay are also important factors but why wonder? Why not look into the reasons why people are leaving and/or not wanting to work for the county? I guess that’d require too much work and a willingness to take responsibility for problems. They’d never do that! Williams said she’s heard that the problem with retaining talent is due to a large number of people retiring. I wish she’d think before she speaks. The court’s own data doesn’t bear out that assumption and the retirement excuse doesn’t explain the recruitment problem.

During the public comments section (held at the end of the meeting instead of at the beginning when more people could speak), the regular conspiracy theorists showed up. There was the usual babble about China infiltrating our election systems. I’ve been wondering where the crazies were getting their information until I saw a Powerpoint slide from the January 6th insurrectionists. They’re spreading that misinformation to the weak-minded among us. Their evil goes deep.

What’s a commissioner’s court summary without mentioning the lickspittle toady that is Chris Hill? When Josh Murray was speaking about how the court takes responsibility for nothing (see the mental health and turnover discussions above), Hill interrupted to tell him not to shout (which he wasn’t). Josh fired back, “Don’t mistake my passion for anger,” but Hill continued to tell him to not shout, probably because he’s physically incapable of not having the last word. Imagine being married to that guy! Later, because he cannot tolerate any kind of dissent, Hill responded to the complaints about having to wait for public comments. He claimed they welcome public comment (which they absolutely don’t) but that the only reason they come together weekly is to do the county’s business. Clearly, he doesn’t understand that listening to the concerns of the public is part of the county’s business. That’s what being a representative entails. Goodness knows the commissioners don’t use any other time to listen to the public.

If you’d like to make a difference, please consider applying to serve on one of Collin County’s boards or commissions. There are a number of openings on boards that affect numerous areas. See which one fits your interests!

Allen School Board: The trustees went over their 2022 Health and Safety Measures for Covid. Sure enough, they’re the exact same procedures they already don’t follow. Helpful. Susan Oligner was unanimously appointed to Place 2 on Board to fill the vacancy left by David Noll’s death from Covid. Olinger was a previous Trustee from 2012-2018 and will not run for office. That means the seat will be open for anyone wanting to run for office during the May 2022 election. The window to file for election for the Board of Trustees opens on Jan. 19th and closes on Feb. 18th. Election Day is May 7th. Given this board’s terrible track record in keeping students and staff safe from Covid and cyber hacking, we need good people to run!

The Board updated its policy on public participation at board meetings. Public testimony (commenting on an agenda item) can occur at any open board meeting. However, public comment (commenting on matters related to the AISD) can only occur at a regular board meeting, which happens once a month. That’s handy, especially given their refusal to put matters of great concern on the agenda. But wait, it gets better! People wanting to address the board must turn in a registration card to the Chief Communications Officer no later than 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting. This means you have to get there early and sit through a large portion of the meeting in order to speak. Nothing was mentioned about the board whittling down the number of speakers and selecting only those they wish to hear. I’m sure they’re hoping we’ll forget about that.

The board also approved the purchase of a technology backup system, the Cohesity Back-Up and Disaster Recovery Solution, using funds from Proposition A of the 2020 bond election. The total cost for the system is $229,400. It will supposedly harden the district technology infrastructure defenses by adding a layer of protection for local systems. I wonder if this is in response to the cyber-hacking (what happened with that anyway?) or if it was planned prior to that event. I also want to know if it would’ve prevented the hacking in the first place.

Richardson School Board: Superintendent Jeannie Stone is resigning after serving in her position since 2017. During her tenure, she created a Department of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and an official equity policy. She also worked to decrease disparities affecting students of color, like in gifted classes. While Stone isn’t saying why she’s leaving, it’s likely due to the unrelenting hostility from Republicans angry (and confused) about CRT and mask mandates. The Texas Association of School Administrators expressed fear that a number of leaders may be stepping down due to burnout and exhaustion caused by the pandemic and crazy parents. If the worst among us succeed in running off healthcare providers and educators, what public servants will we have left? The police? That will go well.

Liberal Women’s Action Network (LWAN): If you enjoy reading these columns, please join LWAN (men welcome). I can’t write these columns without a lot of help! If we want true change, we must know what’s going on. That means monitoring every city council and school board in Collin County. This is something anyone can do and it’s interesting work. Please contact me at and let me know if you’re interested.

Comments 5

  1. Grateful for your expertise, time, and passion. Thank you for these, even though I often finish your articles more angry than when I started. Collin County politics are not for the faint of heart.

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  2. Thank you for keeping us informed as to the reality of what is going on. This is the only newsletter that gives such detailed information about what is really going on in Municipal politics in Collin County.

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