Collin County Politics: Together We Rise

April 12, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 211,700 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 1,822 more cases than I reported last week and 1,501 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 6 people). Cases increased but the death rate decreased significantly.

While we’re in a relative lull, there are some things we need to consider. A new study estimates that case investigation and contact-tracing programs in the United States averted more than 1 million Covid cases and more than 27,000 hospitalizations over 60 days during the 2020-2021 winter peak of the pandemic. This means contact tracing is a vital tool for containing and preventing Covid. Unfortunately, Collin County did minimal contact tracing, so it’s difficult to know how many of our confirmed cases could’ve been avoided if we’d expanded our program. Even more importantly, what’s their plan for contact tracing during the next pandemic? This is an important question as this is our health and public safety they’re gambling with.

The pandemic questions don’t stop there. Many states are calling on the federal government to provide aid for pandemic preparedness. States like Washington have already thought ahead and need money to put their plans in place. What about Texas? What is our plan for another Covid surge or another pandemic? For that matter, what’s Collin County’s plan? Before Covid, the only pandemic plan we had was years old and in draft form. What about now?

Since we all know we’re likely on our own in Collin County, it’s up to us to keep ourselves as safe as possible. As tired as we all are of Covid, it’s imperative we keep apprised of variants and case counts. I hope everyone’s watching what’s happening with BA.2 in other parts of the country. There’ve been upticks in cases in New York, Arizona, and Illinois. In order to see where we are, check out the color-coded map from the CDC (if we’re yellow or orange, start taking extra precautions) and our community’s positive test rate. If positive rates are above 5%, take more precautions.

Fortunately, we’re still in good shape. Although I’m doing more things in person (thank goodness), I’m still distrustful of crowds and am keeping my mask on for trips to places like the grocery store. I got a glare today for wearing my mask and it’s something I take as a badge of pride.

Schools: As the book banners continue to wreak havoc (they’re gearing up for Frisco ISD next), there are larger issues here as well. As I say repeatedly, their outrage is manufactured in service of decimating public education. We need to call that out and put them on the defensive. Also, if they’re truly doing this for the children (which they clearly aren’t), then why aren’t they also demanding more societal investment in families? Between 2016 and 2020, the share of federal spending invested in children declined by 25%. In 2021, only 9% of the federal budget was spent on children. But you’d never know that from the yahoos yelling at the school boards.

Over 30 years ago, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child proclaimed that every child “should grow up…in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding” and be raised “in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality, and solidarity.” Although we signed onto the resolution, the United States is the only nation in the world that’s failed to ratify it, largely due to the “parental rights” movement. Not much has changed. Now, groups like Moms for Liberty, the Manhattan Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) seek to prevent or roll back protections for children. They’re afraid that if their kids have rights, they won’t be able to control them as well (or, as is now the case in Tennessee, marry them). I’m sure influence from these groups prompted Greg Abbott to come up with his ridiculous parental bill of rights.

These parents aren’t truly interested in educating their children. They fear losing control, which means public schools are dangerous to them. Public schools seek to promote democracy, help students achieve social mobility, and encourage the knowledge and critical thinking skills that aid them in becoming our next generation of leaders. Moms for Liberty and ALEC aren’t interested in any of that, so public education must go. Instead of allowing these selfish, fascist, and mean people to dictate the narrative, we must start calling out what they’re truly after. Make them play defense. But that means we must show up. Consistently.

Collin College: Students may want to get ahead of the game and pay tuition straight to the lawyers defending the college from the many lawsuits against them. Yes, dear Democrats, there’s another one. Last week, former Associate Dean of Academics Randy Jackson filed a lawsuit against Collin College. He alleges that he was denied reasonable accommodations amid the pandemic in violation of Texas labor laws. He’s not the only one suing for endangering workers. In November, Keith Otto, a business advisor at the college, sued alleging they violated multiple federal protections, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. But at least the Board of Trustees (except for the courageous Stacey Donald) gave Neil Matkin a raise. That should make up for everything.

Commissioner’s Court: Cheryl Williams was absent from the 20-minute meeting. Not much happened in last week’s meeting but I’m frustrated by the continuing stream of short meetings. Since the commissioners swear up and down they don’t have a working session (which begs the questions of what information they’re getting and how they decide how to vote on issues), these Monday meetings are our only indications of what’s going on in the county. There’s a lot we don’t know:

  • What are they doing about election security? Republican crazies have been inundating them with demands for months now. Have any of the commissioners gone to the meetings these people asked them to attend? What protections are the commissioners putting in place to promote trust in our system?
  • How are the county departments functioning given their inability to recruit and retain talent? We already know they’re skimping on the cleaning crew because of this but there have to be other areas that are getting short shrift. How are they managing the shortfalls?
  • Given the large number of deaths in the jail, what measures are they putting into place to protect inmates? Are they implementing the mental health assessments now or will they want for the jail expansion to be finished? What are they doing in the community to help people struggling with mental health issues? Or is their plan to wait until these people are arrested?
  • How are they going to make decisions about the 380 bypass? The cities of McKinney and Prosper are now disagreeing on which option they prefer. What are the commissioners going to do to promote unity in the county?
  • And then there’s pandemic preparedness that I mentioned above. How are we going to manage contact tracing in a future pandemic? Have we drawn up a more permanent plan for the next public health crisis? Have they done an after-effects analysis to see where they need to improve?

Long-time readers will know I don’t believe the current commissioners have the solutions to any of these problems. That’s a huge issue given the increased population and resulting issues with infrastructure. We have two Democrats who are running for the court: Jeff Williams and Josh Murray. Please support their campaigns because (let’s face it), the Republicans have no idea what they’re doing.

McKinney City Council: At the April 5th meeting, another group of NIMBYs and thinly veiled racists showed up to participate in the public hearing on the request to annex and zone a planned development located east of State Highway 5 and approximately 600 feet north of the intersection of County Road 278 and Fannin Road. Almost all of the 28 (!!) speakers were fine with annexation but adamantly opposed to the addition of multifamily dwellings for all the usual reasons. Rainey Rogers chose that meeting to be absent, so the vote was tied (with Mayor Fuller, Justin Beller, and Rick Franklin voting in support) and failed to pass.

This is notable because it’s one in a long line of groups protesting apartments. Dr. Gere Feltus was vocal about the fact that these folks had organized and were adamant about not wanting this in their community, so she voted against it. What Dr. Feltus failed to appreciate is that, in Collin County, the organized people are generally the terrible ones. Republicans are great at getting their people to participate; Democrats are not. If you don’t like me saying that, then prove me wrong. Please, I’m begging you: Prove. Me. Wrong.

Another thing Dr. Feltus may not have known is that most of these people aren’t local and aren’t truly interested in the land. Despite their “aw shucks” country cosplaying, many bought their land recently for a specific purpose. This small group of people has cost the city of McKinney so much, wasting hours of city staff time trying to force the builders/the city to invest in infrastructure to make their land more valuable. So they can flip it. If you don’t want people to do that, then we need to start showing up and paying attention.

Prosper School Board: Cindy Zukowski, the principal at Furr Elementary, sent a text to parents that (gasp!) a book about “growing bodies and puberty” was passed around on a bus. The book came from the student’s home and “is not the topic you’d find in our schools or libraries.” Excuse me while I go clutch my pearls. This is getting completely ridiculous. The text continued: “The nature of this book is a topic usually discussed within the family and home setting.”

Yeah. Um…Cindy? As a family psychologist, I can tell you this is exactly the type of topic that, more often than not, is not discussed within the family. But whether it is or isn’t discussed at home shouldn’t be the point. Aren’t you an educator? Shouldn’t all children be taught about the human body, perhaps in science or health classes? Or should we keep our kids ignorant and hope for the best?

Yes, this happened on an elementary school bus. It doesn’t matter. I read a book on human sexuality with my son when he was 5 years old, a book chosen from a whispered recommendation by a public librarian. I was saddened by her fearful expression while talking with me. But this is where we are, especially in Texas. People can try to ignore this all they want but kids are sexual beings too. Some girls get their periods in elementary school and many elementary kids are watching porn. Shouldn’t we want to arm our children with knowledge rather than leave them to the dubious advice of older siblings and the dangers of the internet?

Richardson City Council: During the February 28th meeting, an item came up about the Town and Country Dry Cleaners property in the Promenade Shopping Center at 970 North Coit Road. The dry cleaning business was one in a long line of properties (others include a gas station, another dry cleaner, a computer R&D site, and a previous green space that had illegal dumping) that have contaminated groundwater. The council was mulling over whether to designate the site as a “municipal setting” in order to prevent groundwater from the site from being used. This designator is an admission that the contaminated site is beyond any feasible remediation, thereby eliminating the contaminant level requirements normally in place.

This is a bit like declaring bankruptcy but has even more dire repercussions since it affects the dwindling sustainability of our planet. That can’t just be written off, but here we are…writing it off. This happened in Frisco and McKinney too (if memory serves, just within the last year) and those councils treated their sites somewhat dismissively as well. I’m going to hand the rest of this summary off to the legendary Justin Neth (who wrote the report) because his words are so powerful and I can’t improve upon them.

This is one of those “boring” city council items that sounds completely innocuous but turns out to be extremely important. This is one part of the many major systemic flaws impacting the planet’s ability to sustain life. I’m not sure what consequences the responsible parties face, but this is one area of reform I’d love to see. Another is increasing transparency by calling things what they are so the public has all the information to make an informed decision. “Municipal Settings Designation” doesn’t let the public know what this is. Let’s call it what it is: a contaminated site. It should worry people, and there should be pressure on regulators to take this more seriously and eliminate the problem.

Those regulators are the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). I’ve reached out to the commissioners to ask if they are considering the impact on the environment beyond a potable water source and if the government steps in to help clean up the land. All three commissioners were appointed by Greg Abbott, so we’ll see if they even reply. I’ve also reached out to a knowledgeable UTD professor on the matter for more insight. It is worth noting that eliminating the burden on the developer allows future developers to use the site instead of encroaching on our green spaces, but that’s very much a lesser of two evils.

Joe Corcoran asked what would happen if they didn’t grant this designation. Staff clarifies that the owners would not be able to re-develop or refinance this property. Here’s a quote straight from the TCEQ’s “Municipal Setting Designations: A Guide for Cities” which explains that this was established by the 78th Texas Legislature In 2003 in an effort to reduce regulatory interference with economic development. On page 8, “The practical outcome of an MSD is that the requirement to investigate and remediate existing contaminated groundwater for potable water use purposes will be lessened or eliminated.”

Maybe it’s time to replace the TCEQ Commissioners with people who actually are prioritizing the health of our planet, not just developers’ bank accounts. But that requires flipping our state government.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

Local Politics: Municipal elections are fast approaching and they’re more important than ever. On the ballot are book banning, infrastructure improvements, the environment, affordable housing, and whether we have leaders or bottom dwellers in positions of power. Early voting starts on April 25th and goes through May 3rd with Election Day on May 7th. You must vote. If you don’t know who to vote for, ask.

Although the big races get all the attention, municipal races are equally if not more important because these are ones we can win! Many Republicans actually agree with us on many issues, so if you whisk away party designation, they may support candidates with good ideas. Plus, in low turnout elections, the party with the most voters wins. We can do this!

However, that means that we must field candidates who share our values. I’m seeing some municipal races with only one person running. While I sincerely hope that one person is someone we’d like to represent us, I doubt it. This is Texas. Fellow Democrats, we absolutely cannot allow ourselves to not have representation, so we must start running for these local offices!!

If we want to save our democracy, each and every one of us must step up and do more. Please sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. All you need to do is contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 1

  1. You are a Collin County treasure. (And yes, you’re also by sister, but that’s really beside the point). Your on-the-nose commentary is something EVERYONE SHOULD READ. And then do something about it.

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