Collin County Politics: We Need the Presence of Justice

September 13, 2022

Pictured: Candidates Jesse Ringness (HD66), Mihaela Plesa (HD70), and Sandeep Srivastava (CD3) at a Labor Day Picnic.

Covid Update: Collin County has 254,983 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 2,487 more cases than I reported last week and 1,548 of our Collin residents have died (5 additional deaths). Our transmission finally moved to Low.

ICYMI: The roots of the January 6th insurrection continue to be found in North Texas. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified people working in law enforcement agencies, some currently in the military, and a few running for or serving in public office. Fantastic. Just what we want to hear. Even worse, Texas has about 3,300 members on the list, the most of any state. Of course we do.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by their prevalence in North Texas. After all, the founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, moved to North Texas from Montana about two years ago. But that’s not when Collin County constable Joe Wright signed up for the Oath Keepers. He joined in 2012 although he says he didn’t know much about the group at the time. Sure he didn’t. Wright’s membership in the group was leaked in October 2021 but not many news outlets reported his connection. How odd. You’d think they’d care that someone charged with upholding the law belongs to a group dedicated to overthrowing laws they don’t like.

Wright, a constable in western Collin County – which includes Frisco, Prosper, and Celina – refused to comment. However, never fear, County Commissioner Darrell Hale defended him, saying he’s “done a good job.” The whole thing stinks. Whose definition of “good job” are we using? How do we know Wright isn’t letting Oath Keepers skate by on shady antics? If they know he’s one of them, do they feel more secure in breaking laws? If Wright truly no longer supports them (begging the question of why he did before), why didn’t he remove his name from their membership list?

We have a big problem when people working in law enforcement think it’s just fine to join extremist groups. If Joe Wright doesn’t want to be recalled by voters (which, honestly, he should be), then he should at least be required to attend trainings and do more than just say he’s not radical. Otherwise, how can we be sure he’s working for us? People getting away with aligning with extremists is one reason why the Cool Beans Bar and Grill in Denton had to cancel a Disney-themed drag brunch and why people keep defacing a church in McKinney with racist slurs. Actions must have consequences.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

McKinney City Council: In 2022, many of the meetings were opened by anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, evangelical, male pastors. A lot participate in extreme right-wing media podcasts, and sermonizing about the inherent sin in being female. By continuing to feature them in positions of authority, the City Council is, in effect, endorsing their views every week. The council has a number of options to prevent this ritual from being exclusionary and biased. They could do away with the invocation altogether. That’s my personal choice as religion has no place in governmental meetings. Plano City Council doesn’t have an invocation.

If they must have one, they could invite McKinney elders, special people of note (of all ages, races and ethnicities, and genders) who would otherwise be overlooked. Special attention should ensure they represent the entirety of the community. Let it be a special gift bestowed by the council. Give each person a short, positive script to follow. The Pledge should be handled by local groups of children and teenagers. The Pledge should also be recited in some of the other languages spoken here in McKinney, including American Sign Language (ASL). Use this time to include, not exclude. This may seem like a minor nitpick but it isn’t, especially given the speech by Dr. Gere Feltus at the end of the meeting. Council members are city leaders and must set the tone of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the entire community. Goodness knows we need it!

The budget for the 2022-2023 year was discussed. One slide showed the General Fund staffing additions. The departments were listed with the number of new positions in parentheses beside them. These included 4 General Government positions, 4.5 positions in Development Services, 7 in Public Works, and 8 in Parks and Libraries. All well and good except there was one category in which they did not put the number of new positions beside the department name. The Public Safety department didn’t note that they’re adding 27 new positions. Instead, they listed underneath the 11 new Fire Department positions and the 16 (count em!) new positions for the Police Department.

They were probably hoping we wouldn’t notice that they’re adding more employees to Public Safety than all the new additions in the other departments combined! We’re getting 11 new law enforcement officers (8 police officers and 3 detectives)! Is there a major crime wave in McKinney no one has mentioned? If this is just in response to the increasing population, then you’d think the city council would be open to dividing into 6 districts instead of 5 (for better representation) but most refuse to even consider it. The police department is adding a mental health coordinator to the department (yay!) but we don’t know if this is in addition to or in place of the LPC they now have on staff.

The idea that public safety equals police is one we assume is true for everyone but, for a lot of people, it’s just the opposite. We must stop viewing law enforcement as the way to solve larger, more systemic problems. Yet it seems McKinney is doing exactly that. A while back, a few LWAN warriors for democracy met with Police Chief Conley to attempt to convince him to hire more mental health professionals or specialists in substance abuse treatment. No dice. He isn’t hiring anyone trained in working with the homeless population either. I have dealt with the officer in charge of dealing with homeless people and he doesn’t fill me with confidence. This is so damn frustrating! People in power always talk about mental health being a big problem but none of them ever do anything about it. Perhaps they’re waiting for the expanded county jail infirmary to be built so they can just send people there.

Another constant refrain in city council meetings is Mayor George Fuller, Rainey Rogers (Sexist, Racist Uncle), Charlie Phillips, and Rick Franklin’s cheerleading for developers. Although Fuller was absent from this meeting, the other 3 kept the tradition going strong. There was a public hearing to rezone property to allow for single-family residential and commercial uses at the northwest corner of McKinney Ranch and Silverado. A number of citizens and members/neighbors of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (which is close by) emailed complaints, sent a petition, and showed up to speak – a lot more than you usually see at public hearings – about their opposition to the current plans due to concerns about a firelane, potential building height, and retail type.

Phillips and Sexist, Racist Uncle apologized to the developer for encouraging him to negotiate with the church in good faith – the horror! – because he didn’t have to do that. Patrick Cloutier reiterated his belief that homeowners, not renters, are invested in the community. Is he kidding with that classist nonsense? I’ve talked with him about that and, sadly, he’s serious about it. Sexist, Racist Uncle babbled out their tired refrain – one they say every single time people have complaints – that the developers could build far worse than what they’re offering now. It’s almost like the city council has limited power in what gets built in McKinney. The motion passes, as everyone could’ve predicted it would. It’s disturbing that what citizens want in their own town – those of us who are “invested” in it of course – but that’s what comes from electing developers and realtors to the council.

As a lovely bridge between the awful public hearing and Dr. Feltus’ comments was Ernestine Williams, an older black woman, who spoke during Public Comments. She expressed her deep disappointment with a reference made during the last meeting about people who had “no skin in the game” or, as Cloutier said earlier, aren’t as “invested” because they’re renters. Ms. Williams stated that just because people don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean they don’t care. Preach! She also pointed out (correctly) that not working on affordable housing and not insisting apartment and senior communities accept housing vouchers means we have segregated communities. In her parting shot, she mentioned that although she didn’t know about the proposed development discussed earlier, she lives near there and knows it will only make things worse. Can Ms. Williams speak at every meeting? Better yet, can we put her on the council?

Her comments about segregation were important and added power to what Dr. Feltus talked about during her time. She started by referencing a black McKinney resident who was called the n-word twice in the last few months. She said McKinney still has a lot of work to do on racism and mentioned a great quote from Toni Morrison that said the function of racism is distraction. Dr. Feltus went on to give tips about what people can do, including giving her own cell phone number for people to call. It was an important and moving speech.

For those who don’t know, her comments were in response to Stonebridge United Methodist Church being attacked twice with vile, racist graffiti messages and arson. The last incident (either coincidentally or not) happened concurrently with a church sermon on racial issues. Police are investigating – and with 11 new LEOs, they’re sure to solve it any day now! – but we need to do more as a community. We must work together to send a message that racism is unacceptable, unwelcome, and simply not who we are. Here are a few suggestions for the council. Please feel free to use these in your email/call/postcard/tweet to the council on this issue.

  • Host town halls in several locations (with several in east McKinney), asking residents what can be done to help and how they are feeling.
  • Do more to recognize Black History Month.
  • Remove the Throckmorton statue, a visible symbol of the confederacy.
  • Move up the timeline of the road construction and sidewalk repair planned in east McKinney.
  • Issue a statement condemning racist hate. This attack on the church is not an isolated incident. Our school district is constantly under attack, with extremists trying to ban books written by people of color about the experience of racism (among other topics).
  • Ensure our Boards and Commissions look like the residents of McKinney, in gender, race and ethnicity, and geographic location.

Unbelievably, Sexist Racist Uncle completely ignored Dr. Feltus’ comments, immediately going on to Phillips’ talk about sports (so we can be proud of McKinney!) and then talking about how great the mayor is. Seriously. He went on and on about it – I think he wants George to adopt him – thereby verbally rendering Dr. Feltus’ words invisible. He ended the meeting joking around with City Manager Paul Grimes by saying, “Yay boys!” Is it any wonder that I call him sexist and racist? He’s a huge embarrassment to McKinney and he can’t be gone fast enough.

As for Fuller, he met with Flourish, a McKinney group run by people of color, as to how he could emphasize diversity and inclusion in the city. He agreed to many of their suggestions and then basically ghosted them. If our mayor was as great as Sexist Racist Uncle thinks he is, then I’m sure he’ll implement the reforms he promised to do even though they’ll be unpopular with his base. Don’t hold your breath.

Plano School Board: I want to note that the trustees did not start their meeting with a prayer or religious observation. More school boards should follow their lead. They also gave recognition for Uvalde ISD’s first day back at school. All staff, board, and students were invited to wear maroon in support. David Stolle invited board comments but no one spoke up. This was a nice gesture but we need to do better than that!

The first item on the agenda was notable because it related to recapture. Essentially, the board has to agree that the superintendent has the contractual authority to go to the TEA website to pay it back the money owed to the state. PISD owes $247.9 million for recapture and it has to be paid by January 1st for the year 2022/23 school year. This prompted a lot of discussion and frustration expressed by the majority of the trustees. Not every trustee spoke on the matter but there appeared to be consensus on the amount payable and how it’s used (e.g., not well). Collectively PISD has paid over $2.5 billion since the law was implemented.

Nancy Humphrey said it’s a legislative priority to have them put a cap on it in the next session. She believes the revenue needs to actually go into public education. Right now, it’s spent elsewhere with no transparency on where our dollars are going. Board President David Stolle lamented that PISD is in a budget deficit because of recapture and it’s up to state representatives to do their job and support the district. Except that they won’t. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch the trustees dance around the fact that it’s REPUBLICAN legislators who are doing this. If they don’t like it, they need to stop voting for them! Dr. Lauren Tyra thinks that this is like Dr. Einstein’s concept of insanity and we are doing the same thing over and over and not getting a resolution. Yep.

District CFO Johnny Hill said that HB3 means for every cent we cut from the M&O tax rate, we pay a penalty of $3 million per penny. He made the amazing claim that PISD would be worse off if they simply refused to pay it and let the state choose how they claim the money. Wow! OK, let’s do that. What fun that would be. I’m smiling just imagining the consternation in Austin if PISD (and the other school districts that would be sure to follow) just quit paying.

Cody Weaver pointed out that nothing looks like it will change and neatly shifted the blame by claiming that we, the public, aren’t putting enough pressure on our state legislators. Apparently, that makes it our fault. While I agree we need to vote out all Republicans, they also could stop being idiots and do the right thing. But if they could do that, then they wouldn’t be Republicans. Kind of a conundrum. Weaver tried to play tough by saying they need to tell Austin to come and take it! Uh huh. I’ll believe he’s willing to irritate his overlords when I see it. Humphrey said she doesn’t advocate for breaking the law but she agreed something bold needs to happen, especially in November. Ooohhhh…she came really close to admitting we need to vote out Republicans! Maybe if we gave her a little push, she’d get there.

The Labor Day picnic was filled to the brim with candidates, former candidates, and CCDP leadership. See how many you can spot! I see 13.

Local Politics: I’m constantly amazed at how limited people’s thinking is around local politics. Even if you’re a Republican, surely you can see that allowing 1 party rule for over 30 years is bad for governance. Elected representatives need to fear being voted out of office if they don’t do what the majority of citizens want them to do. We’re their boss and that’s how we keep them accountable! If they know the boss won’t punish them regardless of what they do, then what’s to stop them from doing whatever they please? Absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that.

Voting is a good way to let our leaders know they must toe their line but, once in office, we must insist upon transparency and accountability all the time. That’s why democracy requires active participation, not just a vote every year or so. If our democracy is to survive, we all need to step up and 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. Nope … they still don’t get it. Literally, this state and public education will have to hit rock bottom before people decide that voting out Republicans is the answer. It’s the most confounding thing. Pretty sure McKinney ISD is in a similar position as Plano as far as recapture, although not as dire. The students, teachers, and families are all suffering.

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