Collin County Politics: Welcome to Gilead

September 7, 2021

While my focus is usually on Collin County, the outcome of this state legislative session is going to greatly affect local entities. With 666 bills passed, our “leaders” have been busy little bees. This is not to say they care about bees though. They had the opportunity to pass a bill protecting them but declined. I mean, bees only affect our food supply. What could go wrong?

Instead of focusing on critical problems like our electrical grid and Covid, the legislature instead passed a racist voter suppression bill (SB1), a deeply restrictive anti-abortion bill (SB8), a censorious education bill (SB3), and a bill allowing hospital staff to restrict in-person visitation only with a physician’s order which must be renewed every 5 days (HB2211). I guess hospital healthcare workers don’t have enough to do.

Once signed into law, all of the above-mentioned bills are going to lead to disaster. In addition to setting us up for conflict (due to voter suppressive tactics and partisan poll watchers), SB1 is going to be expensive. The anti-abortion bill is going to turn us into the Wild West, a free-for-all in the courts as neighbor turns against neighbor. By the way, informing on fellow community members is something that happens in fascist countries, not in democracies. So don’t be fooled that Republicans care about democracy. They don’t. And if they want to play, many on the left will gladly oblige. It’s going to get ugly.

Teachers are already under siege due to Covid. But now, thanks to SB3, they’ll add looking over their shoulders too. They’re no longer allowed to discuss current events or controversial issues, most especially the harm caused by racism and sexism. Texas students will fall far behind their peers in other states since they won’t be getting as comprehensive of an education and will not be allowed to receive a grade or extra credit for volunteering for any organization that lobbies the legislature. We sure wouldn’t want them exposed to any information that might make them think for themselves. Then they’d no longer consider becoming a Republican.

Healthcare workers are already overwhelmed and many are retiring or quitting. The last thing they need to do is argue more with the families of patients. But that didn’t stop HB2211 from adding to their burdens. This is just going to redirect resources to places they don’t need to go. I’m shocked our legislators can’t see that. But, wait. Of course, they understand; they just don’t care.  

Be sure to thank Collin County’s state representatives Justin Holland, Jeff Leach, Scott Sanford, Matt Shaheen, and Candy Noble plus our state senators Angela Paxton and Drew Springer for their role in the coming disasters. Seriously, please let them know what you think of their “hard work” in Austin. And then become a DVR to register people who will vote them out.

Covid Update: Collin County currently has 113,224 confirmed Covid cases. This is 5,097 more cases than I reported last week and 920 of our Collin residents have died. It doesn’t seem like this is slowing down.

Commissioner’s Court: While the commissioners took two weeks off from having meetings, they’re going full steam ahead on their budget priorities that don’t include actually helping people suffering from the pandemic. They could’ve used the federal relief funds to invest monetarily in small businesses, educational opportunities, childcare, those facing evictions, food banks, or, I don’t know, perhaps transforming our public health department into one that can truly (although I’d even take adequately) serve our population. Instead, the commissioners plan on building a parking garage, expanding the county medical examiner’s office and growing the jail. If you don’t think this sounds like a good plan, they need to hear from you.

Rather than work with the public health department to encourage masks and vaccines – you know, ways we can prevent Covid transmission – the commissioners think opening a regional infusion center within the McKinney Collin College campus (around healthy staff and students) is the way to go. The center will administer a monoclonal antibody treatment to up to approximately 60 Covid patients per day who aren’t yet hospitalized or on oxygen supplements. If you want to let them know the whole host of problems with such a facility, contact them. Be sure to include their state and local partners in this venture, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the North Central Texas Regional Advisory Council, Baylor Scott & White Health, and Collin College.

McKinney City Council: The council spent much of its time recently dealing with the budget. The bottom line for McKinney residents is that the city is continuing to grow. City revenues are strong but we also have some ongoing challenges, like street maintenance and expansion. The council allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan. These will go to the Apex Center, the McKinney Performing Arts Center, east McKinney infrastructure projects, fiber expansion to city parks & the downtown square, active & future CIP Projects, economic development, and community & housing development (including housing assistance & neighborhood preservation).

In an odd echo of the Frisco City Council, McKinney had to deal with an ethics complaint against the mayor and contaminated groundwater. In June, Robert Warren filed a complaint against Mayor George Fuller about comments made on Facebook insulting Tammy Warren (Robert’s wife), the McKinney First PAC, and Collin County Conservative Republicans. Warren accused Fuller of violating Section 2-263 – Civility, which calls for officials to be “above reproach” and refrain from personal charges or verbal attacks. Fuller was angry over a photoshopping incident involving his wife, awful things said to his daughter while at a polling station, and various insults leveled against him and his family. He freely admitted to doing everything they accused him of doing and doesn’t regret it.

The other council members dismissed the complaint. While (like in Frisco), McKinney needs to adjust the ethics complaint process to a more independent one, they were right to dismiss it. Politicians have First Amendment rights and families should be off-limits. However, Fuller should’ve responded more professionally. It’s interesting though that, both in Frisco and in McKinney, council members had complaints leveled against them from fellow Republicans.  

The council had to decide whether to pass an ordinance supporting a Municipal Setting Designation (MSD) for a little over 30 acres east of Highway 5 and North McDonald. This would prevent anyone using the water underneath these 30 acres (can’t drill any wells or access water there). Over the years, all kinds of industrial/agricultural activities have caused spills that have resulted in groundwater contamination and it’s not safe for consumption. Is this sounding familiar?

The ordinance supporting a MSD is just the first step. The second step is to notify the State that they want to go through this process to protect the land/restrict water. The third step is to notify property owners with wells within 5 miles. After all these steps, the city would then be able to stop any drilling of wells in order to reduce exposure since they can’t control the toxicity of this water. As in Frisco, it seems like there’s more they can do but it’s doubtful they will. The ordinance passed 7-0. In the future, they might want to consider future groundwater contamination before allowing businesses to pollute.

I usually complain about politicians in these columns (and with cause) but I also must highlight good work. It’s the rare politician who’s truly a servant leader but that seems to be the case for Justin Beller. Although he’s only been on the council for a short time, he’s a strong advocate for both his district and for the people of McKinney. Like LaShadion Shemwell before him, he challenges the council’s usual way of doing things.

Beller tried to get adequate representation from District 1 on the city’s boards and commissions and, along with Dr. Gere Feltus, fought to include an equitable number of women and people of color. They were only semi-successful because the rest of the council is still an Old Boys Club who just puts their friends in positions of power. Even when people’s terms of service expired, council members would often ignore it and keep those people on the board or commission. With so many people wanting to serve their community, this is inexcusable.

As we want our leaders to do, Beller is laser-focused on getting money where it needs to go. He pointed out that we should be using money leftover from HUD and CARES funding now and suggested that the city take on the funding of grant administration so the funds can be utilized for programs rather than administration. He’s been a passionate advocate for getting infrastructure improvements on the east side and reminds his fellow council members that the speed on streets is equally as important as the amount of traffic. He’s absolutely correct that we shouldn’t prioritize expansion over the quality of life for the people who live there.

I also was impressed when Beller pointed out that while we have a good process for recruitment and pay increases for public safety employees (read: cops), we don’t have a similar process for civilian employees. Upon hearing that our lowest-paid civilian employee has a salary in the lower $30 thousand, he immediately commented that it’s about $15 per hour on a full-time basis. Although he was ignored (because cops apparently are the only job that matters), I have no doubt he’ll continue to stand up for those he serves. I’m so grateful to have such an excellent voice on council!

If we had more politicians like him, perhaps we wouldn’t be living in Gilead.

Comments 2

  1. Yes, Beller seems pretty good. I’ve watched City Council meetings on TV. To some people, a $15 an hour minimum sounds pretty good. (Low-level state employees start at something in the low $20,000s per year.) But for sure, it’s not a living wage in McKinney. My retirement income is in the low $30,000s, and when I went to rent a one bedroom apartment in McKinney when I moved here last year, I was at first declined because, I was told, my income was not high enough! Yet there are some guys on the City Council who don’t want anybody to move here who can’t afford a $300,000 house.

  2. Excellent as usual. The snark was going strong, but holy hell, does Texas deserve all the snark it gets. Thank you.

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