Tag Archives: Collin County

One county judge peers into a neighbor’s ‘yard’ and offers sound advice

If I were sitting in Collin County Judge Chris Hill’s chair at this moment I might be inclined to tell Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to mind his own bee’s wax.

Then again, were I occupying Jenkins’ chair, I might respond with, “Hey, Chris, we’re all in this together. I’m looking out for everyone in the region. That includes the residents of Collin County.”

Jenkins took part in a conference call among local county judges and local health officials who were meeting to discuss the coronavirus pandemic; Hill didn’t take part. Jenkins has issued a shelter-in-place order for all Dallas County residents, essentially ordering all non-essential businesses to close; Hill has asked folks to stay at home, too, but has kept businesses open.

Jenkins seems to think that his neighboring county judge hasn’t gone far enough. So that’s why he’s admonishing Collin County residents to stay at home while scientists, doctors, first responders answer the call to battle against the coronavirus.

Hey, I live in Collin County. I am heeding the advice given by Judge Jenkins. As for Judge Hill, well, he ought to rethink his reluctance to order the closure of those businesses.

As the Dallas Morning News has reportedAsked about the call with the hospital executive, Hill said it was accurate that he didn’t participate but that he had participated in two other calls with county judges Thursday that Jenkins didn’t take part in. “We need regional cooperation right now in North Texas,” Hill said. “And I urge Judge Clay Jenkins to reconsider his position.”

I need not remind anyone that the coronavirus cases in North Texas are growing rapidly. Accordingly, as a taxpaying constituent of Chris Hill, I hereby ask him to rethink his position.

We have “regional cooperation” in North Texas, even with Clay Jenkins’ apparent scolding.

Parks are open … just don’t go there

What you see in this picture is a kids park with playground equipment in Collin County, Texas, where the county judge issued a confusing order regarding the coronavirus pandemic that has struck down hundreds of thousands of human beings around the world.

Judge Chris Hill declared that parks shall remain open. Businesses can continue to operate in Collin County as well.

But wait! Gov. Greg Abbott has imposed a 10-person maximum limit for all gatherings, indoors and outdoors alike!

So, I guess this all means that if your children want to go to the park, they can do so legally, but they have to stay away from their pals, that they have to practice “social distancing” by staying more than six feet away. Have you ever tried to enforce such a rule with a toddler, or even a kindergartner?

Judge Chris Hill had a chance this week to impose a countywide shelter in place rule; he could have closed businesses the way many cities have done in the county and throughout the state. He didn’t.

I attended a Farmersville City Council meeting Tuesday night and the consensus among city officials there is that Chris Hill’s ruling was long on confusion but maddeningly short on clarity.

Leadership? It’s lacking at the Collin County courthouse … just as it’s lacking in the White House.

Cities in our county are going to take action

I asked in an earlier blog post for Collin County Judge Chris Hill to issue a shelter in place order for the county where I now reside.

It looks as though he won’t do that. However, it appears we’re going to get the next best thing, which is more or less like the real thing. The cities within Collin County are going to issue shelter in place guidelines for their residents.

My wife and I live in Princeton; our younger son and his family live in Allen. Our daughter-in-law’s parents live in Plano. I am going to presume for a moment that our respective cities are going to act on a conference call that mayors participated in today.

That means individual cities will be initiating policies aimed at reducing person-to-person contact as a way to stem the coronavirus outbreak that has been termed a worldwide pandemic.

I’m good with what appears to be coming.

Governments have a responsibility to act. It has been argued — and I agree with the complaint — that the federal government hasn’t been doing enough to coordinate a national response. The states are stepping up; Texas has stepped up. Counties within our state have answered the call.

In this particular county that we now call home, cities are going to invoke a shelter in place policy.

I want to stipulate once again that shelter in place does not resemble a form of house arrest. As it has been invoked so far, residents are able to travel to the store to purchase essential items. Residents are able to step outside, to walk around the neighborhood … something my wife and I do daily with Toby the Puppy.

We merely are being asked to adhere to “social distancing” guidelines. We need to do our part to stem this pandemic.

Collin County’s communities appear set to answer the call.

Hey, Judge Hill, it’s time to invoke ‘shelter in place’

This note is directed at Collin County Judge Chris Hill: They have done it in next-door Dallas County, so it’s time for Collin County to follow suit and invoke a shelter in place mandate.

I want my county to become even more proactive in fighting the spread of the coronavirus. One measure is to order residents to stay at home and leave the shelter of their dwellings only to purchase food and other essential supplies; you know, things like fuel for our vehicles and medicine for those who need it.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued the order over the weekend. The county of some 2.4 million residents is facing some serious hassle and heartache stemming from the pandemic. Jenkins saw the need to act and, so … he did.

Collin County is home to about 1.1 million Texans. My wife and I, along with our son, daughter-in-law and two of our grandkids, are among them. We want added protection orders invoked immediately.

I don’t know if Chris Hill will see this message. I intend to email it to his office. My concern is not unlike many others around the nation and the world. I am fearful that this pandemic can get totally out of control. Indeed, it might already be at that point.

However, if our local government can take measures to stem the tide where we live, then I am all in.

Shelter in place isn’t a case of being under house arrest. We can leave our homes to, oh, walk around the block, or simply get some fresh air. And, yes, we can make purchases at the store.

There isn’t any entertainment opportunities available now as it is, with restaurants, bars and other such venues closed for the short- and perhaps medium-term.

Issue the order, Judge Hill. I know of several of your constituents who will comply.

This virus crisis is getting to at least one local official

I placed a phone call today to the office of Collin County Judge Chris Hill. I left a message with his secretary, asking if he could call me back; I didn’t specify the issue about which I wanted to talk to him.

A couple of hours later, my phone rang and it was a spokesman for the county who was calling me back. He said the judge was concerned that my call dealt with the coronavirus. I told the spokesman my call was on another issue relating to a story I am covering for the Farmersville Times, for which I am working on a freelance basis.

The spokesman laughed. He said Judge Hill has been “bombarded” with calls about the coronavirus outbreak, so he passed the call off to the county staffer. Indeed, Collin County has reported a handful of positive coronavirus test results … so there’s that.

My point is that this crisis seems to be stressing local officials out, if Chris Hill’s reaction to my phone call is any indication.

I cannot realistically insert myself into their roles, or walk in their shoes … to borrow a phrase. However, this is why folks such as Judge Hill sign on to serve the public. They simply take an oath to deal with crises as they emerge.

That’s how you handle inter-legislative district affairs

I attended a public hearing this week that featured something that, in the moment, I didn’t consider all that significant. I gave it some thought and have decided that I watched a display of inter-legislative district cooperation.

State Rep. Jeff Leach is a Plano Republican who came to the Texas Environmental Quality Commission public hearing in Farmersville to speak against a proposed concrete batch plant for Farmersville. Leach said he there to represent other members of the region’s legislative delegation, all of whom also opposed the plant application.

Farmersville is actually represented in the House by Justin Holland of Rockwall. Holland wasn’t there. Leach carried his water.

Why is this interesting to me? Because once upon a time I witnessed two legislators go at each other’s throats because one of them thought he needed to intervene on a matter affecting his colleague’s legislative district.

It happened in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas.

One of the legislators there, the late Rep. Al Price, D-Beaumont, was an ardent foe of Lamar University’s hiring practices. He railed constantly against Lamar because, in his mind, it didn’t hire enough African-Americans to fill administrative positions; Price, of course, was an African-American.

Then came his fellow Democratic colleague, Mark Stiles, also of Beaumont, who interceded for Lamar, pushing through some funding legislation that the university thought it needed.

Prices’ reaction? Was he thrilled that his colleague went to bat for Lamar? Oh, heavens no! We went ballistic! He accused Stiles of meddling in affairs that weren’t his concern. He threatened to derail whatever it was that Stiles sought to do on Lamar’s behalf.

I said at the time that Stiles was concerned that LU, which drew students from his legislative district as well as from Price’s, needed the money and that it was a regional concern that transcended legislative boundaries.

He was correct. Price was wrong to react as he did.

I have thought about encounter since visiting briefly Tuesday evening with Jeff Leach and hearing how he would speak for his legislative colleagues regarding an issue that is important to all of them and the constituents they represent.

That’s how it should work.

Now … a good word for a good deed

It’s not all gloom and doom, anger and angst out there in this contentious election season.

I came upon a wonderful example of community generosity while working on a story for a local weekly newspaper here in Collin County.

It came from a gentleman who contributed $21,000 to an animal rescue outfit based in Farmersville. Dell James owns a McKinney tax company. He kicked in a five-figure donation to Shutt’er Down Ranch, which cares for injured, neglected or abandoned animals — ranging from emus, to donkeys, pigs, horses, cattle, goats, sheep.

The ranch is looking to acquire a mobile veterinary clinic that would provide spay and neuter service for animals, along with vaccinations. Ranch officials tell me the clinic will cost around 100 grand; so James’ contribution will go a long way toward making that clinic a reality.

Dell James, a Farmersville native, wants to help the organization, so he contributed the money and then sponsored a professional basketball game in Frisco featuring the Texas Legends and South Bay Lakers — minor-league clubs affiliated, respectively, with the Dallas Mavericks and the LA Lakers of the NBA.

I want to offer a salute to Dell James for the contribution he delivered to Shutt’er Down Ranch and to the ranch for the good work it does to provide some old-fashioned TLC to God’s creatures.

Recycling … yeah, it feels more like ‘home’

I have just returned home to North Texas after visiting what is arguably the recycling capital of the known universe … the Pacific Northwest.

I stayed three nights with my sis and her husband just north of Vancouver, Wash., but was able to travel during the day across the river to Portland where I visited with friends.

So, what’s the point here? Everywhere I went in Washington and then in Oregon I found evidence of that region’s environmental awareness. I found recycling bins next to trash bins. You put your cans and plastic bottles into the bins full of such material; you tossed the trash into the other bin.

I stopped to purchase something at a grocery store in North Portland, where — I understand — they no longer send groceries home with you in plastic bags. Oh, no. Now they “sell” you paper bags at a nickel apiece if you put your goods into them; in that moment, I chose not to carry my two small items out of the store with no bag.

Furthermore, I am proud these days to be living in a Collin County community, Princeton, where we recycle our household material in addition to sending trash off to the dump.

It makes me proud because, to be blunt and candid, I was quite unproud of Amarillo, where we lived for 23 years before moving to Princeton, which didn’t encourage its residents to recycle certain products. It sends everything to the dump. That’s not good, folks.

So, I have returned home after another brief visit to the region of my birth. I am proud to be a son of the Northwest, of Portland. Why? Because of that region’s enhanced environmental awareness. I now am proud to be living in a place that is exhibiting a growing environmental awareness.

It’s strange that my new home is feeling more like my old home.

Facing an electoral quandary

I have been “chatting” via social media with a longtime friend who has told me of her intention to vote in the Republican Party primary next month. She lives in the Golden Triangle of Texas and tells me she must vote in the GOP primary because of the plethora of local races that mean much to her.

I get that. I also have told her that I intend to vote in the Democratic primary because I have not yet built the familiarity my friend has with her community.

She’s lived in Orange County for decades. I have lived in Collin County for a little more than a year. I am not proud to acknowledge that my familiarity with local contests isn’t yet up to speed. However, I must go where my instincts lead me.

They are leading me to cast my ballot for races involving national and statewide contests.

We’re going to cast our votes for president on March 3. Super Tuesday’s lineup of primary states includes Texas and its big prize of delegates to both parties’ nominating conventions.

I am not going to restate the obvious, which involves my vote for president, or simply that I will never cast a ballot for the current POTUS. My chore now is to examine the Democratic field for the candidate of my choice.

My inclination is to support Joseph R. Biden Jr. However, it is not clear at this writing whether he’ll be a viable candidate when the Texas primary rolls around. He must win in South Carolina. The former VP is losing African-American support that he says is his “firewall” to protect his candidacy from total collapse.

Then we have the U.S. Senate race and the U.S. House contest. Yes, the impeachment battle plays a factor in my vote. GOP Sen. John Cornyn, whom I actually like personally, has been a profound disappointment to me with his vote to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. What’s more, my first-term congressman, Republican Van Taylor, also disappointed me when he voted against impeaching Trump of those high crimes and misdemeanors.

My attention is focused, therefore, on the bigger stage.

I will need to live through another election cycle to familiarize myself with local issues and candidates sufficiently to cast my vote with any semblance of intelligence. Hey, given that I live in a county that’s even more Republican-leaning than my friend’s home county in the Golden Triangle, I understand the need to get up to speed.

I will do so in due course.

Time of My Life, Part 45: Back to where it began

I am positive you’ve heard it said that there are some things you always remember knowing how to do.

Riding a bicycle comes to mind.

Well, I spent the bulk of my journalism career writing opinion pieces for newspapers in Oregon and Texas. However, like most ink-stained wretches, I got started covering news events, or writing features, chronicling the events that made our community tick.

I am now retired from the daily grind. However, I have been given a chance to return to where it began for me. I am a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper near where my wife and now reside.

I asked for this gig when we took out a subscription to the Princeton Herald, a weekly publication that is delivered via mail every Thursday. The publisher of the Herald, C&S Media, also publishes papers in other communities nearby. Farmersville is one of them.

The “S” in C&S Media is Sonia Duggan. She asked me recently if I would be interested in covering Farmersville, which is about seven miles east of Princeton. I said yes. So I am back in the game.

I attend Farmersville City Council meetings twice a month, reporting on what transpires at City Hall. I get to write the occasional feature story about Farmersville, a growing community in Collin County, Texas.

The most rewarding part of it, though, is getting to know the people who make the city. I am developing sources, becoming familiar with the community’s unique qualities. I am making my presence known at council meeting.

Man, it’s just like it’s always been.

Moreover, I get to cover these stories straight up, without injecting my own opinion into any of the text I write for the newspaper.

My boss knows, too, that my wife and I might not be available all the time to cover every story that comes along. Given that we’re retired, we have the luxury of traveling in our recreational vehicle, which we do during peak driving season in North Texas. That’s OK, she says, expressing her keen understanding that a freelance gig enables us to operate without too many burdensome requirements.

I just have to say, though, that learning about a new community fills me with great joy and, yes, even a bit of anxiousness. I expect the joy to remain even as I grow less anxious over what I discover about Farmersville.