Tag Archives: Collin County

Disease reveals partisan divide

I never thought I would see such a thing.

A viral infection sweeps around the world, killing hundreds of thousands of human beings; nearly 50,000 Americans have died. It’s the kind of international tragedy that transcends partisan politics. Isn’t that right?

Hah! Hardly.

The argument in this country on how to battle this disease is being split along partisan lines. Democrats are arguing in favor of continued restrictions, seeking to protect citizens’ health and their very lives. Republicans argue that the restrictions are strangling our economy, that we need to revive the business and manufacturing to jumpstart our way of life.

I am going to side with the Democrats. I know. That’s no surprise. It’s where I line up.

Republican governors are moving to relax restrictions. Democratic governors are staying the course. Republican governors think the economy is more vital, I guess, than human lives. Democratic governors seem to think the reverse is true.

Now comes this tidbit from right here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex: Colleyville is getting ready to allow businesses to reopen, apparently in direct violation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to maintain the shelter in place policy at least until April 30; the Colleyville decision also runs counter to what Tarrant County has imposed. Colleyville Mayor Joe Newton plans to relax the restrictions beginning this weekend.

This makes me nervous. It might prompt cities in nearby Collin County, where we live, to follow suit. I am not ready to make that leap. My wife and I are wearing masks on the rare occasions we do venture out. We wipe down every surface we touch and we wash our hands with sanitizer.

I do not have a job. Neither of us has been deprived of household income. So the economy is not a part of our personal decision making.

I just had hoped we could have rallied as one nation to fight this pandemic. Alas, it isn’t happening. The disease has widened the already huge great divide. Nice!

Time of My Life, Part 48: Still able to keep up with fast-paced story

I have returned to the game of print journalism, even if it isn’t daily print journalism.

Still, writing for a weekly newspaper presents a whole new set of challenges … such as trying to keep pace with a story that is changing damn near hourly.

Forgive the boast, but I am happy to report that I still am able to remain nimble enough to hit a fast-moving target.

The target is the coronavirus, aka COVID-19. They’ve declared it a worldwide pandemic. It is killing thousands of people daily.

How does that affect my freelance gig? The Farmersville Times covers a lovely community in Collin County, Texas, about seven miles east of where my wife and I live in Princeton; I write for the Times. I have spent the past few days keeping pace with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Farmersville.

I was assigned a story to write for the Times that looked at how the community’s first responders — namely firefighters and police officers — are coping with the pandemic. My initial story said there had been no reported infection in Farmersville.

Then it changed. Rapidly.

The publisher, my boss, notified me that Collin County Public Health officials reported several cases in Farmersville. I had to make contact with the police and fire chiefs for updated information. I was able to do so quickly. They provided the information I was seeking.

However, the story likely continues to move even as I write this brief blog post.

Indeed, I have no idea how many — if there are any to report — new cases of coronavirus have been reported in Farmersville just since I filed my amended version of the original story.

By all means, we are experiencing a crisis that tests us all. I just have to stay nimble.

Does this guy have a political future? Yeah, I think so

Crises occasionally give birth to political superstars and I am starting to see some signs of superstardom emerging among the ranks of local political figures in Texas and around the country.

The crisis of the moment is a big one: the coronavirus pandemic.

A Texas Tribune feature singles out a fellow who just might be among the superstars emerging from the wreckage that the pandemic is likely to create.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, according to the Tribune article, has been far from “timid” in his response to the pandemic. He jumped right away on calls for shelter in place, then for r. esidents of the nation’s eighth most populous county to stay at home. He has spearheaded the installation of temporary hospital rooms and issued calls to action among city officials and those who govern neighboring counties.

Jenkins even has chided other county judges — such as Chris Hill in Collin County — to step up their efforts to battle the onset of the coronavirus. The Tribune also notes that after ordering bars and restaurants closed, he egged Gov. Greg Abbott on to follow suit statewide.

So, is a star being born? Hmm. Maybe.

Jenkins is a Democrat, elected to the county judgeship in 2010. I don’t know much about Jenkins, other than what I’ve seen from my perch in Collin County, where we have lived for the past year or so.

Whether he’s able to capitalize appropriately on the leadership he is exhibiting depends on whether the judge sees a higher political office in his future. It well might be that he has advanced as far as he wants to go. Indeed, politicians often can overplay their hands if they want to take their public service venture to the next level.

Clay Jenkins has to play it carefully if he has any personal future ambition to fulfill. In the meantime, he can just keep doing what he’s doing and hope his leadership helps save lives … which by itself could write the script for this fellow’s political future.

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.