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Critics say Collin County not being a team player; officials cite rapid growth for tough decisions
April 5, 2009
By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News
If Dallas County could be likened to a senior citizen living on a fixed income, then Collin County might be the energetic teen with a fast car and a trust fund.
It's envied by other North Texas counties and is well-known as one of the most affluent, fastest-growing counties in the nation.
Collin County Judge Keith Self
Denton County Judge Mary Horn
State Sen. John Carona (R-Richardson)
In recent months, however, some say Collin County is earning a new reputation, and not an enviable one.
"I don't think Collin County plays nice lately," said state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas. "I don't think they have a regional concern, but only for provincial Collin County."
The comments, made during a recent Senate hearing in Austin, are striking a chord with some who accuse the county of acting in its own interest at the expense of others. County officials have sparred with regional leaders as of late, mostly on transportation and health care issues.
Collin County officials reject the criticism, saying they're willing to help forge solutions to common problems. But they also make no apologies for putting Collin County first, citing rapid growth.
Since 2000, the county's population has swelled by almost 50 percent, and officials say that's forcing them to make tough decisions.
"We've changed more in the last five years than we had in the previous 20," Commissioner Joe Jaynes said.
If there is grumbling about Collin County from its neighbors, it occurs quietly, and on a local level. But Carona's high-profile statements on March 18, directed at County Judge Keith Self, brought negative sentiments out in the open.
Self attended the Senate Transportation Committee hearing to speak against a bill that could establish new taxes to expand regional rail service.
More than 40 area cities and five counties passed resolutions in support of the measure, but Collin County did not.
Self said the county believed the bill would burden constituents with unnecessary taxes for rail service that would benefit few. (Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland later spoke in favor of the bill.)
"This is not the time to raise taxes," Self said.
Carona railed against Self at the public hearing, saying he was not providing constructive input.
"You do a disservice to your community by sending missives out [to anti-tax groups] before you even understood what the bill was about," Carona said.
"It's really tragic that this is sign of the future leadership of the community."
The county's opposition to the rail bill is only the latest action on transportation to upset elected officials.
For instance, county commissioners recently backed out of a written agreement with Denton County to support a Dallas North Tollway extension along their joint border. They now want an alignment entirely in Collin County to receive taxes from development along the corridor.
That decision irked Denton County Judge Mary Horn, who said the county was reneging on a promise it made years ago.
"I think you should honor your county's agreements," she said.
In addition, the county angered the North Texas Tollway Authority by creating its own toll road agency. Commissioners have defended themselves by saying the need for a proposed 53-mile highway called the Outer Loop is so great that they can't wait on NTTA to build it.
County officials also continue to generate friction with Dallas County over Parkland Memorial Hospital, a sticking point in the past.
Collin County commissioners snubbed Dallas County's request to support a bill that would create a new hospital tax in suburban counties to help pay for using the Dallas hospital.
"I don't think our residents would ever support something like that," said Hoagland, the Collin commissioner. "Why should they? We don't have that many people going down there."
Collin County commissioners have irked officials in surrounding counties in the past year:
March 30 – Collin County Commissioner Kathy Ward testifies against a bill that could tax suburban counties for using Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
March 18 – State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, publicly chastises Collin County Judge Keith Self for not having a "regional concern."
September 2008 – Collin commissioners create a county toll road authority, separate from North Texas Tollway Authority.
May 2008 – Collin commissioners rescind a 2005 agreement with Denton County to support a Dallas North Tollway extension along a joint border.
1. Many Collin County property tax payers have been subsidizing Dallas County residents to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars through "Robin Hood". For Plano alone, it was over $80 million last year alone.
2. Dallas County gets a disproportionate share of state tax revenue - Collin County gets shafted.
3. Plano subsidizes Dallas with DART. It spends ~$60 million per year for DART and is not receiving anywhere close to that in services. It's a giant rip-off.
It's too bad Ed doesn't think it's important to report the local option new taxes we are all talking about.
It's also too bad they didn't publish the map of the North Dallas Tollway extension. I think that hard turn to the west is amusing. Maybe Denton can have their rail line make a hard turn to the east? No?
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