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Read below for recent victories. Click here for more extensive News Coverage.
RECENT VICTORIES & PROGRESS
January 15, 2018
Valley Interfaith Celebrates New Library Opening in Las Milpas
Alongside the Mayor and Pharr City Commission, 150 Valley Interfaith leaders from Saint Francis Cabrini Catholic Church and Carmen Anaya Elementary School celebrated the opening of the new library and International Center that they had fought for and won. The fight included signing up 1,000 new voters to a community-driven agenda that included the construction of a new library in low-income Las Milpas, the organization of a nonpartisan accountability assembly at one of the local churches and an election upset that replaced a non-responsive mayor and city commission with a slate of new officials that understood what they had to do to stay in office.
In 2015, the first meeting of the new City Commission included all of Valley Interfaith‘s 6-point agenda and was passed with overwhelming support. Said the then-new Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, “Valley Interfaith has a machine in place and I want to be re-elected. Let’s build this library exactly how the community wants it.”
Less than three years later, in 2018, the library opened to community acclaim. City Commissioner Ramiro Caballero declared, “What VIF [Valley Interfaith] leaders did here in Pharr, we need you all to go out and train other citizens in other towns, cities, and county commissioner districts, and teach them to do what you did here with Pharr.”
[Photo Credit: Delcia Lopez, The Monitor]
Historic Day for Las Milpas as Public Library is Officially Opened, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a Community, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
December 19, 2017
Marin Organizing Committee Wins Major Step for Renter Protection
Less than a year after kicking off an organizing effort to address eviction threats in Marin County, the Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) won a significant victory.
On December 12, in response to pressure from MOC leaders, the Marin Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support a mandatory mediation program for renters. The ordinance will require mediation when requested by a tenant or landlord for rent increases exceeding 5% per year. The ordinance would apply to unincorporated areas of Marin County which include approximately 8,300 renter-occupied units. About 1 in 4 of those renters pay more than 50% of household income on rent.
70+ members of MOC attended two hearings, speaking in support of this much needed program. “From our perspective, housing is not merely another commodity,” said Rev. Thomas Gable (featured in above photo), “stable, affordable housing is the bedrock of life and well-being”.
While MOC considers this an insufficient step toward meaningful protections for renters, leaders are pleased that this mandatory mediation ordinance passed. They plan to continue pressuring the Board of Supervisors to pass a Just Cause Eviction ordinance as well, out of concern that without such an ordinance, renters will be too afraid to ask for mediation when faced with a rent increase, since they could then be evicted without cause.
Pressure and presence from the Marin Organizing Committee helped advance the time frame in which Supervisors will consider a Just Cause eviction. Rather than wait a year, as originally intended, the Board directed staff to craft a plan for increased code enforcement and community education within three months, and then again in the second quarter of 2018 with a draft Just Cause eviction ordinance.
MOC is continuing to work for similar protections in cities throughout Marin County where the majority of renters reside.
Marin Landlords to Enter Mediation Before Hiking Rents, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
December 18, 2017
Valley Interfaith Credited with Transforming Las Milpas
“Years back, when we went with 40 or 50 people and packed the city commission, Carmen Lopez, other leaders, and our youth, spoke before the commission,” [Valley Interfaith leader Eddie] Anaya said. “Carmen was reminded she had three minutes to speak. When she was speaking, very eloquently in Spanish, she was interrupted by the previous mayor and told, can you speak English. If not, you need to sit down. That, in itself, gave so much anger to the community. We knew there was only one thing we could do and that was educate our voters and go out and vote.”
The education of voters came through house meetings and accountability sessions, Anaya explained.
“The community came together and identified issues that mattered to the families, and particularly to the youth. We told the elected officials, we need parks, a library, a place to gather. At a key accountability session, two of city commissioners did not show up. One of them lost by 12 votes, the other by 40,” Anaya said, referring back to the 2015 city council election campaign.
Said Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez: “All of Las Milpas is transformed, thanks in large part to Valley Interfaith. This group played a critical role in identifying the improvements the City of Pharr had to make, and I am sure they have done it throughout the Rio Grande Valley.”
[Photo Credit: Steve Taylor, Rio Grande Guardian]
Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a Community, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
November 10, 2017
Organizing Effort Dramatically Improves Elementary School Academic Achievement in Brighton, Colorado
One year ago the Colorado IAF, Brighton Education Association and Northern Hills Church initiated an organizing campaign at North Elementary School, the lowest ranking of all schools in the 27J School District. Over the course of the year, North demonstrated the largest improvement in academic scores of any school in the district and one of the highest in the state (see article below). As a result, North changed its academic status from “improvement” to “performance.”
Leaders initially began by developing individual relationships between congregational members and educators, and then reaching out to parents through neighborhood walks and pancake breakfast gatherings. Together, they succeeded in establishing a before- and after-school care program for students and an intensive tutoring program that matched community volunteers — mostly from Northern Hills Church, with students demonstrating the greatest academic need. North Elementary staff additionally pursued internal changes including the reorganization of instructional teams and changes to the Master Schedule to better incorporate literacy and math blocks.
School-based leaders expressed pride over the dramatic improvement in academic achievement and gratefulness for the partnership with Northern Hills Chapel.
Caring For Students Home By Home in Brighton, Colorado Education Association
November 9, 2017
‘Together Louisiana’ Secures Gubernatorial Pledge to Disclose Tax Exemption Applications for Greater Transparency
Industrial Tax Break Info to be Posted Online, Edwards Says, US News & World Report [pdf]
Governor Edwards Challenges Lawmakers to Specify Cuts to Offset Fiscal Cliff, Red River Radio [pdf]
Edwards: Anti-Tax Lawmakers Should Detail $1B-Plus Cuts, Times Picayune [pdf]
November 5, 2017
For Immigrants Without State ID, DAI Negotiates Acceptance of Parish ID with Dallas-Area Police Departments
For the first time in North Texas, immigrants without state ID will be allowed to use parish identification cards to identify themselves with Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Dallas Police Department officers. Dallas Area Interfaith leaders negotiated this ground breaking police department policy change in the aftermath of the passage of anti-immigrant State Senate Bill 4, in order to engender greater trust between police and immigrants.
More than 1,500 immigrant leaders filled the sanctuary at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch in a standing-room-only assembly of leaders across multiple faiths and denominations. Three women shared stories of anti-immigrant abuse and community fears about reporting crimes to the police while lacking access to state-issued IDs. Friar Luis Arraiza of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes and Fr. Mike Walsh of from Holy Trinity explicitly challenged the chiefs of Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Dallas Police Departments to publicly commit to accepting parish identification cards as a means of identifying oneself during a police stop. All three said, ‘yes,’ to thunderous applause.
The largest applause, however, was reserved for Catholic Bishop Edward Burns who pledged, “the Church will do whatever it needs to do to stand with immigrants.”
Nine years prior, Farmers Branch was best-known for being the first Texas city to pass an anti-immigrant ordinance, which included fines for landlords renting to undocumented immigrants. The police department paid a price in community trust — one motivation for publicly pledging to accept parish IDs.
This approval will help the estimated 231,000 immigrants who call Dallas home.
[Photo Credit: (top) Dallas Morning News,(bottom) Catholic Diocese of Dallas]
Hundreds Meet to Discuss Immigration, Parish ID Card, Texas Catholic
Live Stream of Assembly, Catholic Diocese of Dallas
October 25, 2017
TMO Efforts Result in $27 Million in Food Aid for Families Surviving Hurricane Harvey
On October 6th, as thousands of Harvey survivors spent hours in line attempting to meet the deadline for emergency food aid, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), TMO leaders organized a press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to demand an extension of the deadline for families.
Said Fr. Simón Bautista, “For two days in a row [my parishioner] got in line at 6 a.m. and by the time she was seen, around 7 p.m., she was told that her last name was not being seen that day. She returned at 3 a.m. to find that 10 to 15 individuals were already in line. These individuals and families have been waiting in the heat, missing work and some still haven’t received the benefits.”
More than one week later, state officials announced a three-day extension of the deadline for families to enroll. TMO leaders expressed pleasure at the news of the extension, and recognized Congresswoman Sheila Jackson and Commissioner Rodney Ellis for their role in securing that extension.
Leaders are now celebrating that the three-day extension permitted more than 27,000 additional families to enroll in D-SNAP, resulting in the award of $27 Million in food aid for Harris County Harvey survivors .
Said Fr. Albert Zannatta, “Matthew 25:35 reads: for I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. These words of Christ spurred TMO to call for an extension….[and] TMO will continue to work until all have received the recovery they need.”
State Health Officials Continue Harvey Food Assistance Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
TMO Demands Extension of Deadline for Harvey Victims to Sign Up for D-SNAP, Houston Public Media
Community Leaders Push for D-SNAP Extension, Click 2 Houston
October 16, 2017
COPA Launches Esperanza Care: $2M Health Care Expansion for Monterey County Low-Income, Undocumented Families
When Maria Elena Manzo (upper left photo), an asthma educator from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, first discovered that children of Monterey County undocumented were unable to qualify for free life-saving asthma inhalers — and that those in Santa Cruz county did — she immediately reached out to COPA-IAF. She and other COPA leaders organized hundreds of conversations over the next few years to build the political will, first for a $500,000 county-funded pilot project providing basic healthcare services to undocumented families, and now for Esperanza Care.
Esperanza Care, is a $2 million program that will expand the pilot primary and preventive care program to make it more comprehensive and available to more people. It will also provide access, for the first time, to outpatient services at neurology, diabetes, heart and dermatology clinics.
“Esperanza Care is a step in the right direction,” says Manzo, adding “hundreds of conversations in churches, schools and community institutions…speak to the need. We must continue these conversations and work so that all people have quality healthcare access.”
Said District 4 Supervisor Jane Parker, “COPA comes up with ideas and invites the county to participate. We worked together to put together…the pilot program and now Esperanza Care.” 200 leaders participated in the celebratory event.
[Photo Credit for top photos: Tom Leyde, The Californian]
September 19, 2017
COPS/Metro Hikes Municipal, County Wage to $14.25 / Hour
Months after 750 COPS / Metro leaders challenged candidates for San Antonio City Council and the Bexar County Commissioners’ Court to support their living wage agenda in a nonpartisan accountability assembly — and then delivered 8,555 voters to the polls in support of their agenda — both Bexar County and the City of San Antonio increased entry wages to $14.25 per hour.
This is one of several steps leaders have initiated to raise public sector wages to $15 / hour by 2019.
Long-term workforce development program Project QUEST went on to secure $2.5 million in funding, an increase of $300 thousand compared to last year. COPS / Metro additionally secured $9 million in owner-occupied rehabilitation and $150 thousand invested in legal defense for immigrants.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, Rivard Report]
Bexar County Boosts Spending, San Antonio Express-News
Council Members Open to Minimum Wage Increase for City Workers, Rivard Report [pdf]
Group Seeks More Money for Jobs Program , Raise in Minimum Wage, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
As Nation’s Poverty Rate Declines, San Antonio’s Increases, Rivard Report
August 9, 2017
EPISO, Border Interfaith Extend New Water Lines into Colonia
Over 20 years ago, a developer in the City of El Paso bought acreage in a plot of land, an undeveloped “island” landlocked by, but not included within, El Paso’s municipal lines. The developer recorded the purchase with the County, but then — unbeknownst to anyone — illegally partitioned the land and sold the reduced-sized lots to low-income families without providing certificates of occupancy.
120 families built their homes in the Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa colonia, having little idea they had purchased and were residing in illegal subdivisions. Because the land was not part of the City, and illegally partitioned in the County, neither local nor state entities assumed responsibility for ensuring access to safe water.
Some of the families from this subdivision who were members of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church expressed their struggles at a house meeting convened by Fr. Pablo Matta, and later partnered with Border Interfaith to bring infrastructure to their colonia.
While working with the families, Border Interfaith leaders discovered the unauthorized nature of their tenancy and soon after began organizing to explain to the county why they didn’t have certificates of occupancy. Their first victory consisted of compelling the County to formally recognize and register their occupancy in County records.
The fight for the extension of city water lines into the neighborhood continued as they organized to request funding from the Texas Water Development Board and financial assistance from the Economically Distressed Areas Program. Unfortunately, they received news that the state funding was depleted.
Finally, after many obstacles, the second victory came when Border Interfaith and EPISO approached the CEO of the El Paso Water Utilities and requested the authorized expenditure of $2 Million from the Public Service Board budget to extend public water utility lines into Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa. Together, the CEO and the leaders worked to secure the necessary votes from the Public Service Board, and on February 8, 2017 the Board voted unanimously in favor of the $2 Million funding.
Construction is programmed to begin in October of 2017.
See Texas Standard reference to prior success in the colonias [starting an minute 3:00].
August 4, 2017
COPS / Metro Secures $6.5 Million for Housing Rehabilitation, Ushers in ‘Decade of Neighborhoods’
Four months after a nonpartisan accountability assembly in which 750 COPS / Metro leaders secured public commitments of support for senior housing rehabilitation from city council candidates, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to support the allocation of $6.5 Million during the next year. This represents a 261% increase in funding and will allow the city to rehab 81 homes in the next fiscal year, compared to 25 in the current year.
Said COPS / Metro leader Shirley Ellis of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, “It is now time for the ‘Decade of Neighborhoods.’ Instead of investing in developers, we should invest in homeowners — homeowners who have invested their lives into this community.”
Last April, Mayor “Nirenberg and council members Roberto Treviño, William “Cruz” Shaw, Rebecca Viagran, Rey Saldaña, Shirley Gonzalez and Ana Sandoval all publicly committed to boost funding for rehabilitation. According to the San Antonio Express-News,” Then Mayor Ivy Taylor did not attend the accountability session, nor would she make the same commitment.”
COPS / Metro leaders delivered 8,555 people to the polls in support of their issues agenda.
[Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
July 21, 2017
One LA, with LA Mayor, Sheriff, Takes On Housing & Immigration
500 One LA delegates from 28 member institutions assembled to hold themselves, and elected officials, accountable on a Sunday afternoon in July. Delegates ratified a new strategy team, updated the bylaws, and pledged increased dues.
In response to compelling stories, and the presence of hundreds of delegates, Mayor Eric Garcetti committed to working with One LA on concrete solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including a proposed linkage fee that would generate $75 Million per year towards affordable housing construction. Garcetti not only became the first mayor of a major city to sign on to the national IAF-initiated “Do Not Stand Idly By” campaign for safer guns, he additionally pledged to persuade other mayors to sign on.
After several young people shared stories about their immigration experience, the President of the LAUSD school board, Ref Rodriguez, pledged to support One LA and the Superintendent’s efforts to create ways for the district to provide support to young “newcomers” (recent immigrant arrivals & unaccompanied minors).
Regarding the treatment of 190,000, mostly women and children, crime victims awaiting U-visas, Sheriff Jim McDonnell committed to working with One LA and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to place a stay on their deportations.
Additional officials in attendance who pledged their support included: LA City Attorney Mike Feuer; Mitch Katz, director of LA County Health Services; LA Police Deputy Chief Robert Arcos; and Bishop David O’Connell, San Gabriel Region of the Archdiocese.
[In photo, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly pledges to support One LA agenda of issues. Photo Credit: Rafael Paz Parra]
Crisis de Vivienda, Univision 34
Additional Photos, Rafael Paz Parra
Video Preview, Rafael Paz Parra
July 17, 2017
700 DAI Leaders Clarify Impact of SB4 with Dallas Police
Before a packed audience of 700 leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith, and on the one-year anniversary of the shooting that took the lives of five police officers, Dallas Area Interfaith continued the public conversation about community relationships with the police in the context of SB4. In response to stories about immigrants fearful of reporting crimes they’ve witnessed to the police, Dallas Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly announced, “This is evidence of why SB4 is bad.”
Assistant Police Chief Gary Tittle was asked to clarify how SB4 could work, given police need for witnesses and victim cooperation and the real fears immigrants have of reporting. Tittle explained that crime victims, witnesses and people calling 911 are exempt from questions about immigration status.
The assembly took place even as Dallas Police Department interviews for a new police chief are underway. Said Minister Jonathan Morrison of Cedar Crest Church of Christ, and DAI representative on the interviewing panel, “I think there is always progress anytime there can be first real dialog and conversation and when communities can begin to share of their struggles and we begin to see commonality in our struggles.”
Religious leaders of DAI are working to develop a relationship of mutual accountability with the Dallas Police Department to address fears faced by all sides.
[Photo Credit: Ron Baselice, Dallas Morning News]
Dallas Police Asst. Chief Gary Tittle Responds to Question About SB4, Diane Solis – Dallas Morning News
DAI Leaders Commit to Working with Police, Allison Harris – FOX 4 News
Video, Judge Brandon Birmingham
June 28, 2017
COPA Expands Healthcare to 2,500 Low Income, Undocumented Residents in Monterey County
At the urging of COPA leadership, the Board of Supervisors of Monterey County unanimously voted to quadruple the size of COPA’s healthcare pilot project from $500 thousand to $2 Million on an annual basis.
The expanded program will provide at least 2,500 low-income undocumented residents, including farm workers and their families, with full-scope primary and preventative care, labs, radiology, medication and specialty services. A third-party administrator will be hired to issue enrollment cards, administer payments and track data.
Said Catholic Bishop Richard Garcia, “This has been a success because of the strong belief and labor of so many of our COPA members and our many great leaders representing our various communities!”
The real story is the persistent leadership demonstrated by leaders who are also future beneficiaries — immigrants concerned about their families and neighbors. These leaders organized hundreds of meetings in parishes and neighborhoods, participated in strategy meetings and publicly shared their story at Board meetings. Said leader Tony Jara of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, “This program will allow me to [see a specialist], so I can work and care for my family without experiencing …constant pain. It gives me great joy to work towards something that will help others in a similar situation.”
[In photo, Veronica Torres of St. Mary Catholic Church will finally be able to see a urologist under the expanded pilot project.]
Background stories detail how COPA:
June 21, 2017
NCG Wins Fight to Save, Transform Fremont Middle School
Nevadans for the Common Good celebrated a positive resolution to an education issue affecting students of Fremont Middle School. When the school district released rebuilding plans that involved busing Fremont middle-schoolers to another school, courageous parents and teachers began a year of conversing with each other and identifying allies.
With the support of neighboring institutions Christ Church Episcopal and Reformation Lutheran Church, Fremont leaders persuaded the School Board to approve a “transformational new plan for Fremont”: rebuilding Fremont as a K-8 school and constructing a new Global High School in the neighborhood.
[Photo Credit: Bridget Bennett, Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Defenders Hopeful Board OKs Plan to Keep Middle-Schoolers at Fremont, Las Vegas Review Journal
June 17, 2017
ICON Stops Waste / Recycling ‘Business as Usual’ in Pomona
After years of fighting for better regulation of waste management industry in Pomona, Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON) celebrated a unanimous City Council decision to ban new trash processing stations. The ban prohibits new businesses from moving into Pomona and prohibits any expansion of current establishments. ICON leader Reverend Julie Roberts-Fronk of First Christian Church testified that “since 2011, our leaders have come to the city council, planning commission and city staff. The overwhelming sentiment among residents was and continues to be ‘enough, no mas! Fix this.”
The effort initially grew out of an ICON ”Don’t Trash Pomona” campaign, begun by member congregation First Presbyterian Church, in which leaders succeeded in negotiating a 33% reduction of trash processed at the plant and conversion of company trucks to CNG alternative fuel.
Said Lisa Engdahl of First Presbyterian, the ban “communicates to the region that it is not business as usual in Pomona; we have high hopes and expectations for our city…we will no longer be the region’s dumping ground.”
Pomona Council Takes Steps Leading to Moratorium on Recycling, Waste Processing Businesses, Inland Valley Bulletin [pdf]
June 12, 2017
DAI Turns out 400 Votes in District Runoff Race, Exceeds Margin
Former Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo, who waited until the day before the election to support Dallas Area Interfaith‘s agenda in support of affordable housing and early childhood education, lost the runoff by 291 votes – the largest margin of three runoff races that day.
Her challenger, Omar Narvaez, publicly supported the DAI agenda two months prior.
Both candidates were invited to support the DAI agenda at a nonpartisan accountability assembly of 350 District 6 resident leaders held in April. At that assembly, leaders committed to informing neighbors and fellow parishioners of how candidates had responded to their agenda.
True to their word, DAI leaders organized block walks in the Bachman Lake area near San Juan Diego where voter turnout was highest in the election.
[In photo, Fr. Jesus Belmontes, pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church, talks about the DAI agenda at the nonpartisan accountability assembly held last April.]
June 2, 2017
Together Louisiana Defends State Constitution, Kills Tax Giveaway Bill
When petrochemical companies operating in rural Louisiana attempted to directly negotiate an industrial tax discount with the local parish (county), the effort ran up against the Louisiana Constitution. The local tax assessor sued and the state courts ruled that the agreement violated the Constitution. Developers then crafted House Bill 444, a constitutional amendment that would legalize direct negotiations with local governments. The amendment would allow corporations to work around Industrial Tax Exemption Program reforms recently won by Together Louisiana.
Proclaiming the bill “taxation by backroom deal,” leaders descended upon a Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee hearing to fight it. After leaders heard several rounds of testimonials about how HB444 would provide yet another “tool” in the “toolbox” of local economic development, a new metaphor emerged.
“I’m so tired of hearing about the toolbox for economic development.” proclaimed veteran Together Louisiana leader Edgar Cage. “This tool in the toolbox…. It’s a screwdriver. And guess who’s getting screwed?”
Against all odds, and with commendation from sitting committee members, Together Louisiana leaders prevailed, influencing enough votes from both political parties to kill the bill.
[In photo, Together Louisiana leader Edgar Cage describes the tool reserved for regular citizens.]
Together Louisiana Kills HB444 — Taxation by Backroom Deal, Together Louisiana [video]
Major Tax Break for Business Dies in Senate Committee, The Advocate [pdf]
May 24, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Secures Passage of SPICE Ordinance
Fresh from a state legislative victory allowing the criminalization of SPICE, Southern Arizona Interfaith leaders succeeded in persuading local policy makers to pass a city ordinance against the nasty synthetic drug. Tucson City councilmembers listened intently as leader Christina Crawford described how SPICE gave her son seizures and spasms, and as Msgr. Raul Trevizo and other leaders described finding vomiting and passed out youth on St. John the Evangelist church grounds.
Councilmembers praised the team for their persistence over 18 months, before unanimously voting to include the new chemical in a Tucson drug ordinance. Reporters captured the standing ovation Southern Arizona Interfaith leaders delivered to the Council upon passage of the ordinance.
Said leader Lorena Santos, “Look what we can do when we work together! This is just the beginning!”
Tucson City Leaders Pass SPICE Ordinance, Tucson News Now
Tucson In a Cat-and-Mouse Fight Against Nasty Synthetic Drug, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
May 26, 2017
Bastrop Interfaith Secures Lights & Cleanup for County Park
Bastrop Interfaith leader Alma Lopez lived in Stony Point in western Bastrop County for thirty years. She grew angry about people doing and selling drugs, abetted by darkness, at a long-neglected Stony Point park. ”That is my neighborhood and my friends and family don’t want those things happening here,” she said.
Two months after Bastrop Interfaith organized its first assembly, leaders secured lights for the park, with the Commissioners Court unanimously approving a contract with Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. The Cooperative will pay for the lights while the County will pay for the monthly electricity bill. Leaders additionally secured $1,500 for park cleanup.
The community wide cleanup will be the first step of many, according to Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. ”Anything we do is a giant step from doing nothing.”
“It’s a small cost to pay,” asserted leader Maria Vargas.
Bastrop Interfaith is an expansion project of Austin Interfaith.
Bastrop County Supports Community-Wide Cleanup at Stony Point, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
May 10, 2017
VOICE-OKC, Allies Stop Payday Legislation with Governor’s Veto
After HB1913 passed, threatening to triple the cap on small personal loans and boost the maximum interest rate to 204% per year, VOICE leaders and allies persisted in their fight against the bill.
Leaders publicly called on Governor Mary Fallin to veto the bill, on television and in writing arguing, as did Fr. Tim Luschen, that the bill is “not anything that can make our community a better place.”
In her veto message, Governor Fallin urged legislators to consult with “all stakeholders,” including consumer advocates, if they choose to revisit the issue.
Oklahoma Governor Fallin Vetoes Payday Loan Bill, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma Priest: Legislature Should Reject High Interest Loan Bill, The Oklahoman [pdf]
April 21, 2017
IAF Workforce Development Model Shows Sizable, Significant and Sustained Results for Graduates
Almost ten years ago, Project QUEST agreed to participate in a randomized control trial in which half of a pool of 400+ qualified and equally motivated applicants were picked by a computer to participate in Project QUEST. The other half were turned away and they pursued other options.
After three years, Project QUEST graduates already earned more than those who were turned away. By Year 6, the difference in earnings not only persisted, but increased to over $5,000 per year.
Said study co-author Mark Elliott, “Other programs have had large earnings impacts, but they haven’t taken people completely out of poverty into the middle class….This is a stunning achievement.”
This “gold standard” study is said to be the first in the nation to show sustained, statistically significant increases in participant’s earnings (and employment) over time.
Study Affirms Project QUEST Achievements, San Antonio Express-News
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
April 3, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Changes State Law to Combat Drug
When neighborhood users of SPICE, a synthetic marijuana with side effects including seizures and disorientation, began walking into traffic and collapsing on church and school grounds, leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church stepped into the void to identify solutions. Church leaders, in collaboration with Southern Arizona Interfaith, soon launched a campaign to “Give them Food” in addition to collaborating with local law enforcement and county health department to educate the community about the drug and prevent its sale. Over 250 area residents attended one of the community meetings.
In fall 2016, SAI and Pima County Interfaith hosted a nonpartisan accountability session drawing more than 500 leaders to address several issues, including SPICE. In front of hundreds of voters, candidates promised to introduce a bill to criminalize SPICE ingredients and to help law enforcement press charges against dealers.
This spring, Rep. Pamela Powers (LD9-D) negotiated the inclusion of SPICE ingredients in a bill (HB2033) sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter (LD15-R) on controlled substances, that Governor Ducey signed it into law.
SAI leaders are pointing to this victory as an “example of the great things we can achieve when we work together,” including bi-partisan cooperation in the expansion of the bill to include SPICE ingredients. Leaders also recognized the Tucson Police Department, St. John’s Pastoral Council and the Pima County Health Department for its collaboration.
Leaders are now working with City of Tucson Councilmembers Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik to follow through on their campaign pledges to pass a stricter local ordinance prohibiting the sale of SPICE in Tucson.
Southern Arizona Interfaith Confronts ‘Spice’ Epidemic in Tucson, West / Southwest IAF
March 7, 2017
OneLA, Allies Pass Measure H for Homeless Services, Prevention
One LA leaders celebrated a second election victory for the most vulnerable in Los Angeles County after the March 7 election. Together, with a coalition of other organizations and with the support of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, leaders worked to pass Measure H— a quarter cent sales tax to fund critical services for homeless populations as well as homelessness prevention for those at risk.
Following successful efforts to pass Measure HHH in November, a county-wide ballot measure to fund the construction of housing for the homeless, One LA leaders rallied again to support Measure H in 2017. Expecting low turnout, leaders organized civic academies and information sessions in their congregations to encourage members to vote.
One day prior to the election, One LA leaders joined Rabbi Dara Frimmer of Temple Isaiah and Fr. Arturo Corral of La Placita in lending moral authority to the measure at a press conference in which they stood flanked by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas and Sheila Kuehl.
Measure H passed by only 2 percentage points, approximately 16,000 votes, driving home the lesson that all politics is local, and every vote counts.
February 22, 2017
Together LA Blocks Tax Exemptions, Wins Sunshine Provision
Eight months after their victory in reforming the state Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), leaders of Together Louisiana noticed that industrial tax exemptions spiked 441% in its last year (2016), with the majority of tax exemptions granted after the reforms passed. They additionally noticed that the Commerce and Industry Board reversed the wording of the measure to undermine the reform that would have limited exemptions to proposals that had secured the approval of the local municipalities sacrificing the revenue.
Unsatisfied with the explanation that the 2016 reforms were not to touch applications already in the works, 100 faith and community leaders of Together Louisiana organized a press conference before the Board of Commerce and Industry’s meeting and then sat in on the meeting itself — demonstrating a rare presence of citizen oversight of a committee that distributed $4.9 billion in tax exemptions last year.
Under the watchful gaze of Together LA, the committee unanimously rejected six applications that directly violated the Governor’s order and added a “Sunshine Provision” to the ITEP program rules to allow local citizens to learn when exemptions are being considered by local bodies. Thanks to Together LA, Louisiana Economic Development must now post on its website, within three days, when proposed tax expenditures are forwarded to local municipalities for consideration, thus beginning a 120 day period for the provision of public input.
[In photo: Ann Dunn addresses the press on behalf of Together Louisiana.]
Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue Apace, The INDsider
Together Louisiana Protests Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
February 14, 2017
AMOS Expands Affordable Housing Possibilities in Ames, Iowa
Six months after advocating that a 10-acre city-owned property be developed with a variety of affordable housing options for local working families, AMOS leaders succeeded in expanding the number of rental and lower-priced housing units to be made available.
Initially, the land parcel was zoned for single family detached homes, with some of the loudest voices calling for exclusively owner-occupied units. Thanks to the intervention of AMOS leaders, Ames City Council voted for more affordable housing to be developed on-site, including 60% to be made available at affordable rates, and to include rental housing in its Request for Proposals.
The following month, the City of Ames further committed to two years of matching funds for an affordable housing trust fund that was created at AMOS’ initiative. This move will help the fund gain funding and build momentum, locally.
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
Affordable Housing Task Force Holds First Meeting, Ames Tribune
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
February 13, 2017
Working Together Jackson Demolishes Campus Blight
Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus. The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.
[In photo, Dr. Mary Jackson of St. Mark's Episcopal Church speaks at press conference celebrating local demolition. Photo Credit: Scott Crawford]
February 10, 2017
MACG & Allies Secure Tenant Relocation Assistance in Portland
As part of a larger strategy to secure affordable housing options in Portland, Oregon, leaders of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) and allies secured unanimous passage of an emergency tenant relocation assistance ordinance, persuading an “on the fence” Commissioner to support the measure. Seventy-five MACG leaders packed City Hall chambers, with direct views of the commissioners as they voted.
The new temporary law requires that Portland landlords pay $2,900 – $4,500 to tenants who are evicted without cause or have to move as a result of a +10% rent increase. Leaders see the approval of this temporary measure as a critical step toward providing immediate relief. The plan now is to target the state legislature to pass Just Cause Eviction and Rent Stabilization legislation this year.
February 2, 2017
Texas IAF Network Joins Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in Stand Against Anti-Immigrant Bill SB4
Said Bishop Joe Vásquez, on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, “We reject the premise that persons who are merely suspected of being undocumented immigrants should be rounded up by state and local police agents.”
“This bill requires local police and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal immigration laws as if their job of maintaining public order and the public safety weren’t difficult enough as it is,” said John Elford, senior pastor of University United Methodist Church and member of Austin Interfaith.
[In photo, Austin Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez speaks, surrounded by religious leaders of the Network of Texas IAF Organizations.]
Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian
CLC Urges Lawmakers to Reject ‘Anti-Sanctuary City’ Legislation, Baptist Standard
Testimony by Reverend John Elford, Austin Interfaith, Network of Texas IAF Organizations
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
January 11, 2017
Spokane Alliance & Allies Victorious in School Bullying Action
Following almost nine weeks of pressure from Spokane Alliance members and allies, the Spokane Public Schools (SPS) school board unanimously voted to make a public statement on recent school bullying that included four key points leaders advocated for: reaffirmation of the district’s commitment to respect all students; commitment to swift enforcement of harassment, intimidation and bullying; contact information for those needing to report incidents; and the context of the divisive year in politics.
Leaders testifying at the school board meeting were supported by dozens of parents and community leaders inspiring one leader to say, “It makes me want to cry to see so many people standing up together for children – as I’ve stood alone with parents so often with no resolution.”
December 8, 2016
One LA Reaches Milestone Healthcare Enrollment of 146,000, Celebrates Expansion of Enrollment to 54,000 More!
Before a packed audience of 200 health care leaders and Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of the LA County Department of Health, One LA celebrated the milestone enrollment of 146,000 Los Angeles residents into My Health LA, 8,000 of whom were enrolled by One LA leaders themselves at their institutions. My Health LA is a program One LA leaders compelled the County to create to cover undocumented residents and leaders ultimately secured an additional $6 million in funding and negotiated an agreement from LA County to conduct healthcare enrollment at One LA member institutions. 350 trained leaders held over 100 events to enroll the 8,000 residents.
At the celebration, Dr. Katz agreed to authorize funding to expand healthcare enrollments to reach an additional 54,000 residents!
November 9, 2016
One LA Takes on LA Traffic and Wins, Passing $120B Bond
Building on a four-year campaign, One LA leaders and their allies shaped, pushed for and passed Measure M to raise $120 Billion for new rail lines, improved bus services, and street and highway projects which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and make finding and getting to a job easier for working poor families across LA County.
Passing this bond measure required meeting a challenging two-thirds voter threshold for approval. This extraordinary victory took a county-wide education and mobilization of non-traditional allies crossing significant geographic, racial, religious and socioeconomic lines.
In addition to building a strong and diverse coalition of support, One LA led an action at the LA County Board of Supervisors that succeeded in putting the measure on the November ballot..
Leaders subsequently educated more than 500 voters through civic academies hosted at 8 One LA member congregations strategically positioned across LA County. Civic academies, taught by leaders, included information about LA City Measure HHH — which will fund the construction of 8,000 to 10,000 units of safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless — as well as about Propositions 55 for education funding and 57 for criminal justice reform. 75 precinct walkers targeted key swing precincts knocking on over 1,000 doors. Leaders then followed up with more than 500 phone calls.
“This is why a broad-based organization like One LA exists: not only to build a consensus among tens of thousands of voters across a county as large as Los Angeles, but to do so through trusted institutions and deep face-to-face engagement,“ said Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple. “During the development of this measure and during GOTV, we worked to build consensus across geographic and demographic lines which historically have been difficult to bridge in our segregated county.”
September 29, 2016
Together Louisiana & IAF Secure $500M in Flood Relief
Just days before Congress adjourns for October recess, the word among lobbyists was that a proposal for flood recovery funding for Louisiana would not even get a vote for inclusion in the continuing resolution (short term budget). It was the last opportunity to secure funding for flood recovery before the lame duck session.
Then, according to Together Baton Rouge (TBR), sister IAF organizations across the country began contacting their congressional representatives and senators urging them to support the funding package — across partisan lines. Together Baton Rouge posted a video that, in less than one day, was viewed 55,000 times as leaders quickly spread its message urging people to contact their congressional representatives.
48 hours after the funding was declared dead on arrival, the Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, threw his full support behind the funding and announced it would receive a vote.
At stake was tens of thousands of homes and potential foreclosures.
After more days of posturing, haggling and deal cutting, the Senate voted (72-26) in support of the Resolution and the House voted (342-85) in support. TBR additionally credited the Louisiana Governor and congressional delegation for “working tirelessly across party lines to make the case for flood recovery.” They also credited high-ranking House and Senate Democrat and Republic leaders for the win (see right).
How a Bill REALLY Becomes a Law, Together Baton Rouge
Congress Clears Bill to Prevent Shutdown, Politico
Great Flood of 2016 and What We Need to Rebuild, Together Baton Rouge
September 29, 2016
DAI Leaders Secure Strongest Tenant Protections in Texas
With three asthmatic children in the family, Patricia Vega (holding the toddler in pink in photo above) was constantly on the lookout for mold. ”Every time we move, we think it gets better, but it does not.” Realizing that the Dallas housing code enforcement offered no protections, she, with a group of women from San Juan Diego Catholic Church, enlisted the support of Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) to change the law.
In a little over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code of Dallas in a fundamental way. Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, “These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas’s most vulnerable.” FOX News calls the code the “toughest landlord rules in the state.” Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, “this is unprecedented.”
New protections include:
- required mold and bedbug cleanup by landlords
- eradication of insects from apartment pools
- required translation of rental agreements into Spanish and Vietnamese
- single-family rental inspections and registration
- 15 new inspectors just for single family rentals
- working AC with minimum required temperatures
Councilmember McGough said the new rules included “the strongest AC regulation in the state.”
A turning point was reached one month ago, when DAI leaders met with representatives of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas (AAGD) to negotiate points of disagreement. At the end of the day, AAGD stood with DAI in support of the new code, arguing that “poorly operated properties and slumlords bring down…the entire industry.”
Said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings: “This is how you pass legislation.”
Dallas Makes Rules Tougher on Landlords with New Housing Standards, Dallas Morning News
September 16, 2016
California IAF Prepares Episcopal Seminarians for Public Life
Looking for a way to create a “tighter fit between the life of faith and public life,” the Very Reverend W. Mark Richardson of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley turned to the Industrial Areas Foundation to help train its seminarians.
Says Rev. Susanna Singer, “Bishops were saying increasingly that community organizing is a good thing.” The creation faith, she argues, is about God’s vision of flourishing for humanity and the cosmos. ”It means that the body of Christ, which is us now, has got to get out there now and be involved in the communities in which we live because that’s where God’s dream is going to come true.”
“The intention is to train ordinary people both in giving them a conceptual framework for thinking about issues of power and self-interest and leadership as well as some of the practical skills of engaging people who are different than you out in the broader world,” says Anna Eng, lead organizer for the Bay Area IAF.
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific not only offers the 6-day course each year in January, it participates as a member in the Bay Area IAF.
[In photo is the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson sitting in a class. Photo Credit: Episcopal News Service]
CDSP Prepares Seminarians for Public Life, Episcopal News Service
Public Ministry in Practice, Episcopal News Service
September 15, 2016
COPS/Metro Raises Wages AGAIN & Secures QUEST’s Future
One year after raising the minimum wage for employees of the City of San Antonio (from $11.47 to $13 per hour), COPS / Metro Alliance leaders are celebrating again after the City Council passed a budget that includes a second wage raise to $13.75 per hour. This follows an intense two-year campaign with over 1,000 leaders recently assembling with the Mayor and council representatives to remind them of their commitment to a living wage. When the Mayor made some noise about living wages being an ‘outsider’s’ agenda, leader Maria Tijerina fired back with an editorial reminding her that COPS / Metro is a local organization with a robust constituency.
City Council additionally approved shifting funding for workforce development program Project QUEST out from human services into economic development with its own line in the budget. Funding increased to $2.2 million including $200 thousand to cover tuition for the Open Cloud Academy training developed in collaboration with Rackspace.
The Bexar County budget was also approved earlier this week with a new minimum wage set at $13.75 per hour (up from $13).
City Council to Up Minimum Wage for City Employees, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Living Wages are a Right, Not a Privilege, Rivard Report
City Discusses Upping Minimum Wage to $15, Rivard Report
COPS Metro Alliance Calls for $15 Minimum Wage for City Employees, Texas Public Radio
Elected Officials Hope City Will Cough Up More for New Master Plan, San Antonio Express-News
September 13, 2016
Together Louisiana Wins Industrial Tax Exemption Battle
Before a packed house of leaders from Together Louisiana, and after eight intense rounds of public testimony, the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry voted to defer all renewal applications for industrial tax exemptions, including an application for property tax breaks by Koch Industries which would have cost (disaster-declared) East Baton Rouge Parish $1.9 million in revenue.
Together Baton Rouge is calling this “one battle in a long fight for transparency and local control. But in terms of that battle, it’s a big, big victory!”
This victory follows political pressure by Together Louisiana to make the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) more accountable to the local entities paying for them. Last week, the Shreveport Times reported that the program costs school districts across the state millions of dollars every year, potentially hindering implementation of universal Pre-K. Responding to pressure from Together Louisiana last June, Governor John Bel Edwards changed the program to exclude school taxes from the exemption program, protecting school dollars going forward.
[In photo: Together Louisiana leaders celebrate.]
Panel Defers Industrial Tax Exemption Request, The Advocate
Louisiana Tax Exemption Debate, BR Proud
Louisiana State Board Puts Off Vote on Most Industrial Tax Exemption Applications and Renewals, Baton Rouge Business Report
State Board to Take Up Renewal of $11B Worth of Industrial Tax Exemptions Today, Baton Rouge Business Report
TBR Analysis of 22 Renewal Applications, Together Baton Rouge
July 15, 2016
AMOS Strategy Reduces Juvenile Arrests, Expulsions and More
Thanks to persistent intervention by AMOS leaders, Polk County school officials and law enforcement appear to be keeping more children and older minors out of court.
Between 2011 and 2015, suspensions and expulsions dropped by nearly 64% and suspensions for school attendance issues dropped by 91%. Arrests of minors by city police dropped by 32%, with a 21% reduction in the arrests of African American youth.
Progress took careful work with Polk County Courts in pursuit of more widespread use of restorative justice practices. Public engagement got tense at times, in particular three years ago when AMOS pointed out remarkably higher arrest rates of African American youth.
Progress in schools is largely credited to AMOS’ “Let’s Talk” program to which administrators and teachers refer youth in danger of suspension. The program currently operates in six Des Moines middle schools and involves a team of adults working with youth to resolve conflict and develop alternative approaches to conflict.
Says Organizer Liz Hall, “At Hiatt Middle School, Let’s Talk team leaders have trained all the teachers and administrators in restorative justice circles and facilitated circles with the entire student body.” At Meredith Middle School, there has been “a dramatic drop in out-of-school suspensions” in just three years.”
In photo is AMOS leader Rev. Dr. Brigette Black.
Editorial: Common Sense Prevails on Punishing Juveniles, Des Moines Register
AMOS Helps Juvenile Offenders Keep a Clean Record, Des Moines Register
July 8, 2016
Together Baton Rouge Secures Broader Investigation into Shooting of Alton Sterling
Shortly after leaders of Together Baton Rouge called on the Justice Department to widen the scope of its investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, saying it should include possible state criminal violations, a spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards responded, saying that the U.S. attorney’s office will not only investigate whether civil rights were violated, but also potential state and federal violations. ”If the U.S. attorney’s office finds any violation of state laws and believes the officers should be charged with battery, assault or murder, it will refer that back to the local district attorney for prosecution.”
Leaders had argued that if the federal investigation were to be limited to the narrow possibility of a civil rights violation, the consequence of turning the investigation over to federal officials would be “indistinguishable from the District Attorney refusing to conduct an investigation into state crimes,” including aggravated battery and murder (see statement at right).
Together Baton Rouge leaders thanked Governor Edwards for “helping to strengthen public trust” in the process.
[Photo Credit: Travis Spradley / The Advocate]
The Latest: Governor Thanks City for Peaceful Response, Associated Press
Faith Leaders in Baton Rouge Call for Peace, Patience and a Serious Investigation, Delmarva Public Radio
June 24, 2016
Together Louisiana Reforms State Industrial Tax Exemptions
Baton Rouge, LA – With seventy ’Together Louisiana‘ leaders in attendance, Governor John Bel Edwards issued an Executive Order overhauling the nation’s largest state program of corporate subsidies, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP).
Reforms include requirements that impacted local tax authorities approve the subsidy, including municipal government, school boards and law enforcement; exemptions demonstrate a Return on Investment (ROI) for new jobs or retention of good jobs; and that subsidy applicants sign contractual agreements based on promised investments and local hires.
Says leader Dianne Henley, “What the Governor did today is far bigger than reforming a single program. It signals a major shift in our state’s approach to economic development, focused less on corporate subsidies with no strings attached and more on jobs and the development of our people.”
Together Louisiana‘s victory comes the month after Edwards pledged to 400 leaders that he would support tax fairness, and only one week after the organization released a groundbreaking study of ITEP detailing its unorthodox structure and exorbitant cost to local governments. Leaders are calling this just the first major victory of their Tax Fairness Campaign and pledge to fight for more.
June 7, 2016
PCIC Leverages 18% Increase in County Funding for JobPath
After a campaign that included educating County Supervisors about the economic (and life) impact of JobPath workforce development program, leaders of Pima County Interfaith won a 18% increase in funding for the program, from $423 thousand to $500 thousand. Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 for the increase after Pastor Steve Springer of Dove of Peace Lutheran Church and Lindsay Leonard, a JobPath graduate, spoke.
Long Term Impacts of JobPath Graduates on Pima County, Applied Economics