HOME

The West / Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of broad-based institutional organizations building power to revitalize our democracy for constructive social and economic change.  We are part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s first and largest network of community organizations.

Learn more about Who We Are.

Read below for recent victories.  Click here for more extensive News Coverage.


RECENT VICTORIES & PROGRESS

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]

Esperanza Care Expands Health Care in Monterey County for Undocumented Immigrants, The Californian [pdf]

Roll-Out Event Set for Expanded County Health Program for Uninsured ImmigrantsMonterey Herald [pdf]


October 16, 2017

TMO Wins 3-Day Extension of Post-Harvey Food Aid Deadline

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.”

TMO is calling on Senators Cornyn and Cruz, and on Governor Abbott, to extend the deadline because “families are desperate for food resources and many have not been able to access D-SNAP benefits due to long lines.”

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, but also said the new location might not be accessible to many.  TMO is now calling for more locations throughout Harris County.

[Photo Credit: Al Ortiz, Houston Public Media]

State Health Officials Continue Harvey Food Assistance ProgramHouston Chronicle

TMO Demands Extension of Deadline for Harvey Victims to Sign Up for D-SNAPHouston Public Media

Community Leaders Push for D-SNAP ExtensionClick 2 Houston

Appeal for Aid on Behalf of NeedyHouston Chronicle


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

Activists Press Council Ahead of Budget Vote, KTSA

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]

Housing Renovation Projects Get More Money, 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]

Housing Renovation Projects Get More Money, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Nonpartisan accountability assembly

Press conference on housing bond accountability


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]

Affordable Housing May Soon Get $75 Million in Funding Thanks to Efforts of Interfaith Organization, Angelus

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]

North Texas Religious Leaders Step Up to Speak Out Against State’s SB4 Immigration Law, Dallas  Morning News

Inmigrantes Buscan Refugio en sus Iglesias Por Temor a Leyes Migratorias Como SB4, Al Dia Dallas

Dallas Police Chief Candidates in Town for InterviewsFOX News

Dallas Police Asst. Chief Gary Tittle Responds to Question About SB4Diane Solis – Dallas Morning News

DAI Leaders Commit to Working with PoliceAllison Harris – FOX 4 News

VideoJudge Brandon Birmingham

Photos


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:

2016 – Won Support for Undocumented Healthcare

2015 – Leveraged $500,000 for Pilot Health Project

2015 – Defended Healthcare for Unauthorized Kids

2014 – Busted Up Barriers to Healthcare Access

2013 – Resurrected Low Income Health Plan


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 Moves to Ban New Business in This Industry, Inland Valley Bulletin [pdf]

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

After forcing a runoff election in May, 20 DAI leaders each turned out 20 voters, primarily in the Bachman Lake area near San Juan Diego Catholic Church.

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.]

Shakeup to Shift Council DynamicsDallas Morning News [pdf]


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, State’s Assessors Team Up to Defeat Major Corporate Tax-Giveaway SchemeWeekly Citizen

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

Churches, Charities Asking Gov. Mary Fallin to Veto Payday Loan Bill, KOCO TV

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.

Project QUEST was established by COPS / Metro in San Antonio and continues to be the flagship for ten other projects across the US.

Study Affirms Project QUEST AchievementsSan Antonio Express-News

Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays OffEconomic Mobility Corporation

Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study FindsAustin American Statesman [pdf]

IAF Labor Market Intermediaries


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.

Pima County Interfaith, SAI & Allies Challenge Candidates for State Legislative and County Office, West / Southwest IAF

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.]

Despite Gov. Bel Edwards’ Efforts to Rein It In, Tax Break Even More Lucrative for Manufacturers in 2016, The Advocate [pdf]

Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue Apace, The INDsider

Together Louisiana Protests Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

The Ship is Not Turning: Status Update on Gov. Edwards’ Effort to Reform the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Together Louisiana


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 Continues Progress Toward Affordable Housing, Ames Tribune

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

AMOS Ups Number of Affordable Housing Units in New Ames Development, AMOS


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]

Nonprofit to Remove Blight in Jackson, Clarion Ledger [pdf]


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.

Three MACG leaders testified in support; one read a statement from a St. Andrew parish leader who had been prepared to speak, but stayed home due to recent ICE activity in the city.

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.

Testimony: Dr. Luis Manriquez, Portland Primary Care Doctor

Testimony: Gillian Weisgram, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church

Photos


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 CartelsRio Grande Guardian

Texas Interfaith Leaders Take a Stand Against SB4KXAN

Local Organizations Stand Against Sanctuary Cities Bill, KEYE

CLC Urges Lawmakers to Reject ‘Anti-Sanctuary City’ LegislationBaptist 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.”

Spokane School Board Reaffirms Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion Following Reports of Harassment Following Trump’s Election Win, Spokesman-Review

Parents Call for Spokane Public Schools to Address Trump Inspired Bullying, Inlander

Full SPS Board Statement


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.”

Click here to see press release


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 ShutdownPolitico

Congress Averts Shutdown with $500M Flood Aid Plan, Billed as ‘Down Payment’ for LouisianaThe Advocate

U.S. Senate Leaders Propose $500M ‘Down Payment’ on Louisiana Flood ReliefThe Advocate

Great Flood of 2016 and What We Need to RebuildTogether 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

Tougher Dallas Housing Code to Help Fight Slumlords, NBC-DFW

Dallas Council Passes Tougher Landlord Maintenance Rules, FOX 4 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’s Proposed Budget Changes Include $13.75 / Hour Starting Pay for City Employees, KSAT

City Council to Up Minimum Wage for City Employees, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Raise Minimum Wage for City Workers, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Living Wages are a Right, Not a Privilege, Rivard Report

New City Budget Might Include $15 Minimum Wage, KSAT

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

Council Asks for More ‘Aggressive Implementation of SA Tomorrow, Project QUEST Funding, Rivard Report


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

Reining In Industrial Tax Exemptions, WRKF

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

Paying the Price, Shreveport Times [pdf]


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]

Together Baton Rouge Pleads with Feds to Play Larger Role in Alton Sterling InvestigationThe Advocate

Alton Sterling Shooting: Baton Rouge Community Leaders Call for Investigation Beyond Civil Rights,ABC News

Together BR Urges Transparency, Thoroughness in Sterling InvestigationWBRZ

Alton Sterling Shooting: Homeless Man Made 911 Call, Source SaysCNN

In Alton Sterling Shooting, Faith Leaders Call for Clarity, Larger Federal Role in InvestigationTimes-Picayune

Louisiana Officers in Alton Sterling Shooting Cleared in Prior Use of Force ComplaintsChicago Tribune

The Latest: Governor Thanks City for Peaceful ResponseAssociated Press

Faith Leaders in Baton Rouge Call for Peace, Patience and a Serious InvestigationDelmarva Public Radio

Louisiana Officers Cleared in Prior Use of Force ComplaintsWTOP


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.

Governor John Bel Edwards Sets Criteria for Lucrative Tax Breaks for Manufacturers, The Advocate

John Bel Edwards Signs Executive Order for Scrutiny of Industrial Tax Break, Times-Picayune


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

Board of Supervisors Vote to Increase JobPath’s Funding by 16%, PCICEO