June 10, 2018
150 Austin Interfaith Leaders Launch Plan to Turn Out 10,500 Voters This Fall
Five months before the fall election, 150 Austin Interfaith leaders gathered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to launch a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort targeting 10,500 Central Texas voters. After approving the AI Agenda of Issues, leaders from congregations, schools, and non-profit organizations pledged, by institution, to sign up 10,500 voters and deliver them to the polls in the fall. Signups will take place both in congregations and institutions, and through blockwalks in surrounding neighborhoods.
Over the previous five months, Austin Interfaith leaders held over 250 small group “house meetings” with 2,500 participants to understand what issues communities are facing and to identify potential leaders from those conversations. What resulted is an agenda that includes workforce development and living wages, affordability and housing, community policing and safety, infrastructure and sustainability, healthcare, education, and immigration reform.
“It was exciting: clergy, teachers, parents, congregation members, healthcare workers, and union members all coming together around a shared vision for our county and with a practical plan to make it happen. This might be the largest and most diverse volunteer group in Austin working on voter turnout this fall,” said Elisa Gonzales, a leader from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church who delivered the focus statement at the Delegates Assembly.
Joining the Austin Interfaith Delegates Assembly yesterday were representatives from the organization’s expansion projects in Hays, Bastrop, Williamson, and Western Travis County, who are planning similar efforts in their communities. “We are one Central Texas community spanning many counties. We need to organize around a shared vision for the whole region,” said Gary Duck, a Co-Chair of the event from St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church in Williamson County.
June 9, 2018
Bastrop Interfaith Acts on House Meeting Concerns: Engages Sheriff, Organizes Neighborhood Cleanup
After hearing from immigrants about their reluctance to report crime, including domestic violence, for fear of being detained, Bastrop Interfaith leaders initiated a conversation with Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook about community safety, including improved communications between the Sheriff’s Department and the community. Leaders will soon meet with Bastrop County’s Crime Prevention Deputy and Victims Services Coordinator in order to advance the conversation.
In previous house meetings, residents of Stony Point had identified trash in their neighborhood as an issue of concern. Leaders worked with Bastrop County Judge Pape, helping leverage a county-funded free clean up day last fall. It proved so popular that resident leaders negotiated a second clean up, held the first weekend of June. Over 40 people hauled pickup loads of trash to the dumpsters, some making several trips! Bastrop Interfaith leaders used the opportunity to talk to people while they waited in line, to better understand their concerns and to include them in upcoming house meetings.
June 6, 2018
Valley Interfaith & Bishop Daniel Flores Leverage 2 Votes for Discharge Petition on DACA, Target Third Congressional Rep
Less than four months after Valley Interfaith delivered 10,000 letters calling on Rio Grande Valley lawmakers to take action on DACA, US Congressional Representatives Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) announced they will sign a petition in an effort to force the House to take up immigration bills. Both said they would sign Discharge Petition #10, which will set up a “Queen of the Hill” process to consider four bills that would address the uncertain status of DACA recipients. The bill that receives the largest number of votes in support will pass.
In a statement, Vela credited his decision to “consultation[s] with Dreamers, their parents, clergy and Bishop Daniel Flores.” Valley Interfaith, with Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, successfully lobbied the two congressmen.
Said Pastor Bill Duke, “with Reps. Vela and Gonzalez joining onto the discharge petition, we are still 3 signatures shy of the 218 needed to bring this to the floor. We are discouraged that Congressman Cuellar has maintained his stance and urge all residents who live within his district to call him and urge him to support the discharge petition. As pastor of First United Methodist Church in Mission, I call on him to support the Discharge Petition and to let democracy work!”
After thanking Valley Interfaith for keeping “a congressional solution to the DACA situation at the forefront of the local community,” Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores acknowledged that the road ahead is very long. But he reaffirmed, “This is a commitment to our young people that they are not alone — to give them the opportunity to do what they want to do to share their talents for the good of the whole community….We seek a permanent solution to the limbo so many (Dreamers) are going through right now.”
[Photo Credit: Maricela Rodriguez, Valley Morning Star]
Pressure Grows on Cuellar to Support Discharge Petition, Rio Grande Guardian
Valley Interfaith Asking Cuellar to Sign DACA Petition, Valley Morning Star
Valley Interfaith Pushes Lawmakers to Support DACA, Valley Morning Star
Bishop Daniel E. Flores’ Video Testimony, Catholic Diocese of Brownsville
June 5, 2018
‘Working Together Jackson’ Launches Effort to Rebuild Jackson
Over 350 leaders from 35 institutions of Working Together Jackson assembled with Mayor Lumumba, securing commitments to form a West Jackson Working group with WTJ to develop a plan for the rebuilding West Jackson.
The Mayor committed to having the Zoo Area Progressive Partnership (a WTJ member) vet all new members of the Zoo Board as well as to convening the newly formed Medical Corridor Commission, raising $1.5 million to fund Fresh Food Finance, and participating in the WTJ research work around public transportation by riding a long with WTJ members.
Said a Clarion-Ledger columnist:
“This group of black, white and various ethnicities gives hope for a better Jackson.”
Can Jackson Be Saved? Yes And It Must Be, Clarion-Ledger
June 4, 2018
Austin Interfaith Fights for Affordability in Land Use Overhaul
60 Austin Interfaith leaders packed into Austin City Council Chambers for a hearing on CodeNEXT to support speakers Florence Briceno from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic and Rev. Michael Floyd from All Saints Episcopal who testified for strong neighborhoods and affordability, and against displacement.
[Photo Credit: Jay Janner, Austin American Statesman]
CodeNEXT Opponents, Supporters Gather at Austin City Hall, Spectrum News
Austinites Still at Odds Over CodeNEXT as Rewrite Reaches City Council, Austin American Statesman
Video Testimony by Florence Briceño, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic
Video Testimony by Rev. Michael Floyd, All Saints Episcopal
June 4, 2018
COPS/Metro Weighs In on Affordable Housing Taskforce
Andy Sarabia, a founding member of COPS/Metro Alliance, encouraged attendees Saturday to rally support for recommendations by sharing their sentiments with their local elected leaders and City Manager Sheryl Sculley.
“I urge you to contact your Council person to get behind this,” he said. “We’ve got the mayor, who seems to be behind this, but do not forget the city manager. The city manager has a big say in all this. Together, we can put this over the top.”
[Photo Credit: Edmond Ortiz, Rivard Report]
Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force Reveals Recommendations, Rivard Report
May 24, 2018
NCLI Reduces Shreveport City Tax Exemption to Calumet by 49%
After compelling testimony and intervention by leaders from Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith, the Shreveport City Council reduced Calumet’s tax exemption request by 49%. The original request was for $858,444.30 and the amount approved totaled $437,769.70.
This means that the City of Shreveport will have $420 thousand more than they otherwise would have, had Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) reforms not been implemented.
May 20, 2018
MOC Fights for Housing-First Shelter, Renters Protections
After commemorating the end of REST (a rotating and temporary winter shelter program created by Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) for homeless individuals and families) MOC leaders are now focusing on identifying funding for more permanent housing options, including a “housing first” approach to homelessness. “We have realized for some time that [REST] was just a lifeboat,” said Purdy, a member of the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. “We kept people fed and out of the rain and cold but we did not end homelessness.”
And after learning that most tenants that inquire about the landlord mediation program refrain from participation for fear of retaliation by their landlords, leaders are renewing their push for a “just cause” eviction ordinance. “It’s hard to imagine tenants feeling safe requesting mediation from landlords, if the landlord has the right to evict them without cause,” Meredith Parnell, chairwoman of the Marin Organizing Committee’s renter protection team, said at a public hearing.
In order to advance their agenda, MOC leaders organized a nonpartisan accountability assembly with candidates for County Supervisor.
Positive Signs for Marin’s ‘Housing First’ Homeless Strategy, Marin Independent Journal
Marin Renters Considering Mandatory Mediation Fear Reprisals, Marin Independent Journal
Marin Supervisor Candidates Shroyer Skips Forum Over Format Issues, Marin Independent Journal
May 19, 2018
Together Baton Rouge & Louisiana Association of Educators Launch Campaign to Raise Teacher Wages
Braving torrential rains, hundreds of Louisiana Association of Educators and Together Baton Rouge leaders publicly launched, together, a public campaign to raise teacher pay (see photo above).
Days later, defying intimidation and veiled threats of reprisal, 400 teachers, aides, bus operators and support staff urged the Baton Rouge School Board to support raises and stop payouts to major corporations in the form of industrial tax exemptions.
Noting that teacher pay had dropped by $9,219 over ten years, even while the school board gave away $28 Million in tax exemptions, award-winning teacher Laverne Simoneaux passionately argued that schools “cannot afford to give away any of this money to tax exemptions.”
The school board deferred action on the proposal.
[Photo Credit: Patrick Dennis, The Advocate]
School Board Weighs In On Future of ITEP, Teacher Pay After Deferring Resolution, Baton Rouge Business Report [pdf]
Teacher Testimony by Laverne Simoneaux, Facebook/SupportOurEducators
May 17, 2018
COPS/Metro Fights for $6.5M in HUD Funds for Home Rehabs
With three months to decide how to spend $21 Million in HUD funding for affordable housing, several San Antonio Councilmembers are getting direct reminders from COPS / Metro leaders about their campaign promises to invest $6.5 Million in the rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing in older neighborhoods.
In spite of dispute over whether the commitment referred to new money or previous allocations, leaders are pressing on.
“We ask that you consider $6.5 million for new applications in the 2019 budget, and that those funds be allocated specifically for owner occupied housing rehab,” clarified Maria Tijerina, co-chair of COPS/Metro.
May 16, 2018
Colorado IAF Launches ‘Sign Up Take Charge’ Campaign with Adams 14 Parents, Teachers and Students
Angry about their exclusion from school decisions, 225 parents, teachers and students from Adams 14 assembled at Our Lady Mother of the Church in Commerce City to launch a ‘Sign Up & Take Charge’ campaign to fight for an agenda of issues informed by conversations in the community.
Barb McDowell, president of the Classroom Teacher’s Association (CTA), explained, “our agenda includes recess for all elementary students, accurate class schedules from day one, parental participation in creating the school calendars, hiring and keeping our counselors” …. and restoration of a highly valued bilingual program through the 5th grade.
The parents, teachers and students were joined by Superintendent Abrego, other school district officials, a State Senator Dominick Morenao and Commerce City councilmembers.
Said Regina Hurtado, who has four children in the district, “Our strategy is to build our own base of voters and supporters so we can be prepared for future elections….We are ready to organize ourselves.”
May 16, 2018
San Antonio Express News Calls on County Commissioners to Keep its Promise to Highland Oaks Residents and COPS/Metro
Citing the public safety hazard to children that current road conditions pose, the San Antonio Express-News urged the Bexar County Commissioners court to keep the momentum going on stalled road renovations.
Editors credited COPS / Metro Alliance with persuading the Commissioners to allocate funds for the project.
May 15, 2018
Catholic Press Explores Dallas Area Interfaith Parish ID Strategy
It has been a year since Texas passed S.B. 4, a measure that requires police and county sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The measure also grants local law enforcement the right to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest….
Father Forge, leaders of the Dallas Area Interfaith and more than 1,000 others met with law enforcement officials from Dallas and neighboring communities Carrollton and Farmers Branch, last November to see what could be done to quell fears. The problem, according to law enforcement, comes when individuals pulled over for traffic violations cannot identify themselves.
“They want to know who they’re talking to,” Father Forge said of police. “Well, we already issue our volunteers with ID cards, so we jumped on that….”
Church in Texas Issues IDs to Help the Undocumented Navigate Police Encounters, America Magazine [pdf]
Why Some Parishes are Offering IDs to Undocumented Texas, Catholic News Agency [pdf]
May 14, 2018
PCI Education Civic Academy Educates and Agitates Leaders
Over 60 parishioners of St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church attended a Pima County Interfaith Education Civic Academy in which Rev. Leah Sandwell-Weiss and Jane Prescott-Smith delivered background talks on education funding and teachers Shasha Velgos and Katie Fouts, long-time members of the church, shared stories about their schools: Catalina High School and Borton Elementary.
Small group discussions yielded a variety of stories and passionate concern for children and schools. Participants were invited to sign the #Investined petition and start a voting cascade at the close of the meeting.
May 10, 2018
Austin Interfaith Fights for Agenda in Primary Runoff Election, Knocks on Doors to Increase Voter Turnout
On May 10th, Austin Interfaith held an Accountability Roundtable with Texas House District 46 candidates Sheryl Cole and Chito Vela as well as US Congregational District 25 candidates Julie Oliver and Chris Perri at the Congregational Church of Austin. 100 leaders representing 10 Austin Interfaith institutions in East Austin and the University area gained commitments on an agenda of issues, developed from hundreds of small group conversations, which included education, immigration reform, affordability, and funding for public schools and workforce programs like Capital IDEA.
Leaders told stories about their experiences with homelessness, deportation of neighbors, essential financial support for adult job training, and inadequate school funding. All four candidates committed to advancing legislation regarding local control, limiting property taxes for low-income homeowners, restoring cuts to federal student aid, and repealing SB 4.
Leaders from Austin Interfaith institutions in South Austin and Corridor IAF held a second Accountability Roundtable around a similar agenda of issues with candidates for CD 21 and HD 45 in San Marcos on May 15th. Please see this Catholic News Service article on the role of Austin Interfaith’s Accountability Sessions and GOTV efforts in addressing issues affecting low-income and marginalized communities (click here).
On Saturday, May 19th, Austin Interfaith leaders conducted nonpartisan Get Out the Vote blockwalks on their agenda of issues in East Austin (Precinct 124), University/Hancock area (Precinct 206), and Stony Point in Bastrop County. The purpose of these walks is to develop relationships with neighbors, promote voter registration, and sign-on voters to the AI agenda.
May 10, 2018
NCG Secures Bi-Partisan Commitments from Gubernatorial Candidates to Protect Medicaid
650 NCG leaders packed the house at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church for a nonpartisan accountability assembly with three gubernatorial candidates. Leaders succeeded in leveraging bipartisan commitments from all three to protect Medicaid, invest new tax revenue into education and more.
Democratic Clark County Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak, and Republican Treasurer Dan Schwartz participated in the event and — after listening to stories from leaders about their struggles with education, health care, immigration, transportation and housing — agreed to work with Nevadans for the Common Good (NCG) on these issues.
Questions included whether candidates would maintain Medicaid expansion if elected, ensure new revenues from marijuana sales taxes and a new room tax would be invested in public education and whether they would work with NCG to improve transit services and affordable housing.
Detailed responses by the candidates were covered by the Nevada Independent (below).
[Photo Credit: Frank Alejandre, El Tiempo]
Nevada Governor Candidates Speak at Las Vegas Forum, Las Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]
3 Candidates for Nevada Governor Pledge to Protect Medicaid, Associated Press [pdf]
3 Candidates for Nevada Governor Pledge to Protect Medicaid, Nevada Public Radio
3 Candidates for Nevada Governor Pledge to Protect Medicaid, Channel 3 News
May 7, 2018
North Texas Police Accept DAI-Negotiated Parish ID Cards
After passage of Senate Bill 4, according to Father Michael Forge of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch, several undocumented parishioners told him that they felt unsafe going to church or taking their kids to school. One year later, his church, with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, is making parish identification cards available to his parishioners.
Building on a groundbreaking accord between Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) and the Police Departments of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch — in which the police agreed to accept parish identification cards as alternative ID — upwards of 1,100 parish ID cards have been issued since the campaign was launched. With some parishes requiring active membership from applicants for at least six months before issuing the card, the waiting list of submitted applications has, so far, exceeded 2,200 applicants and is expected to grow.
This joint effort with the Catholic Diocese is bringing immigrants out of the shadows and into fuller participation in congregational life. At San Diego Diego Catholic, 1,000 applicants were newly registered as members of their parish, even after years of regular church attendance. Teams of leaders identified by DAI, and trained (in Spanish) through a collaborative effort with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), help keep the cost of the parish IDs affordable for families.
Nearly 300 parishioners of San Juan Diego Catholic Church lined up by 8am on one Saturday morning to apply for a church-issued ID. Five hours later, 500 applications were filed by parish leaders and 300 cards issued that day.
Without an ID, said one parishioner, “we are scared of what could happen if we are stopped by the police.” With parish ID, families are feeling a greater sense of belonging and confidence in dealing with law enforcement.
Said DAI leader, Adriana Godinez, “For us, this is a really important document. We cannot take it lightly. It’s something that person is going to show to an officer.”
In training sessions held this month, police departments have committed to training their officers to recognize these cards as alternative identification. Dallas County Community College has also committed to accepting the IDs, for purposes of enrolling in GED, US Citizenship and English-language classes.
According to one applicant, Antonio Coahila, “It’s a bit of a relief. It’s like you finally have an identity.”
Why Some Parishes are Offering IDs to Undocumented Texas, Catholic News Agency [pdf]
Dallas-Area Immigrants Apply for Catholic Church-Issued IDs to Ease Deportation Fears, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Crean Identificación Para Ayudar a Inmigrantes en el Metroplex, Telemundo 39 [pdf]
April 20, 2018
MOC Commemorates End of REST and Start of More Permanent “Housing Focused Shelter”
300+ leaders of the Marin Organizing Committee gathered for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the end of a 10-year old temporary shelter program they established, REST, and the start of a new best-practice system of care to end homelessness in Marin County, called Housing Focused Shelter.
“Justice requires permanent housing over a temporary spot on a church floor,” said Rev. Jan Reynolds, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael and member of Marin Organizing Committee.
Reynolds went on to say, “the County of Marin, the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers, and the Marin Community Foundation have been important partners in REST over the years, and we call on them now to partner with us in this expanded vision toward ending chronic homelessness in Marin.”
[Photo Credit: James Cacciatore, Main Independent Journal]
Funding Sought for New Approach to Marin Homelessness, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
April 12, 2018
Working Together Jackson Fights to Preserve Location of Zoo
Said WTJ leader Heather Ivery, the “intent to leave west Jackson is disheartening — not only because of the possibility of losing a historic, 100-year old ecosystem, but because of the lack of transparency and involvement of the community in the decision-making process.” Mayor Lumumba echoed WTJ’s words, calling the proposed $50 million investment required for relocation “disrespectful to the history of the zoo and the folks in the community in which the zoo currently resides.”
Mayor Lumumba: City Should Keep the Zoo in West Jackson, Clarion-Ledger [pdf]
April 11, 2018
Central California Business & Religious Leaders Call for Immigration Reform
In an event convened by COPA, clergy and judicatories from Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Jewish backgrounds called on the business community to join them in a collective effort to identify solutions to the lack of immigration reform. Immigrants shared stories about the impact of legalization in the 1980s and the challenges of providing for family without authorization to work.
In turn, agricultural industry leader Wesley Van Camp of agribusiness Tanimura & Antle reaffirmed her commitment to fight for immigration reforms and pointedly noted the absence of industry leaders in construction and hospitality in advocacy efforts. “I take that on as a bit of a challenge,” said Don Chapin of Chapin Construction “[and] I couldn’t agree more.”
This gathering is part of a larger COPA immigration strategy in Central California.
Area Faith, Business Leaders Gather to Discuss Immigration Reform, The Californian [pdf]
Business and Religious Leaders Meet in Salinas to Talk About Immigration Reform, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
April 10, 2018
DAI Parish ID Strategy Is In Full Swing, Protecting Families and Rebuilding Churches
Building on a groundbreaking accord between Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) and the Police Departments of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch — in which the police agreed to accept parish identification cards as alternative ID — upwards of 800 parish ID cards have been issued since the campaign was launched four weeks ago. With some parishes requiring active membership from applicants for at least six months before issuing the card, the waiting list of submitted applications has, so far, exceeded 2,000 applicants and is expected to grow.
This joint effort with the Catholic Diocese is bringing immigrants out of the shadows and into fuller participation in congregational life. 700 applicants were newly registered as members of their parish, even after years of regular church attendance. Teams of leaders identified by DAI, and trained (in Spanish) through a collaborative effort with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), are helping keep the cost of the parish IDs affordable for families.
Without an ID, said one parishioner, “we are scared of what could happen if we are stopped by the police.” With parish ID, families are feeling a greater sense of belonging and confidence in dealing with law enforcement.
In training sessions held this month, police departments have committed to training their officers to recognize these cards as alternative identification.
[Photo Credit: Telemundo 39]
Crean Identificación Para Ayudar a Inmigrantes en el Metroplex, Telemundo 39 [pdf]
April 10, 2018
DAI Makes the Case for Public Investment in Job Training
Adriana, a single mother of two, is a Skill Quest participant. Before the program, she earned $600 a month cleaning homes, and the thought of going to school was a dream. Now when she finishes her radiology degree next year, she will be placed in a job in Dallas earning $50,000 to start.
Stories like Adriana’s are possible because of the public investment made in providing the wrap-around services for her to attend college. So that things such as rent, child care, and navigating college as a first-generation student do not create barriers that keep our future skilled workforce from graduating and meeting the job demand in our city.
So why does a city like Dallas need Adriana? The answer: Adriana represents the future of Texas. She is a young, uneducated single mother and lives below the federal poverty line. She also serves as an economic opportunity for our city.
April 5, 2018
Dallas Catholic Diocese, DAI Stand w/ Family in Deportation Case
When Fr. Daza of Nuestra Señora del Pilar Catholic Church heard that his parishioner, Adolfo Mejia, was in deportation proceedings, he immediately picked up the phone and called Dallas Area Interfaith.
“It’s the children who suffer,” said Fr. Daza.
Together with the Dallas Catholic Diocese, DAI is standing with the Mejia family — including Adolfo’s wife, Lucia, and six US-born children.
“This is not a time for isolation,” said DAI organizer Socorro Perales, who went to immigration court with the mother. “This is a time to build relationships. It is not over yet.”
[In photo: Catholic Bishop Greg Kelly stands with Lucia Mejia and her family outside the Earle Cabell Federal Court Building before a court hearing for Adolfo Mejia. Photo Credit: Jeffrey McWhorter / Dallas Morning News]
US Citizen Kids Face the Deportation of Their Immigrant Parents, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Deportación de Padres Traumatiza a Niños, Dallas Al Día
April 4, 2018
AMOS-Initiated Skate Park for Youth Gets $1M Closer to Reality
Years ago, AMOS initiated conversations with families about what was needed for local youth. The answer that emerged was surprising: a large, well-developed skate park that could provide multiple outdoor recreational activities. For years, skateboarders had turned a public plaza into an ad hoc skatevpark, sometimes — to the consternation of police and adults — turning sculptures and handrails into skateboard ramps. AMOS leaders identified a location in Des Moines and leveraged resources for the park design — which, when built, will be one of the largest in the United States.
The $3.5 Million skate park is now $1 Million closer to construction, thanks to the generosity of a local family foundation. AMOS celebrated the advance in a press conference, and expects the project to break ground in early 2019.
Des Moines Regional Skatepark is Becoming ‘a Reality’, Des Moines Register [pdf]
Lauridsen’s $1 Million Donation Lifts Skate Park Campaign, Business Record [pdf]
March 22, 2018
Together Baton Rouge, Corporate Execs Face Off on Job Creation
As the Baton Rouge Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) Committee considers new rules for local application of industrial tax exemptions, they heard starkly different stories by citizens and corporate executives. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce proposed dramatically looser rules on tax breaks, excusing some business from paying any taxes for five years, depending on the size of the corporation. Small business owners and citizen leaders of Together Baton Rouge called on the committee to ensure that tax incentives require job creation and serve in its designed capacity to incentivize (future) business investment, rather than pay for past expenditures.
The local nature of this debate is the result of Together Baton Rouge’s efforts to de-centralize tax break decisions so that local entities sacrificing the tax revenue can weigh in on industrial tax break decisions.
[Photo Credit: Bill Feig, The Advocate]
ExxonMobil: Major Investments Hang in the Balance, As Opposing Sides Square Off Over ITEP, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report [pdf]
March 21, 2018
Federal Study Recognizes VIDA for Moving Low-Income Out of Poverty
One of nine workforce development programs evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) was selected as one of the most effective programs as measured by retention, graduation and employment. Findings from the study were revealed at South Texas College’s Pecan Campus and celebrated by Senator Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa and leaders from VIDA and Valley Interfaith. The study was a blind study — essentially comparing what happened to 500 students who enrolled in VIDA and 500 students who enrolled in other programs.
VIDA is a long-term workforce development program established by Valley Interfaith and modeled after the nationally renowned Project QUEST in San Antonio. In a video produced by Valley Central [link below], San Juanita Sanchez describes how VIDA helped her return to college after 20 years to finish her degree in social work.
[Photo Credit: Patricia Martinez, Rio Grande Guardian]
VIDA: Implementation and Early Impact Report, Pathways for Advancing Careers in Education
VIDA Wins Recognition for Helping Low- Income Individuals Improve Education, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
March 6, 2018
DAI, Catholics Pressure Senators Cornyn and Cruz on DACA
Dallas Area Interfaith has been quietly working with Catholic congregations to build support for DREAMers who are now in danger of losing their temporary legal status as their DACA permits expire and a resolution is not in sight. So far, 20,000 signed letters to Senators Cruz and Cornyn have been collected in Catholic parishes in the Dallas area.
“Now is a critical time and there needs to be an organized constituency standing for immigration reform,” said Josephine Lopez-Paul, the lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith. “These are our brothers and sisters and the church will stand with them.”
Dallas DREAMers and Allies Rally for a Permanent Legalization Measure, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
March 6, 2018
NCLI Leads Second Local Rejection of Industrial Tax Break
For the first time in the history of Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, a school board rejected an application in order to preserve public funding for its schools. Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith (NCLI) leaders and Caddo Parish teachers spoke passionately at a Caddo Parish School Board meeting, asking board members to “put the students first.” As a result, the Board voted to deny exemptions from school board taxes for Inferno Manufacturing, Inc.
NCLI and Together Louisiana have worked hard to bring public accountability to tax exemptions under this program, helping make it possible for local taxing bodies to decide for themselves whether or not to forgo the public funds involved. Caddo Parish School Board joins the Caddo Parish Sheriff to become the second public entity in Louisiana to use that power judiciously.
Caddo School Board Denies Industrial Tax Exemption, Shreveport Times [pdf]
March 3, 2018
TMO Leaders Secure Primary Candidate Pledges in 4 Assemblies
TMO leaders stretched beyond Houston, organizing four nonpartisan accountability assemblies and leveraging public commitments in some of the most competitive legislative and congressional districts in the state.
In Congressional District 7, reaching into Katy (West of Houston), TMO leaders from Faith City, Chapelwood United Methodist and Memorial Drive Methodist assembled at Congregation Beth Israel to engage primary candidates around the flooding of a nearby bayou (and need for local Harvey recovery) and comprehensive immigration reform — securing commitments from both.
In Congressional District 29, 250 TMO leaders packed a parish hall to engage with candidates around DACA and the need for federal immigration reform. Leaders also secured pledges from candidates for Harris County Precinct 2.
In House Districts 146 and 147, almost 100 leaders secured commitments from candidates around mental health facilities and more.
In House District 139, a Capital IDEA graduate told her inspirational story, helping 100 leaders leverage commitments from candidates around investments in workforce development.
February 26, 2018
Bastrop Interfaith Secures Candidate Commitments in Fight for Drainage, Immigration and Bridge Repair
Leaders from Bastrop Interfaith, an initiative of Austin Interfaith, met with candidates for Bastrop County Judge to discuss drainage, immigration, bridge repair, and drug treatment.
February 22, 2018
NCLI Effort Leads to First Local Rejection of Industrial Tax Break
Fighting a four-front battle to better invest local public funds, Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith (NCLI) leaders recently persuaded the Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator to become the first local official in state history to use the newly-granted local authority to reject an industrial tax exemption request.
This month, three more local entities – Caddo Parish, the City of Shreveport, and the Caddo Parish School Board – will vote on multi-million dollar tax exemption requests, one application at a time.
Leaders called on the Caddo Economic Development Board to better invest its economic development dollars in human infrastructure (PreK-12 and long-term workforce development), as well as in systems for drainage, sewage, clean air and water.
[Photo Credit: Chuck Smith, Red River Radio News]
February 21, 2018
Valley Interfaith Fights for DACA, Sends 10,000 Cards to Congress
Wielding 10,000 signed postcards to Congressional Representatives and scriptural passages on the subject, Valley Interfaith leaders and Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores forcefully called on Congress to protect DREAMers as they decide the future of DACA.
“The Bible is clear,” declared Msgr. Heriberto Diaz of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Brownsville. “We are to welcome the immigrant, as we were once immigrants in a foreign land.”
Bishop Flores emphasized, “Young people are not statistics…not just numbers…they are young people with hopes and dreams.”
[Photo Credit: Miguel Roberts, The Monitor]
Valley Interfaith Leaders Urge Congress to Fix DACA, The Monitor [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Challenges Legislators to Find DACA Solution, Brownsville Herald [pdf]
Bishops Flores: Young People Will Lose Faith in Government if DACA Issue is Not Resolved, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
February 20, 2018
COPS/Metro, Beacon Hill Leaders Fight for Future of School
Close to 200 parent, teacher and community leaders packed the Beacon Hill Dual Language Academy cafeteria to challenge their elected officials to work with them to improve the school.
On stage, in response to direct questions from COPS / Metro leaders, SAISD Trustee Christina Martinez committed to securing the resources to expand Beacon Hill’s dual language program, to identifying solutions to traffic issues currently leading students to wait outside in the rain during dismissals, and to securing the funding to demolish the old school (if funding for building renovation cannot be secured).
In response to leaders’ challenge, City Councilman Roberto Treviño committed to securing funding to renovate the old school building and to ensuring that the City of San Antonio would do its part to ensure the traffic-related safety of children. State Representative Diego Bernal pledged to expand state funding for dual language programs and to work with Trustee Martinez to address issues with a Union Pacific property.
COPS / Metro leaders committed to working with each other to expand the dual language program and train for leadership development to strengthen the constituency that supports Beacon Hill Academy.
To Demolish or Renovate: Beacon Hill’s 1915 Campus Building in Limbo, Rivard Report [pdf]
February 20, 2018
Valley Interfaith Leverages Candidate Pledges on Indigent Health, Job Training and Colonia Infrastructure
250 leaders with Valley Interfaith assembled at Holy Family Church in Edinburg to challenge candidates for Hidalgo County Judge to commit to working with them on health, job training and colonia infrastructure. Specifically, leaders challenged candidates to commit to raising the income eligibility to qualify for the County’s indigent health care program, to restore funding for long-term job training program VIDA and to install necessary lighting, streets and drainage in surrounding unincorporated neighborhoods.
Candidates Richard Cortez, Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios, and Palacios’ opponent in the March primary, Ellie Torres, all publicly pledged to support Valley Interfaith’s agenda.
Cortez, Palacios, and Torres Commit to Valley Interfaith’s Agenda, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
February 19, 2018
DAI Leverages Commitments in Suburban Congressional and State Legislative District Primaries
DAI leaders from Richardson, Garland and North Dallas engaged Democratic primary challengers in Congressional District 32, and Republican candidates for Senate District 2 and House Districts 114 and 102 [photo above]. Leaders secured pledges around local control of payday lending ordinances and restoration of state funding to public schools and workforce development.
February 19, 2018
COPS/Metro Secures Pledges In Most Competitive Congressional Race in Texas
Between San Antonio and the US Mexican border, leaders from COPS / Metro and The Border Organization in Del Rio bridged gerrymandered distances to engage Democratic challengers in US Congressional District 23 (Helotes), and Republican challengers (and Democratic incumbent) in House Districts 116 and 117. The joint accountability session drew 175 to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Helotes, Texas and included candidates for Bexar County Commissioner Precinct 2. Leaders also engaged top candidates in House District 21, currently held by Joe Strauss, in a separate assembly.
February 18, 2018
EPISO & Border Interfaith Fight for DACA and EPA Protections
The El Paso Times reported that “grassroots representative democracy was at work Sunday in the Lower Valley” when over 600 leaders from El Paso institutions of Border Interfaith and EPISO, assembled at St. Paul Catholic Church. Together, they challenged six candidates for US Congressional office to support a “fast-track” pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, and to support air quality cleanup along the border through funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Candidates were also called on to support universal health care and advocate for Medicaid expansion. All candidates to US Congressional District 16 appeared and publicly pledged to support the El Paso IAF’s position on these areas.
Community leaders challenged candidates for County Judge and Commissioners Court to make the University Medical Center of El Paso and its health clinics “safe havens” for immigrants, to support Medicaid expansion and to support “fair chance” hiring legislation. Most candidates agreed.
Rev. Pablo Matta closed the session by calling on all leaders to get out the vote in advance of the March 6 primary election. “That is the important part — to get out and vote and get 10 people to vote!”
Understand the Issues, Know the Candidates, and Vote, El Pasto Times [pdf]
February 16, 2018
Power of Together Baton Rouge Recognized by Business Journal
Those who had considered TBR little more than an annoyance suddenly realized it was a force with which to be reckoned. The gloves came off….
[Photo Credit: Collin Richie, Greater BR Business Report]
Who is Baton Rouge…and Why Has It Driven So Many in the Community Apart?, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report [pdf]
February 12, 2018
NCLI Challenges Giveaway of Shreveport, Caddo Parish and Caddo Public School Funds
Leaders of Northern and Central Louisiana Interfaith (NCLI) hosted a press conference urging Caddo Economic Development not to grant Inferno Manufacturing a tax exemption for work already completed. Citing research by Blackwell Associates Law Firm indicating that granting tax subsidies for work completed violates the state constitution, Interfaith leaders testified that citizens should not be asked to pay for Inferno’s already purchased equipment.
Leaders furthermore noted that 89% of 2017 industrial tax exemptions cost Caddo Parish $3.9 Million and 4,151 jobs. Religious and community leaders called on the Caddo Economic Development Board to better invest its economic development dollars in human infrastructure (PreK-12 and long-term workforce development), as well as in systems for drainage, sewage, clean air and water.
In December, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator became the first local official in state history to use the newly-granted local authority to reject an industrial tax exemption request, stating, “No way.” The Sheriff’s Department rejected the exemption as not worthy of receiving a public subsidy.
This month, three more local entities – Caddo Parish, the City of Shreveport, and the Caddo Parish School Board – will “vote on the multi-million dollar issue one application at a time.”
Shreveport-Caddo Has New Power Over Tax Program Which Gave Away Over $680 Million, Shreveport Heliopolis [pdf]
February 11, 2018
One LA Partners with Mayor on $100M Affordable Housing Fund
500 One LA-IAF leaders assembled with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss implementation of the recently passed linkage fee for affordable housing at St. Agnes Catholic Church, and to report on what is happening in their neighborhoods. Representing the first community organization with which the Mayor met, leaders challenged him to more deeply collaborate with the organization in the next few months.
Leaders told poignant stories about illegal evictions (and threats of eviction) from garage apartment conversions in Pacoima, families with children hiding their homelessness in West LA, and youth and senior citizens battling despair in the face of daunting odds while “living rough” near La Placita Catholic Church downtown. Leaders also decried longtime South LA residents facing displacement from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods and the rising homeless rate among South LA students in LAUSD.
Said Fr. David Matz of St. Agnes Catholic, “All of us can see that homelessness is increasing. But, hidden beneath the surface is a growing affordability crisis that affects millions more.” Debra Silverman of Temple Isaiah in West LA argued, “I want my community to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. I want to live in a neighborhood open to all, even if they cannot afford market-value housing….And I know a lot of my neighbors feel the same way.”
Last December, the Los Angeles City Council passed a linkage fee on new development, projected to generate $100 million per year for the City of Los Angeles’ affordable housing trust fund. The linkage fee was a major focus of leaders’ engagement with Mayor Garcetti at the One LA Delegates Assembly in July 2017, and its implementation was a focus of this one.
One LA pledged to organize listening sessions with City Councilmembers in the San Fernando Valley, Downtown, West LA and South LA to shape the implementation of the linkage fee during the next few months. Leaders also challenged the mayor to include La Placita leaders in planning meetings for a new pilot project that will make on-site social and mental health services available to people staying in City short-term housing.
The Mayor agreed, furthermore pledging to meet with One LA in three months to hear concrete proposals that emerge from the listening sessions, and to continuing to work with One LA to identify opportunities for more affordable housing construction.
January 22, 2018
Common Ground Sets Neighborhood Safety Priorities in Vallejo
On Thursday, January 18th, 220 Common Ground leaders from Solano and Napa Counties kicked off 2018 with a Neighborhood Safety Assembly at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Vallejo. They were joined by 60 allies from across the region.
At the heart of the agenda was a plan, crafted by local parish and school leaders, to prioritize five areas across Vallejo for critical crosswalk improvements, and to examine laws to decrease vacant lot blight which plagues residential neighborhoods across Vallejo.
Mayor Bob Sampayan and the new Superintendent of Vallejo public schools, Dr. Adam Clark, committed to working with Common Ground leaders on these issues.
Fr. Andrés Emmanuelli, vicar at St Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Vallejo, and Ms. Maggi Ingalls with Napa Valley Unitarian Universalist, discussed the specifics of the ‘Common Ground Neighborhood Safety Plan’ and called upon those gathered to reclaim their communities. Towards that end, leaders have scheduled a study session with the Mayor at First Christian Church in Vallejo on February 12th.
January 22, 2018
Preaching Citizenship, DAI Engages 1,200 New Citizen Recruits
In a major push to sign up new (and potential) voters, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders recruited over 1,200 US legal permanent residents, green card holders, to apply for US citizenship this year. Catholic priests and lay leaders took to the pulpit to spread the word that a key element of the Catholic faith is participation in public life, which includes voting.
[Photo Credit: Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor to Dallas Morning News]
Church Groups Join Immigrants In a Big Push for Citizenship, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Iglesias y Grupos de Fe de Dallas Impulsan Ciudadanías, Al Día Dallas [pdf]
January 19, 2018
TMO Demands DACA Solution, Sends 20,000 Cards to Congress
Bearing 20,000 postcards to the US Senators and Congress members representing them, TMO clergy and leaders took to the podium to demand that they craft a solution to the crisis which has jeopardized the status of thousands of DREAMers who have relied on DACA to build their lives in Texas.
Stories from immigrant leaders made clear that a failure to craft a compromise will not only harm families, it will undermine the capacity of the hospitals and health care systems that currently rely on their talent.
[Photo Credit: Maria de Jesus, Houston Chronicle]
January 18, 2018
COPS/Metro Educates San Antonio Residents About $9M Home Rehab Program Leaders Expanded
Less than one year after more than 750 COPS / Metro leaders secured candidate pledges for increased municipal investments in home rehabilitation, leaders are now training hundreds of residents about the new program and how to apply. $9 Million has been set aside for qualifying residents — $6.5 Million from federal funds and the rest through the City of San Antonio.
This effort is a key part of the “Decade of Neighborhoods” campaign launched by COPS/Metro last year.
512 people were trained in just one week.
[Photo screenshot from FOX News coverage.]
January 15, 2018
Bishop, Valley Interfaith Celebrate Opening of Las Milpas Library
In the largest celebration of multiple events, Bishop Daniel E. Flores blessed the opening of a new library in Las Milpas, surrounded by Valley Interfaith leaders, children from Carmen Anaya Elementary School and other community supporters. An assembly chronicled the community-driven effort that went into changing the political culture of South Texas, reflected in the construction of the new library that leaders had fought for and won.
Three years prior, Valley Interfaith leaders signed 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.
The first meeting of the new City Commission in 2015 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.”
The library opened in 2018 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]
January 2, 2018
Together Louisiana Builds Power and Demands Transparency of State Economic Development
Baton Rouge, LA – From its earliest days, starting shortly after Hurricane Katrina, the network of religious congregations and citizen organizations that make up Together Louisiana asked:
How is it that Louisiana, a state as rich in resources as Texas, looks so much like Alabama?
That question led leaders to what looks like a normal state incentive program, but upon closer inspection, revealed itself to be anything but. The 87-year-old Louisiana Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) facilitates the largest state-led transfer of public dollars to private corporations in the United States.
In 2016, Together Louisiana released a ground breaking study which revealed just how unusual ITEP is and how much it costs local school districts and other taxing entities ($1.9 Billion every year). The study also showed how the Louisiana Constitution gave the Governor the authority to reform the program, a fact leaders pointed out in a nonpartisan accountability assembly with gubernatorial candidates.
After elected, and in the presence of 70 Together Louisiana leaders, Governor Bel Edwards signed an executive order overhauling ITEP for the first time in eight decades, tightening eligibility for the exemptions and — most historic — empowering local governmental entities that stand to lose tax revenue (i.e. school districts, municipalities and law enforcement) to determine for themselves whether the exemptions are to be granted.
Industry giants fought back hard, but Together Louisiana leaders have so far warded off attempts to limit the scope of the executive order and grandfather giveaways to Koch Industries. Together Louisiana furthermore compelled the inclusion of a “Sunshine Provision” to allow local citizens to learn when tax exemptions are are being considered, and blocked attempts to rewrite the state Constitution to allow corporations seeking tax breaks to negotiate directly with local entities.
Together Baton Rouge‘s research and persistence eventually sparked the interest of an investigative reporter from The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper. In the first of three startling reports, The Advocate confirmed that the US’ costliest state incentive program allowed manufacturing companies to cut jobs while depriving local parishes of billions in taxes. In one case, Exxon Mobil received $700 million over 20 years while cutting 1,900 jobs in the East Baton Rouge Parish.
IAF organizations across Louisiana continue to fight the tax giveaways.
In Caddo Parish, one company (as important to Shreveport as Exxon is to Baton Rouge) attempted to secure $8 million in tax exemptions over five years — for work already completed and promising no additional jobs. Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith clergy intervened and successfully blocked the tax giveaway from four public entities: Caddo Parish Commisioners, City of Shreveport, Caddo Parish School Board and Caddo Parish Sheriff.
Northern & Central Louisiana subsequently scheduled a follow up meeting with the Shreveport City Council to educate them about alternative economic development opportunities including long-term job training and investments in public infrastructure.
The organizations of Together Louisiana show no signs of letting up. The network is furthermore expanding, with an emerging group in Ascension Parish (in photo above) currently challenging a proposed tax exemption in order to preserve $25 Million for local schools.
The future of Louisiana’s economy will largely depend on the future of Together Louisiana, the strength of its local organizations and the capacity of its leaders to persuade taxing entities to invest its resources wisely.
[Photo Credit: Patrick Dennis, The Advocate]
Calumet Request for Caddo Parish Tax Exemption Challenged, Shreveport Times [pdf]
December 19, 2017
Marin Organizing Committee Wins Significant 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]
December 8, 2017
San Antonio Express-News Notes that as the San Antonio Archdiocese Grew, So Did COPS/Metro
In many ways, the history of the Archdiocese of San Antonio is a series of immigration stories that reflect the state’s political shifts, its segregation, its social changes and the succeeding waves of religious leaders and workers who came to Texas to convert the population and lead the faithful….
In photo, COPS / Metro Alliance leaders hold a press conference after a petition drive in 2002.
[Photo Credit: Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News]
Archdiocese’s History Began Long Before it was Established, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
November 30, 2017
400 Tulsa ACTION Leaders Fight for DACA & Immigration Reform
Hundreds of leaders assembled at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, arguing that the White House’s rescission of DACA will harm 7 thousand recipients of DACA in Oklahoma, and 2 thousand in Tulsa, alone. Allied Communities of Tulsa Inspiring Our Neighbors (ACTION) leaders are demanding reforms that would allow current DACA holders to stay.
Argued Pastor Chris Moore, “All [these] people are employed or are in school….and [already] have to walk a tight line.”
November 17, 2017
Food Fight! Together Baton Rouge Calls for Fresh Food Funding
Pointing out that nearly 100,000 Baton Rouge residents live in food deserts, and that during fall elections mayoral and city council candidates publicly committed to investing $1.5 Million to attract grocery stores in the region, leaders of Together Baton Rouge are calling foul on the council’s failure to invest any money in the effort for four straight years.
Carrying signs quoting scripture, 75 leaders rallied outside City Hall Monday, asking city council members to fulfill their campaign campaign and invest in the eradication of food deserts in Baton Rouge. Said Community Bible Baptist pastor Rev. Lee T. Wesley, “It’s time to transform that commitment into action. If not now, when? If not you, who?”
[Photo Credit: Andrea Gallo, The Advocate]
Together Baton Rouge Calls for Food Access Funding Ahead of Budget Debate, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
November 17, 2017
Colorado IAF Organizing Effort Dramatically Improves North Elementary Academic Achievement
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 9, 2017
Religious Join OTOC in Call for Extension of ‘Temporary Protected Status’
In an effort to stand with immigrants, Nebraska Lutheran Bishop Brian Maas, Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Tim McNeill, and College of St. Mary President Maryanne Stevens joined Omaha Together Organized Communities (OTOC) in a column calling on Congress for an 18-month extension of ‘Temporary Protective Status (TPS).’
TPS allows immigrants and refugees like OTOC leader and 20-year resident Wilfredo Rivera (featured in photo above) to avoid deportation. This issue affects 400,000 immigrants nationally, not including their children.
This coordinated stand resulted from house meetings hosted by San Andres Lutheran Church, a predominantly Central American congregation and new member of OTOC. These house meetings were followed by a number of actions including educational civic academies on the subject.
[Photo Credit: Julia Nagy, The World Herald]
Brian Maas, Maryanne Stevens and Timothy F. McNeil: Don’t End Protected Status, The World Herald [pdf]
November 7, 2017
For Immigrants Without State ID, DAI Negotiates Dallas-Area Police Department Acceptance of Parish Identification Cards
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
November 1, 2017
Collaboration with COPS/Metro Cited in Close-Up on San Antonio Banker Tom Frost
One moment Tom Frost won’t forget created an unexpected collaboration. On Feb. 5, 1975, …Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) formed long lines at his bank to disrupt business. One by one, they asked tellers to exchange pennies for dollars, then dollars for pennies.
Angered by the city’s refusal to address downtown-area flooding, COPS wanted to get the attention of a powerful CEO with influence at City Hall. Although he disapproved of their action, Frost met with COPS leaders and eventually lent his support to a bond issue to relieve flooding.
Out of that meeting came an unlikely alliance between a banker and activists. While other power brokers rebuffed COPS, Frost became an advocate on education and job training ….
“Our relationship started out confrontational and evolved into one of collaboration,” said Andy Sarabia, founding president of COPS. “When we were planning to do something, he would give us advice on how to go about it.”
Frost understood that forging community consensus is critical to building the city and raising its profile. When Toyota expressed interest in opening a plant in San Antonio, Frost met with COPS and its sister organization, Metro Alliance. He shared the groups’ concerns with Toyota and, in the end, secured the support of COPS/Metro.
“It shows that when you bring everybody together,” Frost said, “there’s no telling what can get done.”
October 31, 2017
TMO Continues Push to Protect Harvey Tenants from Eviction
Building on their previous month’s achievement of making tenants’ rights a front-and-center issue in post-Harvey recovery, The Metropolitan Organization of Houston (TMO) continues working with documented — and undocumented — immigrants to ensure their rights are protected.
Houston Mayor, Texas Senator Join TMO in Call on Landlords for Post-Harvey Grace Period for Renters, Univision, Telemundo & More
October 25, 2017
Episcopal Seminary Publication: “Blessed Are the Organizers”
After the Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), the Very Reverend Mark Richardson, participated in the school’s community organizing course, he had this to say:
“The Gospel was never meant to be a private affair of the heart alone, so learning the skills taught in Industrial Areas Foundation’s community organizing program, of building public relationships and community modes of interaction, is in keeping with the mission impulse found in CDSP’s curriculum.”
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific is the only Episcopal seminary on the West Coast. Each year, it sponsors a community organizing training in collaboration with the IAF.
California Organizers Prepare Seminarians for Public Life, Interfaith Education Fund
October 25, 2017
TMO Leverages $27 Million in Food Aid for Harvey Survivors
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 23, 2017
Albuquerque Interfaith Leverages Public Commitments for Mental Health Care
In spite of stark partisan differences between the two candidates vying to become Albuquerque’s next mayor, Albuquerque Interfaith succeeded in leveraging public commitments from both in support of the construction of a behavioral mental health center.
Leaders leveraged these commitments by organizing the largest forum for mayoral candidates during the runoff campaign. Each candidate appeared individually and engaged a panel of four leaders around an agenda which included behavioral health, land use, public education and immigration. The broad agenda allowed for common ground to be identified with each candidate, creating space for the success in securing commitments from both on mental health care.
Reverend Trey Hammond of La Mesa Presbyterian presented a teaching on non-partisanship though the lens of the idea of “politcalness” as articulated by Sheldon Wolin.
Keller, Lewis Back Behavioral Health Center for City, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Mayoral Candidates Offer Stark Differences, Albuquerque Journal
How Does Albuquerque Interfaith Engage in Public Life? by Rev. Trey Hammond, La Mesa Presbyterian Church
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]
October 15, 2017
GEA Leverages Council Candidate Commitments in Edmonton
Candidates Agree to Support GEA Agenda, Greater Edmonton Alliance
October 13, 2017
Together Louisiana Challenges Ascension Parish’s Secret Vote
After the Ascension Parish Council secretly voted to approve $55 million in tax exemptions, Ascension Parish residents associated with Together Louisiana filed a lawsuit over the Council’s secrecy as they conducted the vote. Their approval of industrial tax exemptions would cost Ascension tax-payers $55 million over the next eight years.
[Photo Credit: David J. Mitchell, The Advocate]
October 1, 2017
Working Together Jackson Protects Jackson Public Schools
Working Together Jackson (WTJ) collaborated with member institution Mississippi Association of Educators and Mayor A. Chowkwe Lumumba to prevent a hostile takeover of the Jackson Public School System by the state of Mississippi. WTJ worked with leaders, the Mayor and others to reach a compromise with Gov. Phil Bryant to develop the Better Together Commission and a totally new School Board to avoid the takeover. Four WTJ leaders are now on the Commission and new school board, planning for long-term reform.
September 20, 2017
Together Louisiana Stalls $25 Million Tax Giveaway in Ascension
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]
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 [pdf]
September 18, 2017
Pima County Interfaith Celebrates New Park Opening
On school days, the children from St. John’s School plan to use the park. After school, Pueblo High School and neighborhood skaters are expected to take over. In the evening, seniors and everyone else hope to walk and play in its environs. Lights won’t go out until 10:00pm, when a neighbor will lock the gate and new bathrooms.
Leaders of Pima County Interfaith celebrated the opening of St. John’s Park with a ribbon cutting ceremony that recognized the outcome of a unique collaboration between the city, county, and church. The land is leased by St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church to the City. Bond funds generated by the County’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Bond paid for most of the development. Conversations to get and keep the ball rolling were catalyzed by Pima County Interfaith, Southern Arizona Interfaith and persistent leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
September 14, 2017
Houston Mayor, Texas Senator Join TMO in Call on Landlords for Post-Harvey Grace Period for Renters
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas Senator Sylvia García joined TMO in calling on landlords to extend a 30-day grace period and to refrain from charging renters’ fees and penalties following the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.
According to TMO, some landlords use computerized systems that automatically charge penalties for late payments regardless of Houston being in post-Harvey recovery. Rev. Ed Gomez of St. Paul’s/San Pablo Episcopal Church shared stories of tenants who work in the service industry and, due to the storm, missed days of work and are now unable to pay their rent at this time. ”People are not asking for a handout but a hand up as we get through this difficult time,” he said.
Turner, Garcia and other TMO leaders were forceful in urging undocumented immigrants not to shy away from assistance for fear of being asked for papers. Said Mayor Turner, “We are not going to tolerate anybody in this city being victimized because they may be poor or because they may be undocumented or because they may not speak the language. We expect people to treat people right, with dignity and respect.”
[Photo Credit: Al Ortiz, Houston Public Media]
Turner Asks Houston Landlords to Grant One Month Grace Period to Renters, Houston Public Media (NPR) [pdf]
Mayor Turner Names Former Shell CEO as Recovery Czar, Houston Press [pdf]
September 7, 2017
TMO Calls for Tenant Protection from Flood-Related Evictions
When leaders knocked on renters’ doors in flood ravaged apartments near their churches, they heard story after story about eviction threats from landlords. Struggling to find work, and struggling to get to work without their cars, many renters said they just needed three weeks to get on their feet. Together, they initiated meetings with landlords from ten apartment complexes to press for a grace period. Many landlords refused.
Acting on these stories, seventy leaders from ten TMO institutions called on landlords during a Saturday morning press conference to grant a three-week (minimum) grace period for tenants struggling to pay rent. Days later, leaders turned their sights on the Houston City Council, calling on them to protect renters facing flood-related eviction threats.
Leaders argue that if mortgage companies can give lenders 90 days to get back on their feet, surely landlords can give at least 45.
TMO is also calling on Mayor Turner and Judge Emmitt to create a public works strategy that will hire people who are unemployed, due to the flood, so that they can carry out the massive cleanup that required.
For Renters, Harvey Was the First Blow, Followed by Orders to Move, New York Times [pdf]
Late Fees Add Problems for Tenants Who Missed Out on Work During Harvey, Houston Public Media [pdf]
Landlords Still Charging Harvey Victims Rent for Destroyed Homes, Death and Taxes [pdf]
Some Apartment Dwellers Face Post-Harvey Eviction, Houston Chronicle
Storm Woes Make it Tough to Cover the Rent On Time, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Renters: Eviction Notices Add to the Misery of Those Living in Damaged Units, Houston Chronicle
September 5, 2017
COPS / Metro Calls for Focus on Equity in City Budget: More Job Training, Higher Municipal Wage
One week before the San Antonio City Council votes on the municipal budget, COPS / Metro leaders descended on City Hall to call for increased funding for long-term workforce development program Project Quest. Increasing the city’s investment in Quest from $2.2 Million to $ 2.5 Million would enable the program to train an additional 100 residents for new jobs.
Said Maria Tijerina, “A $2.5 Million investment in San Antonio citizens is far less than the $3.05 Million allocated for SmartSA technology upgrades in the budget.”
Leaders also reminded specific Council members about their public commitments to raise the bottom municipal wage to $15 / hour by 2019. The wage in the current preliminary 2018 budget is $14.25 per hour, up from $13.75 this year.
Sitting council members’ commitments were made prior to the elections, in a nonpartisan accountability session organized by 750 COPS / Metro leaders. Those leaders later delivered 8,555 voters to the polls in support of their agenda.
[Photo Credit: Kin Man Hio, San Antonio Express-News]
Group Urges City to Add Funds for Training, Increase Wages, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
Council Members Open to Minimum Wage Increase for City Workers , Rivard Report [pdf]
August 30, 2017
800 Arlington-Mansfield Leaders Get Clarity on Senate Bill 4 (DAI)
To abate the confusion, fear, and anxiety about SB 4, about 10 police officers representing Arlington, Fort Worth, Kennedale, and Mansfield Police Departments met Aug. 29 at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington for a question-and-answer session about how the controversial law affects police work….
Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer of Arlington Mansfield Organizing Strategy, the event’s sponsor, hoped the session would dispel uncertainty and alarm in the immigrant community. “It’s important to get people together in one space. The undocumented can’t come out of shadows as individuals, but in this forum they can come out.”
Most who attended fear deportation for themselves or close family members….”
Said Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald: “We totally support every resident of the city of Fort Worth…our mission is to protect each and every person in this city, whether you’re a citizen or not.”
[Photo Credit (top): Ben Torres, North Texas Catholic]
‘Quite Frankly, It’s Business as Usual’: Police Assuage Hispanic Community’s Far of SB4, North Texas Catholic [pdf]
North Texas Police: Immigrants Uneasy, Police on Hold as SB4 Lifts, Fort-Worth Star Telegram [pdf]
Continuing the Conversation Builds Trust Within Community, North Texas Catholic [pdf]
August 21, 2017
TMO Assembly of 1,300+ Engages Harris Co. Sheriff on SB4
More than 1,300 leaders from TMO assembled at Assumption Catholic Church to clarify the impact of anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez responded to questions and concerns raised by leaders, as did Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Lori Bender and Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz, an immigration attorney from Manny Ramirez Law Firm.
[Photo Credit: Douglas Pierre]
August 18, 2017
TMO & Houston Religious Declare: We Must Link Arms
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These are foundational words upon which this country was built and the creed which Americans are to believe and live by. There is no room for hate and bigotry with these words. These words are inclusive of all men — white, black, brown, educated, uneducated, rich and poor, people of faith and of no faith.
In light of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere, and under the veil of weak support from the White House to condemn bigotry, anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, we wish to lift up our voices and represent our faith traditions in concert with American values we all cherish….”
August 17, 2017
TBR: Let’s Be Clear on How Texas Does Tax Breaks
“In The Advocate on Friday, Adam Knapp, with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, played an old Louisiana game called “What Would Texas Do.”
But that game has one basic rule — you have to be honest about what it is that Texas does. If you get that part wrong, you’ll mislead people.
Last year, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order bringing decision-making authority over local corporate exemptions back to the local level. That’s how it’s done in every other state….”
August 11, 2017
MOC Takes Action for Tenant Protections in Marin County
In front of 300 Marin Organizing Committee leaders assembled at St. Raphael Catholic Church, Marin County Supervisor Damon Connelly (in bottom right photo) and Supervisor Katie Rice revealed that the County’s next step in addressing the region’s affordability crisis might be to require mediation for landlords seeking to raise the rent by more than 5%. This announcement followed a prior assembly convened by MOC leaders to address deportation and eviction threats faced by local immigrants, public testimony in Supervisor Board hearings, and multiple meetings with County Supervisors.
In small group conversations, MOC leaders recounted stories about rents increasing by $700 from one month to the next, finding mushrooms growing behind furniture due to landlord neglect, an eviction that resulted when a woman announced her pregnancy and one tenant living five years at his place with no heat. Given the lack of affordability protections for Marin residents, MOC leaders say some landlords are taking advantage of the county’s housing crisis by neglecting to maintain their properties, even while raising the rent.
Leaders say required mediation is a step in the right direction.
[Photo credit (bottom): Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Group Lobbies Supervisors for Renter Protections, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Supervisors to Review Strategies for Housing Squeeze, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Supervisors Hear Pleas for Tenant Protections, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
August 10, 2017
EPISO & Border Interfaith Extend Water Lines into Colonia Island
Over 20 years ago, a developer in the City of El Paso bought acreage in an undeveloped plot of land, an “island” landlocked by, but not included within, El Paso’s municipal boundaries. 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 took responsibility for ensuring access to safe water.
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. They later partnered with Border Interfaith to begin learning how to bring infrastructure to their colonia.
While working with the families, Border Interfaith leaders discovered the unauthorized nature of their tenancy. Leaders began educating Commissioners about the history of their colonia and the need to secure certificates of occupancy as a necessary step to securing safe access to water. Their first victory consisted of compelling the County to formally recognize and register their occupancy.
The fight for the extension of city water lines into the neighborhood continued as they requested funding from the Texas Water Development Board and financial assistance from the Economically Distressed Areas Program, only to learn that state funding had been depleted.
Finally, Border Interfaith and EPISO approached the CEO of El Paso Water Utilities to request $2 Million 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 its Board, leveraging a unanimous Board vote in support 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 at minute 3:00]
August 9, 2017
Together BR Questions Efficacy of Industrial Tax Exemptions
One year after wresting control of industrial tax breaks away from a statewide board and into the hands of the local government entities affected by them, Together Baton Rouge released a report detailing how 2017 tax breaks impacted one community: East Baton Rouge. According to the report, the tax exemption cost local schools, sheriff, government, parks, libraries, fire and health departments $139 Million, just in 2017.
The report arrives on the heels of recent victories in defending the state constitution and squashing a legislative attempt to allow corporations to directly cut deals with individual parishes, and ensuring that 2016 exemptions already in the pipeline would be subject to a sunshine provision.
[Photo Credit: WAFB & Together Baton Rouge]
August 9, 2017
OTOC Leverages $1.1M in Added Funds for Condemned Building Demolition
After working for the last 6 years to increase City funding to demolish 800 condemned buildings in Omaha, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) testified in favor of $1.1 Million included in the proposed 2018 City budget for demolition of condemned structures, up from just $250,000 in 2012 when OTOC started pushing for increases. As a result, the backlog of abandoned houses has been brought down from over 750 to less than 125.
As the city reduces the backlog to fewer than 100 condemned homes, OTOC also challenged the Mayor and City Council to turn its focus to rehabilitating houses with code violations, even while pressing City Council to begin requiring the regular inspection of all rental properties.
Groups Praise Omaha Mayor’s Proposed City Budget, Offer Some Suggestions for the Future, Omaha World-Herald [pdf]
August 8, 2017
EPISO, Successful in Tackling Water & Sewage, Fights for Infrastructure as Funds Dry Up
In radio coverage about the Texas governor zeroing out the Colonia Initiative Program’s nearly $860,000 budget, a story about the success of the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Committee (EPISO) emerged.
When Fr. Ed Lucero-Rodin first arrived in El Paso in the 1980s he reported being “shocked by the living conditions …[with] people using centuries-old wells for non-drinking water and DIY septic-tank systems.” He joined EPISO, which equipped him to tackle issues like sewage seeping into the groundwater which was causing many in his congregation to get sick.
After decades of success in fighting for water and sewage infrastructure in the colonias, he can now point to a street named after him in a subdivision that used to be a colonia. All the streets are named after El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO) leaders who successfully fought to bring water and waste service to this area.
The Texas Standard story covers the state of funding for colonias today.
As Funding Dries Up, Colonia Residents Struggle Without Basic Services, Texas Standard [pdf]
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 31, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Recognizes Police in SPICE Effort
After passing state legislation that would outlaw health-harming SPICE from neighborhood stores, leaders organized a celebratory mass recognizing the contribution of Tucson Police Department officers who went “over and beyond” in the effort to take the drug off the streets.
Awards were presented to Officers Mendoza, Sanchez, Hernandez, Lead Police Officer Gonzales and Sgt. Simmers. Mayor Rothschild was in attendance for the ceremony, as were other captains and Lieutenants.
Jennie Ahumada and Eliseo Melendrez spoke of the collaboration between St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Tucson Police Department, Southern Arizona Interfaith and the Pima County Health Department that helped educate the community about SPICE and prevent its sale. Msgr. Trevizo led the congregation in blessing the officers.
July 31, 2017
Working Together Jackson Celebrates Grocery Store Opening
Two years ago, after Kroger announced the closure of a South Jackson grocery store, Working Together Jackson leaders rallied behind the laid-off workers and made a public commitment to fight for its replacement. Due to the creativity and persistence of Working Together Jackson leaders, a Jackson Cash and Carry grocery store opened in its place — tangible fruits of local efforts.
Rev. Ronnie Drudup Jr. announced that the organization wants to not only “support this store, but all” stores across Jackson. ”We’ve got to make sure we bring high quality fruits, vegetables, and produce all around the city of Jackson.”
[Photo Credit: WLBT]
July 31, 2017
PCI Secures Council Pledges to Double JobPath Funding
125 Pima County Interfaith resident leaders of Ward 3 Tucson assembled and secured commitments from primary candidates Felicia Chew, Paul Durham and Tom Tronsdal. The session was organized by Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, Southern Arizona Interfaith (SAI) and Literacy Connects. All three candidates pledged to support keeping Tucson an Immigrant Welcoming city, to support PCI efforts to fight SPICE and other drugs in Ward 3, and to meet with the organizations if elected.
Candidates Chew and Tronsdal committed to increasing funding for KidCo and JobPath, keeping low-income bus fares at their current level, and protecting the number of bus routes.
Attendees committed to vote, get others to vote, and to knock on doors in Ward 3 neighborhoods. Two “Neighbor to Neighbor – Walk & Call” sessions have already been scheduled.
July 27, 2017
Together Louisiana Reminds Sen. Cassidy of Medicaid Promise
To the surprise of many, both Louisiana Senators voted in favor of two health care measures that would roll back Medicaid funding. In response, Together Louisiana publicly reminded one of the Senators of his Medicaid promises:
“Sen. (Bill) Cassidy has shown, in a way that has been refreshing and sometimes surprising, intelligence, thoughtfulness, content knowledge and compassion in his assessments of the realities of the health care bills as they’ve worked their way through the House and the Senate. He has said on many occasions and in many different forms, in small settings and large settings, including face to face interviews and to members of Together Louisiana, that he would not support the Senate bill in the current form because it was too devastating an effect on individual people and on health care markets. And yesterday he voted for that bill.”
While both measures failed to pass during the first days of debate, leaders hoped to get through to their legislator before the next vote.
Said Stephanie McCoy, “Senator Cassidy, please don’t abandon and my daughter. Please don’t let us down.” McCoy’s daughter, like that of April Blackburn, is receiving healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
Statewide Group Calls Cassidy Out, wrkf 89.3
July 26, 2017
COPS/Metro Holds District 2 Councilman Accountable on Crime
When 120 COPS / Metro leaders from District 2 challenged four candidates to work with them on neighborhood issues, William Cruz Shaw promised he would — if elected.
Four months later, and one month after his installation, Councilman Shaw fulfilled his campaign promise to meet with COPS / Metro. Leaders asked him to focus on neighborhood safety efforts on the East Side, including hot spots near Dominion Church of God in Christ.
Pastor Geoffrey Stirrup is co-leading the effort.
East Side Leaders Hold Newly Elected Council Member Accountable on Promise to Tackle Crime, FOX News Channel 29 [pdf]
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 immigrant victims of crime (mostly women and children) who qualify for and are 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. U-visas are reserved for victims of crimes who are wiling to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
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 19, 2017
Spokane Alliance Secures Support for Mental Health Facility
At present, if a mentally ill person commits a crime in Spokane, the only places to send them are either the ER or jail. After three years of work, Spokane Alliance leaders secured political support for a proposal they developed — the construction of a mental health stabilization facility to which individuals meeting certain criteria can be referred for short term treatment.
The Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council voted to approve a plan to build the facility in 2018.
New Mental Health Stabilization Facility Could Provide Alternatives to Jails, ER, Spokesman Review [pdf]
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 [pdf]
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
July 14, 2017
NAIC Warns: Health Care in Rural Areas Under Siege
…The Senate’s attempt to restructure health care policy will, among other things, wipe out Medicaid expansion, which helps to cover nearly half of our children and makes rural health possible.
These changes will affect millions nationally. But areas like ours will get hit hardest. Numerous analyses of the legislation, such as from Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, all say that that the impact of Medicaid cuts will be more prominent in rural communities. The state’s recent expansion of Medicaid provides care for many of our children; 44 percent of Yavapai County’s children are Medicaid recipients….
Health Care in Rural Areas Under Siege, Daily Courier
June 28, 2017
COPA Expands Healthcare Coverage to 2,500 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 Wins Ban on Waste / Recycling Business 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 6 Runoff Election
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 7, 2017
One LA Fights for Affordable Housing in the San Fernando Valley
As a way to act on the extraordinary pressures they experience around housing, San Fernando Elementary school leaders (including twenty parents and their Principal, Maria Awakian) and One LA’s education team testified before the San Fernando City Council.
Publicly speaking for the very first time, three parents shared how 1 of 8 children in San Fernando area schools experience some degree of homelessness, often resulting in disruptions of academic progress and difficulties in staying awake for class.
The council is currently divided in their vision for implementing the state’s new policies regulating granny flats, which is often the only housing parents can find.
Leaders asked council members to meet with them in the near future so that they can be included in the creation of solutions to this complex issue. The parents who spoke on behalf of the group were publicly recognized by various members of the council.
The council ultimately delayed the vote, creating more time for potential solutions.
June 7, 2017
NCG Leverages $3.4 Million in State Funding for Meals On Wheels
‘Nevadans for the Common Good’ leaders discovered that Nevada was ranked 51st in the nation in terms of the level of state support for Meals on Wheels. As a result, there were over 1,000 home-bound seniors who were on the waiting list. NCG leveraged the support of municipal governments, state legislators and the governor to increase state funding to $3.4 million (a tenfold increase) in order to eliminate the waiting list.
[Photo Credit: Daniel Clark, Nevada Independent]
June 5, 2017
COPS/Metro Fights for Housing Rehab in Mayoral Election Runoff
After forcing a runoff election into June, COPS/Metro Alliance leaders organized a second nonpartisan “Get Out The Vote Rally” with over 350 people to reaffirm public commitments made by mayoral and city council candidates. Leaders (again) asked candidates to recommit their support for increased funding for owner-occupied home improvements (described as a way to help long-time residents age-in-place), protections for undocumented immigrants, and a raised living wage standard for municipal workers.
Some candidates agreed to aggressively push the organization’s goals. Others remained conspicuously absent.
The following two weekends, leaders knocked on doors and made targeted phone calls. Said Maria Tijerina, “We’re fiercely nonpartisan, but we do tell our constituencies who’s in favor of the COPS/Metro Alliance agenda.”
Runoff Candidates Recommit to COPS / Metro Alliance Agenda, Rivard Report
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]
June 1, 2017
Project Quest Gets New Director, Fights for Added Funding
Project QUEST, With New Director and Research Ammo, Pushed for More Funding, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
May 31, 2017
Bastrop Interfaith Secures Park Light Installation & Cleanup
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 31, 2017
Ernesto Cortes Inspires at University of Birmingham in UK
Described as a “world leading community change campaigner,” IAF Co-Director Ernesto Cortes explained “Why a Strong Civil Society is Needed for a Strong Democracy” at a University of Birmingham event co-hosted by Neil Jameson of Citizens UK and Saul Becker, Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of the College of Social Sciences.