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
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
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]
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 Fr. Ed Gomez of San Pablo Episcopal Church knocked on renters’ doors in flood ravaged apartments near their church, he 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 Recognizes Mayor for Keeping $1M for Demolition in Proposed City Budget
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 $240,000 in 2011.
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 29, 2017
AZ Interfaith: Restructuring Medicaid Will Cause Irreversible Harm
Close to 500,000 Arizonans will lose health care coverage, endangering lives and undermining an open public process.
As clergy leaders with the Arizona Interfaith Network, we are profoundly concerned that the proposed changes under the American Health Care Act would affect virtually every dimension of family life, especially for middle and lower income families.
From caring for people in our congregations, we know that Medicaid saves lives….”
Health-Care Bill is a Danger to the People of Arizona, Arizona Republic
Interfaith: Restructuring of Medicaid Will Cause Irreversible Harm, Scottsdale Independent [pdf]
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 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.
May 26, 2017
‘Nevadans for the Common Good’ Fights to Save Fremont MS
[Photo Credit: Bridget Bennett / Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Defenders Hopeful Board OKs Plan to Keep Middle-Schoolers at Fremont, Las Vegas Review Journal [pdf]
May 24, 2017
SAI Leaders Secure Passage of New SPICE Ordinance in Tucson
Fresh from a state legislative victory allowing the criminalization of SPICE, Southern Arizona Interfaith leaders succeeded in persuading local policy makers to pass a city ordinance against the nasty synthetic drug. Tucson City councilmembers listened intently as leader Christina Crawford described how SPICE gave her son seizures and spasms, and as Msgr. Raul Trevizo and other leaders described finding vomiting and passed out youth on St. John the Evangelist church grounds.
Councilmembers praised the team for their persistence over 18 months, before unanimously voting to include the new chemical in a Tucson drug ordinance. Reporters recorded the standing ovation Southern Arizona Interfaith leaders delivered to the Council upon passage of the ordinance.
Said leader Lorena Santos, “Look what we can do when we work together! This is just the beginning!”
Tucson City Leaders Pass SPICE Ordinance, Tucson News Now
Tucson In a Cat-and-Mouse Fight Against Nasty Synthetic Drug, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
May 17, 2017
Working Together Jackson Holds Accountability Assembly
Incoming, Hopeful City Leaders Pledge to Help Rebuild Jackson, Jackson Free Press
May 16, 2017
NCG Advances in Fight for More ‘Meals on Wheels’ Funding
[Photo Credit: Daniel Clark, Nevada Independent]
May 9, 2017
Texas IAF Battles to Save State Funding of Job Training Program
Since the establishment of the JET Fund in 2009, Texas has invested in nonprofit labor market intermediaries across the state that helped 800+ low-income, nontraditional community college students navigate their way through community college.
The Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program, the effort’s most recent permutation, now faces an uncertain future. In efforts to slash the state budget, Texas legislators are moving to eliminate all “special item” expenditures, including those that pay for special programs at colleges, over and beyond the normal higher education funding formulas.
“It has nothing to do with our program or the effectiveness of it,” said Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization in Houston.
In fact, a recently-released gold-standard study established that the Texas IAF’s flagship program, Project QUEST, was the only program in the nation to demonstrate sustained, sizable and statistically significant income gains. In photo, a Project QUEST-supported student works with a patient.
[Photo Credit: William Luther, San Antonio Express News]
Funds Help Adult Career Program Boost Workforce, Families, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Senate Resolution, Senate of the State of Texas
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
May 8, 2017
COPS/Metro Fights SB4 with Bexar & San Antonio Officials
On Friday, COPS/Metro leaders stood with Bexar County and San Antonio elected leaders calling on Governor Abbott to not sign SB 4 (“sanctuary cities” bill) into law. Speakers against the bill included Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, County Judge Nelson Wolff and state Sen. Jose Menendez.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff argued that the bill would increase costs to the county and distract law enforcement efforts from addressing local violent crime.
‘What’s going to happen?’ he asked, as he predicted no officer would ask ‘an Anglo guy’ in a ‘two-piece suit’ for his papers but instead would target ‘the person with brown skin.’
[Photo Credit: John Davenport, San Antonio Express-News]
May 6, 2017
Msgr. Carrillo, PCIC Founder, is Eulogized in Tucson
One of the first Tucson-born, Mexican-American priests to serve in the Diocese of Tucson was eulogized and laid to rest by three dozen priests and deacons, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas, in addition to extended family and friends.
Described as a “giant” and a “Pope Francis priest” long before the Franciscan arrived at the Vatican, Msgr. Carrillo was a founding member of Pima County Interfaith Council.
Msgr. Arsenio Carrillo, A Great Priest and Leader, Pierson Letter
Neto’s Tucson: Saying Goodbye to Padre Cheno, the “People’s Priest,” Arizona Daily Star in Tucson
May 5, 2017
VOICE, Allies Stop Payday Loan Bill with Governor’s Veto
After HB1913 passed, threatening to triple the cap on small personal loans and boost the maximum interest rate to 204% per year, VOICE leaders and allies persisted in their fight against the bill.
Leaders publicly called on Governor Mary Fallin to veto the bill, on television and in writing arguing, as did Fr. Tim Luschen, that the bill is “not anything that can make our community a better place.”
In her veto message, Governor Fallin urged legislators to consult with “all stakeholders,” including consumer advocates, if they choose to revisit the issue.
Oklahoma Priest: Legislature Should Reject High Interest Loan Bill, The Oklahoman [pdf]
May 5, 2017
OTOC Fights for Protections from Predatory Landlords, Lenders
OTOC convened a nonpartisan accountability assembly with twelve candidates for Mayor and City Council for Omaha with a standing-room-only audience of 350 leaders at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church.
Leaders told stories illustrating a negotiated agenda in support of safe rental housing, reduction of predatory payday lending fees, separating yard waste and garbage, as well as assurances that police would serve as officers, not immigration enforcement.
Candidates for Mayor and all seven council districts responded to specific questions on all four issues.
May 1, 2017
200 NCLI Leaders Fight for Industrial Tax Reform & Workforce Development that Works
Over 200 leaders from Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith assembled with their local elected officials to develop ground level support for their reforms of the state Industrial Tax Exemption Program. Said assembly co-chairs and pastors, Revs. Theron Jackson and John Henson (in photo at right), “The tax exemption was created to encourage manufacturers to expand their facilities or re-locate to the state, creating new permanent jobs. Interfaith is not opposed to the exemption. However, it has been abused over the years and millions of dollars in local taxes have been lost.” They succeeded in persuading the Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator and Caddo Commission President Steven Jackson to work with the organization to reform the tax exemption program and place a cap on requests.
Leaders are additionally working to build support for local workforce development program ACTS (Another Chance to Succeed) as a key element in reducing poverty-driven crime.
Interfaith, Public Officials Meet on Policy Issues, Shreveport Times [pdf]
April 24, 2017
El Paso IAF Puts “We The People” at the Center of Public Life
Several hundred Border Interfaith and EPISO leaders assembled for an accountability session, one day before early voting began, to challenge candidates for Mayor, City Council and the Board of Trustees for El Paso and Ysleta School Districts around the issues most impacting residents’ daily lives.
Specifically, leaders asked candidates to commit to: ensuring the completion of infrastructure projects on time, opposition to statewide anti-immigrant legislation, and support for the funding of Project ARRIBA to the tune of $1.5 million over five years. City candidates were also challenged to publicly support a living wage for subcontractors who work for the city government.
With the exception of one candidate, the El Paso Times reports that “nearly all the candidates answered yes on all the issues and pledged to support Border Interfaith and EPISO on their agendas.”
At the conclusion of the assembly, leaders in the audience were challenged to take note of candidate responses and communicate what they heard to at least ten voters each before Election Day.
[Photo Credit: David Burge / El Paso Times]
Grassroots Democracy on Display During EPISO Event, El Paso Times [pdf]
Organizaciones Religiosas se Reunen Con Candidatos Antes de las Elecciones, Entravision / Univision [pdf]
April 24, 2017
750 COPS / Metro Leaders Challenge Mayoral Candidates
One day before the mayoral election in San Antonio, 750 leaders from COPS / Metro Alliance assembled at St. Henry Catholic Church to challenge candidates for mayor and city council around issues that emerged from thousands of conversations with San Antonio residents.
Specifically, questions revolved around housing rehabilitation, raising the wages of outsourced workers to $9.50 / hour and the creation of a municipal ID for all residents, regardless of legal status. Leaders also challenged candidates to commit to raising the City’s investment in workforce development program Project QUEST to $2.5 Million.
All Council candidates from Districts 1-8 responded “yes” to each question. Mayor Ivy Taylor, who had committed to participate in the assembly, was absent from the event. The other two leading mayoral candidates, Manuel Medina and Councilman Ron Nirenberg were present. They both publicly supported the COPS / Metro community agenda.
Candidates Questioned on Commitment and Accountability, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
USAA Sets $16 Minimum Wage, Expands Parental Leave Benefits, San Antonio Express-News
April 22, 2017
DAI Grills Candidates on Affordable Housing, Schools & More
300 residents of District 6 assembled to grill city council candidates in a impoverished region of Dallas where only 800 votes were cast in the previous election. The nonpartisan accountability assembly was organized around issues leaders have been working on over the course of the year, including affordable housing, early education, an upcoming city bond and improvements to the 311 system.
The assembly was the largest attended forum in District 6, in the heart of Bachman Lake where last year’s housing code work started, and where large-scale evictions occurred only 48 hours after their groundbreaking rewrite of the city’s rental housing code. Leaders not only demanded long-term housing solutions in West Dallas, parents of children attending Lumin Education are fighting for a zoning change to preserve a Montessori school in this impoverished region.
April 21, 2017
IAF Workforce Development Model Dominates Competition
Almost ten years ago, Project QUEST agreed to participate in a randomized control trial in which half of a pool of 400+ qualified and equally motivated applicants were picked by a computer to participate in Project QUEST. The other half were turned away. They pursued other options.
After three years, Project QUEST graduates already earned more than those who were turned away. By Year 6, the difference in earnings not only persisted, but increased to over $5,000 per year.
Said study co-author Mark Elliott, “Other programs have had large earnings impacts, but they haven’t taken people completely out of poverty into the middle class….This is a stunning achievement.”
This “gold standard” study is said to be the first in the nation to show sustained, statistically significant increases in participant’s earnings (and employment) over time.
Project QUEST was established by COPS / Metro in San Antonio and continues to be the flagship for projects in ten other cities including Austin, Houston, El Paso, Dallas, the Rio Grande Valley, Phoenix, Monroe (LA) and Des Moines.
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
April 20, 2017
US Senator Cortez-Masto Joins 200 NCG Leaders for Immigration Civic Academy
200 leaders of Nevadans for the Common Good were joined by US Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto for a civic academy on immigration at All Saint’s Episcopal Church. People participated in the session in order to “learn the facts” about immigration, build relationships with each other and conduct public business with Senator Masto.
Said NCG leader Matt Estes, “It’s really important that we get some of this information out because there’s a lot of myths and a lot of stories.” Chimed in Jeanne Ward-Estes, the event only “touched the tip of the iceberg.”
[Photo Credit: Rachel Aston, Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Cortez-Masto: The Immigration System is Broken and It Must Be Fixed, Nevada Independent [pdf]
Repairing Immigration System Starts with Open Conversation, Collaboration, Cortez-Masto Says, Las Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]
April 12, 2017
Ernesto Cortes, Catalyst for Change, Speaks at Denver University
Over 200 people, including Metro Denver IAF Sponsoring Committee leaders, participated in a Denver University ‘Catalyst for Social Justice’ series in which National IAF Co-Director, Ernesto Cortes, Jr., was the featured speaker.
Titled “Rules for Radicals in the 21st Century,” the event featured Cortes in a live one hour dialogue with the Denver University Dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, Amanda Moore McBride. McBride had been a teaching assistant to Cortes early in her academic career and now credits him with her decision to pursue a focus on civic engagement in her work. [Photo Credit: Salvador Armendariz]
Video, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work
Photo Album, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work
April 6, 2017
AMOS Fights for Expanded Mental Health Coverage
Six months after a fall assembly in which hundreds of AMOS leaders pressured state legislators to restore mental health funding, leaders persisted in their quest — writing an OpEd and testifying before the legislature.
“This isn’t just a tax issue. This is an issue of life or death,” testified Travis Stanley, pastor of Norwalk Christian Church and leader with AMOS. AMOS criticizes a state law capping the amount counties can collect for such services to the amount they collected in 1996, regardless of whether the county grew since then. “Keeping the cap at 1996 levels — when I was 16 — has killed people. People have lost their lives because of this,” he said.
Let Counties Spend More on Mental Health, Advocates Ask Legislators, Des Moines Register [pdf]
Stop Underfunding Mental Health, Des Moines Register
Ankeny Candidates Agree to Support More Mental Healthcare Access, Des Moines Register
April 4, 2017
800 MVA Leaders Host Accountability Assembly
Assembly Video Footage, Metro Vancouver Alliance
April 4, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Changes State Law to Combat Drug
When neighborhood users of SPICE, a synthetic marijuana with side effects including seizures and disorientation, began walking into traffic and collapsing on church and school grounds, leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church stepped into the void to identify solutions. Church leaders, in collaboration with Southern Arizona Interfaith, soon launched a campaign to “Give them Food” in addition to collaborating with local law enforcement and county health department to educate the community about the drug and prevent its sale. Over 250 area residents attended one of the community meetings.
In fall 2016, SAI and Pima County Interfaith hosted a nonpartisan accountability session drawing more than 500 leaders to address several issues, including SPICE. In front of hundreds of voters, candidates promised to introduce a bill to criminalize SPICE ingredients and to help law enforcement press charges against dealers.
This spring, Rep. Pamela Powers (LD9-D) negotiated the inclusion of SPICE ingredients in a bill (HB2033) sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter (LD15-R) on controlled substances, that Governor Ducey signed it into law.
SAI leaders are pointing to this victory as an “example of the great things we can achieve when we work together,” including bi-partisan cooperation in the expansion of the bill to include SPICE ingredients. Leaders also recognized the Tucson Police Department, St. John’s Pastoral Council and the Pima County Health Department for its collaboration.
Leaders are now working with City of Tucson Councilmembers Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik to follow through on their campaign pledges to pass a stricter local ordinance prohibiting the sale of SPICE in Tucson.
Southern Arizona Interfaith Confronts ‘Spice’ Epidemic in Tucson, West / Southwest IAF
March 28, 2017
Project Quest, Rackspace Train Military Veterans in Cybersecurity and Celebrate 4th Year of Open Cloud Academy
When Jacob Mireles returned home from deployment in Afghanistan and Kuwait last year, he quickly applied to Project QUEST for Rackspace’s Open Cloud Academy cyber security track in Information Technology. During the training he ran into financial issues and Project QUEST assisted with a portion of the mortgage and utilities. He went on to successfully complete the program and soon after graduation, was hired by IP Secure where he now works as a Security Control Assessor, testing risks attributable to software and hardware systems.
When asked if he could have completed the training without the help of Project QUEST, Mireles (in photo second from left), said simply, “No.”
Over the last four years, more than 550 students have graduated from the Open Cloud Academy, with 72% now employed in IT. With special boot camps like “Linux for Ladies” or the cyber security track in which Mireles participated, QUEST is helping feed local demand for local talent. Said Deborah Carter, senior director of the Open Cloud Academy, “San Antonio has the second-largest cyber security industry in the country, only following Washington DC.” She went on to note that Rackspace “looks forward to continued collaboration with Project QUEST.”
Rackspace’s Open Cloud Academy Celebrates Four Years, KENS Channel 5 [pdf]
Project Quest and Rackspace Train Local Veterans for Cyber Security Jobs, La Prensa San Antonio [pdf]
Rackspace’s Cloud School Adds Cybersecurity Track, Enrolls Veterans, San Antonio Business Journal [pdf]
Open Cloud Academy Launches Cybersecurity Program for Veterans, Silicon Hills [pdf]
March 28, 2017
Bastrop Interfaith Fights for Stony Point Safety, Sewage & Light
The flooding got so bad one year that Stony Point resident Ramiro Alonzo had to carry his grandmother from her home while the water rushed up like a river. His home, and many others, sits in a floodplain on the edge of Bastrop County in an area neighbors say has been long neglected.
What started as a meeting of 15 people soon turned into an organizing effort involving upwards of 100. The effort culminated in a public assembly held at San Juan Diego Catholic Church. Bastrop Interfaith leaders like Alonzo and Lydia Bautista, in right photo above, organized the effort to challenge Bastrop public officials including Sheriff Maurice Cook, County Judge Paul Pape and Commissioner Mark Meuth to work with the community. Leaders called attention to the sewage that backs up into people’s homes after heavy rains, the arrival of ambulances long after calls are made and stray dogs making evening walks in the neighborhood near impossible.
Officials promised to collaborate on the neutering of pets, urged residents to report to the County any ambulance arrivals that exceed 19 minutes from the call (for violation of contract), and promised to explore potential sources of funding to cover the cost of sewage installation. In response to the young man concerned about his grandmother’s safety, County Commissioner Mark Meuth promised the completion of a hydraulic study of the neighborhood for potential remedies.
Bastrop Interfaith is an expansion project of Austin Interfaith.
Faith Leaders Draw Attention to Crime, Sewage, Darkness in Stony Point, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
March 21, 2017
200 Texas IAF Leaders Call On Legislators to Fund Job Training
Over 200 Network of Texas IAF Organization (NTO) leaders and Capital IDEA students and graduates landed at the Texas state capitol to pressure state representatives and senators to restore full funding of the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Fund (ACE Fund), a state funds that support long-term workforce training, at $5 Million. The delegation additionally called on the legislature to support local control and oppose ant-immigrant legislation.
NTO leaders were received as guests of the legislature during a reading of a resolution in support of the ACE fund by five House Members, including Representative John Zerwas. Later that day the Senate also read a resolution in support of the ACE fund. Out on the Capitol steps, leaders additionally held a press conference, with several legislators from emerging from the building to speak in support of the ACE funding.
Part of delegation of leaders that boarded a 4am bus to Austin, Valley Interfaith leader David Jackson, of St. John the Baptist Parish, asked:
“As new jobs are created [in Texas], the question remains, who will benefits from these new positions? Will we continue to import travel nurses from abroad while there are many who live in McAllen, Idenburg, Weslaco or Pharr who, with the necessary training would be capable of filling those positions and being long-term contributors to our property tax base?….That is the decision our law makers face this legislative session.”
Capital IDEA graduates and other graduates from across the state told personal stories about how the workforce initiatives (and ACE funding) helped change their lives, moving them from $10/hour part time work to careers bringing in as much as $70,000 per year! The average wage of a graduate from these programs approaches $21 per hour.
March 20, 2017
VOICE & Allies Claw Back $5 Million for Residential Utility Users
When Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) first attempted to shift the cost of plant updates to consumers rather than to shareholders VOICE-OKC fought back, urging the utility commission to stop the plan and leveraging the Attorney General’s support for a lower charge. In 2016, OG&E proposed a rate increase of $92.5 million ($7 per month) to cover the expenses, but they again found themselves up against dogged VOICE leaders.
This year, Elise Robillard declared on behalf of VOICE-OKC, “It’s time to stop protecting profits for major corporations like OG&E and start protecting the families of Oklahoma, people who are going to have to choose between buying groceries and paying their electric bill.” Finally succumbing to organized campaigns of weekly calls to address the issue, the utility commission ruled, permitting OG&E an $8.9 Million rate increase (only 72 cents per month). Furthermore, the commission will claw back $50 Million in back charges to residential users, inappropriately charged by OG&E prior to the ruling.
March 17, 2017
One LA Leaders Educate 1,000 & Launch Immigration Strategy
In the first three month of the year, One LA leaders engaged over 1,000 LA County residents through fifteen ‘Know Your Rights’ civic academies hosted by member institutions. In partnership with One LA member Neighborhood Legal Services of LA, leaders educated participants on the the implications of recent presidential executive orders including the enforcement of immigration regulations, as well as the Muslim and Refugee Travel Ban. ”Train the Trainer” seminars have also been organized to teach institutional leaders about the civil and due process rights to which all US residents are entitled, regardless of immigration status.
The newly re-energized Immigration Strategy Team is now crafting a vision / action plan they will take to LA County and state-elected leaders to ensure that all families, including blended immigrant families – those with US citizens and unauthorized immigrants – are protected and treated fairly. This task force also plans to challenge unconstitutional orders and implementation practices by federal immigration and other law enforcement agencies.
March 17, 2017
One LA and Allies Pass Measure H to Support Homeless
One LA leaders celebrated a second election victory for the most vulnerable in Los Angeles County after the March 7 election. Together, with a coalition of other organizations and with the support of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, leaders worked to pass Measure H— a quarter cent sales tax to fund critical services for homeless populations as well as homelessness prevention for those at risk.
Following successful efforts to pass Measure HHH in November, a county-wide ballot measure to fund the construction of housing for the homeless, One LA leaders rallied again to support Measure H in 2017. Expecting low turnout, leaders organized civic academies and information sessions in their congregations to encourage members to vote.
One day prior to the election, One LA leaders joined Rabbi Dara Frimmer of Temple Isaiah and Fr. Arturo Corral of La Placita in lending moral authority to the measure at a press conference in which they stood flanked by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas and Sheila Kuehl.
Measure H passed by only 2 percentage points, approximately 16,000 votes, driving home the lesson that all politics is local, and every vote counts.
March 12, 2017
NCG Takes ‘Meals On Wheels’ Fight to Nevada Legislature
Over 75 citizen leaders of ‘Nevadans for the Common Good‘ packed the Grant Sawyer State office building to support increased funding for the Meals on Wheels program.
This followed action taken by a traveling delegation of 15 clergy and key leaders who met with state legislators about the importance of sustainably funding the Meals on Wheels program and addressing the approximate 1,000 person waiting list.
NCG leaders Natalie Eustice and Nolan T. Jones from St. Thomas More Catholic Community spoke to Las Vegas Now reporters reaffirming the importance of this program for vulnerable seniors.
More Funding Needed for Meals on Wheels Program, Las Vegas Now Channel 8
March 6, 2017
TMO, Religious Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
In the face of increased deportations and growing fears of family separation, TMO clergy and Texas Bishops held a joint press conference calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path towards citizenship. Catholic Cardinal Daniel DiNardo stood with United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones, Lutheran Bishop Michael Rinehart, Presbyterian pastor Rev. Lynne Hargrove, Episcopal pastor Rev. Uriel Osnaya, Baptist pastor Rev. John Ogletree and other clergy in a public stand against the deportation and separation of immigrant families.
Recalling that “for the last 11 years we have met, prayed, studied and spoken in unity over the issue of comprehensive immigration reform,” the religious urged reforms that “uphold the God-given dignity and rights of every person, each of whom are made in the image of God.” They reminded Congress that any bill that addresses only border security would be “sorely lacking” and urged members of Congress to “fulfill their responsibility and pass meaningful, humane legislation.”
[Photo Credit: MariaLuisa Rincon, Houston Chronicle & Univision]
Faith Leaders Press for Immigration Reform, Houston Chronicle
Religious Leaders Call for Inclusive Immigration Reform, Houston Public Media
March 3, 2017
EPISO/Border Interfaith Clergy To Immigrants: You Are Not Alone
Civic academies put together by the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO) and Border Interfaith are drawing upwards of 50 parishioners per session eager to learn how to use their civil rights to protect family members from deportation.
Organizers reminded immigrants that they have the right to remain silent, a right to an attorney and not to sign any document given to them by immigration agents without first talking to a lawyer. They also advised family members not to open the door to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without a warrant.
“Once they enter, many things can happen. There could be other people in the home. The immigration agents may starting asking, ‘You, what’s your name? How long have you been here?’ … They came in looking for Arturo and they took Maria, Jose, Raul and several people. So, don’t do it. Don’t do it.”
At a recent session, Rev. Pablo Matta, the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church told parishioners “You are not alone.” He additionally explained, “We are not asking anyone to violate the law. We are using the laws that exist.”
[Photo Credit: Victor Calzada, El Paso Times]
Faith Groups Reach Out to Immigrants on Civil Rights, El Paso Times [pdf]
February 21, 2017
Together LA Blocks Tax Exemptions, Wins Sunshine Provision
Eight months after their victory in reforming the state Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), leaders of Together Louisiana noticed that industrial tax exemptions spiked 441% in its last year (2016), with the majority of tax exemptions granted after the reforms passed. They additionally noticed that the Commerce and Industry Board reversed the wording of the measure to undermine the reform that would have limited exemptions to proposals that had secured the approval of the local municipalities sacrificing the revenue.
Unsatisfied with the explanation that the 2016 reforms were not to touch applications already in the works, 100 faith and community leaders of Together Louisiana organized a press conference before the Board of Commerce and Industry’s meeting and then sat in on the meeting itself — demonstrating a rare presence of citizen oversight of a committee that distributed $4.9 billion in tax exemptions last year.
Under the watchful gaze of Together LA, the committee unanimously rejected six applications that directly violated the Governor’s order and added a “Sunshine Provision” to the ITEP program rules to allow local citizens to learn when exemptions are being considered by local bodies. Thanks to Together LA, Louisiana Economic Development must now post on its website, within three days, when proposed tax expenditures are forwarded to local municipalities for consideration, thus beginning a 120 day period for the provision of public input.
[In photo: Ann Dunn addresses the press on behalf of Together Louisiana.]
Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue Apace, The INDsider
Together Louisiana Protests Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
February 17, 2017
VOICE Fights for Oklahoma State Payday Lending Reform
When Angela Basse, a youth coordinator and leader with St. Charles Borromeo Catholic, was a pre-teen she saw firsthand the toxic effects of payday lending on family life. ”At the time they were made to look simple,” she said, but “we missed out on book fairs in schools, field trips at school, because we didn’t have the income. Because we knew that we were having to pay back loans.”
She was joined by other leaders of VOICE in support of legislation that would curb the worst effects of the payday lending industry in the state including caps on interest rates and limits to the number of times a loan can be rolled over.
Said Rev. Dr. Mitch Randall of Northaven Church in Norman, “As a disciple of Jesus, when we fail to protect the poor from loan sharks swimming in our communities and the halls of our Capitol, then we are failing the poor. We are also failing Jesus.”
[Photo Credit: Oklahoma City Free Press]
Payday Loans Called ‘Predatory’ by Group Seeking Reform, Oklahoma City Free Press
February 14, 2017
AMOS Expands Affordable Housing Options in Ames, Iowa
Six months after advocating that a 10-acre city-owned property be developed with a variety of affordable housing options for local working families, AMOS leaders succeeded in expanding the number of rental and lower-priced housing units to be made available.
Initially, the land parcel was zoned for single family detached homes, with some of the loudest voices calling for exclusively owner-occupied units. Thanks to the intervention of AMOS leaders, Ames City Council voted for more affordable housing to be developed on-site, including 60% to be made available at affordable rates, and to include rental housing in its Request for Proposals.
The following month, the City of Ames further committed to two years of matching funds for an affordable housing trust fund that was created at AMOS’ initiative. This move will help the fund gain funding and build momentum, locally.
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
Affordable Housing Task Force Holds First Meeting, Ames Tribune
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
February 13, 2017
Working Together Jackson Demolishes Campus Blight
Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus. The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.
[In photo, Dr. Mary Jackson of St. Mark's Episcopal Church speaks at press conference celebrating local demolition. Photo Credit: Scott Crawford]
February 10, 2017
NCG Advances Issue of Funding for Meals On Wheels in Nevada
In response to public pressure by ‘Nevadans for the Common Good‘ to expand funding for Meals on Wheels in Nevada, Henderson and Boulder City Councils approved resolutions urging the state legislature and Governor Brian Sandoval to increase state funding for the program by $5 million every two years. Already, the Governor has responded by including $1.5 million in his budget proposal for the food program, a +100% increase over current funding levels. Leaders are pushing for more.
The meal delivery program targets vulnerable seniors. At current funding levels, the program is reported to provide more than 300 Henderson seniors +112,000 meals per year. However, a city spokesperson reports that nearly 300 additional seniors are on the waiting list.
“What was the special session (the Legislature) had all about?” asked NCG leader Barbara Paulsen… “We committed $750 million to build a stadium. I think we can give $5 million to feed hungry seniors.”
In discussion surrounding the vote, Boulder City Councilmember Duncan McCoy agreed.
Henderson City Council Backs Push to Boost State Funding for Meal Delivery Program, Las Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]
NonProfit to Push State Legislature to Boost Budget for Meals on Wheels, Las Vegas Review Journal
Henderson City Council Backs Push to Boost State Funding for Meal Delivery Program, Las Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]
February 10, 2017
MACG & Allies Secure Tenant Relocation Assistance in Portland
As part of a larger strategy to secure affordable housing options in Portland, Oregon, leaders of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) and allies secured unanimous passage of an emergency tenant relocation assistance ordinance, persuading an “on the fence” Commissioner to support the measure. Seventy-five MACG leaders packed City Hall chambers, with direct views of the commissioners as they voted.
The new temporary law requires that Portland landlords pay $2,900 – $4,500 to tenants who are evicted without cause or have to move as a result of a +10% rent increase. Leaders see the approval of this temporary measure as a critical step toward providing immediate relief. The plan now is to target the state legislature to pass Just Cause Eviction and Rent Stabilization legislation this year.
February 7, 2017
Valley Interfaith Priest Concerned That SB4 Can Empower Cartels
Following a press conference in which leaders of the Texas IAF Network of Organizations joined the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops to oppose the anti-sanctuary cities bill, SB4, Fr. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene’s de Mazenod Catholic Church and Valley Interfaith in Brownsville had more to say.
“If you cannot trust the police, who can you turn to?” Collins argues that one unintended consequence of SB4 becoming a law is that organized crime will become more powerful if community policing is diminished by lack of trust.
According to written testimony by Bishop Jose Vasquez, speaking on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, “The Catholic Church has a long history of involvement in the immigration issue….we reject the premise that persons who are merely suspected of being undocumented should be rounded up by state and local police agents. The primary duty of state and local law enforcement is to enforce state and local law with the aim of protecting communities from those who seek to harm others.”
Bishop Joe Vasquez’s submitted testimony has been published by the Rio Grande Guardian and is part of the article below. Valley Interfaith is part of the Network of Texas IAF Organizations.
[Photo Credit: Steve Taylor, Rio Grande Guardian]
Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
February 6, 2017
VOICE Holds School Board Chair Candidates Accountable
Even on Superbowl Sunday, over two hundred adult leaders of VOICE participated in an accountability assembly for school board candidates. Three candidates for the position of Board Chair of Oklahoma City Public Schools participated in the assembly, which highlighted personal stories from VOICE leaders and pointed questions about what candidates plan to do.
VOICE to Hold OKCPS Board Chair Candidates Accountability Session, The City Sentinel
February 6, 2017
NCG Recognized by Media for Education Organizing in Nevada
When news of the potential closure of Fremont Middle School emerged, parents and teachers at Fremont reached out to ‘Nevadans for the Common Good‘ and nearby Christ Church Episcopal Lutheran Church. Through community conversations, leaders are exploring the causes of the potential closure, its potential impacts on students and families and potential alternatives.
NCG leaders are additionally pressing on the Nevada state legislature to fund the weighted student funding formula.
[Photo Credit: Daniel Clark, Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Parents Pursue Alternatives as Fremont School Faces Closure in Las Vegas, Las Vegas Review- Journal
Education Topics Will Tug Hard on Nevada Purse Strings When Legislature Convenes, Las Vegas Review Journal
Indy Explains: Southern Nevada Education Groups, Nevada Independent
February 3, 2017
Texas IAF Network Joins Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in Stand Against Anti-Immigrant Bill SB4
Said Bishop Joe Vásquez, on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, “We reject the premise that persons who are merely suspected of being undocumented immigrants should be rounded up by state and local police agents.”
“This bill requires local police and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal immigration laws as if their job of maintaining public order and the public safety weren’t difficult enough as it is,” said John Elford, senior pastor of University United Methodist Church and member of Austin Interfaith.
[In photo, Austin Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez speaks, surrounded by religious leaders of the Network of Texas IAF Organizations.]
Click on Rio Grande Guardian article below to see written testimony by Bishop Joe Vasquez.
Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
CLC Urges Lawmakers to Reject ‘Anti-Sanctuary City’ Legislation, Baptist Standard [pdf]
Testimony by Reverend John Elford, Austin Interfaith, Network of Texas IAF Organizations
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
February 2, 2017
TBR Congratulates Mayor for Use-of-Force Policy Overhaul
When Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s announcement of an overhaul of the police department’s use-of-force policies, Together Baton Rouge expressed pride in the role they played in its development and extended public congratulations. The organization claims that with the announced changes, the Baton Rouge Police Department’s (BRPD) go “from being among the weakest 30% of cities in the nation to being among the strongest 7% in terms of alignment with national best practices.”
Together Baton Rouge leaders are continuing their work on law enforcement practices, including the recent release of a study on neighborhood disparities in drug possession enforcement.
TBR Statement of Support, Together Baton Rouge