July 21, 2017

One LA, with LA Mayor, Sheriff, Takes On Housing & Immigration

500 One LA delegates from 28 member institutions assembled to hold themselves, and elected officials, accountable on a Sunday afternoon in July.  Delegates ratified a new strategy team, updated the bylaws, and pledged increased dues.

In response to compelling stories, and the presence of hundreds of delegates,  Mayor Eric Garcetti committed to working with One LA on concrete solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including a proposed linkage fee that would generate $75 Million per year towards affordable housing construction.  Garcetti not only became the first mayor of a major city to sign on to the national IAF-initiated “Do Not Stand Idly By” campaign for safer guns, he additionally pledged to persuade other mayors to sign on.

After several young people shared stories about their immigration experience, the President of the LAUSD school board, Ref Rodriguez, pledged to support One LA and the Superintendent’s efforts to create ways for the district to provide support to young “newcomers” (recent immigrant arrivals & unaccompanied minors).

Regarding the treatment of 190,000, mostly women and children, crime victims awaiting U-visas, Sheriff Jim McDonnell committed to working with One LA and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to place a stay on their deportations.

Additional officials in attendance who pledged their support included:  LA City Attorney Mike Feuer; Mitch Katz, director of LA County Health Services; LA Police Deputy Chief Robert Arcos; and Bishop David O’Connell, San Gabriel Region of the Archdiocese.

[In photo, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly pledges to support One LA agenda of issues.  Photo Credit: Rafael Paz Parra]

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

One LA Enfrenta 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 voter to approve a plan to build the facility in 2018.

New Mental Health Stabilization Facility Could Provide Alternatives to Jails, ER, Spokesman Review

Additional background

July 17, 2017

700 DAI Leaders Clarify Impact of SB4 with Dallas Police

Before a packed audience of 700 leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith, and on the one-year anniversary of the shooting that took the lives of five police officers, Dallas Area Interfaith continued the public conversation about community relationships with the police in the context of SB4.  In response to stories about immigrants fearful of reporting crimes they’ve witnessed to the police, Dallas Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly announced, “This is evidence of why SB4 is bad.”

Assistant Police Chief Gary Tittle was asked to clarify how SB4 could work, given  police need for witnesses and victim cooperation and the real fears immigrants have of reporting.  Tittle explained that crime victims, witnesses and people calling 911 are exempt from questions about immigration status.

The assembly took place even as Dallas Police Department interviews for a new police chief are underway.  Said Minister Jonathan Morrison of Cedar Crest Church of Christ, and DAI representative on the interviewing panel, “I think there is always progress anytime there can be first real dialog and conversation and when communities can begin to share of their struggles and we begin to see commonality in our struggles.”

Religious leaders of DAI are working to develop a relationship of mutual accountability with the Dallas Police Department to address fears faced by all sides.

[Photo Credit: Ron Baselice, Dallas Morning News]

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

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

Dallas Police Chief Candidates in Town for InterviewsFOX News

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

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

VideoJudge Brandon Birmingham


July 14, 2017

NAIC Warns: Health Care in Rural Areas Under Siege

[Excerpt below]

…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

[Excerpt below]

“Beware Arizona. The potential restructuring of Medicaid, as approved by the House and undergoing secretive deliberations in the Senate, 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:

2016 – Won Support for Undocumented Healthcare

2015 – Leveraged $500,000 for Pilot Health Project

2015 – Defended Healthcare for Unauthorized Kids

2014 – Busted Up Barriers to Healthcare Access

2013 – Resurrected Low Income Health Plan

June 21, 2017

NCG Wins Fight to Save, Transform Fremont Middle School

Nevadans for the Common Good celebrated a positive resolution to an education issue affecting students of Fremont Middle School.  When the school district released rebuilding plans that involved busing Fremont middle-schoolers to another school, courageous parents and teachers began a year of conversing with each other and identifying allies.

With the support of neighboring institutions Christ Church Episcopal and Reformation Lutheran Church, Fremont leaders persuaded the School Board to approve a “transformational new plan for Fremont”: rebuilding Fremont as a K-8 school and constructing a new Global High School in the neighborhood.

[Photo Credit: Bridget Bennett, Las Vegas Review-Journal]

Defenders Hopeful Board OKs Plan to Keep Middle-Schoolers at Fremont, Las Vegas Review Journal

June 17, 2017

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

Pomona Council Takes Steps Leading to Moratorium on Recycling, Waste Processing Businesses, Inland Valley Bulletin [pdf]

June 12, 2017

DAI Turns Out 400 Votes in District 6 Runoff Election

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

Former Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo, who waited until the day before the election to support Dallas Area Interfaith‘s agenda in support of affordable housing and early childhood education, lost the runoff by 291 votes – the largest margin of three runoff races that day.

Her challenger, Omar Narvaez, publicly supported the DAI agenda two months prior.

Both candidates were invited to support the DAI agenda at a nonpartisan accountability assembly of 350 District 6 resident leaders held in April.  At that assembly, leaders committed to informing neighbors and fellow parishioners of how candidates had responded to their agenda.

True to their word, DAI leaders organized block walks in the Bachman Lake area near San Juan Diego where voter turnout was highest in the election.

[In photo, Fr. Jesus Belmontes, pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church, talks about the DAI agenda at the nonpartisan accountability assembly held last April.]

Shakeup to Shift Council DynamicsDallas Morning News [pdf]

June 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

Residents Suggest Changes to City Charter at Review Commission Hearing, Rivard Report

April accountability assembly

June 2, 2017

Together Louisiana Defends State Constitution, Kills Tax Giveaway Bill

When petrochemical companies operating in rural Louisiana attempted to directly negotiate an industrial tax discount with the local parish (county), the effort ran up against the Louisiana Constitution. The local tax assessor sued and the state courts ruled that the agreement violated the Constitution. Developers then crafted House Bill 444, a constitutional amendment that would legalize direct negotiations with local governments. The amendment would allow corporations to work around Industrial Tax Exemption Program reforms recently won by Together Louisiana.

Proclaiming the bill “taxation by backroom deal,” leaders descended upon a Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee hearing to fight it.  After leaders heard several rounds of testimonials about how HB444 would provide yet another “tool” in the “toolbox” of local economic development, a new metaphor emerged.

“I’m so tired of hearing about the toolbox for economic development.” proclaimed veteran Together Louisiana leader Edgar Cage. “This tool in the toolbox…. It’s a screwdriver. And guess who’s getting screwed?”

Against all odds, and with commendation from sitting committee members, Together Louisiana leaders prevailed, influencing enough votes from both political parties to kill the bill.

[In photo, Together Louisiana leader Edgar Cage describes the tool reserved for regular citizens.]

Together Louisiana, State’s Assessors Team Up to Defeat Major Corporate Tax-Giveaway Scheme, Weekly Citizen [pdf]

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

[Photo Credit: Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News]

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.

International Change Maker and Community Organiser Leaves  Audience Inspired After Visit to College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham [pdf]

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

Working Together Jackson Hosts City Forum, WJTV

May 16, 2017

NCG Advances in Fight for More ‘Meals on Wheels’ Funding

[Photo Credit: Daniel Clark, Nevada Independent]

Meals on Wheels Waiting Lists Could be a Thing of the Past Under Preliminary Budget Plan, 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]

State Should Continue Funding ACE Job Training, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Proposed Higher Education Funding Overhaul Could Come With Collateral DamageTexas Tribune [pdf]

Senate ResolutionSenate of the State of Texas

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

Study Affirms Project QUEST Achievements, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

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

Texas Innovative Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant Program: The Wise Investment for Proven Economic DevelopmentTexas IAF

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]

County Wants Governor to Say “No,” San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

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 Governor Fallin Vetoes Payday Loan Bill, The Oklahoman [pdf]

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

Oklahoma Priest: Legislature Should Reject High Interest Loan Bill, The Oklahoman [pdf]

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.

Recorded clips of individual testimony

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 EventEl Paso Times [pdf]

Future City Leaders Answer Questions About Immigration, InfrastructureKVIA  ABC 7 [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.

Mayoral, Council Candidates Pledge Action on Housing, Immigration, Wages, Rivard Report [pdf]

Candidates Questioned on Commitment and Accountability, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

COPS / Metro Alliance Hosts Community Forum Before Early Voting Kicks Off, KSAT ABC12 [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.

Charter or Dallas ISD: Dispute Over School’s Expansion Divides West Dallas NeighborhoodDallas Morning News

West Dallas Council Candidates Turn Affordable Housing Crisis into Weapon Against the IncumbentDallas Morning News

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.

Study Affirms Project QUEST Achievements, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

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

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

IAF Labor Market Intermediaries

April 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.

Video, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work

Photo AlbumUniversity 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.

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

Southern Arizona Interfaith Confronts ‘Spice’ Epidemic in Tucson, West / Southwest IAF

March 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]

Project Quest & Rackspace Collaborate to Train Veterans for Cyber Security Jobs, NowCastSA [pdf]

Training Vets to Work in Cyber Security, KTSA [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]

Linux for Ladies, Rackspace Aims to Bring More Women Into IT, Exconomy [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.

Funding Future Texas Workers in the RGV, The Monitor [pdf]

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.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission Decides on OG&E’s Proposed Rate Increase, KFOR Channel 4

Background from 2015

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

Local Religious Leaders Gather to Push for Immigration Reform, ABC-13

Religious Leaders Call for Inclusive Immigration Reform, Houston Public Media

Lideres Religiosos de Texas se Reunieron Para Pedir Una Reforma Migratoria con Camino a la Ciudadania, Univision

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.]

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

Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue Apace, The INDsider

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

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

February 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 Continues Progress Toward Affordable Housing, Ames Tribune

Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune

Affordable Housing Task Force Holds First Meeting, Ames Tribune

Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune

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

February 13, 2017

Working Together Jackson Demolishes Campus Blight

Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus.  The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.

[In photo, Dr. Mary Jackson of St. Mark's Episcopal Church speaks at press conference celebrating local demolition. Photo Credit: Scott Crawford]

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

February 10, 2017

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 ProgramLas Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]

NonProfit to Push State Legislature to Boost Budget for Meals on Wheels, Las Vegas Review Journal

Council OKs Plan to Become More Financially Sound, Boulder City Review [pdf]

Henderson City Council Backs Push to Boost State Funding for Meal Delivery Program, Las Vegas Review-Journal [pdf]

Photos from assembly

February 10, 2017

MACG & Allies Secure Tenant Relocation Assistance in Portland

As part of a larger strategy to secure affordable housing options in Portland, Oregon, leaders of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) and allies secured unanimous passage of an emergency tenant relocation assistance ordinance, persuading an “on the fence” Commissioner to support the measure.  Seventy-five MACG leaders packed City Hall chambers, with direct views of the commissioners as they voted.

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

The new temporary law requires that Portland landlords pay $2,900 – $4,500 to tenants who are evicted without cause or have to move as a result of a +10% rent increase.  Leaders see the approval of this temporary measure as a critical step toward providing immediate relief.  The plan now is to target the state legislature to pass Just Cause Eviction and Rent Stabilization legislation this year.

Testimony: Dr. Luis Manriquez, Portland Primary Care Doctor

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


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 CartelsRio Grande Guardian [pdf]

Texas Interfaith Leaders Take a Stand Against SB4KXAN [pdf]

Local Organizations Stand Against Sanctuary Cities BillKEYE

Press ReleaseTexas 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]

CCSD and Fremont Middle School Start to Communicate on Potential School Closure, Downtown News

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.

Texas Interfaith Leaders Take a Stand Against SB4KXAN [pdf]

Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]

Local Organizations Stand Against Sanctuary Cities Bill, KEYE

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.

BRPD Union: No Ill Effects from Sharon Weston Broome’s ‘Common Sense’ Use-Of-Force Policy Additions, The Advocate

TBR Statement of Support, Together Baton Rouge

February 2, 2017

VIP & Arizona Interfaith Continue Fight for Public School Funding

In 2016, VIP and Arizona Interfaith leaders led the fight for school and health funding for Arizona children, both for Kidcare (children’s health insurance) and school finance in key legislative districts, including District 28 in North Phoenix and Paradise Valley, District 6 in Flagstaff and District 1 in Prescott.

As part of the statewide effort to reverse disinvestment in Arizona public schools, two teachers presented Governor Doug Ducey with a joint statement calling for increases in teachers’ salaries.  The joint statement was supported and signed by leaders of Arizona Interfaith, nonprofits and state associations of educators, business, administrators and PTAs.

Education Advocates Urge Governor, Legislators, to Make Teachers’ Pay Raises a Priority, Arizona Education News

February 1, 2017

Southern Arizona Religious Leaders Sign Joint Statement Opposing Discrimination

More than 60 Southern Arizona religious leaders gathered on short notice to sign a joint statement expressing opposition to presidential executive orders banning the admission of select refugees and calling for the construction of a border wall.

Initially convened by Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas, with support from Southern Arizona Interfaith and Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, clergy from Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Sikh backgrounds participated in the preparation of the joint statement.  105 religious leaders from 57 congregations ultimately signed on.

SAI and PCIC leaders are working to organize meetings with Arizona senators and Congressional Representatives.

Original Statement

Southern Arizona Religious Leaders Vow to Support Migrants, Refugees, Arizona Daily Star

January 31, 2017

Albuquerque Interfaith Advances Alliance School Strategy

Following last year’s victory in helping pass a $575 Million bond package for local public schools, just part of the $2.5 Billion Albuquerque Interfaith has helped leverage since 2002, leaders are now fighting to implement school reforms.

120 leaders assembled with 11 of 16 Albuquerque Public School board candidates for a civic academy on Alliance Schools, small group conversations and pointed questions to the candidates about supporting the development of Alliance Schools in the district.  To the person, each of the participating candidates pledged to directly support Alliance Schools and to help build support with the Superintendent.

Group Gathers for Accountability Meeting with APS Board Candidates, FOX-KEQE

January 24, 2017

DAI Credited with Blocking Payday Lending in Arlington, TX

[Excerpt below from page 81]

“Catholic congregations and leaders …were central in the push for payday lending reform in nearby Arlington.   Father Daniel Kelley of St. Joseph Catholic Church was particularly influential.  In addition, the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Texas’ Catholic bishops, worked directly on payday lending reform at the state and local level, and also participated in Dallas Area Interfaith and Faith Leaders for Fair Lending.

Hearing stories from borrowers who sought assistance from Catholic charitable organizations helped generate interest in the payday issue among Catholic leaders.  The religion’s long‐standing antipathy to usury provided these leaders with a ready‐made framework for opposing payday loans….”

Power of Community Action: Anti-Payday Loan Ordinances in Three Metropolitan Areas, University of Utah & University of New Mexico

January 23, 2017

MOC Confronts Deportation & Eviction Threats to Immigrants

MOC Confronts Deportation, Eviction Threats
Fierce winter rains were not enough to stop over 300 leaders of Marin Organizing Committe from convening to discuss the dual threats many immigrants face: deportation and loss of housing.

Leaders broke into small group meetings at San Rafael Catholic Church to share stories of deportation threats, surprise evictions (including a mother evicted 5 days after giving birth), and rents increased five times within one year, often after tenants complained about a stove burner not working or mold on the carpet.

MOC will host a follow up renters’ protections study session to explore potential responses.  Elected officials in attendance, including newly elected Supervisor Dennis Rodoni and San Rafael Police Chief Diana Bishop, committed to supporting initiatives to address the issues unearthed in the conversations.

[Photo Credit: Christina Gray, Catholic San Francisco]

San Rafael Immigrants Coping with Dual Threats of Deportation, Homelessness, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]

Hundreds Turn Out to Support Immigrants on Inauguration Week, Catholic San Francisco [pdf]

The Power of a Story: Organizing Students Attend Marin Action, Church Divinity School of the Pacific [pdf]

More Photos

January 18, 2017

OTOC Calls on Congress to Replace ACA Before Repealing It

Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) leaders and Nebraska allies convened at the Capitol to call on their congressional representatives to replace the Affordable Care Act before repealing it.  Said Mary Spurgeon, “to repeal the ACA without an as-good-as-or-better plan immediately replacing it would be an immoral act against both individual well-being and the common good of this nation.”

Referencing Catholic Social Teaching, the Methodist Book of Discipline and Lutheran social  statements, Spurgeon announced that OTOC “does not care who [a new health plan] is named after,” it just needs to be in place before withdrawing currently available healthcare options.

Video Here

January 15, 2017

Archbishop Flores Remembered for Support of COPS & More

When Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Flores died, stories about his life and legacy as the first Mexican-American Catholic bishop quickly surfaced.

Andy Sarabia, founding president of COPS, remembered that even when the organization held controversial actions like tying up bank tellers with thousands of pennies on paydays in order to secure a meeting with the bank president, the Bishop “…stood by us, during all those confrontational years.”

[In photo, Bishop Flores speaks about homelessness in San Antonio at COPS convention in 1988.  Photo Credit: John Davenport]

Flores’ Farewell Won’t Likely Include Every Good Story, San Antonio Express News [pdf]

January 11, 2017

Spokane Alliance & Allies Victorious in School Bullying Action

Following almost nine weeks of pressure from Spokane Alliance members and allies, the Spokane Public Schools (SPS) school board unanimously voted to make a public statement on recent school bullying that included four key points leaders advocated for:  reaffirmation of the district’s commitment to respect all students; commitment to swift enforcement of harassment, intimidation and bullying; contact information for those needing to report incidents; and the context of the divisive year in politics.

Leaders testifying at the school board meeting were supported by dozens of parents and community leaders inspiring one leader to say, “It makes me want to cry to see so many people standing up together for children – as I’ve stood alone with parents so often with no resolution.”

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

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

Full SPS Board Statement

December 19, 2016

Working Together Jackson Fights for Green Space to Replace Blight on University Campus

When new dormitory construction stalled for four years, 25 abandoned homes on campus at Jackson State University became host to activity negatively impacting neighbors, including St. Mark’s Episcopal Church next door. Leaders began talking to congregants and neighbors and together, with other institutions of Working Together Jackson, are now demanding that in the absence of moving forward with the development, that at minimum the university foundation should pay for the demolition of the abandoned housing and replace it with green space.

Said Rev. Luther Ott of St. Marks, ” “Those of us who live and work in inner cities know abandoned houses are not abandoned….It’s only a matter of time until we’re going to a funeral.”

[Photo Credit: Justin Sellers, Clarion-Ledger]

JSU Development Stalls; Neighborhood Tired of Blight, Clarion-Ledger [pdf]

December 15, 2016

COPS / Metro Compels Accountability for Housing Bond

As the City of San Antonio’s first ever housing bond moved forward, COPS / Metro Alliance leaders pressed for accountability, arguing that the current structure of the bond excludes the concerns of long-time residents of San Antonio.  Leaders are fighting so that some funding can be directed to the rehabilitation of aging homes, multi-family housing that includes a mix of market, workforce and affordable rental rates, as well as guidelines to address questions of what kinds of developers and developments get funded.   Leaders challenged the mayor and city council to gather stakeholders to address these issues before the proposal goes to the voters.

Within hours, in response, the City Council voted to create an oversight committee to track development of the housing bond.

[Photo Credit: Carolyn Van Houten, San Antonio Express-News]

Council Creates Housing Bond Oversight Committee, San Antonio Express News

New Committee Will Oversee Housing Bond, Rivard Report

Council, Community Push for Accountability on Housing Bond, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

City: Housing Bond Needs Clarified Plan, More Citizen Oversight, Rivard Report [pdf]

COPS / Metro Alliance Concerned with Housing Bond, Nowcast SA

Piden se Analice el Bono de Mejoramiento de Vecindarios de 2017, Univision

December 14, 2016

One LA Reaches Milestone Healthcare Enrollment of 146,000, Celebrates Expansion of Enrollment to 54,000 More!

Before a packed audience of 200 health care leaders and Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of the LA County Department of Health, One LA celebrated the milestone enrollment of 146,000 Los Angeles residents into My Health LA, 8,000 of whom were enrolled by One LA leaders themselves at their institutions. My Health LA is a program One LA leaders compelled the County to create to cover undocumented residents and leaders ultimately secured an additional $6 million in funding and negotiated an agreement from LA County to conduct healthcare enrollment at One LA member institutions.  350 trained leaders held over 100 events to enroll the 8,000 residents.

At the celebration, Dr. Katz agreed to authorize funding to expand healthcare enrollments to reach an additional 54,000 residents!

December 14, 2016

DAI Weighs In On Appointment of New Catholic Bishop in Dallas

When Pope Francis announced the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Edward Burns, DAI expressed eagerness to work with him. Said lead organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul, “His attention and care to the immigrant community will be very critical. Farrell focused on building bridges between communities, and we need that to continue.”

[Photo Credit: Ben Torres, Dallas Morning News]

Pope Picks Bishop from Alaska to Lead Diocese of Dallas, Dallas Morning News

December 8, 2016

Front Range / Denver IAF Effort Builds Momentum

On a bitterly cold December evening in Denver, over 100 leaders from 19 diverse institutions gathered at Cleaves Memorial CME Church to pledge their time, money and talent to a new IAF presence in Colorado. Leaders from synagogues, labor unions, neighborhood associations and mainline denominations came together to share stories and build momentum for 2017. Institutions committed to investing nearly $60,000 for the new year and to sending 65 leaders to an upcoming leadership training at Regis University.

November 28, 2016

Marin Organizing Committee Credited with Creating REST and for Building Power to Expand It

42 churches, synagogues and nonprofits will participate in the  Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (REST) this year, providing temporary shelter as well as meals shared between providers and homeless participants.  The Marin Independent Journal credits the Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) for establishing the program nine years ago and for continuing to building power to expand its reach.

Says leader Pat Langley, a parishioner at St. Anselm Church in Ross, “We haven’t run out of gas!” Langley explained that just this year, MOC signed up 8,500 Marin residents who support the creation of a new year-round shelter for the homeless.  Leaders furthermore secured, through non-partisan accountability assemblies, pledges of support from Dennis Rodoni, who was elected to the Marin County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 8, and supervisors Kate Sears and Katie Rice, who secured re-election in June.

The search for a politically viable site for year-round housing remains strong.

[Photo Credit: Jocelyn Knight, Marin Independent Journal]

Marin’s Homeless Thankful for Shelter Program, Now in its Ninth Year, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]

Marin IJ Editorial: REST Shelter is Up and Running Again, Marin Independent Journal

November 18, 2016

Together Baton Rouge Grills Candidates on Law Enforcement, Tax Exemptions, Flood Relief & ‘Food Deserts’

In an assembly drawing about one thousand Together Baton Rouge leaders, the organization challenged runoff candidates on a number of issues, eliciting commitments from candidates for City Mayor and Metro Council 10 & 12 positions.  The organization live-streamed the assembly which drew residents from across the city.  The most contentious of the requests for commitments includes finding $1.5 Million to help finance a grocery store in neighborhoods where none exists, and around law enforcement.  Together is calling on the city for more minority hires, an independent monitor for the Police Department, reforming use-of-force policies, higher pay, better training and addressing the ‘history of discriminatory arrest patterns in Baton Rouge.”

Together Baton Rouge Grills Candidates on Law Enforcement, Tax Exemptions, Flood Relief and Addressing ‘Food Deserts,’ The Advocate

Together BR 2016 Citizens Assembly with City Parish Candidates [video], Together Baton Rouge

November 17, 2016

400 DAI Leaders Leverage Commitments from Dallas Police Chief

Hundreds of leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith assembled at Temple of Faith CME to address issues of neighborhood safety: police protocol on traffic stops, wage theft, thousands of feral dogs, and hot spots for drugs and prostitution. Confronted with hundreds from the community, Interim Police Chief David Pughes committed to developing a bilingual video on proper protocol that can be shown in congregations and to fundamentally changing how police handle wage theft — recognizing theft of service as a criminal matter and not a civil one. Leader after leader told personal stories about unfairly being treated as criminals during traffic stops and when reporting crimes.

At one point, addressing immigrants in the packed room, Pughes said “we don’t want to be immigration police.” The chief additionally committed to working with leaders to address three areas in the city that see high level of drugs and prostitution, as well as developing a plan for the 8,000 feral dogs roaming neighborhood streets.

Dallas Leaders Hold Police-Community Relations Discussion, FOX 4 News

Dallas Police, Critics Square Off in Forum, CBS DFW

November 17, 2016

Albuquerque Interfaith Addresses Fear Caused by Campaign, Builds Power for Local Issues

In an effort to build a constituency for mental health, to rebuild a comprehensive system, Albuquerque Interfaith convened close to 300 leaders from 28 institutions (15 member and 13 allied) to secure commitments from elected officials.

After one governor privatized Medicaid in New Mexico and another diminished mental health care provision in the state, mental healthcare services for low-income people in Bernalillo County required attention.  In 2015, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders succeeded in securing the approval of a 1/8-cent sales tax, which raised over $6.5 million in new funds for mental healthcare services.  Now leaders want a comprehensive and integrated system in place to address the mental and behavioral healthcare crisis.

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, District Attorney-elect Raul Torrez, and State Auditor Tim Keller made public commitments to work with Albuquerque Interfaith to advance their agenda on mental health.  County Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins, a champion of the 1/8-cent sales tax, pledged to continue working with the organization.

Immediately after, 150 leaders took to the podium to address fears caused by the rhetoric of the campaign and to pledge to stand with each other across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines.

[Photo Credit: Adolphe Pierre-Louise, Albuquerque Journal]

Interfaith Group Shares Concern After Election, Albuquerque Journal

Nonprofits, Schools, and Religious Groups Calling for Peace, KOAT Channel 7

Albuquerque Interfaith Members React to Election of Trump, Albuquerque Journal [Video]

November 10, 2016

One LA Takes on LA Traffic & WINS $120 Billion Bond Election

Building on a four-year campaign, One LA leaders and their allies shaped, pushed for and passed Measure M to raise $120 Billion for new rail lines, improved bus services, and street and highway projects which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and make finding and getting to a job easier for working poor families across LA County.

Passing this bond measure required meeting a challenging two-thirds voter threshold for approval.  This extraordinary victory took a county-wide education and mobilization of non-traditional allies crossing significant geographic, racial, religious and socioeconomic lines.

In addition to building a strong and diverse coalition of support, One LA led an action at the LA County Board of Supervisors that succeeded in putting the measure on the November ballot..

Leaders subsequently educated more than 500 voters through civic academies hosted at 8 One LA member congregations strategically positioned across LA County.  Civic academies, taught by leaders, included information about LA City Measure HHH — which will fund the construction of 8,000 to 10,000 units of safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless — as well as about Propositions 55 for education funding and 57 for criminal justice reform.  75 precinct walkers targeted key swing precincts knocking on over 1,000 doors.  Leaders then followed up with more than 500 phone calls.

“This is why a broad-based organization like One LA exists: not only to build a consensus among tens of thousands of voters across a county as large as Los Angeles, but to do so through trusted institutions and deep face-to-face engagement,“ said Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple. “During the development of this measure and during GOTV, we worked to build consensus across geographic and demographic lines which historically have been difficult to bridge in our segregated county.”

Click here to see press release

October 31, 2016

COPS/Metro Fights for SAISD Children with $450 Million Bond

Only one month after raising municipal wages for the second year in a row in San Antonio, COPS / Metro is now fighting to leverage necessary funding for school improvements…$450 Million, to be precise.  Elaine Ayala of the San Antonio Express-News reported that two weekends before Election Day, dozens of COPS / Metro leaders block walked  – asking voters to scroll to the end of the ballot to the last two measures.  Leader Maria Tijerina explained that TRE funds would support after-school, summer and enrichment programs, freeing up money to help the district reach the $15 / hour wage they are fighting for.

In addition to deputizing registrars and registering hundreds of new voters since August, leaders organized three parish-level accountability sessions with candidates for school board and state house legislative positions.

COPS / Metro Focused on Bottom Ballot Issues, SAISD’s Children, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

COPS Using Powerful Acronym to Help SAISD Kids in Election, KENS 5

Lideres Religiosos Recordaran La Importancia de Ir a Votar En Sus Sermones, Univision

Abandoned House Causing Alarm as Winter Approaches, FOX News

South San Antonio ISD Candidates Answer Questions from Voters, FOX News

October 28, 2016

TMO Celebrates its Past to Shape the Future of Houston

TMO celebrated its founding members with special guest Daniel Cardinal DiNardo in a celebration dinner designed to highlight the organization’s achievements, honor the leaders made those achivements happen and introduce the next generation of leaders.  Cardinal DiNardo of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston praised the work of TMO and the Gulf Coast Leadership Council while challenging TMO to continue its work in the future.

In photo, Cardinal DiNardo stands with past and present leaders of TMO.

More photos

Celebration Program

Celebration Awards

October 28, 2016

Together Louisiana Codifies Tax Exemption Rule Changes

Thanks to consistent pressure from Together Louisiana and allies, industrial tax exemption reforms were codified into state rules.

Says Together Baton Rouge (part of the Together Louisiana network): “These reforms haven’t gone far enough yet, but what has changed already on Louisiana’s biggest corporate subsidy program is historic.

For the first time in 80 years, companies will now have to create jobs to be eligible for exemptions. And the local communities paying for the exemptions will get to decide whether they are granted.”

Lucrative Tax Breaks for Industrial Manufacturers in Louisiana to be Clarified, The Advocate

October 27, 2016

‘Nevadans for the Common Good’ Holds Candidate Forum

Over 200 leaders of Nevadans for the Common Good invited candidates for office to an assembly in which well over 200 participated. Leaders secured commitments from federal, state, and local candidates to work with the organization to advance their agenda of issues on education, healthcare, and immigration.

Additional photos, NCG

October 24, 2016

Valley Interfaith Gets Out The Vote for Health District

Valley Interfaith leaders are changing hearts and minds about the creation of a health district by knocking on doors and telling their healthcare stories.  Catholics and Methodists are uniting, with reverends and veterans, all to make reality a community healthcare system for the Rio Grande Valley.

Says leader Eddie Anaya, “Valley Interfaith has long had a vision of a community …healthcare system that will take care of the most vulnerable — health care that will serve the uninsured, the elderly, our children and our working families.  We believe that an educated vote will result in the passing of Proposition 1.”

Prop 1 Supporters Work to Get Out The Vote, The Monitor [pdf]

October 24, 2016

Common Ground Challenges School Board Candidates in Vallejo

Well over one hundred leaders of Common Ground assembled with Vallejo City Unified School District candidates in the parish hall of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic.  Leaders expressed a commitment to building constructive relationships for strong neighborhoods and schools.

October 23, 2016

One LA Gets Out The Vote for Los Angeles Public Transit Bond

“We came.  We knocked doors.  We registered.  We organized.” Following months of civic academies, in a long campaign to improve public transit in Los Angeles, while creating local jobs and preserving affordable housing, One LA leaders knocked on doors from South Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley to West LA and the San Fernando Valley.  Leaders are promoting a “yes” vote on Measure M, a ballot measure that they helped shape, in addition to other Propositions. Additional photos, One LA

October 21, 2016

COPA Secures County Support for Healthcare for Undocumented

Upon successful implementation of a pilot project providing healthcare for undocumented residents of Monterey County, COPA leaders took another major step forward, securing unanimous Board of Supervisor support to create an action team that will prepare and present a proposal back to the Board this spring.  This is an important preliminary step in securing Monterey County funds to ensure that all residents have access to quality, affordable healthcare regardless of immigration status.

In photo, Episcopal Bishop Mary Gray Reeves leads joint study session with Monterey County Board of Supervisors and COPA leadership on healthcare for undocumented residents.  [Photo Credit: Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real]

Condado de Monterey Busca Proveer Seguro Médico Completo Para Indocumentados, KION [pdf]

Agencias Realizaran Plan de Estudio que Busca Medical Para Indocumentados, Noticias Monterey-Salinas

County Will Pursue Health Care Program for Remaining Uninsured, To Convene Panel, Monterey Herald [pdf]

Update: Supes to Study Medically Uninsured, The Californian – USA Today [pdf]

October 17, 2016

OTOC Secures Congressional Pledge to End Detention of Immigrant Families & More

After 85 Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) religious leaders called on Congressperson Brad Ashford to end indefinite detention of women and children seeking political asylum, 350 leaders of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) assembled to challenge congressional candidates Brad Ashford (incumbent) and Don Bacon to support the OTOC agenda regarding immigration reform, the death penalty and more.  Both candidates, including Ashford, committed to working to end the indefinite detention of Central American women and children.

Leaders also engaged candidates for the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) to secure commitments to work with the organization to move more quickly towards clean energy sources.

Ashford – Bacon Sound Off, KETV Channel 7

More Info

October 16, 2016

TMO Puts Law Enforcement Candidates Under the Spotlight

TMO leaders held an accountability session with candidates for Sheriff Ron Hickman and Ed Gonzalez, and District Attorney candidate Kim Ogg.  The candidates agreed to work with TMO to create a plan to reduce jail overcrowding, enhance deputy training, institute new bail reform measures, and oppose legislation forcing law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents.

October 16, 2016

Austin Interfaith Holds Accountability Assembly with Candidates

Hundreds of Austin Interfaith leaders convened at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in East Austin to call on candidates for City Council districts 2, 4, 6, 7, and 10 to support an agenda for families.

Austin Interfaith Holds City Council Candidate Forum, Time Warner Cable

October 13, 2016

AMOS Challenges Legislative Candidates Around Mental Health

After holding 200 house meetings involving thousands of Ankeny residents, hundreds of AMOS leaders told those stories to candidates for state legislative office and secured commitments from most of them on several mental health-related items.  Most candidates for Iowa House District 37 and House District 38 public committed to a) introduce legislation for the creation and funding of a loan-forgiveness program for mental care providers,  b) co-sponsor legislation to grant counties the local authority to adjust taxes for mental health services and c) participating in a mental health caucus in the upcoming session.

Clergy from a cross-section of denominations told powerful stories about the need for such services in their communities.  Leaders explained the correlation between financial insecurity and mental illness.

[Photo Credit: Linh Ta, Des Moines Register and AMOS]

Ankeny Candidates Agree to Support More Mental HealthCare Access, Des Moines Register

October 13, 2016

AMOS Challenges Legislative Candidates Around Mental Health

After holding 200 house meetings involving thousands of Ankeny residents, hundreds of AMOS leaders told those stories to candidates for state legislative office and secured commitments from most of them on several mental health-related items.  Most candidates for Iowa House District 37 and House District 38 public committed to a) introduce legislation for the creation and funding of a loan-forgiveness program for mental care providers,  b) co-sponsor legislation to grant counties the local authority to adjust taxes for mental health services and c) participating in a mental health caucus in the upcoming session.

Clergy from a cross-section of denominations told powerful stories about the need for such services in their communities.  Leaders explained the correlation between financial insecurity and mental illness.

Ankeny Candidates Agree to Support More Mental HealthCare AccessDes Moines Register

October 12, 2016

Dallas Area Interfaith & Allies Stall Mass Evictions in West Dallas

Within days of Dallas Area Interfaith’s (DAI) stunning housing code victory, the owner hundreds of single family rental homes in West Dallas, HMK,  sent eviction notices to 305 tenants ordering them to vacate the property by November.  Dallas Morning News accuses HMK of making the tenants “pawns in the company’s scorched-earth fight against tough new housing policies.”

DAI, in collaboration with the Wesley Rankin Community school and center, organized a meeting to brief hundreds of worried renters about their rights as tenants, the basics of eviction law and to pressure the City of Dallas to intervene on tenants’ behalf.  Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo, along with the Assistant City Attorney, assured renters that extra-legal evictions would not be tolerated.

The next day, the State District Judge Ken Molberg ordered the Dallas landlord to temporarily halt the mass evictions.  Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings exhorted affected residents to keep trying to pay rent, and if refused by the office, to set the money aside for when it would be.

Mayor Mike Rawlings Feels ‘Sleazy’ After Recording of 2015 Meeting with West Dallas Landlords Posted Online, Dallas Morning News

Dallas Judge Temporarily Halts Mass EvictionWFAA

Hundreds Facing Eviction Scramble to Find HousingNBC-DFW

Dallas Must Not Let Callous Landlords WinDallas Morning News [pdf]

West Dallas Tenants Vent Fears of EvictionDallas Morning News [pdf]

Father and Son Accused of Being Dallas’ Most Prolific Slumlords are Evicting Tenants from 305 HomesDallas Morning News [pdf]

Families Confused, Unprepared for West Dallas Mass EvictionsDallas Morning News

October 11, 2016

TMO Fights Off Gentrification in Houston Neighborhood

TMO leaders of Resurrection Catholic Church won the first of two council votes to protect the Denver Harbor neighborhood from predatory development.  This council vote established Chapter 42 Minimum Lot Size protection for 100 properties in the Denver Harbor area, preventing the lots from being subdivided below the minimum prevailing lot size, as is often the practice when developers build multiple townhomes on what was originally a single residence.

Resurrection leaders visited 26 churches and held multiple meetings with over 200 residents just to begin this effort.  They then identified 800 properties for protection in three applications to the city.  All three applications for Chapter 42 were approved by the Planning Commission and sent to the City Council.  This was the first and smallest of the applications to pass.  The remaining two are being considered together and will come before council at a later date.  In the meantime, Resurrection leaders have targeted another application protecting 200 more properties.

October 11, 2016

Pima County Interfaith Blasts Candidates That Don’t Show Up

Starting with the question, “What happens to democracy if no one shows up?” leaders of Pima County Interfaith probed the long-term consequences of an increasingly common occurrence: incumbents and candidates simply turning down invitations to interact with the public.

Click below to read their Oped:

Opinion: What Happens to a Democracy if No One Shows Up? Arizona Daily Star

October 9, 2016

Colorado Leaders Bring Red Hot Patriot to Denver, Are Now $3,000 Closer to Fundraising Goal

As part of an effort to raise the funds required to build power, and have some fun at the same time, leaders of Colorado IAF, in partnership with the owner of the Clocktower Cabaret in Denver, brought the play, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick Ass Wit of Molly Ivins to Denver for three nights. All proceeds of the Sunday night show were earmarked for the CO-IAF effort raising over $3,000.

October 7, 2016

NCLI Launches ACTS to Combat Poverty in Louisiana

With Louisiana as the state with the third highest number of poor people, many of them working full-time, Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith leaders are devising new ways to tackle poverty.  Says Pastor Clayton Moore, “If you work, how is it that you’re poor?”

NCLI leaders have launched Another Chance to Succeed (ACTS), modeling itself on Project QUEST in San Antonio and NOVA in Monroe, Louisiana.  The goal is to train adults into higher wage jobs of at least $15 / hour.  ACTS is targeting January 2017 as its start-up date.

Interfaith Fights Poverty with Workforce Training, KTBS

October 7, 2016

Pima County Interfaith, SAI & Allies Challenge Candidates for State Legislative and County Office

Over 500 local residents attended PCICEO‘s accountability assembly to challenge candidates for county and state office to support “Education and Economic Success for All.”  Republican and Democratic candidates for four Arizona legislative districts and two county districts were challenged to a series of specific questions around key priorities of the organization.  Issues covered include: education, hunger, SPICE (synthetic marijuana), JobPath workforce development funding, affordable housing and the impact of a $58 million bond for Amphi Unified School District.

The most electric story came from a woman whose son is addicted to a synthetic compound, SPICE.  Leaders challenged legislators to change the laws to “get this stuff out of the stores and smoke shops…[and] out of the hands of our children and neighbors!”

500 Question Candidates – Pledge Action, PCICEO

October 7, 2016

AMOS Leader Rev. Dr. Black Profiled for Legacy of Justice


The media ritual of the exit interview in which a journalist sits down for reflective conversation with a public figure leaving office or moving away shouldn’t be confined only to elected officials or CEOs.

The Rev. Brigitte Black has earned the same treatment after six years in Des Moines….

Black hasn’t been one of the names always emblazoned in headlines. But other community leaders increasingly identified her as an effective negotiator who was working consistently and with empathy behind the scenes, able to bridge divides among various factions.

Immediately after she hit town she spotted a story in the Des Moines Register with the headline, “Ministers to launch worker training program.” She was intrigued by Project IOWA, an effort to give hundreds of unemployed and underemployed workers the practical training and “soft skills” necessary to succeed. She leaves having become the chair of its board.

That move helped get her involved with a …coalition of local faith leaders known as AMOS – A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy.

She began to realize ways to act on her passion for juvenile justice even as Iowa was scrutinizing its status as one of the worst states for disproportionate rates of incarceration of African-Americans….

Read the rest of the profile below:

Rev. Black’s Life and Justice Work in Des Moines Have Mattered, Des Moines Register [pdf]

September 29, 2016

‘Nevadans for the Common Good’ Fights Funding of Stadium

Naming “seven hidden risks” that public funding of a new Adelson-backed Raiders’ stadium would bring to taxpayers, leaders of Nevadans for the Common Good publicly voiced their opposition to the plan with a well-attended press conference.  Read below for full coverage:

Opponents of Adelson-Backed Stadium Get Little Attention in Adelson-Owned Newspaper, Las Vegas Tribune

Politicians Place a Bet on a Stadium, and Vegas Pays For It, New York Times

Group Against Stadium Proposal Because It ‘Contains Unacceptable Level of Risk for Residents,’ Las Vegas Sun

Seven Hidden Risks in the Stadium Plan, Nevadans for the Common Good

Group Has Concerns About Funding for New NFL Stadium, CBS Channel 8

Critics Outline Raiders’ Stadium Objection, Las Vegas Review Journal

Two Nevada Groups Announce Opposition to Proposed Raiders Stadium in Las Vegas, Las Vegas Review Journal

Pair of County Commissioners, Uneasy About Stadium Plan, Las Vegas Sun

September 29, 2016

Together Louisiana & IAF Secure $500M in Flood Relief

Just days before Congress adjourns for October recess, the word among lobbyists was that a proposal for flood recovery funding for Louisiana would not even get a vote for inclusion in the continuing resolution (short term budget).  It was the last opportunity to secure funding for flood recovery before the lame duck session.

Then, according to Together Baton Rouge (TBR), sister IAF organizations across the country began contacting their congressional representatives and senators urging them to support the funding package — across partisan lines.  Together Baton Rouge posted a video that, in less than one day, was viewed 55,000 times as leaders quickly spread its message urging people to contact their congressional representatives.

48 hours after the funding was declared dead on arrival, the Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, threw his full support behind the funding and announced it would receive a vote.

At stake was tens of thousands of homes and potential foreclosures.

After more days of posturing, haggling and deal cutting, the Senate voted (72-26) in support of the Resolution and the House voted (342-85) in support.  TBR additionally credited the Louisiana Governor and congressional delegation for “working tirelessly across party lines to make the case for flood recovery.”  They also credited high-ranking House and Senate Democrat and Republic leaders for the win (see right).

How a Bill REALLY Becomes a Law, Together Baton Rouge

Congress Clears Bill to Prevent ShutdownPolitico

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

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

Great Flood of 2016 and What We Need to RebuildTogether Baton Rouge

September 29, 2016

DAI Leaders Secure Strongest Tenant Protections in Texas

With three asthmatic children in the family, Patricia Vega (in photo above) was constantly on the lookout for mold.  ”Every time we move, we think it gets better, but it does not.”  Realizing that the Dallas housing code enforcement offered no protections, she, with a group of women from San Juan Diego Catholic Church, enlisted the support of Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) to change the law.

In a little over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code of Dallas in a fundamental way.  Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, “These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas’s most vulnerable.”  FOX News calls the code the “toughest landlord rules in the state.”   Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, “this is unprecedented.”

New protections include:

- required mold and bedbug cleanup by landlords
- eradication of insects from apartment pools
- required translation of rental agreements into Spanish and Vietnamese
- single-family rental inspections and registration
- 15 new inspectors just for single family rentals
- working AC with minimum required temperatures

Councilmember McGough said the new rules included “the strongest AC regulation in the state.”

A turning point was reached one month ago, when DAI leaders met with representatives of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas (AAGD) to negotiate points of disagreement.  At the end of the day, AAGD stood with DAI in support of the new code, arguing that “poorly operated properties and slumlords bring down…the entire industry.”

Said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings: “This is how you pass legislation.”

Dallas Makes Rules Tougher on Landlords with New Housing Standards, Dallas Morning News

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

Dallas Council Passes Tougher Landlord Maintenance Rules, FOX 4 News

From the earlier this year:

A Better Housing Code, Dallas Morning News [pdf]

Dallas’ Housing Code Could be Getting Tougher, but the State Must Also Improve Tenants’ Rights, Dallas Morning News

Dallas May Adjust City Codes to Take on Problem Landlords, WFAA

Group Says Dallas Housing Code Needs Update, NBC-DFW

Editorial: Why Dallas Needs an Improved Housing Code, Dallas Morning News

Dallas Moves to Crack Down on So-Called “Slumlords”, CBS-DFW

Dallas Rewriting the Rules to Make Apartments, Rental Homes ‘Decent’ and ‘Dignified,’ Dallas Morning News

It’s Time to Get Tough on Landlords with Substandard Housing, Dallas Council Members Say, Dallas Morning News

Grupo Religioso Pide Mejorar Condiciones de Apartamentos en Renta, Al Dia Dallas

September 26, 2016

One LA Educates Voters on Measure M & California Propositions

Since July 31 at St. Brigid Catholic Church, One LA has been conducting non-partisan voter education and voter turnout for the upcoming November elections, targeting precincts around state and local ballot initiatives.

Training has focused on developing leadership skills, building core teams, and the basics of four important ballot initiatives: LA County Measure M (transportation bond) and California State Propositions 55, 57, and 62 related to a tax extension for education & healthcare, and measures related to criminal sentencing and repeal of the death penalty.

[In photo, leader Debra Silverman leads a discussion around the November elections at Temple Isaiah.]

Read the Agitator for more information.

September 23, 2016

Together Louisiana & IAF Secure Vote on $500M Federal Flood Recovery ‘Down Payment’

Days before Congress adjourns for October recess, the word among lobbyists was that a proposal for flood recovery funding for Louisiana would not even get a vote for inclusion in the continuing resolution (short term budget).

Then, according to Together Baton Rouge, sister IAF organizations across the country began contacting their congressional representatives and senators urging them to support the funding package — even across partisan lines.  Together Baton Rouge posted a video that, in less than one day, was viewed 55,000 times as leaders quickly spread its message urging people to contact their congressional representatives.  TBR additionally credits the Louisiana Governor and congressional delegation for “working tirelessly across party lines to make the case for flood recovery.”

48 hours after the funding was declared dead on arrival, the Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, threw his full support behind the funding and announced it would receive a vote.

At stake is tens of thousands of homes and potential foreclosures.

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

Great Flood of 2016 and What We Need to Rebuild, Together Baton Rouge

September 16, 2016

IAF Helps Prepare Episcopal Seminarians for Public Life

Looking for a way to create a “tighter fit between the life of faith and public life,” the Very Reverend W. Mark Richardson of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley turned to the Industrial Areas Foundation to help train its seminarians.

Says Rev. Susanna Singer, “Bishops were saying increasingly that community organizing is a good thing.”  The creation faith, she argues, is about God’s vision of flourishing for humanity and the cosmos.  ”It means that the body of Christ, which is us now, has got to get out there now and be involved in the communities in which we live because that’s where God’s dream is going to come true.”

“The intention is to train ordinary people both in giving them a conceptual framework for thinking about issues of power and self-interest and leadership as well as some of the  practical skills of engaging people who are different than you out in the broader world,” says Anna Eng, lead organizer for the Bay Area IAF.

The Church Divinity School of the Pacific not only offers the 6-day course each year in January, it participates as a member in the Bay Area IAF.

[In photo is the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson sitting in a class.  Photo Credit: Episcopal News Service]

CDSP Prepares Seminarians for Public Life, Episcopal News Service

Public Ministry in Practice, Episcopal News Service

September 15, 2016

COPS/Metro Raises Wages AGAIN & Secures QUEST’s Future

One year after raising the minimum wage for employees of the City of San Antonio (from $11.47 to $13 per hour), COPS / Metro Alliance leaders are celebrating again after the City Council passed a budget that includes a second wage raise to $13.75 per hour.  This follows an intense two-year campaign with over 1,000 leaders recently assembling with the Mayor and council representatives to remind them of their commitment to a living wage.  When the Mayor made some noise about living wages being an ‘outsider’s’ agenda, leader Maria Tijerina fired back with an editorial reminding her that COPS / Metro is a local organization with a robust constituency.

City Council additionally approved shifting funding for workforce development program Project QUEST out from human services into economic development with its own line in the budget.  Funding increased to $2.2 million including $200 thousand to cover tuition for the Open Cloud Academy training developed in collaboration with Rackspace.

The Bexar County budget was also approved earlier this week with a new minimum wage set at $13.75 per hour (up from $13).

City Budget Approval Increases Funding for Workforce Development, KSAT

Data Shows Fewer People Living in Poverty in SA-New Braunfels Area, KSAT

Budget Sails Through Final Vote, San Antonio Express-News

City’s Proposed Budget Changes Include $13.75 / Hour Starting Pay for City Employees, KSAT

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

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

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

New City Budget Might Include $15 Minimum Wage, KSAT

City Discusses Upping Minimum Wage to $15, Rivard Report

COPS Metro Alliance Calls for $15 Minimum Wage for City Employees, Texas Public Radio

Elected Officials Hope City Will Cough Up More for New Master Plan, San Antonio Express-News

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

September 15, 2016

200 NAIC Leaders Take On Candidates in Forum

With 200 leaders assembled at Flagstaff Federated Community Church, all candidates for Flagstaff City Council and mayor attended the accountability forum, as did some of the candidates for Legislative District 6.  Candidates were grilled on gun violence, financial aid for Dreamers and city and state funding for public education, with most agreeing to support NAIC’s agenda items.
All mayoral and city council candidates pledged to support de-escalation training for police and other public safety officers, and participating candidates for legislative office pledged to restore funding for public education, noting that an educated workforce attracts high-paying jobs — the same argument leaders public made the previous month.

Candidates Take on State, National Issues at Monday  Forum, Arizona Daily Sun

September 12, 2016

Together Louisiana Wins Battle for Tax Exemption Accountability

Before a packed house of leaders from Together Louisiana, and after eight intense rounds of public testimony, the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry voted to defer all renewal applications for industrial tax exemptions, including an application for property tax breaks by Koch Industries which would have cost (disaster-declared) East Baton Rouge Parish $1.9 million in revenue.

Together Baton Rouge is calling this “one battle in a long fight for transparency and local control. But in terms of that battle, it’s a big, big victory!”

This victory follows political pressure by Together Louisiana to make the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) more accountable to the local entities paying for them.   Last week, the Shreveport Times reported that the program costs school districts across the state millions of dollars every year, potentially hindering implementation of universal Pre-K.  Responding to pressure from Together Louisiana last June, Governor John Bel Edwards changed the program to exclude school taxes from the exemption program, protecting school dollars going forward.

[In photo: Together Louisiana leaders celebrate.]

Reigning in Industrial Tax Exemptions, WRKF

Panel Defers Industrial Tax Exemption Request, The Advocate

Louisiana Tax Exemption Debate, BR Proud

Reining In Industrial Tax Exemptions, WRKF

Louisiana State Board Puts Off Vote on Most Industrial Tax Exemption Applications and Renewals, Baton Rouge Business Report

State Board to Take Up Renewal of $11B Worth of Industrial Tax Exemptions Today, Baton Rouge Business Report

TBR Analysis of 22 Renewal Applications, Together Baton Rouge

Paying the Price, Shreveport Times [pdf]