The West / Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of broad-based institutional organizations building power to revitalize our democracy for constructive social and economic change. We are part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation's first and largest network of community organizations.
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RECENT VICTORIES & MORE
Churches in Brazoria County, with its county seat being in Angleton, are helping residents still hurting from the pandemic’s financial fallout to apply for rental assistance through a recent $11.3 million federal grant, community leaders say.
The monies became available June 14 after Church and community leaders met with Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta earlier in the spring. They specifically asked him how they could help distribute the funds so it wouldn’t be sent back to the federal government as had been considered.
A contingency of three Catholic priests, The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) nonprofit and other church groups, including Grace Episcopal, met with the county judge back in March.
“We let the county judge know that we have volunteers to help with the paperwork and we have those in dire need of assistance,” said Sister Maureen O’Connell, director of the Secretariat for Social Concerns.
“Poor and vulnerable people trust the Church more. So this collaboration between government and Church groups is a wonderful opportunity to help them,” she said.
[Photo Credit: Catholic News Service]
$11.3 Million Approved for Brazoria County Residents Struggling With Rent in Pandemic, Texas Catholic Herald
Thousands of leaders across California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations celebrate a new deal announced by the Governor and state legislators to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and rent relief program that was set to expire June 30, 2021.
The California IAF specifically applauds State leaders for:
- Extending the eviction ban to September 30, 2021
- Paying 100% of overdue rent and utilities paid for landlords and tenants
- Providing up to18 months of rental assistance for past and future rent
- Allowing either tenants or land lords to receive funds
- Forestalling evictions until rental assistance applications are attempted
On June 3rd, 2021, over 600 California IAF leaders convened on Zoom -- along with Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú (whose op-ed can be read here), Episcopal Bishop Lucinda Ashby and two state legislators -- to call for an extension of the eviction moratorium and expansion of SB91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance distribution to keep families housed. California IAF organized hundreds of phone calls and emails to State Senators, Assembly members and the Governor asking for more time and flexibility to get funds to families who missed rent due to the pandemic.
“California IAF leaders are pleased our state legislators acted to protect our families from eviction and provide 100% of rent owed. Our thanks go to Senators Caballero, Durazo, Laird and Weiner and Assemblymembers Chiu, Bloom, Reyes and Santiago for leading the charge on behalf of our families," said Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El, Aptos. "We would have preferred a 6 month extension, but we will turn our focus now to local organizing meetings so our families understand their rights and how to apply for rental assistance.”
“By sharing our stories with state agency staff and legislators, our recommendations were accepted to allow for easier income verification and tenants with informal leases to be included as eligible for assistance. By making future months of rent available, this will allow tenants like me to be able to cover my rent while I pay off the debts to my family and credit card that I took on to keep my landlord paid,” said Lourdes Rios, COPA leader in Santa Cruz County.
Joe Rubio to begin as IAF Co-Director
Dear IAF Leaders, Organizers, Allies and Friends --
After over 50 years organizing and building the West/Southwest IAF region, Ernesto Cortes Jr. will be transitioning from IAF Co-Director to a new role as IAF senior advisor. Mr. Cortes officially submitted his transition plan to our Board in January, and he and the IAF Board have carefully planned this process over the past year.
We are also pleased to announce that Joe Rubio, long-time IAF senior organizer, will succeed Mr. Cortes as Co-Director effective July 1, 2021. Mr. Rubio, who has organized and supervised IAF projects in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, will join Martin Trimble, IAF’s other Co-Director, who succeeded Mike Gecan in 2019.
The IAF Board is deeply grateful for Mr. Cortes’ leadership and work to build the modern IAF in the West/Southwest, developing some of the most powerful and enduring non-partisan, broad-based citizens’ organizations in the country. We are gratified that, as a senior advisor, he will continue to offer seasoned guidance for organizer formation, leadership training, and development of the region.
Under Mr. Cortes’s leadership, the West/SW IAF has grown to 30 member affiliates, beginning in the early 1970’s with the founding of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio, which pioneered institutionally based membership organizations. Since then, West/Southwest IAF won transformative victories to bring billions of dollars in major infrastructure improvements, education finance reform, health care, immigrant rights, and workforce training, among others. These victories have dramatically changed the face of communities throughout the region. Even more importantly, these IAF organizations have identified and trained thousands of leaders who learned to enter public life and create long-term change.
As you all know, there is only ONE Ernesto Cortes, and his contributions have been irreplaceable. We look forward to honoring and celebrating Mr. Cortes’ IAF leadership at a collective celebration sometime in the near future when we can all gather together in person.
Bishop Douglas Miles
Bishop Joel Martinez
After 100 AMOS leaders appeared at a Broadlawns Medical Center Board Meeting to support an initiative expanding children and youth access to mental health services, Broadlawns Trustees voted 5-2 to hire two mobile crisis responders trained to work with children and adolescents. Walnut Hills UMC leader Connie McKeen delivered testimony on behalf of AMOS in support of this momentous step forward for Polk County youth and their families. During the hearing, one of the Trustees exclaimed, "Wow, that's a lot of people."
20 AMOS leaders followed up in person within weeks, inspired by thousands of Polk County residents who shared stories based on their experiences, conducted research, and organized postcard campaigns and neighborhood walks over 4 years to make children's crisis services a reality.
In a related Oped, leaders Lindsey Braun and Benjamin C. Bell expressed,
Anger has been the pilot light that has kept AMOS leaders doggedly pursuing the implementation of youth mental health crisis services for over four years.
New Mental Health Resources Coming for Children in Polk County, Des Moines Register [pdf]
Polk County Unveils New Mental Health Services for Children, KCCI Des Moines [pdf]
When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.
At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.
At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....
“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith.
The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.” ....an unlikely coalition...emerged from across the political spectrum — including the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation, the progressive Every Texan, and [Texas IAF], which does nonpartisan political work among religious groups.
The Texas Chapter 313 defeat is the second recent win against multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry subsidies in fossil fuel states. Last fall, organizers in Louisiana beat back a ballot initiative designed to counteract dramatic reforms to the state’s industry giveaway program. In a state that leans heavily Republican, people voted down the constitutional amendment by a landslide.
Broderick Bagert, who helped organize the Louisiana effort, sees what happened in Texas as part of a turning of the tides in a region where industry has long ruled. “In a lot of cases, it’s not that these battles have been lost — they just haven’t been fought,” he said. “What you’re seeing for the first time is the battles being fought.”
....Bagert noted that Louisiana and Texas are two of a handful of states whose industries will decide what our climate future will look like. “The question of these subsidies is being tied more and more with the question of whether these changes in energy production that we need to save the planet are going to be made in time to save the planet,” he said. “It all boils down to the price of energy. Once industries have to bear the full cost of their production, including emissions and taxes and all the other things that have been subsidized, then it’s no longer advantageous, and that’s when things start happening.”
In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]
Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]
Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle
A Texas Law Offers Tax Breaks to Companies, but It's Renewal Isn't a Done Deal, Texas Tribune [pdf]
A Controversial Tax Program Promised High Paying Jobs. Instead, Its Costs Spiraled Out of Control, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith
The Unlikely Demise of Texas’ Biggest Corporate Tax Break, Texas Observer [pdf]
The Rev. Bill Cotton wasn’t sure he was seeing what he was seeing. As a civil rights leader, the longtime pastor of Grace United Methodist in Des Moines, and founding member of the grassroots organization AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy), he had seen a lot. But he never thought he would see a teenager on the roof of one of his two adjoining church garages attempt to jump the gap between them on a skateboard. Fortunately, the skater made the jump, Bill didn’t have a heart attack, and he did what everyone does to annoying skateboarders — he shooed them away.
Little did Bill, who has since died, know that those skaters, from his own congregation, would join AMOS and start a revolution in Des Moines.
The skaters were part of the Grace United Methodist Church youth group, and when AMOS organized a large-scale community listening campaign, they met with that youth group and heard of the need for a first-class skatepark in Des Moines. That led AMOS to Callanan Middle School’s newly formed skateboard club, where they heard more of the same. The AMOS adults challenged the youth to organize a presentation to Des Moines’ mayor and City Council at an upcoming AMOS Issues Assembly....
[Photo Credit: Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines]
Des Moines Lauridsen Skatepark: Tracing a 17-year Journey, From a Nuisance to a Metro Treasure, Des Moines Register [pdf]
There From the Beginning: Lauridsen Skatepark, Des Moines Community Foundation [video]
Bishops, rabbis, clergy and faithful from across Texas convened to express vocal opposition to the passage of proposed legislation HB1927 which would allow "permitless carry" in the state of Texas.
Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz referenced the massacre in El Paso which resulted in dozens of residents dead and seriously injured. Baptist Rev. Darryl Crooms from San Antonio testified to the "unnaturalness" of adults burying children. Lutheran Rev. Jessica Cain testified to the impact of last weekend's shooting in North Austin on local worshippers. Rabbi David Lyon recalled last year's deadly shooting in Santa Fe High School.
Together -- with Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan, Methodist Director of Missional Outreach Andy Lewis, Dallas Catholic Bishop Gregory Kelly and several lay leaders -- all expressed concern that passage of HB1927 would increase gun violence. States that have passed similar laws, removing the required license and training needed to carry a handgun, experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence.
“Our faith tradition teaches us to protect life,” said Bishop Suffragan Kathryn M. Ryan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. “You cannot protect life if people carrying deadly weapons aren’t properly trained and licensed.
"You’ll find no scripture that will support this kind of legislation,” said Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church of Houston.
“It makes our church much less safe,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.
Video of Press Conference
Texas Faith Leaders Come Out Against 'Permitless Carry', CBS Austin [pdf]
Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Other Religious Leaders Oppose Bill That Would Ease Carrying of Guns, El Paso Times [pdf]
Religious Leaders Speak Against Texas Bill That Could Allow You to Carry Gun Without License, ABC13 Houston [pdf]
Group of Texas State Leaders Say They're Opposed to Permitless Carry, FOX KDFW
El Paso Bishop, Gun Store Weigh In On Texas 'Constitutional Carry' Bill Debate, KFOX14 [pdf]
Esto Opinan Líderes Religiosos en Tejas Sobre la Propuesta Legislativa de Portar Armas Sin Licencia, Univision Dallas
[At the beginning of the pandemic] members of community groups 'Mujeres en Acción' and 'Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action' (COPA) began meeting twice a week at the onset of the pandemic to figure out what community needs were after seeing the virus negatively impact their neighborhoods. They began making hundreds of phone calls to locals, going to their respective churches, schools and other places of gathering, building a list and figuring out what people needed to stay safe – and financially afloat – as the pandemic progressed.
“What we were finding is people almost knew that they have symptoms or believed that they were infected but they couldn’t afford to stay home,” says Maria Elena Manzo, program manager for Mujeres en Acción....
Organizers made a list of things they believed were needed to slow the spread of the virus in the hard-hit farmworker community. The list included better communication from employers about potential exposure and wage replacement for those who miss work due to self-quarantine.
Organizers met with Monterey County Health [officials, and] later began working with a wider group of community leaders, including representatives from the agriculture and hospitality industries and Community Foundation for Monterey County, called the Covid-19 Collaborative.
In December 2020, they presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, who voted to approve a $4.9 million budget for a community health worker program. That program, called VIDA (for Virus Integrated Distribution of Aid), is currently funding over 110 community health workers across 10 organizations, Mujeres en Acción among them, to provide resources to people in the communities that are hardest hit. One of the groups, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, is providing information in Triqui, Zapoteco and Mixteco, indigenous languages from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero in Mexico that are all spoken in Monterey County.
“One way to stop the spread was to hire people from the community as trusted messengers to talk to people to help them understand the need of being safe, using masks and distancing and all that,” Manzo says.
[Photo Credit: Jose Angel Juarez/Monterey County Weekly]
Fielding A Virus-The Agricultural Season is Ramping Up For the Second Time During a Pandemic. Is the County Ready?, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
Three groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) strengthened their networks during the pandemic and developed innovative strategies that will likely persist after the virus is controlled....
“The pandemic has lifted a veil,” Josephine [Lopez-Paul] says. “The number of people who are living in poverty” is in our face, she says.
“The need is there. You can’t ignore it. Poverty is not a secret in our city anymore.”
She adds, “DAI’s approach is still rooted in relationship, and that hasn’t changed. Clergy and leaders have been there for one another as part of a community.”
DAI is an affiliate of the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). It has 33 congregational members with approximately 300 active leaders. DAI conducts weekly virtual meetings for clergy to share concerns and potential solutions. At one meeting early in the crisis, a pastor reported that half of 30 participants contracted COVID-19 after an unmasked choir practice. In response, celebrants of the weekly televised Mass from the diocesan cathedral began to use the final minute of the broadcast to urge compliance with masking and socialdistancing recommendations.
Like others, DAI has moved many activities, such as organizing and training programs, online. Josephine says this will continue beyond the pandemic, so that “imagination and vision” can be shared with isolated participants in rural areas, as well as with those who can attend in person.
[In photo: DAI Leaders and organizers meet with Dallas Police Commanders, including then-chief U. Renee Hall, following a meeting as DPD Headquarters.]
The Post-Pandemic Path Ahead, Catholic Campaign for Human Development
In the face of impending evictions in Oklahoma, ACTION and VOICE-OKC leaders organized city councils from OK City, Tulsa, and Norman to urge the governor to expand the eviction moratorium in July. Governor Stitt responded by allocating $10 Million in state funds for a rental assistance grant program ($5 Million for Tulsa and $5 Million for Oklahoma City).
In Tulsa, ACTION was the first organization to go to the county with the idea for rental assistance, and leveraged $15 million for local residents. When the county attempted to claw back unspent funds at the end of October, ACTION leaders fought to keep $3.5 million for a brand new utility assistance program, which helped over 6,000 families.
In Oklahoma City, VOICE-OKC leaders were critical players in the fight for Oklahoma County to use $1.5 Million in CARES Acts funding for rental assistance. In combination with funds drawn down from the state, more that 5,200 families (estimated 17,368 people) were assisted.
Pastors and lay leaders from both organizations leaned into the fight to keep families sheltered, ultimately protecting tens of thousands across the state.
[Photo Credit: Video/ACTION Tulsa]
Tulsa City Council Asks Gov. Still to Put Most Evictions in State On Hold, Tulsa World [pdf]
Rental Assistance, Small Business Relief Programs Announced, The Oklahoman [pdf]
Tulsa County Organization Provides Rental Assistance, News On 6 [pdf]
Tulsa County Makes Cares Act Funds Available for Past-Due Utility Bills, Tulsa World [pdf]
Greg R. Taylor: Love Your Neighbor, Don't Evict Him, Tulsa World [pdf]
Good News Week 2021, ACTION Tulsa