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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"Imagination.  With empty lots and abandoned swaths of land, we had to imagine something else."

That is how the Rev. David Brawley, of St. Paul Community Baptist Church and East Brooklyn Congregations/Metro IAF, described the start of what has emerged as "the most consequential community development effort in the country."   

Ted Koppel, with CBS Sunday Morning, interviewed Metro IAF leaders Rev. Brawley and Sarah Plowden of St. Paul, as well as affordable housing developer Kirk Goodrich to tell the story of how imagination and sustained institutional power resulted in a $1.5 Billion wealth-building equity strategy for first-time homeowners in low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods in East Brooklyn, DC, Jersey City, Chicago and Baltimore. 

It took imagination and power to secure commitments from Democratic Mayor Ed Koch for the cheap purchase of empty city lots and subsidies for building -- as well as from Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani to ensure there was enough money in the budget for the Spring Creek development.   

Over 6,500 first-time homeowners have benefited from Nehemiah housing.  Physical homes may be the foundation, but it is homeowners who have breathed new life into their communities, demonstrating the vitality of the American Dream.

In photos at right: Matilda Dyer from St. Paul's shares her story; affordable housing developer Kirk Goodrich explains why the Nehemiah strategy is the "most consequential community development effort in the country"; Matilda Dyer, describes how her initial application for home ownership was an 'act of faith'; and Sandra and Armando Martinez detail their journey to ownership of the home their call their "palace."

[Image Credit: CBS News Sunday Morning]

Nehemiah: Making the American Dream Possible for First-Time Homeowners, CBS News Sunday Morning

These Chicago Residents are Trying to Revitalize their Neighborhood Without GentrificationWashington Post [pdf]

The American Dream: One Block Can Make All The DifferenceNational Public Radio [pdf]

Behind Brooklyn Neighborhood’s Rebirth, a Woman Who Joined in a DreamNew York Times [pdf]

In a Sea of Foreclosures, an Island of CalmNew York Times [pdf]

Brooklyn Nehemiah Homeowners Associations

St. Paul Community Baptist Church

East Brooklyn Congregations

Nehemiah Spring Creek

Nehemiah HDFC

 


[Excerpt]

While no formal vote was held, the council said it wanted to see more of a model presented by Common Ground, a non-partisan group of religious and non-profit organizations in Solano and Napa counties, which is advocating for a three-prong approach: a civilian police commission, inspector general, and community police review agency.

The commission made up of Vallejo residents would be tasked with overseeing a review agency, which would investigate officer use of force, including fatal shootings by officers, any in-custody deaths, and allegations of racial profiling by officers....

“We believe the above components provide the transparency and the community involvement needed to establish police oversight and are a critical step in restoring trust between law enforcement and the community,” said Renee Sykes, a member of Common Grounds public safety committee. “The national spotlight is still on Vallejo, and it will not be shut off until there is a concerted effort on everyone’s part to make a change.”

[In photo: Common Ground leader Brian Farrell addresses city council during special meeting.  Photo Credit: John Glidden, Vallejo Sun]

Vallejo City Council Shows Early Support for Forming Strong Police CommissionVallejo Sun [pdf]

Vallejo Trying to Meet ‘Common Ground’ Concerning Police OversightTimes Herald [pdf]


After months of work with leaders in the business, non-profit and education communities, Mountain Voices Project and the Glenwood Community Housing Coalition made a significant step forward in pursuing an investment in local workforce housing.

At the urging of MVP, the Glenwood Springs City Council advanced a ballot proposition for a 2.5% increase in the lodging tax to invest in workforce housing with a 6-1 vote.  15 MVP leaders representing seven member institutions packed the city council chambers during deliberation. 

This follows a civic academy at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church where residents and stakeholders learned about the potential impact of this initiative.  If approved by voters, the Lodging Tax will increase from 2.5% to 5%, and generate new revenue dedicated for workforce housing strategies. 

Leaders plan to educate voters about the ballot proposition in advance of the election.

Lodging Tax to Go to Voters in Glenwood Springs This FallPost Independent [pdf]


After hundreds of conversations among workers, labor allies and elected officials, City of Austin voted on a budget that raised the living wage floor for their workers to $20/hr including contracted workers and those employed by corporations benefiting from City tax subsidies.  At the urging of Central Texas Interfaith, the City of Austin furthermore expanded emergency assistance for struggling renters and sustained spending on essential human development initiatives including long-term workforce development and after-school programs that the organization had pioneered.

Specifically, the Council approved: 

  • $20/hour base pay for all City of Austin staff, contract employees and employees of corporations receiving City tax subsidies 
  • $8 Million in emergency rental assistance
  • $3.1 Million for long term workforce development
  • Increased funding for AISD programs including Parent Support Specialists and Primetime After School programs

Central Texas Interfaith commended the Mayor and the City Council for investing in these important initiatives before turning their attention to the County budget.

Austin Councilmembers Approve Budget Amendment to Include $20 Minimum WageKVUE


[Excerpt]

Come December 31, 2022, the law that had allowed [major corporations] to keep more than $10 billion in school property tax revenue off the ledgers over two decades will be no more. But companies wasted little time grieving. There was still plenty of life to live after the session ended sine die

Since then, companies have applied for close to 500 tax break deals for projects all over the state—for everything from wind and solar farms, oil and gas processing, carbon capture, and biodiesel production. By comparison, the Texas comptroller received an average of 90 applications annually in the past decade. 

“It’s like hogs at the trough,” said Bishop John Ogletree, a leader with the Houston chapter of the [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation, a faith-based coalition that helped bring down Chapter 313. “Multi-billion-dollar oil, gas, and tech corporations asking for school districts and taxpayer dollars to bolster their profits. If these applications get approved, it will blow a hole in our state and school district budgets for a generation to come.”

Unsure whether the state will revive or replace the program in the 2023 session, companies have grown increasingly aggressive in trying to lock in future tax breaks for speculative projects that may—or may not—come to fruition many years out. 

Money for Nothing and Your Chips Are Free, Texas Observer [pdf]

No More Hogs at the Trough-Containing Corporate Subsidies in TexasNonprofit Quarterly [pdf]

The Sun is Setting on Chapter 313 IncentivesAustin Business Journal

Companies Lining Up for Future Tax Breaks as Texas Incentive Program Nears EndDallas Morning News [pdf]

What Could Epic Samsung Expansion Mean for Texas?Austin Business Journal

Point Isabel School District Rejects Texas LNG Tax Abatement, Brownsville Herald [pdf]

'Smoke and Mirrors' or Long-Range Planning? Possible Samsung Tax Breaks Stir DebateAustin American Statesman [pdf]

Report: Samsung Adding Land to $17B Semi-conductor Campus in Taylor, Considering 11 New FacilitiesKVUE [pdf]

State Sees Rush of Tax Break Applications as Program Soft Deadline ApproachesKVUE [pdf]

Friends of the Land, Bastrop Interfaith, Oppose Dogwood Creek Solar 313 Application to Elgin ISDElgin Courier [pdf]

Austin ISD Moves Forward With Semi-Conductors Agreement, Faces Community OppositionCommunity Impact [pdf]

Austin ISD Considering Proposal That Would Help Lower Recapture Payments, Faces OppositionCBS Austin [pdf]

NXP Seeking Up To $140 Million in Tax Breaks for School DistrictsAustin-American Statesman [pdf]

Chapter 313 Incentives: What They Are and Why They're Suddenly the Talk of the TownAustin Business Journal [pdf]

Oped: Don't Ask Texas Schoolchildren to Fund Your Corporate ExpansionAustin Chronicle [pdf]

Statement on Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD Chapter 313 VotesCentral Texas Interfaith

Samsung Ask Texas Taxpayers To Foot $4.8 Billion Bill For Future School Taxes. Governor Abbott Endorses Biggest Corporate Welfare Deal in Texas HistoryCentral Texas Interfaith


In response to calls for change by their workers and Coloradans for the Common Good, the Jefferson County School Board approved a $3/hr increase to the minimum wage of all Educational Support Professionals (ESP).  Nearby, the Denver Federation ratified a contract that increases the minimum wage to $20/hr for para-educators and over $18/hr for nutrition employees.  This equates to tens of millions of dollars for working families in the metro area, and required coordinated action between unionized educators and Coloradans for the Common Good. 

Last fall, CCG leaders organized an accountability assembly, leveraging commitments from every JeffCo School Board candidate at the time to support wage increases for ESPs if elected.  When it became clear more pressure was needed, leaders returned to the JeffCo Board this spring.

At the same time, CCG organized a rally at Valdez Elementary with over 350 educators, parents, and community members to push for wage increases in Denver Public Schools (DPS). Leaders soon followed up with a press conference where the DPS Board President, Vice President, and an additional school board member committed to increasing wages.

[Photo Credits: (Top) Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun; (Right) Helen Richardson, The Denver Post]

Denver, Jefferson County School Districts Raise Hourly Wages for Support Staff Struggling to Afford Food and HousingColorado Sun [pdf]


This week, Polk County Supervisors approved AMOS' proposal to invest $1.8 million in ARPA funds to diversify and retain mental health providers through a scholarship and loan forgiveness program. This win is the result of over 10 months of organizing work including:

  • Hundreds of conversations in Mental Health Civic Academies that surfaced workforce needs, including to fully staff the Children's Mental Health Crisis system AMOS worked so hard to secure
  • A 'Mental Health Provider Summit' in December to understand providers' specific workforce needs and barriers
  • 100+ AMOS leaders contacting Polk County supervisors in support of AMOS' mental health workforce proposal
  • 4 AMOS leaders testifying at a Polk County Supervisors meeting to share the need for this investment, particularly for refugee and immigrant communities
  • AMOS representation at mental health task force meetings by a First Unitarian leader 

AMOS leaders plan to continue to work with Polk County to ensure that the funds are administered to maximize accessibility and impact.


Building on a strategy initiated by Dallas Area Interfaith, parish leaders at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church issued parish identification cards to parishioners.  The document allows immigrant parishioners to identify themselves to authorities, including law enforcement and county health officials, and was developed in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and local law police departments.  Revista Catolica captured the most recent parish ID event on film.    

Parish IDs Issued at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church with the Support of DAIRevista Cátolica [video in Spanish]

Con Credencial en Mano, Feligreses Obtienen Seguridad Para Navegar Trato con Agencias Locales, Texas Catholic [pdf]


[Excerpt]

Together West Michigan is a nonpartisan partnership of 20 local, faith-based and community groups.

The coalition listened to more than 1,000 people over a three-month period this past spring to identify the top concerns, which were laid out at an event on Thursday.

At the event, community members held a march, then listened to the ways in which the issues are affecting families.

One mother said her family could only afford to send their older children to daycare this summer because of their tax return.

“We are grateful that it worked out this time, but it worked out because of a miracle and a miracle is not a strategy,” said Alaina Dobkowski. “Families should not have to rely on a miracle for this to work. I know that my family is not alone in these challenges. Many families are struggling.”

Organizers say the area has a long history of philanthropy and charity, but falls short when it comes to justice and equity.

“Often times people and organizations have the tendency to try and plan for individuals and circumstances,” said Rev. Willie A. Gholtson II, Together West Michigan co-chair. “We believe that at the core of our existence is to listen to what is going on in our community so we make sure that we’re meeting their needs.”

[Photo Credit: Joel Bissell, MLive]

'We Must Do Better:' Hundreds Gather in Grand Rapids to Discuss Neighborhood Safety, Other TopicsM Live 

New Coalition Calls on Community to Support Substantive Change, FOX 17 [pdf]

What Happens When 20 Local Orgs Team Up to Improve Justice and Equity in Their Region?  Find Out TomorrowThe Gander 

‘Ambassadors of Their Lives:’ Group Tackles Housing, Childcare, Key Issues in GR, FOX 17 [pdf]

Hundreds to Gather in Downtown Grand Rapids for Coalition’s Walk and Talk Justice, Equity, MLive [pdf]

The Morning Show: Together West MichiganWGVU Public Media (NPR)

Complete Assembly FootageTogether West Michigan 


[Excerpt]

"When COVID-19 came to California, the California organizations of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s largest and longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations, immediately sprang into action. They began organizing virtual meetings at the local level — hundreds of community members gathering every week primarily to share how they were doing....

In the summer of 2021, the California IAF organized an action. Six hundred leaders from over 100 parishes and community-based institutions gathered together virtually to call on the state to extend its eviction moratorium and reform its housing relief program....

The organizing work of the California IAF around housing has revealed two truths that should be held in tension with one another. First, government must do more to address the housing crisis. Public policy and investment are necessary to make housing more affordable.

But, second, government can often be disconnected with how things are working in communities. Effective government depends on the local expertise contained by those who are seeking a decent home. Solving the housing crisis in California hinges on the involvement of our parishes continuously working to ensure that government intervention matches the local needs of our people."

[In Photo: Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of San Jose.  Photo Credit: Tyler Osburn, CNS]

The Fight for Fair Housing in California, and How the Industrial Areas Foundation Helped ResidentsThe Dialog [pdf]


With sadness, we report the loss of Michael Clements, longtime IAF organizer. He served as organizer with TMO and predecessor organizations of One-LA during a career that spanned four decades.

[Excerpts]

After supporting farm workers [with United Farm Workers of America], Clements joined the Industrial Areas Foundation, the longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations in the nation, and moved to Houston to work for the organization... [Back in California], Clements crossed paths with Fred Ross, Sr.... 

Said Fred Ross, Jr., a Bay Area-based social justice organizer: “My father respected Mike and saw him as one of the up-and- coming organizers back in 1985.”

....

Said [Cardinal Roger] Mahony, “He was the epitome of a great community organizer backed up by his wonderful Catholic faith, especially the social teachings of the church, which he knew inside and out from the Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 all the way to Pope Francis today.”

[Photo Credit: Scott Smeltzer, Los Angeles Times]


On the Passing of IAF Boardmember Bishop Douglas Miles
by Ernesto Cortes, Jr.

The passing of Bishop Miles is a great loss to all of us.  We shared the earth with him for far too short a time.

He modeled character and leadership, while at the same time teaching those who were marginalized how to be their own agents.  Of him it could be said that he invited all the challenges of Matthew 25: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, break free the captives and take in the stranger.  

He was a man of faith and a full human being.  He embodied Pope Francis’ notion of being a political person.  And he was our friend.
 


We Mourn Together: Bishop Douglas Miles

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Bishop Douglas Miles, IAF Co-Chair and BUILD Co-Chair Emeritus, passed away August 3, 2021 after complications from heart surgery. 

Bishop was a giant of a man, pastor, leader and friend. For more than 50 years, Bishop Douglas Miles (in photo from left, marching with Pastor Prentice at right) has been on the front-lines of every major social change in Baltimore and every major fight led by IAF. 

As longstanding Metro IAF and BUILD Leader Carol Reckling said, “It’s almost unfathomable to grasp Bishop’s reach. One way or another he impacted every one of us."

We were blessed with one of the greatest. We are all part of his legacy. We miss him dearly and are reminded of the words from God to the prophet that Bishop often closed out actions with, "Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? And the voice of the prophet responded, 'Here am I, send me.’”

Let us continue to answer the call and fight the good fight. As we grieve his loss, may his incredible prophetic voice, brilliant wisdom, deep laughter, and shared memory guide us.

Please hold his dear wife Rose Miles, sons Pastor Dante and Harvey Miles, his entire family, Koinonia Baptist Church and BUILD in your prayers.

Bishop Douglas Miles, Who Advocated for Baltimore's Impoverished Residents and Co-Headed BUILD, DiesBaltimore Sun [pdf]


Sister Christine Stephens, CDP entered eternal life on July 18, 2019 at the age of 78. She was the younger of two daughters born to Walter Irving and Frances Louise (Bulian) Stephens. She was born December 22, 1940 in Austin, Texas and was given the Baptismal name, Mary Christine. She entered the Congregation of Divine Providence on September 7, 1962 and professed first vows as a Sister of Divine Providence on June 22, 1964. Sister Christine graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics prior to entering Our Lady of the Lake Convent. She later earned a Master of Arts in History from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

Sister Christine attributes her faith formation to her parents who set the example of perseverance and seeking justice for one’s family and community. Her father was a member of the pipe fitters union. This foundation served Sister Christine in her first seven years as a teacher, then as a social worker for eight years, and expanded and deepened when she became an organizer 45 years ago.

Sister Christine did not choose organizing as a ministry, it chose her. She was spotted by her now close friend and mentor, Ernesto Cortés, Jr., who said it was her anger that caught his attention. That was the first time she viewed her anger in a positive light. The work of justice was at the heart of her ministry and her life. Her work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) was the vehicle to funnel her anger against injustice.

Sister Christine’s commitment to identifying, training and transforming leaders and organizers throughout the country worked to bring millions of dollars for water and waste water to the colonias along the Texas/New Mexico Border, instrumental in developing the Alliance School strategy that impacted hundreds of schools across the country, plus the creation of nationally renowned job training programs modeled after Project QUEST in San Antonio.

Her advocacy work during the past four decades in her various roles, as National IAF Co-Director and Supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network will be greatly missed. Her organizing career began with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston where she was a founder, followed by Lead Organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio and Dallas Area Interfaith.

She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi faith traditions, economic lines and race to do extraordinary things in their communities. She breathed and lived the Gospel values of justice and leaves a legacy to be continued. She had an enduring faith in the values of democracy.

She is survived by her sister Sarah Howell, and all her Sisters of Divine Providence. She is also survived by her niece Angela Duhon (William), their children, Emma and Nathaniel. She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Frances Stephens.

The Rosary and Wake were Thursday, July 25, 2019 and Mass of Resurrection on Friday, July 26, 2019.  All services were held in Sacred Heart Chapel, next to Our Lady of the Lake Convent Center in San Antonio, Texas.

In lieu of flowers, you may make a memorial contribution to the Sisters of Divine Providence, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207-4619.

Tribute to Sister Christine StephensRio Grande Guardian 

Stephens was an Early COPS OrganizerSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

Christine Stephens, COPS/Metro Alliance Leader, Remembered for her Faith, Sense of JusticeRivard Report

Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]

Sister Christine Passes AwayRio Grande Guardian 

Obituaries: 


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