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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Sr. Christine Stephens, CDP
December 22, 1940 - July 18, 2019
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 is Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. and the Wake is at 6:30 p.m. A Mass of Resurrection will be Friday, July 26, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. All services will be in Sacred Heart Chapel, next to Our Lady of the Lake Convent Center, 515 S. W. 24th Street, San Antonio, Texas 78207.
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.
Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]
RECENT VICTORIES & PROGRESS
June 27, 2019
TMO Leverages Wage Win of $14/hr for Houston School District Workers, Impacting 3,000+ of Lowest Paid
In a budget process that the Houston Chronicle says "devolved into a clash of wills," TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
June 3, 2019
MOC Wins Renters Protections in San Rafael, California
Responding to dual threats of deportation and homelessness faced by low-income immigrants, Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) launched a careful campaign to explore how to protect tenants. The campaign culminated in a major victory this week, with leaders persuading the San Rafael City Council to not only mandate mediation between tenants and landlords when rent increases exceed 5% per year, but also to implement 'just cause' for eviction standards. San Rafael is the county seat of Marin County, one of the most expensive places to live in California, and home to 70% of Marin County renters.
Landlords and representatives from the California Apartment Association appeared in force to testify in opposition, but MOC leaders had been laying the groundwork for two years. In response to pressure from MOC leaders in 2017, the Marin Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support a mandatory mediation program for renters, which would apply only to unincorporated areas of the County (about 8,300 renters). In 2018, the Marin Board of Supervisors passed a 'just cause' for eviction ordinance protecting tenants from sudden eviction -- again, only in unincorporated areas of Marin County. Beyond negotiating for these protections, MOC shepherded a deal between Canal neighborhood tenants and a landlord who had initially imposed a 45% rent hike over 2 months, successfully increasing the time frame to 16 months.
In response to passage of the ordinances, leader Meredith Parnell declared, "MOC is pleased that the San Rafael City Council is moving forward with these small steps to protect renters...we look forward to working with the city to ensure there is a well-resourced and multilingual community education and outreach campaign to explain these new ordinances to landlords and tenants alike.”
[Photo Credit: Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal (top); Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative (bottom)]
San Rafael City Council Approves Renter Protections, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Voice: Protecting San Rafael Tenants Helps Prevent Homelessness, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Supervisors Improve Renter Protection With 'Just Cause' Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal [pdf] (2018)
San Rafael Canal Area Landlords, Tenants Strike Deal on Rent Hikes, Marin Independent Journal(2018)
MOC Wins Significant Step on Renter Protection, West / Southwest IAF (2017)
May 24, 2019
Against Formidable Odds, Nevadans for the Common Good Pushes Payday Lending Reforms through the State Legislature
During a three-month house meeting listening campaign and nine months of research actions and civic academies, leaders from 'Nevadans for the Common Good' (NCG) unearthed dramatic stories about payday lending entrapment, lack of housing affordability and concerns around public education.
In response last fall, NCG organized nonpartisan accountability sessions with gubernatorial candidates, including now-Governor Sisolak, in which leaders secured candidate commitments around school funding, affordable housing, and consumer protections from unlawful payday lending practices
In 2019, NCG launched a campaign generating 4,000 postcards calling on state legislators for $500 million in new state funding for public schools, and $40 million for an affordable housing tax credit program and improved payday lending enforcement across the state. NCG leaders incited an impassioned fight with the payday lending industry over Senate Bill 201, which would establish a payday lending database to track short-term, high-interest loans to better protect consumers.
In the face of formidable odds -- and an army of paid lobbyists -- NCG mobilized waves of faith and civic leaders to testify before key committees to make the case for better protections for financially vulnerable families. In March, ten leaders met with 17 legislators in one day. In April, fifty leaders filled a hearing room in support of reforms. The following month, to distinguish themselves from paid lobbyists, 50 more leaders donned white at an Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee hearing. In response to one leader's testimony about the impact of predatory lending practices, an assembly member responded, "We are tired of waiting for something to be done to protect our families and communities!"
NCG leaders succeeded in pushing Senate Bill 201 through the Senate and Assembly. The bill is now headed for Governor Sisolak's desk to be signed.
Oped: Payday Lending Measures are Common Sense for the Common Good, Nevada Independent
Payday Lending Opponents, Industry Clash in Charged Hearing Over Loan Database, Nevada Independent
May 24, 2019
Church Divinity School of the Pacific Roots Community Organizing in Curriculum, Honors Ernesto Cortes, Jr. with Degree
When CDSP sought to strengthen its formation, emphasize the importance of relational skills and develop an understanding of public life, it began a relationship with the West / Southwest IAF to incorporate community organizing in its curriculum.
The organizing class -- taught as weeklong intensive in partnership with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) -- soon became a draw for students eager to establish a theological foundation under their organizing efforts.
The partnership began in 2013 as a collaboration between the Bay Area IAF and CDSP. The course is taught by senior organizers with the IAF network who induct seminarians in the skills and practices that help communities build relational power and a common agenda for collaborative work. A CDSP faculty member teaches the theological portion of the course for those seeking a Masters of Divinity, which is designed to embed the training in a theological and ethical framework.
Says Dr. Jennifer Snow, associate professor of practical theology and director of extended learning, the course requires "thinking differently about power: building relationships with people, inviting people in to share the power with you as a leader. It's a very specific strategy about trying to reach a more just society in our particular context."
At its May commencement ceremony, CDSP recognized Ernesto Cortes with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Commencement Ceremony Video [skip to 1:16:38 for intro of Cortes]
Blessed Are the Organizers, Crossings
CDSP Prepares Seminarians for Public Life, Episcopal News Service
Public Ministry in Practice, Episcopal News Service
May 6, 2019
ABQ Interfaith Packs Council Chambers in Support of Asylum Seekers, City Council Invests $250,000 in Humanitarian Crisis
In the face of a growing humanitarian crisis at the border, Albuquerque Interfaith has been at the forefront of a local response, mobilizing institutions to address the immediate needs of recent arrivals and building a longer-term strategy and constituency for change.
In March, when asylum seekers began to arrive in Albuquerque without advance notice, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders stepped up to the challenge. Within a month, in collaboration with Catholic Charities and the City of Albuquerque, leaders built a coalition of agencies to respond to increasing numbers of asylum seekers coming to the city.
For several months, leaders organized an operation of hundreds of volunteers who welcomed thousands of legal refugees, accepting buses filled with mostly Central American families. Upon arrival, families were greeted with sleeping accommodations, healthy meals, fresh clothing and support to get to their final destinations (in most cases on the East Coast). In April, newly-elected Governor Lujan-Grisham agreed to open up dorms at the Expo New Mexico center to families, most of which completed a multi-month journey through Mexico and would otherwise had been dropped off by the US Border Patrol on the streets of El Paso. With the help of dozens of churches and organizations, most of the refugees / asylees make their transition from Albuquerque within 3-4 days.
Alongside this charity strategy, leaders implemented a justice strategy rooted in IAF organizing practices of research action, civic academies and public action for structural change.
In May, leaders began calling for a strategy to address root causes of the asylum crisis.
After a campaign of civic academies that helped build an educated constituency around the need for public intervention, leaders packed city council chambers in support of a $250,000 appropriation to pay for asylum work in Albuquerque. 45 speakers spoke in support of the appropriation, including Catholic Archbishop John Wester and Interfaith leaders from a broad swath of religious and nonprofit institutions. Within days, leaders leveraged $100,000 from Bernalillo County to support mental health services for incoming families.
Albuquerque Interfaith is furthermore engaging US Senator Martin Heinrich, US Representative Ben Ray Lujan and US Representative Deb Haaland around conditions on the ground, with leaders already participating in delegations from New Mexico to secure federal funding to reimburse the city and county governments for local costs generated by the crisis.
Albuquerque Interfaith leaders are fully embracing their campaign rallying cry: "With charity, our faith demands justice."
[Photo Credits: Top - Adolphe Pierre-Louis, Albuquerque Journal; Bottom - Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal]
County to Provide Psychological Support to Asylum Seekers, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Oped: Leaders Should Address Root Causes of Caravans, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Oped: Compassion for Asylees Lost in Border Debate, Albuquerque Journal [pdf]
Expo NM Will Open Dorms to Asylum Seekers, Albuquerque Journal
April 17, 2019
New Study Says IAF Workforce Strategy Creates Largest, Sustained Earnings Impact in Nation
Since 1992, IAF labor market intermediaries have put low-income workers into high-paying careers in health care, technology and trades. The Economic Mobility Corporation recently released a 14-year “gold standard” randomized control test of San Antonio’s Project QUEST, the flagship labor market intermediary for the IAF.
Study authors assert that “Project QUEST has demonstrated the largest, sustained earnings impacts ever found in a rigorous evaluation of a workforce development program. These findings provide conclusive evidence that investing in the skills of low-income workers not only can make a difference, it can move families out of poverty into the middle class.”
Inspired by the success of Project Quest in San Antonio, IAF leaders have established an additional nine projects in the West and Southwest US: Capital IDEA in Austin; Project ARRIBA in El Paso; VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; JobPath in Tucson; NOVA in Northeast Louisiana, Skills-Quest in Dallas; Capital IDEA-Houston; Project IOWA and Arizona Career Pathways. In 2014, DuPage County United launched its own labor market intermediary, Career Connect Metro West.
Collectively, these institutions have trained and placed tens of thousands of adults in living wage jobs which pay, on average, $40,000 annually plus benefits and a career path. This number is expected to grow as the West / Southwest IAF expands this strategy further.
In photos at right, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations at Project QUEST in San Antonio. [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation (2019)
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle Class, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Not All Programs Fade: New Report on Project QUEST RCT Shows Sizable None-Year Earnings Gains for Low-Income Workers, Straight Talk on Evidence [pdf]
March 25, 2019
AMOS Raises Millions for City Improvements in Des Moines, Iowa
In a 2018 summer house meeting campaign involving more then 500 families embedded in Des Moines schools, churches and nonprofits, AMOS leaders asked, "What matters enough to you, your family, and your community that you would raise your own taxes to see it happen?”
The stories heard in these meetings, and the leaders who emerged from them, formed an agenda AMOS took to the city manager and city council last Fall, asking them to include these items in an upcoming local option sales tax vote. In December, AMOS celebrated when the city council passed a spending resolution for the tax measure that included five key AMOS priorities and agreed to endorse the measure and get out the vote. For two months, AMOS leaders held civic academies, phone banked, signed up hundreds of people up to vote, and gave rides to the polls on Election Day.
On March 5th, more than 70% of Des Moines voters voted YES on Measure A, the one-cent local option sales tax measure in the city of Des Moines. Turnout for the election was 20% higher than a similar effort last year that did not include AMOS priorities, and the margin of support for the measure was 30% higher this year than in previous years. AMOS worked with a diverse coalition of organizations who endorsed the measure, including AARP, the Central Iowa Taxpayers Association and the Firefighters Union.
The results are particularly impressive considering efforts by a Koch Brothers-funded group to torpedo the measure with negative campaigning.
Because of AMOS:
- Libraries in Des Moines will expand the number of days they are open from 5 days per week to 6 days per week, while the Downtown and Franklin branches will open 7;
- 4-6 new Rental Inspectors will be hired to improve rental housing conditions;
- 150 dilapidated and abandoned homes will be torn down or renovated each year across the city, a ten-fold increase over the 5-15 homes the city is able to address now.
- Des Moines will help fund the creation of mental health crisis services for children, with a commitment from the Mayor and other public officials to get these services up and running by June 30, 2020.
The one-cent tax will also enable the city to maintain 13 firefighter positions, speed up the building of a new fire station on the northeast side of Des Moines, and make critical investments to improve streets, sidewalks, and sewers.
As if that were not enough, on February 25th, the city council approved funding to install lights on the basketball courts at Evelyn K Davis Park — another AMOS priority.
March 21, 2019
COPS/Metro Leverages $1 Million in Local Dollars for Displacement Mitigation
200 leaders of COPS/Metro, accompanied by Catholic Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, descended upon San Antonio City Council chambers with a simple message delivered by Maria Tijerina: "We don't want a study. We want action."
A study on displacement in San Antonio was scheduled to begin in 2020, but COPS/Metro leaders are calling for immediate action to prevent the direct and indirect displacement of neighbors. Said García-Siller, “They have lived simply, and with pride, in their homes, which have belonged in their families for decades.” He noted that the city gives incentives — tax rebates and fee waivers — to developers while homeowners who improve their own homes see their taxes rise.
Tijerina argued that rather than conduct a study on the root causes of displacement, the city should consider COPS/Metro’s own recommendations (detailed in a recently published oped) which include increasing owner-occupied rehabilitation in vulnerable neighborhoods; a city-coordinated homestead exemption and property tax freeze and deferrals for residents older than 65; tax abatements for homeowners and land preservation for affordable housing.
Immediately at stake was a $1 Million fund to help displaced and vulnerable residents. After its unanimously passage, COPS/Metro leaders called it "a good start."
COPS/Metro leaders plan to engage Mayor Ron Nirenberg on further displacement prevention at an accountability session April 7th.
[Top Photo Credit: Ben Olivo, San Antonio Heron; Bottom Photo Credit: Iris Dimmick, Rivard Report]
San Antonio Nearing $1 Million Policy for Low-Income Families Facing Rising Housing Costs, Eviction, San Antonio Express-News
City Considers Fast-Tracking Housing Displacement Prevention Policy, Rivard Report [pdf]
March 21, 2019
COPS/Metro Credited with Rise in Alamo Colleges Wage Floor to $15 Per Hour
Five years after COPS/Metro's first wage win, the San Antonio Express-News is crediting the organization with the most recent wage floor hike at Alamo Colleges to $15 per hour.
"The COPS/Metro Alliance, a community organizing coalition, has for years pushed local public entities to adopt a minimum 'living wage' of $15 hourly as part of a national movement. The Alamo Colleges had already raised its minimum wage, along with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and some public school districts, with the stated intent of moving gradually toward the $15 goal. The city and county reached $15 last fall."
In photo top left, taken in 2014, over 300 COPS/Metro leaders publicly launched a "living wage and economic security" campaign to raise the living standards of public employees. In 2014, in top photo at right, a St. Alphonsus Catholic parishioners tells a reporter that her daughter, a full-time Alamo Colleges employee, earned only $8.50 / hour without benefits or vacation. In bottom photos, Alamo Colleges workers Jose Rodriguez and Jennifer Wilgen describe the impact of the wage raise.
The $15/hour minimum represents a 30% increase over the previous wage floor. Alamo College representatives argue that raising the wage floor “supports the economic and social mobility of the families of the lowest paid members of the Alamo Colleges District workforce and the persistence of a growing body of students” employed part-time at the colleges.
This position is consistent with what COPS/Metro leaders have argued for years.
[Photo Credits: Top left and bottom photos by Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News; top right photo by Rafael Paz Parra]
Alamo Colleges, Other San Antonio Employers, Embrace 'Living Wage', San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Alamo College Trustees Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
March 12, 2019
COPS/Metro Parents Secure Playground for Beacon Hill Academy Students
One year after a 200-person assembly in which COPS/Metro parent and community leaders called for the demolition of a crumbling building that made the Beacon Hill Academy playground unsafe for its students, parents (and children) celebrated a victory.
The San Antonio City Council and Independent School District (SAISD) came to a negotiated agreement in which the building would be torn down in order to secure the playground and a new 'cultural heritage' curriculum developed for students.
“It has been such a long process, and really our kids are even happier than us,” said Beacon Hill Academy parent and COPS/Metro leader Jacklyn Landaverde.
[Credit for Photo of Building: Bonnie Arbittier, Rivard Report]
Together Louisiana Leaders are Democratizing State Economic Development
New York Times Takes Notice
In one long breath, the New York Times is calling it a "David vs. Goliath story in the Louisiana capital, where a grass-roots coalition of black and white churches...and ordinary citizens have successfully democratized a system that used to dole out billions in property-tax breaks without giving the local school boards, city council and other government entities that depend on those taxes any say in the matter."
Together Baton Rouge says it's about understanding the difference between economic development and a tax giveaway. TBR leaders are building the political power to move elected officials and other community leaders toward understanding that difference.
The most recent flashpoint occurred when leaders successfully persuaded the East Baton Rouge School Board to deny a $2.9 Million tax exemption request by Exxon Mobil (for work already long completed). Within days, Exxon Mobil withdrew additional tax exemption requests they were planning to make of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council. Combined, this resulted in $6 Million in public dollars newly available for schools and local government services, a victory that leaders deservedly celebrated.
Their celebration, however, did not come without reflection.
In front of City Hall, Together Baton Rouge leader Dianne Hanley delivered a joint statement:
That takes work and deliberation....It’s more 'contentious.'
It’s also, we believe, the most important thing we’ve done for economic development in this state in 80 years."
The road to victory was paved by a multi-year organizing effort that engaged citizens across the state in conversations about the cost of exemptions to their schools, sheriffs and parish governments. In 2016, at the urging of Together Baton Rouge, Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order reforming the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (IETP), to allow local tax authorities to participate in the approval process. In 2017, the TBR-initiated 'Sunshine Provision' was put in place to allow local citizens to learn when exemptions are being considered by local bodies in time for the public to weigh in on the decision.
Previously, Exxon Mobil received tax exemptions equal to more than 60% of taxable property through the 82-year old ITEP program which largely served as a rubber-stamping process for tax giveaways. Now, Exxon Mobil will be required to pay an additional $2.9 Million in school property taxes over ten years, and another $3 Million in property taxes to local government.
Public school teachers became an integral part of the strategy to fight for school funding. After the final vote was called, at close to midnight, Mary Trigg, an art teacher at Sherwood Middle Academic Magnet School exclaimed, “I am so happy. I hope this is the beginning of a new era of public funding and investing in my students.”
[Photo Credit: Heidi Sheinuk, The Advocate]
Why Louisiana Stays Poor, Together Baton Rouge [video]
MOC Protects Marin Co. Renters with 'Just Cause' Ordinance
December 18, 2018
After careful agitation by leaders of Marin Organizing Committee, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a 'Just Cause for Evictions' Ordinance with a unanimous vote. Leaders [in photo above] filled the County chambers in support of the ordinance which is expected to protect approximately 3,400 renters currently without protection from arbitrary eviction in Marin.
In its coverage of the meeting, and the multi-year fight, Marin Independent Journal called Marin Organizing Committee "the leading voice calling for action to address the housing crisis."
The Just Cause Ordinance was carefully crafted to provide protection to tenants without restricting landlords from acting to remove problem occupants. Evictions are permitted when tenants skip out on rent, breach rental contracts and or pose other problems.
While the ordinance is limited to protecting only tenants in unincorporatedMarin, leaders are hopeful that the data collection incorporated in the ordinance will establish important evidence about rental conditions across the County.
Marin Supervisors Improve Renter Protection With 'Just Cause' Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Supervisors Support 'Just Cause' Rule for Evictions, Marin Independent Journal
Project QUEST Wins National $1 Million Grant for Training
December 4, 2018
Project QUEST, the nonprofit workforce development organization created more than a quarter-century ago by the COPS/Metro Alliance, has been awarded a $1 million grant that the organization says will allow it to serve more San Antonians with expanded job training programs.
The award comes from the Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of their Communities Thrive Challenge, which awarded $1 million each to 10 organizations across the nation, working to “help low-income and financially insecure people find and retain well-paid, meaningful work, achieve financial security or build economically vibrant neighborhoods.”
San Antonio’s Project QUEST wins national $1 million grant, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
With Support of One LA, Healthcare Access for Low-Income and Undocumented is Preserved and Enhanced
Medicaid Expansion Passes in Nebraska, OTOC Educates & Gets Out The Vote
With access to health care on the line for 90,000 Nebraskans, OTOC leaders worked hard to expand Medicaid for those with no health insurance. After efforts to secure enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Nebraska Unicameral proved unsuccessful, OTOC partnered with allies in 2018 to secure a place on the November Midterm ballot for 'Initiative 427' as a way to secure Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska. On November 6, 2018, the effort succeeded.
Over the course of the year, OTOC leaders mobilized 50 individuals who secured 3,500 signatures in the effort to get the initiative on the ballot. OTOC organized 17 civic academies in Omaha congregations and public libraries to help build an educated constituency and, in efforts to educate the public, published seven Opeds, including four in the Omaha World Herald. In the final days leading to the vote, the World Herald selected OTOC to counter final arguments by a team including the former Governor, Attorney General and a member of Koch Brothers Nebraska.
Leaders testified at State hearings, leveraged commitments from winning Congressional candidates to protect Medicaid Expansion if Initiative 427 were to pass, and organized a fall accountability assembly in which all seven Unicameral candidates committed to implementing Medicaid expansion.
Initiative 427 won with a margin of 41,594 votes statewide. Counties where OTOC focused -- Douglas and Sarpy -- were critical to overcoming vote deficits elsewhere. In Douglas County, alone, 111,630 residents voted FOR Initiative 427, approximately one third of the statewide total, and far exceeding the margin of victory.
OTOC leaders are now turning their attention to implementation of Medicaid expansion, to ensure it reaches those who most need it.
Imperative That Nebraska Pass Initiative 427 and Expand Medicaid, Omaha World Herald
Medicaid for Public Health, Omaha World Herald
Texas IAF Targets 19 Hottest State, Federal Races in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio Suburbs
In a move to shift the makeup of the state legislature, Texas IAF organizations reached into suburbs surrounding Texas’ largest cities to assemble by the thousands in political, nonpartisan assemblies to help leaders wrest commitments from candidates for state and federal office. Having witnessed candidate responses to locally-developed agendas, which span from local control to Texas school finance and federal immigration reform, leaders are now mobilizing their neighbors to Get Out The Vote.
In North Dallas, for example, two thousand DAI leaders -- many from Carrollton and Farmers Branch -- invited candidates for House Districts 114, 115, 105 and 107, and Congressional District 32, to commit to investing public funds in local labor market intermediaries, crafting immigration reform that would end the separation of children from their parents at the border (and include protections for DACA youth), cracking down on predatory lending, and repealing Senate Bill 4. Hundreds more from Austin and Hayes County challenged candidates for US Congressional Districts 25 and 21, and State House Districts 47, 45 and 73 to publicly pledge support for similar priorities, including the defense of local control over municipal housing and labor policy. In Helotes, just outside of San Antonio, COPS / Metro leaders carted out boxes with thousands of postcard pledges by voters to participate in the election of US Representative for Congressional District 23, which extends to the outskirts of El Paso, and State Representative for House Districts 117 and 118. In Houston, TMO organized assemblies with candidates for US Congressional District 7 and 29; House Districts 144, 133, and 135; and Senate District 17.
Already, unpaid armies of organizational leaders have knocked on thousands of doors and called thousands more to remind supporters and voters to participate in the midterm elections. Last weekend, for example, Austin Interfaith leaders knocked on doors in three counties, four legislative districts and 2 congressional districts. This weekend, all Texas IAF organizations are making a final push -- from the pews, inside health clinics and in long-neglected neighborhoods -- to ensure the highest turnout possible in support of their agenda.
Leaders understand that targeted voter engagement efforts following accountability assemblies help advance their agenda. This year alone, local Texas IAF organizations succeeded in raising municipal wage floors in San Antonio and Austin to $15 per hour; leveraging the support of Chief of Police Art Acevedo to make Houston the first city in Texas to support a gun safety strategy; and preventing unnecessary deportations through widespread adoption of identification cards generated by parishes within the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
Candidates Share Platform at Assembly, Austin American Statesman
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
DAI Accountability Forum [Video]
COPS/Metro, Austin Interfaith Lift Municipal Wage Floor to $15/Hour
Four years after launching living wage campaigns in their respective cities, COPS/Metro and Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated hard won hikes in the lowest wages paid to municipal workers in both San Antonio and Austin. This week, both cities become the first in Texas to set a $15/hour wage floor for city workers. In Austin, this new standard additionally applies to contracted workers, part-time and temporary workers AND to employees of private businesses receiving economic incentives (more in next section).
Leaders also leverage increased city investments in long-term workforce development ($2.4 Million for Capital IDEA and $2.2 Million for Project QUEST) plus affordable housing (San Antonio). Bexar County announced that they, too, would pay their lowest earning employees at least $15/hour. Austin leaders successfully intervened for programs under threat of budget cuts, including PrimeTime after-school programming and parent support specialists in the Austin Independent School District.
Press Statement, COPS/Metro Alliance
Press Statement, Austin Interfaith
San Antonio Ranked Among Nation's Highest-Poverty Cities, Rivard Report
City of San Antonio boosts municipal wages (2015)
City of Austin passes 'Living Budget' and closes labor loophole (2015)
Marin Organizing Committee Shepherds Deal Between Landlord, Tenants
September 7, 2018
Despite fear of eviction, forty tenants in San Rafael, CA worked with Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) and Marin Legal Aid to fight back against a 40% rent increase that puts most of their families at risk of homelessness or displacement. After a change in ownership, rent was increased by $700 a month with only 60 days notice, from $1,900 to $2,700 by September 1st. Tenant and community leaders argued that the rapid rent hike would leave families homeless and deprive 60 schoolchildren from stability in their home lives and education.
Marin Organizing Committee called upon the landlord to negotiate with the tenants and called upon the City of San Rafael and the County of Marin to put stronger renter protections in place. San Rafael City Mayor Gary Phillips, Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, and San Rafael School Superintendent Mike Watenpaugh pledged support moving forward.
MOC ultimately shepherded a negotiated deal in which the rent increase would be phased in over 16 months (by 2020) instead of by September 1. “I’m happy with the result,” said Timoteo Maldonado, a tenant leader and father of three, “...at least it gives us time to make a plan.”
Having successfully advocated the passage of a Mandatory Mediation Ordinance in 2017, MOC is now pushing for passage of a Just Cause Eviction ordinance which would establish a set of criteria for eviction and provide stronger protections for tenants in a County with historically weak recourse for renters. Leaders plan to go to the Marin County Board of Supervisors meeting this week to support a just-cause eviction ordinance.
[Photo Credit: Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal]
San Rafael Canal Landlords, Tenants Strike Deal on Rent Hikes, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
George Russell: Troubled Waters in San Rafael's Canal, Marin Independent Journal [jpg]
Austin Interfaith Ensures City Council Strengthens Living Wage Requirement for Taxpayer Subsidized Jobs
August 30, 2018
On the eve of Labor Day weekend, Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated the protection of living wages for all jobs subsidized by City of Austin taxpayers and applauded the Austin City Council for adopting a $15 an hour living wage floor requirement as a key feature of its expanded Economic Development Incentive Program.
Says David Guarino of All Saints Episcopal Church, “Austin Interfaith recognizes Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and the members of the City Council for hearing and acting on our concerns.”
“Tonight, the Austin City Council has set a national standard for urban economic incentive programs by recognizing that people deserve the dignity of a living wage from employers who receive economic incentives,” Guarino.
Austin Interfaith has worked years to encourage the city to implement living wage standards for city-subsidized companies.
Support Local and Small Businesses, Austin Chronicle
TMO Leverages Commitment of First City in Texas for 'Do Not Stand Idly By' Strategy
July 27, 2018
At a gathering of 100 clergy and leaders from diverse faith communities at Congregation Beth Israel, TMO succeeded in leveraging the support of Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo, making Houston the first city in Texas to support the 'Do Not Stand Idly By' campaign for gun safety.
The ceremonial signing was preceded by remarks by Rabbi Joel Mosbacher (Metro IAF), Mr. Ernesto Cortes Jr. (West / Southwest IAF), and Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo about the pressing need for an effective strategy. Rabbi Mosbacher described the 'Do Not Stand Idly By' campaign as a market-based approach to entice gun manufacturers to develop safe(r) gun technologies that make it more difficult for stolen guns to be used and / or sold on the black market. Cortes described the importance of building lasting power through relationships and community organizing. Chief Acevedo expressed his support for the strategy, and agreed to sign on.
This win makes Houston the second major US city to sign on to the campaign, Los Angeles being the first due to efforts by One LA.
Houston Might Join Campaign for Gun Safety Focusing on Manufacturer, Houston Public Media
July 6, 2018
San Antonio Catholic Archbishop Calls for Action on Immigration
Immigration was the urgent topic when Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS took the stage at COPS/Metro's "A Cry for Justice and a Call to Action" assembly at Our Lady of the Lake University on June 18, 2018. "We live in very challenging times. Basic institutions of justice are being attacked. People are suffering needlessly," the archbishop declared to a packed auditorium. "This is a time of crisis. We have to make a decision. Do we go along with or challenge these trends?"
The assembly, which had been months in the planning, took on an air of urgency and drew a standing-room-only crowd as it coincided with a particularly tense week in the nation's debate on immigration policy. News had just broken of the Trump administration's policy of separating detained children from their parents - a policy Archbishop Gustavo strongly condemned in his speech as "immoral," "evil," and sinful," echoing similar sentiments expressed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops....
After [hearing a challenge by the Bishop and a DACA participant], faith communities caucused in small groups, then they answered... by pledging to collect 11,500 postcards to be mailed to Texas' congressional representatives in Washington. Archbishop Gustavo took the symbolic first step of signing his name on the first postcards, which will be mailed to Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn."
Archbishop Gustavo Urges Action on Immigration at COPS / Metro Assembly, Today's Catholic
June 21, 2018
Together Baton Rouge Wins Pay Hike for Teachers, Bus Drivers
After a hard fight, Together Baton Rouge and allies won a salary increase for every teacher, para-professional, bus operator or other East Baton Rouge school district employee with two or more years at the district.
According to The Advocate: "As they have at several previous meetings, employee groups — Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union and the East Baton Rouge Bus Driver’s Association — pressed once again for raises for all the district employees. The groups have joined forces with the faith-based group Together Baton Rouge to press the issue as well as to push the school system to reject all future requests from manufacturers for property tax breaks via the state’s 80-year-old Industrial Tax Exemption Program. They want the school system to use any ITEP savings to increase employees pay."
Leaders commended the school board and Superintendent Drake for this action, while acknowledging that more work remains to be done to secure salaries. In their words: "this was a big, big step."
[Photo Credit: The Advocate]
June 20, 2018
IAF Calls for Quick Reunification of 2,000+ Children with Families
[Excerpt below from Rio Grande Guardian report:]
Reaction to President Trump’s executive order on the separation of immigrant families has been swift, with most community groups and elected officials opposing the “zero tolerance” policy.
Trump made the announcement that he was changing policy on Wednesday, June 20, which was designated World Refugee Day by the United Nations. He directed the Department of Homeland Security not to separate families as they await immigration proceedings.
The Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s oldest network of Broad Based Community Organizations, with over 75 organizations throughout the United States representing hundreds of thousands of families, issued this statement:
“The Trump Administration needs to immediately stop and desist from further separation of immigrant children and their parents, quickly reunite those 2,000 family members, and begin a humane approach to border security and immigration reform. While the president may soon reverse part of this policy, it is important that the victimized children be cared for respectfully and appropriately, including inspection of the detention facilities by local clergy and health providers.”
Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI, of Valley Interfaith-IAF, and pastor of St. Eugene de Mazenod Church in Brownsville, Texas, said: “The ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy promulgated by the Attorney General and the Trump Administration is nothing short of cruel. It is un-American to separate children from their parents.” Collins is pictured [right].
Rabbi John Linder, of Valley Interfaith Project-IAF and Senior Rabbi of Temple Solel of Paradise Valley, Arizona, said:
“Forcibly taking children from their mothers and fathers, is nothing short of government-sanctioned child abuse. Where will this stop? Children in cages, tent cities. What’s next? Every elected official at the local, state, and national level must tell the administration that this brutality cannot be tolerated. The lack of political will on all sides for balanced, comprehensive immigration reform is responsible for this mess. Children are never to be used as political pawns. The Trump Administration has crossed a moral line.”
Fr. Mike Walsh of Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas, TX, with Dallas Area Interfaith-IAF, said:
“It’s stunning that we are perpetrating something so horrible for families. This is the 21st century, and our government is placing children in penned cages. We’re a better country than this.”
Maria Elena Manzo, leader with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA), in Salinas, California, said:
“Virtually every moral voice and authority is denouncing these administrative actions. This is horrifying. What can be more sacred than the family? It is torture to take children away from their parents.”
*** *** *** *** ***
At a COPS/Metro Alliance assembly on June 18, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller called the separation of immigrant families at the border "immoral", "evil" and "sinful."
[Top Image Credit: NOWCastSA footage]
June 13, 2018
Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith Wins Battles Against Unaccountable Tax Giveaways in Caddo Parish & Beyond
Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith leaders celebrated significant progress in how Caddo-area public officials weigh decisions related to public monies and the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP).
As a result of a tenacious local effort, leaders in Caddo Parish succeeded in persuading Sheriff Steve Prator (R) to become the first elected official in the state to deny an ITEP request under the Governor's Executive Order. Caddo School Board soon followed, rejecting Inferno's ITEP request by a vote of 7-5. Even after the Caddo School Board President called a special session to reconsider Inferno's request, the board rejected the request -- again.
After Sheriff Prator rejected all ITEP applications by Calumet, the Caddo Board attorney attempted to rewrite board policy to automatically accept all ITEP applications presented. NCLI successfully defeated the motion.
The City of Shreveport eventually approved a separate ITEP request by Calumet but, after intervention by the leadership of NCLI, reduced the approval to only 31-50% of the request.
Seeing the writing on the wall, the Chamber of Commerce then attempted to present a matrix to the School Board to use as a guide when considering future requests. But NCLI was quick to respond with their own matrix, presented to the Board by Reverend Theron Jackson. The School Board eventually integrated NCLI demands into a revised matrix.
Not blind to what was going on, nearby Bossier Parish School Board and Police Jury decided to bypass the controversy and reject Calumet's ITEP request outright!
After two years of hard work on tax exemptions in Louisiana, Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith leaders are proud of their work and looking to shift their attention to other pressing issues impacting their communities.
Calumet Estimated Property Taxes, Updated
June 6, 2018
Valley Interfaith & Bishop Flores Leverage 2 Signers for DACA Discharge Petition, Target Third Congressional Rep
Less than four months after Valley Interfaith delivered 10,000 letters calling on Rio Grande Valley lawmakers to take action on DACA, US Congressional Representatives Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) announced they will sign a petition in an effort to force the House to take up immigration bills. Both said they would sign Discharge Petition #10, which will set up a "Queen of the Hill" process to consider four bills that would address the uncertain status of DACA recipients. The bill that receives the largest number of votes in support will pass.
In a statement, Vela credited his decision to "consultation with Dreamers, their parents, clergy and Bishop Daniel Flores." Valley Interfaith, with Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, successfully lobbied the two congressmen.
Said Pastor Bill Duke, "with Reps. Vela and Gonzalez joining onto the discharge petition, we are still 3 signatures shy of the 218 needed to bring this to the floor. We are discouraged that Congressman Cuellar has maintained his stance and urge all residents who live within his district to call him and urge him to support the discharge petition. As pastor of First United Methodist Church in Mission, I call on him to support the Discharge Petition and to let democracy work!"
After thanking Valley Interfaith for keeping "a congressional solution to the DACA situation at the forefront of the local community," Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Flores acknowledged that the road ahead is very long. But he reaffirmed, "This is a commitment to our young people that they are not alone â€” to give them the opportunity to do what they want to do to share their talents for the good of the whole community....We seek a permanent solution to the limbo so many (Dreamers) are going through right now."
Pressure Grows on Cuellar to Support Discharge Petition, Rio Grande Guardian
Valley Interfaith Asking Cuellar to Sign DACA Petition, Valley Morning Star
Valley Interfaith Pushes Lawmakers to Support DACA, Valley Morning Star
Bishop Daniel E. Flores' Video Testimony, Catholic Diocese of Brownsville
May 7, 2018
North Texas Police Accept DAI-Negotiated Parish ID Cards
After passage of Senate Bill 4, according to Father Michael Forge of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch, several undocumented parishioners told him that they felt unsafe going to church or taking their kids to school. One year later, his church, with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, is making parish identification cards available to his parishioners.
Building on a groundbreaking accord between Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) and the Police Departments of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch â€” in which the police agreed to accept parish identification cards as alternative ID â€” upwards of 1,100 parish ID cards have been issued since the campaign was launched. With some parishes requiring active membership from applicants for at least six months before issuing the card, the waiting list of submitted applications has, so far, exceeded 2,200 applicants and is expected to grow.
This joint effort with the Catholic Diocese is bringing immigrants out of the shadows and into fuller participation in congregational life. At San Diego Diego Catholic, 1,000 applicants were newly registered as members of their parish, even after years of regular church attendance. Teams of leaders identified by DAI, and trained (in Spanish) through a collaborative effort with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), help keep the cost of the parish IDs affordable for families.
Nearly 300 parishioners of San Juan Diego Catholic Church lined up by 8am on one Saturday morning to apply for a church-issued ID. Five hours later, 500 applications were filed by parish leaders and 300 cards issued that day.
Without an ID, said one parishioner, "we are scared of what could happen if we are stopped by the police." With parish ID, families are feeling a greater sense of belonging and confidence in dealing with law enforcement.
Said DAI leader, Adriana Godinez, "For us, this is a really important document. We cannot take it lightly. It's something that person is going to show to an officer."
In training sessions held this month, police departments have committed to training their officers to recognize these cards as alternative identification. Dallas County Community College has also committed to accepting the IDs, for purposes of enrolling in GED, US Citizenship and English-language classes.
According to one applicant, Antonio Coahila, "It's a bit of a relief. It's like you finally have an identity."
Why Some Parishes are Offering IDs to Undocumented Texas, Catholic News Agency
Iglesias Dan Credenciales a Indocumentados, Dallas Al DÃa
April 13, 2018
Dallas Catholic Diocese, DAI Stop Deportation of Father of Six
When Fr. Daza of Nuestra SeÃ±ora del Pilar Catholic Church heard that his parishioner, Adolfo Mejia, was in deportation proceedings, he immediately picked up the phone and called Dallas Area Interfaith.
"It's the children who suffer," said Fr. Daza.
Together with the Dallas Catholic Diocese, DAI is standing with the Mejia family -- including Adolfo's wife, Lucia, and six US-born children.
"This is not a time for isolation," said DAI organizer Socorro Perales, who went to immigration court with the mother. "This is a time to build relationships. It is not over yet."
US Citizen Kids Face the Deportation of Their Immigrant Parents, Dallas Morning News
Deportación de Padres Traumatiza a Niños, Dallas Al DÃa
April 4, 2018
AMOS-Initiated Skate Park for Youth Gets $1M Closer to Reality
Years ago, AMOS initiated conversations with families about what was needed for local youth. The answer that emerged was surprising: a large, well-developed skate park that could provide multiple outdoor recreational activities. For years, skateboarders had turned a public plaza into an ad hoc skatevpark, sometimes â€” to the consternation of police and adults â€” turning sculptures and handrails into skateboard ramps. AMOS leaders identified a location in Des Moines and leveraged resources for the park design -- which, when built, will be one of the largest in the United States.
The $3.5 Million skate park is now $1 Million closer to construction, thanks to the generosity of a local family foundation. AMOS celebrated the advance in a press conference, and expects the project to break ground in early 2019.
Des Moines Regional Skatepark is Becoming 'a Reality', Des Moines Register
Lauridsen's $1 Million Donation Lifts Skate Park Campaign, Business Record
March 12, 2018
VIDA Training Effectiveness Recognized by National Study
One of nine workforce development programs evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) was selected as one of the most effective programs as measured by retention, graduation and employment. Findings from the study were revealed at South Texas College's Pecan Campus and celebrated by Senator Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa and leaders from VIDA and Valley Interfaith. The study was a blind study -- essentially comparing what happened to 500 students who enrolled in VIDA and 500 students who enrolled in other programs.
VIDA is a long-term workforce development program established by Valley Interfaith and modeled after the nationally renowned Project QUEST in San Antonio. In a video produced by Valley Central , San Juanita Sanchez describes how VIDA helped her return to college after 20 years to finish her degree in social work.
VIDA: Implementation and Early Impact Report, Pathways for Advancing Careers in Education
VIDA Wins Recognition for Helping Low- Income Individuals Improve Education, Rio Grande Guardian
National Study Shows Impact of VIDA, Valley Central
March 6, 2018
NCLI Leads Second Local Rejection of Industrial Tax Break
For the first time in the history of Louisiana's Industrial Tax Exemption Program, a school board rejected an application in order to preserve public funding for its schools. Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith (NCLI) leaders and Caddo Parish teachers spoke passionately at a Caddo Parish School Board meeting, asking board members to "put the students first." As a result, the Board voted to deny exemptions from school board taxes for Inferno Manufacturing, Inc.
NCLI and Together Louisiana have worked hard to bring public accountability to tax exemptions under this program, helping make it possible for local taxing bodies to decide for themselves whether or not to forgo the public funds involved. Caddo Parish School Board joins the Caddo Parish Sheriff to become the second public entity in Louisiana to use that power judiciously.
Caddo School Board Denies Industrial Tax Exemption, Shreveport Times
February 20, 2018
NCLI Effort Leads to First Local Rejection of Industrial Tax Break
Fighting a four-front battle to better invest local public funds, Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith (NCLI) leaders recently persuaded the Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator to become the first local official in state history to use the newly-granted local authority to reject an industrial tax exemption request.
This month, three more local entities â€“ Caddo Parish, the City of Shreveport, and the Caddo Parish School Board â€“ will vote on multi-million dollar tax exemption requests, one application at a time.
Leaders called on the Caddo Economic Development Board to better invest its economic development dollars in human infrastructure (PreK-12 and long-term workforce development), as well as in systems for drainage, sewage, clean air and water.
February 14, 2018
Power of Together Baton Rouge Recognized by Business Journal
Those who had considered TBR little more than an annoyance suddenly realized it was a force with which to be reckoned. The gloves came off....
Who is Baton Rouge...and Why Has It Driven So Many in the Community Apart?, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
January 15, 2018
Bishop Flores, Valley Interfaith Celebrate New Las Milpas Library
In the largest celebration of multiple events, Bishop Daniel E. Flores blessed the opening of a new library in Las Milpas, surrounded by Valley Interfaith leaders, children from Carmen Anaya Elementary School and other community supporters. An assembly chronicled the community-driven effort that went into changing the political culture of South Texas, reflected in the construction of the new library that leaders had fought for and won.
Three years prior, Valley Interfaith leaders signed up 1,000 new voters to a community-driven agenda that included the construction of a new library in low-income Las Milpas, the organization of a nonpartisan accountability assembly at one of the local churches and an election upset that replaced a non-responsive mayor and city commission with a slate of new officials that understood what they had to do to stay in office.
The first meeting of the new City Commission in 2015 included all of Valley Interfaith's 6-point agenda and was passed with overwhelming support. Said the then-new Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, "Valley Interfaith has a machine in place and I want to be re-elected. Let's build this library exactly how the community wants it."
The library opened in 2018 to community acclaim. City Commissioner Ramiro Caballero declared, "What VIF leaders did here in Pharr, we need you all to go out and train other citizens in other towns, cities, and county commissioner districts, and teach them to do what you did here with Pharr."
Bishop Flores to Bless New Las Milpas Library, Rio Grande Guardian
Historic Day for Las Milpas as Public Library is Officially Opened, Rio Grande Guardian
Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a Community, Rio Grande Guardian
December 19, 2017
Marin Organizing Committee Wins Major Step for Renter Protection
Less than a year after kicking off an organizing effort to address eviction threats in Marin County, the Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) won a significant victory.
On December 12, in response to pressure from MOC leaders, the Marin Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support a mandatory mediation program for renters. The ordinance will require mediation when requested by a tenant or landlord for rent increases exceeding 5% per year. The ordinance would apply to unincorporated areas of Marin County which include approximately 8,300 renter-occupied units. About 1 in 4 of those renters pay more than 50% of household income on rent.
70+ members of MOC attended two hearings, speaking in support of this much needed program. "From our perspective, housing is not merely another commodity," said Rev. Thomas Gable (featured in above photo), "stable, affordable housing is the bedrock of life and well-being".
While MOC considers this an insufficient step toward meaningful protections for renters, leaders are pleased that this mandatory mediation ordinance passed. They plan to continue pressuring the Board of Supervisors to pass a Just Cause Eviction ordinance as well, out of concern that without such an ordinance, renters will be too afraid to ask for mediation when faced with a rent increase, since they could then be evicted without cause.
Pressure and presence from the Marin Organizing Committee helped advance the time frame in which Supervisors will consider a Just Cause eviction. Rather than wait a year, as originally intended, the Board directed staff to craft a plan for increased code enforcement and community education within three months, and then again in the second quarter of 2018 with a draft Just Cause eviction ordinance.
MOC is continuing to work for similar protections in cities throughout Marin County where the majority of renters reside.
Marin Landlords to Enter Mediation Before Hiking Rents, Marin Independent Journal
December 18, 2017
Valley Interfaith Credited with Transforming Las Milpas
"Years back, when we went with 40 or 50 people and packed the city commission, Carmen Lopez, other leaders, and our youth, spoke before the commission," Anaya said. "Carmen was reminded she had three minutes to speak. When she was speaking, very eloquently in Spanish, she was interrupted by the previous mayor and told, can you speak English. If not, you need to sit down. That, in itself, gave so much anger to the community. We knew there was only one thing we could do and that was educate our voters and go out and vote."
The education of voters came through house meetings and accountability sessions, Anaya explained.
"The community came together and identified issues that mattered to the families, and particularly to the youth. We told the elected officials, we need parks, a library, a place to gather. At a key accountability session, two of city commissioners did not show up. One of them lost by 12 votes, the other by 40," Anaya said, referring back to the 2015 city council election campaign.
Said Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez: "All of Las Milpas is transformed, thanks in large part to Valley Interfaith. This group played a critical role in identifying the improvements the City of Pharr had to make, and I am sure they have done it throughout the Rio Grande Valley."
Las Milpas: A Case Study in How Civic Engagement Can Improve a Community, Rio Grande Guardian
November 10, 2017
Colorado IAF Organizing Effort Dramatically Improves Elementary School Academic Achievement in Brighton
One year ago the Colorado IAF, Brighton Education Association and Northern Hills Church initiated an organizing campaign at North Elementary School, the lowest ranking of all schools in the 27J School District. Over the course of the year, North demonstrated the largest improvement in academic scores of any school in the district and one of the highest in the state (see article below). As a result, North changed its academic status from "improvement" to "performance."
Leaders initially began by developing individual relationships between congregational members and educators, and then reaching out to parents through neighborhood walks and pancake breakfast gatherings. Together, they succeeded in establishing a before- and after-school care program for students and an intensive tutoring program that matched community volunteers -- mostly from Northern Hills Church, with students demonstrating the greatest academic need. North Elementary staff additionally pursued internal changes including the reorganization of instructional teams and changes to the Master Schedule to better incorporate literacy and math blocks.
School-based leaders expressed pride over the dramatic improvement in academic achievement and gratefulness for the partnership with Northern Hills Chapel.
More Students Graduate in 27J in 2017, Brighton Blade
Caring For Students Home By Home in Brighton, Colorado Education Association
November 9, 2017
'Together Louisiana' Secures Gubernatorial Pledge to Disclose Tax Exemption Applications for Greater Transparency
Industrial Tax Break Info to be Posted Online, Edwards Says, US News & World Report
Edwards: Anti-Tax Lawmakers Should Detail $1B-Plus Cuts, Times Picayune
November 5, 2017
For Immigrants Without State ID, DAI Negotiates Acceptance of Parish ID with Dallas-Area Police Departments
For the first time in North Texas, immigrants without state ID will be allowed to use parish identification cards to identify themselves with Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Dallas Police Department officers. Dallas Area Interfaith leaders negotiated this ground breaking police department policy change in the aftermath of the passage of anti-immigrant State Senate Bill 4, in order to engender greater trust between police and immigrants.
More than 1,500 immigrant leaders filled the sanctuary at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Farmers Branch in a standing-room-only assembly of leaders across multiple faiths and denominations. Three women shared stories of anti-immigrant abuse and community fears about reporting crimes to the police while lacking access to state-issued IDs. Friar Luis Arraiza of Nuestra SeÃ±ora de Lourdes and Fr. Mike Walsh of from Holy Trinity explicitly challenged the chiefs of Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Dallas Police Departments to publicly commit to accepting parish identification cards as a means of identifying oneself during a police stop. All three said, 'yes,' to thunderous applause.
The largest applause, however, was reserved for Catholic Bishop Edward Burns who pledged, "the Church will do whatever it needs to do to stand with immigrants."
Nine years prior, Farmers Branch was best-known for being the first Texas city to pass an anti-immigrant ordinance, which included fines for landlords renting to undocumented immigrants. The police department paid a price in community trust -- one motivation for publicly pledging to accept parish IDs.
This approval will help the estimated 231,000 immigrants who call Dallas home.
Hundreds Meet to Discuss Immigration, Parish ID Card, Texas Catholic
Live Stream of Assembly, Catholic Diocese of Dallas
October 25, 2017
TMO Efforts Result in $27 Million in Food Aid for Families Surviving Hurricane Harvey
On October 6th, as thousands of Harvey survivors spent hours in line attempting to meet the deadline for emergency food aid, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), TMO leaders organized a press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to demand an extension of the deadline for families.
Said Fr. SimÃ³n Bautista, "For two days in a row got in line at 6 a.m. and by the time she was seen, around 7 p.m., she was told that her last name was not being seen that day. She returned at 3 a.m. to find that 10 to 15 individuals were already in line. These individuals and families have been waiting in the heat, missing work and some still haven't received the benefits."
More than one week later, state officials announced a three-day extension of the deadline for families to enroll. TMO leaders expressed pleasure at the news of the extension, and recognized Congresswoman Sheila Jackson and Commissioner Rodney Ellis for their role in securing that extension.
Leaders are now celebrating that the three-day extension permitted more than 27,000 additional families to enroll in D-SNAP, resulting in the award of $27 Million in food aid for Harris County Harvey survivors .
Said Fr. Albert Zannatta, "Matthew 25:35 reads: for I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. These words of Christ spurred TMO to call for an extension.... TMO will continue to work until all have received the recovery they need."
State Health Officials Continue Harvey Food Assistance Program, Houston Chronicle
TMO Demands Extension of Deadline for Harvey Victims to Sign Up for D-SNAP, Houston Public Media
Community Leaders Push for D-SNAP Extension, Click 2 Houston
Appeal for Aid on Behalf of Needy, Houston Chronicle
October 25, 2017
California Episcopal Publication: "Blessed Are the Organizers"
After the Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), the Very Reverend Mark Richardson, participated in the school's community organizing course, he had this to say:
"The Gospel was never meant to be a private affair of the heart alone, so learning the skills taught in Industrial Areas Foundation's community organizing program, of building public relationships and community modes of interaction, is in keeping with the mission impulse found in CDSP's curriculum."
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific is the only Episcopal seminary on the West Coast. Each year, it sponsors a community organizing training in collaboration with the IAF.
Blessed Are the Organizers, Crossings
California Organizers Prepare Seminarians for Public Life, Interfaith Education Fund
October 16, 2017
COPA Launches Esperanza Care: $2M Health Care Expansion for Monterey County Low-Income, Undocumented Families
When Maria Elena Manzo (upper left photo), an asthma educator from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, first discovered that children of Monterey County undocumented were unable to qualify for free life-saving asthma inhalers -- and that those in Santa Cruz county did -- she immediately reached out to COPA-IAF. She and other COPA leaders organized hundreds of conversations over the next few years to build the political will, first for a $500,000 county-funded pilot project providing basic healthcare services to undocumented families, and now for Esperanza Care.
Esperanza Care, is a $2 million program that will expand the pilot primary and preventive care program to make it more comprehensive and available to more people. It will also provide access, for the first time, to outpatient services at neurology, diabetes, heart and dermatology clinics.
"Esperanza Care is a step in the right direction," says Manzo, adding "hundreds of conversations in churches, schools and community institutionsâ€¦speak to the need. We must continue these conversations and work so that all people have quality healthcare access."
Said District 4 Supervisor Jane Parker, "COPA comes up with ideas and invites the county to participate. We worked together to put togetherâ€¦the pilot program and now Esperanza Care." 200 leaders participated in the celebratory event.
October 1, 2017
Working Together Jackson Protects Jackson Public Schools
Working Together Jackson (WTJ) collaborated with member institution Mississippi Association of Educators and Mayor A. Chowkwe Lumumba to prevent a hostile takeover of the Jackson Public School System by the state of Mississippi. WTJ worked with leaders, the Mayor and others to reach a compromise with Gov. Phil Bryant to develop the Better Together Commission and a totally new School Board to avoid the takeover. Four WTJ leaders are now on the Commission and new school board, planning for long-term reform.
September 19, 2017
COPS/Metro Hikes Municipal, County Wage to $14.25 / Hour
Months after 750 COPS / Metro leaders challenged candidates for San Antonio City Council and the Bexar County Commissioners' Court to support their living wage agenda in a nonpartisan accountability assembly -- and then delivered 8,555 voters to the polls in support of their agenda -- both Bexar County and the City of San Antonio increased entry wages to $14.25 per hour.
This is one of several steps leaders have initiated to raise public sector wages to $15 / hour by 2019.
Long-term workforce development program Project QUEST went on to secure $2.5 million in funding, an increase of $300 thousand compared to last year. COPS / Metro additionally secured $9 million in owner-occupied rehabilitation and $150 thousand invested in legal defense for immigrants.
Bexar County Boosts Spending, San Antonio Express-News
Group Seeks More Money for Jobs Program , Raise in Minimum Wage, San Antonio Express-News
Housing Renovation Projects Get More Money, San Antonio Express-News
As Nation's Poverty Rate Declines, San Antonio's Increases, Rivard Report
September 18, 2017
Pima County Interfaith Celebrates Groundbreaking of New Park
On school days, the children from St. John's School plan to use the park. After school, Pueblo High School and neighborhood skaters are expected to take over. In the evening, seniors and everyone else hope to walk and play in its environs. Lights won't go out until 10:00pm, when a neighbor will lock the gate and new bathrooms.
Leaders of Pima County Interfaith celebrated the opening of St. John's Park with a ribbon cutting ceremony that recognized the outcome of a unique collaboration between the city, county, and church. The land is leased by St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church to the City. Bond funds generated by the County's Neighborhood Reinvestment Bond paid for most of the development. Conversations to get and keep the ball rolling were catalyzed by Pima County Interfaith, Southern Arizona Interfaith and persistent leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
September 14, 2017
Houston Mayor, Texas Senator Join TMO in Call on Landlords for Post-Harvey Grace Period for Renters
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas Senator Sylvia GarcÃa joined TMO in calling on landlords to extend a 30-day grace period and to refrain from charging renters' fees and penalties following the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.
According to TMO, some landlords use computerized systems that automatically charge penalties for late payments regardless of Houston being in post-Harvey recovery. Rev. Ed Gomez of St. Paul's/San Pablo Episcopal Church shared stories of tenants who work in the service industry and, due to the storm, missed days of work and are now unable to pay their rent at this time. "People are not asking for a handout but a hand up as we get through this difficult time," he said.
Turner, Garcia and other TMO leaders were forceful in urging undocumented immigrants not to shy away from assistance for fear of being asked for papers. Said Mayor Turner, "We are not going to tolerate anybody in this city being victimized because they may be poor or because they may be undocumented or because they may not speak the language. We expect people to treat people right, with dignity and respect."
Turner Asks Houston Landlords to Grant One Month Grace Period to Renters, Houston Public Media (NPR)
Mayor Turner Names Former Shell CEO as Recovery Czar, Houston Press
August 9, 2017
OTOC Leverages $1.1M for Demolition of Condemned Buildings
After working for the last 6 years to increase City funding to demolish 800 condemned buildings in Omaha, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) testified in favor of $1.1 Million included in the proposed 2018 City budget for demolition of condemned structures, up from just $250,000 in 2012 when OTOC started pushing for increases. As a result, the backlog of abandoned houses has been brought down from over 750 to less than 125.
As the city reduces the backlog to fewer than 100 condemned homes, OTOC also challenged the Mayor and City Council to turn its focus to rehabilitating houses with code violations, even while pressing City Council to begin requiring the regular inspection of all rental properties.
August 9, 2017
EPISO, Border Interfaith Extend New Water Lines into Colonia
Over 20 years ago, a developer in the City of El Paso bought acreage in a plot of land, an undeveloped "island" landlocked by, but not included within, El Paso's municipal lines. The developer recorded the purchase with the County, but then -- unbeknownst to anyone -- illegally partitioned the land and sold the reduced-sized lots to low-income families without providing certificates of occupancy.
120 families built their homes in the Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa colonia, having little idea they had purchased and were residing in illegal subdivisions. Because the land was not part of the City, and illegally partitioned in the County, neither local nor state entities assumed responsibility for ensuring access to safe water.
Some of the families from this subdivision who were members of St. Patrick's Catholic Church expressed their struggles at a house meeting convened by Fr. Pablo Matta, and later partnered with Border Interfaith to bring infrastructure to their colonia.
While working with the families, Border Interfaith leaders discovered the unauthorized nature of their tenancy and soon after began organizing to explain to the county why they didn't have certificates of occupancy. Their first victory consisted of compelling the County to formally recognize and register their occupancy in County records.
The fight for the extension of city water lines into the neighborhood continued as they organized to request funding from the Texas Water Development Board and financial assistance from the Economically Distressed Areas Program. Unfortunately, they received news that the state funding was depleted.
Finally, after many obstacles, the second victory came when Border Interfaith and EPISO approached the CEO of the El Paso Water Utilities and requested the authorized expenditure of $2 Million from the Public Service Board budget to extend public water utility lines into Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa. Together, the CEO and the leaders worked to secure the necessary votes from the Public Service Board, and on February 8, 2017 the Board voted unanimously in favor of the $2 Million funding.
Construction is programmed to begin in October of 2017.
August 4, 2017
COPS / Metro Secures Additional $6.5 Million for Housing Rehabilitation, Ushers in 'Decade of Neighborhoods'
Four months after a nonpartisan accountability assembly in which 750 COPS / Metro leaders secured public commitments of support for senior housing rehabilitation from city council candidates, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to support the allocation of $6.5 Million during the next year. This represents a 261% increase in funding and will allow the city to rehab 81 homes in the next fiscal year, compared to 25 in the current year.
Said COPS / Metro leader Shirley Ellis of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, "It is now time for the 'Decade of Neighborhoods.' Instead of investing in developers, we should invest in homeowners -- homeowners who have invested their lives into this community."
Last April, Mayor "Nirenberg and council members Roberto TreviÃ±o, William "Cruz" Shaw, Rebecca Viagran, Rey SaldaÃ±a, Shirley Gonzalez and Ana Sandoval all publicly committed to boost funding for rehabilitation. According to the San Antonio Express-News," Then Mayor Ivy Taylor did not attend the accountability session, nor would she make the same commitment."
COPS / Metro leaders delivered 8,555 people to the polls in support of their issues agenda.
Housing Renovation Projects Get More Money, San Antonio Express-News
July 31, 2017
Working Together Jackson Opens Grocery Store in Food Desert
Two years ago, after Kroger announced the closure of a South Jackson grocery store, Working Together Jackson leaders rallied behind the laid-off workers and made a public commitment to fight for its replacement. Due to the creativity and persistence of Working Together Jackson leaders, a Jackson Cash and Carry grocery store opened in its place -- tangible fruits of local efforts.
Rev. Ronnie Drudup Jr. announced that the organization wants to not only "support this store, but all" stores across Jackson. "We've got to make sure we bring high quality fruits, vegetables, and produce all around the city of Jackson."
July 21, 2017
One LA, with LA Mayor, Sheriff, Takes On Housing & Immigration; Leverages Commitment of First Major US City for 'Do Not Stand Idly By' Strategy
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.
Crisis de Vivienda, Univision 34
Additional Photos, Rafael Paz Parra
Video Preview, Rafael Paz Parra
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.
Dallas Police Asst. Chief Gary Tittle Responds to Question About SB4, Diane Solis - Dallas Morning News
DAI Leaders Commit to Working with Police, Allison Harris - FOX 4 News
Video, Judge Brandon Birmingham
June 28, 2017
COPA Expands Healthcare to 2,500 Low Income, Undocumented Residents 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 , 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."
Background stories detail how COPA:
June 21, 2017
NCG Wins Fight to Save, Transform Fremont Middle School
Nevadans for the Common Good celebrated a positive resolution to an education issue affecting students of Fremont Middle School. When the school district released rebuilding plans that involved busing Fremont middle-schoolers to another school, courageous parents and teachers began a year of conversing with each other and identifying allies.
With the support of neighboring institutions Christ Church Episcopal and Reformation Lutheran Church, Fremont leaders persuaded the School Board to approve a "transformational new plan for Fremont": rebuilding Fremont as a K-8 school and constructing a new Global High School in the neighborhood.
Defenders Hopeful Board OKs Plan to Keep Middle-Schoolers at Fremont, Las Vegas Review Journal
June 17, 2017
ICON Stops Waste / Recycling 'Business as Usual' 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
Pomona Council Takes Steps Leading to Moratorium on Recycling, Waste Processing Businesses, Inland Valley Bulletin
June 12, 2017
DAI Turns out 400 Votes in District Runoff Race, Exceeds Margin
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.
Shakeup to Shift Council Dynamics, Dallas Morning News
June 7, 2017
NCG Leverages $3.4M in State Funding for Meals On Wheels
'Nevadans for the Common Good' leaders discovered that Nevada was ranked 51st in the nation in terms of the level of state support for Meals on Wheels. As a result, there were over 1,000 home-bound seniors who were on the waiting list. NCG leveraged the support of municipal governments, state legislators and the governor to increase state funding to $3.4 million (a tenfold increase) in order to eliminate the waiting list.
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.
Together Louisiana Kills HB444 -- Taxation by Backroom Deal, Together Louisiana
Major Tax Break for Business Dies in Senate Committee, The Advocate
May 24, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Secures Passage of SPICE Ordinance
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 captured 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
May 26, 2017
Bastrop Interfaith Secures Lights & Cleanup for County Park
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
May 10, 2017
VOICE-OKC, Allies Stop Payday Legislation 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
April 21, 2017
IAF Workforce Development Model Shows Sizable, Significant and Sustained Results for Graduates
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 and 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.
Study Affirms Project QUEST Achievements, San Antonio Express-News
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST'S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman
April 3, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Changes State Law to Combat Drug
When neighborhood users of SPICE, a synthetic marijuana with side effects including seizures and disorientation, began walking into traffic and collapsing on church and school grounds, leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church stepped into the void to identify solutions. Church leaders, in collaboration with Southern Arizona Interfaith, soon launched a campaign to "Give them Food" in addition to collaborating with local law enforcement and county health department to educate the community about the drug and prevent its sale. Over 250 area residents attended one of the community meetings.
In fall 2016, SAI and Pima County Interfaith hosted a nonpartisan accountability session drawing more than 500 leaders to address several issues, including SPICE. In front of hundreds of voters, candidates promised to introduce a bill to criminalize SPICE ingredients and to help law enforcement press charges against dealers.
This spring, Rep. Pamela Powers (LD9-D) negotiated the inclusion of SPICE ingredients in a bill (HB2033) sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter (LD15-R) on controlled substances, that Governor Ducey signed it into law.
SAI leaders are pointing to this victory as an "example of the great things we can achieve when we work together," including bi-partisan cooperation in the expansion of the bill to include SPICE ingredients. Leaders also recognized the Tucson Police Department, St. John's Pastoral Council and the Pima County Health Department for its collaboration.
Leaders are now working with City of Tucson Councilmembers Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik to follow through on their campaign pledges to pass a stricter local ordinance prohibiting the sale of SPICE in Tucson.
Southern Arizona Interfaith Confronts 'Spice' Epidemic in Tucson, West / Southwest IAF
March 7, 2017
OneLA, Allies Pass Measure H for Homeless Services, Prevention
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 Hâ€” 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.
February 22, 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.
Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue Apace, The INDsider
Together Louisiana Protests Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
February 14, 2017
AMOS Expands Affordable Housing Possibilities in Ames, Iowa
Six months after advocating that a 10-acre city-owned property be developed with a variety of affordable housing options for local working families, AMOS leaders succeeded in expanding the number of rental and lower-priced housing units to be made available.
Initially, the land parcel was zoned for single family detached homes, with some of the loudest voices calling for exclusively owner-occupied units. Thanks to the intervention of AMOS leaders, Ames City Council voted for more affordable housing to be developed on-site, including 60% to be made available at affordable rates, and to include rental housing in its Request for Proposals.
The following month, the City of Ames further committed to two years of matching funds for an affordable housing trust fund that was created at AMOS' initiative. This move will help the fund gain funding and build momentum, locally.
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
Affordable Housing Task Force Holds First Meeting, Ames Tribune
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
February 13, 2017
Working Together Jackson Demolishes Campus Blight
Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus. The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.
Nonprofit to Remove Blight in Jackson, Clarion Ledger
February 10, 2017
MACG & Allies Secure Tenant Relocation Assistance in Portland
As part of a larger strategy to secure affordable housing options in Portland, Oregon, leaders of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) and allies secured unanimous passage of an emergency tenant relocation assistance ordinance, persuading an "on the fence" Commissioner to support the measure. Seventy-five MACG leaders packed City Hall chambers, with direct views of the commissioners as they voted.
The new temporary law requires that Portland landlords pay $2,900 - $4,500 to tenants who are evicted without cause or have to move as a result of a +10% rent increase. Leaders see the approval of this temporary measure as a critical step toward providing immediate relief. The plan now is to target the state legislature to pass Just Cause Eviction and Rent Stabilization legislation this year.
February 2, 2017
Texas IAF Network Joins Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in Stand Against Anti-Immigrant Bill SB4
Said Bishop Joe VÃ¡squez, 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.
Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian
CLC Urges Lawmakers to Reject 'Anti-Sanctuary City' Legislation, Baptist Standard
Testimony by Reverend John Elford, Austin Interfaith, Network of Texas IAF Organizations
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
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."
December 8, 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!