Houston Chronicle: Project QUEST Moves Low-Skilled Workers into Middle Class

Business columnist Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle argues that Project QUEST is the most effective workforce development program in the nation.  Economist Mark Elliot, CEO of the Economic Mobility Corp., had this to say:    

“To see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.”

In photo above, COPS/Metro leader Sr. Consuelo Tovar fights for local funding of Project QUEST.  [Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News]  In bottom photos, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations.  [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility Corporation [pdf]


Valley Interfaith: State Share of School Funding Dropped from 50% to 36%

[Excerpt below]

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.

There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.  

Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.

The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment. 

“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”

[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]

Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Has Dropped From 50% to Barely 36%Rio Grande Guardian

 


NCG Fights for Payday Lending Reform, Sends 4,000 Postcards to Nevada Governor & State Leg

So far in this spring legislative session, 'Nevadans for the Common Good' sent 4,000 postcards to the governor and state legislators in support of $40 million in affordable housing tax credits and a substantial increase in funding for Nevada public schools. 

NCG leaders are furthermore engaged in an impassioned fight with the payday lending industry over passage of SB 201, which would establish a payday lending database that would track short-term, high-interest loans to better protect consumers.  NCG initially sent a delegation of 10 leaders to the Capitol, which met with 17 legislators in one day.  Since then, leaders have communicated their concerns through hundreds of emails and phone calls that included personal stories to legislators about the harmful effects of predatory lending. 

Most recently, 50 leaders attended a midday hearing and delivered powerful testimony about the impact of high-interest loans on families.   Rev. Sandy Johnson with United Methodist Church in Boulder City, spoke on behalf of NCG, sharing that her personal friend experienced great financial difficulties brought on by payday loans.

“If existing state laws were enforced," said Pastor Johnson, "consumers like her would be protected from being trapped in a debt cycle for more than two decades.  The long term economic stability of families should not be undermined if they take out a short-term loan.”

Payday Lending Opponents, Industry Clash in Charged Hearing Over Loan DatabaseNevada Independent 

Payday Lending Industry Could See Rate Caps, Database Under Legislative ProposalsNevada Independent

NCG Leaders Postcard Mailing Party [Video] 


OTOC Persists in Push for Proactive Housing Inspections in Omaha


In advance of a vote that may occur as early as April 2nd, OTOC and the Apartment Owners Association of Nebraska (AAN) intered into negotiation about areas of agreement to jointly present to the City Council and Mayor.  The AAN represents the owners of half the rental properties in Omaha. 

The invitation to negotiate occurred after 40 tenants, landlords, community organizations, social service organizations, pastors organized by OTOC spoke in favor of reform at a four-hour city council hearing on March 12 (in photo above).  OTOC leaders Karen McElroy, Rosie Volkmer, Gloria Austerberry, Dennis Walsh, Susan Kuhlman and Paul Romero laid out a comprehensive narrative that covered the history of substandard property rentals in the city, the failures of the current complaint-based system and the extensive research in support of rental inspection programs.  At the request of City Council members, OTOC submitted recommendations of what ought to be amendments to the Mayor's proposed ordinance.

OTOC leaders urge supporters to continue to pressure their elected representatives to support a system of landlord registration with proactive inspections to ensure that all people have access to healthy homes.

Omaha Tenants Say Inspections Will Make Homes Safer; Landlords Say Rents Will Rise, Omaha World-Herald  


ABQ Interfaith Increases Supports for Schools, Advances Early Childhood Education & Expands Utility of Immigrant Drivers' Licenses

Months into the New Mexico legislative session, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders are celebrating advances around school accountability and early childhood education, supports for immigrants and increased health security.  

Thanks to their close collaboration with state legislators, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders were successful crafting legislation that eradicated a punitive A-F grading system for public schools and replaced it with a diagnostic system of accountability.  Leaders helped push through legislation that established, for the first time in the state, a department of early childhood education -- a necessary foundation for future efforts to support early childhood interventions.  Funding for K-12 schooling also increased, to community acclaim. 

In an effort to reverse the effects of a two-tiered system for (undocumented) immigrant drivers' licenses, created by the previous governor, leaders persuaded state legislators to expand the utility of the bottom-tier of licenses.  The second tier is now equivalent to Real IDs, including acceptance by the TSA, state police and financial institutions. 

These wins follow an intense season of community-led initiative -- both in bird-watching bills, and collaborating with state legislators to advance bills that intersect with the Albuquerque Interfaith agenda for families. 


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.

Vote YES for Measure and Des Moines' FutureDes Moines Register

Des Moines Metro Voters Weigh 1-cent Sales Tax, Promise of Lower Property Taxes, Des Moines Register

Des Moines voters should support the local-option sales tax on March 5Des Moines Register

Group Pushes Des Moines to Use Sales Tax Money to Extend Library HoursDes Moines Register

Des Moines will vote on sales tax increase in MarchDes Moines Register

Local option sales tax planned for March 5 vote in Des Moines, Business Record

Des Moines Weighs in on March 5 Local Option Sales Tax Vote, WHO TV

One-cent sales tax increase could fund 'blitz on blight'KCCI TV


COPS/Metro Fights for Displacement Prevention: We Want Action

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]

City Council Approves $1 Million Fund to Help Displaced, Vulnerable ResidentsRivard Report 

San Antonio City Council OKs $1 Million Policy for Low-Income Families Facing Rising Housing Costs, EvictionSan Antonio Express-News

City Could Fast-Track Help for Families Hit Hard by Housing CostsKENS5

San Antonio Nearing $1 Million Policy for Low-Income Families Facing Rising Housing Costs, EvictionSan Antonio Express-News  

COPS/Metro to City Council on Displacement: 'We Don't Want a Study, We Want Action'San Antonio Heron

City Considers Fast-Tracking Housing Displacement Prevention PolicyRivard Report [pdf]

Needed: A Displacement Prevention PlanSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]


COPS/Metro Credited with Rise in Alamo College 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 at 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 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. 

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 Credit: Rafael Paz]

Alamo College Trustees Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

2014 Report on COPS/Metro Launch of Living Wage Campaign 


Together Baton Rouge Condemns Attack on New Zealand Mosque, Stands with Muslim Neighbors

Within hours of the shooting in New Zealand, diverse faith groups of Baton Rouge came together to support their Muslim neighbors.  Bishop Michael Duca of the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge sent a message of solidarity for both the victims of the attack and the larger Muslim community. 

At Masjid Al-Rahman mosque, Rev. Fred Smith of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, and Together Baton Rouge, joined Imam Waiel Shihadeh to speak to hundreds of congregants at Friday services.  “Even though our worship comes from a different perspective, it’s important for us to recognize the value of inclusion — the value of universal love — which is what is a part of our Christian faith,” Smith said.  

[Photo Credit: Jacqueline DeRobertis, The Advocate]

Baton Rouge Faith Groups Show Support for Muslim Community in Wake of New Zealand Mosques ShootingsThe Advocate [pdf]

Together Baton Rouge Statement on the Terror Attack on the al-Noor & Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand 


COPS/Metro Parent Leaders Secure Safe Playground for Beacon Hill Academy Children

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]

City, SAISD Reach Deal to Allow Demolition of Historic Beacon Hill BuildingRivard Report



West / Southwest IAF Organizations

Northwest IAF Organizations