At a fateful meeting with the youth of Grace United Methodist Church in 2004, AMOS organizers and leaders learned that young people not involved in organized sports needed more recreational opportunities. Although several “skate zones" or "plazas” were located in neighborhood parks outside the city, there was no large dedicated skate park in the City of Des Moines.
AMOS leaders conducted research actions, including site visits to skate parks around the country, and began to build the political will for the park. At an AMOS assembly with over 200 people, leaders challenged Councilmembers Christine Hensley and Chris Coleman to support the building of a dedicated park for skateboarding. Both agreed.
Since then, AMOS leaders were at the center of action to promote the park, conducting meetings with Parks & Recreation staff and succeeding in persuading the City to build its first skate park: the Four Mile Skatepark in Northeast Des Moines as a short-term measure.
When efforts to identify funding for the larger park stalled, leaders persisted -- helping develop a plan to raise $3.5 million in private funds. Fundraising was supercharged in 2015 when The Leadership Circle of the Community Foundation awarded a challenge grant of $500,000 in the hopes of encouraging other contributions. Since then, Nix and Virginia Laurisden, for whom the park will be named, donated $1 million. Other individual donors and community foundations invested monies towards the effort.
On October 15th, a groundbreaking ceremony was organized to celebrate the culmination of this AMOS-initiated effort. The park, to be completed in 2019, will be the largest open-air skate park in the United States, with additional designs to meet Olympic-level qualifying competitions.
Skatepark Breaks Ground, Donor Backs $250K Sculpture, Business Record
This fall, the biggest loser of the amendments proposed by the firefighters union will be local democracy. While much of the rhetoric focuses on the city’s AAA bond rating and its capacity to govern, COPS/Metro is primarily concerned about the loss of San Antonio’s democratic capacity.
COPS/Metro — a coalition of congregations, schools and unions working together on behalf of families — asked the city to drop the lawsuit on the evergreen clause and firefighters to drop the petition drive and return to the negotiating table. Neither side moved, and now the residents and voters of San Antonio are caught in the crossfire between “Go Vote No” and “Vote Yes” on the three charter amendments.
At its core, democracy is about negotiation and compromise...
As the "largest gathering of community members in the Central Coast region," 600 COPA leaders modeled what democracy looks like by assembling its members from diverse religious, economic and ethnic backgrounds to celebrate what they've done over the previous 15 years and to lay out an agenda moving forward. Guests included Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Santa Cruz Supervisors Zach Friend and John Leopold and Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker.
[Photo Credit: Joe Szydlowski and Eduardo Cuevas, The Californian]
COPA Celebrates 15 Years of Work on Immigration, Healthcare, Housing and More, The Californian [pdf]
700 PCIC leaders packed the parish hall of St. Pius X Catholic Church to secure commitments from candidates for federal, state and local office around an agenda that included immigration and food security at the federal level, and workforce development, education and healthcare at the state and local level.
Candidates that attended included Congressional Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (CD 2), Pima County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Richard Elias, and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. Religious leaders in attendance included Catholic Monsignors Raul Trevizo and Tom Cahalane, Episcopal Rector Robert Hendrickson (St. Philip’s), Rabbi Tom Louchheim (Or Chadash), Lutheran Dean & JobPath Board Chair Steve Springer (Dove of Peace), and Methodist Pastor Sharon Ragland (St. Mark’s). Bruce Dusenberry, former Chamber of Commerce Chair and Board of JobPath, Flowing Wells School Superintendent David Baker, and Community Food Bank President Michael McDonald also participated.
Hundreds of PCIC leaders helped Get Out The Vote through election day, resulting in a 70.5% voter turnout rate in Pima County -- the highest in recent history.
Candidates who committed to the agenda won their elections, including one State House seat and one US Congressional seat (CD-2). The City Parks & Recreation Bond also passed.
'Accountability Session' Sunday a Chance to Evaluate Candidates, Arizona Daily Star
Forty members from St. John the Evangelist Church and the neighborhood attended a civic academy yesterday to learn about “public charge.” This new policy by the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security would affect many legal immigrants who are applying for permanent residency (green cards) and penalize applicants if they or their families have received government support such as SNAP (food stamps), subsidized health care, and other support that the government has labeled a “public charge.”
As rumors of this new policy surfaced, immigrant churches and Pima County Interfaith started conducting research. The fear began a few months ago when the press began to talk again about this policy. Rumors and misinformation led many immigrants to renounce their citizen children’s benefits out of fear. Among those immigrants most affected by this proposal are low-income families, single mothers, and children with chronic illnesses.
At Sunday’s session, a single mother asked if she could lose her permanent residency if she continued to receive AHCCCS, Arizona’s version of Medicaid, for her infant baby. Fortunately, she received her visa through the VAWA program that so far is exempt from being a 'public charge.'
After the session, some attendees thanked the St. John team for making this presentation. They said they felt more relaxed now that they knew which programs would be counted as 'public charge.'
A young mother said, "I'm going to register for citizenship classes and I'm going to apply to become a citizen. I'm afraid this administration will find another way to revoke my residency and separate me from my family."
AMOS Seeks Welfare of the City: Extended Library Hours, Park Lighting and Infrastructure in Lower Income Zip Codes
Leaders packed a church hall to engage Des Moines candidates around including AMOS priorities in key investments in lower income areas of the city. Candidates who participated and agreed to support the agenda included: Scott Sanders (Des Moines City Manager), Frank Cownie (Des Moines Mayor), Chris Coleman (Des Moines City Councilmember), Josh Mandelbaum (Des Moines City Councilmember Ward 3), and Linda Westergaard (Des Moines City Councilmember Ward 4).
The City Manager committed to including AMOS priorities in a one-cent local option sales tax increase planned for March 2019. AMOS priorities included: expansion of library hours to at least 6 days per week, lighting in two inner city parks, addressing the growing number of dilapidated/abandoned homes in 50314 and 50316 zip codes, doubling the number of rental housing inspectors, startup funds for a children's mental health crisis unit / observation center, and basic infrastructure improvements (i.e. streets, sidewalks, sewers, and snow removal).
Leaders plan to follow up with public officials who made commitments in early 2019 to ensure their fulfill their pledges.
Group Pushes Des Moines to Use Sales Tax Money to Extend Library Hours, Des Moines Register
Fulfilling a commitment made to TMO earlier this year, Houston Police Chief (and incoming president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association) Art Acevedo publicly urged American Outdoor Brands Corp., formerly Smith & Wesson, to examine its safety practices and standards.
The joint letter -- signed also by Senior Rabbi David Lyon of Congregation Beth Israel of TMO and Montgomery Police Chief (and outgoing MCCA president), J. Thomas Manger -- was accompanied with a supportive statement by the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign. Do Not Stand Idly By is a national IAF campaign made up of law enforcement leaders, medical and public health professionals and religious leaders to promote the production and use of smart guns.
Police Chiefs, Clergy to Gunmaker: Cut Shootings by Making Guns Safer, Houston Chronicle
Cops, Priests Urge Smith & Wesson to Make Guns Safer, Bloomberg Business
Leaders with 'Nevadans for the Common Good' have begun building a constituency of voters who are educated about the dangers of payday lending by holding civic academies on the subject. The next civic academy is scheduled to take place at Las Vegas University United Methodist Church.
Community Groups Urge Nevadans to Learn Risks of Payday Loans, Public News Service
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).
Having successfully advocated for 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 packed a Marin County Board of Supervisors workshop to support such an ordinance, including clergy, tenants, and apartment owners who testified that such an ordinance would not hurt landlords operating in good faith. The Board decided to move forward, directing County staff to prepare options for consideration at an upcoming meeting.
[Photo Credit: James Cacciatore, Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Supervisors Want to Move Ahead with 'Just Cause' Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Faith Community Rallies Behind Families Facing Huge Rent Increase, Catholic San Francisco [pdf]
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]
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)