Organized by The Metropolitan Organization of Houston (TMO), 123 participants were joined by Bishop Italo Dell'Oro of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for a two-day 'Recognizing the Stranger' training. Ministry leaders from 21 parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston participated, as did leaders from the Diocese of Beaumont.
Recognizing the Stranger training equips immigrant parish leaders with the skills needed to make connections within immigrant communities and with non-immigrant allies, applying the tools of organizing to address issues facing their congregations and communities.
Training sponsors include the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Mission & Ministry Impact, Gulf Coast Leadership Council and the Organizers Institute.
In photo at right, Bishop Italo Dell-Oro recognizes TMO for teaching ministry leaders listening skills through house meetings, particularly with people on the periphery.
As states grapple with the repercussions of last year's severe winter storms, VOICE-OKC condemns a related Oklahoma Corporation Commission decision. With only one dissent, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a plan from Oklahoma utility companies to recover costs for the February 2021 winter storm by transferring them to residents over decades.
The dissenting opinion comes from the one corporation commissioner who voted against the utility plans.
Bob Anthony, who wrote the dissenting opinion, is saying “Oklahoma rate payers deserve an explanation.” In the filing he also asks “why are resulting energy costs so shockingly high and who pays how much?”...
“We are being stuck with the bill for that and getting nothing in return,” Nick Singer [with the VOICE Coalition] said. “There’s nothing that is requiring these companies now to invest in infrastructure to prepare for future cold weather or natural disasters.”
[Photo credit: KFOR]
Together Louisiana is pressing for a bill that would retain local government say in the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), the corporate tax break that has cost local communities billions in past tax revenues.
Stephanie Riegel, a former journalist who is working for Citizen Voice, the advocacy arm of Together Louisiana, to push the bill, said there’s no evidence Louisiana is losing jobs over the changes made by [Gov.] Edwards, while locals are indisputably seeing more money flowing into their coffers. The governor’s changes allowed locals to keep 20% of tax revenue from new investments; industry gets an 80% exemption, down from 100% previously. It also gives local governments the ability to approve or reject exemption requests, where previously that authority rested wholly with the state Board of Commerce and Industry, whose members are appointed by the governor.
A Together Louisiana analysis found property tax revenue statewide increased by at least $262 million from 2016 to 2021, money that went to schools, law enforcement and other local services. The figures are preliminary and based on a review of about 90% of the exemptions over that period, meaning it’s likely a conservative estimate.
[Photo Credit:The Advocate]
After two weeks of intensive mobilizing by COPA (Communities Organized for relational Power in Action), leaders secured a nine-month, $1.59M extension of the VIDA community health worker (CHW) program in Monterey County. The 4-1 vote by the County Board of Supervisors extended the VIDA program at current levels to the end of 2022, preventing a reduction from 48 to 18 CHWs by the end of the month.
Prior to the vote, COPA leaders met with their district supervisors, telling stories about the impact of VIDA and asking that they support the extension.
At an online event drawing over 100 leaders, two County Supervisors and allies including the Community Foundation of Monterey County and the Grape Growers & Vintners Association, leaders taught attendees about the effectiveness of the program.
Fr. Lucas, a priest from King City, shared how he narrowly avoided infecting 200 parishioners at a weekend retreat because Maricela Acevedo, one of the CHWs, and a member of his parish persuaded him to test everyone prior. When one of the women on the kitchen crew was found to be positive, Maricela went to her house to test other family members.
Another woman, who speaks only Mixteco (an indigenous language in Mexico) got her questions about the vaccines answered only because one of the CHWs, Claudia, speaks both Mixteco and Spanish. Claudia not only helped the woman register for a vaccination appointment, she came to the house when called weeks later to administer rapid tests and help infected family members quarantine.
COPA first proposed the VIDA program to the Monterey County Supervisors, who voted unanimously in December of 2020 to allocate $4.9M to hire 100 CHWs. VIDA is administered by the Community Foundation of Monterey County.
[Photo Credit: Daniel Dreifuss, Monterey Weekly]
Local Organizations Seek County Support to Extend VIDA Community Health Worker Program, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
The book includes critical assessments of the status of Mexican Americans, none as important, in my judgment, as the emergence of “a professional and academic voice” among Latinos and the rise of major institutions to advocate for Mexican Americans and defend their rights.
Many of those institutions were born in San Antonio, including...COPS Metro, which has trained generations of community activists.
[Photo Credit: Matthew Busch, San Antonio Express-News]
One LA brought together over 115 parish leaders from across Los Angeles County to learn to heal the worst effects of the pandemic through conversation and broad-based action. The Most Reverend David O'Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles joined One LA's Recognizing the Stranger training and addressed the leaders and encouraged them in the development of a relational culture.
The training was sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, One-LA, and Organizers Institute.
"The Diocese of Monterey is in the beginning stages of the synod, training parish groups to go out and listen to the experiences of everyone, including those on the margins. Bishop Garcia and Deacon David Ford, who is leading the process in the diocese, both have experience working with community organizing groups in the past. They were quick to enlist their help with the synod.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said Bishop Garcia, who had been meeting with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, or COPA, since he arrived in Monterey. COPA is an association of community organizers based in California. “There are already some processes out there,” the bishop said. COPA “does a really good job of getting the pulse of the people. We’ve been really happy about how, at least initially, it’s going.”
Diocesan leaders planned to host five separate regional meetings to train leaders throughout the diocese about how to carry out the synod at their parish. Bishop Garcia invited pastors to attend along with a group of parishioners who would lead the synod at their church."
[Photo Credit:Diocese of Monterey]
A California Bishop Invited Community Organizers to Help with the Synod. So Far, It’s Working, America the Jesuit Review [pdf]
COPA Key Partner in Distribution of $6.75 Million in Rental Assistance to Low-Income Families in Monterey County
COPA (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action) has been a key community partner in distributing $2.75 million of Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds in 2021, and will help distribute an additional $4 million in 2022.
Hartnell College Foundation received the ERAP funds from Monterey County United Way in 2021, and partnered with the COPA and Mujeres in Accíon to reach those in greatest need. COPA worked with member congregations to identify families who, due to reduced income due to COVID-19, are struggling to cover rent or utilities. COPA leaders guide them through the application process for emergency rent and utility assistance.
[Photo: Tere Simancas and Luis Arreguín help people fill out housing assistance applications outside Our Lady of Refuge in Castroville, CA. Credit: Adriana Molina, Voices of Monterey Bay]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and St. Francis Xavier Catholic leaders leveraged more than $5 million to improve neighborhood safety in the Maryvale region of Phoenix following a year-long organizing effort.
In Spring 2021, leaders from St. Francis Xavier began a house meeting campaign to develop a team of leaders to learn about issues affecting Maryvale families. Leaders heard stories about unlit neighborhoods, gang activity, and dangerous streets. They moved to meet with City of Phoenix council members from districts 4 & 5 to secure commitments from them to address these issues.
By the summer of 2021, VIP and St. Francis Xavier leaders secured more than 30 new street lamps in the same sites VIP leaders had identified as needing lighting and where crime was an issue.
In early 2022, the Phoenix City Council voted to approve more than $5 million dollars to create a safety corridor along 27th Avenue -- installing new lighting and traffic cameras, implementing street safety features and assigning added officers to address ongoing vandalism and gang activity. At the time of the vote, Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor recognized VIP for its work in bringing this issue to the City's attention and making this project a possibility.
[In photo, St. Francis Xavier and VIP leader Catalina Aldaco announces the win at VIP's leaders assembly.]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP), along with allied organizations, temporarily averted a $1 billion funding crisis for Arizona public schools. A decades-old spending limit would have required school districts to abide by 1980 spending levels without legislative action. Normally, the legislature would vote to override the limit as a routine procedure. However, partisan brinkmanship, amidst a closely divided legislature, led to individual legislators withholding their votes.
While school district budgets were based on funding that the Legislature had approved last year, this arbitrary spending limit, if left unchecked, would have resulted in massive budget cuts as soon as April 1, 2022. The cuts would have amounted to $1.2 billion statewide, resulting in widespread layoffs or school closures.
VIP leaders met with individual legislators and mobilized a flood of constituent phone calls in key areas. On February 21st, only one week before the statutory deadline, the Senate followed the House's lead and voted to allow school districts to exceed the arbitrary spending limit for the current school year.
While leaders celebrated the last-minute fix, the long-term outlook has Arizona revisiting this crisis every year until voters can repeal the outdated spending limit. VIP leaders hosted a leaders assembly with two senators to explore a more permanent resolution.
[In photo: Revs. Brooke Isingoma and Martha Seaman discuss the spending limit with State Senators Tyler Pace and Sean Bowie.]
"Arizona Senate Votes to Raise Education Spending Limit, Avoiding Big School Funding Cuts," Arizona Republic [pdf]