Building upon a three-year conversation campaign, Albuquerque Interfaith burst back onto the political scene with a clear cut strategy for the 2019 biennial New Mexico Legislative Session.
Through house meetings, civic academies, research actions and nonpartisan accountability assemblies, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders developed a legislative agenda to address four areas of concern: 1) Neighborhood Preservation, Community Safety and the Criminal Justice System; 2) Strengthening Schools and Public Education for All; 3) Immigrant Justice, Worker Protection and Workforce Development; and 4) Rebuilding our Behavioral Health System and Health Security for All.
Acting in teams, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders plan to track relevant legislation, gather political intelligence, testify, and advocate for their legislative agenda through collaboration with key legislators supporting bills that intersect with the ABQ Interfaith agenda. Sunday handoffs between institutional teams are already happening to ensure no political intelligence is lost.
Through public action in the Legislative Session, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders hope to restore the foundation of public investments in children and fulfill their vision of creating an “inclusive, multicultural community where children thrive and there is justice and well-being for all.”
In preparation for the Oklahoma City Council Election on February 12th, leaders of Voice OKC held an accountability session with candidates to hear their positions on aspects that tie in with concerns they have identified at their institutions through conversations. In a full sanctuary, the candidates addressed the questions posed by Voice OKC leaders regarding the importance of improving sidewalks and bus stops, the need to raise the $200,000.00 city's budget for social services such as healthcare and housing, the emphasis on MAPS 4 projects that actually benefit the daily life of voters as opposed to large-capital projects and the search for a new Police chief who will avoid unrest and racial profiling.
By engaging with candidates through this accountability session, VOICE OKC leaders secure commitments from the candidates on issues identified by VOICE members and part of the community agenda. Following the accountability session, the leaders return to their institutions to reflect on the candidates’ articulated positions on each of the issues and proceed to the polls to make an informed voting decision. In this way, VOICE OKC leaders fulfill their mission: “to work within the democratic process with civic leaders and public officials on issues of concern to families.”
Oklahoma City council candidates hold forum, Fox 25 News
[Remarks below by Dianne Hanley of Together Baton Rouge, delivered at Baton Rouge City Hall]
After the organizing efforts of Together Baton Rouge led to the denial of Exxon Mobil’s tax exemption requests through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program by the Parish School Board, Exxon Mobil withdrew additional tax exemption requests the day before going before the Metro Council for approval. Leaders celebrated Exxon Mobil’s decision to pull the requests for tax exemptions since these did not conform to the clear standards for ITEP established by the city.
About this victory, which results in $6 Million for East Baton Rouge Parish, $2.9 Million for the school district and up to $3 Million for city government, Together BR leader Rev. Lee T. Wesley said that “local standards provide the thing that’s most important, both for our corporate partners and for our community, which is predictability, what’s new is that, for once, it’s not the predictability of a rubber-stamp; it’s the predictability of a genuine standard. That’s a positive and important change.”
At the same time, Together Baton Rouge publicly recognized and commended ExxonMobil’s investment in the community through education and other initiatives. “ExxonMobil is a major asset to our community with a local team that often goes above and beyond to support community efforts,” Together Baton Rouge stated.
[Photo Credit: Hilary Scheinuk, The Advocate]
After almost four years of political battle, leaders of Together Baton Rouge secured a momentous victory: the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted down Exxon Mobil’s request to receive a tax exemption through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, resulting in $2.9 Million for public schools.
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. Total reduced tax giveaways are estimated to be enough to raise the pay of East Baton Rouge teachers by thousands per year.
According to Dianne Hanley, Together Baton Rouge has been "working on this for three years, and what we have now is an open public process that the local entities are getting engaged in and the people are getting engaged in....that is democracy at work.”
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.”
Why Louisiana Stays Poor, Together Baton Rouge [video]
Following up on a commitment leveraged in a nonpartisan accountability assembly last fall, Pima County Interfaith leaders met with Rep. Kirsten Engel to advance the PCI agenda of issues. Leaders engaged with the legislator around concerns related to education, food security, the environment and health -- and potential opportunities in the upcoming legislative session to advance these concerns.
Rep. Kirsten Engel had attended the Pima County Interfaith Accountability Session in September, along with other candidates, and publicly committed to collaborating with leaders, if elected.
Colorado IAF Secures Commitments from DPS Board Members to Engage in Bargaining Process, Support Teachers’ Demands for Fair Compensation
One month before a potential strike vote for Denver educators, who have been negotiating with the district for over a year to improve compensation and address teacher turnover, nearly 400 educators, students, parents, and community members gathered at the Montbello High School Auditorium to share stories regarding the state of schools in Northeast Denver and discuss the need for increased teacher compensation. Organized by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation (CO IAF), the assembly represented a broad-based network of schools, congregations, unions, and non-profits.
Colorado IAF and DCTA leaders secured commitments from DPS board members Jennifer Bacon and Dr. Carrie Olson to participate in the upcoming bargaining sessions and to support teachers’ demands for fair compensation. This will be the first time in recent memory that DPS board members will take an active role in bargaining to support teachers.
When Ms. Bacon and Dr. Olson were asked if they would support the union’s demands for fair compensation, they both answered with a resounding “yes!” Ms. Bacon, whose district includes Montbello, assured the assembly that she has instructed the senior staff to “get to work and find the money” to support the teachers. Dr. Olson made the commitment “not just to listen, but to act.”
DPS interim superintendent Ron Cabrera and the next superintendent, Susana Cordova, were present. Sen. Angela Williams, Rep. James Coleman, and City Councilmember Stacie Gilmore also committed to working with DCTA and Colorado IAF to address the issues raised.
As the assembly unfolded, DPS board members Angela Cobian and Barbara O’Brien reached out to the organizations, committing to meet with them and answer those same questions before bargaining resumes in early January.
Teachers in Colorado make on average 37.1% less than other professionals with similar education, and compensation for Denver teachers lags that of nearby districts. Furthermore, Denver’s salary system for teachers, ProComp, puts substantial money in one-time incentives that are unreliable and unpredictable – meaning educators cannot plan for their future. This contributes to a high teacher turnover rate, resulting in over 3 of 10 Denver teachers being in their first three years of teaching.
AMOS Announces Support for Des Moines Local Option Sales Tax, Big Step Forward for Children's Mental Health
During the summer of 2018, AMOS leaders in Des Moines engaged more than 500 families around the question, "What matters enough to you that you would be willing to raise your own taxes to see it happen?" Out of these conversations, AMOS leaders crafted a proposal of six funding priorities to include in the city's upcoming a one-cent sales tax proposal. The now released and approved city spending resolution includes five of our funding priorities, and AMOS leaders have secured a separate commitment from the city to address the sixth.
At a press conference Monday, AMOS announced support for the local option sales tax initiative. AMOS Children's Mental Health Team co-chair Connie McKeen, of Walnut Hills United Methodist, proclaimed it a big step for another AMOS priority: children's mental health services.
Mrs. McKeen announced the formation of a Task Force of elected officials, mental healthcare providers, and community leaders who have committed to work together to implement a Children's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit and Crisis Observation. This team will identify the staffing, funding, and location for these crisis services to open by June 30, 2020.
Co-Chairing this Task Force on behalf of AMOS are Dr. Linda Krypel, of First Unitarian of Des Moines and co-chair of the AMOS Children's Mental Health Team, and Teresa Bomhoff of NAMI Greater Des Moines.
Members of the Task Force include, to date, the Mayor of Des Moines, Polk County Supervisor, Des Moines Public School President, CEO of Broadlawns Hospital and other key public and private health executives.
Local Option Sales Tax Planned for March 5 Vote in Des Moines, Business Record
Des Moines Will Vote on Sales Tax Increase in March, Des Moines Register
Group Pushes Des Moines to Use Sales Tax Money to Extend Library Hours, Des Moines Register
In August 1974, the same month that President Richard M. Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal, COPS members marched on City Hall and demanded better drainage.
Some areas of the city lacked paved streets, running water, sanitary sewer service, adequate police protection and other basics.
The group won the support of Mayor Charles Becker, who worked to pass a $46.8 million bond issue to fund long-neglected drainage projects on the West Side.
With a power base that was rooted in Catholic parishes, COPS members focused their anger in a positive way, remaining vocal but never violent, and brought lasting change.
[In photo: Candidates for District 6 listen to a question in a 1983 COPS “accountability session.” Staff File Photo, San Antonio Express-News]
Grassroots Group Energized Hispanics: COPS Launched Efforts in 1974 to Improve Basic City Services, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
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 unincorporated Marin, 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 [pdf]
For the second time in 2018, Marin Organizing Committee leaders stood on the front lines of the fight against astronomical rent increases that put in jeopardy the ability of Canal tenants to afford to stay in their homes. In August, right before the start of the school year, tenants of a different apartment complex received notice of a 40% increase in rent. MOC worked on a political strategy, including a press conference/rally with clergy and school district speakers and meetings with the tenants and public officials, that pressured the landlords into negotiating a better deal for the tenants. . In addition, MOC led the effort to establish, in Marin County territory as a first step, a ‘Just Cause Ordinance' that requires landlords to have a just cause for eviction. While this ordinance does not apply to rental housing in cities, the ordinance does include, for the first time, tracking of landlord activity across all Marin County.
In December, tenants at a second apartment complex in the Canal received notice of a 65% increase in rent to begin on February 1, 2019, as well as some eviction notices. In response, Marin Organizing Committee leaders took matters to San Rafael City Council and asked the City to implement a ‘just cause’ ordinance which would require the landlord to have a justified cause for eviction similar to that approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors earlier in the fall. Furthermore, MOC leaders urged the City to provide county mediation between landlords and tenants when rent is increased more than 5% a year. At the City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Phillips publicly stated that the city would consider implementing both practices in upcoming months, and directed the City Attorney to research whether the City Council could enact an emergency moratorium on rent increases and evictions in the meantime.
San Rafael Activists Rally Against Canal 65% Rent Hike, Marin Independent Journal