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AIN Leverages $5 Million to Expand Career Pathways in Arizona

Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN) leveraged a $5 million investment from the state of Arizona to help hundreds of families step into economic security with the expansion of long-term workforce development initiatives JobPath in Pima County and Arizona Career Pathways in Maricopa County.

AIN leaders worked with state legislators to direct $5 million from Arizona’s federal Coronavirus relief funding to expand the program in the wake of the pandemic.  This investment will ensure that low-income families can access high-quality education and training for lower earning families.

The completion rate for Arizona Career Pathways is 90%, the job placement rate is 85%, and the average starting wage is $24.50 per hour.

JobPath is an initiative of Pima County Interfaith and Arizona Career Pathways is a Valley Interfaith Project initiative.


Light in the Midst of Disaster: TNO Launches Community Lighthouse Microgrid Strategy

[Excerpt]

When Hurricane Ida knocked out the eight transmission lines carrying electricity into New Orleans in September, many people spent days in the dark.

Brenda Lomax-Brown, president of the city’s Hollygrove-Dixon Neighborhood Association, said median incomes of around $30,000 made it difficult for many in the area to evacuate or afford generators. Challenges included spoiled food, the inability to refrigerate medicine, and the difficulty for the elderly to find a place to stay cool. Cell phones died and cut off communications.

Pastor_Gregory_Manning_Broadmoor_Community_Curch_Kathleen_Flynn_WSJ.jpeg“People were desperate,” said Ms. Lomax-Brown. “Without your phone you can’t communicate with your loved ones who may be out of town, or with your neighbors to let them know how their house fared.”

New Orleans nonprofits are now stepping in to try to provide emergency power. Together New Orleans, a coalition of religious and civic groups, is raising money to add rooftop solar with batteries to 85 congregations and community centers. Their goal is for everyone in New Orleans to be a mile or less away from what they are calling “community lighthouses,” said Gregory Manning, pastor at Broadmoor Community Church.

“You get the ordinary benefits of solar, but if and when the grid goes out, you’ve got a real network that can respond,” said Together New Orleans organizer Broderick Bagert.

[Photo: Pastor Gregory Manning Broadmoor Community Church, New Orleans, LA. Credit Kathleen Flynn, Wall Street Journal]

Wary of Being Left in the Dark, Americans Produce Their Own PowerWall Street Journal, Jennifer Hiller [pdf]


Coloradans for the Common Good Calls on City & County to Invest Recovery Funds in Housing Preservation & Affordability

[Excerpts]

Several organizations, including Coloradans for the Common Good, have met with Arvada and Jefferson County leaders for many years to discuss the need to address the affordable housing crisis in the region, they said.

“Our message is that they cannot just rely on the faith communities and nonprofits to solve this problem,” according to a press release from Coloradans for the Common Good. “Government agencies have a role to help ensure that everyone has a safe roof over their heads.”

City of Arvada and Jefferson County leaders recently received more than $120 million in stimulus payments from the federal government, and Coloradans for the Common Good and their allies are asking elected officials to put a substantial sum of the money toward preserving and expanding affordable housing, so that the trend does not continue in the community.

[Photo Credit: Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun]

One Apartment Building Changing Hands Sheds Light on the Dire Shortage of Affordable Housing in ArvadaColorado Sun [pdf]


MOC Creates Permanent Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness in Marin County

Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) has for several years worked toward developing permanent housing solutions for unsheltered people.  That goal was advanced Tuesday, as the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to accept a state "Project Homekey" grant and move forward with a site in an abandoned nursing home, creating permanent supportive housing for 43 people.

Hundreds of leaders from MOC member institutions signed and shared the petition in support of the project, wrote letters to the Board, and spoke at the Board meeting both in person and over Zoom. While the project faced significant opposition, MOC demonstrated to elected officials that MOC leaders support and believe in this project. 

[In photo: Former nursing home to be converted into permanent, supportive housing. Credit: Shary LaVars, Marin Independent Journal]

Marin Voice: In Support of ‘Housing First,’ Supervisors Should Push for Larkspur Homekey SiteMarin Independent Journal [pdf]


Texas IAF Orgs Impede Plans to Conceal Chapter 313 Data

Following an opposition campaign by Texas IAF organizations, Comptroller Glenn Hegar is backing away from his proposal to gut Chapter 313 reporting and accountability requirements in the program’s final year of existence. Hegar signaled the change Friday after significant pushback by Chapter 313 critics, including a press conference held by Texas IAF organizations in December, and a barrage of public comments submitted to his office against the proposal, with the largest portion coming from Texas IAF leaders.

During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Texas IAF, along with allies, stopped the reauthorization of Chapter 313, the State’s largest corporate tax subsidy program. Though the current program, which costs taxpayers $1-2 Billion per year, is set to expire in December of 2022, Comptroller Hegar had proposed in November to reduce the reporting requirements on jobs, wages, and overall costs to taxpayers.

“Comptroller Hegar has recognized the voices of voters from across the political spectrum, including our organizations, and now says the data we are concerned will continue to be available,” said Bob Fleming, a leader with The Metropolitan Organization, the IAF affiliate in Houston. “However, we remain vigilant because he says the rules will still be revised and made ‘more efficient’. Given the history of this failed and discontinued program, we need even more transparency and accountability, not less.”

 

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]

After Backlash, Texas Comptroller Abandons Plan to Hide Details of Controversial Tax Break ProgramHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Press Release


AMOS Leaders Create New Child Crisis Support System in Iowa

In Des Moines, Iowa AMOS leaders organized a listening campaign in which they learned how the pandemic was wreaking havoc on the mental health of their children.  They then launched a research campaign with 85 local officials and health system leaders to undergird the creation a new child crisis support system in central Iowa that includes: the hiring of two mobile crisis responders trained to work with children and adolescents by the Broadlawns Medical Center; a new Polk County Children’s Crisis Mental Health System including a warm line, community stabilization team, youth stabilization center; and youth-trained mobile crisis team.  At a delegates assembly, leaders furthermore secured commitments from the Des Moines Police Chief to hire a mental health clinician within 911 dispatch.

Each piece required careful consideration and mobilization of community leadership to demonstrate political support.  For example, 100 AMOS leaders appeared at a Broadlawns Medical Center Board Meeting to support the hiring of two mobile crisis responders trained to work with children and adolescents.  During the hearing, one of the Trustees declared, "Wow, that's a lot of people."  

AMOS leaders followed up on this and other plants of the program, inspired by thousands of Polk County residents who shared stories based on their experiences, conducted research, and organized postcard campaigns and neighborhood walks over 4 years to make new children's crisis support system a reality.

New Mental Health Resources Coming for Children in Polk CountyDes Moines Register  [pdf]

Polk County Unveils New Mental Health Services for ChildrenKCCI Des Moines [pdf]


In Memoriam: Michael Clements (1945 - 2022)

With sadness, we report the loss of Michael Clements, longtime IAF organizer. He served as organizer with TMO and predecessor organizations of One-LA during a career that spanned four decades.

[Excerpts]

After supporting farm workers [with United Farm Workers of America], Clements joined the Industrial Areas Foundation, the longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations in the nation, and moved to Houston to work for the organization... [Back in California], Clements crossed paths with Fred Ross, Sr.... 

Said Fred Ross, Jr., a Bay Area-based social justice organizer: “My father respected Mike and saw him as one of the up-and- coming organizers back in 1985.”

....

Said [Cardinal Roger] Mahony, “He was the epitome of a great community organizer backed up by his wonderful Catholic faith, especially the social teachings of the church, which he knew inside and out from the Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 all the way to Pope Francis today.”

[Photo Credit: Scott Smeltzer, Los Angeles Times]


VOICE Gathers to Challenge Congressional Representatives to Condemn Jan. 6 Insurrection

VOICE_leader_Rev._Davies.png

Members of VOICE-OKC gathered in Oklahoma City to challenge the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

[Excerpt]VOICE_rally.jpg

"A small group braved frigid temperatures in Oklahoma City on Thursday to assert their support of democracy, a system they believe was threatened by the riot at U.S. Capitol a year ago.
....
"I am here today because I feel like our democracy...is really important for the people," said Maureen Harvey, chair of Voices Organized in Civic Engagement, or VOICE. "And our representatives are acting like nothing happened."
....

[Remarking on the grief felt about the Jan. 6 insurrection], "...many people saw this as an assault and not just against this country, not just against our seat of government and our democracy and free elections, but against their life's work," said the Rev. Diana Davies, of the First Unitarian Church in Oklahoma City.

 

[Photo Credit: Doug Hoke and Addison Kliewer, The Oklahoman]

Oklahomans Gather to Reflect on Anniversary of Jan. 6 InsurrectionThe Oklahoman [pdf]


Texas IAF Calls On State Comptroller to Abandon Plan to Gut Chapter 313 Subsidy Accountability Requirements

[Excerpt]

"Lawmakers have ordered Comptroller Glenn Hegar to wrap up Texas’s biggest corporate tax break program, but he wants to give companies one last gift: an end to public accountability.

Activists, corporate relocation specialists and lawmakers are scrambling to comment on Hegar’s proposal that companies no longer report key data about their progress toward meeting the terms of their property tax abatement agreements.

....

Interfaith groups that fought the corporate giveaway that hurts Texas children demanded Hegar roll back his plan on Wednesday.

....

“What is the benefit of less accountability and less transparency?” San Antonio state Senator José Menéndez asked at a Texas Industrial Areas Foundation press conference. “The taxpayer should know how their money is going to be used and what they are getting in exchange.”"

Texas Comptroller Proposes Covering Up Corporate Welfare ProgramThe Houston Chronicle [pdf]

Network of Texas IAF Organizations, along with Public Officials, Hold Press Conference to Call on Comptroller Hegar to Abandon Attempt to Gut Chapter 313 Transparency and Accountability, Texas IAF


VOICE-OKC Denounces Oklahoma Corporation Commission for Failure to Protect Consumers During Freeze

[Excerpt from Guest Column by VOICE-OKC leaders]

"In the matter of the February Freeze and utility costs, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) is failing us. 

OCC's own "Vision" promises to "hold itself and utilities accountable to the citizens of Oklahoma," but it allows secrecy and evades answering public questions. 

VOICE is a coalition of churches and community groups concerned about issues affecting families, so we looked at OCC documents. Utilities don't profit from the February price spikes, so why secrecy? In the middle of the freeze, Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG) asked the OCC on Feb. 16 to keep all price records secret. The OCC said yes after just 48 hours.

We now know that ONG put Oklahomans in debt by an extra $1.3 billion in just nine days.

.... VOICE-OKC made the common-sense suggestion that when home energy prices spike suddenly, consumers should receive real-time updates from utilities. Imagine how much more conservation would have occurred in February if utilities (as they knew) said "your price for energy tomorrow is going up by 500%." However, OCC has dismissed this idea; it's another example of OCC favoring monopoly corporations over consumers."

[Photo Credit: From right to left: Eric Jergensen, President of VOICE Action Fund and S. Bennet Goldman, a member of VOICE through First Unitarian Church of OKC. Via The Oklahoman]

Viewpoint: Oklahoma Corporation Commission Is Failing Consumers on Utility Price HikesThe Oklahoman [pdf]