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]
San Antonio Nearing $1 Million Policy for Low-Income Families Facing Rising Housing Costs, Eviction, San Antonio Express-News
City Considers Fast-Tracking Housing Displacement Prevention Policy, Rivard Report [pdf]
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 top 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, in top 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. In bottom photos, Alamo Colleges workers Jose Rodriguez and Jennifer Wilgen describe the impact of the wage raise.
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 Credits: Top left and bottom photos by Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News; top right photo by Rafael Paz Parra]
Alamo Colleges, Other San Antonio Employers, Embrace 'Living Wage', San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Alamo College Trustees Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
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]
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]
COPS/Metro leaders Sister Jane Ann Slater of the Congregation of Divine Providence (and chancellor at the Archdiocese of San Antonio) and Linda Davila of St. Timothy Catholic Church penned an Oped calling on the Mayor to prevent displacement in San Antonio.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and members of the City Council have expressed concern about the Decade of Downtown causing neighborhood displacement. Nirenberg said it best last year, “We should not be resigned to displacement as an acceptable condition in the community.”
COPS/Metro takes the City Council at its word, but actions speak louder than words....
COPS/Metro supports a thriving downtown and the benefits that UTSA’s expansion will offer. We do not support development that pushes people out of their homes and uses public dollars to do the pushing. We are against development happening so fast and furiously that existing residents cannot take advantage of the improvements. Development must be planned so that it benefits everyone, not just developers. As it stands, the city’s decisions benefit developers with little consideration for current residents.
[Photo Credit: William Luther, San Antonio Express-News]
Responding to concerns raised by VOICE, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office announced the establishment of a Citizens Advisory Board. The need for the board rose to the leaders’ attention in 2016 through small group conversations hosted by institutions, in which leaders heard alarming stories about prison conditions and lack of transparency in the filing of complaints. At a 2017 accountability session, the Sheriff publicly committed to establishing the committee, if elected.
The Citizens Advisory Board will be formed by a diverse group of citizens interested in participating in the conversation with the Sheriff’s office and will serve as a sounding board to the Sheriff in all aspects of the agency. According to Sundra Flansburg, a leader with VOICE, the “CAB will be a great way for citizens to learn more about the jail and provide input on potential solutions for issues.”
At the same time, it offers citizens an opportunity to engage in the democratic process beyond the vote.
Oklahoma County Sheriff Forming Citizens Advisory Board, The Oklahoman
Acting on an extended house meeting campaign, in which leaders unearthed stories of payday lending entrapment, lack of affordable housing and concerns around public education, NCG launched a 5,000 postcard campaign to remind Southern Nevada legislators about commitments they had made on the campaign trail last year.
Leaders are calling for $500 million in new state funding for public schools, $40 million for an affordable housing tax credit program and improved payday lending enforcement across the state. With two proposals on the table that would cap interest rates on payday loans (which charge, on average, 652% in interest per year) NCG is pushing for better protections for financially vulnerable families.
Arguing that current City of San Antonio incentives are causing displacement, 100 COPS/Metro leaders pressured the mayor of San Antonio to directly prevent it.
Fr. Larry Christian, of St. Ann Catholic Church and COPS/Metro, called for increased public efforts to educate residents about available resources including “property tax freezes for senior citizens... and tax credits for homeowners that improve their homes.”
The mayor affirmed that he is listening to the organization and committed to collaborating with COPS/Metro leaders on this issue.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, Rivard Report]
After 500 tenants were forced out of their homes due to residential code violations by their landlords, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) leaders launched a campaign to ensure decent living standards for renters.
OTOC research actions on housing code violations soon revealed that the vast majority of violations occurred in low-income, predominantly minority communities with disproportionate numbers of elderly and refugee residents -- many of whom are reluctant to complain. OTOC leaders are now pushing for local changes including required registration of all residential rental property and proactive inspections by the City of Omaha.
At recent press conference, Dennis Walsh of OTOC argued, "Registration and inspection creates a healthier market not a more expensive market.”
Having helped shape Legislative Bill 85, which would require cities like Omaha to implement these reforms, Walsh and other OTOC leaders are mobilizing at the state level to ensure dignified housing.
Beckas Beat: Do We Live In a Perfect World?, FOX 42 News
New Website 'We Don't Slum' Aims to Put Pressure on Problem Landlords, Omaha World-Herald
Landlords, renters clash over idea of rental inspections in Omaha and Lincoln, Omaha World-Herald
OTOC Fact Sheet on LB 85, OTOC
Novato City Council Ponders Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal