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Corridor Interfaith Expands Capital IDEA into Hays County

Leveraging $25,000 for long-term job training, Corridor Interfaith leaders from Living Word Lutheran and San Marcos Unitarian Universalism, along with Capital IDEA alumni, succeeded in persuading Hays County Commissioners to invest local dollars into Capital IDEA.  Once matched with state ACE funding, the investment will allow 7-10 Hays County students to train out of poverty and into middle-class careers. 

Leaders met with their Hays County representatives over several months to educate them about Capital IDEA and to advocate for the inclusion of funding in the 2020 budget.  At the final budget hearing at the commissioners' court, the request was quickly moved forward and approved!

Together Baton Rouge Argues (Again): We Are #BetterTogether

Numbers used by proponents of St. George breakaway "just don't add up"

In 2015, an effort to carve out a southeast portion of East Baton Rouge to form a new city called St. George failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.  Local organizations, including Together Baton Rouge, helped lead the effort against the St. George petition. 

This year, proponents returned with a similar proposal to breakaway, but under significantly different conditions.  In the latest video released by 'Together Baton Rouge' (at right), leaders point out that numbers utilized by proponents of the St. George breakaway effort simply don't add up.  In addition to a significant drop in ethnic diversity within newly drawn lines, residents would likely be faced with immediate tax hikes and public safety subsidies to make the finances work. 

Civic academies about the upcoming vote have drawn significant crowds, including one session (photo above) at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church which drew 150 residents and congregational leaders.  A teaching on public finance, delivered by local professors, informed small group conversations led by local leaders. 

According to Together Baton Rouge,"We heard from a variety of voices and opinions, but the one thing that was clear is there is a strong desire for more honest information about what the true cost of the breakaway would mean, both for those in St. George and the larger EBR Parish."

The vote on whether to form a breakaway city is set for October 12th. 

Confusion about St. George Comes From PromotersThe Advocate


American Enterprise Institute to Research Capital IDEA in Austin


Last week, the New York Times highlighted a workforce training program in San Antonio called Project QUEST that helps hundreds of people every year move out of poverty and into sustainable employment. A recent analysis of the program was particularly encouraging. Nine years after entering training, participants are still experiencing high rates of employment and earning over $5,000 more annually than a similar group that didn’t participate in the program. Such outcomes are rare in workforce development programs.

The Times article came out just as AEI’s Vocation, Career, and Work research team began discussions with Capital IDEA in Austin, Texas, an organization that uses a model similar to Project QUEST. Capital IDEA has been working with low-income families in Austin for more than 20 years to move workers from low-wage to middle-skill jobs. In 2018, program graduates earned an average starting wage of $22 per hour. A previous analysis of the program has found sustained wage gains at least four years after program completion.

[Photo Credit: RealClear Policy]

Note: Capital IDEA is a long-term workforce development program established by Austin Interfaith.  Project QUEST was established by COPS/Metro in San Antonio.

In Austin, a Public/Private Partnership for Workforce SuccessRealClear Policy 

Colorado IAF Digs Into Workplace Rules, Wages

[Excerpt below]

The Division of Labor Standards and Statistics, part of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, is looking at whether to update the Colorado Minimum Wage Order, which hasn’t had a major overhaul in two decades.

In a public hearing on the topic Wednesday in Denver, labor advocates pushed for two key changes. They want all industries covered under state rules, and they want a minimum salary cutoff for when overtime must be paid added.

“Workers need to be paid fairly for the work they do,” argued Marilyn Winokur, a Denver resident, with the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation. “It is not good for Colorado workers to be overworked and underpaid.

[Photo Credit: RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post]

Colorado Weighs a Major Overhaul on WagesThe Denver Post

PCI Organizer Ana Chavarin Wins National Recognition

Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was recently named the 2019 National Recipient of the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

This honor, awarded annually to an outstanding young adult, recognizes the leadership, energy and diverse skills that young people bring to the anti-poverty work of community organizing projects and Catholic parishes.

Ana was nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity, and she will be formally presented with the Cardinal Bernadin award at the November meeting of the US Catholic Bishops to be held in Baltimore later this year.

Ana has worked with PCI for the past four years. 

In 2018 she won a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) award for Hispanic Catholic Leaders (see below).   She was also recognized by the Arizona Daily Star for her community achievements (see further below).  

Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for JusticeUSCCB 

Neto's Tucson: Ana Chavarin is a Single Mom, an Immigrant and a SuccessArizona Daily Star [pdf]

TIME: 'Trauma Doesn't Go Away by Itself'

Included in recent TIME reporting was an assembly organized by EPISO/Border Interfaith in which 300 institutional leaders gathered alongside 12 local, state and congressional leaders who all pledged to reassure the community -- especially its most vulnerable members.  

At one point, the assembly intentionally broke out into small group check-ins responding to the questions: "How are you doing? What do you need?"  Heartfelt conversations around the room elicited emotional stories from attendees, public officials, and even media covering the gathering.  

In the assembly, Texas State Representative Cesar Blanco committed to working with the Texas IAF network to identify state emergency resources for counseling and professional services for El Paso schools.  He also committed to developing a plan for state legislation promoting gun safety, including bans on assault rifles, universal background checks, and red flag alerts. 

At the urging of EPISO/Border Interfaith leaders, school officials agreed to coordinate direct support for families most in need of care to process the shooting.   

Leaders are continuing to focus public officials on a mental health response, as part of a comprehensive approach to recent shootings. 

'Trauma Doesn't Go Away By Itself.' How El Paso is Tackling Mental Health Stigma After the Walmart Mass ShootingTIME Magazine [pdf]

VOICE OKC Organizes for Improved City Human Services

[Excerpt below]

Earlier this year, Tena Jefferson received a late-night call from Oklahoma City police while she was out of town. Her house had been broken into, and the officer had the suspect in custody.

It was a family member who was dealing with mental illness problems and had recently been released from the hospital.

“The officer was very, very nice when I explained the situation,” Jefferson recalled. “But he said the only thing I could do is either charge him or (the officer) could turn him loose on the street. Those were my two options. Neither one acceptable.”

This story is not unique to members of VOICE, a local civic engagement organization made up of worker’s groups, various nonprofits, church congregations and others....

[Photo Credit: Phil Landsberger, The Oklahoman]

Many OKC Residents Want MAPS 4 to Focus on Social Services, Human NeedsThe Oklahoman [pdf]

New York Times: Job Training Can Change Lives. See How San Antonio Does It.


The economic odds facing Avigail Rodriguez a few years ago couldn’t have been much worse. An undocumented immigrant and a single mother, she lived in a cramped apartment in a tough neighborhood in San Antonio and earned just $9 an hour working as a nurse’s assistant.

Today, Ms. Rodriguez, 26, owns her own home in a safer area, earns nearly three times as much as she did before and has secured legal residency. The key to her turnaround was a training program called Project Quest, whose own ability to beat the odds is no less striking than that of Ms. Rodriguez.Project Quest has succeeded where many similar retraining efforts have failed, taking workers lacking in skills and successfully positioning them for jobs where they can earn double or triple what they did previously.

“This really gives employers a chance to find workers they wouldn’t otherwise have considered,” said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University. “At the same time, it provides opportunities to a rather disadvantaged group of workers, both younger and older.”


Project Quest was born 27 years ago in a Hispanic neighborhood in San Antonio where poverty rates are above the citywide average. After the closing of a Levi Strauss factory there, community groups [i.e. COPS/Metro, see comment at right] created Project Quest as a way of preparing workers for better-paying, more highly skilled jobs that were less vulnerable but still in demand.

[Photo Credit: Joanna Kulesza, New York Times]

Job Training Can Save Lives. See How San Antonio Does It.New York Times [pdf]

EPISO Leaders Rev. Matta & De Avila: We Must Not Let Fear Succeed in Creating Distrust, Hateful Fear

[Excerpt below]

On Aug. 3, our El Paso community was viciously attacked, and we are experiencing deep grief. Yes, we need to take the necessary time to process this pain and publicly lament together. But soon we must also begin to channel this sense of loss to reclaim a sense of community that we will all be proud of.     

Terrorism wants to create mistrust and deep hateful fear. Such fear works to drive people away from one another. It scapegoats the immigrant, people of color, those of different faith traditions, people of a different culture and language. It twists and turns us to make others seem not human. 

That is not El Paso, and we must not let fear succeed....

We Must Not Let Fear Succeed in Creating Distrust, Hateful FearEl Paso Times [pdf]