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Amidst Deliberation Over $14.7M Taxpayer Subsidy for Tesla, Central TX Interfaith Calls for Living Wages

[Excerpts from Community Impact & Austin Monitor]

Travis County commissioners continue to consider a plan to offer electric automaker Tesla millions of dollars in economic incentives to build a factory in eastern Travis County, but with no date yet announced for a decision on the matter. If approved, Tesla could receive nearly $14.7 million in property tax rebates across 10 years with additional rebates in the 10 years following.

At the commissioners' June 30 meeting, Travis County community members again phoned in to voice support and concern regarding the proposed incentives. Several speakers encouraged the county to leverage for greater worker wage and protection commitments.

"We are skeptical. Numerous studies have shown that local governments rarely if ever receive benefits commensurate with what incentives cost, and, despite what they say, businesses rarely if ever give incentives much weight when deciding where to locate," said [Rev.] Michael
Floyd, who spoke on behalf of Central Texas Interfaith....

Floyd...pointed out that even at the average wage cited by Tesla, a family of three would still qualify for Travis County Rental Assistance. Currently, people earning 150 to 250 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, or $31,580 to $54,300, qualify to receive rental assistance from the county due to an expansion in eligibility requirements resulting from Covid-19.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy Tesla via Community Impact]

Travis County Continues Tesla Deliberations With No Date Set for Vote on Economic Incentives, Community Impact [pdf]

County Development Incentive for Tesla Sees More Support, Austin Monitor [pdf]


DAI, Catholic Bishop Worry About Undocumented in Latest Texas COVID Outbreak

As COVID-19 cases in North Texas rise again, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders and Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly fight for relief for undocumented immigrants.

Says Bishop Kelly:  "They don't have any access to any kind of support -- any kind of stimulus support -- and so they have to work..."

Recovered Covid-19 Patient Lives with Survivor's Guilt, CNN


Colorado IAF, UFCW Stand with Meat Packing Workers Who Died of Covid-19

[Excerpt]

Friends, loved ones, and fellow union members gathered in Greeley Sunday to remember the six JBS employees who died due to COVID-19. The memorial event was held by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which represents many employees at the meat packing plant.
The JBS plant in Greeley was home to one of the state’s earliest and largest coronavirus outbreaks. Since the beginning of April, 281 employees at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6 have died. According to state data, one employee from the corporate office also died....

“They had a name, they had a face, they had a heartbeat, they had a soul,” said Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7. “We should never let anybody forget what happened to these workers.”

“Employers like JBS must answer for not protecting its vulnerable workers,” said Jorge Montiel, an organizer with the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation. “City and county and state officials must answer for not ensuring our public health.”

‘They Had a Name, They Had a Face’: Union Honors JBS Workers Who Died Of Coronavirus, CBS Denver


COPS/Metro Advances Tenant Rights in San Antonio. Landlords Now Required to Inform Tenants of Rights

[Excerpt]

City council unanimously approved an ordinance Thursday requiring landlords and property managers to provide a document called a “notice of tenant’s rights” to tenants they want to evict, a measure they hope will curb evictions locally during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The notice informs renters of their rights within the eviction process, provides them a list of resources, including San Antonio’s COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program, and urges renters and landlords to resolve the dispute through a payment plan before both sides have to appear in court. Landlords who do not comply face a fine up to $500, and can be given multiple citations....

The ordinance has been crafted by housing advocates, including COPS/Metro, and landlord groups, including the San Antonio Apartment Association.

San Antonio Landlords Now Obligated to Inform Tenants of Rights, San Antonio Current [pdf]


Spokane Alliance Eases Covid-19 Pressures on Families and Hospitals

[Excerpt below]

The most important part of this COVID-19 pandemic has been making sure our local hospitals have enough bed space for anyone who comes in.

Well, Spokane Alliance, a non-profit organization, is helping that by assisting people who test positive for COVID-19 before they need emergency care. To top it off, their work is all done over the phone and it is free thanks to funding from the Innovia Foundation and Washington State University.

When a person in Spokane County tests positive, they can opt-in to Spokane Alliance’s program.

If they do, they’ll be paired with a trained volunteer who calls them every day for about two weeks.

“It’s basically just a way to connect people in the community, and work towards alleviating the pressures and stress that covid has brought to our community,” Community Organizer Chloe Sciammas said.

They’ll make sure the infected person has everything they need while self-isolating, connecting them to food, housing and medical resources with help from county officials.

Many COVID-19 patients who need hospital care are there for oxygen support. That’s why each patient in the program gets a “pulse oximeter”, which tracks their oxygen levels as if they were in the hospital.

“We can do that for someone at home when we call them everyday, so when someone says ‘oh it’s 85’, then we know they need to get medical care,” Clinical Professor Dr. Luis Manriquez said.

[Photo credit: footage from KXLY]

Spokane Alliance Eases Stress on Hospitals, Community with COVID-19 Volunteer Effort, KXLY [pdf]

'Working During the Pandemic Has Been Beyond Stressful', Governor Inslee Met With Frontline Workers During Spokane Visit, KREM2 [pdf]

News and Updates on the Covid-19 Pandemic in Washington State, KUOW [pdf]


Texas IAF Celebrates $350M Won in Local Relief, Launches GOTV Effort for Fall

Exceeding their turnout goal by 50%, more than 1,500 leaders from Texas IAF organizations assembled online and in (socially distanced) watch parties to launch a Get Out The Vote drive, pledging to deliver 200,000 voters this fall to support a nonpartisan agenda for change.

Declared the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson, pastor of Abundant Life United Methodist Church and leader with TMO: "Here today are the prophets like Moses who are called to set the people free.  Set them free from slave jobs, set them free from not having access to mental health for our adult and children, set them free from police brutality and set them free from inequality!  The Texas IAF network is ready to take to the streets and sign up voters to our agenda of issues and March them to the polls starting October 19 for early voting through election day on November 3rd."

Bishops, clergy, lay leaders, and community leaders from 10 Texas IAF organizations ratified an agenda that includes COVID-19 recovery, workforce development, healthcare access, immigration, and police reform.  Speakers included: Catholic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller (Archdiocese of San Antonio), Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly (Diocese of Dallas), Rabbi Alan Freedman (Temple Beth Shalom in Austin), Danielle Alan of Harvard University, Paul Osterman of MIT, Luke Bretherton of Duke University, Charles Sabel of the Economic Policy Institute, and Teresa Ghilarducci and Richard McGahey of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. 

Similar statewide “Sign Up-Take Charge/Get Out The Vote” campaigns by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations have netted over $2 Billion in infrastructure funding for colonias along the border, tens of millions for workforce development for living wage jobs, over $50 Million for public school parent training and staff development, expansion of CHIP and Medicaid at the state level, and living wage measures in cities, counties, and school districts across the state.

Over the past three months Texas IAF organizations have focused on COVID-19 recovery, leveraging over $250,000,000 in rental/utility assistance and $100,000,000 in workforce development at the city and county levels, in addition to statewide and local moratoriums for utility cutoffs and evictions.

“We've won hundreds of millions in immediate COVID-19 economic relief, our organizations are now focusing on longer term workforce and economy recovery strategies brought about by the pandemic,” said Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a leader with St. Michael’s Episcopal and Central Texas Interfaith. “This includes long-term training for in-demand living wage jobs, reducing underlying health care disparities, and education investments like internet connectivity for students from low-income communities to bridge the digital divide.”       

Leaders pledged to identify 5,700 leaders in house meetings and small group gatherings this summer and prepare them to each deliver 36 voters to the polls this fall.   



TMO Clergy, with Bishops, Call for a Regional 'Justice Summit' to Address Police Misconduct

[Excerpt]
The Metropolitan Organization calls for the following areas to be addressed:

1. Changing the present culture within police departments from a culture of intimidation and punitive responses to one of community policing which focuses on developing relationships within the community.

2. Raising the hiring standards of police to increase the degree of professionalism.

3. Effective and rapid implementation by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement of their recent decision to require all Texas police officers to learn how implicit bias can affect their actions.

4. Require the introduction of programs in all police departments to provide for the ongoing mental health wellness and care for the mental health needs of officers.

5. The elimination of qualified immunity that shields law enforcement officers from being sued for their discretionary actions.

6. The establishment of Independent Police Auditors with subpoena power in municipalities to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct.

7. Timely and effective investigation of all police shootings, allegations of excessive force and in-custody deaths by the Harris County District Attorney Civil Rights Division and prosecution of all officers where it is warranted.

[Photo credit: Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle]

Opinion: Faith leaders Call For Justice Summit With Government And Community Leaders To Reduce Police MisconductHouston Chronicle [pdf]


Together Baton Rouge Calls for Resignation of Officer with History of Excessive Force from Civil Service Board

[Excerpts]

Together Baton Rouge is calling for the immediate resignation of Cpl. Robert Moruzzi as Chairman of the Municipal Police and Fire Civil Service Board....[saying] his history of police brutality is deeply troubling considering our nation's current climate....

"We are calling for local entities with an appointed position to develop standards for their appointment, considering individuals with an exemplary civil and professional record, free of conflict of interest, and who would serve in the best interest of the community," Together Baton Rouge said....

Pastor Clee Lowe told WBRZ with the current climate around the nation, Moruzzi's past actions are unacceptable.

[Photo credit: WBRZ footage]

Group Calls For Officer With Checkered Past To Resign From Civil Service Board, WBRZ [pdf]

BRPD Officer With Controversial Past Faces Calls For Resignation From Civil Service BoardThe Advocate [pdf]


At Urging of ACTION, Tulsa City Council Asks Gov. Stittt to Put Most Evictions in State on Hold

[Excerpt] 

The council passed a resolution calling for Gov. Kevin Stitt to temporarily block residential evictions unless a landlord is responding to a tenant’s criminal behavior or dangerous activities.

“We’re really just asking the governor to pay attention to Oklahomans who are really struggling right now” as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, said City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, one of the sponsors of the resolution.

The push for a statewide eviction moratorium started with a Tulsa religious coalition known as ACTION and a similar group called VOICE-OKC in Oklahoma City, where the City Council has said it will vote on a similar resolution.

In effect until July 25, a federal moratorium already applies to rental properties that have federally backed mortgages, but the Tulsa City Council wants the same protection for tenants in all rental properties.

Landlords would benefit, as well, said Councilor Kara Joy McKee, explaining that tenants would ultimately still have to pay their rents in full but would have more time to seek employment or government assistance.

“Our tenants and landlords need this support at this time,” McKee said.

[Photo credit: Joey Johnson, Tulsa World]

Tulsa City Council Asks Gov. Stitt To put Most Evictions In State On HoldTulsa World