Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, is a longtime supporter of his area's West/Southwest IAF affiliate, El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO)/Border Interfaith.
"They've developed a process of attentive listening over the years, talking to people about their lives and identifying the needs of a particular group," said Seitz. "When we were trying to create a process for the synod, it occurred to me it was exactly the approach they'd long taken."
[In photo, a synod training session is held by Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA) at a parish in the Diocese of Monterey, California. COPA community organizers trained around 500 Catholics to conduct synodal listening sessions in the region.]
For Synod Listening Sessions, US Bishops Turned to Community Organizers, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
A section of the Texas tax code that is used by local governments as lucre to attract corporate relocations but that often ends up pitting city against city and school district against school district is set to expire.
Based on hearings last week, there will likely be calls to reinstate it in the next Legislature. That would be a mistake....
In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott complained that each job created by this program cost taxpayers $341,000. Using Abbott’s calculation, the Houston Chronicle updated the numbers last year: now every job created by a 313 incentive costs $1.1 million, the paper reported.
What’s more, a 2018 study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that 313 incentives were the deciding factor in fewer than 25% of relocations, meaning three quarters of the time, the relocation would have happened anyway. Taxing districts are leaving money on the table and cities are fighting cities in a game that actually hurts their residents and students....
in many cases, the choice is not between attracting a company to Texas or failing to do so. The choice is between attracting a company to Taylor or Round Rock; Sherman or Plano.
That highlights another problem: 313 favors districts where it’s easiest to acquire land and build facilities. In an analysis by Dallas Area Interfaith, the losers under 313 are large, urban school districts like Dallas ISD.
[Graphic: Dallas Morning News]
Come December 31, 2022, the law that had allowed [major corporations] to keep more than $10 billion in school property tax revenue off the ledgers over two decades will be no more. But companies wasted little time grieving. There was still plenty of life to live after the session ended sine die.
Since then, companies have applied for close to 500 tax break deals for projects all over the state—for everything from wind and solar farms, oil and gas processing, carbon capture, and biodiesel production. By comparison, the Texas comptroller received an average of 90 applications annually in the past decade.
“It’s like hogs at the trough,” said Bishop John Ogletree, a leader with the Houston chapter of the [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation, a faith-based coalition that helped bring down Chapter 313. “Multi-billion-dollar oil, gas, and tech corporations asking for school districts and taxpayer dollars to bolster their profits. If these applications get approved, it will blow a hole in our state and school district budgets for a generation to come.”
Unsure whether the state will revive or replace the program in the 2023 session, companies have grown increasingly aggressive in trying to lock in future tax breaks for speculative projects that may—or may not—come to fruition many years out.
No More Hogs at the Trough-Containing Corporate Subsidies in Texas, Nonprofit Quarterly [pdf]
The Sun is Setting on Chapter 313 Incentives, Austin Business Journal
Companies Lining Up for Future Tax Breaks as Texas Incentive Program Nears End, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
What Could Epic Samsung Expansion Mean for Texas?, Austin Business Journal
Point Isabel School District Rejects Texas LNG Tax Abatement, Brownsville Herald [pdf]
'Smoke and Mirrors' or Long-Range Planning? Possible Samsung Tax Breaks Stir Debate, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
NXP Seeking Up To $140 Million in Tax Breaks for School Districts, Austin-American Statesman [pdf]
Chapter 313 Incentives: What They Are and Why They're Suddenly the Talk of the Town, Austin Business Journal [pdf]
Oped: Don't Ask Texas Schoolchildren to Fund Your Corporate Expansion, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
Statement on Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD Chapter 313 Votes, Central Texas Interfaith
Building on a strategy initiated by Dallas Area Interfaith, parish leaders at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church issued parish identification cards to parishioners. The document allows immigrant parishioners to identify themselves to authorities, including law enforcement and county health officials, and was developed in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and local law police departments. Revista Catolica captured the most recent parish ID event on film.
Parish IDs Issued at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church with the Support of DAI, Revista Cátolica [video in Spanish]
Mary Immaculate hosted a Dallas Area Interfaith meeting in late October where school, police and mental health officials committed to working with one another to better residents’ access to resources by placing a community health worker with the church and communicating better.
“We will not bury our loved ones anymore because of lack of access to mental health services,”
parishioner Natalia Valenzuela said at the meeting. “By getting the services we need and building unity, we will overcome.”
[Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber, Dallas Morning News]
Dallas Area Interfaith has been working to help stop the spread of COVID-19 since the very beginning of the pandemic. The group, which has members from all religious groups, particularly saw a need for vaccinations in immigrant congregations.
“They are already fearful, they have a fear of the government, our approach is that you reach people in the institution that they trust most, that is closest to them and their family and those are our congregations,” lead organizer Josephine Lopez Paul said.
DAI surveyed the areas hardest hit by COVID-19 and mapped out where their congregations were located. They found that the nine areas with high rates of infection in Dallas were within their congregations.
“The most need in our membership has been among Roman Catholics, especially those who are undocumented,” Paul said.
DAI so far has had vaccination events at four area churches where more than a thousand people total were vaccinated....
Parishioners of Holy Trinity and DAI took the initiative to set up the vaccination event on June 17, partnering with Baylor Scott & White Health and DAI. Baylor and the members canvassed the area prior to the event to sign people up.
Although vaccines are easy to find in Dallas, [parochial vicar Father Mike] Walsh knew that some of his parishioners would feel more comfortable getting vaccinated at church.
“We just know that immigrants especially will get vaccinated at church even though it’s very easy to find a free vaccine,” Walsh said. “They trust church.”
Many Faith Leaders in North Texas Embracing their Role in Vaccine Push, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Some of the dozen people familiar with the conditions who spoke to The Dallas Morning News about the center say the management of the boys’ asylum cases seems chaotic, with boys unclear about processes such as their pending family reunions, deportation cases, or why they are being held.
“This is a humanitarian crisis in the convention center,”
said Josephine Lopez-Paul, Dallas Area Interfaith’s lead organizer, who did volunteer work at the convention center. Like others interviewed, Lopez-Paul was taken aback by the number of children, mostly from Guatemala and Honduras, kept in one massive gray hall of the convention center, their metal cots in neat rows.
The Dallas center was initially billed as a “decompression center” for children, and after it opened on March 17, it quickly filled to capacity, about 2,300 boys ages 13 to 17.
But many who have worked or volunteered there have described the pop-up detention center as inadequate and depressing for the children, though they acknowledge it’s better than conditions at the Border Patrol sites where they are initially processed after crossing the border seeking asylum in the U.S.
[Photo Credit: Dallas Visitor's Bureau]
Worries Rise About the Welfare of Migrant Teens in Dallas Emergency Shelter, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Migrant Teens Held in Dallas Convention Center Feel Imprisoned, Dallas Observer [pdf]
Advocates Worried for Migrant Teens at Improvised Shelter, Arkansas Democrat Gazette [pdf]
Texas IAF, Bishops, Faithful Call on Lt. Governor and Senate to Reject 'Permitless Carry' Legislation
Bishops, rabbis, clergy and faithful from across Texas convened to express vocal opposition to the passage of proposed legislation HB1927 which would allow "permitless carry" in the state of Texas.
Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz referenced the massacre in El Paso which resulted in dozens of residents dead and seriously injured. Baptist Rev. Darryl Crooms from San Antonio testified to the "unnaturalness" of adults burying children. Lutheran Rev. Jessica Cain testified to the impact of last weekend's shooting in North Austin on local worshippers. Rabbi David Lyon recalled last year's deadly shooting in Santa Fe High School.
Together -- with Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan, Methodist Director of Missional Outreach Andy Lewis, Dallas Catholic Bishop Gregory Kelly and several lay leaders -- all expressed concern that passage of HB1927 would increase gun violence. States that have passed similar laws, removing the required license and training needed to carry a handgun, experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence.
“Our faith tradition teaches us to protect life,” said Bishop Suffragan Kathryn M. Ryan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. “You cannot protect life if people carrying deadly weapons aren’t properly trained and licensed.
"You’ll find no scripture that will support this kind of legislation,” said Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church of Houston.
“It makes our church much less safe,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.
Texas Faith Leaders Come Out Against 'Permitless Carry', CBS Austin [pdf]
Three groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) strengthened their networks during the pandemic and developed innovative strategies that will likely persist after the virus is controlled....
“The pandemic has lifted a veil,” Josephine [Lopez-Paul] says. “The number of people who are living in poverty” is in our face, she says.
“The need is there. You can’t ignore it. Poverty is not a secret in our city anymore.”
She adds, “DAI’s approach is still rooted in relationship, and that hasn’t changed. Clergy and leaders have been there for one another as part of a community.”
DAI is an affiliate of the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). It has 33 congregational members with approximately 300 active leaders. DAI conducts weekly virtual meetings for clergy to share concerns and potential solutions. At one meeting early in the crisis, a pastor reported that half of 30 participants contracted COVID-19 after an unmasked choir practice. In response, celebrants of the weekly televised Mass from the diocesan cathedral began to use the final minute of the broadcast to urge compliance with masking and socialdistancing recommendations.
Like others, DAI has moved many activities, such as organizing and training programs, online. Josephine says this will continue beyond the pandemic, so that “imagination and vision” can be shared with isolated participants in rural areas, as well as with those who can attend in person.
[In photo: DAI Leaders and organizers meet with Dallas Police Commanders, including then-chief U. Renee Hall, following a meeting as DPD Headquarters.]
The Post-Pandemic Path Ahead, Catholic Campaign for Human Development
[Excerpt from Dallas Morning News]
Racial and economic disparities have marked all aspects of the pandemic, from the early testing site locations to the diverging infection and death rates.The process for getting a vaccine still heavily favors those who have a car and internet access — making community outreach crucial in underserved areas, said Rogelio Sáenz, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has studied the pandemic’s effects on communities of color....
Jenny Zacarias, a Peruvian immigrant, said more must be done to reach Latino and Black communities. She was vaccinated recently after the age limits were lowered to 50.
“Bring the vaccines to the people,” said Zacarias, 51.
That will improve efficiency and raise trust, said Zacarias, who volunteers with Dallas Area Interfaith at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. The group works with many undocumented immigrants, she said.
“They don’t trust the government. That is another concern. Who do they trust? They trust the church.”