The latest video by the (Tony Hawk Foundation) Skatepark Project highlight stories of community transformation in and from the installation of the Lauridsen Skatepark in Des Moines, Iowa.
"There was a dogged persistence in skaters trying to land whatever they were trying to learn," notes IAF organizer Paul Turner. "In terms of advocacy, it's kind of the same."
The full story, told by Turner and AMOS leader Jan Hill, can be read in the Des Moines Register.
Story Behind America's Largest Skatepark, RIDE Channel [video]
As Des Moines Public Schools shifts disciplinary policy, Axios contrasts the new discipline rules to the “Let’s Talk” conflict resolution strategy that A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) designed and successfully implemented in Des Moines Middle Schools 8 years ago.
The rules [assigning students involved in fights to virtual learning] are likely to take more students out of classrooms and increase disciplinary disparities among students of color, says Cheryl Hayes, a juvenile justice reform advocate with A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), a network of metro churches and community groups that runs a mediation program in the district….
Community volunteers [from AMOS] launched the Let's Talk program in three district middle schools eight years ago with one key objective: fix a system that disproportionately disciplines students of color, Hayes, who's also a coordinator for the program, tells Axios.
The district has since expanded the program to nearly all of its 12 middle schools...
Let's Talk is run by AMOS, a network of dozens of metro churches, neighborhood groups and community organizations.
The program helps students resolve conflicts peacefully, and ultimately aims to disrupt the "school-to-prison pipeline" — the link between punishments and the criminal justice system.
Inspiration for the restorative justice program came from "The New Jim Crow," a book about the U.S. legal system and how it has led to the mass incarceration of Black men, Hayes says.
What they do: Volunteer mediators, such as retired judges, go into schools to help resolve student conflicts or other disciplinary issues through discussion.
Oftentimes, mediators help students work through home-life traumas that are a factor in problems surfacing at school, Hayes says.
Program facilitators also assist with cultural awareness training among district educators to help improve teaching and disciplinary practices.
What they're saying: Hayes says organizers believe Let's Talk is a factor in why disciplinary referrals — generally those involving assaults or weapons — were down in grades 6-8 during the first four months of this school year [as reported by Axios, February 2022].
[Photo credit: Let's Talk via Axios]
AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) leaders in Ankeny, Iowa, organized in support of an additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) position to serve in the Ankeny School District. AMOS pastors Fr. Michael Amadeo, Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, and Pastor Beth Wartick, Resurrection Lutheran Church, provided testimony at the Ankeny school board meeting. AMOS leaders are calling for school board decisions that will support the success of every learner in the district.
[Top photo credit: KCCI News DeMoines]
Ankeny Parents Rally in Support of Diversity Hiring, KCCI News Des Moines
Fr. Michael Amadeo Testimony, Facebook [video]
Pastor Beth Wartick Testimony, Facebook [video]
The Rev. Bill Cotton wasn’t sure he was seeing what he was seeing. As a civil rights leader, the longtime pastor of Grace United Methodist in Des Moines, and founding member of the grassroots organization AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy), he had seen a lot. But he never thought he would see a teenager on the roof of one of his two adjoining church garages attempt to jump the gap between them on a skateboard. Fortunately, the skater made the jump, Bill didn’t have a heart attack, and he did what everyone does to annoying skateboarders — he shooed them away.
Little did Bill, who has since died, know that those skaters, from his own congregation, would join AMOS and start a revolution in Des Moines.
The skaters were part of the Grace United Methodist Church youth group, and when AMOS organized a large-scale community listening campaign, they met with that youth group and heard of the need for a first-class skatepark in Des Moines. That led AMOS to Callanan Middle School’s newly formed skateboard club, where they heard more of the same. The AMOS adults challenged the youth to organize a presentation to Des Moines’ mayor and City Council at an upcoming AMOS Issues Assembly....
[Photo Credit: Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines]
There From the Beginning: Lauridsen Skatepark, Des Moines Community Foundation [video]
...In Iowa, it’s illegal for the state to translate official government forms. including anything election-related. This makes it really hard for non-fluent English speakers in Iowa to gather official voting information.
Iowa’s "English-only" law, as it is known by some, dates back to 1918 after World War I. Republican Gov. William Harding signed the Babel Proclamation into law, which made English the only language legally permitted in the state. It was intended to limit the German language in schools and other public spaces.
Tun said this law scares her community. She said sometimes they are too afraid to vote. They are worried they will get in trouble if they make a mistake in the voting process.
But people who translate the forms disagree. Jan Flora and Terry Potter of A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) said it is especially true this year. Flora translates voter forms into Spanish and Potter distributes them to other organizations throughout the state.
“If we cannot translate that, maybe we’re going to lose our voters…Yea, a lot of voters," Tun said.
She said the state has a responsibility to Iowans, whether they speak Spanish, Burmese, Karen or anything else.
[Photo Credit: Tiffany Tertipes, Unsplash]
Lost In Translation: How Iowa's 'English-Only' Law Affects Some Voters , Iowa Public Radio [pdf]
A group of nearly 100 people gathered Thursday to address challenges facing the state’s workforce and what needs to be done as the state continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting, hosted by AMOS Institute of Public Life, the education and training arm of AMOS [A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy], drew members of the region’s faith-based community, business leaders, and state and local government officials.
The meeting focused on Project IOWA, a nonprofit organization that offers support and training to Iowans looking to improve their careers.
Paul Osterman, a professor of human resources at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the keynote speaker of the meeting, said job training programs, such as Project IOWA, have had great success in helping low-wage workers climb the ladder to better-paying jobs.
He said nothing has changed since the pandemic began to spread, “it’s just intensified it,” in reference to the need for services.
Osterman said one challenge that needs to be addressed is helping people move from one job to another, something Project IOWA focuses on.
There isn’t a strong public system to help with that, so the work Project IOWA does is essential to not only train workers, but also provide access to good jobs and creating good jobs.
“And these programs do both of these,” Osterman said. “You provide training, skills and connection to employers, but programs like these also create worker jobs, because there is research that shows that in communities that have effective human capital, skill development systems, employers do better. More jobs are created. It’s better for entrepreneurs. It’s better for employers. It helps new businesses coming to the community when they can see that the community is invested in the skills of its people, and sharing the cost of developing the skills of its people.
“Over time, it actually improves the economic health of the community,” he said.
Change Needed in Job Training, Development in New Pandemic Workforce, Business Record [pdf]
Update: As a result of AMOS' public action, Iowa Workforce Development Office announced it would hire an additional 100 temporary workers to handle calls, change its website and phone system, and address language barriers and eligibility questions.
Out of the 50 refugee clients she’s helped file for unemployment, Abigail Sui said only 20 of them have received money from claims so far.
Language barriers, troubles navigating Iowa Workforce Development’s website and phone complications have left some members of Iowa’s refugee community without the money they need to support their families while they’re temporarily laid off from work due to COVID-19, Sui said.
These are some of the struggles A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy, also known as “AMOS,” hopes to bring to light during a virtual day of action with its members on Tuesday over Zoom.
AMOS, an organization made up of churches and non-profit groups is hosting a “virtual accountability action,” so local legislators can hear about some of the barriers Iowans face filing for unemployment.
“We knew there were people really struggling to navigate the system,” said Sally Boeckholt, a leader with AMOS and a member of First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. “There are real people being affected and sometimes those are the stories that don’t really get heard.”
[Photo by Charlie Neibergall, AP Photo]
Group Seeks Solutions for Iowans Struggling To File For Unemployment, Iowa Capital Dispatch [pdf]
In a 2018 summer house meeting campaign involving more then 500 families embedded in Des Moines schools, churches and nonprofits, AMOS leaders asked, "What matters enough to you, your family, and your community that you would raise your own taxes to see it happen?”
The stories heard in these meetings, and the leaders who emerged from them, formed an agenda AMOS took to the city manager and city council last Fall, asking them to include these items in an upcoming local option sales tax vote. In December, AMOS celebrated when the city council passed a spending resolution for the tax measure that included five key AMOS priorities and agreed to endorse the measure and get out the vote. For two months, AMOS leaders held civic academies, phone banked, signed up hundreds of people up to vote, and gave rides to the polls on Election Day.
On March 5th, more than 70% of Des Moines voters voted YES on Measure A, the one-cent local option sales tax measure in the city of Des Moines. Turnout for the election was 20% higher than a similar effort last year that did not include AMOS priorities, and the margin of support for the measure was 30% higher this year than in previous years. AMOS worked with a diverse coalition of organizations who endorsed the measure, including AARP, the Central Iowa Taxpayers Association and the Firefighters Union.
The results are particularly impressive considering efforts by a Koch Brothers-funded group to torpedo the measure with negative campaigning.
Because of AMOS:
- Libraries in Des Moines will expand the number of days they are open from 5 days per week to 6 days per week, while the Downtown and Franklin branches will open 7;
- 4-6 new Rental Inspectors will be hired to improve rental housing conditions;
- 150 dilapidated and abandoned homes will be torn down or renovated each year across the city, a ten-fold increase over the 5-15 homes the city is able to address now.
- Des Moines will help fund the creation of mental health crisis services for children, with a commitment from the Mayor and other public officials to get these services up and running by June 30, 2020.
The one-cent tax will also enable the city to maintain 13 firefighter positions, speed up the building of a new fire station on the northeast side of Des Moines, and make critical investments to improve streets, sidewalks, and sewers.
As if that were not enough, on February 25th, the city council approved funding to install lights on the basketball courts at Evelyn K Davis Park — another AMOS priority.
Vote YES for Measure and Des Moines' Future, Des Moines Register
Des Moines Metro Voters Weigh 1-cent Sales Tax, Promise of Lower Property Taxes, Des Moines Register
Des Moines voters should support the local-option sales tax on March 5, Des Moines Register
Group Pushes Des Moines to Use Sales Tax Money to Extend Library Hours, Des Moines Register
Des Moines will vote on sales tax increase in March, Des Moines Register
Local option sales tax planned for March 5 vote in Des Moines, Business Record
AMOS Announces Support for Des Moines Local Option Sales Tax, Big Step Forward for Children's Mental Health
During the summer of 2018, AMOS leaders in Des Moines engaged more than 500 families around the question, "What matters enough to you that you would be willing to raise your own taxes to see it happen?" Out of these conversations, AMOS leaders crafted a proposal of six funding priorities to include in the city's upcoming a one-cent sales tax proposal. The now released and approved city spending resolution includes five of our funding priorities, and AMOS leaders have secured a separate commitment from the city to address the sixth.
At a press conference Monday, AMOS announced support for the local option sales tax initiative. AMOS Children's Mental Health Team co-chair Connie McKeen, of Walnut Hills United Methodist, proclaimed it a big step for another AMOS priority: children's mental health services.
Mrs. McKeen announced the formation of a Task Force of elected officials, mental healthcare providers, and community leaders who have committed to work together to implement a Children's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit and Crisis Observation. This team will identify the staffing, funding, and location for these crisis services to open by June 30, 2020.
Co-Chairing this Task Force on behalf of AMOS are Dr. Linda Krypel, of First Unitarian of Des Moines and co-chair of the AMOS Children's Mental Health Team, and Teresa Bomhoff of NAMI Greater Des Moines.
Members of the Task Force include, to date, the Mayor of Des Moines, Polk County Supervisor, Des Moines Public School President, CEO of Broadlawns Hospital and other key public and private health executives.
Local Option Sales Tax Planned for March 5 Vote in Des Moines, Business Record
Des Moines Will Vote on Sales Tax Increase in March, Des Moines Register
Group Pushes Des Moines to Use Sales Tax Money to Extend Library Hours, Des Moines Register
In an effort to address key determinants to homelessness, 100 AMOS leaders assembled in Ames with candidates for state and county office to secure commitments around their agenda. Candidates who participated included Story county Supervisor Rick Sanders (incumbent), Linda Murken, and Josh Opperman. Also in attendance was Representative Lisa Heddens, from Iowa House District 46.
Leaders succeeded in gaining commitments from the Supervisor to work with AMOS to create a 'Housing First' program in Story County to address the needs of residents with chronic mental illness and housing insecurity, including dedicated county staff-time and resources to the planning effort. Rep. Heddens committed to working to increase funding for mental health services in the upcoming legislative session.