Thousands of Arizonans could lose their homes in January after the CDC’s eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year. Rabbi John Linder with the Arizona Interfaith Network, along with leaders from the local Episcopal, Catholic and Presbyterian community, called on Gov. Ducey and the state’s elected leaders to impose an eviction moratorium in Arizona.
"This is not just a public health issue, this is a moral issue," Linder said. "So we gather today as leaders of communities of faith to call on our elected officials to meet the gravity of the moment. If a vaccine can be created in record time, we can work collectively to keep the most vulnerable in their homes."
At the beginning of the year, there were about 7,500 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, and public, private and faith-based homeless service resources were already strained. Reverend Jennifer Reddall, the Episcopal bishop of Arizona and member of the Valley Interfaith Project, says the religious community is not equipped to handle a six-figure surge of newly homeless individuals. She led the Interfaith network’s plea to Gov. Ducey to impose another eviction moratorium as the pandemic continues to tear through Arizona.
Linder said it's entirely within the governor's power to take proactive action to solve this crisis.
“It’s not as though resources are not available," he said. "Resources are available, it’s a matter of political will now. We’re not going to be passive here. This is a crisis as every story has made clear."
Audio Clips from NPR/KJZZ Story:
Arizona Interfaith Network Leverages Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Arizona Schools in Passage of Prop 208
Through an intense mobilization campaign that engaged voters across the state, Valley Interfaith Project, with Pima County Interfaith, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and a coalition of education allies, leveraged passage of Prop 208 which will restore millions of dollars to K-12 education funding.
[Excerpts from Jewish News below]
“Quality education is at the core of who the Jewish people are and how we have survived for thousands of years,” said Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel, a member of the Arizona Interfaith Network Clergy Caucus. “And we look at quality education as reflecting the common good of the community.”
AIN was among five organizations that worked for the last four years to pass the Invest in Ed initiative. Other coalition organizations include the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, the Arizona Education Association, Children’s Action Alliance and Stand for Children.
Arizona has among the lowest spending per student on K-12 education in the country, and the state cut funding further during the 2008 recession. Proponents argue that over a decade later, it’s time for the state to restore what was lost.
“It’s doing the right thing, because it’s getting us closer ... to that budget we had before they cut everything,” said Kim Klett, Holocaust literature and AP English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa. She is also on the board of directors of Phoenix Holocaust Association. “They took so much and it was never restored, and so it’s going to be able to restore a lot of those things that we had before.”
Pervasive spending cuts and low education funding have led teachers like Klett to spend their own money or hold fundraisers to purchase school supplies, such as a set of books for her classroom.
“We put in a lot of hours outside of our school day, and I just feel like fundraising for materials that you need in your classroom should not be one of those other things that we have to do,” Klett said, “and yet we do it all the time.”
To Linder, the Invest in Ed initiative represents a welcome change for education funding in Arizona.
“Things that we value, we invest in,” Linder said. “And the reality in Arizona is that our state has simply failed to keep up with basic needs and providing a competitive livelihood for teachers and keeping class sizes manageable.”
Proposition 208 creates a new revenue stream for Arizona public schools by imposing an income tax increase of 3.5% on individuals earning more than $250,000 and married couples earning more than $500,000.
“Our public system is teetering because teachers can’t afford to stay in the teaching field or they choose to go to another state because they’re simply not valued here, and there are thousands of classrooms without a qualified teacher,” Linder said. “That should not be acceptable to the state of Arizona.”
Historic Win as Arizona Voters Say Yes to Propostion 8, Invest in Education
With National Spotlight on Maricopa, VIP & AIN Denounce Electoral Provocation, Urge Trust in Process
“The unwarranted provocation, aided and abetted by fringe group extremists, is an affront to the democratic process," said clergy and religious leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network. Prior to the election, they reminded "all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence."
Arizona Election Updates: More Ballot Results Expected Friday Morning, Arizona Republic [jump to 5:15 update] [pdf]
Letter to the Editor by Pima County Interfaith: Count Every Vote, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
VIP/AIN Statement Against Unwarranted Electoral Provocation, Valley Interfaith Project
Kim Crecca, VIP leader and coordinator of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona's prison ministry program, commends the department for testing all inmates in the state in a short period of time, but says "There's no plan in place for continued testing...so, somebody who tested negative, you know, a week ago, could be positive today based on something somebody brought in from the outside." (Arizona Republic)
Voting is now underway at a torrid pace, and soon we will know the much-anticipated results of our pending election. Still, we hear misguided threats and attempts to cast doubt on the election process and how well ballots will be counted.
As faith leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network who lead congregations that claim active members of all political persuasions, we want to remind all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence.
We are impressed with both the safeguards and security measures they have put in place, especially provisions for voting during the pandemic. This includes hiring and training additional poll workers, securing safe locations for voting, and preparing for the early tabulation of mail-in ballots, currently underway.
Cooperation of citizens, candidates, and parties is crucial. We implore everyone, whatever your political leaning, to trust the process. Attempts to harass, intimidate, or otherwise suppress the vote of fellow citizens will not be tolerated. These would be an affront to the rule of law, and we will be among the first to denounce such behaviors.
[Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Arizona Capitol Times]
A late-July spike in Pima County COVID-19 cases shown on the Arizona Department of Health COVID-19 webpage shows ... 642 cases, the highest number of cases by far that month.
On July 2, Barbara Hudson died in the San Carlos Unit in Perryville Women’s Prison in Goodyear. Before her death, she sought medical care for shortness of breath and chest pain, said Kim Crecca, convenor of the Diocesan Prison Ministry, who has volunteered at Perryville and communicates often with prisoners.
Crecca is part of the Arizona Interfaith Network, a group of faith-based leaders across the state that organizes people for social and economic improvement.
“We feel that her death is a rallying cry, not only to help with the release of inmates as possible but also about the underlying conditions there that make them really vulnerable to the virus,” Crecca said.
“It was alarming very early on in our conversations with the state about how they were not addressing the asymptomatic nature of the virus,” said Joe Rubio, lead organizer of the Arizona Interfaith Network.
The faith groups started meeting with Department of Corrections Director David Shinn in April and less often with Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services director, to discuss what the state could do to better protect inmates from the virus.
“No one who is incarcerated should have a death sentence by virus, but particularly those who are incarcerated for low-level offenses,” [Episcopal Bishop Jennifer] Reddall said. “They should not be put in a place where they’re going to die because of some infraction."
[Photo Credit: ]
Tucson Prison Inmates Say Close Conditions, Slow Test Results Spread COVID-19, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
With 50% of prisoners testing positive for COVID-10 in one prison alone, and after several conversations with the Governor, DOC Director and Director of Health Services, Valley Interfaith Project leaders are calling for rapid testing of prisoners across Arizona.
"Your current testing plan for the state’s prisons, which just commenced, is too drawn out," Valley Interfaith Project leaders said in a letter to Shinn on Wednesday. "The rapid spread of the virus and the still ongoing unevenness of response by your Department will lead to more loss of life without drastic and immediate interventions."
Arizona Prison Stories, Valley Interfaith Project
After hundreds of VIP clergy and leaders, through a petition with their state Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN), called on Governor Ducey to extend the Stay-at-Home order past April 30, the Governor announced an extension of the Executive Order, with gradual loosening of current restrictions over coming weeks.
Clergy representatives of AIN responded with a statement of cautious approval:
"May 15 could very well be a premature re-opening of the state, but we appreciate that the state will proceed cautiously and in accord with CDC guidelines. We could face a disastrous rebound of the Covid-19 crisis if we are not careful and vigilant. This is no time for false optimism. There is only one path to safety and that is an escalation of testing capacity."
Arizona Interfaith Network Applauds Continuation of State Order, Arizona Interfaith Network [pdf]
Ducey Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Some Restrictions on Businesses, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Hundreds of Arizona religious leaders urged Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his stay-at-home order.
Ducey’s executive order, made over a month ago, is set to expire at midnight on Thursday, unless the governor modifies or extends it.
In a letter organized by the Arizona Interfaith Network, [including Valley Interfaith Project and Pima County Interfaith] religious leaders praised Ducey for issuing the order in the first place. Now the governor must avoid the “false calculus” that pits Arizona’s economy against peoples’ lives, they wrote.
"The economy should serve the common good and promote dignified, safe work, particularly for the most vulnerable,” the letter states. “This a moral decision, not just a business decision. We must do all we can to save lives; life is irreplaceable.”
Ducey faces pressure from Republican leaders in Arizona, including the head of the Arizona GOP, to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
But faith leaders stated that Ducey should rely on clear and convincing science — that means robust testing and contact tracing — to decide when it’s safe to reopen Arizona’s economy.
“The coronavirus will only be contained by broad testing and the application of our best public health measures,” they wrote. “The disease will not cooperate with deadlines imposed by us. It will not respond to political calculations or wishful thinking, and neither should the state of Arizona.”
Religious Leaders Urge Ducey To Extend Stay-At-Home Order, KJZZ Radio [pdf]
Governor Ducey: The Stay-at-Home Order Saves Lives, Arizona Interfaith Network