In Light of Pope Francis' Criticism of Both Left and Right Populism, IAF's Community Organizing Offers a 3rd Way
Francis calls for nothing less than a Copernican revolution in our understanding and practice of politics, one in which ordinary people are not a hard-to-reach “periphery” but the center around which the rest of the firmament revolves....
In Let Us Dream, Francis urges the church to be more receptive to such popular alliances—accompanying them both practically and spiritually, without seeking to dominate. He identifies “labor” and “lodgings” as two of the key issues for grass-roots action. The success of the IAF’s Living Wage campaigns, and its renewal of whole neighborhoods in New York and Baltimore through the Nehemiah Housing program, demonstrates the power of institution-based organizing. If parishes and dioceses heed the pope’s call to engage with new vigor in this work, it can play a significant role in the civic renewal that is so urgently needed.
Community organizing has two crucial features that ensure the poorest citizens have agency. First, it is institution-based. Across almost a century of community organizing, both religious and secular organizers have found religious congregations to be the most resilient and powerful institutions on which to build what veteran organizer Ernesto Cortés Jr. calls “a graduate school to teach people how to participate in politics and shape their communities’ futures.”
As Mr. Cortés explained in an interview with Rev. Ritchie: “Citizens are formed through the process of organizing. It requires institutions which can incubate this process by passing on the habits, practices, and norms necessary for humans with different opinions and temperaments to flourish together: to compromise, to talk to and not just about one another, to act in the light of one another’s views and needs and not just unilaterally or selfishly.”
Second, community organizing is inclusive. Click below for the rest of the article.
[Photo Credit: Paul Haring/CNS]
Pope Francis has Criticized Both the Left and the Right’s Politics. Community Organizing Offers a Third Way, America, The Jesuit Review [pdf]
Months of hard work by Marin Organizing Committee leaders paid off as San Rafael, Novato, and Marin County enacted rent increase moratoriums in areas most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MOC advocated for a freeze on rent increases since last summer, when it became clear that the economic effects of COVID-19 would leave renters saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. With statewide protections on the verge of expiring, MOC leaders redoubled their efforts after the new year. On January 18th, 200 MOC leaders assembled on Zoom with a Marin County Supervisor and two San Rafael City Councilmembers. During the meeting, MOC leaders asked these officials to commit to working with MOC around the issue of rent freezes.
The next day, the San Rafael City Council unanimously voted for a moratorium on rent increases in the Canal neighborhood through the end of 2021. The following week, the Novato City Council followed suit, voting unanimously to approve a rent freeze through 2021 in three city census tracts hardest hit by the pandemic.
On February 9th, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on rent increases in parts of unincorporated Marin County, thereby including those who reside outside city limits who would have been left unprotected by the Novato and San Rafael ordinances.
These emergency measures will provide thousands of families much-needed time to recover from the devastating financial impacts of the pandemic. MOC leaders will continue to fight for expanded emergency protections and an equitable and smooth distribution of rental assistance funds to renters and landlords.
[Photo Credit: Ethan Swope/Special to Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Activists Seek Rent Freeze During Coronavirus Crisis, Marin Independent Journal
San Rafael Bans Rent Hikes in Pandemic-Stressed Canal, Marin Independent Journal
Novato Enacts Limited Rent Freeze for Pandemic Relief, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin County Weighs Pandemic Rent Freeze in 2 Census Tracts, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Voice: County Supervisors Should Approve Rent-Increase Moratorium-by MOC's own Sami Mericle and Marta Villela, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Leaders from the Southside Independent School District and COPS/Metro announced their new working relationship at a Dec. 3 physically distanced press conference.
Together they plan a listening tour, including monthly gatherings where district officials can get direct input from learners, their families and other residents about local educational needs.
There also would be what COPS/Metro calls “civic academies” as part of the collaboration.
Estela Sanchez, a COPS/Metro organizer and SISD mother, said she looks forward to partnering with the district to empower other parents, getting them and neighbors more involved in school-community initiatives.
Another COPS/Metro member and SISD mom, Montserrat Amador, said the importance of education can’t be stressed enough.
“Just a year ago, I was not allowed to enter the school premises for not having an American ID. Today, I am where the decisions are made and I will work with the district’s administration and Superintendent Ramirez to improve the quality of education of my children,” Amador said.
She added, “We don’t have to conform with the minimum. Our children from the South Side deserve the same education as children in the North (Side) of San Antonio.”
[Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo]
The violent incursion at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6 disrespected, demeaned, and threatened the right of every citizen who peaceably engages in the democratic process in our country.
Deliberation, debate, argument, compromise, deal-making; these are the means to advance interests in a democracy. The leaders and organizations of the West/Southwest IAF teach and practice these political skills every day; vigorously engaging on the issues that impact our families and traveling regularly to state Capitols, City Halls, and decision-making chambers to advance these issues. That the buildings and halls of power belong to them is made self-evident in their consistent and persistent presence throughout years of effort. Their work is carried out through hundreds of conversations full of respectful dissent, concession, and sometimes victory; in other words, democratically.
What happened yesterday at the U.S. Capitol not only endangered the officials, staff members and public safety officers who were present, but endangered our democratic institutions by introducing violence to what has, until now, been a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power in our national leadership. To arrive at consent at the point of a gun is the weakest form of power, and our nation was weakened on January 6 by the use of violence in place of political debate.
As a network of religious, labor, education and community leaders from all walks of life and all political persuasions, we condemn the acts of insurrection and violence in Washington, D.C., and recall the words of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address at the conclusion of the Civil War: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
Cortes: To Arrive at Consent at Point of a Gun is Weakest Form of Power, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
In Wake of Capitol Attack, Leaders Urge Rejection of Division That Lead to Violence, Catholic Sentinel [pdf]
Listen to Lincoln: 'With Malice Towards None; With Charity For All', Arizona Republic [pdf]
Statement, West/Southwest IAF
Recently, Jeffco’s program has been under fire from leaders in the faith, nonprofit, service and education communities. A virtual forum was held Dec. 9, 2020, hosted by the group, Coloradans for the Common Good (formerly Colorado IAF). Pastor Reagan Humber, House for All Sinners and Saints, led the meeting. Taking the District to task for what he considered inadequate access to the program for families in need, Humber called on Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh to meet with representatives from the group to discuss changes. In a separate interview, he said the CCG coalition’s main concern was what they perceived to be deficiencies in Jeffco’s program in comparison to similar programs.
“Denver and Cherry Creek are open every day for kids to be able to get hot lunch,” Humber said.
While he agrees the recent expansion of hours and locations is a step in the right direction, his group is still concerned about distances between pick-up points creating long walks for kids who have no other transportation options to pick up meals.
Regarding the newly launched bus delivery routes, Humber said his group is thrilled the District has begun this pilot program, and delighted to know their efforts in highlighting the issue paid off.
He also sees issues with meals the district provides that require reheating, pointing out the need for ready to eat options for families who are homeless or living in cars.
As for the meeting between Schuh and the CCG folks, Humber said the Interim Superintendent has tentatively agreed, but no date has been set.
[Photo Credit: Glenn Wallace/Golden Transcript]
Jeffco Schools Pivot — Expand Grab and Go Food Program, Golden Transcript [pdf]
Jeffco Schools Pivot — Expand Grab and Go Food Program, Arvada Press [pdf]
In late December, COPA leaders celebrated the unanimous decision by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to invest nearly $5 million in a six-month Community Outreach & Education pilot program targeting neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. This program will hire 100 community health workers -- trusted people from community-based organizations -- starting January 1, 2021. These trained workers will help educate families, as well as connect people who test positive with needed services, including temporary housing for quarantine or isolation, cash assistance, food, medical care and information about employment rights. Workers will target the hardest hit Census tracts.
The program proposal, created by COPA’s “Breaking the Chain” team, was based on more than 2,000 conversations with Monterey County families impacted by COVID-19, and is similar to other programs in California. In the midst of the pandemic, leaders from COPA’s 28 member institutions launched a listening campaign in which they heard stories about the need for rental assistance; access to testing, tracing, and supported isolation; and access to education and distance learning resources.
Allies spoke in support of the proposal including Building Healthy Communities, Center for Community Advocacy, California Rural Legal Assistance, the Monterey County Farm Bureau, Catholic Diocese of Monterey and the Hospitality Industry Association.
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 [pdf]
'Coloradans for the Common Good' & Allies Leverage $20M for Digital Infrastructure, Say More is Needed
After 'Coloradans for the Common Good' and educator union leaders engaged their membership around the impact of the digital divide on teachers and students, they organized virtual summits to publicize what they learned and to begin to build a constituency for change.
Behind the scenes, state lawmakers began crafting legislation to address some of those frustrations, ultimately passing a bill that will provide $20 million in grants for districts to broaden internet access to their students. The monies are part of a state stimulus package developed in a special legislative session.
At its third virtual summit on the subject, the short-term stimulus was announced and celebrated. However, CCG leaders understand that the grants won’t ensure every young Coloradan has reliable access to the internet and plan to continue working for longer-term support.
[Photo Credit: Valerie Mosley/Colorado Sun]
Access to Remote Learning a Challenge in Rural Communities, Colorado Springs Indy [pdf]
After three and a half years working to cap "sky-high" fees that Nebraska payday lenders charge, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) won a landslide victory (83% to 17%) for statewide Initiative 428, reducing maximum interest rates on payday loans from 387% to 36%.
Nebraskans Vote to Cap Interest Rates on Payday Loans, NPR Marketplace Morning Report