Education advocacy groups on Tuesday filed hundreds of thousands of signatures to block Gov. Doug Ducey’s sweeping income tax cuts, the largest in state history, from going into effect and forcing a public vote on them.
For that to actually happen, at least 118,823 of the 215,787 signatures the Invest in Arizona coalition submitted on one of the measures must be deemed valid by elections officials. If they are, Arizona voters will decide the fate of the tax cuts in November 2022.
[The flat tax] ..."is an affront to the voters of the state, an insult to our teachers, and it’s a direct attack on people that all of us people of faith are instructed to protect: children, the vulnerable, those who live in the margins and have suffered the most in the pandemic,” said Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, a member of the Valley Interfaith Project.
Procter-Murphy highlighted one of the points the Invest in Arizona coalition has made since the launch of its referendum campaigns in July: The planned tax cuts won’t just affect education, but the overall state budget.
“The utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has to stop,”
he said. “We see how this rushed tax code will handcuff our state in coming budget cycles, we see how it shortchanges our most vulnerable families for generations to come. We see how these expanded tax cuts will cripple our state government beyond education, health and human services and public safety will also be impacted affecting everyone. Today we are standing up for those whom our elected officials have refused to defend: the poor, the vulnerable, and our children.”
Behind him, white boxes were stacked, some with a red sticker on it with a message in white letters: “The people of Arizona gave Senate Bill 1828 an F.” Next to him were school-aged children holding white poster boards with different messages on them. Some read, “Governor, your handout to the wealthy is in time-out!” “$1 Billion to the wealthy at the expense of my classroom? Not today Governor!” and “Invest in AZ now.”
[Photo Credit: Laura Gómez, Arizona Mirror]
School Advocates Turn in Petitions to Overturn Arizona's $1 Billion Tax Cut, Arizona Republic [pdf]
Foes of Massive Arizona Tax Cuts File to Block Them, Associated Press [pdf]
Petitions Turned in, Apparently Will Force Public Vote on Arizona Tax Cut, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Tax Cut Likely to Go to Voters, AZ Capitol Times
Fighting wage theft on the community and parish level can be especially effective.
A big part of building any coalition is talking directly to people about their problems and really listening to them, said Jason Lowry, an organizer with the Valley Interfaith Project based in Phoenix.
"Once you figure out what the stories are, there are all kinds of ways you can pull together people who are willing to take action on it. It needs to be truly a grassroots effort."
Such actions also help congregations rethink their role locally, he says, and allow them to "reclaim turf."
Monica Dorcey, who has been a leader with Valley Interfaith Project for 15 years, recently worked with a network of churches in Phoenix to get more low-income people vaccinated.
In general, the basic tool for reaching people, according to Dorcey, is a neighborhood walk, going door-to-door, passing out flyers, setting up house meetings. "Even the ice cream lady who goes all over the neighborhood is involved. It creates a buzz in the neighborhood" as well as generating positive publicity, she said.
"If you don't rush through it, you can have a real conversation not just about what you're interested in, but about what else is going on. You can have opportunities for people to say what's on their mind," she said.
In the case of a topic like wage theft, "it's not something people readily talk about. You have to put yourself in a position where they can open up about it," Dorcey said.
If someone has complaints about some type of wage theft, the goal would be first to help the person "share their story in a clear, concise way." Then, she suggested, a delegation of parish members might approach the individual's employer.
"Say 'We don't expect our people to be treated that way. We respectfully ask you to rectify this situation.' Make it clear that this is something we're working on and we're not going away," she said.
If that happens, she added, "Word would get around. The church might become known as a place to go" to redress injustices.
[Photo Credit: CNS / Reuters / Mike Blake]
On This Labor Day, Advocating for Just Wages Means Fighting Company Theft, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
Members of Arizona's faith community gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Thursday to condemn the proposed 2.5% flat tax, saying it would disproportionately impact marginalized communities and that they would be "among the first" to call for a referendum if it passes.
The Arizona Interfaith Network, a statewide coalition of organizations including the Valley Interfaith Project, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and Yuma County Interfaith, held the news conference at 10 a.m.
The Rev. Martha Seaman, a deacon at Church of the Epiphany-Tempe who also serves as president of the Valley Interfaith Project board, began the conference by calling the flat tax a "dangerous" proposal....
The Rev. Hunter Ruffin, a senior pastor at Church of the Ephiphany-Tempe, said the lost tax revenue would "cripple our state for generations to come" and called the state budget "one of our most basic moral documents" that reflects who and what is prioritized in Arizona.
Ruffin said the "immoral" flat tax would benefit wealthy Arizonans at the cost of the poor and middle class, which he described as antithetical to religious teaching. "You can turn to Leviticus, to Ezekiel, to Zachariah, to Malachi, to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to the whole of the Pauline epistles....
"we're taught to care for the most vulnerable among us first, not simply when we have extra in our pockets and we feel charitable."
If the flat tax passes, Ruffin said the Arizona Interfaith Network would be "among the first" to call for a referendum, a measure in which voters can veto a law by gathering enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
He said the network would also be launching a series of community and congregational study sessions to further explore the flat tax and its implications.
[Photo credit: (right) Matthew Casey, KJZZ; (left) ABC News]
Oped: First the Pandemic, Now a Flat Tax. Haven't Arizona's Most Vulnerable Suffered Enough?” The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Arizona Faith Leaders Condemn Proposed Flat Tax, Say They Will Call Referendum, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
AIN Clergy Denounce the Flat Tax Proposal, Valley Interfaith Project
Monica Dorsey said about 500 homes in Maryvale were visited on Saturday and that she "absolutely" believes the effort will translate into higher vaccination rates.
She said the goal is to vaccinate between 1,500 and 1,800 people through May, adding that it is the "best feeling in the world" to know that Maryvale, and the larger Phoenix area, would be safer because of it.
Dorsey said the door-to-door efforts are also a key part in disseminating vaccine information, adding that "personal contact seems to make so much of a difference."
"Everybody is convinced social media is the way to reach people, but if you want to really, really reach them, you have to see them, talk to them, find out what's on their mind, hear their stories," she said. "It's so important and it is effective and we'll stay at it until percentages get where they need to be."
[Photo Credit: Drake Presto, The Republic]
VIP, with Daughters of Charity, Brings Covid-19 Vaccines to Neighborhood & Knocks On Doors to Invite Residents
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) leaders, with the Daughters of Charity Sisters at St. Elizabeth and St. Cabrini Catholic Churches have begun knocking on doors and talking about the vaccine with residents around St. Vincent de Paul Church to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to get vaccinated.
[Photo Credit: Univision]
Arreola has received some help from Voices United for Life, a pro-life organization. And in December, she joined online house meetings organized by the Valley Interfaith Project, a onetime Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization that now advocates for people facing eviction during the pandemic.
Valley Interfaith [Project], she said, has "given me a voice."
Advocacy on eviction prevention has become an important part of this work as well. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is affiliated with The Metropolitan Organization, a CCHD-fund grassroots organization that has taken on eviction prevention work since March.
St. John the Baptist Parish in Alvin, Texas, a Metropolitan Organization member, has provided partial rental support for about 30 families in which the primary earner has lost work as industries like construction and landscaping have retrenched under the pandemic.
For months advocates in Dallas have pushed officials to distribute rental assistance funds and expand the Centers for Disease Control moratorium on evictions. Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly has worked with CCHD-funded Dallas Area Interfaith on the effort.
"It's very harmful," Bishop Kelly said of the restrictions on accessing the money. "There's no need for it either. The funds are there."
Josephine Lopez Paul, lead organizer of Dallas Area Interfaith, said work continues on empowering and educating people about eviction prevention in the hope their voices will influence policymakers to better respond to their needs.
[Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]
With Evictions Looming, Agencies Furiously Work to Keep Families Housed, Angelus Catholic News Services [pdf]
Hundreds of thousands of Arizonans are in danger of losing their homes when the CDC eviction moratorium ends December 31st. Leaders and clergy of the Arizona Interfaith Network are now calling on Governor Ducey and state elected leaders for a moratorium on evictions.
"This is not just a public health issue, this is a moral issue," Rabbi John Linder declared.
Episcopal Bishop Jennifer Reddall affirmed, "We aren't set up to handle hundreds of thousands of homeless people." She and Linder are leading the network’s call on Gov. Ducey to enact a statewide eviction moratorium as the pandemic continues its surge across Arizona.
And in December, she joined online house meetings organized by the Valley Interfaith Project, a onetime Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization that now advocates for people facing eviction during the pandemic.
Valley Interfaith, she said, has "given me a voice."
Arreola is among thousands of people nationwide who have turned to parishes, Catholic Charities agencies and Catholic-affiliated nonprofits for assistance to stave off eviction. The number of people seeking financial assistance and emotional support is staggering, Catholic officials nationwide told Catholic News Service
[Maricopa County constable evicts a family from their home in blurred out photo above. Credit: John Moore, Getty Images]
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)
150 VIP Leaders Call for Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation in Meeting with Maricopa Supervisor
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates joined VIP’s Leaders Assembly on July 22 ...for a public strategy to accelerate COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing. VIP Leaders taught the crucial strategy needed to suppress the coronavirus and engender the trust required to open the economy and schools. With emphasis on Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation (TTSI), the strategy is based on conversations with Danielle Allen, lead author of the Harvard report, Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience (link to the study). VIP Congregations have stepped up in support of this strategy, offering their facilities as trusted sites for testing centers and the commitment to recruit individuals from the community to be trained as contact tracers.
The urgency of this moment was clearly demonstrated with stories: from frontline workers about how COVID-19 has overtaken all aspects of healthcare to a mother’s concern for loved ones in prison, where only minimal protections have been offered as the virus spreads throughout the facility.
150 VIP Leaders Assemble Online with Supervisor Bill Gates to Discuss COVID-19 Strategies, 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]