Central Texas Interfaith Launches #SignUpTakeCharge Campaign in Advance of Fall Elections

Central Texas Interfaith (CTI), a network of over 50 religious and civic institutions comprised of Austin Interfaith, Bastrop Interfaith, Corridor IAF, and related projects in Western Travis and Williamson Counties has launched a non-partisan effort to Get Out the Vote in four Central Texas counties. These efforts include signing up at least 15,000 to support a common agenda of issues.  Over 5,000 residents met through small group “house meetings” to identify issues of mutual interest that candidates for local office will be asked to support.  
 
CTI will also host 4 Accountability Sessions, one each in Travis, Williamson, Hays, and Bastrop to gain commitments from candidates on affordability, infrastructure, living wages, immigration, healthcare access, and public safety. Candidates for Austin Mayor, including Steve Adler and Laura Morrison, Austin City Council, Hays County Judge and Commissioners, Texas Legislator, and U.S. Congress will have an opportunity to give their public support to the CTI agenda of issues.  CTI does not endorse candidates.   The first two Accountability Sessions will be held on October 21st, in Travis and Hays Counties. 
 
CTI’s goal is to overcome a divisive political culture by building a network of 15,000 voters who are connected through face-to-face relationships and conversations in congregations, schools, social service organizations, unions, and neighborhoods.  Volunteers from CTI are engaging these voters in pews, health clinics, back to school nights, health fairs, and at doorsteps. CTI is on target to conduct over 40 “Sign Up Take Charge” block walks in neighborhoods across Travis, Hays, Williamson, and Bastrop Counties leading up to the November 6 election.

Immediately after the November elections, Central Texas Interfaith will engage the thousands of voters who signed onto the agenda to advocate for these identified priorities with elected officials.
 
Examples of specific items on the CTI issues agenda include:
 
Affordability: Economic displacement of families from the Eastside and Southside of Austin to Kyle, Buda, and outside 183 in Travis County. 

Education: Cutting of Austin ISD school budget due to inadequate state funding even while Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country

Health Care: Lack of medical personnel who accept Medicaid and Medicare in Williamson County
 
Infrastructure: Limited funding for infrastructure improvements in central Texas  
 
Immigration: Undocumented migrants afraid to attend church in Bastrop and New Braunfels due to concerns about ICE

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Statement on Passage of FY 2019 City of Austin Budget

We commend the Mayor and City Council for fully funding all of Austin Interfaith’s priorities in the just-approved FY-2019 city budget.  This includes full funding for AISD Parent Support Specialists, AISD Prime Time After School programs, an increase in the City of Austin Living Wage to $15/hr., and an increase in funding for long term job training for programs such as Capital IDEA, for a combined budgetary impact of over $5 million.

We commend the collaboration of Councilmembers Alison Alter and Greg Casar for their combined amendment to restore full funding to these education and workforce development programs, which also provided funding for programs addressing homelessness and other social services.  Mayor Adler and Councilmembers Garza, Kitchen, Poole, and Tovo also supported this measure.  Austin Interfaith also commends Mayor Adler for his earlier motion to free up additional budgetary money by setting the tax rate at an appropriate level, making good on a promise he and council members made to Austin Interfaith and the community earlier in the year to hold crucial human development programs harmless from the budgetary impact of increasing the homestead exemption. 

We do believe the city needs to evaluate its budget process and will work with them to make sure these essential investments in human and economic development are not left to last minute budget decisions.  But we commend the Mayor, Council, their staffs, and the City Manager and his staff for their accessibility and collaboration in this budget process, as well as the hundreds of volunteer hours put in by Austin Interfaith leaders from across the city in advocating for these community priorities.   This was the democratic process in action. 

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Austin Interfaith Statement on Capital IDEA Funding in City Budget

Austin Interfaith calls on the Mayor and City Council to fund Capital IDEA to 2.5million in this year’s budget.  Capital IDEA is Austin’s most effective strategy to prepare low-income, minority, first-generation in college adults to fill Austin’s abundant opportunities in nursing, other health care and IT.   This increase of $700,000 in city funding would allow 85 more adults, in addition to the 900 students already in the program, to lift themselves out of poverty and into living wage jobs.  Capital IDEA contributes to Austin’s economic development, as the average Capital IDEA student enters the program earning on average $10,461, and upon completion earns on average $40,914. 

Earlier this year when the increase in the homestead exemption was passed, the council gave assurances that this would not negatively impact programs which invest in human development, like Capital IDEA, after school programs, and Parent Support Specialists.  Our city’s investment in these programs needs to keep pace with our growing population and persistent inequality and poverty rates in Austin.  A recent independent evaluation showed a 950 percent return on investment to the federally-funding, City-managed “patient to practitioner” project. It turned low-income clients using our safety net institutions into health care professionals staffing them.

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Austin City Council Passes Living Wage Requirement for Economic Incentives to Community Acclaim

Austin Interfaith applauds the Austin City Council for adopting a $15 an hour living wage floor requirement as a key feature of its expanded Economic Development Incentive Program.

Says David Guarino of All Saints Episcopal Church, “Austin Interfaith recognizes Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and the members of the City Council for hearing and acting on our concerns.”

“Austin Interfaith is especially appreciative of Council Members Greg Casar and Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria for co-sponsoring the amendment that guaranteed living wage requirements for firms receiving incentives.”  Mayor Adler and Councilmembers Flanagan, Kitchen and Pool spoke in favor living wages as a key community value for Austin.  Mayor ProTem Kathie Tovo and Council Member Pool thanked community leaders for working with the council and city staff on the new policy.

Austin Interfaith, an organization of 37 local congregations, schools, nonprofits and labor organizations, worked hard to ensure that the City Council required living wages for employees of firms receiving future tax incentives.

“Tonight, the Austin City Council has set a national standard for urban economic incentive programs by recognizing that people deserve the dignity of a living wage from employers who receive economic incentives,” Guarino.

Austin Interfaith has worked years to encourage the city toward the $15 an hour living wage standard for city-subsidized companies.

Said Reverend Sandy Jones from Mount Olive Baptist Church, “Austin Interfaith also applauds City Manager Cronk for recommending a $15 an hour living wage floor for city employees and contractors as part of the city’s budget process.”

Support Your Local and Small Businesses, Austin Chronicle

Council Set to Approve Incentive Plan to Help Local, Small Business, CBS Austin

Council Considers Which Strings to Attach to Corporate Incentives, Austin Monitor

Video of Austin Interfaith Testimony

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Bastrop Interfaith Stands with Stony Point on Sheriff Checkpoints

Bastrop Interfaith leaders, including Maria Jimenez (in interview above), expressed grave concerns over Labor Day checkpoints planned in the Stony Point neighborhood.

[Photo Credit: Telemundo]

Consulado Pide a la Comunidad Extremar Medidas tras Anuncio de Operativo Vial en Bastrop, Telemundo [pdf]

Del Valle Residents Grow Anxious Over Bastrop Sheriff's Weekend Patrols, Austin American Statesman [pdf]

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Statement on Living Wage Policy

Austin Interfaith commends City Council members for vocalizing their strong support this week for maintaining Living Wage protections when public tax dollars subsidize private businesses.   The current policy of requiring companies to pay the City Living Wage if they receive tax subsidies or incentives (Chapter 380 agreements) was forged over the past several years by community leaders and public officials.  Should the Mayor and Council decide to consider and vote on any changes to our Chapter 380  policies in the near future, we believe they will continue this commitment to working families.

We also commend City Manager Cronk for including an increase to $15 Living Wage in the City budget proposal.  Currently the City Living Wage applies to all city employees, employees of city contractors, and businesses receiving tax subsidies and incentives.  Austin Interfaith has worked with the Mayor and City Council to move the living wage from $11 in 2013 to the proposed goal of $15 today.  

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Austin Interfaith Defends Living Wages

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Statement on Bastrop Interfaith Meeting with Sheriff Cook

Bastrop Interfaith met with Sheriff Maurice Cook today and we believe this was a good first step in addressing the issues we have been concerned about. The Sheriff agreed to meet with Bastrop Interfaith on a regular basis and discuss issues of common concern around community safety and building trust within the community.

Sheriff Cook assured us that he has the discretionary authority to ticket in the case of minor traffic violations, and that the term “zero tolerance” does not refer to arresting for all infractions. He also assured us that he has not and will not target the Stony Point community but will enforce the law evenly across the county.

The Sheriff also recognized the trust that Bastrop Interfaith has with the community and we believe this work speaks to the importance of local organizing with congregations and civic institutions to address issues impacting the county.

While we did not agree on everything, we did agree that we will work closely together moving forward, and Bastrop Interfaith will closely monitor the enforcement of public safety and its impact on the community.

Consul: DPS Helped Bastrop Traffic Operation That Led to Deportations, Austin American Statesman

Sheriff Listens to Community's Concerns Following Traffic Operation, Spectrum

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Bastrop Interfaith Speaks Out Against Deportations Stemming from Traffic Operation

[Statement excerpt below:]

"....on June 23, five deputies from the Sheriff's office appeared to be stationed at or near the Stoney Point community. People were stopped for speeding and DUI, which is appropriate. But they were also stopped for allegedly failing to use turn indicators, once for allegedly failing to use turn indicators within 500 feet of the intersection; for a broken or burnt out tail light; and for having mud on their license plate. These were very minor traffic infractions. To many, this appeared to be a targeted effort to locate and detain undocumented people. As previously reported, 23 Hispanics were arrested of which 13 were taken and moved into deportation proceedings.

By this action, which appears to have been against immigrants, the Sheriff has not increased people's confidence in law enforcement, which is what we had sought and strived to obtain in our prior dialogue with the Sheriff. This causes us serious concern and raises question of credibility in that dialogue...."

[Photo Credit: Ralph Barrera, Austin American Statesman]

Full Statement Here

'Zero Tolerance' Arrests Put 13 in ICE Custody, 'Had Nothing to Do With Immigration', Texas Sheriff Says, Miami Herald

El Aguacil del Condado Bastrop Rompe el Silencio Sobre el Operativo de Tránsito Donde Fueron Detenidos Varios Inmigrantes Indocumentados, Univision Austin

Bastrop Sheriff: Traffic Stop Had 'Nothing to Do with Immigration', Austin American Statesman

Faith Group Blasts Sheriff for Traffic Crackdown, Deportations, Austin American Statesman [pdf]

Residents Concerned After Traffic Arrests Lead to ICE Detentions, Spectrum News

Del Valle Neighborhood On Edge After Drivers Caught in Traffic Sting Are Turned Over to ICE, KUT 90.5

Líderes Religiosos de Bastrop Cuestionan Detenciones de Inmigrantes en Operativo de Tránsito, Univision

Bastrop Interfaith Leader Speaks Out Against Deportations Stemming from Traffic Operation, KVUE

Bastrop Interfaith Exige Un Fin a la Política de Cero Tolerancia en su Condado, Telemundo

Bastrop County Sheriff Defends Traffic Enforcement Sting, KXAN

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Statement on Austin Interfaith's 2018-19 City of Austin Budget Priorities

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