In the largest event of the local election season, Austin Interfaith leaders turned out in force to set the agenda for candidates running for Austin City Council and AISD and ACC boards.
Held on April 20 at St. Ignatius, Martyr Catholic Church in South Austin , leaders shared their stories of pressures they and their families are facing in the areas of health care, employment, education, ESL, immigration status, relations with the police, and traffic concerns.
Firm commitments were made by candidates to vote for increased funding and support for these initiatives that help bring people into the middle class and keep them there. Leaders collected over 5,000 signatures on agendas of issues. In a strong showing of organized political power, leaders from Austin Interfaith institutions gathered over 5,000 signatures on local and organizational agendas of issues from their institutional members and from the public. These signatures were used to help turn out the vote in the local May elections.
Santa Barbara leaders have succeeded in getting the first of a total of forty families in the Hornsby Bend area fully connected to running water.
Last year over $400,000 in infrastructure was invested in the project to get running water for the families, some of whom had been without water for five years,. By organizing residents to work together with the utility company, applications were approved, pipes laid on properties, and meters activated to start the water flowing! The community is now focused on organizing to get the financial resources needed for the remaining families to get their water too.
Three new members have joined Austin Interfaith since the start of the year.
Congregation Kol Halev: a Jewish congregation with a focus on community that meets at the Dell Jewish Community Center in Northwest Austin :
ACC/AFT (Austin Community College American Federation of Teachers Union):
local branch 6249 of the national and state federation of teachers and represents all non-administrative employees of Austin Community College .
Simpson United Methodist Church : a historically African-American, central East Austin congregation established in 1880 that has played a significant role in the city for over 100 years.
Austin Interfaith conducts Research Actions on Health Care, Education, Workforce, and Police Relations
Dozens of leaders held over forty conversations in the first months of the year with policy makers, academics, community leaders, and public officials to learn in detail about these issue areas. Relationships, knowledge, and analysis gained in these meetings informed the action strategies and questions asked to candidates at the April Accountability Session.
Austin Interfaith leaders and Capital IDEA staff collaborated to host two rounds of orientations at Mt. Olive Baptist Church , Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Dolores Catholic Church, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, and San Jose Catholic Church in February and June.
A particular success was the doubling of the number of men who attended the orientations. This success was due in part to the new Ambassadors program that targets minority men for participation in Capital IDEA.
50 leaders from Catholic parishes throughout Austin gathered at Dolores Catholic Church for a half-day of intensive leadership training.
Spanish-speaking Austin Interfaith leaders collaborated with Gil Leija, Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese, to conduct the session and support leadership among immigrants and Spanish-speakers in Catholic churches.
Austin Interfaith was a community partner in a spring semester graduate course that focused on health disparities in central Texas .
Two leaders were enrolled in the course itself and Austin Interfaith collaborated with the professors and students to host a public education workshop for Spanish speakers at Dolores Catholic Church and to present at the international Abriendo Brecha: Activist Scholarship Conference. In addition, an undergraduate anthropology student interned with Austin Interfaith to support research and organizing efforts around health care issues.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church's social justice ministry has recently completed a house meeting campaign at their church and St. Catherine of Sienna Church's Community Concerns and Advocacy group is beginning house meetings around health care issues in their parish community. New member Congregation Kol Halev has begun an individual meeting campaign, and institutions such as San Jose, Dolores, and St. Ignatius are using the summer months for individual meeting campaigns as well.
These are the conversations that make it possible to know the people in our communities, stay in tune with the pressures that regular Austinites are facing, and ground plans for action to address them.
When a popular and highly utilized early voting location at the HEB on South Congress and Oltorf was unexpectedly moved, southside leaders organized to work with County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, HEB employees, the media, and member institutions to minimize the negative effect on voter turnout at this location. They helped publicize the new early voting location and, as a result, increased turnout at the new location in the final days of early voting.