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

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

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

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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150 Leaders Launch Fall Plan to Turn Out 10,500 Voters

Five months before the fall election, 150 Austin Interfaith leaders gathered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to launch a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort targeting 10,500 Central Texas voters. After approving the AI Agenda of Issues, leaders from congregations, schools, and non-profit organizations pledged, by institution, to sign up 10,500 voters and deliver them to the polls in the fall. Signups will take place both in congregations and institutions, and through blockwalks in surrounding neighborhoods.

Over the previous five months, Austin Interfaith leaders held over 250 small group "house meetings" with 2,500 participants to understand what issues communities are facing and to identify potential leaders from those conversations. What resulted is an agenda that includes workforce development and living wages, affordability and housing, community policing and safety, infrastructure and sustainability, healthcare, education, and immigration reform.

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Bastrop Interfaith Acts on House Meeting Concerns: Engages Sheriff, Organizes Neighborhood Cleanup

After hearing from immigrants about their reluctance to report crime, including domestic violence, for fear of being detained, Bastrop Interfaith leaders initiated a conversation with Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook about community safety, including improved communications between the Sheriff’s Department and the community. Leaders will soon meet with Bastrop County’s Crime Prevention Deputy and Victims Services Coordinator in order to advance the conversation.

In previous house meetings, residents of Stony Point had identified trash in their neighborhood as an issue of concern. Leaders worked with Bastrop County Judge Pape, helping leverage a county-funded free clean up day last fall. It proved so popular that resident leaders negotiated a second clean up, held the first weekend of June. Over 40 people hauled pickup loads of trash to the dumpsters, some making several trips! Bastrop Interfaith leaders used the opportunity to talk to people while they waited in line, to better understand their concerns and to include them in upcoming house meetings.

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