When Torchy's Tacos re-submitted a two-year old bid to sell alcohol within 300 feet of Fulmore Middle School, they forgot to take into account the lasting power of Austin Interfaith. Leaders from neighboring Travis Heights Elementary PTA, St. Ignatius Catholic, Oak Creek Village Tenants Association and St. David's Episcopal Church were already organizing around funding for after-school programming and maintaining affordable housing in communities near the school when apartment complexes are redeveloped.
The night before Torchy's petition for a permit waiver, 200 parents, school staff and community leaders assembled with school board members and city councilmembers to leverage their support for affordable housing, after-school programming and, now, reaffirmation of City law against alcohol sales near schools. On stage, Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo and AISD Trustees Paul Saldaña and Jayme Mathias all pledged to oppose the variance.
Within hours, Torchy's Tacos released a press statement promising to "withdraw and refile" their waiver request. Said Rev. Brian Ferguson of Wildflower Church in response: "We are glad, for the moment, that alcohol is not going to be sold close to the school," but "the law says you can't sell alcohol within 300 feet. This has gone on for two years..." Leaders are prepared to continue the fight if they refile.
[In photo: Rev. Bill Wack of St. Ignatius Catholic speaks to audience.]
Torchy's Withdraws Request to Sell Alcohol on Congress, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Facing Pressure, Flagship Torchy's Drops Alcohol Waiver Request, Austin Monitor
Torchy's Bid for Alcohol Permit Takes a Hit from Officials, Faith Group, Austin American Statesman
Council: Burning Daylight, Austin Chronicle
Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin recently penned the following in advance of a statewide celebration of the 40+ year anniversary of the Texas IAF set for Saturday, April 30th:
"The Texas Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) Network Forty Years of Organizing Celebration is a significant summit to highlight the great achievements of your blessed efforts in support of families and communities. On behalf of the faithful of the Diocese of Austin, and in my own name, I congratulate you on more than forty years of service and organizing in Texas.
Austin Interfaith, through its virtuous work, proves that those living in poverty are more than figures and statistics. Austin Interfaith provides leadership development to enable citizens to collaborate and navigate effectively through the political process with governmental and community leaders around issues of common concern...."
[Photo Credit: Rodolfo Gonzalez, Ahora Si!]
Early Voting started April 25th and runs through May 3rd!!
May 7, 2016 is Election Day
The City of Austin is holding a special election on Saturday May 7, on Proposition 1, the ordinance on TNC’s, Transportation Network Companies.
A NO vote --a vote AGAINST-- would keep the current city ordinance that the current city council passed, including fingerprint background check and other safety requirements.
A For vote, would repeal the current ordinance that the city council has passed, and eliminate the current requirement for the fingerprint background check and other safety requirements.
Please get informed and VOTE.
"In 1988, then-East Austin resident Ofelia Zapata was among the first helped by a new group whose mission is to build stronger communities by teaching residents how to organize and leverage their political capital.
Born poor and with visual disabilities, the young widow with three daughters joined Austin Interfaith, a non-denominational, non-partisan umbrella organization of various churches, temples and charitable community groups.
Zapata first got involved when she was a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. She wanted to ensure her daughters’ schools provided an education as good as more affluent schools across town, she said. Austin Interfaith members worked to help pass bond propositions to build parks and schools in East Austin, where she lived at the time...." Click here to read more.
Austin Interfaith Celebrates 30 Years of Building Power, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Last July, Hidden Valley / High Meadows (mobile home) residents became distressed when lot rents for people on month-to-month leases were raised for the second time within a 12-month period. New rules mandated improvements and standardizations — adding new costs to residents — including deck and railing upgrades, paint jobs, skirting repair, shed standardization, color control and control over inside window coverings visible from the street. Families were also asked to demonstrate possession of a drivers' license to drive on the property, impacting hundreds of residents. Many families scrambled to comply; some left.
Residents reached out to Austin Interfaith and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) for support and within two months founded their association (Hidden Valley / High Meadows Residents' Association) and signed up over 200 households as members.
On December 10, the HVHMRA signed a historic accord with their landlord, Scott Roberts of Roberts Communities, locking in many protections, including the:
- Right to organize residents' associations that represent the interests of mobile home park residents.
- First rent control concession in a mobile home park of Austin, locking in no more than 5% increases through 2017 and rent increase caps in subsequent years.
- Protections for undocumented immigrant residents.
Minutes before the item came up for discussion, Austin Interfaith leaders shepherded the signing of this agreement between HVHMRA officers and landlord Scott Roberts.
Through the establishment of a 'mobile home regime', or framework for landlord-resident relations, this important victory sets an unprecedented standard, ensuring that land use decisions on mobile home parks protect the quality of life for existing residents.
Mobile Home Community Says Affordability Agreement Will Provide New Protection, KXAN
City Council: Keep 'Em Waiting, Austin Chronicle
I am Minister Sandy D. Jones from Mount Olive Baptist Church, a member and supporter of Austin Interfaith. I learned about what Austin Interfaith has been doing for education and child & youth development through the work of volunteers and leaders from congregations all over our growing city. Our city is a very multicultural city that needs to provide an education that will reach each and all these cultures of children and adults for productive families and lifestyles. This will bring peace and prosperity for our schools, communities, cities and state as a whole.
I took an interest in this work in thinking about my grandchildren’s education. I myself was raised in the south, the state of Alabama, during segregation where we as a black race did not have the privileges that others had. After over 40 years we can still see the same effect of our kids not having the privileges of others because of their race, and their neighborhoods.
I sincerely believe that child, and youth development programs are necessarily important to our education system in educating our children and parents. We have a very large number of our children being raised by their grandparents, as I myself was, and often the grandparent themselves do not have a high school diploma. The child & youth developments programs serve to help educate where the grandparents, parents, and single parents do not have the time, due to working long hours and working two jobs in some cases to meet financial needs, or the education to help with homework that they themselves do not understand. It also helps the parent with their own education when they come and sit in and learn with their child in these development programs, helping with homework and reading. The programs help with structure, create habits in studying, reading, and promote self-esteem. Austin Interfaith makes these things possible.
It’s a real need I myself had years ago. If someone would have asked me what was my biggest problem I had about learning, my answer would have been -- then and today -- to have some place and some one to help me with my homework, and reading so I could be the best I could be and to make better choices for my life and future.
The children we support and serve through the child & development programs are our future generation of doctors, lawyers, judges, bankers, city councilmembers, governors, and more.
We ask you, our general public, to help and support Austin Interfaith with your generous financial donation, so that we may continue to serve the need that is so needed, through continued advocacy for investments in development programs like Primetime, Victory Tutorial Project, Summer Youth Employment and Capital IDEA.
May God Bless You For Your Donations.
Minister Sandy D. Jones
Mount Olive Baptist Church
1800 E. 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78702
Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen and Leslie Pool celebrated the passage of what Austin Interfaith leader Rabbi Alan Freedman called a "living budget" alongside organization leadership the day after it passed.
Austin Interfaith furthermore celebrated additional wins in areas impacting workers, children and families:
- $350K in increased investment to expand access to long-term job training program Capital IDEA by 70 slots,
- $3 million in added investments in parks, pools and libraries,
- $684K for AISD parents support specialists,
- $520K for Primetime after-school programming, and
- $1.6 Million for property tax breaks for seniors and disabled homeowners.
Setting an Example, Austin Chronicle
Council Wrap Up: Unpacking Council's Brand New Budget, Austin Chronicle
Point Austin: A Living Budget, Austin Chronicle
Why Public Health, Social Service Funding Surged in the Austin Budget, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Austin, Texas - Austin Interfaith, an organization of 37 congregations, schools, unions and non-profits, plans to celebrate the adoption of a ground-breaking budget at a press conference Friday, Sept. 11th at 12:20pm in the Media Room of City Hall alongside supportive City of Austin Council members.
This year, Councilmembers prioritized workers, families and children in its budget. Not only did councilmembers approve an unprecedented living wage increase of 14.5%, from $11.39 to $13.03 per hour, they extended that increase to part-time temporary workers after 80 Austin Interfaith leaders lined up to demand they do so. Says Bob Batlan of Temple Beth Shalom, "we cautioned the council that limiting the living wage to full time employees, as originally proposed, would encourage out-sourcing, reduce city authority over its workers and ultimately result in lower wages across the city." Council heard the call of Austin Interfaith and included contingency workers in the new wage package. This makes Austin the first city in Texas to extend living wage standards to its part-time, temporary AND contracted workers.
This living wage increase will also apply to private employees of companies receiving taxpayer funded incentives. Healthcare benefits will additionally be made available for those who have worked for the City at least 12 months.
Other Austin Interfaith asks that made it in the budget include $350K for long-term job training provided by Capital IDEA, $684K for AISD parent support specialists, half a million for Primetime after-school programming, $357K to continue extended library hours this year, $1.6 Million to increase the tax exemption for seniors and disabled homeowners, funding for healthy food incentives and $1.65 Million added funds for parks, pools and recreational centers.
Says Wildlflower Church leader Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, "Austin Interfaith applauds those City Council members who were our budget champions. Mayor Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Tovo, Councilmembers Casar, Garza, Kitchen and Poole found creative ways to fund Austin Interfaith priorities for the benefit of the city as a whole!"
Council members Casar, Kitchen and Pool have confirmed their participation today at 12:20pm.
Austin Interfaith is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue organization of 37 congregations, public schools, and unions who work together to address public issues that affect the well being of families and neighborhoods in our community.
Austin Interfaith leaders continued the push to shift city budget priorities away from police-dominant public safety to long-term investments in children and workers. At the second public hearing on the budget, Rabbi Alan Freedman testified that while public safety is "critical to existence...our goal should be to have a city where people can live."
He was accompanied by other leaders from Austin Interfaith, Seton Healthcare and UT Austin who all urged the council to invest in long-term job training program Capital IDEA.
[In Photo: Rabbi Alan Freedman]
Unmet Needs: Budget Crunch Time Arrives with Values in Conflict, Austin Chronicle
Denouncing the proposed City of Austin budget for not going far enough to pay its part-time, temporary workers well and to provide essential services to low and middle income families, eighty Austin Interfaith leaders descended on City Hall to urge the Council to prioritize the concerns of residents.
Councilmembers Delia Garza (2), Gregorio Casar (4), Ann Kitchen (5), Leslie Pool (7), Kathie Tovo (9) and AISD Board president Gina Hinojosa joined Austin Interfaith in an afternoon press conference in support of Austin Interfaith's budget priorities.
Later that night, 12 leaders spoke in support of specific items including a wage increase from $11.39 to $13.03 for all adult city employees - including part-time temporary workers, investment in Capital IDEA training, after-school programming, investments in branch libraries, improved park facilities, public water fountains, affordable housing, and healthy food incentives.
The second and final public hearing is at 11:00am on Thursday, August 27th. The final vote is scheduled early September.
[Photo Credit: Jim O'Quinn]
Religious Leaders Speak out on City Budget, Time Warner Cable
Night Moves, Austin Chronicle
Minorities, Low Income Residents Top Budget Amendment Requests, Austin Monitor [full text here]
Luckless at Capitol, Wage Advocates Go Local, Texas Tribune