"Austin Interfaith volunteers handed out blankets, towels and food Tuesday evening. They say flood victims need more donations including heaters. "So many people still need so much help," said Ofelia Zapata."
Reverend John Elford of the University United Methodist Church asserts that politics and faith do mix when it comes to social justice. In an editorial for the Austin American Statesman he reveals that "A couple of years ago, with the help of Austin Interfaith, we had several meetings with folks who are homeless. We listened to their concerns about life on the streets. I vividly recall one meeting..." He goes on to describe how congregations from Central Austin came together to support the recent passage of the affordable housing bond.
Austin Housing Bond Heads Towards Approval, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated the passage of a historic living wage ordinance they had fought for over the course of five years. Institutional representatives from congregations, schools and workers associations challenged city council candidates in 2012 to craft an ordinance requiring that jobs emerging from taxpayer incentives pay at least a living wage or prevailing wage, if higher. An economic incentive team put together language, which included an exception process, that was later adopted by a Special Committee on Economic Incentives and proposed by Councilmembers Martinez, Tovo and Morrison Thursday night. Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez intervened reading a statement of support for the ordinance at a 6pm rally, which was later read by an Austin Interfaith leader in Council chambers. After four hours of testimony and debate, the City of Austin passed, for the first time ever, a requirement that corporations receiving tapayer incentives be required to pay the City established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailling wages, whichever is higher.
Then There’s This: A ‘Decent Wage’, Austin Chronicle
In Austin, Workers Score Big, Texas Observer
Living Wages in Austin, Austin Interfaith
City councilmembers will vote Thursday on a long-debated initiative requiring that corporations that receive public subsidies pay the prevailing wage or at least $11 per hour (the City and County established living wage) -- something that "groups such as Austin Interfaith and the Austin-based Workers Defense Project have been seeking for years."
Economic incentives has been a key issue in prior elections. Austin Interfaith has been working on this issue since 2008.
City May Set $11 Wage for Tax Deals, Austin American Statesman
"Austin Interfaith leaders mobilized members to show up en masse to city budget hearings to plug these programs, meet with council members and bombard council offices with calls and emails in the days leading up to the final budget vote.
The nonprofit was elated that council members agreed to spend money on all of Austin Interfaith’s priorities, totaling $2.4 million.
Austin Interfaith and the parks coalition “were effective because they were very diverse, broad-based groups that had a clear message: that as a world-class city, we should be able to fund some of these critical needs better,” City Council Member Kathie Tovo said."
Organized Groups Won the Day in Austin Budget Vote, Austin American Statesman
"The Austin City Council has adopted its budget for the next fiscal year. For the first time in more than a decade, the council lowered Austin’s tax rate, [putting] the budget for next fiscal year just under $800 million. It is money that will bolster five initiatives Reverend Sandy Jones and Austin Interfaith advocated for. Jones is especially grateful for an additional $350,000 that will restart after-school programs... They're programs that were slashed during the recession and are just now being restored. "They do listen, and they do trust us with the ideas that we bring to them," Jones said. "It showed that they care about our youth. They care about the instruction of the youth in our community."Austin City Council Adopts New Budget, Austin YNN Austin Interfaith Recognizes Council For Investing in All Priorities, Austin Interfaith
Contact: Bob Batlan (512) 796 1533 - Jim O'Quinn (512) 589 2838
Austin Interfaith Recognizes Council Members for Investing in All Budget Priorities
Austin Interfaith commends council members for approving the reallocation of over a million dollars in the 2013-2014 budget to workforce development and youth programs at parks, schools and libraries while decreasing the tax rate. This is an investment in our children, youth and future skilled workforce.
"Today's decisions are a victory for Austin's future generation--because they're going to have more story times at the library, more hours at the pool and enriching classes after school. We want to see our future doctors, lawyers, and artists come from our own communities, families and education system," said Austin Interfaith leader Reverend Sandy Jones of Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
Austin Interfaith Budget Priorities:
- Primetime Afterschool - $350,000
Restore funding for AISD youth programs.
- Austin Public Libraries - $307,490
Support youth literacy by funding bilingual outreach and children's librarians.
- Capital IDEA - $200,000
Invest a total of $1.13 million in economic development that can end the cycle of poverty.
- Parks and Recreation - $1.455 Million
Provide equitable parks and park programming by investing in underserved parks and pools.
- Summer Youth Employment - $72,000
Restore funding for summer youth programs.
Thank you to council members Martinez, Morrison and Tovo for making the motions to fund these priorities.
Monday, September 9, 2013, Austin City Council members will make important City Budget decisions that directly affect our families. Even though Austin is a growing city, for years funding has been cut in areas that are important to our families, like youth programs, libraries and parks. Austin Interfaith is working with congregations and schools across the city to ensure the budget reinvests in the people of Austin. We can make sure council members hear our voice by working together to make hundreds of calls and emails before Monday morning. It's quick and easy!
In emails please be sure to use the Subject: Austin Interfaith Budget Priorities (otherwise all of our emails will not be counted together!).
Click here for more info and Council Members' Contact Info
"Central Health is building a 70,000-square foot facility called the Southeast Health and Wellness Center. Slated to open in fall 2014, the center will cost Travis County taxpayers about $8 million. It will have exercise classes and nutrition counseling, aimed at combating some of the area’s biggest health challenges. But one of its strongest critics is Ofelia Zapata..."
[Photo Credit: Felipa Rodriguez for KUT News]
Public Calls for Health Organization To Be More Open, Austin American Statesman (08/07/13)