Hundreds of Central Texas Interfaith leaders, along with many other ordinary citizens, regularly travel to the Texas Capitol and City Halls to advocate for issues that affect their families. They do this through hundreds upon hundreds of conversations with public officials and others from their communities.
Violence is not the answer to settling political disputes. What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday endangered not only the elected officials, their staffs, and public safety officers who were present, but also threatened the right of every citizen who peaceably engages in the democratic process in our country.
Please see below the West/Southwest IAF Statement on yesterday's events.
Lead Organizer, Central Texas Interfaith
The violent incursion at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6 disrespected, demeaned, and threatened the right of every citizen who peaceably engages in the democratic process in our country.
Deliberation, debate, argument, compromise, deal-making; these are the means to advance interests in a democracy. The leaders and organizations of the West/Southwest IAF teach and practice these political skills every day; vigorously engaging on the issues that impact our families and traveling regularly to state Capitols, City Halls, and decision-making chambers to advance these issues. That the buildings and halls of power belong to them is made self-evident in their consistent and persistent presence throughout years of effort. Their work is carried out through hundreds of conversations full of respectful dissent, concession, and sometimes victory; in other words, democratically.
What happened yesterday at the U.S. Capitol not only endangered the officials, staff members and public safety officers who were present, but endangered our democratic institutions by introducing violence to what has, until now, been a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power in our national leadership. To arrive at consent at the point of a gun is the weakest form of power, and our nation was weakened on January 6 by the use of violence in place of political debate.
As a network of religious, labor, education and community leaders from all walks of life and all political persuasions, we condemn the acts of insurrection and violence in Washington, D.C., and recall the words of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address at the conclusion of the Civil War: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
Friends of Central Texas Interfaith
We had planned for 2020 to be a year of Get Out The Vote campaigns, non-partisan candidate Accountability Sessions, and formally launching our 8 geographic organizing clusters across 10 counties. It was all of these, but when COVID-19 hit this past spring, we felt a renewed call to live out our mission more than any time in our 30-plus year history. During a year in which many of our families have experienced immeasurable loss, we also feel fortunate to be in a position to positively address COVID’s challenges.
Below are just some of the accomplishments the clergy and leaders of Central Texas Interfaith achieved in 2020:
- Launched 8 geographic Organizing Clusters across the region in Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop, Brazos, and McLennan Counties through two rounds of local cluster meetings, and added several new institutional members.
- Held 10 non-partisan candidate Accountability Sessions across these counties in the Spring Primary Elections, Fall General Elections and Runoffs with candidates for U.S. Congress, State Legislator, County Commissioner, County Sheriff, and City Council.
- Held town halls and meetings focused on a COVID-19 with County Judges and Mayors in Travis County, Bastrop, Hays, Williamson, and McLennan Counties to address health and economic impacts of COVID. Town Halls in Travis County and Waco had 150-200 participants.
- Won over $40 million in Rental Assistance and Income Assistance at the City and County Level
- Successfully testified at Texas Public Utility Commission for moratorium on cutoffs and assistance program for low-income individuals.
- Raised nearly $4 million public dollars for the long-term job training program Capital IDEA in the Central Texas area including $2.5 million from City of Austin, nearly $800,000 from Travis county, $30,000 from Hays County, as well as bi-partisan supported state funding.
- Advocated at City Council, APD, and Office of Police Oversight for community policing, effective oversight, recruitment from communities of color, and race equity training among officers.
- Implemented a year-long Spanish language organizing training and leadership development initiative “Reconociendo Al Extranjero” with 50 leaders from 12 congregations.
- Successfully conducted the largest “Get out the Vote” (GOTV) campaign in the organization's history with over 215 leaders making over 11,000 phone calls to low propensity voters in 17 precincts. In 16 of 17 precincts these low-propensity voters actually outvoted their precincts as a whole during early voting.
- During the Dec 2020 Austin City Council Runoff, 38 Central Texas Interfaith leaders called 1,680 registered voters to encourage them to vote in the runoff election for Austin City Council District 6 and 10.
- Raised a broad-base of over $650,000 for the organization including member institution dues, individual contributions, corporate contributions, and foundation funding.
If you are in a position to give this year, we ask that you think first about direct relief programs that provide food, clothing, economic and healthcare support for those in need.
If you would also like to support the work of creating structural and institutional change through Central Texas Interfaith, you may give here.
Please have a safe and happy holiday,
Central Texas Interfaith
By CTI Lead Organizer Doug Greco
As we head into Labor Day weekend we are reminded that the dignity of work and the viability of families have been the result of the work of generations of passionate advocates and reformers. From child labor laws to the 40-hour work week to Family and Medical Leave and Living Wages, the space for families to live and work with dignity has been the result of hard won policies. As Marylynne Robinson writes in her book “The Death of Adam”, during the Industrial Revolution children were used as labor, often in the most dangerous jobs, and expectant mothers worked punishingly long hours, sometimes giving birth on the factory floor! Therefore, Robinson claims, the family as an institution had to be fought for.
Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) continues this fight for families and the dignity of work as we ramp up our Sign Up and Take Charge (SUTC) and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign for this fall’s elections. CTI’s goal is to sign-up and deliver 35,000 voters to the polls around a non-partisan agenda of issues including workforce development, living wages, education, immigration, health care, police reform and criminal justice reform.
In the 2018 election, CTI signed up 5,000 voters to a similar agenda and as a result of a robust GOVT effort, 88% of those CTI voters in Travis County voted as compared to only 62% of Travis County registered voters as a whole. This nearly 90% turnout proved that our model for voter engagement works! Signing up voters to the CTI agenda enables our leaders to follow-up with voters through congregational announcements, phone calls, and neighborhood engagement to get them to the polls!
We ask you to join us in this effort by first signing on to the 2020 CTI Agenda of Issues. And if you are also willing to be part of our team leaders who gather these signatures (electronically) you can also indicate this on the same form. Our goal is to have 1,000 CTI leaders commit to sign-up 35 voters each, from among their family, neighbors, friends, co-workers and community members. With 35,000 voters, CTI could be the largest, non-partisan political organization in Central Texas, and be able to advance the issues and policies and values that will protect our families and communities.
by Doug Greco, Lead Organizer of Central TX Interfaith
As stopping the spread of COVID-19 is reorganizing our personal and public lives, it is clear that the work of Central Texas Interfaith needs to be about addressing one issue: how to help our families, our civic and religious institutions, and our communities deal with the COVID-19 crisis. This disruption in our lives parallels the impact of an event like 9/11 or what cities deal with during natural disasters like hurricanes and floods and will require we change some assumptions about what the work of CTI is.
Following the lead of our IAF sister organization in Houston and Louisiana after Katrina, Harvey, and subsequent floods, we need to look for opportunities to support direct relief for families in our institutions and communities. This means first assessing the urgent basic needs of shelter, food, income, safety, and health, and being supportive of efforts to address them. To this end, we should exercise the skills and practices we learn in organizing: checking-in with families in our congregations and other organizations, listening for stories of how they are impacted, and being intentional about understanding the interests of those around us.
Out of an understanding of these basic needs, we need to be a strong voice for policies which protect these families at the local, state, and national levels. As a 10-county regional organization with 45 member congregations, schools, and unions we are uniquely positioned to shape the public response to this crisis. Access to testing and healthcare, nutrition for children and mothers, paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers, a statewide halt to evictions and utility cutoffs, and basic income support to most families are among the measures we are pressing for.
TO THIS END, WE WILL BE HOLDING A “VIRTUAL” CENTRAL TEXAS INTERFAITH LEADERS MEETING ON TUESDAY, MARCH 31ST FROM 7:00-8:30PM. This will be an opportunity to share how the COVID-19 situation is impacting you, your civic or religious institution, and your community, and to become part of actions to address it. PLEASE RSVP TO THIS LINK and we will send you the logistics of how to join by video or conference call. Additionally, our Strategy Team, Boards, Clergy, and Action Teams are all meeting by video and teleconferencing over the next week to reorganize CTI’s work to meet this COVID-19 crisis. As we move forward, CTI will begin to provide our ongoing leadership development trainings, civic academies, and house meeting through these platforms.
Our world, and how we order our lives, has changed dramatically. Though many of us are safely hunkered down in our homes, let us keep at the forefront of minds the elderly and most vulnerable, those experiencing homelessness, those who have lost their jobs, and those whose jobs keep us alive while putting themselves at risk, like healthcare, grocery, and other retail and service works. After we ensure our families, friends, and others around us are safe and secure, lets carve out the time to continue to act on the faith that our collective power, will, and imagination are greatest when we keep organizing.
Central Texas Interfaith
The candidate filing period for federal, state, and county offices in the 2020 elections ends today, December 9th, for the most important election in a generation. Not only will races up and down the ballot, from president to local school board, offer opportunity for voters to make their voices heard, state legislative elections will determine 2021 redistricting and the 2020 census will provide essential demographic data which will shape how much federal funding local communities receive. One day into the filing period, on November 10th, over 320 Central Texas Interfaith leaders from across the 10-county region announced support for a single candidate in these elections: CTI’s 2020 Agenda of Issues.
When a Congressional candidate files for office, they normally hire a Chief Strategist, a Campaign Manager, and appoint a Finance Chair. From there, they work the phones to raise money for direct mail and field operations and speak at a round-robin of forums held by local organizations and political clubs. In contrast, at the Central Texas Interfaith Delegates Assembly in which CTI launched its own non-partisan 2020 election campaign, CTI Delegates:
- Adopted the 2020 CTI Agenda of Issues which includes Workforce Development, Living Wages, Affordable Housing, Addressing Homelessness, Community Safety, Sustainability, Immigration, Access to Healthcare, and Quality Education.
- Committed to raising $250,000 in “hard money” from member dues, individual contributions, and contributions from the local business community to fund its 2020 Get Out The Vote Campaign.
- Committed to signing up and delivering 50,000 registered voters to the polls in support of this agenda.
- Formed 8 “Organizing Clusters” across region, including clusters in Bastrop County, Williamson County, Hays/Comal Counties, Waco/Bryan-College Station, and 4 clusters in Travis County.
Candidates for offices from all parties across the region will be invited to a full slate of CTI candidate “Accountability Sessions” in the primaries, runoffs, and general election in 2020. These are generally the largest candidate sessions of the local elections season. Rather than compete for an endorsement by CTI, these candidates will be asked to endorse our candidate, our 2020 Agenda of Issues, by answering very specific questions about policy proposals. Then CTI leaders will conduct a year-long non-partisan Get Out the Vote campaign within its member congregations, schools, worker organizations, and non-profits, as well as through block walks in the surrounding communities to let communities know where candidates stand. In 2018, close to 90% of CTI voters participated in the general election, a robust indicator of the power of face-to-face engagement mediated through local institutions.
The CTI Agenda of Issues plans to be everywhere in 2020….
Keep an eye out for this candidate!
by Doug Greco
“Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It requires passion as well as perspective.”
-German Sociologist and Philosopher Max Weber.
Last month I wrote about the launch of our 500 Leaders Campaign: our effort to double the Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) leadership base by November of 2019. This past week will give you a peek into the organizing and leadership development work, mostly behind the scenes, that makes this happen.
Tuesday night, June 11, ATT Governmental Relations Director Eva Muñoz presented the Central Texas Interfaith Strategy Team with a $15,000 check to support its work in training Spanish-speaking and immigrant parents to address education issues that their children face (photo right).
On Wednesday, June 12, Rabbi Alan Freedman of Temple Beth Shalom and Rev. John Elford of University United Methodist Church Co-chaired the CTI Clergy Caucus. Guest speaker Rev. Melanie Jones presented on the role of race in the story of Hagar in scripture (photo below).
On Thursday and Friday, June 13-14, over 25 CTI leaders converged on Austin City Hall to advocate for Living Wages, pro-Affordability policies, funding for workforce and Education, and to reform policies that criminalize people experiencing homelessness. Leaders met with Mayor Adler, and Councilmembers Alison Alter and Greg Casar (see photo at right).
On Saturday, June 15, 25 leaders from CTI University-area and Downtown congregations and other organizations gathered for a day-long training on institutional organizing, building organizing teams, and conducting House Meetings. These leaders committed to a campaign of listening sessions in Central Austin leading up to a planned CTI Delegates Assembly in November (below right).
As the Max Weber quote at the top of this post implies, the lasting work of political change is built on hundreds of small actions, interactions, and attempts to advance ideas, relationships, and issues. Please continue to follow the work of Central Texas Interfaith this year, and we invite you to participate in and support our efforts to build a stronger Central Texas.
For more information on how to participate in CTI, please contact us at: [email protected]
To support the work of CTI financially, please donate below:
In a year when countless political campaigns are “staffing up”, recruiting volunteers, and raising money, Central Texas Interfaith is doing the same, but with a different focus: aggressively building a broad and diverse collective of 500 leaders. Over the next 7 months, CTI will attempt to double its base of core leaders at its congregations, schools, unions, and social service organizations to fight for families and the issues affecting them: affordable housing, workforce development, living wages, local control, immigration, safe neighborhoods, and healthcare. Simply put, the goal of our “500 LEADERS CAMPAIGN” is to build the largest non-partisan, broad-based political organization in Central Texas.
Central Texas Interfaith is now a 5 county organization with plans to expand further into the Waco and Bryan-College Station areas this year. This Central Texas region contains 3 million Texans, roughly the size of states like Iowa, Arkansas, Nevada, and Mississippi. It is culturally, politically, racially, and ethnically diverse, and is dissected by over 15 Texas House Districts and 10 U.S. Congressional districts. Our leadership base needs to be just as broad and diverse to make an impact on our democracy.
Leaders are developed through ACTION. Not just action at City Hall, Commissioners Court, and the Legislature, but also through small group House Meetings, one-on-one relational meetings, research actions, training sessions and civic academies. Last year, leaders from Central Texas Interfaith successfully fought the Bastrop County Sheriff to stop traffic stings that led to deportations. They fought to protect the living wage requirement for companies receiving tax abatements. And they fought to secure funding for after school programs, Parent Support Specialists, and Capital IDEA at the City of Austin.
Building RELATIONAL POWER, which is power among and between citizens around shared interests, requires a broad and diverse collective of leaders committed to the hard work of building capacity, a shared strategy, and the courage to act. We ask that you join or support our “500 LEADERS CAMPAIGN” by participating in CTI through your member institution, recruiting your institution to join us if they are not already a member, or investing in this work through our Individual Giving program we launched this month. This is a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people of Central Texas.
By Doug Greco, Lead Organizer of Central Texas Interfaith