Interfaith asks tough questions at candidate ‘accountability session’
By Kimberly Reeves and Elizabeth Pagano
Austin Interfaith’s Sunday night accountability forum easily will be the largest vetting this election season and probably the toughest crowd any Council candidate will face when choosing to say “no” to a particular issue.
Leaders of Austin Interfaith made it clear at that accountability session that it endorsed an agenda, not a candidate, and that a “yes” on an issue from a candidate was an invitation to hold that candidate to his or her word. And, not tosound too menacing, but they had not one, but two, video cameras recording the responses of the candidates for future reference.
An estimated 800 or so members of the audience at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, a broad cross section of groups, held a yellow sheet, in English and Spanish, and a space to mark “yes” or “no” for each candidate on seven key words: worker safety; homelessness; immigration; living wage; taxi driver legacy permits; attendance at a summit; and public participation.
Challengers and incumbents had no problem saying yes to some issues: require OSHA safety training on all construction projects that receive city subsidies or direct city lending; agree to partner with Austin Interfaith clergy to address the shortage of public restrooms and overnight beds for the homeless; and, regardless of what passes the Legislature on immigration reform this session, support the Austin Police Department’s position that its primary role is law enforcement rather than immigration patrol.
“My answers are yes, yes and yes,” Council Member Laura Morrison said to the first three questions, to wild applause from the audience. “I look forward to partnering with Austin Interfaith to end homelessness.”
One-time Council member Max Nofziger, who is challenging incumbentCouncil Member Randi Shade, also offered a “yes, yes and yes” to a rather favorable response from the crowd.
“I believe that we all have an obligation to help our fellow man and woman,” Nofziger told the audience. “I believe that is in the scripture taught here and in the Bible, and I believe that government can be a very powerful tool to help people. That’s what I believe in.”
Other candidates had similar responses. Shade challenger Kathie Tovo described helping the homeless as her obligation as a person of faith. In fact, every candidate said “yes” to the first three questions. For your own tally, those who had pre-interviewed and appeared at the forum included Morrison, Nofziger, Shade, Tovo, Roger Chan and Council Member Chris Riley. Eric Rangel, who is challenging Morrison, sat with his congregation in the audience but had not pre-interviewed with the Austin Interfaith board and, hence, was not allowed to participate in the forum.
Other questions were more challenging: require all for-profit companies that receive city subsidies to agree to employee wages of at least $34,000 a year with health care benefits and a career track; support a portable “legacy permit,” or medallion, for cab drivers, so they could switch between employers; and advocate for changes in the city’s lobbying ordinance so non-profits such as Austin Interfaith could speak on behalf of specific city-funded human development programs, as long as Austin Interfaith wasn’t getting funds.
Challengers had a far easier time with these questions. Nofziger, for instance, had no problem criticizing Austin as “a playground for the wealthy” when talking about tax breaks. Riley and Shade, on the other hand, ran into trouble giving guarantees to the for-profit living wage proposal. Both preferred to back the current position of the city, which was to require a wage of at least $11 per hour.
“I am not committing to the $34,000,” Shade said after some back-and-forth about whether she was an actual “no” on so-called living wage issue.
Both Shade and Riley also had problems with the taxicab permits, with Riley expressing a need for further review of the proposal. And Shade had to interject that she might support tweaking the city’s lobbying ordinance on behalf of non-profits like Austin Interfaith but that the ordinance, in general, served a purpose.
After the meeting, Riley agreed that the taxicab permits might be an issue; he just wasn’t sure of the actual solution, just yet.
“Virtually every way in which we regulate taxis needs some work, but that’s not something I’m just going to up and just decree where I am on that. That’s going to involve a long process,” said Riley when asked by In Fact Daily why he did not vow to support taxi driver legacy permits. “I’m absolutely committed to continuing that process, but I’m not going to predetermine the outcome.”
Similarly, Riley explained that he was reticent to agree to the total of the living wage requirement for city-subsidized relocating businesses. He explained to In Fact Daily that reluctance was due to the fact that there was perhaps more nuance than simply hourly wage to the issue, and a cutoff at $17 per hour could prevent jobs with good benefits and career tracks from coming to Austin.
Riley’s opponent, Roger Chan, told In Fact that he also had concerns about the living wage question, although he ultimately voted yes. Chan said it was the end result that was important, not all of the little things.
“If we can balance those components and get what we need, that’s what matters, and the focus on any one may not get you there,” said Chan.
Riley told In Fact Daily that he had kept all of his promises to Austin Interfaith in his previous campaign, although he admitted that “there were some disagreements about exactly what commitments were made, during the course of that process.”
Gina Hinojosa, a leader with Austin Interfaith spoke with In Fact Daily about whether any of the candidates had broken commitments made at previous accountability sessions.
“It has happened,” said Hinojosa, although they chose not to call out any of the candidates at the forum. “It changed the process. Now we have video cameras recording everybody’s answers and professional videographers doing that for us so that we know it’s recorded.” Hinojosa added that past action might have shown the candidates not to “take commitments lightly.”
“In the past, we bring our membership down to City Council; we hold them accountable to their commitment. We, if necessary, make phone calls to remind them of their commitment, we get meetings with them, we let our members in our institutions know,” said Hinojosa.
“Maybe there were some no’s this time that we didn’t get last time, because they know we’re not going to just walk away when they don’t honor their commitments. We’re going to hold them to it,” said Hinojosa
** Traducción hecho por Nidia Oporta de San Jose Catholic Church **
In Fact Daily / De Hecho Cotidiano
Abril 12, 2011
Por Kimberly Reeves y Elizabeth Pagano
**Traducción hecho por Nidia Oporta de San Jose Catholic Church**
El foro de Responsabilidad de Austin Interfaith en la noche del Domingo facilmente sera la revision mas larga de esta temporada de elecciones y probablemente la multitud mas dificil que cualquier candidato para el consejo va a enfrentar cuando escojan decir “no” a cualquier “ asunto particular.
Lideres de Austin Interfaith pusieron en claro en la Seccion de responsabilidad que endorsan una agenda, no un candidato y que un “Si” de un candidato a un asunto era una invitacion a sostener a ese candidato a su palabra. Y no para sonar muy amenazante, pero ellos tenian no una sino dos, camaras de video grabando las respuestas de los candidatos para referencias futuras.
Un estimado de mas o menos 800 miembros de la audiencia en laIglesia Catolica San Ignacio Martir, una amplia seccion transversal de los grupos sostenian una pagina amarilla, en Ingles y Español y un espacio para marcar “si” o “no” por cada candidato en siete palabras claves: Seguridad del trabajador; la falta de viviendas de las personas sin hogar; inmigracion; salarios dignos; permisos de legado para conductores de taxi; asistencia a una cumbre; y participacion publica.
Oponentes y actuales miembros del consejo no tuvieron problemas diciendo si a algunos asuntos: requerir OSHA entrenamiento de seguridad en todos los proyectos de construccion que reciban subsidios de la ciudad o prestamos directos de la ciudad; estubieron de acuerdo en asociarse al clero de Austin Interfaith para tratar la falta de suficientes baños publicos y camas durante la noche para las personas sin hogar; independientemente de las leyes que pase la Legislatura sobre la reforma migratoria, esta seccion, apoya la posicion del Departmento de Policia de Austin que su function primordial es hacer cumplir la ley en lugar de ser una patrulla de inmigracion.
"Mis repuestas son si, si y si," Miembro del Consejo,Laura Morrison dijo a las tres primeras preguntas, para un salvaje aplauso de la audiencia. "Yoespero podercolaborar con Austin Interfaith para poner fin a la falta de viviendas de las personas sin hogar"
De una sola vez el miembro del Consejo, Max Nofziger, quien es el oponente a la actual Miembro del Consejo, Randi Shade, tambien ofrecio un "Si, Si y Si para una respuesta mas favorable de la multitud.
“Yo creo que todos nosotros tenemos una obligacion de ayudar a nuestro projimo”, “Nofziger dijo a la audiencia. “Yo creo que esta en la escritura enseñada aqui y en la biblia y yo creo que el gobierno puede ser una herramienta poderosa para ayudar a la gente. Eso es en lo que yo creo."
Otros candidatos tuvieron respuestas similares. La oponente de Shade, Kathie Tovo describio que era su obligacion el ayudar a las personas sin hogar como una persona de fe. En realidad, cada candidato dijo "si" a las primeras tres preguntas. Para tu propia cuenta, esos quienes habian sido previamente entrevistados y aparecieron en el foro incluyen a, Morrison, Nofziger, Shade, Tovo, Roger Chan y miembro del Consejo Chris Riley. Eric Rangel, quien es el oponente de Morrison, se sento con su congregacion en la audiencia pero no habia sido pre- entrevistado por el consejo de Austin Interfaith y, por lo tanto, no se le permitio participar en el foro.
Otras preguntas fueron mas retantes: requerir que todos las compañias de lucro que reciban subsidios de la ciudad que esten de acuerdo en pagar a los empleados por lo menos $34,000 al año con beneficios de cuidados de salud, un seguimiento en su profesion; apoyar "permiso legado," o medallon, para taxistas, de manera que ellos puedan cambiar entre empleadores; y abogar por cambios en la ordenanza de la ciudad sobre los grupos de presion o interes de manera que grupos sin fines de lucro como Austin Interfaith puedan hablar en el nombre de programas especificos de desarrollo humano financiados por la ciudad, siempre y cuando Austin Interfaith no este recibiendo fondos de esos programas.
Oponentes tuvieron un tiempo mucho mas facil con estas preguntas. Nofziger, por ejemplo, no tuvo problema criticando a Austin como "un patio de recreo para los ricos" cuando hablaban acerca de recorte de impuestos. Riley and Shade, al contrario, tuvieron problema dando garantias a la propuesta de salarios dignos por lucro. Ambos prefirieron respaldar la posicion actual de la ciudad, la cual require un salario de por lo menos $11 por hora.
"Yo no me comprometo a los $34,000," Shade dijo después de algunas idas y venidas acerca de si ella era un verdadero "no" en el llamado asunto de salarios dignos.
Ambos Shade y Riley tambien tuvieron problemas con los permisos de taxistas, con Riley expresando una necesidad de una nueva revision de la propuesta. Y Shade interpone que podría apoyar ajustar la ordenanza de la ciudad sobre los grupos de interes en nombre de organizaciones no lucrativas como Austin Interfaith, pero que la ordenanza, en general, sirve un propósito.
Despues de la junta, Riley estuvo de acuerdo que los permisos de taxistas podrian ser un problema; él noestaba segurode lasoluciónreal, todavia.
"Virtuamente todas las maneras en las que nosotros regulamos los taxis necesitan algo de trabajo, pero eso no es algo que sólo voy arriba y solo decreto donde estoy en eso.Eso va a implicar un proceso largo", dijo Riley cuando In Fact Daily le pregunto por qué el no voto en apoyo a los permisos legados de los conductores de taxi. “Yo estoy absolutamente comprometido a continuar ese proceso, pero yo no voy a predeterminar el resultado."
Similarmente, Riley explico que el estabareticente a aceptar el total de la obligación de salarios dignos para la relocalización de empresas subsidiadas por la ciudad. El explico a In Fact Daily que la renuencia se debía al hechoque había posiblementemas matices en el asunto que simplemente los salarios por hora, y un punto de corte a partir de $17 por hora podrían impedir que vinieran a Austin los trabajos con buenos beneficios y un seguimiento en la profecion.
El oponente de Riley, Roger Chan, dijo a In Fact que el tambien tenia preocupaciones acerca de la pregunta de salarios dignos aunque el ultimadamente voto si. Chan dijo fue el resultado final que era importante, no todas las pequeñas cosas.
"Si nosotros podemos balancear esos componentes y conseguir lo que necesitamos, eso es lo que importa, y el enfoque en cualquiera de esos podria no llevarte alla,” dijo Chan.
Riley dijo a In Fact Daily que el habia cumplido todas sus promesas a Austin Interfaith en su campaña previa, aunque el admitió que “hubieron unos desacuerdos acerca de exactamente que compromisos fueron hechos, durante el curso de ese proceso.”
Gina Hinojosa, una lider con Austin Interfaith hablo con In Fact Daily acerca desi alguno de los candidatos había roto los compromisos contraídos en las seciones de responsabilidad anteriores.
"Esto ha ocurrido," dijo Hinojosa, aunque ellos optaron por no llamar a ninguno de los candidatos en el foro “ Cambió el proceso. Ahora tenemos cámaras de video grabando las respuestas de todos y profesionales del vídeo que hacen esto por nosotros para que sepamos que es grabado." Hinojosa agregó que la acción pasada podría haber mostrado a los candidatos a no "asumir compromisos a la ligera."
"En el pasado, llevamos a nuestros miembros hasta el Consejo de la ciudad; los hacemos responsables de su compromiso Nosotros, si es necesario, hacemos llamadas telefónicas para recordarles su compromiso, tenemos reuniones con ellos, les dejamos saber a nuestros miembros en nuestras instituciones,” dijo Hinojosa.
"Quizas hubieron algunos no esta vez que nosotros no obtuvimos la ultima vez por que ellos saben que nosotros no vamos solamente a alejarnos cuando ellos no cumplan sus compromisos. Nosotros los vamos a responsabilizar por ellos." dijo Hinojosa
Camarena-Skeith and Malfaro: Who picks up the slack for city's incentives?
Minerva Camarena-Skeith and Louis Malfaro, Local Contributors
Published: 6:06 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010
The American-Statesman article "Medical firm eyes a move to Austin" (Jan. 6) quotes Mayor Lee Leffingwell about a subsidy deal he is negotiating with Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc. of Bethesda, Md., to relocate to the Domain.
Leffingwell promises that the deal with Hanger will be "cash-positive" for the city. But any time a company is given substantial tax abatements, other taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab for increased city services like police, fire protection and infrastructure. If the jobs do not pay living wages, families are left dependent on public assistance at taxpayer expense.
Austin Interfaith believes that the city should encourage potential employers to locate in Central Texas using our quality of life, skilled work force, schools and institutions of higher learning as selling points — the factors that business leaders repeatedly mention when selecting a site for their business.
City officials should not subsidize private companies unless those companies agree in writing to pay high wages and benefits, hire locally and provide career advancement for their workers.
Between 2000 and 2007, the City of Austin gave $64 million in public tax subsidies to companies that created 1,400 jobs — about $46,000 per job. This is why we believe these jobs should pay living wages of at least $18 an hour ($37,000 a year) with benefits and a career ladder.
To put this in perspective, $18 an hour translates to $37,000 a year. It is below the average wage in Texas — $18.90 an hour.
A family of four becomes eligible for city social service assistance when it earns less than $21.20 an hour. We oppose using tax dollars to subsidize low-wage jobs.
The City Council approved a $508 million water treatment plant, wants to build a $32 million wastewater tunnel to service future luxury downtown condos and is considering a $600 million rail line to connect the downtown business district to the airport and the University of Texas.
While we are not against infrastructure spending per se, we are very concerned about the impact these decisions will have on poor and working families as well as small businesses. This burden is increased when new companies are given tax subsidies or abatements.
Economic pressures on families and on city, county, school district, Austin Community College and health district budgets are exacerbated during tough economic times like these. Austin's poverty rate — child and adult — is higher than the national average. Investing in education, effective work force development and good jobs are the best use of our tax dollars.
Any deal in which working families are asked to use their tax dollars to subsidize private businesses should be done judiciously, and only when companies guarantee that the jobs they bring are high-wage jobs that provide a true return on the public's investment.
In Fact Daily: (posted on web for subscribers only; text pasted below and attached)
Three companies scouting city as Council considers new rules for incentives
Three companies involved in the manufacturing of solar panels are interested in moving their operations to Austin, according to Mayor Lee Leffingwell. Though nothing has been put in writing, Leffingwell has met with representatives from those companies, and, he said Wednesday, “all three are very seriously considering Austin.”
According to the mayor, one of the companies would like to be operational by next summer, though the process would involve several months of lead time even after an agreement with the city was reached. That company, Leffingwell said, is interested in moving into a shell rather than erecting a building from the ground up.
The mayor said he is encouraged by the news: “I have said, ever since 2005, that targeted industries, like those in the renewable energy business, would be specifically the ones we would want to talk to about coming to Austin.”
So, any changes to the city’s economic incentives policy—such as those being considered at today’s City Council meeting—are not just an academic exercise.
The Council is expected to approve an ordinance establishing an enhanced economic incentive proposal review process. That would require a formal cost-benefit analysis as part of the city's evaluation process for economic incentive agreements including “direct and indirect costs of such proposals.” It would also implement a timeline of 13 days to allow citizens to review and comment on any economic-incentive proposals before the Council could take action on them.
The ordinance is the result of a February Council resolution directing the city manager to convene a stakeholders group – made up of members of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Capital City African-American Chamber of Commerce, Liveable City, and Austin Interfaith – to consider elements of city policy concerning economic incentives. The group met on three occasions in March, April, and July to discuss the implementation of the cost-benefit analysis as well as a timeline for the city’s review process.
One issue the stakeholders group did not make a determination on concerns wages and benefits for workers employed by companies that receive tax incentives from the city. This is a concern for Austin Interfaith and other citizens’ organizations, which see the issue as vital to the economic and social future of the city. These groups want the Council to ensure that any companies receiving incentives from the city provide their employees with a living wage (no less than $18 an hour), health benefits, and clear paths to advancement within the company, and that those companies have a strategy to hire local workers.
According to Austin Interfaith Strategy Team member Minerva Camarena Skeith, these groups are concerned that economic incentives without built-in safeguards for local workers might cripple the economy. “We want to make sure,” she said, “that our tax dollars are being spent on bringing high-quality jobs to Texas, not just providing breaks for corporations. If companies are going to be profiting off our incentives, they should have to provide for the city and its citizens.”
“We have to ask ourselves: Is Austin is going to be a city of low-wage workers, or are we going to set a higher standard?”
According to Skeith, at accountability sessions Interfaith Austin held during this year’s elections, all current members of the City Council, including Leffingwell, made commitments to support worker protections in any economic-incentive legislation. “We’re confident,” says Skeith, “that the council members will honor their commitments.”
But one council member, Sheryl Cole, says she is concerned that such a proposal could have unintended consequences for the city. “I simply do not want us, in the interest of helping our work force earn more and receive more benefits,” Cole said, “to operate under a faulty premise and keep economic opportunities out of Austin for the most vulnerable members of our society.
“I certainly support living wages and health benefits. I am, however, concerned that we do not take any actions that have a negative impact on our unemployed and underemployed, such that we are not granting incentives to help those most in need of social-service assistance. I do, however, think that the ordinance can be drafted in such a way that we do not exclude any companies that have jobs that would be available to the most vulnerable members of our society but … that cannot pay the living wage or health benefits,”
Leffingwell, for his part, believes health benefits should be a necessary component of the city’s economic incentive agreements. “I don't see how the city could enter into an agreement with any company,” he said, “that did not provide the opportunity to have basic health insurance for its employees.”
Austin Interfaith Victory Pages
November 19, 2010
A newsletter on the successes of Austin Interfaith member institutions
Welcome University United Methodist Church
We are proud to announce University United Methodist Church has joined Austin Interfaith. We look forward to working with Senior Pastor Dr. John Elford, Associate Pastor Susan Sprague and their congregation.
Austin Interfaith GOT OUT THE VOTE.
Austin Interfaith created a nonpartisan Get Out the Vote effort involving 20 institutions and 200 trained leaders that reached an estimated 25,000 people in this fall’s election. We worked to increase voter participation in our member institutions as well as 9 targeted precincts around them. Our plan is to build on this in the upcoming election cycles.
The leaders’ work translated to an increase in the number of raw votes cast in the precincts they claimed—a 14% compared to the 2006 gubernatorial election. In comparison, the increase in raw votes in Travis County as a whole was only 5%.
The percentage of registered voters who cast ballots increased on average in the nine precincts Austin Interfaith leaders targeted (compared to the 2006 election). This is compared to an overall decrease in that percentage for Travis County as a whole. Austin Interfaith worked its precincts, which are predominantly on the east and south sides of the county, with an intensive campaign of block walks, worship service announcements and phone calls, Austin Interfaith leaders GOT out the vote. (Precincts targeted included 101, 124, 133, 258, 424, 438, 439, 450, and 461)
Readers’ Corner: Hot off the Princeton University Press is an account of work the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF); Jeffery Stout’s Blessed are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America hit the shelves this week. Stout traveled the country investigating how citizens are joining together to address issues affecting families and neighborhoods. All of the leaders and institutions he writes about are connected to IAF organizations like Austin Interfaith.
Upcoming Actions and Events:
• Pre-K Speak-Out at AISD School Board, 1111 West 6th Street
7pm Monday, Nov. 22nd
Austin Interfaith, in partnership with Education Austin, recognizes the necessity of full day Pre-K for our children’s long-term success in education and to a thriving economy in Austin. Speak-out to the school board to stop the proposed elimination of full-day Pre-K.
• Austin Interfaith Holiday Party on Thursday, December 16th at 7pm, location to be determined
AUSTIN INTERFAITH VICTORY PAGES
OCTOBER 27, 2010
A newsletter on the successes of Austin Interfaith member institutions
Get Out the Vote Weekend – Over 200 Austin Interfaith leaders worked in 18 member institutions to Get Out the Vote for Austin Interfaith Votes Weekend (October 23rd – 24th). Even the rain didn’t stop over 75 leaders from block walking in precincts promoting the non-partisan Austin Interfaith Issues Agenda and encouraging people to vote early. Leaders also conducted phone banks and sign-ups to the agenda during and after services. While our long-term goal is to sign up and deliver 22,000 voters to the polls on our agenda over the next several election cycles, already AI leaders have tripled the number of leaders and institutions working on GOTV from the last election.
Austin Interfaith leaders meet with Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis – On October 19th U.S. Department of Labor Secretary, Hilda L. Solis visited Capital IDEA, the workforce strategy created by Austin Interfaith. The meeting was arranged by Austin Interfaith and its sister organizations from the Southwest IAF, as well as Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who also attended. On November 4th, representatives from Senator John Cornyn’s office will also visit Capital IDEA.
One-on-One’s at Cristo Rey Catholic Church – During the week of October 11th, Austin Interfaith organizers conducted individual meetings with 75 parishioners of Cristo Rey Catholic Church. The meetings were arranged by the Pastor and the head of stewardship to begin the organizing process in one of our newest member institutions. The purpose of one-on-ones are to identify potential leaders and issues for the organizing process. Congratulations Cristo Rey!
Congregational Church of Austin Host Immigration Civic Academy – On October 10th Congregational Church hosted a civic academy on the Immigration Reform Struggle. Bill Beardall, member of CCA and UT law professor, facilitated the event. The academy focused immigration reform and common faith traditions shared by our congregations.
Workers Defense Project Celebrates 8 Years of Action – On October 14th the Workers Defense Project, which joined Austin Interfaith this summer, celebrated their 8-year anniversary at the Mexican American Cultural Center. We wish to congratulate them on their anniversary and wish them continued success in defending workers’ rights!
AI representatives present at First UU Public Affairs Forum - On Sunday, October 24th, 40 people attended at the First Unitarian Universalist Church Public Affairs Forum, in which the Austin Interfaith Lead Organizer presented on Broad-Based Organizing. Leaders from Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church talked about the GOTV and local organizing efforts at their congregation.
Organizing Tip of the Week – The purpose of a broad-based organization like Austin Interfaith is to build sustained power to improve the lives of families. Broad-based organizations strive to build relational power: power “with” as opposed to power “over”. Power is the ability to act and we act on our values on behalf of our families and communities.
Upcoming Actions & Events
• Don’t forget to vote! Polls close at 7:00 pm on Election Day, Tuesday November 2nd.
• Election Night Party: Tuesday, November 2nd at 7:00 pm at San Jose in the San Juan Diego School. Come eat, celebrate, and watch election results! This is a potluck event. Contact Ofelia Zapata for more information 669-0809.
• Austin Interfaith Monthly Leaders Meeting: Tuesday, November 16th at 7:00 pm at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (1206 East 9th Street). Please note that this meeting was changed to the third Tuesday of the month instead of the fourth due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Austin Interfaith Victory Pages
October 15, 2010
A newsletter on the successes of Austin Interfaith member institutions
New Member Institutions: Austin Interfaith proudly welcomes four new member institutions which have joined the organization since the beginning of the summer!
St. Josephs Catholic Church in Manor
Workers Defense Project
Cristo Rey Catholic Church in Austin
Cab Drivers’ Association of Austin
Each of these institutions have already begun participation in our collective efforts to improve the lives of Central Texas families. We look forward to a long and effective partnership.
Austin Interfaith Votes: Following an assembly with 600 leaders at San Jose Catholic Church on August 8th, Austin Interfaith institutions launched a non-partisan Get Out the Vote effort to sign up and deliver 20,000 voters to the polls around its agenda of issues. Right now the signature count stands at 4,000, and over 100 block walkers have held hundreds of conversations in neighborhoods around Central Texas to talk about issues affecting families. Austin Interfaith Votes weekend is October 23rd-24th where over 200 leaders will conduct GOTV walks and congregations will encourage people to early vote after services.
AI leaders at City Council: Over 50 Austin Interfaith leaders appeared before City Council on September 30th to urge the Austin City Council to make long-term job training programs like Capital IDEA a distinct city budget priority. Several council members reaffirmed their commitment to Capital IDEA from the dais and during face to face meetings throughout the preceding week. Austin Interfaith leaders were also recognized by council members from the dais.
Over $100,000 New Funding: Austin Interfaith would like to recognize two local foundations: The Alice and Michael Kuhn Foundation and the Sooch Foundation for generous new grants to Austin Interfaith in 2010 to support organizational expansion and workforce organizing respectively. Additionally, Austin Interfaith will partner with member institution Education Austin on an “Innovation Fund” Grant that Education Austin secured to organize community-based schools in AISD. Collectively these three new grants represent over $100,000 in new funding to Austin Interfaith this year.
Readers’ Corner: Malcolm Gladwell, in a recent article entitled Small Change, compares the “strong ties” that bound the leaders of the civil rights movement with the “weak ties” that connect people through modern social networking through the internet and text messaging. While he concedes that social networking can be effective for some types of communication, the thick network of relationships developed through churches and face to face conversation are what ultimately gave civil rights leaders the capacity to overcome segregation.
Upcoming Actions and Events
• Austin Interfaith Votes Weekend! October 23rd-24th. All congregations are urged to deliver their members to the polls this weekend as well have blockwalkers out in full force!
• Austin Interfaith Monthly Leaders Meeting: Tuesday October 26th, 7:00pm Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (1711 E. Oltorf St., Austin, TX 78741)
• Early Voting Runs Monday, October 18th through Friday, October 29th!
• Election Day Tuesday November 2nd
Austin Interfaith Victory Pages
March 29th, 2010
A newsletter on the successes of Austin Interfaith member institutions
200 leaders participate in Austin Interfaith Annual Delegates Assembly – Organizing teams from each of Austin Interfaith member institutions gathered on March 9th at San Jose Catholic Church to develop the AI organizing strategy for the coming year. Teams made commitments for institutional dues, participation in the corporate investment campaign, identifying new leaders, and issues they will focus on. AI institutions more than doubled the size of their core leadership since last years assembly (85 organizing team leaders). Councilwoman Laura Morrison was also recognized at the assembly for sticking to her commitments to the organization on support for Capital IDEA and living wages.
Living Wages for Tax Subsidies – Over the past several months Austin Interfaith leaders have pushed to require companies receiving tax subsidies to move to Austin to pay living wages with benefits, a career track, and a strategy to hire locally. AI’s work has lead to a city resolution requiring companies to disclose the wages they pay the bottom 10% of their workers, as well as a commitment to moving hearings to after work hours. Most importantly, the points Austin Interfaith has been advocating for are now part of the public debate on every deal. (See attached press links).
In order to increase safety and reduce fear in Austin neighborhoods, AI leaders are working with APD Chief Art Acevedo and the Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton to build relationships and trust with law enforcement officers. After conducting a house meeting campaign in immigrant parishes, AI leaders surfaced stories of fear of immigrants being jailed and possibly deported for minor traffic violations. Chief Acevedo and Sheriff Hamilton affirmed that this is not the policy of their agencies and committed to working with Austin Interfaith to continue to build relationships and trust within the immigrant community.
ORGANIZIING TIP OF THE WEEK:
Individual meetings (aka “one-on-ones” or “relational meetings”) are primarily about identifying potential leaders. It is the most basic and most fundamental tool in broad-based organizing. Top leaders in the organization should be on a constant “talent search” by doing regular individual meetings. For an organizing team, individual meetings are best done as part of a campaign (1-3 months). Individual meetings are a 20-30 minute conversation focused on a persons’ story, passion, anger, important relationships, etc., and often end with a proposal for action.
Hugh Heclo, in his book, On Thinking Institutionally, makes the case that an openness to the traditions, values, and relationships, within institutions (congregations, schools, political and legal institutions, sports teams, etc) is necessary for full human development and a stable society. He makes a distinction between “bureaucratic” thinking, and “institutional thinking”, the latter being marked by an openness to receiving values passed on, and an understanding that we were formed by those who came before us, and our decisions have an impact on those who come after us.
Austin Interfaith/Austin Catholic Diocese Immigration Organizing Training, Saturday April 17th, 9:00am-12:00noon at the Austin Catholic Diocese Pastoral Center (6225 E. Hwy 290). This is open to all congregations interested in organizing around the issue of immigration. This effort has been a partnership of Austin Interfaith and the Austin Catholic Diocese Office of Hispanic Ministry.
Austin Interfaith Education Civic Academy, April 27th 2009, 6:30-8:00PM (check with the office to confirm location). This will take the place of the monthly leaders meeting and will be open to all institutions and leaders. The focus will be on understanding current issues impacting Central Texas districts as well as a strategy for education organizing.
Please call the Austin Interfaith Office with any questions: 512-916-0100