Council considers rules/standards for incentives

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.”


November 2010 Victory Pages

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.
 Capacity
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.

 Votes
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%.

 Percentage
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


Ocotober 27, 2010 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.

Local Organizing
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.


October 15, 2010 Victory Pages

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


March 2010 Victory Pages

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).

Immigration –

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.


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



Economic Development Initiatives 2008-2009

Austin Interfaith, with a budget of under $250,000, leveraged an investment of over $18,000,000 in 2008-09 in human development and neighborhood initiatives created through its organizing
JET FUND: Austin Interfaith worked to create a $10,000,000 competitive state grant program for proven,
long-term job training programs such as Capital IDEA, started by Austin Interfaith. Austin Interfaith worked with a bipartisan group of elected officials, including Comptroller Susan Combs, Lt Governor David Dewhurst, Rep Mark Strama and other legislators, to create the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Fund Grants for Innovative and Successful Programs, which will match local investment.
CAPITAL IDEA: $2.5 million in direct investment in Capital IDEA by the City of Austin, Travis County
and federal government. Capital IDEA was started by Austin Interfaith and the business community.
ACCOUNT FOR LEARNING: Over $3,200,000 in resources for low-income schools in AISD through
the Account for Learning Program, including the funding of Parent Support Specialists for these schools.
ESL PROGRAMS: $222,000 City/County investment in adult ESL programs started by Austin Interfaith
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS: Over $800,000 for after school enrichment programs for 28 AISD
through the Prime Time Program, created by Austin Interfaith.
INVESTMENT CAPITAL FUND: $200,000 in state grant money to AISD schools for parent and
teacher training through the Investment Capital Fund Grant created by Austin Interfaith and its Texas IAF Network sister organizations. To date, AISD schools have received over $2,000,000 in funding through this grant.
SUMMER YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: $600,000 in City and County funding for the Summer Youth
Employment Program.
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: Over $500,000 in public and private investment to connect 40 families
in East Travis County to running water for the first time in five years.
TRAFFIC SAFETY: $100,000 for a traffic light at the dangerous intersection of Metric and Bittern
Hollow, near St. Albert the Great Catholic Church.

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University: In a just released study of Austin Interfaith’s work with East Austin Schools over a six year period, Austin Interfaith’s work with AISD schools increased student achievement on standardized tests by an average of 15-19%, improved professional culture and parent involvement, and yielded substantial new resources to all high poverty, low-performing schools.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs: In her Texas Works Report, recognized Austin Interfaith for its work in creating Capital IDEA, long term job training initiative started by Austin Interfaith which prepares low-earning adults for careers in living wage jobs.
The Governor’s Select Committee on Global Competitiveness: This committee chaired by businessman Woody Hunt called on the legislature to invest money in successful workforce strategies, singling out Austin Interfaith’s Capital IDEA as successful example.


2009 Summary

Austin Interfaith “Let justice pour down like waters”….Amos 5:24 1301 S. IH 35, Suite 313 Austin, Texas 78741 Phone (512) 916-0100 Fax (512) 916-0251 December 30, 2009 Dear Austin Interfaith Clergy, Leaders, and Supporters: We wish you and your families a Happy New Year as we enter 2010. We especially want to recognize all the hard work that you have done to make 2009 an important and successful year for Austin Interfaith. In 2009, our organization along with the Texas IAF sister organizations, worked with Comptroller Susan Combs to create and pass the $10 million JET Fund for successful long term job training programs. Capital IDEA received two of the first JET funds this fall…$500,000 for the Austin area and $250,000 to start a satellite of Capital IDEA in collaboration with our sister organization TMO in Houston. The collaboration of Austin Interfaith congregations and schools was featured in a landmark study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. In the first nationwide study to measure the impact of education organizing, Austin Interfaith’s work in AISD schools was shown to have a dramatic impact on test scores, professional culture, parent-teacher collaboration, and resources for all low income schools. Their final conclusion was that all low-income schools in AISD benefited from the programs and resources created by Austin Interfaith. As you can see from the list of accomplishments in this letter, in 2009 Austin Interfaith with an organizational budget of under $250,000, leveraged $18million in funding for original programs it has created through its organizing. That is a return of 72 to 1 for programs like ESL, Prime Time After School Program, water infrastructure at Santa Barbara Catholic Church, the Summer Youth Employment Program and Capital IDEA. This does not include our advocacy for existing programs and initiatives like CHIP, AISD employee compensation, and statewide funding for schools. Austin Interfaith itself does not accept public money, and is funded primarily through institutional member dues, corporate investment, and foundation support. Austin Interfaith also held a successful Economic Summit with the Central Texas Business Community in February, as well as an Accountability Session in April which again was the largest event of the municipal election season. This work, and the resulting accomplishments, was the result of hundreds of one-on-one relational meetings, house meetings, research actions, training sessions, civic academies, and meetings with public officials. Two issues have come to the forefront in 2009 and will be major initiatives in 2010. Austin Interfaith has begun an intensive collaboration on immigration organizing with the Catholic Diocese of Austin. This is in response to increasing political pressure on immigrant families trying to work and live in Central Texas. Additionally, the issue of Living Wages is at the center of our work given the economic situation and growing inequality in Austin. Specifically, Austin Interfaith is working to hold the Mayor and all City Council members to their pre-election commitments that companies receiving public tax subsidies to move to Austin must provide jobs that pay living wages of $18/hr with benefits, a career track, and have a strategy to hire locally. Again, we wish to recognize your investment in Austin Interfaith, in terms of your institution’s leadership development, financial investment, and time. Obviously this commitment has paid off for Austin and the Central Texas region as a whole. But renewing our commitment to this work is more important now than ever. Austin has a poverty rate, child poverty rate, and uninsured rate that is higher than the national average. Travis County has the fifth highest inequality in the country. And although we have worked with Santa Barbara Catholic Church to raise over $600,000 in public and private investment in water infrastructure, over 30 families are still without running water because of government delays. We must continue to challenge ourselves to have the imagination, perseverance, and tenacity to organize effectively for the families in our communities. This happens through in an investment in leadership and an investment in people. We look forward to continuing this important work together in 2010. Please put on your calendar the following two important events coming up in the New Year: 1. On Saturday, January 9th 2010 the TX IAF will hold an Economic Conference in San Antonio starting at 10am and ending at 3pm. (Leaders will be traveling down on a bus. Please check with the Austin Interfaith office for further information) 2. On Tuesday, February 23rd at 7pm Austin Interfaith will hold its delegates assembly. Location to be announced. Again, congratulations on organizing effectively for all families in Central Texas. Sincerely, Austin Interfaith Executive Team

800 leaders turn out for April Accountability Session

In the largest event of the local election season, Austin Interfaith leaders turned out in force to set the agenda for candidates running for Austin City Council and AISD and ACC boards.

Held on April 20 at St. Ignatius, Martyr Catholic Church in South Austin , leaders shared their stories of pressures they and their families are facing in the areas of health care, employment, education, ESL, immigration status, relations with the police, and traffic concerns.

Firm commitments were made by candidates to vote for increased funding and support for these initiatives that help bring people into the middle class and keep them there. Leaders collected over 5,000 signatures on agendas of issues. In a strong showing of organized political power, leaders from Austin Interfaith institutions gathered over 5,000 signatures on local and organizational agendas of issues from their institutional members and from the public. These signatures were used to help turn out the vote in the local May elections.


First house gets running water in Plainview Estates

Santa Barbara leaders have succeeded in getting the first of a total of forty families in the Hornsby Bend area fully connected to running water.

Last year over $400,000 in infrastructure was invested in the project to get running water for the families, some of whom had been without water for five years,. By organizing residents to work together with the utility company, applications were approved, pipes laid on properties, and meters activated to start the water flowing! The community is now focused on organizing to get the financial resources needed for the remaining families to get their water too.


Welcome to new member institutions!

Three new members have joined Austin Interfaith since the start of the year. 

Congregation Kol Halev:  a Jewish congregation with a focus on community that meets at the Dell Jewish Community Center in Northwest Austin :

ACC/AFT (Austin Community College American Federation of Teachers Union):  
local branch 6249 of the national and state federation of teachers and represents all non-administrative employees of Austin Community College . 

Simpson United Methodist Church :  a historically African-American, central East Austin congregation established in 1880 that has played a significant role in the city for over 100 years.