Five months before the fall election, 150 Austin Interfaith leaders gathered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to launch a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort targeting 10,500 Central Texas voters. After approving the AI Agenda of Issues, leaders from congregations, schools, and non-profit organizations pledged, by institution, to sign up 10,500 voters and deliver them to the polls in the fall. Signups will take place both in congregations and institutions, and through blockwalks in surrounding neighborhoods.
Over the previous five months, Austin Interfaith leaders held over 250 small group "house meetings" with 2,500 participants to understand what issues communities are facing and to identify potential leaders from those conversations. What resulted is an agenda that includes workforce development and living wages, affordability and housing, community policing and safety, infrastructure and sustainability, healthcare, education, and immigration reform.Read more
After hearing from immigrants about their reluctance to report crime, including domestic violence, for fear of being detained, Bastrop Interfaith leaders initiated a conversation with Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook about community safety, including improved communications between the Sheriff’s Department and the community. Leaders will soon meet with Bastrop County’s Crime Prevention Deputy and Victims Services Coordinator in order to advance the conversation.
In previous house meetings, residents of Stony Point had identified trash in their neighborhood as an issue of concern. Leaders worked with Bastrop County Judge Pape, helping leverage a county-funded free clean up day last fall. It proved so popular that resident leaders negotiated a second clean up, held the first weekend of June. Over 40 people hauled pickup loads of trash to the dumpsters, some making several trips! Bastrop Interfaith leaders used the opportunity to talk to people while they waited in line, to better understand their concerns and to include them in upcoming house meetings.
More than 60 Austin Interfaith leaders from institutions across the City packed into Austin City Council Chambers for a hearing on CodeNEXT. Leaders stood to support gripping testimony from speakers Florence Briceño from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic and Rev. Michael Floyd from All Saints Episcopal who argued for strong neighborhoods and affordability, and against displacement.
In photo, members of the audience raise their hands to demonstrate support.
CodeNEXT Opponents, Supporters Gather at Austin City Hall, Spectrum News
Austinites Still at Odds Over CodeNEXT as Rewrite Reaches City Council, Austin American Statesman
Video Testimony by Florence Briceño, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic
Video Testimony by Rev. Michael Floyd, All Saints Episcopal
AI Fights for Agenda in Runoff
On May 10th, Austin Interfaith held an Accountability Roundtable with Texas House District 46 candidates Sheryl Cole and Chito Vela as well as US Congregational District 25 candidates Julie Oliver and Chris Perri at the Congregational Church of Austin. 100 leaders representing 10 Austin Interfaith institutions in East Austin and the University gained commitments on an agenda of issues, developed from hundreds of small group conversations, which included education, immigration reform, affordability, and funding for public schools and workforce programs like Capital IDEA.
Leaders told stories about their experiences with homelessness, deportation of neighbors, essential financial support for adult job training, and inadequate school funding. All four candidates committed to advancing legislation regarding local control, limiting property taxes for low-income homeowners, restoring cuts to federal student aid, and repealing SB 4.
Leaders from Austin Interfaith institutions in South Austin and Corridor IAF held a second Accountability Roundtable around a similar agenda of issues with candidates for CD 21 and HD 45 in San Marcos on May 15th. Please see this Catholic News Service article on the role of Austin Interfaith’s Accountability Sessions and GOTV efforts in addressing issues affecting low-income and marginalized communities (click here).
Leaders Knock on Doors in Travis & Bastrop Counties
On Saturday, May 19th, Austin Interfaith leaders conducted nonpartisan Get Out the Vote blockwalks on their agenda of issues in East Austin (Precinct 124), University/Hancock area (Precinct 206), and Stony Point in Bastrop County. The purpose of these walks is to develop relationships with neighbors, promote voter registration, and sign-on voters to the AI agenda.
Austin Interfaith leaders from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic and All Saints' Episcopal testified about the impact of a proposed land use overhaul to a Joint Land Use Committee of the City of Austin. Leaders told stories about the zoning-initiated displacement of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to East Austin in the 1930s and subsequent displacements initiated by the City since then.
Though the Committee began the hearing 20 minutes before the planned start, 50+ leaders were there to support their speakers.
Testimony by Rev. Michael Floyd, All Saint's Episcopal Church
Hosted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and the Austin Interfaith Affordable Housing Team, the latest civic academy on codeNEXT drew 120 mostly East Austin residents to learn about the proposed zoning overhaul, share their housing stories and identify opportunities for concrete action before the final City Council vote.
As the immediate threats to safety due to the bombings over the past several weeks in Central Texas have been brought to an end, the victims, their families, and our whole community will move into a phase of healing from these tragedies. Our support and prayers are with all of those affected. Several of the victims lived, worked, and worshiped in the very neighborhoods that our organization works in most closely. Fundraising sites (see below) for the victims and their families have been set up, and we urge you to consider donating to help support them in their time of need. We are humbled by the families of these victims, who even in their inconceivable loss, have found it in their hearts to pray for the perpetrator and his family.
We also thank the over 500 law enforcement officers for their tireless work in ending this horrific period, making our communities safe, and in beginning to evaluate these events to make our community even safer in the future. Our community will always be safest when residents, community leaders, and law enforcement work together leveraging relationships that have been built before a crisis hits.
As we move into Holy Days in the Christian and Jewish faiths, we are reminded of the importance of neighborliness in its truest sense: getting to know those who share your neighborhood, community, and city in genuine, face to face relationships. This is the best investment we can make in our shared welfare, health, and well-being in Central Texas.
To make a donation to the victims and their families, please visit the following fundraising sites:
Bastrop Interfaith Secures Candidate Commitments in Fight for Drainage, Immigration and Bridge Repair
Leaders from Bastrop Interfaith, an initiative of Austin Interfaith, met with candidates for Bastrop County Judge this week to discuss drainage, immigration, bridge repair, and drug treatment.
Bastrop Interfaith leader Alma Lopez lived in Stony Point in western Bastrop County for thirty years. She grew angry about people doing and selling drugs, abetted by darkness, at a long-neglected Stony Point park. "That is my neighborhood and my friends and family don’t want those things happening here,” she said.
Two months after Bastrop Interfaith organized its first assembly, leaders secured lights for the park, with the Commissioners Court unanimously approving a contract with Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. The Cooperative will pay for the lights while the County will pay for the monthly electricity bill. Leaders additionally secured $1,500 for park cleanup.
The community wide cleanup will be the first step of many, according to Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. ”Anything we do is a giant step from doing nothing.”
“It’s a small cost to pay,” asserted leader Maria Vargas.
Bastrop Interfaith is an expansion project of Austin Interfaith.
Bastrop County Supports Community-Wide Cleanup at Stony Point, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
After making over 2,300 phone calls and knocking on over 900 doors in four targeted precincts, Austin Interfaith leaders helped ensure that voters made their voice heard in District 10 during this most recent runoff election.