300 leaders of Austin Interfaith convened Mayoral and County Judge candidates for a teach-in and accountability session at Temple Beth Shalom which included challenges on Austin child poverty, affordability, investments in human development and local immigration reforms. In addition to yes / no responses, candidates were given several minutes to explain how they would work with the organization to address a cited child poverty rate of 30%, documented by City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson.
Assembly night highlights included Mayoral candidate consensus on local immigration reforms (municipal identification and withdrawal). Judge candidates agreed on very little, but did agree that expanding investments in job training programs like Capital IDEA and creating internships for Career Expressway students were valuable to the County and the taxpayers. Strong stories on housing, immigration and Capital IDEA captured the attention of the press and galvanized the crowd.
[Photo Credit: Austin Monitor]
Full-Length Video, Austin Interfaith
Presentation on Taxes, Child Poverty & City Budget Priorities, Austin Interfaith
Austin Mayoral Candidates Offer Different Approaches on Affordability, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith Grills Mayoral Candidates on Affordability, Austin Monitor [pdf]
County Judges Differ on Issues at Interfaith Event, Austin Monitor [pdf]
The Campaign Continues: Catching Up with Mayor and County Judge Wannabes, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
Press Conference on City Budget Priorities, KXAN & Time Warner Cable
Austin Interfaith leaders stood on the steps of Austin Energy the first day of City budget negotiations, denouncing the proposed budget as immoral. Said Oralia Garza de Cortes, “If our City is truly concerned about public safety, we should be placing that funding towards public institutions like libraries and programs for children and youth."
Leaders pointed to the list of budget priorities developed from hundreds of conversations on neighborhood walks, inside parish meetings and other member institutions.
Faith Leaders Call for Change in Budget Priorities, Time Warner Cable
Austin Interfaith leaders from the Equal Justice Center and Congregational Church of Austin hosted a civic academy, in collaboration with RAICES of San Antonio, to educate a crowd of about 100 about the dangers children are fleeing and challenges they face today. Experts from the UT Austin Longhorn Institute for Latin American Studies laid out the political context of the Central American region while Ryan, from RAICES, shared some historical perspective on US policy towards refugees. Two recent arrivals from Central America shared powerful testimonials about what they fled, bringing these issues to light.
[Photo Credit: Diocese of West Texas]
In Flight from Central America, Austin Chronicle
In response to Austin Interfaith's call to support unaccompanied minors from Central America, Austin City Council passed a resolution officially welcoming the children and calling on the City Manager to collaborate with other governmental entities to identify ways to support children relocating to Austin. City council also passed a resolution calling on City staff to explore ways of making a municipal ID available, which could provide a valid form of ID for adults currently lacking access to officially recognized identification. Both resolutions passed unanimously!
To Help Migrants, Austin Might Offer Services, Issue City ID Cards, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith reported to the Austin American Statesman that the organization teamed up with judges to build a hybrid model that would improve indigent defense. She lobbied County Commissioners to support the establishment of a defender’s office that would assign lawyers to the cases of poor defendants.
The first year, Travis County would receive about $700 thousand to establish the new office, which would ensure that indigent defendants would have an opportunity to meet with their lawyers so that they understand their situation before going to trial.
[Photo Credit: Felipa Rodrigues, KUT News]
Travis County Accepts State Funding to Create Private Defender’s Office, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith is calling for an organized, coordinated effort to receive a large number of unaccompanied minors. This, they say, shouldn’t be political. For AI strategy team leader Ofelia Zapata, the future of migrant children hits close to home. She sees the face of her own grandchild when she looks at them.
In a presentation to the Travis County Commissioners Austin Interfaith described the arrival of unaccompanied children a humanitarian crisis that requires a thoughtful and proactive response. Specifically leaders are calling on the County to coordinate the use of public buildings to temporarily house children before they are sent to relatives or a foster family and wait for their day in immigration court.
Religious Groups Ask County for Immigration Aid, Time Warner Cable News
Austin Interfaith Urges Travis Officials to Aid Migrant Children, Austin American Statesman
At a Central Health public hearing over how to use UMC Brackenridge when it closes and a replacement teaching hospital opens in 2017, Austin Interfaith leader suggested putting an array of social services on the campus. Services like daytime mental health care of seniors would simultaneously provide caregivers with short-term respite. “It could be a haven of hope for Austin” residents, Zapata said.
Residents Offer Ideas for Using UMC Brackenridge, Austin American Statesman
Koreena Malone knew she couldn’t do it alone. The single mother of three didn’t know how she could lead the charge to save 173 affordable housing units at her apartment complex. But if she did nothing, she risked losing her family’s apartment on a quiet tree-lined street that was close to her children’s school.
'I begged people – I can’t do this right now,” Malone said. “I was studying for the CPA, I’m a mother. I was, like, someone else has to take this on. There has to be somebody else.'
Lifting Up Leaders, National Catholic Reporter [Photo Credit: Nuri Vallbona, National Catholic Reporter, Global Sisters Report]
At the urging of Austin Interfaith, Central Texas Bishops, Catholic Charities and immigration reform allies, Austin City Council unanimously passed an official denunciation of Travis County's "Secure Communities," directing the City Manager to explore alternative ways to book arrests. High achieving 13-year old Alan Gonzalez Otero, from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and Austin Interfaith, testified against Secure Communities, describing an occasion when he was 9 years old and thought he might never see his father again. Rev. Thomas VandeStadt of the Congregational Church of Austin reminded the Council that Central Texas Bishops opposed cooperation between law enforcement and immigration, and that "on principle" was opposed to Secure Communities. City Hall Chambers, filled with 300 supporters of the resolution, erupted in cheers as the Mayor announced the 7-0 vote.
After Austin Interfaith leaders and allies rallied at AISD to urge school board members to vote in support of federal prevailing wages for bond project construction workers, the AISD votes in support of living wages a little before midnight. Barbara Budde of the Austin Catholic Diocese started off testimony that night with a letter from Bishop Joe Vasquez urging the school board to support the proposal. Leaders of Austin Interfaith member institutions IBEW, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Education Austin, LiUNA, Workers Defense Project, Painters Local 1779 and the Equal Justice Center delivered impassioned testimony to the same end.
In the 5-4 vote, trustees Tamala Barksdale, Gina Hinojosa, Jayme Mathias, Ann Teich and Amber Elenz voted for the federal prevailing wages. [Photo Credit: Austin American Statesman]
Austin District Approves Prevailing Wages for Bond Work, Austin American Statesman