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
"The Launchpad Fund, which gave nonprofits $10 million starting in the 2010-11 biennium to support career training programs for low-income students, will be replaced by the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Grant program. The ACE grant program will award about $5 million under a similar model to nonprofits for the next biennium. It will be administered by Austin Community College, which will step into the comptroller's office's current oversight role....
Said Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a representative of Austin Interfaith, the nonprofit that helped found Capital IDEA with business community members and advocates for public funding: “It still gives these job-training programs the opportunity to apply for these $5 million, and also be able to leverage more city and local funds.”
[Photo Credit: Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune]
Job Training Program Adjusts Amid Funding Cuts, Texas Tribune
Governor Signs Bill: $5 Million for Adult Career Training, Network of Texas IAF Organizations
Religious leaders from multiple denominations will launch an interfaith campaign for comprehensive immigration reform
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 10am
at St. Ignatius Catholic Church on 126 W. Oltorf Street.
The interfaith prayer service and press conference, organized by key leaders from religious denominations across Central Texas, will feature a common statement on shared principles for immigration reform and strategy to encourage legislators in Washington to vote for reform.
Austin Interfaith & Worker's Defense Project Calls on City to Enforce Own Rules on Economic Incentives & Construction Wages
‘Developers need to keep their promises to taxpayers and workers, and the city must enforce its own rules,’ said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, a leader of Austin Interfaith, a multi-congregation group pushing the city to establish a standard above minimum wage on construction projects that are granted economic development deals by the city.” [Photo: Alberto Martinez, Austin American Statesman]
Labor Advocates Ask Court to Step into Marriott Dispute, Austin American Statesman
Sheets’ decision to focus on other legislation pleased Austin Interfaith, a coalition of congregations and social justice groups that has been pushing for the living-wage requirement. At the organization’s request, members of its Dallas-area counterpart and representatives of the Dallas affiliate of the Workers Defense Project met with Sheets, asking him to drop his legislation and citing, among other reasons, a desire for local control in such matters, said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, an Austin Interfaith leader.
"I think we have a very balanced approach that is good for the city, the taxpayers, companies and contractors,” said Bob Batlan, a member of Temple Beth Shalom and Austin Interfaith involved in the living-wage discussions. “I’m pleased that (Sheets) recognizes the balanced approach.”
Legislator Backs Off Bill to Ban Living Wage Requirement, Austin American Statesman
Published: Austin American Statesman, December 22, 2012
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” — Adam Smith, “Wealth of Nations”
“Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is needy ...” — Deuteronomy 24:14
Austin Interfaith and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce agree on several things when it comes to incentive deals. We both want businesses to come to Austin, and we want them to bring good job opportunities, with a career path, for its workers.
However, Austin Interfaith draws the line at subsidizing poverty employment on the taxpayer dime. If a corporation wants to open shop in Austin and pay poverty wages, they are welcome to do so without economic incentives. All corporations already benefit from public sector police and fire protection, streets and drainage infrastructure, transit, garbage collection and other goods. For more than five years, our position has been that if we, as taxpayers, are going to invest our public dollars in private enterprises, it stands to reason that we, as taxpayers, should establish a threshold and protocol that prevents hardworking people from being poor and miserable.
The chamber considers a wage threshold to be an unacceptable burden on the blue-chip corporations it recruits — even the federal poverty line for a family of four ($23,000 per year). In contrast, an analysis by the Austin Business Journal noted that the equivalent “$11 an hour floor would not be a big deal to incentive grabbers.” Just last week, Visa voluntarily accepted that same threshold.
When the city of Austin grappled with the question of how much to pay its own employees and contractors years back, they chose the $23,000-a-year threshold to keep their workers above the poverty line. Last month, the City Council’s special committee on economic incentives bravely concluded that businesses receiving public dollars should be subject to that same standard, and proposed that future incentives only go to those that pay $11 an hour or more. Their proposal last month not only addressed the issue of wages — it would also address the process.
The city’s current process for tax incentives involves meetings that last late into the night. Professional presentations stress that the deal will be “cash positive” to the city and bring great jobs to Austin. Austin Interfaith and others testify that many workers will be left in poverty and-or consigned to dangerous working conditions. Corporate representatives sit in shock because they thought this was a done deal. After receiving a letter from the city manager describing the offer and indicating that the deal is recommended for approval, they are here to celebrate — not to be dragged through the mud. Sometime after midnight, the deal is approved.
Austin Interfaith, whose members include more than 30 religious, labor and educational institutions, wants these made-for-TV dramas to end. We developed a set of standards for incentive proposals to meet all stakeholders’ objectives. If tax incentives are to be granted, they should only be for companies willing to pay an hourly wage of no less than $11 an hour, including to contract construction workers. Companies should hire locally, provide benefits and support training opportunities so that people can advance at work.
Opponents of the wage floor want to make it optional, suggesting that the city offer an extra bonus to businesses in order to “incentivize” paying at least $23,000 a year. This would lead, instead, to poverty wages.
The chamber incorrectly claims that US Farathane would not have been eligible for incentives if even one job falls below $11 an hour. Under the committee’s proposal, a company that plans to hire ex-offenders, high school dropouts or other hard-to-employ people would certainly be eligible for an exception and could have their request considered favorably.
A wage floor is not just about preventing physical privation. Adam Smith’s concern with poverty was about public participation in the life of community — he considered a “necessity” that which would allow one to appear, and to act, in public without shame. Our faith traditions likewise call on us to pay our workers fairly so that they can provide for their families and participate in public life with dignity.
Austin Interfaith and its member organizations, the Worker Defense Project and LiUNA, support the special committee’s proposed wage floor.
Higher-paid workers are more productive, loyal, creative and collaborative — and will attract the kind of corporations our city deserves.
De Cortés and Batlan are members of the Austin Interfaith Strategy Team.
When the owner of a local liquor store petitioned to be allowed to sell alcohol 50 feet near Reagan High School, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Austin Interfaith leader Oralia Garza de Cortes responded quickly. Within days she contacted members of her congregation and Northeast Austin neighborhood associations to inform them of the proposed variance and mobilized local troops to fight the proposal. In coordination with eight neighborhood associations of Northeast Austin, grandmothers, teachers, pastors and other concerned citizens quickly rallied and succeeded in getting the proposal pulled before Thursday’s vote.
Follow the Props and the Money, Austin Chronicle
When leaders from Austin Interfaith’s Southside Cluster Wildflower Church, Kurt Cadena-Mitchell and Edie Clark, learned that Speedy Stop had applied for a variance to sell alcohol at the Exxon Station directly across the street from Travis High School, and next door to Wildflower, they quickly began organizing to oppose the variance, forming a coalition that included Wildflower Church, Travis Heights Elementary, Faith Presbyterian Church, Faith Child Development Center, South River City Citizens, and Texans Standing Tall.
Austin Interfaith Increases Voter Turnout in Traditionally Low Voting Precincts by 85% and 131%: East Austin & Dove Springs
As of Saturday evening, Austin Interfaith increased early voter turnout by 65%, and final voter turnout by 85%, in the same precinct in which it hosted the largest event of the election season as well as substantial GOTV efforts by several Austin Interfaith congregations
On April 29th, Austin Interfaith held the largest assembly in the city with 500+ organization members at Mount Olive Baptist Church; the church is located in Precinct 124 in East Austin. Early voter turnout increased by 65% compared to 2011 council election turnout and by 9:30pm Saturday night had recorded an 85% increase over final election day turnout from 2011. These increases in raw numbers of voters were the result of coordinated efforts by Austin Interfaith member congregations in East Austin. Efforts included pulpit announcements to vote in several eastside congregations, GOTV walks held by 24 leaders over two weekends and phone banking involving a team of 9 additional leaders from downtown congregations
Leaders piled into City Hall to ask City council members to raise the minimum workers would be paid. Says Garcia,”When we’re using public funds we’ve got to bring in jobs where families can at least afford to eat.”