Bastrop Interfaith and Friends of the Land, a farmland preservation coalition, worked with local Elgin residents and landowners to defeat a 10-year Chapter 313 corporate tax abatement at the Elgin ISD School Board last night by a unanimous vote. Solar Proponents, a startup owned by an oil and gas hedge fund, would have clear-cut over 2,100 acres of trees bisected by Little Sandy Creek to build an industrial solar farm. While the community had been testifying monthly since May at the school board meetings against the project, last night was the first time the public got to hear from Solar Proponent about the project. Speakers argued the project endangered Greenbriar Community School and neighboring homes with water runoff in an area already prone to flooding with an already diminishing refuge for wildlife.
“In these past six months, we haven’t heard a single person speak in favor of this project. Compare that to more than 1100 signers of our petition to stop this project and all the comments here you have so patiently listened to since then,” said Skip Connett, a leader with Bastrop Interfaith and founder of Friends of the Land at last night’s school board meeting.
“We spoke for our communities and our trees. Our school board listened,” Connett said after the vote.
This past May, Bastrop Interfaith and Friends of the Land, one of its member institutions, opposed the initial Chapter 313 application which would have given the company a 10-year school property tax abatement from Elgin ISD. Chapter 313, Texas’s largest corporate welfare program, costs taxpayer $1Billion/year to fund these tax breaks, money which could be going to public schools. Chapter 313’s reauthorization was killed last legislative session by Bastrop Interfaith and the Texas IAF along with allies. However, the program doesn’t expire until this December, and there has been a rush of nearly 500 applications by companies looking to get tax breaks before the deadline.
Bastrop Interfaith / Central Texas Interfaith leader Edie Clark was featured in a KUT story this week on the barriers marginalized communities in Bastrop face in accessing the COVID Vaccine. Ms. Clark cited the digital divide, need for better communication, and mistrust communities like Stony Point feel as a result of anti-immigrant policies of the Bastrop Sheriff.
[Photo Credit: Gabriel C. Perez, KUT]
As Bastrop County Builds Vaccination Hub 'From Scratch,' Groups Focus on Dismantling Barriers, KUT Radio, Austin's NPR Station [pdf]
Update at 5:35 p.m. – Group says Bastrop County's targeted arrests are dangerous during pandemic
Local groups in Bastrop County are asking the sheriff to stop targeted arrests aimed at Latino communities in the area, which they say complicate things for many families during the COVID-19 pandemic
Bastrop Interfaith, a coalition of neighborhood groups and church congregations in the county, is asking Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook to stop his crackdown on minor traffic violations, which was flagged by the Austin American-Statesmen last week.
The group says the crackdown has led to a spike in deportations and arrests in mostly immigrant and Latino communities, and is putting many residents at risk.
Edie Clark, a leader with Bastrop Interfaith, said families already dealing with financial insecurity are now too scared to even pick up food at a food pantry.
“These people are just dealing with so many issues right now,” she said. “The last thing that we need is to be scaring people about being arrested. You know, we want to keep everybody safe.”
Clark said filling up jails during the pandemic is also a public health hazard. Her group has asked to meet with the sheriff to discuss this new policy.
Bastrop Interfaith leaders, including Maria Jimenez (in interview above), expressed grave concerns over Labor Day checkpoints planned in the Stony Point neighborhood.
[Photo Credit: Telemundo]
Del Valle Residents Grow Anxious Over Bastrop Sheriff's Weekend Patrols, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
[Statement excerpt below:]
"....on June 23, five deputies from the Sheriff's office appeared to be stationed at or near the Stoney Point community. People were stopped for speeding and DUI, which is appropriate. But they were also stopped for allegedly failing to use turn indicators, once for allegedly failing to use turn indicators within 500 feet of the intersection; for a broken or burnt out tail light; and for having mud on their license plate. These were very minor traffic infractions. To many, this appeared to be a targeted effort to locate and detain undocumented people. As previously reported, 23 Hispanics were arrested of which 13 were taken and moved into deportation proceedings.
By this action, which appears to have been against immigrants, the Sheriff has not increased people's confidence in law enforcement, which is what we had sought and strived to obtain in our prior dialogue with the Sheriff. This causes us serious concern and raises question of credibility in that dialogue...."
[Photo Credit: Ralph Barrera, Austin American Statesman]
Full Statement Here
'Zero Tolerance' Arrests Put 13 in ICE Custody, 'Had Nothing to Do With Immigration', Texas Sheriff Says, Miami Herald
El Aguacil del Condado Bastrop Rompe el Silencio Sobre el Operativo de Tránsito Donde Fueron Detenidos Varios Inmigrantes Indocumentados, Univision Austin
Faith Group Blasts Sheriff for Traffic Crackdown, Deportations, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Bastrop Sheriff: Traffic Stop Had 'Nothing to Do with Immigration', Austin American Statesman
Residents Concerned After Traffic Arrests Lead to ICE Detentions, Spectrum News
Del Valle Neighborhood On Edge After Drivers Caught in Traffic Sting Are Turned Over to ICE, KUT 90.5
Líderes Religiosos de Bastrop Cuestionan Detenciones de Inmigrantes en Operativo de Tránsito, Univision
Bastrop Interfaith Leader Speaks Out Against Deportations Stemming from Traffic Operation, KVUE
Bastrop Interfaith Exige Un Fin a la Política de Cero Tolerancia en su Condado, Telemundo
Bastrop County Sheriff Defends Traffic Enforcement Sting, KXAN
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.
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]