Camarena-Skeith and Malfaro: Who picks up the slack for city's incentives?
Minerva Camarena-Skeith and Louis Malfaro, Local Contributors
Published: 6:06 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010
The American-Statesman article "Medical firm eyes a move to Austin" (Jan. 6) quotes Mayor Lee Leffingwell about a subsidy deal he is negotiating with Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc. of Bethesda, Md., to relocate to the Domain.
Leffingwell promises that the deal with Hanger will be "cash-positive" for the city. But any time a company is given substantial tax abatements, other taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab for increased city services like police, fire protection and infrastructure. If the jobs do not pay living wages, families are left dependent on public assistance at taxpayer expense.
Austin Interfaith believes that the city should encourage potential employers to locate in Central Texas using our quality of life, skilled work force, schools and institutions of higher learning as selling points — the factors that business leaders repeatedly mention when selecting a site for their business.
City officials should not subsidize private companies unless those companies agree in writing to pay high wages and benefits, hire locally and provide career advancement for their workers.
Between 2000 and 2007, the City of Austin gave $64 million in public tax subsidies to companies that created 1,400 jobs — about $46,000 per job. This is why we believe these jobs should pay living wages of at least $18 an hour ($37,000 a year) with benefits and a career ladder.
To put this in perspective, $18 an hour translates to $37,000 a year. It is below the average wage in Texas — $18.90 an hour.
A family of four becomes eligible for city social service assistance when it earns less than $21.20 an hour. We oppose using tax dollars to subsidize low-wage jobs.
The City Council approved a $508 million water treatment plant, wants to build a $32 million wastewater tunnel to service future luxury downtown condos and is considering a $600 million rail line to connect the downtown business district to the airport and the University of Texas.
While we are not against infrastructure spending per se, we are very concerned about the impact these decisions will have on poor and working families as well as small businesses. This burden is increased when new companies are given tax subsidies or abatements.
Economic pressures on families and on city, county, school district, Austin Community College and health district budgets are exacerbated during tough economic times like these. Austin's poverty rate — child and adult — is higher than the national average. Investing in education, effective work force development and good jobs are the best use of our tax dollars.
Any deal in which working families are asked to use their tax dollars to subsidize private businesses should be done judiciously, and only when companies guarantee that the jobs they bring are high-wage jobs that provide a true return on the public's investment.
AUSTIN INTERFAITH 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.
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.
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
AUSTIN INTERFAITH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES 2008-09
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
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.
AUSTIN INTERFAITH’S WORK HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED THIS PAST YEAR BY:
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.
Austin Interfaith leaders met with Rep. Lloyd Doggett in the summer to discuss the need for a deeper commitment from the federal government to long-term job training for families in Austin. Thanks to the work of Austin Interfaith leaders and Rep. Doggett, the new Federal budget signed 12/27/2007 includes a $238,000 appropriation for Capital IDEA!
Austin Interfaith has always known that Capital IDEA is a stellar job training program, and two awards this year help demonstrate that fact. Executive Director Steven Jacobs won the Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the year, and Capital IDEA received an award from the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Austin Interfaith and Texas IAF leaders successfully advocated for the creation of a Governor's Select Committee to evaluate and redesign the states testing and accountability system. This will allow our institutions to have the important conversations about what our children should learn and how they should be assessed. Leaders have begun to focus our education work on reducing the over-reliance on a single test, and broadening assessment and curriculum. Congratulations also to our Alliance Schools for their commitment this year to the highest academic standards and organizing parents and teachers in collaboration for school improvement.