When Pope Francis told a group of U.S. community organizers that their work was "atomic," Jorge Montiel said, "I thought, 'Oh, you mean we blow things up?'"
But instead, the pope spoke about how the groups associated with the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation in the United States take issues patiently, "atom by atom," and end up building something that "penetrates" and changes entire communities, said Montiel, an IAF organizer in Colorado and New Mexico.
Pope Francis' hourlong meeting Sept. 14 with 15 delegates from the group was a follow-up to a similar meeting a year ago. Neither meeting was listed on the pope's official schedule and, the delegates said, both were conversations, not "audiences."
"It was relaxed, it was engaging," said Joe Rubio, national co-director of IAF. "Often you don't see that even with parish priests," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 15, garnering the laughter of other delegates.
Pope Meets US Leaders Patiently Building Culture of Solidarity, US Conference of Catholic Bishops / Catholic News Service [pdf]
Leaking faucets, holes in the floor, and rats running across children's feet at night. An apartment manager refusing to start repairs without proof of US citizenship. These are just some of the conditions that leaders of Bachman Lake apartments, like Iris Romo and Ericka Ventura, unearthed in a neighborhood conversation campaign.
When tenant leaders at Lumin Bachman Lake Community School began to share these stories, the city didn't take them seriously. However, DAI leaders knew that this was unacceptable. After all, they had been instrumental in the development of housing standards that were now being violated. In 2016, DAI had compelled the City of Dallas to impose these standards, and the tenant leaders had been a key part of that effort.
They were not going to be ignored again. On April 18, when a group of north Dallas congregations -- including Temple Shalom, King of Glory, Temple Emanu-El, and Christian Chapel CME -- organized a DAI accountability session. In front of seven city council candidates, Iris Romo from Lumin Bachman Lake Community School shared the stories of the Bachman Lake residents. The candidates were shocked and committed to working with DAI to address the issue.
Councilwoman Janie Schultz followed through on her commitment and reached out to Councilman Omar Narvaez, who had previously refused to meet with DAI. After hearing from Councilwoman Schultz, Councilman Narvaez invited DAI to a meeting with city staff to discuss the issue. City staff finally began to take the issue seriously and have taken concrete steps to clean up the apartments in Bachman Lake.
There is still a long way to go, but the residents of Bachman Lake are on the right path to getting the safe and healthy homes they deserve.
Some Say Dallas Landlords Use This City Policy to Game the System, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Inquilinos de Dallas Denuncian Malas Condiciones en Viviendas, Telemundo Dallas
DAI Tenant Leaders Deepen Cooperation with Code Enforcement, See Noticeable Improvements in Housing Conditions
DAI tenant advocacy for improved conditions in low-income Bachman Lake apartment complexes continues to pay off, partly due to increased collaboration with bilingual housing code inspectors. Spanish speaking Dallas Area Interfaith leaders have been at the forefront of action, including meetings with City officials and educational meetings with residents.Read more
Barry Lachman, a Dallas Area Interfaith leader, was involved in the creation of Chapter 27 in 2016. He said that not having enough data for at least five to 10 years can play against good landlords who are following the rules, but ultimately, the most affected by shorter retention periods are tenants.Read more
Two Years of Texas IAF Opposition Leads to Reforms to Limit Giving School Money for Corporate Tax Breaks
The Texas Senate and House passed a compromised version of HB5 that still fundamentally represents misguided economic development to the benefit of out of state corporations that would come here for other factors anyway. This perpetuates a corporate welfare state which Chambers of Commerce and industry groups could never prove otherwise.
However, a 2-year campaign by Texas IAF and allies led to some major reforms in HB5 compared to the now defunct and failed Chapter 313 program. When these tax abatement deals are proposed at local school districts, there will now be a fair fight for taxpayers and public school supporters concerned about corporate welfare. HB 5 Reforms to Chapter 313 include:Read more
Chapter 313 was one of the country’s worst examples of crony capitalism, funneling billions in Texas taxpayer dollars to out-of-state interests. The program still costs Texas taxpayers over $1 billion a year in tax breaks to major oil, gas and manufacturing companies — money that could go to educating our children.
Dallas Area Interfaith, the Texas IAF, allies and a bipartisan group of legislators killed the reauthorization of Chapter 313 in the 2021 legislative session. Rather than leaving the program in the grave, industry groups are actually proposing to resurrect Chapter 313 this legislative session and make it worse in the form of House Bill 5.
Last September, in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, industry groups painted an apocalyptic vision of Texas’ economy without Chapter 313. Their statements were based on opinion. Fortunately, we can look to Louisiana to see if their fears are merited.
In 2016, Louisiana reformed its version of Chapter 313, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. The reforms generated $760 million in new tax revenue for schools and other public entities with no negative impacts on jobs. In fact, capital expenditures grew after the reforms.
Louisiana’s experience mirrors studies on economic development incentives. The Upjohn Institute found that “75% to 98% of the time, the same decision would have been made without the incentive.”
Similarly, a 2017 University of Texas study of Chapter 313 estimated that between 85% and 95% of Chapter 313 projects would have been located in Texas without the incentive. These incentives matter much less than other factors such as the labor force, education, infrastructure and access to markets and materials.
[Image Credit: NewsArt.com/Chris Van Es]
Texas House Passes Plan to Bring Back Corporate Property Tax Breaks for Major Projects, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
The bill would provide six months of Medicaid coverage to qualifying new moms....and could have a massive local impact.
More babies are born on Parkland’s Health’s insurance plan than in eight states. Extending coverage for those families would improve outcomes for tens of thousands of women in North Texas. Groups like Dallas Area Interfaith, a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue group of religious congregations, schools, and other non-profits in Dallas, are working to get the bill passed.
The bill would also be a boon to the state by giving the mothers access to primary care and preventing downstream costs. “HB 12 going to save the state money,” says Dr. Barry Lachman, a pediatrician and ...DAI [leader]. “What we spend in preventive services will pay off for these mothers.”
HB 12 remains in the State Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.
[Photo Credit: iStock]
Less than a day after a bill that would raise the age to legally purchase semi-automatic rifles unexpectedly passed through Committee, Texas IAF leaders learned that Representative Guillen (from Rio Grande City) appeared to be actively suppressing House Bill 2744 from being heard on the floor. Delayed submission of the Committee report resulted in the bill missing a crucial deadline for it to put on the Calendars schedule for Thursday -- the last day to hear new bills.
Leaders from across the state held an emergency press conference calling on Guillen and the Texas House Speaker to allow the bill to be heard, and for Calendars.
“Guillen and Burrows should...let the representatives vote their conscience on the House floor. Overwhelmingly, Texans support increasing the age limit of when people can buy assault weapons,” Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith from Central Texas Interfaith asserted.
“We’re very, very angry at what’s going on, with them holding this bill hostage,” Valley Interfaith leader Rosalie Tristan of Raymondville told the Rio Grande Guardian.
"How many more children have to die before we act?" demanded TMO leader Bishop John Ogletree.
[Photo Credit: Blaine Young, Texas Tribune]
Reporting bad landlords who won’t fix apartments to maintain adequate living conditions should be easier for Dallas tenants, especially for those who are the most vulnerable because of their economic or immigration status.
It has been a little over a month since this newspaper reported the hazardous conditions endured by Bachman Lake-area tenants, including moldy walls, pest infestations and leaky roofs. This is not a case of “they get what they pay for.” Residents said they are paying up to $1,400 a month, close to the rent average in the Dallas area.
For these tenants, most of them with limited English skills, navigating the city’s bureaucracy to report code violations has been frustrating. They said they rarely see results. “We are not living for free; we are paying,” Bachman Lake resident [and Dallas Area Interfaith leader] Claudia Cruz, 38, told us.
A surprising legislative success in 2021 is on track to be undone in 2023, unless a grass roots left-right coalition can block legislation and the forces behind it that are trying to go backward....
In the name of jobs and economic development, a 2012 tax code trick called Chapter 313 essentially funneled state money, via school district property tax breaks, to private companies doing new industrial construction. The school districts that granted tax breaks under Chapter 313 were reimbursed — and many still are being reimbursed — by the state, meaning we as taxpayers reimbursed them. It was the ultimate insider game of channeling public benefit to private companies.
The [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation cleverly brought a man dressed as Dracula to its rally to dramatize how Chapter 313 unfairly drained school districts of funds and that reviving this bad economic development deal would be akin to raising the undead.Read more