Hundreds of DAI leaders forced a runoff election by increasing the number of voters by almost 800 in a region of Dallas home to housing code changes and mass evictions.
After organizing an assembly to draw attention to key issues of the region, especially affordable housing, preservation of a local Montessori school and funding for translation of 311 services, leaders engaged directly with voters, boosting electoral turnout to 1,951.
Incumbent Monica Alonzo will now compete directly with runner-up candidate Omar Narvaez in an election scheduled in June. One candidate supported the DAI agenda more than the other.
Last month's assembly was the largest attended forum in District 6, in the heart of Bachman Lake where last year’s housing code work started, and where large-scale evictions occurred only 48 hours after their groundbreaking rewrite of the city’s rental housing code. Leaders not only demanded long-term housing solutions in West Dallas, parents of children attending Lumin Education are fighting for a zoning change to preserve a Montessori school.
DAI will continue its GOTV effort for the runoff election.
In District 6, where only 800 votes were cast in the previous election, DAI leaders organized a nonpartisan accountability assembly in which 300 local residents grilled city council candidates on issues they have been working over the last year, including affordable housing, early education, an upcoming city bond and improvements to the 311 system.
The assembly was the largest attended forum in District 6, in the heart of Bachman Lake where last year's housing code work started, and where large-scale evictions occurred only 48 hours after their groundbreaking rewrite of the city's rental housing code. Leaders not only demanded long-term housing solutions in West Dallas, parents of children attending Lumin Education are fighting for a zoning change to preserve a Montessori school in this impoverished region.
[Excerpt below from page 81 of study linked below]
“Catholic congregations and leaders…were central in the push for payday lending reform in nearby Arlington. Father Daniel Kelley of St. Joseph Catholic Church was particularly influential. In addition, the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Texas’ Catholic bishops, worked directly on payday lending reform at the state and local level, and also participated in Dallas Area Interfaith and Faith Leaders for Fair Lending.
Hearing stories from borrowers who sought assistance from Catholic charitable organizations helped generate interest in the payday issue among Catholic leaders. The religion’s long‐standing antipathy to usury provided these leaders with a ready‐made framework for opposing payday loans….”
Power of Community Action: Anti-Payday Loan Ordinances in Three Metropolitan Areas, University of Utah & University of New Mexico
When Pope Francis announced the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Edward Burns, DAI welcomed him and expressed eagerness to collaborate.
According to lead organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul: “His attention and care to the immigrant community will be very critical. Farrell focused on building bridges between communities, and we need that to continue.”
[Photo Credit: Ben Torres, Dallas Morning News]
Pope Picks Bishop from Alaska to Lead Diocese of Dallas, Dallas Morning News
Dallas Area Interfaith leaders assembled by the hundreds at Temple of Faith CME to address neighborhood safety issues identified through conversations with fellow parishioners and neighbors: police protocol on traffic stops, wage theft, thousands of feral dogs, and hot spots for drugs and prostitution. Confronted with personal stories and strong community participation, Interim Police Chief David Pughes committed to developing a bilingual video on proper protocol that can be shown in congregations and to fundamentally changing how police handle wage theft — recognizing theft of service as a criminal matter and not a civil one. Leader after leader told personal stories about unfairly being treated as criminals during traffic stops and when reporting crimes.
At one point, addressing immigrants in the packed room Pughes said, “we don’t want to be immigration police.” The chief additionally committed to working with leaders to address three areas in the city that see high level of drugs and prostitution, as well as developing a plan for the 8,000 feral dogs roaming neighborhood streets.
Within days of Dallas Area Interfaith’s (DAI) stunning housing code victory, the owner of hundreds of single family rental homes in West Dallas, HMK, sent eviction notices to 305 tenants ordering them to vacate the properties by the end of the month. Dallas Morning News accuses HMK of making the tenants “pawns in the company’s scorched-earth fight against tough new housing policies.”
DAI, in collaboration with the Wesley Rankin Community school and center, organized a meeting to brief hundreds of worried renters about their rights as tenants, the basics of eviction law and to pressure the City of Dallas to intervene on tenants’ behalf. Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo, along with the Assistant City Attorney, assured renters that extra-legal evictions would not be tolerated.
The next day, the State District Judge Ken Molberg ordered the Dallas landlord to temporarily halt the mass evictions. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings exhorted affected residents to keep trying to pay rent, and if refused by the office, to set the money aside for when it would be.Read more
With three asthmatic children in the family, Patricia Vega (in photo above holding toddler in pink) was constantly on the lookout for mold. "Every time we move, we think it gets better, but it does not." After learning that the Dallas housing code offered no protections, she, with a group of women from San Juan Diego Catholic Church, enlisted the support of Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) to change the law.
During over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code in a fundamental way. Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, “These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas’s most vulnerable.” FOX News calls the code the "toughest landlord rules in the state." Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, "this is unprecedented."
New protections include:
With City Council signalling support for significant reforms in the Dallas rental housing code, Dallas Morning News gave kudos to Dallas Area Interfaith for keeping “these issues on the council’s radar and set[ting] the stage for many of the most important tweaks in the code.” For the first time, the Dallas code would require inspections of the insides of single-family rentals and more frequent inspections of multi-family housing complexes.
Towards that end, the city manager’s proposed budget calls for hiring 15 additional code enforcement officers to handle the expanded responsibilities.Read more
- passage of a payday lending ordinance in the City of Arlington
- work with a local public hospital to expand access to a clinic program
- leveraging of funds for city-wide after-school programming
Bishop Olson ended the letter with words of encouragement towards "improving the lives of the people of the Diocese of Fort Worth and Texas."
In the midst of pushing for expanded community policing and pay increases for officers, Dallas Area Interfaith wants to get all sides listening to each other.
“We have to humanize each other,” said Rev. Jon Morrison of Cedar Crest Church of Christ. Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul noted there must be "conversations on race. You cannot separate race from dealing with the inequity in the community.”
[Photo Credit: Spencer Platt, Getty Images / FOX]Read more