VIDA Only Texas Organization to Secure $3M Nursing Expansion Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor
"As of now, [Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement] VIDA has graduated over 4000 students with an average salary of about $48,000 a year. Lifting our community, our families from poverty, depending on welfare to be self sustaining, to get out of poverty and bringing about dignity and respect to their families and bringing about an opportunity for the next generation to do better than themselves. That's what Valley Interfaith has done."
-Eddie AnayaRead more
Two Years of Texas IAF Opposition Leads to HB 5 Reforms to Limit Giving of School Money for Corporate Tax Breaks
The Texas Senate and House passed a compromised version of HB5 that still fundamentally represents misguided economic development. A 2-year campaign by Texas IAF and allies, however, led to major reforms in HB 5 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
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.Read more
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.Read more
In the attached audio interview, Rosalie Tristan and Joe Hinojosa, both organizers with Valley Interfaith, Joe Higgs from IAF, and Bob Fleming, an organizer with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, say tax breaks for large corporations should not be paid for with monies that would otherwise go to public education.
[Photos: Rosalie Tristan (left), Joe Hinojosa (holding sign in center) and Bob Fleming (right)]
Valley Interfaith: Don't Suck Money Out of Public Education to Help Large Corporations, Rio Grande Guardian [audio]
Fr. Alfonso Guevara, a long-time clergy leader with Valley Interfaith, passed away on February 10. He was worked for many years to help ordinary men and women develop their confidence and skills people so they could do extraordinary things in the parishes and communities. Here are a few statements made by Fr. Guevara to the Rio Grande Guardian.
Some reflections from Fr. Alfonso Guevara [pdf]
Tributes Pour in for Valley Interfaith Clergy Leader Alfonso M. Guevara, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Guevara: Valley Interfaith Makes the Politicians Look Good, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Push to Get Healthcare District Dollars Allocated to Clinics, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Collins: Investing Millions of Dollars in Economically Distressed Areas, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Rev. Guevara: It Was a Blessing to Participate in Raymondville Drain Groundbreaking Ceremony, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Nearly 900 Valley Interfaith Leaders Celebrate 30th Anniversary [pdf]
"In December, legislators killed a controversial tax abatement program known as Chapter 313, but its effects will last decades....
“There’s no accountability at the statewide level; nobody administers it,” said Bob Fleming, an organizer with [T]he Metropolitan Organization of Houston who campaigned against Chapter 313 reauthorization back in 2021. “A bunch of local school districts make singular decisions based on what they think is in their interest. Nobody is looking out for the statewide interest. Local school districts are overmatched when the $2,000 suits walk into the room.” ....
“It’s a perverse incentive,” said Doug Greco, lead organizer at Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations that helped shut down reauthorization of Chapter 313 in the 2021 legislative session.
“We approach it on a school funding basis,” said Greco, who is already gearing up to fight any Chapter 313 renewal efforts in 2023. “It’s corporate welfare and the people who pay over time are Texas school districts.” ....
"Among those also asking an IAF affiliate for help was Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who is overseeing the entire U.S. church's participation in the global synod...
Flores pointed to the many commonalities between the synodal process and the methods long used by IAF affiliates. "First, they encourage people to gather, listening to people, hearing what's on their minds, what their worries are and what preoccupies them, then making things better as a local community," said the bishop...
Flores said the synodal style "of listening and attentiveness has been reinvigorated" this past year "and that will go on and have a lasting effect." Organizers within the IAF network, meanwhile, said they plan to maintain support for this synodal style."
[In photo, a synod training session is held by Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA) at a parish in the Diocese of Monterey, California. COPA community organizers trained around 500 Catholics to conduct synodal listening sessions in the region.]
For Synod Listening Sessions, US Bishops Turned to Community Organizers, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.
At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.
At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....
“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith. The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”
....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.
Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.
In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”
Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”
In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]
How Skeptical Texas Lawmakers Put an End to a Controversial Tax Incentive Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]
Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith
Valley Interfaith, Texas IAF Declare State Power Failure 'Act of Sheer Negligence' & Demand Accountability from Elected Officials
While state officials announced later in the day that power had stabilized and forced shutoffs were no longer needed, more than 300,000 households remained without power....Texas was especially hard hit because most of its power grid is isolated from the interconnected networks serving the eastern and western parts of the U.S. That made it difficult to import energy from other states when frozen pipes shut down generating station.
The failure of Texas' electric grid led faith leaders across the state on Thursday to call out Gov. Greg Abbott for a lack of leadership and preparation. They urged him to request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and dip into the state's $10 billion "rainy-day" fund to help Texans cover expensive home repairs and energy bills.
They also called on state leaders to act on a 2012 plan to modernize and weatherize the electric grid....
"We are calling for Gov. Abbott to first take responsibility for this gross negligence and stop finger-pointing. This is a gross act of negligence that has caused harm to the whole state of Texas, and it's time to put people over profits," the Rev. John Ogletree of the First Metropolitan Church of Houston said at a virtual press conference Thursday. The event was organized by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations, a nonpartisan coalition of 10 mostly faith-based organizations statewide that represents more than 1 million people.
"The state leadership has known that this needed to change, and they have done nothing," Elizabeth Valdez, director of Texas IAF, told EarthBeat.
"The storm may have been an act of nature, but the devastation of the electrical grid shutdown is an act of sheer negligence," Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Dallas Diocese added in a statement.
Kelly and other faith leaders who spoke during the press conference and with EarthBeat described the struggles facing their state's people because of the freeze: Temperatures in homes hovering at 30 degrees. Elderly people unable to use dialysis machines. A 76-year-old woman sleeping in her car for warmth. Churches that would typically offer shelter could not because they too lacked power and water...
Press Conference Footage, Facebook Live