Leaders from Texas IAF organizations across the state, including TMO leader Rev. John Ogletree of First Metropolitan Church of Houston, drove into Austin for the bi-annual legislative session to fight Senate Bill 185. This bill would have outlawed sanctuary cities in Texas and threatened local efforts to build better relations between police and communities. The intervention of Texas IAF leaders, including testimony by Rev. Ogletree and Fr. Carlos Zuniga (Valley Interfaith), and allies, succeeded in killing the bill.
In photo, Fr. Carlos Zuniga of Valley Interfaith and Rev. John Ogletree of TMO testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security.
TMO Lyons parents won an 8-1 school board vote against proposed boundary changes to their school. The changes would have sent students from one of the top ranked schools in the state to one ranked in the lowest 18% statewide. Parents signed up 600 petitioners opposed to the change to convinced board members this was a bad idea.
Rosa Rivera told board members, "We want you to listen to us. Don't move our children." Demonstrating that the voices of organized parents get heard, the board rejected the the proposed plan.
TMO leaders and parents of children attending Lyons Elementary held a pre-board meeting press conference to detail their concerns about the latest HISD proposal to rezone elementary schools. Rosa Rivera argued that a plan to shift new students to nearby elementary schools would negatively impact the education of her children as the nearby schools are not as high quality as Lyons. "Before they start to do all these movements, I would like HISD to improve the schools."
Trustees decided to postpone the vote.
According to regular Metro bus rider Julia Ramirez, it is going to take a lot more than minor changes to make bus service in Houston more rider friendly. She notes that her commute takes at least two hours each way, and requires three transfers. She presents a four-step proposal for wholesale improvement in the article below. [Photo Credit: Gary Coronado, Houston Chronicle ]
More Than Tweaks Needed to Achieve Rider-Friendly Bus Service, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Responding to David Brooks' assertion that the President's proposal to provide cost-free community college access is not enough, TMO leaders Rev. Kevin Collins, Mr. Franklin Olson and Mr. Bob Fleming agree, but go further to share the good news that the programs Brooks calls for already exist in Texas.
"Local programs in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley developed by IAF affiliates have graduated thousands of students from our community colleges, lifting them out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. These initiatives are ripe for expansion and replication." Capital IDEA-Houston is just one of such programs. Read more below:
Days before a planned House effort which could impact the latest executive action program initiated by the President, Houston judicatory leaders and TMO held a joint press conference urging Congress to do the opposite - to expand on the action and pass comprehensive immigration reform. Bishops and religious leadership from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths banded together to deliver the joint statement.
Dinardo Agradece la Accion Ejecutiva Pero Dice Que No Es Suficiente, La Voz de Houston
Talleres Informativos Sobre la Accion Deferida, Univision Houston 45
200 TMO leaders assembled at St. Peter Catholic Church with an agenda: to clearly lay out their public safety concerns to the police and obtain responses to those concerns. They walked away with much more.
Assistant Police Chief Josh Bruegger related, "It is important..., obviously to us, that we have this relationship." Father Pedro Lopez of St. Peter Episcopal told leaders,"We have a moral obligation to do everything within our power to stop crime in our community. We do not want more people robbed at gunpoint, we do not want our children to be victims of drug use, of gun violence or our homes to be vandalized. Be good Samaritans, take action and keep our eyes open, and call and report any crime. Will you commit to that today?"
[Photo Credit: Y. C. Orozco, Pasadena Citizen]
Church Leaders, Police Officials Meet for Discussion on Crime in North Pasadena, Pasadena Citizen [pdf]
The Houston Chronicle's editorial board credited TMO not only with changing lives, but for working "with the voiceless to help transmute their anger into leadership." The board notes that there are two Houstons, concerned about dramatically different things:
"In one, inhabitants fret over whether to eat sushi for dinner or to grill outdoors. In the other, citizens worry about their lack of access to health care. One set of Houstonians may struggle with traffic on Loop 610, but the other set lives below the freeways as well as below the poverty line. Our city may be technically solving "the homeless problem," but low-wage workers chase affordable month-to-month housing in the other Houston." Read the rest below:
TMO at 30: The Metropolitan Organization's Successes Have Changed the Lives of People, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
When TMO leaders were asked to stand if they had been personally impacted by crime, half the room stood on its feet at Assumption Catholic Church in in North Houston. Leaders had gathered at Assumption Catholic Church to confront Houston Police Department officers with stories of relentless auto-theft, campus drug sales and physical assaults in North Houston. Councilmember Gonzalez was on hand to respond as well.
Cansados del Crimen Que Azota Al Norte De Houston, Univision 45 [Spanish]
The Metropolitan Organization celebrated its 30th anniversary of its charter with a gala event highlighting how it has worked with the voiceless to help transform their anger into leadership. Hosted at St. Theresa Catholic Church, leaders honored Catholic Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza, Rev. William A. Lawson and Rabbi Emeritus Samuel E. Karff.
The Metropolitan Organization Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Honors Three Community Heroes, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]