The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) is an organization of institutions dedicated to developing power and leadership among citizens in order to transform the city. We work to create relational power that can build and strengthen each member institution as well as shape public policy for the common good. TMO was formed in 1980 to give a voice to people who are usually excluded from major decisions that affect their lives. TMO is a part of a larger network of organizations known as the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a nationwide organizing institute with a fifty year history. TMO is also part of the West / Southwest IAF regional network and the Industrial Areas Foundation national network.

TMO believes that a truly democratic society requires the active participation of ordinary citizens. When people lack the means to connect to power and participate effectively in public life, social relationships disintegrate. Our model of relational organizing helps build real community. It generates social capital through a tight web of relationships across lines of race, ethnicity, class, faith, and geography. This social capital enables us to participate fully in public life and to become more effective actors in our communities.


TMO, with Texas IAF, Bishops & Faithful Call on Lt. Governor and Senate to Reject 'Permitless Carry' Legislation

Bishops, rabbis, clergy and faithful from across Texas convened to express vocal opposition to the passage of proposed legislation HB1927 which would allow "permitless carry" in the state of Texas.

Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz referenced the massacre in El Paso which resulted in dozens of residents dead and seriously injured. Baptist Rev. Darryl Crooms from San Antonio testified to the "unnaturalness" of adults burying children.  Lutheran Rev. Jessica Cain testified to the impact of last weekend's shooting in North Austin on local worshippers.  Rabbi David Lyon recalled last year's deadly shooting in Santa Fe High School.

Together -- with Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan, Methodist Director of Missional Outreach Andy Lewis, Dallas Catholic Bishop Gregory Kelly and several lay leaders -- all expressed concern that passage of HB1927 would increase gun violence.  States that have passed similar laws, removing the required license and training needed to carry a handgun, experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence.

"You’ll find no scripture that will support this kind of legislation,” said Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church of Houston. 

“It makes our church much less safe,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.

Video of Press Conference

Texas Faith Leaders Come Out Against 'Permitless Carry' CBS Austin [pdf]

Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Other Religious Leaders Oppose Bill That Would Ease Carrying of GunsEl Paso Times [pdf]

Religious Leaders Speak Against Texas Bill That Could Allow You to Carry Gun Without LicenseABC13 Houston [pdf]

Group of Texas State Leaders Say They're Opposed to Permitless CarryFOX KDFW

El Paso Bishop, Gun Store Weigh In On Texas 'Constitutional Carry' Bill DebateKFOX14 [pdf]

Esto Opinan Líderes Religiosos en Tejas Sobre la Propuesta Legislativa de Portar Armas Sin LicenciaUnivision Dallas 

 

 

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TMO Leaders Demand State Legislators Weatherize Power Grid, Provide Relief for Families Struggling with Repairs

[Excerpts]

The virtual press conference was organized by the  Network of Texas IAF Organizations — a nonpartisan coalition of 10 primarily faith-based organizations across the state that represents more than 1 million people — and The Metropolitan Organization, a Houston-based civic group, to keep public attention on the aftermath of the widespread power outages that occurred earlier this year.

Bob Fleming, a leader with The Metropolitan Organization, an affiliate of Texas IAF, added that the "almost relaxed response" to the disaster, including from Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, has faith leaders worried, especially as their congregations continue to suffer in the aftermath. They had hoped that a plan to provide people relief would be up and running by now, but "no such luck," he said.

"We are trying to get legislators who are busy to concentrate on this matter — to understand the magnitude of the failure, not to minimize it, and to let them know we don't intend to forget," Fleming said.

Texas IAF has thrown support behind Senate Bill 3, which would mandate weatherization under federal energy regulation guidelines. The bill passed on March 29 and now moves to the House. It would also impose penalties for noncompliance, increase coordination among state energy regulating bodies and create an emergency alert system.

"Our families have already suffered enough," said the Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith of St. John's Episcopal Church in Austin. "They have paid more than their fair share of the cost for the mistakes of the energy industry and the unwillingness of the legislature to regulate the energy industry.

"As legislation trudges through the legislature, the struggles continue across the state, members of The Metropolitan Organization said during the press conference. The budget strain of paying for repairs, they said, is especially felt by people living in apartments, whose landlords may not cover costs, as well as mobile home park residents and the elderly.

Pipes also burst at the home of Sorina Serrano, who is still waiting for repairs. A leader with The Metropolitan Organization Houston and member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, Serrano said her home insurance coverage expired in March and other insurers have told her they won't cover the house until the repairs are made.

After Texas' Winter Storm Disaster, Faith Leaders Press For Legislation to Ensure 'Never Again', Earthbeat-National Catholic Reporter [pdf]

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Texas Bishops: 'Electrical Grid Failure in Texas Was No Accident'

[Excerpt below]

While we desperately need immediate relief, we must also seek long-term systemic change.

As faith leaders, we have a responsibility to cry out for the vulnerable and seek the common good, and this means the reform of a utility system that has served as a means for profit, putting profit before people.

Last week, The Network of Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations with interfaith leaders from across the state held a press conference, urging the governor and legislature to take responsibility and put people before profits. It is time to direct recovery resources and restructure utility oversight to protect all, especially the poorer residents already on the edge because of the pandemic.

Bishops in Texas: Electrical Grid Failure was Preventable.  Without Accountability, It Will Happen AgainAmerica Magazine [pdf

'They Were Not Prepared': After Winter Crisis, Texas Will Have to Confront its Energy, Politics and Culture, Dallas Morning News [pdf]

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TMO, Texas IAF Declare State Power Failure an 'Act of Sheer Negligence' & Demand Accountability from Elected Officials

A man in Pflugerville, Texas, walks to his friend's house Feb. 15 in a neighborhood that had no electricity. (CNS/USA Today Network via Reuters/Austin American-Statesman/Bronte Wittpenn)

[Excerpts]

On Thursday morning, Bob Fleming (TMO) put out a call to his network of faith-based organizations, asking how people in the Houston area were coping with the record-breaking winter storm that has gripped much of Texas this week.

"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 (TMO) 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 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.

Since the winter storm and subfreezing temperatures set in Sunday, millions of people at some point were without power, water or both. In South Houston alone, 85% of residents were without power at one point. A boil order was in effect for 13 million people.

[Photo Credit: Bronte Wittpenn, CNS/USA Today Network via Reuters/Austin American-Statesman]

Texas Faith Leaders Call Out 'Sheer Negligence' Behind Power Outages, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Says Lawmakers Must Require Weatherization of Power Plants - And Pay For ItDallas Morning News [pdf]

Power Crisis Puts Texas Small-Government Policy Choices in the Spotlight, NBC News

Press Conference FootageFacebook Live

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With Evictions Looming, TMO Fights to Keep People Housed

[Excerpts]

Advocacy on eviction prevention has become an important part of this work as well. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is affiliated with The Metropolitan Organization, a CCHD-fund grassroots organization that has taken on eviction prevention work since March.

Much of the effort has focused on convincing Houston and Harris County officials to quickly distribute tens of millions of dollars for rental assistance that was allocated under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, said Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer with The Metropolitan Organization.

St. John the Baptist Parish in Alvin, Texas, a Metropolitan Organization member, has provided partial rental support for about 30 families in which the primary earner has lost work as industries like construction and landscaping have retrenched under the pandemic.

Father John Taoson, pastor at St. John the Baptist, told CNS the parish community has determined it must help people in need, especially those families whose members are in the country illegally because they are ineligible for the rental relief funds.

[Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

With Evictions Looming, Agencies Furiously Work to Keep Families Housed, Angelus News [pdf]

 

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TMO Statement on Inssurection at U.S. Capitol

The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6 disrespected, demeaned, and threatened the rights of every citizen who peaceably engages in the democratic process of our country.

Deliberation, debate, argument, compromise, deal-making; these are the means to advance interests in a democracy. The leaders and institutions of The Metropolitan Organization teach and practice these political skills every day; vigorously engaging on the issues that impact our families and traveling regularly to state Capitols, City Halls, and decision-making chambers to advance these issues.  That the buildings and halls of power belong to them is made self-evident in their consistent and persistent presence throughout years of effort. Their work is carried out through hundreds of conversations full of respectful dissent, concession, and sometimes victory; in other words, democratically.  

Read more
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'Faithful Citizenship' Sparks Extensive Nonpartisan Voter Outreach in Harris County

[Excerpts]

Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered by The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”

Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.

Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.

“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.

[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]

Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]

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TMO Works to Reach Election Day Voters After Early Voting Push

[Excerpt]

Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear the election has brought out many new voters. According to the Metropolitan Organization, a coalition of faith-based nonprofits in the Houston area, “low propensity voters” — which the group defines as voters who are newly registered, infrequent, young, or from communities of color — are casting ballots at rates on par with or exceeding those seen in the 2016 election in nearly all of the precincts that the group is monitoring.

Metropolitan Organization leaders credit that in part to a recent ramping up of ongoing get-out-the-vote efforts, including having church leaders focus more on civic engagement within their congregations ahead of the election.

Joe Biggs, an organizer with the group, said it and other nonpartisan groups have spent months doing what one leader called “disciplined” outreach to typically disenfranchised groups. Some, he said, “didn’t even know early voting was going on.”

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle]

Campaigns Try To Reach Election Day Voters After Record Early Voting, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

 

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TMO Calls Attention to the Disproportionate Impact of the Pandemic on Latino Families

[Excerpts]

The novel coronavirus is devastating Latino communities across the country, from California’s Imperial Valley to suburban Boston and Puerto Rico. Workers at Midwestern meatpacking plants and on construction sites in Florida are getting sick and dying of a virus that is exacerbating historic inequalities in communities where residents, many of whom are “essential” workers, struggle to access health care. The undocumented are largely invisible.

Latinos, who are not a racial group and come from diverse backgrounds, make up an increasing portion of deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 36,500 Latinos have died of the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Washington Post.

“If you look at all the negative factors, risky jobs or unemployment, unsafe housing, poor air quality and preexisting conditions, it’s all people of color,” said Carlos E. Rodriguez-Diaz, an associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

Angela Orea, a community organizer with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, said each day she receives desperate calls from families trying to get tested or find care. Many struggle to find transportation. Some who aren’t sick are moving out of their homes or apartments because they lost jobs and can no longer afford rent.

Every day, Amelia Averyt sees coronavirus patients at Legacy Community Health Clinic in Houston who waited too long to seek help after home remedies failed. The results can be particularly tragic for the undocumented, she said. When a family gets sick, she said, members vow to defeat the disease and take care of each other with minimal medical intervention. The repercussions can be devastating.

[Photo Credit: Sergio Flores/Washington Post]

‘It’s just too much to handle,’ In Texas, the Burden of Coronavirus on Latinos is Diverse, With an Impact That is Almost Certainly Underestimated, Washington Post [pdf]

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TMO Welcomes CDC Eviction Moratorium, Calls for More Rental Assistance

[Excerpts]

According to community leaders, about 10,000 renters have been evicted from March through August in the Houston area before the recent eviction moratorium was put into place by the Center for Disease Control to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC ordered a national eviction moratorium, halting evictions effective Sept. 4 through the end of 2020 as COVID-19 continues to cause health and economic hardships. But residents will still be under obligation to pay rent, so those eligible need to apply to Houston’s $60 million rental assistance program allocated through the City of Houston and Harris County, said The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) members, a nonprofit of church groups.

“Evictions put us all at risk,” said TMO’s Bob Fleming. “People who are evicted move in with other people and compound liability to COVID-19 by creating more density....”

Baptist Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, as part of a TMO press conference, said, “The CDC order creates a welcomed pause in evictions in this area, but it is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31.”

[Photo Credit: Jo Ann Zuñiga, Texas Catholic Herald]

Thousands Evicted in Houston Area Before Eviction Moratorium, Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]

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