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.

Texas IAF: Allow Gun 'Raise the Age' Bill to Be Heard on House Floor

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]

'Raise-the-Age' Gun Bill Misses Crucial Deadline, Texas Tribune [pdf]

Valley Interfaith: Guillen is 'Actively Suppressing' Assault Rifle Age Bill from Reaching House FloorRio Grande Guardian [pdf]

Raise the Age Gun Bill in Peril as Texas House Deadline LoomsKXAN [pdf]

Lubbock and Valley Legislators Block Assault Rifle Age Limit Bill, HB 2744, from Reaching the Floor of Texas HouseTexas IAF [pdf]

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Houston Chronicle Opposes Texas Chapter 313 Legislation


 economic development evangelists speak of this program – once known as Chapter 313 but now House Bill 5 – with almost biblical reverence. It may not turn water into wine, but they argue it will at least turn our school property tax dollars into new jobs for years to come.

We truly wish that were true. Tax incentives done smartly can be a good deal for Texans but not when there are few protections against abuse and waste. That, after all, is why lawmakers killed Chapter 313 last session.   

Sadly, the current, revised version of the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, simply repeats the sins of the past and, in some ways, commits new ones.

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]

Why Texas' New Chapter 313 Tax Break Is Even Worse than BeforeHouston Chronicle [pdf]

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Texas IAF Rally Takes On "Vampire" Chapter 313 Legislation


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.

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TMO Continues 'Recognizing the Stranger' Training with 'One Body'


About 80 people representing multiple local Catholic churches and other denominations met at All Saints Catholic Church in the Heights with training sessions in English and Spanish on being called to be “One Body.” They also learned how to lead small groups and listen to identify new leaders. They focused on practical measures such as “pressures on families”....

Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, Archdiocesan director for the secretariat of social concerns, said,

“Historically, people have seen the Church as a refuge. But that has eroded. Now we need to go out to the people and help them with their issues of education, transportation, and housing.”

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TMO, Texas IAF Leaders Weigh In on Vampire Legislation for Tax Breaks


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] 

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Texas IAF Orgs Denounce "Vampire" Legislation That Would Suck the Life from Texas Schools


The Network of Texas IAF Organizations, a labor and faith coalition that has staunchly opposed using school property tax breaks for incentives... railed against the Texas Jobs and Security Act.

"It looks like it was written on the back of a napkin,"

stated Jose Guerrero, a leader with Central Texas Interfaith from Saint Ignatius Catholic Church.

The organization believes the proposed bill would have even less regulation than Chapter 313, including the exclusion of minimum job requirements as a key factor in a project's eligibility for approval. "It is hard to imagine that they would propose a program with even less accountability, fewer specifics (like no job requirements), and more leeway for companies to take taxpayer dollars from school children to line their pockets," Guerrero stated.

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'Recognizing the Stranger' Conference Commemorates 5-Year Organizing Strategy

Over 300 leaders, clergy, religious, and bishops from 20 organizations gathered last week in San Antonio to celebrate five years of Recognizing the Stranger, a West/Southwest IAF training, leadership formation, and parish organizing strategy. 

The Convocation was highlighted by a video message from Pope Francis, who offered his “closeness and support” to the IAF network and its work to organize with immigrants and with those at the margins to encourage “participation of the Christian in public life.”  

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TMO, Texas IAF Underscore Lasting Consequences of Chapter 313 Subsidies


"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.” ....

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After 2022 Chapter 313 Victories, Texas IAF Braces for What Comes Next

“We pay our taxes. Parents, teachers, grandparents, alumni pay taxes towards our school districts and towards the state. So, we feel that that is something that every body is responsible for,” said Reverend Minerva Camarena-Skeith of St. John’s Episcopal Church."

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Meeting with Pope Francis | Reunión con El Papa Francisco

[en español abajo]

Our network had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  

An interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process.

The Holy Father sat side by side with us in his residence, thanking us for inconveniencing ourselves to come see him.  What ensued was a true dialogue, a 90-minute conversation in Spanish with lots of back and forth engagement.  The encounter was filled with many graced moments about both the joys and the struggles of our work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and to come. 

This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, particularly those involved with the 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue. 

As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría.  Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’)  “El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem).

He stressed the importance of being with people and paying  attention to their reality, emphasizing Amor Concreto, love concretely in action, saying that he understood our work as seeing and hearing of injustice in the real lives of our people, acting to change the situation, and being changed ourselves as a result. He expressed his appreciation for our focus on what we are doing, rather than to complain about what is not being done or to disparage anyone. Ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”

Before concluding, he thanked us for our visit, saying that although he had never known of IAF before, he was glad that he knew us now, and he welcomed further conversation around our continuing work with the Synod process.

We teach that power recognizes power.  For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”).  Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering.  He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.”

We are humbled to represent the many decades of work from those who preceded us, and we are encouraged in the continuation of our work into the future.  

*** *** ***

El pasado 14 de octubre, nuestra red de la Fundación de Áreas Industriales, Oeste/Suroeste, (W/SW IAF) tuvo la rara oportunidad de visitar al Papa Francisco en el Vaticano.

Una delegación interreligiosa de 20 líderes y organizadores se reunió con él para compartir nuestro trabajo colectivo de organización de base amplia en un momento en que el Papa está guiando a la iglesia mundial en un histórico proceso de escucha del Sínodo.

El Santo Padre se sentó junto a nosotros en su residencia, y nos agradeció la molestia de venir a verlo. Lo que siguió fue un verdadero diálogo; una conversación de 90 minutos en español con mucha participación de las dos partes. El encuentro estuvo lleno de momentos de gracia sobre el gozo y la lucha de nuestro trabajo y el trabajo de la Iglesia, pasado, presente y futuro.

Esta invitación a reunirnos se debió en gran parte al reconocimiento de nuestro trabajo por parte de los obispos locales, en particular aquellos involucrados en la estrategia Reconociendo al Extranjero, que está dedicada a la formación y desarrollo de liderazgo de feligreses inmigrantes. Además, nuestra participación para apoyar el proceso del Sínodo en múltiples diócesis ha ayudado a traer a los marginados al centro del diálogo sinodal.

Al compartir nuestras experiencias de organización, nos sorprendió lo atentamente que escuchó, hizo preguntas y respondió con humor. Entre sus primeras reacciones, nos dijo: “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes parte de alguna teoría. Ninguno dice 'leí un libro y me interesó eso' [...] El peligro es intelectualizar el problema.”

El Santo Padre recalcó la importancia de estar presente con las personas y estar atentos a su realidad, enfatizando “Amor Concreto” en acción, diciendo que él entendía nuestro trabajo como ver y escuchar la injusticia en la vida real de nuestro pueblo, actuando para cambiar la situación, y ser cambiados nosotros mismos como resultado. Expresó su agradecimiento por nuestro enfoque en lo que estamos haciendo, en vez de quejarnos de lo que no se está haciendo, “ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.”

Antes de concluir, nos agradeció nuestra visita y dijo que aunque nunca antes había sabido de la IAF, estaba contento de conocernos ahora y expresó interés en más conversaciones sobre nuestro trabajo en el proceso del Sínodo.

Algunos de nuestra delegación pudieron reunirse también con otros en el Vaticano, incluyendo líderes del Dicasterio para el Desarrollo Humano Integral, la Secretaría General del Sínodo y la Comisión Pontificia para América Latina. Fue un viaje que abrió muchas puertas.

Agradecemos a todos ustedes por su apoyo en esta visita histórica. Muchos de ustedes contribuyeron con sus oraciones, consejos, aliento e inversión financiera. Pasamos un día completo antes de la reunión con el Papa Francisco realizando nuestro propio proceso sinodal. Todos sentimos nuestra obligación hacia ustedes y aquellos que nos precedieron para hacer posible esta peregrinación.

Enseñamos en la IAF que “el poder reconoce al poder.” Para el Papa Francisco, “el verdadero poder es el servicio.” Relatando la historia del Buen Samaritano, afirmó claramente que el Evangelio no se puede comprender sin actuar en solidaridad con los que sufren. Reconoció a los líderes y organizaciones de la IAF y el poderoso trabajo que se realiza todos los días en los márgenes. Se refirió a la IAF como “Buenas noticias para los Estados Unidos”.

Nos sentimos honrados de representar las muchas décadas de trabajo de aquellos que nos precedieron, y nos alienta la continuación de nuestro trabajo en el futuro. Los alentamos a compartir este anuncio con los líderes y amigos de la IAF. Reflexionaremos más sobre este encuentro en las próximas semanas.

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