Central Texas Interfaith ASEC Core Team
All Saints’ is one of some 40 congregations, public schools, workers’ groups, and community service associations who work together in a democratic way to address concerns for their own institutional development and public issues that affect the well‐being of families and neighborhoods in our community. We do this through Central Texas Interfaith (CTI, formerly Austin Interfaith), a non-partisan organization that works to develop leaders and provide opportunities for member institutions to do effective self-analysis and to negotiate effectively through the political process with community leaders around issues of common concern. All Saints’ has been a member since 2017.
The All Saints’ CTI Core Team
The Core Team identifies the concerns of the congregation by holding conversational circles (sometimes called “house meetings”), small groups in which members identify the concerns that emerge from their own life experience, concerns for our own church and concerns for our civic community. Regarding concerns for our own church, the Core Team facilitates whatever initiatives might most effectively address them. Regarding concerns for our community, the Core Team is the liaison between our congregation and the larger network of CTI member institutions. We communicate the concerns of All Saints’ members, as expressed to one another in conversational circles, to representatives of the other CTI institutions who similarly communicate the concerns of their constituents, and together we develop an agenda of issues that CTI advocates through participation in the electoral and legislative process.
In our most recent round of conversational circles, held in September of 2022, we identified the need for additional opportunities for personal interaction and ongoing attention to the issue of racial reconciliation as the most pressing concerns for All Saints’, and we once again identified homelessness and the closely relation issue of affordable housing as our most pressing concerns for our community at large.
Concerns for our congregation
With regard to additional opportunities for personal interaction, we took this up with the Rector, who noted that she and the Parish Life Committee were already aware of this as an issue emerging in the context of our coming through the pandemic. One aspect of the situation is unawareness of the opportunities that already exist. The parish leadership plans to address this problem in the coming year.
With regard to ongoing attention to the issue of racial reconciliation, the Racial Reconciliation Committee, formed in response to the need expressed in previous conversation circles, sponsored the Episcopal Church’s Sacred Ground program early this year and plans to do so again in the coming year, in addition to providing other resources.
Concerns for our community
With regard to homelessness and affordable housing, Central Texas Interfaith was involved in getting Austin to pass the largest affordable housing bond ever. CTI was instrumental in getting the City Council to raise the amount of the bond to $350 million, and in getting out the 70% positive vote in favor of the bond. In August here at All Saints’ the Core Team offered a civic academy to educate ourselves about how the housing bond works. Now that the bond has passed, CTI remains vigilant with regard to how these funds and funds from previous affordable housing bonds are being expended.
In the area of affordable housing, CTI has worked in the past year to get manufactured housing (“mobile homes”) covered by relief programs, like home repair and rental assistance, from which they are largely excluded. During the fall election, CTI got all the candidates who were elected to commit to making this change in eligibility requirements, so as to maintain one of the truly affordable housing options within the city limits.
Here are some of the other accomplishments the leaders and clergy of CTI achieved in in the public arena during 2022:
Statewide organization of HBCUs
As Huston-Tillotson University was in the process of becoming a member of Central Texas Interfaith, one of the concerns that surfaced in their conversational circles was the disadvantaged status of Texas’s historically black colleges and universities. One of their first projects, which afforded them the opportunity to learn organizing from CTI leaders, was to sponsor a meeting of representatives from all of Texas’s HBCUs. Last April this meeting took place, and these institutions began to plan how they could work together for their mutual benefit. A follow-up meeting will take place in the coming year.
Long-term workforce development
CTI continues to advocate funding at the city, county, and state levels for Capital IDEA, the stellar job-training which it founded.CTI got city and county commitments to maintaining in the 2023 budget year the same level of support as in the 2022 budge year. In the upcoming legislative session CTI and sister organizations will work to preserve funding from the Texas Adult Career Education program.
Ending Corporate Welfare, Saving School Funding
In the last legislative session Texas IAF organizations successfully blocked reauthorization of a longstanding corporate tax exemption (“Chapter 313” of the Texas Tax Code), that allowed local school boards to give large corporations 10-year property tax abatements. In the final analysis these grants, which diverted $ 1-2 billion annually from educational funding, had to be made up by ordinary tax-payers. The All Saints’ Core Team gave an informative presentation on the Chapter 313 boondoggle at the civic academy on August 25.
As Chapter 313 was scheduled to expire at the end of 2022, hundreds of corporations tried to get approved before this deadline. One such last minute application came from NXP, an international semi-conductor manufacturer, to Austin ISD. CTI successfully lobbied the Austin ISD Board of Trustees not to accept this application, and to forgo participation in Chapter 313’s corporate welfare scheme. The agreement with NXP was voted down at the Board’s December meeting.
The Core Team invites any parishioners who might be interested to consider joining us.
Core team members: Scott Brookhart, Michelle Carlson, Tracy Cornelius, April Floyd, Michael Floyd, Tom Pollan, Anne Province, Richard Ribb, Merry Wheaton