One month in advance of mayoral and city council elections in San Antonio, almost 600 COPS/Metro leaders assembled at St. Patrick Catholic Church for a raucous assembly that began with a procession of matachines and culminated with a lineup of over 20 local incumbents and challengers pledging to support leaders' demands around property tax relief, housing affordability, job training, and supports for low-income immigrants.
Sr. Jane Ann Slater, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and member of the Congregation of Divine Providence, co-chaired the assembly with Antonia Infante of St. Patrick -- located in a rapidly changing neighborhood. Fr. Jimmy Dennan of St. Margaret Mary Catholic gave a rousing opening statement leading the crowd to chant: Invest in Us.
Leader Rosa Araujo-Irachueta [in upper left photo] elicited a standing ovation with her story about displacement with leaders in the crowd waving signs announcing "we will not be moved" and "love your neighbor." In weeks leading up to the assembly, and with the support of the Catholic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, COPS/Metro increasingly called for the prioritization of displacement prevention, even while applauding the passage of a $1 Million displacement mitigation fund. At the nonpartisan accountability assembly, leaders leveraged public commitments from candidates to create Neighborhood Empowerment Zones in COPS/Metro neighborhoods to allow for a ten-year freeze on property taxes for legacy homeowners. Candidates also committed to expanding city programs educating homeowners about property tax exemptions (like homestead and/or senior) for which they might qualify.
Candidates also committed to raise more than $11 million for home rehab programs for low-income households; invest (for another year) half a million dollars in a legal defense fund for US-born children whose parents are deported; raise the minimum wage of city contract workers to $9.50; and raise the City's investment in gold-standard job training program Project QUEST to $2.5 Million per year (an increase of $300,000).
[Photo Credits: Top photos by Carlos Javier Sanchez, San Antonio Express-News. Bottom photo is screenshot of footage by NOWCast SA.]
Why Politicians Don't Love COPS Metro Accountability Sessions, Rivard Report
Tax Freezes Sought for Near West Side, Denver Heights, Government Hill, San Antonio Heron
Candidates Pledge More Affordability in Apartments That Receive City Incentives, San Antonio Heron
Webcast: COPS/Metro Hosting Candidate Accountability Assembly, NowCast San Antonio [video]
COPS Metro Urges Mayor to Ramp Up Implementation of Affordable Housing, Rivard Report
Needed: A Displacement Prevention Plan, San Antonio Express-News
Is San Antonio Doing Enough to Prevent Displacement? San Antonio Heron
Alamo Colleges Raises Wage Floor to $15 Per Hour. COPS/Metro is Credited with the Win.
Five years after COPS/Metro's first wage win, the San Antonio Express-News is crediting the organization with the most recent wage floor hike at Alamo Colleges to $15 per hour.
"The COPS/Metro Alliance, a community organizing coalition, has for years pushed local public entities to adopt a minimum 'living wage' of $15 hourly as part of a national movement....When school districts had trouble passing their bond issues, COPS/Metro offered its mobilization muscle — if the districts agreed to raise wages."
The $15/hour minimum represents a 30% increase over the previous wage floor. Alamo College representatives argue that raising the wage floor helps with their employee retention, even while supporting the “economic and social mobility of the families of the lowest paid members of the Alamo Colleges District workforce and the persistence of a growing body of students.”
This position is consistent with what COPS/Metro leaders have argued for years.
[Photo Credit: Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News]
Alamo Colleges, Other San Antonio Employers, Embrace 'Living Wage', San Antonio Express-News
Alamo College Trustees Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
2014 Report on COPS/Metro Launch of Living Wage Campaign