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Mon Jun 16, 2014

VOICE Op-Ed on Requiring Banks to Rebuild Communities Devastated by Foreclosure -The Hill

By Rev. Clyde Ellis, Rev. Keith Savage and Father Gerry Creedon

Hannah Senft, Candy Savannah and Ron Taylor have been neighbors for more than 20 years in Georgetown South, a community of 800 townhomes in Manassas, Virginia. It’s a diverse, working-class suburban neighborhood about 30 miles from the White House.

And it’s being decimated.

Many communities suffered in the housing crisis and, for residents of Georgetown South, there’s no end in sight. Not only did J.P. Morgan Chase and other predatory lenders flood the market with subprime loans that were structured to fail, they turned Georgetown South into a place where absentee landlords allow their properties to fall into squalor as the neighborhood struggles to rebuild. 

 
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VOICE has already secured $30 million in commitments from Bank of America, General Electric and the Virginia Housing Development Authority to rehabilitate blighted properties and develop new housing in neighborhoods like Georgetown South. To date, J.P. Morgan Chase has refused to participate.

Used properly, the DOJ settlements create a powerful opportunity to help rebuild devastated communities like Georgetown South and others nationwide and to find justice for the millions of Ron’s still struggling. The question is: Will President Obama and Attorney General Holder compel bankers to really clean up their mess?

 

Tue Jun 10, 2014

GBIO Acts on Health Care Costs -The Boston Globe

Saying it’s worried that mounting medical costs are squeezing family and government budgets, a group that is representing dozens of Boston-area religious congregations wants the state Health Policy Commission to determine whether a pending deal between Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare System will make health care more affordable.

Leaders of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization hope to bring more attention to a tentative pact that would allow Partners to complete a takeover of South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, while placing limits on how much the state’s largest health care provider can charge for services and restricting its expansion for five to 10 years.

“This agreement has potentially very significant implications for efforts to control health costs,” the interfaith organization’s president, the Rev. Burns Stanfield, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston, wrote in a letter to the Health Policy Commission.

“We believe that the [commission] should review and evaluate the agreement, and then render a judgment as to whether in your opinion it is, or is not, in the interests of the Commonwealth.”

The interfaith group waded into the debate over medical care prices last September when it invited leaders of the area’s largest hospitals and health insurers to a meeting at Temple Israel in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area — and grilled them on what they could do to blunt the impact of soaring health costs.

Tue Jun 3, 2014

WIN Calls for Policy Changes at Shelter -Washington Post

The rally was sponsored by the Washington Interfaith Network, a congregation-based community organizing group. Members of the organization said they had been visiting residents at the shelter in the past six weeks, and have been stunned by their stories.

On Tuesday, residents spoke of power outages and uncooked meat served in the cafeteria. One held up a sign saying, “No rats, no roaches.” “I have been sick and my daughter has been sick,” said Bre Archie, 35, who has lived in the shelter for 16 months. “This is no place for children,” she added. “Its stressful for adults.”

WIN is the latest group calling for policy changes at the shelter, including adding on-site counselors and a playground. City officials were stunned this winter by a 135 percent increase in the number of homeless families seeking shelter during hypothermia season, when the District is legally obligated to house the homeless. In an unusually cold winter, about 550 children were packed into the old hospital. The overcrowding reflects a dire lack of affordable housing in the city.

Out of shelter space, the city began placing families in recreation centers and motels in the District and the Maryland suburbs. The city leaders eventually ended the practice of placing families in other jurisdictions and a judge declared the practice of using recreation centers unsafe and illegal.

Pastor Patrick Smith of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Northwest told the crowd it was time to add pressure to fix conditions there. He told representatives from the churches to think of residents as neighbors.

Mon Jun 2, 2014

Governor of CT Signs on to DNSIB -New Haven Register

Connecticut leaders seek changes from gun makers


MILFORD >> Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, Bridgeport’s police chief and other leaders gathered at St. Gabriel’s School Monday to pledge their support of the national “Don’t Stand Idly By” anti-gun violence campaign that calls upon change to begin with gun manufacturers.

Malloy, who received huge applause from the crowd, announced he is joining a bipartisan list of leaders who have signed on to a Request for Information to the gun industry about basic information regarding distribution practices so that guns don’t get into the wrong hands, and about technologies to improve gun safety.

Malloy said he’d like to see all guns come with gun locks and also “smart guns” that recognize their owner, but working with manufacturers in this way is a movement in its infancy.

According to information distributed by CONECT via the “Do not Stand Idly By” campaign, taxpayers and the public sector have significant power in the firearms marketplace because only 40 percent of firearms are purchased by the military and law enforcement, including police.

 

 

 

Fri May 30, 2014

GCC Takes Action on Gun Violence and Overcharging -WKYC

CLEVELAND -- Their rallying phrase: Our united power builds a Greater Cleveland. It's strength in numbers. It's getting loud enough to get something done. The Greater Cleveland Congregations pulls people from more than 30 faith groups to make change from the ground up with one new goal: stopping illegal guns. 

There've been more than 40 shooting deaths already this year across Cuyahoga County. GCC is suggesting a county-wide initiative that pull federal, county and city leaders together to squeeze the pipeline of illegal guns and hold people accountable.

GCC also addressed what they call Cuyahoga County's "felon factory" Thursday. They urged prosecutors to save prison time for violent criminals and seek misdeameanor charges and other methods, like rehabilitation for drug crimes.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty spoke in response to these requests, saying the focus of his office will be "serious offenders," and the office has tripled the number of drug cases it sends to diversion programs. He said those changes could help filter down to create a stronger and more attractive region."When we have better justice, this will be a better place to raise our families and the exodus will end," said McGinty.

 

Sun Apr 6, 2014

Cleveland: Gun Companies Must Play Greater Role -Plain Dealer

Here’s an idea.

Let’s revamp this notion of gun control. Let’s make America a safer place by making it much more difficult for criminals to get guns – not the law abiding.

Not a new idea?

You’re absolutely right. But we must do a far better job of enforcing it. And gun manufacturers, both domestic and international, must play a more active role in helping to police their products. 

Let’s change the nature of America’s vitriolic gun debate and focus on something that the most pro-gun supporters and most vitriolic anti-gun crusaders can all agree on:

Keeping guns out of the hands of killers and opportunistic street criminals.

The groundwork is already being laid for this evolution in the gun debate. Indeed, there’s a compelling new school of thought emerging on how best to confront the epidemic of gun violence in America....

Thu Apr 3, 2014

GBIO's Work Helps Launch New STEM Academy -The Boston Globe

For the first time in more than a decade, Boston is about to embark on constructing a school, potentially kicking off a new era for a school system that has long struggled to bring projects to fruition.

...It took an incredible amount of tenacity for the Dearborn and its supporters, including the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and the Trinity Episcopal Church in Copley Square, to make their dream a reality. The project has evolved from a renovation to an entirely new building and is credited for helping save a school on the brink of closure.

At one monumental meeting in April 2010 that drew hundreds, organizers called in the mayor, superintendent, head of the school building authority, and the state treasurer to make commitments to the new school. Two years later, when the project was waning once again, organizers pressed the officials to promise a groundbreaking by spring 2014.

“This is very exciting and concrete and people understand we are moving along,” said the Rev. Liz Walker, pastor of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church. “People who have not known how to trust are learning now to trust promises and their own potential.”

 

Thu Feb 20, 2014

Amid Debate Over Pre-K, Kindergarten Could Be Lost -CityandStateNY.com

As anybody who reads local papers knows, there is an important political contest taking place in New York politics. The mayor and governor are arguing how to fund a full expansion to universal pre-kindergarten (UPK). Each side is holding firm, making moves, counter moves. The resolution of this conflict is important, not just for the game of politics between New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor, but for the future of all of New York State’s children. While we are waiting for this game of thrones to continue, it’s important to pose two questions to the state’s key players in this debate that remain, in our mind, unanswered.

The first is for Governor Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Silver. While the mayor and governor are focused on a universal full-day pre-k plan, the governor and Legislature have failed to plug another hole: protecting access in the state to kindergarten. That’s right. New York State is one of only eight states in the nation that does not guarantee kindergarten to all of its families. When districts’ budgets get tight, as they did two years ago, school districts in lower income communities all across the state consider cutting back to half-day kindergarten. Some did, and some threatened to eliminate kindergarten all together. With costs rising and revenues shrinking, the temptation to reduce or eliminate kindergarten will only grow.

Thu Jan 23, 2014

Westchester United in the NYT: Universal Pre-K -The New York Times

Andrew M. Cuomo arrived at The New York Times in an expansive mood on Wednesday. Reporters being reporters, they barraged him with the usual, “Hey, you going to let New York’s new mayor tax the wealthy in pursuit of prekindergarten” questions.

He smiled, jaunty: No problem. Prekindergarten with every bell and whistle the mayor could imagine — it’s all going to happen. “Whatever he needs,” he said of the new mayor. “As fast as he can phase in, we’ll fund it.”

Just one detail: The mayor will not accomplish this with a tax increase on the wealthy. Oh, and you know, the governor confided: “Nobody has a good estimate on what it is going to cost. The mayor appointed a commission to figure it out.” He smiled.

I got Michael Gecan on the telephone. A few years back, he and others fromWestchester United, a citizens’ group, pushed the governor to make good on 45,000 promised jobs from the Tappan Zee Bridge’s rebuilding.

For months, they couldn’t get a straight answer. Then a spokesman for the governor clarified that the governor was talking about 45,000 job years, which could mean 5,000 people working nine years. Or something like that.

What, I asked him, do you make of the governor’s latest promise? “It looks good, it sounds good, it just has to happen. It has to be real, right?”

Right.

Mon Jan 6, 2014

Supply and Demand: Gun Safety in Our Lifetime -New York Daily News

On the one-year anniversary of Newtown, and approaching the fifteenth year after my father was murdered with a handgun in Chicago, I felt something I hadn’t felt for a long time regarding gun violence in America: optimism. Working with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation citizens’ organizing network, clergy in ten states have been approaching mayors, police chiefs, governors (and President Obama, who hasn’t responded) to ask that they pay more attention to the practices and capabilities of the companies they buy guns from.

 

Mon Jan 6, 2014

Metro IAF NY Work Airs on Dateline -NBC Dateline

On Sunday, January 5th, NBC Dateline aired an important story on Metro IAF's work to pressure the New York City Housing Authority to clean up the mold and moisture that causes asthma. This work led to a legal settlement with NYCHA and the CITY in December.

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/dateline/53856721#53856721

Tue Dec 17, 2013

Metro IAF NY Wins Federal Judicial Oversight to Ensure Real Cleanup of Mold by NYCHA -New York Daily News

The City Housing Authority is about to come under judicial oversight to erase one of its worst plagues — creeping mold in aging apartments, the Daily News has learned.

The city signed off on a consent decree Monday that will give a federal judge the ability to ensure the New York City Housing Authority finally eradicates the longstanding and dangerous condition.

The federal court intervention is seen as a game-changer in the battle to reform NYCHA’s inability to tackle an issue that affects hundreds of tenants citywide.

 

Mon Dec 16, 2013

German Deutsche Welle Interviews Rabbi Joel Mosbacher on Metro-IAF's Gun Violence Reduction Campaign -Deutsche Welle

One year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, US gun violence continues unabated. European manufacturers compound the problem.

The father of Joel Mosbacher, a rabbi from New Jersey, was shot dead in a petty robbery in 1999. The anger stayed with his son, but he decided to use it wisely and got involved in the citizens' organizing network Metro IAF.

This year, he and other clergy from New Jersey started the "Do Not Stand Idly By" initiative to reduce gun violence. A key demand is to get gunmakers to accept responsibility, and act accordingly.

The top manufacturers fueling US gun culture are all European. Mosbacher and other local clergy have therefore decided to raise awareness and confront the manufacturers in Europe. DW talked to Rabbi Mosbacher about his visit.

Fri Dec 13, 2013

Metro IAF Delegation Lobbies Gun Manufacturers Abroad -New York Daily News

Clergy members from Metro IAF affiliates left Sunday, December 9th to lobby European gun manufacturers as part of the “Do Not Stand Idly By” gun violence reduction campaign. The clergy are seeking meetings with Austria’s Glock, Germany’s SIG Sauer and Italy’s Berretta, which dominate gun sales to police departments and government agencies in the U.S.

Their goals are to:

  1. Meet with executives at the major gun manufacturers Glock, SIG Sauer, and Baretta, as well as officials, policymakers, and local leaders.
  2. Learn more about European efforts to develop the relatively "safe gun" and firearms tracing technologies.
  3. Discuss the importance of conditions placed on firearms export licenses from Europe to the U.S.

Metro IAF has gotten a lot of press over this trip, including internationally. Read all about it here:

New York Daily News:

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/12/08/religious-leaders-head-to-europe-to-lobby-gun-execs-for-changes/

Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joshua-stanton/preventing-gun-violence-a_b_4409066.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

Redattore Sociale: (Italian- Click HERE for translation)

http://www.redattoresociale.it/Notiziario/Articolo/451055/Un-anno-fa-la-strage-di-Newtown-Negli-Usa-le-armi-uccidono-30-mila-persone

Suddeutsche: (German- Click HERE for translation)

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/waffen-in-amerika-blutspur-nach-europa-1.1841620

 

Fri Dec 13, 2013

VOICE presses for Affordable Housing Units on Public Land -Sun Gazette

Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE, is asking County Board members to direct staff to analyze a list of publicly owned sites that could be used for affordable housing, and report back next April with the three most feasible sites.

The goal? Cut the cost of construction by building on parcels that the government already owns.

The ecumenical organization plans to present County Board Chairman Walter Tejada on Dec. 12 with a 10,000-signature petition in support of its effort, then turn up en masse at the Dec. 14 County Board meeting to press its case.

VOICE leaders have been meeting individually with County Board members over the past week. Organizers of the effort say board members have been receptive and asked informed questions, offering varying degrees of support for the concept.

VOICE of late has pressed for changes in county policy that would provide housing for those with significantly less income than those traditionally helped by the government’s existing policy, which focuses mostly on families earning no less than 50 percent of the region’s median income. VOICE wants the focus shifted to assist those earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of the median.

In a timeline put together by VOICE, the county government would move forward next June with a three-year plan for adding housing to public parcels, then cast a net for proposals from both for-profit and non-profit developers. Under the proposed timeline, ground-breaking on the first project would take place in December 2015.

Fri Dec 13, 2013

Common Ground Health Care Co-op Enrollment Surges -Business Journal

Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, a creature of an Obamacare initiative for nonprofit customer-owned health plans, has enrolled more than 2,200 Wisconsinites so far — and 75 percent to 80 percent of them enrolled via the online health-insurance marketplace.

Bob De Vita, chief executive officer of Brookfield-based Common Ground, said he is confident the co-op will meet his goal of signing 10,000 people by the end of 2014.

“I would say with 19 counties in our service area, we’re going to be able to eclipse that,” he told an audience at the Milwaukee Press Club downtown at a luncheon Wednesday. “It’s a bold statement to make, but I think we’re going to do it.”

 

Tue Dec 10, 2013

Preventing Gun Violence a Year After Newtown -The Huffington Post

The days after the Newtown massacre, I, like so many religious and civic leaders, had the difficult task of meeting with scared parents and frightened students about the school shooting. There was nothing I could say that could possibly console them or alleviate all of their fears. My role was primarily one of listening and helping people find words to describe what they were feeling.

In many streams of Jewish thought, as in many other traditions, reflection is thought to be the basis for action. Careful, thoughtful, concerted action in response to what we learn through the reflective process. To the dismay of many, we as a country have not taken decisive action to prevent gun violence.

Gun violence has continued. I and many others feel far too passive as we watch the news and see story after story about it.

Sun Dec 8, 2013

NY, NJ clergymen to lobby European gun makers to toughen rules for U.S. sales -NY Daily News

In a novel approach, the religious leaders fly across the Atlantic on Sunday to push European gun manufacturers, who have a roughly 25% share of the U.S. market, to apply some of the more stringent standards they already follow in their own countries to the weapons they sell in the U.S.

RELATED: THANKSGIVING PRIME TIME TO TALK ABOUT GUNS: GROUP

They want the European gunmakers, for example, to refuse to allow their weapons to be sold through unlicensed gun dealers. They also want the manufacturers to renounce political meddling in the U.S. through contributions to lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association.

Their mission is the work of the Metro Industrial Arts Foundation, better known as Metro IAF, the highly effective grass-roots organizing group that is legendary in New York for building thousands of units of affordable housing.

Tue Nov 5, 2013

CONECT: Two East Haven cops guilty of civil rights abuses -The New Haven Register

Two East Haven Connecticut police officers were found guilty on October 21st in Hartford after a 20 day trial in US District Court.  They were charged with 9 counts of racial profiling, civil rights abuses, abuse of police powers, and obstruction of justice and now face up to 20 years in prison.

An anchor parish in CONECT, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in New Haven, and its pastor, Fr. Jim Manship, a co-chair of CONECT, were at the center of documenting the pattern of profiling, harassing, and abusing immigrants and Latinos by the East Haven police force.  Fr. Manship was considered the star witness in the case after video taping two officers in action in a parishioner’s store and then getting arrested  himself.  Several other parishioners also offered key testimony.

Today’s verdict was a huge vindication for them all and a direct result of their strength and courage in the face of intimidation!  The whole ordeal is a long way from over — sentencing, appeals, civil case, DOJ Consent Decree with the town to reform the police department, etc. -- but this verdict was a major step forward.

Mon Oct 28, 2013

GBIO Hosts Boston Mayoral Candidates Action -Boston.com

 

Over 325 GBIO leaders gathered on October 28th to gain commitments from Boston City Councilor John Connolly and State Representative Marty Walsh in support of Dearborn Middle School, women and minority-owned businesses, and limiting handgun purchases in the City of Boston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tue Sep 17, 2013

GBIO Health Care Cost Containment Action -Boston Globe

  Over 200 GBIO leaders gathered major health providers, insurers, and healthcare system officials to examine their progress in adhering to the targets of landmark health care cost containment legislation passed in 2012.

The action received extensive coverage from major media:

The Boston Globe

John McDonough on Boston.com

WBUR

 

Mon Jun 3, 2013

Advocates: Pr. William communities to get $30 million for housing pilot program -The Washington Post

 

Millions in funding for a housing pilot program that would go toward restoring communities affected by the 2008 foreclosure crisis in Prince William County will be promised by two major financial institutions and a Virginia housing agency Monday, according to Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement.

Prince William suffered more than 20,000 foreclosures during the housing market collapse and was the hardest hit locality in Virginia, according to the coalition of interfaith groups, which has organized around housing issues in the county. The $30 million pilot program would buy and rehabilitate about 100 vacant, blighted townhouses and provide for 1,500 affordable rentals in some of the Prince William communities most affected by the collapse — around Dale City, Georgetown South in Manassas and Williamstown in Dumfries.

 

 

Thu May 30, 2013

Senate Sends Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Bill to Gov’s Desk -CT News Junkie

 

bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license received final passage Wednesday night as a group of advocates watched from the Senate balcony. Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, a nonpartisan interfaith group, pushed for the legislation in meetings with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and encouraged them to move forward with it. The organization of about a 15,000 people was founded in 2011, but this was their first full-court press for legislation. It was an uphill battle. All four bills that would have permitted these drivers’ licenses died in the Transportation Committee, but the organization with the support of Rep. Juan Candelaria of New Haven was determined to find a vehicle for passage.

Wed May 22, 2013

Could Medicaid expansion decrease drug court costs, save local taxpayer dollars? Cleveland judge says yes. -Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge David Matia estimates that area residents could save millions in local taxes if the offenders he sees in drug court had health insurance. And if Ohio were to expand Medicaid, as being debated by state legislators, many of the defendants in his court would qualify for the state and federal health insurance program for the poor.... As the clock ticks on a decision, local lobbying for expansion has stepped up: On Monday, community activists held a rally at the Neighborhood Family Practice Center, a federally qualified community health center on Cleveland's West Side. In addition, Greater Cleveland Congregations announced that dozens of volunteers from area religious organizations and neighborhood groups will go door to door in the legislative swing districts of Rocky River, Berea and Solon this week to urge people to contact their legislators. 

Mon May 20, 2013

School facilities bill grew from grass roots -Baltimore Sun

 

Michael Dresser got it right in describing the trajectory of the Baltimore school facilities bill as going from "non-starter to law," but the story goes far beyond the elected and appointed officials who worked hard to make the deals and shepherd the legislation to passage ("City schools bill a political showpiece," May 17).

The deeper story must include the herculean efforts of the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC), the innovative policy advocacy work done by the ACLU of Maryland and the powerful community organizing of groups like BUILD and Child First. Our elected officials don't do this by themselves. They were propelled to act by the incredible urgency and public will created by the BEC. BEC made the problem of broken-down, substandard schools real, laid out a vision for a solution and created the imperative so elected officials had to act.

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