Over 100 Valley Interfaith Project leaders from 38 institutions, joined by sister organizations from Yuma and Prescott, gathered in Phoenix June 13 to launch strategies for summer and fall organizing.
The assembly reflected upon the importance of organizing within local institutions and reviewed the new Arizona State Budget and 2015 legislative process. This entailed hearing directly from the leaders involved in VIP’s weekly legislative presence at the Capitol this past spring. These leaders shared stories from the just-finished legislative session, particularly noting what they experienced during the budget negotiations which were passed with a minimum of citizen input or public deliberation.
Dividing themselves geographically by legislative districts, leaders then studied the shifting demographics, voting patterns, and electoral challenges in their respective legislative districts; the study served as a foundation to the tailoring of non-partisan organizing strategies geared toward fall 2016. These cluster strategy teams committed to a summer/fall strategy for local organizing efforts around school district override and bond measures, prison reform, workforce development, and quality affordable healthcare access.
Rep. Doug Coleman addresses VIP leaders at Fall Assembly.
Two hundred Valley Interfaith Project delegates assembled after the fall election to celebrate the raising of $26.6 Million in public school dollars for Tempe Elementary and Scottsdale Unified School Districts. Leaders achieved this by successfully passing local school override measures.
Key legislative allies in attendance vowed to to protect Medicaid expansion, re-connect public school funding to inflation and advance new legislation for Respite Care, all part of VIP’s 2015 Human Development agenda.
Rabbi Linder was honored last week by the Anti-Defamation League’s ‘Al’ Brooks Community Leadership Award. This is fitting recognition of Rabbi’s extensive work in the interfaith community over the past eight years.
Valley Interfaith Project leaders challenged Arizona legislative candidates for Districts 23 and 28 to commit to supporting Medicaid expansion, schools, and increased funding for education and workforce development in a meeting that drew 250. District 23 includes most of Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Rio Verde. District 28 covers much of northern Phoenix, Paradise Valley and sections of Scottsdale. [Photo Credit: Edward Gately, The Republic]
Most of the candidates committed to supporting VIP’s three-point agenda. Those that participated in the assembly include: Rep. John Kavanaugh (District 23), Jeff Schwartz and Paula Pennypacker; Effie Carlson, Jay Lawrence, and Bob Littefield; and Michelle Ugenti. District 28 candidates included Senator Adam Driggs and Kelli Butler; and House candidates Rep. Eric Meyer, Rep. Kaye Brophy-McGee and Mary Hamway. See article below for specific responses.
VIP’s Leaders Summer Seminars zeroed in on the state of Arizona and whether the Arizona’s economy is a model of free enterprise or crony capitalism. The sessions covered budgets, lobbyists, rent seeking and dark money, and were held in preparation for VIP’s Fall organizing public engagement strategy.
VIP leader Monica Dorcey testified at a Maricopa Community College District board meeting to support increasing local investment in the community colleges — part of a larger economic development strategy for the region. ”These community colleges are the best driver of economic development that we have,” said Dorcey, who is also a member of the board of Arizona Career Pathways, a non-profit job-training program that has a partnership with the community colleges.
“If you don’t have a skilled workforce you’re not going to have an economic recovery for everybody.”
After learning about the successes of sister organization Nevadans for the Common Good (NCG) in better protecting young people from sex-trafficking, VIP and Arizona Interfaith Network leaders began hearing similar stories about minors targeted for human trafficking and how Arizona had become a major hub for the human trafficking industry. This became even more important with Phoenix hosting the upcoming 2015 Super Bowl, an event notorious for attracting the sex trade.
VIP organized a series of Civic Academies at local congregations where guest legislators spoke publicly for the first time to large audiences who were incredulous to learn that needed legislation to assist law enforcement had been bottled up repeatedly in the house judiciary committee. These sessions galvanized a renewed effort throughout Metro Phoenix to protect vulnerable children and victims of human trafficking.
VIP became an early supporter for legislation increasing minimum penalties for sex trafficking of minors and worked with a number of key allies in law enforcement, business, and the non-profit sector to push for HB 2454, which would more than double the penalty for a child-prostitution conviction from 10 years to 24 years in prison, and make pimping a racketeering offense. Governor Jan Brewer signed the legislation last year.
In photo, Rabbi John Linder, Rev. Jayne Baker, Rev. Martha Seaman, Carolyn Jean Jones, Canon Ray Dugan and VIP Vice-President Dave Ryan stand with Governor Jan Brewer and Cindy McCain at the bill signing.
Valley Interfaith Project launched its 2014 organizing year at a Spring Issues Conference Jan 18, attended by 135 leaders at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church. VIP announced its Human Development Action Agenda and met with key allies to develop broad support for its work on Workforce Development, Public Education Funding, Health Care Enrollment, Behavioral Health, and halting the Sex Trafficking of Minors. VIP both celebrated its 2013 victories, including the state’s approval of Medicaid Restoration, and made plans for its 2014 organizing. Among the many conference highlights was a briefing by Governor Brewer’s Policy Director Michael Hunter and Budget Director John Arnold on the Governor’s proposed budget, which was released just the day before.
Special thanks to key allies who participated in the Issues Conference:
Michael Hunter, Policy Director, Office of Governor Brewer
John Arnold, Budget Director, Office of Governor Brewer
Richard Condit, Chief Administrative Officer, Sundt Construction
Dr. Jeff Smith, Superintendent, Balsz School District
Kathleen Winn, Director Community Outreach and Education, State Attorney General’s Office
Senator John McComish, Senate Majority Leader
Representative Kate Brophy-McGee, Dist. 28
Representative Eric Meyer, Dist. 28
Representative Bob Robson, Dist. 18
Representative Ruben Gallego, House Assistant Minority Leader, Dist. 27
With almost 400 signatories, faith, business and civic leaders posted a full-page newspaper ad calling on the Arizona Congressional Delegation to act on immigration reform. The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, with the Arizona Interfaith Network, sponsored its publication in the Arizona Republic. This letter is the same one signed by Catholic Bishop Thomas Olmsted with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares, Rabbi John Linder, and ELCA Bishop Steve Talmage three weeks prior.
These words of the Constitution remain an abiding vision of a people united in a participatory democracy. The Valley Interfaith Project in Metro Phoenix is a force for making that vision a reality.
The Valley Interfaith Project trains and empowers local citizen groups to be active participants in all levels of our democracy. VIP engages ordinary people in concerted grass-roots action.
This “institution of institutions” is comprised of diverse religious, cultural, ethic, and economic elements from the Valley’s parishes, congregations, synagogues, and social, civic and employee groups, all of which share a common democratic and Judeo-Christian ethic and concern for quality of life.
VIP’s mission is to develop and organize people for leadership and power to make change for social justice. VIP is an Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) affiliate, following the iron rule of community organizing:
Never do for others what they can do for themselves.