A trio of sales tax measures to train San Antonio workers for new jobs, expand public transit and renew the city’s early childhood education program were passing by an overwhelming margin with a majority of the vote counted Tuesday night.
The workforce and VIA ballot measures had little organized opposition while the forces in favor had the backing of business leaders, heads of chambers of commerce and grassroots organization COPS/Metro. The two campaigns, plus the third to renew Pre-K 4 SA, spent more than $1.7 million to convince voters to pass all three measures.
The workforce proposal was COPS/Metro’s baby. The organization — which founded the workforce development program Project Quest more than 25 years ago — pushed City Council earlier this year to pump $75 million into workforce development as part of a $191 stimulus package and later put their weight behind the ballot measure.
On Wednesday night, COPS/Metro leaders felt vindicated — though they recognized the win likely wouldn’t have happened without the suffering and heavy toll wrought by the pandemic.
Sister Jane Ann Slater and Cathy McCoy, organizers with COPS/Metro Alliance, attended the small SA Ready to Work election night watch party at Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse with Nirenberg. They saw the voters’ support as validation of the work done by Project Quest, a workforce development program founded by COPS/Metro that will serve as the model for the larger program.
To gain support for the ballot measure, the grassroots organization made a concerted effort to reach voters who may not have normally voted on local propositions – or at all, McCoy said.
“It was an educational process, I think,” Slater said. “We reached voters” by phone and in person.
[Photo Credit: Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News]
San Antonio Voters Approve Ballot Measures for Workforce Development, Transit & Pre-K, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
San Antonio Voters Give Thumbs-up to Workforce, Pre-K, and Transportation Ballot Measures, San Antonio Report [pdf]
San Antonio Report Reframes COPS/Metro Ballot Initiative as Opportunity to Celebrate Labor Day in November
About five years ago, COPS/Metro sought and won “living wage” minimum pay for City workers, resulting in raises for about 20 percent of the civilian workforce. They won similar measures from Bexar County, and some school districts followed suit.
Now two measures on the Nov. 3 ballot offer San Antonians the opportunity to again help lower-rung workers. Both involve a one-eighth-cent sales tax that for 20 years has provided funding to buy development rights to protect sensitive lands over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
The first ballot measure would transfer those funds to provide about $154 million over the next four years for a job training program projected to boost the incomes of up to 40,000 workers. That’s an aggressive goal, but what gives it credibility is that its approach is based on Project Quest, a jobs training program designed by COPS/Metro 28 years ago.
Interestingly, it was COPS/Metro and their sister organizations around the state that persuaded the Legislature back in 2001 to authorize local governments to spend money on job training and early childhood education. That same law, the Texas Better Jobs Act, permitted San Antonio voters to approve Pre-K 4 SA in November 2012. The highly successful preschool program is up for renewal on the ballot.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, San Antonio Report]
Election Day Ballot Will Let You Celebrate Labor Day on November 3rd, San Antonio Report [pdf]
Voters will be asked to approve a 1/8-cent sales tax to fund job training and college degrees for San Antonians who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The money also would help participants pay rent and other living expenses while they complete those programs.
The sales tax revenue would be dedicated to those purposes for four years....
“Today, San Antonians need this investment more than ever,” Virginia Mata, a leader of the grassroots coalition COPS/Metro told council members Thursday. “It is not only the right thing to do but also the right investment. The seeds that you plant today will have a lasting effect and will help San Antonians rise from the shadows to the light.”
[Photo Credit: Billy Calzada, San Antonio Express-News]
'We Need Action Now': Sales Tax Proposal for San Antonio Economic Recovery Now in Voters' Hands, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
COPS/Metro Calls for Sustained Investment in Workforce Development as Path to Post-Covid Economic Improvement
Since the onset of the pandemic, COPS/Metro with our allies, Project QUEST and the Alamo Colleges, have led the way to ensure San Antonians whose lives have been shattered by the economic free fall can re-enter the workforce equipped with new skills and good salaries. This month, the workforce development program supported by CARES and the city of San Antonio began accepting applicants whose jobs went on hiatus or completely disappeared. These applicants are supported with critical wraparound services that include a stipend, child care, transportation, tutoring and counseling, like the highly successful services provided by Project QUEST, which is recognized nationally for its high graduation and job placement rates. The Alamo Colleges will play a vital role in this program, using Project QUEST’s model along with partnerships that will strengthen and expand its capacity to serve displaced workers.
To be successful, the new Education and Workforce Program will need to adhere to a set of standards like the CARES recovery program, whose primary focus is meeting the needs of the participants. Addressing those needs must be the focal point of decision-making, not business as usual. This means providing quality wraparound services, including a 1-to-100 ratio of counselors to participants, ensuring job placement upon program completion and connecting graduates with jobs that pay a living wage with benefits. And the overall policy direction and management of the program must reside within city government, along with participants, educators and community members who can offer insight into program implementation.
Approximately 160,000 workers have been displaced due to the pandemic. The lion’s share of the funding should be directed toward them. While the majority of tax dollars will be dedicated to workforce development, funds could also go to participants with some college credits who want to complete their degrees. If the higher education institutions adequately address their needs, it is possible a fair number of college graduates could result from a small investment into this pathway. However, using public dollars to offer the same programs and services that previously failed these same students will not do. This is not a scholarship program; it is a jobs program.
[Photo Credit: Billy Calzada/San Antonio Express-News]
Improving Economy of City, Lives Of its Residents in Grasp, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Leaders of COPS/Metro, a broad-based organization of churches, schools, and unions, will hold an Accountability Assembly with Candidates for Mayor and City Council, Sunday, April 19, at 3:30 PM in St. Henry’s Parish (1619 S. Flores St) to advance a Living Wage strategy for the lowest paid City of San Antonio workers and for outsourced & subcontract service jobs. Over 300 delegates are expected to attend the session, the top 4 candidates for Mayor, and City Council candidates from Districts 2, 3, 5, and 7.
"This is an exciting turning point in what has already proven to be a successful campaign,” remarked Esmeralda Rodriguez of St. Timothy Parish and co-chair for the assembly. “Since we began organizing around this issue last June, we’ve gained the support of 4 of the 5 Bexar County Commissioners to raise wages for the lowest paid county employees to $14.91 over three years, starting with $13 next year. And the Alamo Colleges have already raised wages for their lowest paid employees as a direct result of our actions. Now, we’re turning our attention to the City.”Read more
Contact COPS / Metro Alliance to learn more about the initiatives launched by member institutions around immigration, healthcare, education and living wages.
If you are registered to vote in Bexar County, find out your Precinct, which will tell you which jurisdictions you are in, and which elected officials represent you.
As important as the issues are that C.O.P.S. and Metro Alliance address, the relationships that leaders develop and foster within their institutions and among leaders from the racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse institutions that comprise C.O.P.S./Metro Alliance are the foundation of broad-based community organizing.
Some of the successful projects Metro Alliance and C.O.P.S. continue to work on:
After School Challenge Program:
Securing over $15.6 million in city funding for after-school enrichment programs throughout the city since 1992. The program is presently available in eight school districts at 132 schools and serves 11,000 children.
San Antonio Education Partnership:
Collaborating with businesses, communities, school districts, and universities, scholarships are awarded to public high school students who graduate with at least a B average and 95% attendance record. Since 1989, the San Antonio Education Partnership has invested more than $11 million in scholarships and produced more than 2,400 college graduates. It supports more than 3,300 current college students.
A nationally recognized community-based economic development program serving San Antonio since 1992. Places unemployed and underemployed high school graduates in a supportive, long-term job training program for high-skill, high-wage jobs available in San Antonio.
Worked with local city, county, hospital district, and school districts to require living wages be paid to all employees. Changed the City of San Antonio’s tax abatement policy to require corporate abatement recipients to pay living wages to their employees.
Directed over $25 million of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to critical street, drainage and housing needs in the central, southern and eastern areas of the city. Leveraged over $2 billion in infrastructure and education bonds by working with the San Antonio, Harlandale, North East Independent School Districts, the Alamo Community College District, the City of San Antonio, and Bexar County in successfully shaping and passing important bond proposals.
C.O.P.S. and Metro Alliance leaders work with elected officials to ensure that promised services are delivered through regular meetings and accountability sessions. The organizations also meet regularly with business leaders, city staff, and other decision makers throughout the city and state.