COPS/Metro Leader Virginia Mata Profiled in HEB Foundation Magazine

[Excerpt]

Everyone in San Antonio knows about flash floods—“Turn Around, Don’t Drown” signs are familiar on certain roads. But in the West Side, a neighborhood established by Mexican Americans who were restricted from more resourced neighborhoods north of downtown, floods were far more commonplace.

“I remember as kids getting pulled out of the [family] station wagon [that almost got swept away],” Mata said. “We were at the time like five or six, I think. But yeah, we didn’t know that was not normal.”

Mata says when you grow up experiencing poverty, “you accept it, normalize it, and blame yourself for it.” What seems normal at the time becomes absurd when you reflect back on it as an adult.

Mata speaks softly and with a kind of wisdom that comes from navigating barriers early in life..... 

Mata is retired from two careers—one in federal law enforcement, and another as a lietenant [sic] commander in the Navy Reserves. Nowadays, she spends a lot of her time with COPS/Metro, a community organizing coalition that gathers people from churches, schools, businesses and unions to represent the needs of families and children. Over the last year, Mata and her COPS/Metro partners have spurred the City of San Antonio to create and invest in a workforce training program designed to support people seeking higher-paying jobs.

Retirement from her final job as a probation officer in Del Rio in 2018 brought her back to San Antonio, where she bought a house near Sea World that is still a close enough drive to her old stomping grounds. Those stomping grounds include Holy Family Church, Mata’s church growing up, which is also where COPS/Metro was born.

The coalition’s first fight, all those decades ago? Demanding that the city fix the West Side’s drainage issues.

Mata’s story is coming full circle....

[Photo Credit: Echoes]

Someone Like VirginiaEchoes [pdf]

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Virginia Mata & Sonia Rodriguez: Halt Job Program's Slide Into Mediocrity

[Excerpt]

City staff has moved at breakneck speed by self-imposing a timeline that does not consider their need to learn more broadly what works and what does not work. This massive initiative needs a true champion to lead it now. COPS/Metro calls on Mayor Ron Nirenberg to be that champion. He is the person who can halt the drive to mediocrity and invest first in building a strong foundation for a workforce system that can deliver on the promise made to voters last year. That is why he was elected. San Antonio deserves nothing less.

Commentary: Halt Job Program's Slide Into MediocritySan Antonio Express News 

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SA Ready to Work is 'Too Big to Fail'

[Excerpt]

As San Antonio’s job training program lags and officials try to suss out the details of its next phase, a key backer worries the initiative is in trouble.

COPS/Metro, a grassroots advocacy group, aggressively lobbied city leaders to create an emergency program to help some of the thousands of people thrown out of work amid the pandemic get the skills they needed to land higher-paying jobs.

The group’s leaders later threw their weight behind Mayor Ron Nirenberg when he asked voters in November to use sales tax dollars to create an expanded program.

But months after the idea proved victorious at the polls, members of COPS/Metro have grown increasingly disillusioned with how the city’s job training efforts have played out. They feel city officials have all but ignored their concerns. The group’s leaders are disappointed in the meager number of participants who have obtained training certificates and landed jobs through the emergency program — dubbed Train for Jobs SA....

“It’s too important,” [Sonia] Rodriguez said. “This one is too big to fail.”

[Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express News]

'Too Big to Fail': San Antonio's Fledgling Job Training Program Under ScrutinySan Antonio Express-News 

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COPS/Metro Sets the Record Straight on 'SA Ready to Work'

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Texas IAF Blocks $10 Billion Dollar Corporate Tax Giveaway to Big Oil

[Excerpts]

When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.

At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.

At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....

“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith. The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”

....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.

Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.

In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.

“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”

Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”

In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]

How Skeptical Texas Lawmakers Put an End to a Controversial Tax Incentive Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]

Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

A Texas Law Offers Tax Breaks to Companies, but It's Renewal Isn't a Done DealTexas Tribune [pdf]

Losers and Winners from Chapter 313Central Texas Interfaith

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COPS/Metro Cited in Stories of Hope in the New Book About the Sisters of the Incarnate Word

Sr. Tere Maya "says people planting community gardens and pastors feeding people during the pandemic, as well as those working for COPS/Metro Alliance or the Interfaith Welcome Coalition in San Antonio, have their own stories of hope.”

Ayala: San Antonio's Blue Hole is a Source of Wonder and Inspiration. So is "Blue Hole Wisdom," a New Book About the Nuns Who Founded Incarnate Word University, San Antonio Express-News

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COPS/Metro, with Texas IAF, Bishops & Faithful Call on Lt. Governor and Senate to Reject 'Permitless Carry' Legislation

Bishops, rabbis, clergy and faithful from across Texas convened to express vocal opposition to the passage of proposed legislation HB1927 which would allow "permitless carry" in the state of Texas.

Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz referenced the massacre in El Paso which resulted in dozens of residents dead and seriously injured. Baptist Rev. Darryl Crooms from San Antonio testified to the "unnaturalness" of adults burying children.  Lutheran Rev. Jessica Cain testified to the impact of last weekend's shooting in North Austin on local worshippers.  Rabbi David Lyon recalled last year's deadly shooting in Santa Fe High School.

Together -- with Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan, Methodist Director of Missional Outreach Andy Lewis, Dallas Catholic Bishop Gregory Kelly and several lay leaders -- all expressed concern that passage of HB1927 would increase gun violence.  States that have passed similar laws, removing the required license and training needed to carry a handgun, experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence.

"You’ll find no scripture that will support this kind of legislation,” said Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church of Houston. 

“It makes our church much less safe,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.

Video of Press Conference

Texas Faith Leaders Come Out Against 'Permitless Carry'CBS Austin [pdf]

Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Other Religious Leaders Oppose Bill That Would Ease Carrying of GunsEl Paso Times [pdf]

Religious Leaders Speak Against Texas Bill That Could Allow You to Carry Gun Without LicenseABC13 Houston [pdf]

Group of Texas State Leaders Say They're Opposed to Permitless CarryFOX KDFW

Esto Opinan Líderes Religiosos en Tejas Sobre la Propuesta Legislativa de Portar Armas Sin LicenciaUnivision Dallas 

El Paso Bishop, Gun Store Weigh In On Texas 'Constitutional Carry' Bill DebateKFOX14 [pdf]

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COPS/Metro Assembly Draws 600 Leaders Online for Accountability Session with Candidates for City Office

[Excerpt from San Antonio Express-News]

More than 600 San Antonio community members tuned in to a virtual accountability session where city politicians and candidates addressed police reform, workforce development, education and February’s power outages.

Communities Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance, or COPS/Metro, hosted the session Sunday in the runup for the city election May 1. Early voting starts Monday.

Nearly 40 incumbents and challengers running for mayor, city council and San Antonio Independent School District board seats joined the conversation....

COPS/Metro Assembly Draws Virtual Crowd of 600 to Quiz San Antonio CandidatesSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

VideoNOWCastSA

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COPS/Metro Accountability Session

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Solid Advice for City Manager Erik Walsh: Talk to the Nun

Back in 1992, she was an organizer for COPS/Metro Alliance when the powerful community organization designed and persuaded the City to financially back Project Quest, which early on and to this day has been recognized as one of the most successful job training programs in the country. In 2011, when Project Quest was plagued with controversy from failings due not to corruption but to incompetence, Sister Pearl was brought in to turn it around. She did and ran the organization for six years.

Now the City of San Antonio is embarking on SA: Ready to Work, a program approved by the voters last November that will spend $154 million over five or six years in an effort to train the city’s working poor for good-paying jobs that the city is now generating.

[Photo Credit: Nick Wagner/San Antonio Report]

Solid Advice For Erik Walsh: Talk To The Nun, San Antonio Report [pdf]

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