Historic SA Ready to Work Program Launches with COPS/Metro Support

When the pandemic precipitated a massive unemployment crisis in 2020, COPS/Metro immediately pushed the City Council to pump $75 Million into support of displaced workers as they trained for higher paying jobs. 

Leaders then engineered SA Ready to Work as a ballot initiaitve to help 15,000 more residents over the next five years, leading the San Antonio Express-News to call the workforce proposal "COPS/Metro’s baby."  That fall, COPS/Metro leaders educated and delivered more than 50,000 voters to the polls, and Prop B passed with 77% support.   

Even as they celebrate the launch, leaders continue to call on employers to raise the minimum wage standard for new graduates. 

[Excerpts from San Antonio Report]

San Antonio’s new jobs training and placement program officially launched Monday, opening enrollment to what city leaders hope will help thousands of residents develop lifelong career skills that should immediately lead to good-paying jobs.

SA Ready to Work, a $230 million five-year program...has been cast by advocates as a monumental anti-poverty effort in the wake of the pandemic’s economic shocks that could serve as a role model for cities across the country....

COPS/Metro — a grassroots coalition of congregations, schools and unions that has long advocated for anti-poverty measures and campaigned aggressively for the program’s approval — plans to host around 500 house meetings to encourage residents to enroll in the program. Some have already occurred, said Isaiah Banta, an organizer with the group.

[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, San Antonio Report]

Massive City Job Programs Launched, Open for EnrollmentSan Antonio Report [pdf]

As Historic Jobs Program Rolls Out in San Antonio, Do We Still Need It?Texas Public Radio [pdf]

San Antonio's Ready to Work Job Training Program Begins Taking First ApplicantsTexas Public Radio

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COPS Metro Video Highlights History of Achievement, Building Towards Future

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COPS/Metro Cited in Express-News for Training Generations of Leaders

[Excerpt]

The book includes critical assessments of the status of Mexican Americans, none as important, in my judgment, as the emergence of “a professional and academic voice” among Latinos and the rise of major institutions to advocate for Mexican Americans and defend their rights.

Many of those institutions were born in San Antonio, including...COPS Metro, which has trained generations of community activists.

[Photo Credit: Matthew Busch, San Antonio Express-News]

Mexican Americans' Fight for Equality Not OverSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

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Texas IAF Calls On State Comptroller to Abandon Plan to Gut Chapter 313 Subsidy Accountability Requirements

[Excerpt]

"Lawmakers have ordered Comptroller Glenn Hegar to wrap up Texas’s biggest corporate tax break program, but he wants to give companies one last gift: an end to public accountability.

Activists, corporate relocation specialists and lawmakers are scrambling to comment on Hegar’s proposal that companies no longer report key data about their progress toward meeting the terms of their property tax abatement agreements.

....

Interfaith groups that fought the corporate giveaway that hurts Texas children demanded Hegar roll back his plan on Wednesday.

....

“What is the benefit of less accountability and less transparency?” San Antonio state Senator José Menéndez asked at a Texas Industrial Areas Foundation press conference. “The taxpayer should know how their money is going to be used and what they are getting in exchange.”

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, San Antonio Express News]

Texas Comptroller Proposes Covering Up Corporate Welfare ProgramThe Houston Chronicle [pdf]

Network of Texas IAF Organizations, along with Public Officials, Hold Press Conference to Call on Comptroller Hegar to Abandon Attempt to Gut Chapter 313 Transparency and Accountability, Texas IAF

Taylor: The Chapter 313 Monster — the Mother of All Corporate Welfare — Revives?San Antonio Express News [pdf]

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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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