TEXAS IAF NETWORK
TEXAS IAF NETWORK. The Texas IAF Network, a consortium of grass-roots organizations, was started in 1974 by organizers from the Industrial Areas Foundation, which grew out of the organizing work of Saul Alinsky of Chicago in 1943. IAF organizes and develops local leadership in politics. Though it is secular, it also uses churches and synagogues as bases. The first official TIAFN state convention in October 1980 drew 10,000 members. In 1991 organizations in the network included COPS (Communities Organized for Public Service) in San Antonio, the Metropolitan Organization in Houston, Valley Interfaith, EPISO (El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization), Metro Alliance, and Allied Communities of Tarrant. Ernesto Cortes, Jr., who had had extensive experience as a community activist, was the driving force behind the network. TIAFN has addressed numerous issues, including public school reform, health care for indigents, proposed budget cuts in social services, funding for public education, taxation alternatives, housing, flood control, and job initiatives. The network stresses the accountability of elected public officials. By 1990 TIAFN had twenty full-time paid organizers, about a third of whom were religious or ministers. The Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin groups were interracial.
COPS, a Hispanic Catholic group, has served as a model for community organizing in the nation. In 1989 COPS fought the bond election for the Alamodome and the accompanying increase in the sales tax. The organization defeated Proposition 13, which would have capped public spending, and obtained $500 million for storm sewers on the West Side. COPS has been known to turn out 50,000 West Side votes on election day. In 1990, twenty-eight parishes belonged to COPS. In 1980 Cortes established the Metropolitan Organization, which in 1990 consisted of sixty congregations, parishes, and religious institutions. In 1987 the organization leveraged about million from the city to renovate two blocks in the Fifth Ward. Its victories include improvements in streets, drainage, and parks, and better security in the inner city. It is composed of white, black, and Hispanic families with a wide range of incomes. In 1983 IAF organized Valley Interfaith to serve the colonias. VI waged a battle for a $100 million bond package to connect water and sewage lines to the colonias in 1989 and eventually obtained $251 million in state funds for these projects. Valley Interfaith has also confronted the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue of toxic waste dumping into the Gulf of Mexico. As of 1991, forty churches in the Rio Grande valley, representing 55,000 people, belonged to Valley Interfaith. The organization had forty churches as members in 1987 and by 1989 had registered 50,000 voters. With the assistance of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Projectqv, EPISO had registered 21,000 new voters by 1987. EPISO succeeded in obtaining water and sewer hookups for 20,000 people in colonias in the area. Metro Alliance represents a multiracial assortment of east, central, and northwest San Antonio congregations. In 1990 it worked with the city and a corporation, the Koch Company of Kansas City, which had stored sixteen million gallons of fuel in aboveground tanks, to prevent future health risks to residents. Allied Communities of Tarrant is a largely Protestant group of African Americans and whites that has campaigned for fair utilities. TIAFN members seem to be more than 50 percent women. TIAFN represented 400,000 Texans in 1991.
Mary Beth Rogers, Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1990). Texas Observer, November 22, 1990.