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Pay Day Lending house meetings make a difference

January 31st, 2018

Leaders from OTOC’s Predatory Lending Action Team have been leading house meetings about LB194, a Nebraska Unicameral Bill that would put some regulations on predatory pay day lending (see below for details about LB194). The house meetings are focused on Legislative District 8, where Senator Burk Harr was just appointed to the Banking committee for this legislative session after the previous Senator Craighead from District 6 resigned from her position. Burk Harr has just become the swing vote needed to get the helpful LB194 out of committee. The timely house meetings invited participants to email or call Sen. Harr encouraging him to vote yes for LB194. Dozens of OTOC leaders have called or written in, and Harr is reported to have changed a probable “no” vote into a “still considering” stance. 

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8 on January 27. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

LB 194, sponsored by Senators Vargas (D) and Linehan (R), improves Pay Day Lending practices by requiring:

1.      Reasonable Payment: Maximum monthly payment is capped at 5% of borrower’s Gross Income—so the monthly payment is manageable and the debt is fully repayable over a longer period of time.

2.      Reasonable Charges: Total charges for the loan can only equal 36% annual interest AND the monthly maintenance fee is proportional to the size of the loan and cannot exceed $20 per month.

3.      Reasonable Total Expense to Borrower: Maximum total charges can be no more than 50% of the principal over the life of the loan (e.g. total charges for a $500 loan would be $250 over the life of the loan.)

If you would like to be a part of the efforts to get LB194 through committee, please call or email Sen. Burk Harr at   (402) 471-2722 or bharr@leg.ne.gov urging him to vote “yes” for the bill to get it out of committee.                                                                                                                           

If you contact Sen. Harr, please let us know by emailing otocfornebraska@gmail.com.

If you are interested in attending a house meeting, please email Vicki Pratt at vlpratt@cox.net 

 

 

Support for TPS Holder and Dreamers

January 9th, 2018

On Monday January 8th, Homeland Security announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans will end on September 9th, 2019.  Over 200,000 Salvadorans and their families are now at risk, so it is now up to Congress to find a legislative solution. OTOC calls on Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry, Senators FisJeanne in basementcher and Senator Sasse to get involved and craft a solution which provides permanent residency for law abiding, productive residents who have lived among us  for many years with only Temporary Protective Status.

OTOC leader Jeanne Schuler says, “OTOC calls on our members of Congress to  show leadership.  Find a solution.  Support the bills that have already been introduced or develop new ones.  We need leaders who will serve the people of Nebraska and act.  Now.” 

OTOC leader Kathleen Grant says, “TPS recipients have lived in Nebraska for almost 20 years. They own homes and businesses.  They work in factories, farms and meat packing plants.  Their children, most of whom are US citizens, will move our state’s economy forward. They are neighbors.  They are at risk.” To see Kathleen Grant in the news speaking about this issue, follow this link to Channel 7’s coverage of Monday’s decision in Omaha

 

 

Jeane Schuler calls on assembly goers to “Call every day!”

Read More . . .

OTOC 2017 Delegates Congress

November 28th, 2017

An enthusiastic room of 215 people from thirty five member congregations, solidarity members and guest congregations filled the Parish Hall at St. Pius X Catholic Church on November 13th for OTOC’s 2017 Fall Delegates Congress. They arrived eager to learn how OTOC can become a stronger organization with a more powerful voice for the common good, through expanded membership, financial support and diversity.

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Following a lively roll call and focus statement, Rev. Marshall Johnson engaged the room using props to recall the Joshua story and getting everyone to join in singing the familiar Jericho tune. He went on to remind everyone that since biblical times, people seeking justice have had to confront “giants,” just as we do today, and that takes power.crowd 1

Speakers’ stories told of how OTOC has successfully brought people together to achieve common goals for over 20 years—from organizing meat packers and improving the legal process for immigrants to getting the city to devote more money to demolition of condemned houses.  In the stories we heard that frequently people involved in one issue lend support to additional action groups because we know that together we are stronger and our relationships form a bond.

Looking forward, leaders offered ideas to expand the organization as a whole and within individual congregations. They included having more one-on-one meetings, developing core teams, reaching out to additional institutions and others. Cheri Cody and Pat Bass shared specific plans already in place at Second Unitarian and St. Benedict the Moor.  The room welcomed OTOC’s newest member, San Andres Lutheran Church, and its pastor, Rev. Sergio Amaya, who presented the church’s first commitment payment.

Pat Bass Presenting about next steps

The evening culminated with an inspirational final blessing, led by more than 30 clergy and religious womenhigh energy agenda covered a lot of ideas in a stimulating way. It left people so engaged that when it ended early, they stuck around to discuss their congregations’ commitment to build OTOC. Each promised to report back at the February Steering Committee meeting.

Don’t forget that the work isn’t over- meet with your congregation’s core team, fill out your commitment card, and let’s keep the momentum of this event carry us through the growth of people for power.

 

Written by Susan Kuhlman, Holy Name Catholic Church

Immigration, Mental Health, and Predatory Lending Advocacy at City Council

November 22nd, 2017

In the past two months, OTOC Action teams have been present in city council meetings to testify on different issues.

OTOC adds support to City Council Resolution to tell Congress to act swiftly for DACA Dreamers

On October 17th, Jean Reiner of St. Stephens and the Immigration and Refugee Action Team testified about a Resolution for Omaha City Council to urge Congress to act swiftly on behalf of Dreamers and create a plan to protect DACA recipients. The Council voted in favor of the resolution after OTOC and many other individuals and organizations testified in favor of the resolution and City Council’s support of people in Omaha with DACA status. City Council passed the Resolution with five in support, two passing.

Jim Morely at City Council

Jim Morley testifying at he City Council meeting

OTOC and Allies get unanimous City Council support on Pay Day Lending and Mental Health

Omaha City Council  voted 7-0 on Tuesday Nov 21 to support LB 194 or similar legislation to better regulate Pay Day Lending. CM Pete Festersen introduced the resolution for the City to include this support in their  Priority for the 2018 Unicameral Session.  Jim Morely of Urban Abbey and the OTOC Predatory Lending Team testified that OTOC has ahad several house meetings in the last month and an Issue Cafe at Urban Abbey last Friday, all about Pay Day Lending. He said that over 90 people have attended these sessions and most were amazed that lenders are permitted under Nebraska law to charge so much in fees and interest and to trap borrowers in a cycle of debt. 

Read More . . .

OTOC is growing relationships, awareness and solidarity with Salvadorans with Temoprary Protected Status

November 4th, 2017

OTOC leaders have been working with Omaha’s Salvadoran people who are recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration status given in 2001 because of the major earthquake in El Salvador. These families have been living and working in Omaha since then, renewing their TPS status every eighteen months. Now their immigration status is threatened as the White House Administration threatens to cut their protection along with many other countries that have TPS in the US. To learn more please click HERE.

Media Coverage of Temporary Protected Status:

On November 9, Nebraska Lutheran Bishop Brian Maas, Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Tim McNeill, and College of St. Mary President Maryanne Stevens, joined OTOC in an OWH Guest Column asking for an 18-month extension of Temporary Protective Status (TPS).

To see the article, click here: OWH Opinion Guest Column

OWH article pic

On November 4, OWH feature writer Erin Grace wrote a  front-page story about Wilfredo Rivera, a 20-year resident of Omaha who is a supervisor in a meat packing plant, homeowner, church member and father of U.S. citizen children. Erin met Wilfredo though OTOC and invited the public to hear Wilfredo and others at a November 6 OTOC/IPL Issue Café at Urban Abbey.

To see the article click here: OWH Grace Article

 

 

Wilfredo with his daughter- cover photo of newspaper article

Read More . . .

OTOC officially endorses the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan in response to climate change

September 14th, 2017

ESTAT Logo

OTOC’s Environmental Sustainability Action Team (ESAT) is committed to educating and promoting solutions to climate change. At the September 11, 2017 OTOC Steering Committee Meeting, ESAT presented the Citizens’ Climate Lobby plan for reducing CO2 emissions. It is a plan for federal legislation termed Carbon Fee and Dividend.  The Steering Committee came to a consensus to endorse the plan as a way to reduce CO2 emissions and their harmful effect on the climate.

As a method of transitioning consumers away from carbon fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy sources, the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan puts a fee on fossil fuels at their source, i.e., mine, well or port. The fees will then be passed on to the consumers of products that fossil fuels affect.  The collected fees will be divided equally and a monthly dividend will be sent to each household in the country. Thus, households that have spent less on fossil fuel products will receive the same dividend as those households that have spent more on these fossil fuels.  Household members may spend the dividend in any manner. This is a market based approach to move our economy away from a reliance on carbon based fossil fuels and towards renewable and cleaner energies.

ESAT wants to help educate our community and has training materials prepared, so if your church or institution would like to learn more about the Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan, contact Mary Ruth Stegman at maryruth@cox.net.

Also visit the Citizens Climate Lobby website to learn more about their campaign.

carbonfeeanddividend edit

OTOC Leaders stand in solidarity as DACA program is threatened

August 29th, 2017

sergio daca

OTOC Leaders attended the Stand with DREAMers press conference in Lincoln on Tuesday. President Trump has cancelled the DACA program which now puts an expiration date on DACA recipients’ documentation, unless congress passes something like the Dream Act into legislation soon.

OTOC stands with immigrant and refugee families. We offer our heartfelt support for so many young people and their families during this time of uncertainty. Dreamer youth and their families contribute much to our Omaha community and economy.  

Nebraska’s members of Congress can fix this by acting quickly to pass the Dream Act of 2017 and updated, common-sense immigration laws.We need your action today:

Please call your elected officials to ask to ask for their urgent support of the Dream Act of 2017 and updated, common-sense immigration laws.

U.S. Capitol Switchboard #: (202) 224-3121 

Call the switchboard and then work through the prompts to call Representative Don Bacon or Jeff Fortenberry, and both Senator Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer

DACA youth and allies are invited to learn more at an event Thursday September 7th at College of St. Mary Gross Auditorium at 6 pm. 

IMG_6584

OTOC leaders attend seminar with Glenn Loury, race and economics expert

August 24th, 2017

On August 15 and 16th, OTOC leaders Mark Hoeger and Karen McElroy and IPL Executive Director Joe Higgs joined community leaders from across the United States in Houston, Texas to discuss how to work across race and class lines in these polarized times.  Karen, Mark and all of the eighty leaders and organizers present in Houston were part of organizations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundations, the largest and oldest community organizing network in the United States.

cropped gllenn loury

Glenn Loury in Houston

The leaders met with Dr. Glenn Loury, Professor of Social Sciences and Economics at Brown University, and  author of Race, Incarceration and American ValuesDr Loury is a leading scholar in the fields of  economics, politics and social structures affecting African American communities in the US. Loury’s work documents the changing face of racism, from the end of Jim Crow laws, to the more recent impact of mass incarceration of people of color. 

The meetings took place in the days immediately following the troubling events in Charlottesville and Loury emphasized that relying on identity politics is not going to result in meaningful change. Rather, he encouraged the leaders and organizers present to keep doing the  patient work of organizing to build relationships across lines of race, class and culture in order to develop strong coalitions of people who will seek the common good of their community, not just narrow special interests.

Mark Hoeger notes that “it made me appreciate anew the importance of what we at OTOC/IPL in Omaha and all the IAF affiliate organizations across the country are doing” in regards to having structural organized efforts to equality through the democratic system.

karen in houston

To Karen McElroy, the experience was a way to explore what other organizations are doing and how OTOC can improve housing inequality, early voting, and post incarceration programs. On the days immediately after the racial violence in Charlottesville, we came away renewed in our commitment to the careful, patient work of building relationships. 

OTOC leaders learning to do Individual Relational meetings

August 10th, 2017

Fifty five OTOC and community leaders attended the final summer traininGreta and Paulg session about organizing where Paul Turner taught about the most fundamental tool of organizing–the individual meeting.

This  workshop focused on how engage others in individual meetings in order to develop effective public relationships. If you want to build strong working relationships with people, learn how to do good individual meetings.

To learn more about individual meetings, click on these links:

Individual Meeting Chapter from Roots for Radicals

Individual Meetings and Cycle of OrganizingCrowd with Paul at front

Ernesto Cortez teaching about individual meetings

Leaders watched Paul conduct an individual meeting with Greta Carlson, the new Lutheran Volunteer Corp intern with Institute for Public Leadership.

Kevin Graham at front

 

Kevin Graham of First United Methodist challenged all those present to do at least 3 individual meeting by November 13 when OTOC will hold a Delegates Assembly.

OTOC leaders continue their work to reduce housing blight

August 10th, 2017

Paul RomeroFive leaders of the OTOC Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Team testified Tuesday night in favor of $1.1 Million for demolition of condemned structures in the 2018 City Budget. They also issued two challenges to the Mayor and Council.

In 2011, the City was spending only $240,000/year on demolition and had a backlog of 800 condemned properties. Since 2013, OTOC has successfully advocated that the City spend $1 Million each year for demolition until the backlog is eliminated. The current backlog of  175 structures could be  eliminated by 2020 since the Land Bank will contribute an additional $500,000 this year for a total of $1.6 Million in 2018 for demolition. OTOC advocated for creation of the Land Bank in 2014-15 and stays involved in giving them regular feedback about priorities.

OTOC leaders issue New Challenges

Even when our forward-thinking city initiatives are in place, the process as it is now is moving too slowly,” said Charles Gould of OTOC.  OWH, August 9, 2017

Charlie GouldOTOC leaders also challenged the City to:(1) more quickly register properties qualifying for the Vacant and Abandoned Property Registry; and (2) use the registry fees to secure abandoned buildings so they don’t deteriorate as quickly. OTOC advocated for creation of the Registry in 2015 and Charlie Gould noted that waiting 4 years for properties to go to foreclosure for unpaid taxes is too to long. Instead, he advocated that the City foreclose for unpaid Registry fees within two years or sooner so the property can be rehabilitated instead of demolished.

Creighton Center for Service & Justice student intern Paul Romero presented data demonstrating the “Demolition Pipeline” of neglected homes in Omaha. Karen McElroy and Dave McLeod both reminded the City Council members  that neglected rental properties are aKaren McElroy large part of the problem in the eastern part of Omaha. On May 1, in front of 350 OTOC delegates, 6 of the current City Council members agreed to work with OTOC leaders over the next year to improve the regulation of substandard rental housing. Institute for Public Leadership (IPL)is helping OTOC leaders learn  more about  strategies that have worked in Council Bluffs, LaVista and other cities.

 

 



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