Democracy is not a
spectator sport

OTOC News

Broad-Based Community Organizing Training

July 17th, 2019

 

On Monday, July 8th Paul Turner, an Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) community organizer, kicked off the first training session from the series Reflecting on Democracy: Why People of Faith Matter. Turner first explained IAF’s unique history. IAF is a network of local faith and community-based organizations, and OTOC is one of those organizations! 

In the 1930’s, Saul Alinsky, a social entrepreneur and community organizer, formed the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, which gathered people together to discuss, organize, and accommodate to the rising needs for the Chicago area during the Great Depression. Together these people were able to attain a level of power to make changes. In 1972, Alinsky used this model to create the Industrial Areas Foundation and helped formally train people as community organizers. After Alinsky’s leadership, other organizers such as Ernesto Cortez emphasized relational power as a prominent strategy for community organizing. Here, relational power is defined as power among and between. This is different than the common idea that power is tyrannical and oppressive. Power with each other gives a voice to ordinary people to have a seat at the table on decisions that affect them.

Turner then connected the rich IAF history to the effectiveness of broad based organizing, by comparing it to the strategies of movements. Movements consist of individual members that all act for a specific cause or issue. Broad-based organizing, however, consists of institutions and focus on relational power to collectively organize people and money. Although broad-based organizations such as OTOC have action teams that focus on issues, the issues themselves are a means to an end, not specifically the end. Broad-based organizations are built on the relationships, not the issue, which makes the sustained impact more powerful, and the organization has a louder voice to use on important issues.

Overall, it was a great and formative event! We hope to see you at our next training session, August 12th to learn about the importance of public and private relationships. 

Our 3-day training will be October 17-19. Click here to register now: https://forms.gle/1RuXaxGfxU5iHdzv7

 

June Issue Cafes explore housing, organizing, power generation

June 30th, 2019

Environmental Sustainability with OPPD

On June 27, we had our final June issue cafe. 17 people attended to learn about three new OPPD programs: community solar, electrical vehicle rebates, and the low-income energy efficiency pilot. On April 1st, OPPD announced their community solar program that allows you to get affordable solar energy. Solar energy uses light from the sun to create energy, which serves as a clean and sustainable process. Each solar share is $0.69 per share for residents where each share represents 100 kilowatts per month. Then, another charge will be added to your OPPD bill. The shares, however, were completely sold out in just one month before they were even opened for commercial sales. The OPPD stronger suggested to enroll in the waitlist, which will help show the high demand and interest. Currently there are 250 on the waitlist, and you can join it too! The electric vehicle rebate program is a pilot program that incentives sustainable purchases. With a new electrical vehicle and a charging station, you can get a $2,500 rebate. A $500 rebate is offered for a charging station at home. Other rebates include dealership discounts and federal tax incentives. The low income energy efficiency pilot program partners with community philanthropies to educate and assist with homeowners with incomes at or below $32,000. The program allows professionals to go to each customer’s home in order to assess and fix any problems that decreases efficiency. Although this program is only for homeowners, the program wants to provide data that will potentially create a program for rental property as well. Overall, these programs can offer so much to our community!

Insights to Community Organizing with Paul Turner

Influenced by the investigative process in Robert Caro’s article “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives,” (Link to online article: click here.) Paul Turner led a captivating discussion about different strategies for community organizing. 50 members of our community gathered to learn methods that will positively benefit our community in the future. Turner identified persistent curiosity as an imperative method to thoroughly research and seek truth. People must ask deeper questions such as “Why are things the way they are?” and “Who is benefiting from this?” From here, people can listen and organize people to take the needed action. Turner analyzed the etymology of the term “self interest” as “to be among and between.” Here, interests are natural and important. Often, however, these interests can be competing, but a community can align the individual interests into one common interest. A community can also utilize local knowledge to understand everyone’s needs more than others can, such as expert knowledge. This emphasis on community can help us come together as brothers and sisters to listen, research, and take action towards a common goal. We believe Sarah Tooley, a sophomore Creighton student, said it best when she stated that these “community practices can be translated into different scenarios in my life now and in the future.” These strategies cannot only be used for organizing work within the community, but aspects of one’s everyday life as well. It has proven to be beneficial time and time again, especially throughout the history of OTOC. We look forward to the next Summer Training Seminar July 8th where we will learn more about community organizing.

What’s in the Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance?

The Housing Issue Cafe provided an overview of the housing coalition’s long and hard work for housing advocacy. The new mandatory housing registration and inspections ordinance was explained, but there was a huge focus on what we as a community need to do next. The ordinance is only one step of many to create better affordable housing for Omaha. One huge emphasis was the need to create a plan for what to do when the tenants’ homes are not following up to code and tenants are displaced. What agencies are responsible? Where can the tenants be relocated? What does this mean about options for affordable housing? With five different speakers and about 45 people present, the Urban Abbey was filled with motivated and empowered people with the same good: provide affordable and decent housing for the Omaha community.

Next Steps you can take for healthy, safe housing in Omaha:

Read More . . .

Spanish Leadership Formation

June 24th, 2019

80 Hispanic leaders from more than 21 different institutions gathered for a two-day leadership formation on June 21 and June 22. Sponsored by the Institute for Public Leadership, Omaha Together One Community, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Inter-faith Education Fund, these participants learned how to connect one’s faith to relational organizing practices. The leadership curriculum was inspired by wisdom and faith tradition, using Scripture and theological readings. The training started with a shared meal at St. Pius X Catholic Church Friday night. Here, participants acted out Scripture in order to understand the purpose of community. Then, the training moved to College of St. Mary’s campus, where participants learned the purpose of baptismal community, collective leadership, pressure on families and communities and qualities of leadership. One of the participants Jose Fortoso stated that the training was a great learning experience and that he wished he would have this workshop earlier. The training closed with key learning points and goals that participants want to bring back to their congregations and institutions. This training has been available in various parts of the US, but we are hopeful that we can continue fostering the local Hispanic leadership.

Relationship buildings aids passage of American Dream and Promise Act in House

June 5th, 2019

The American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6, passed in the House of Representatives on June 4

The bill passed with a 237-187 vote. Only seven republicans supported the bill, including our Omaha-area representative, Don Bacon. OTOC and TPS leaders have continually met with him, attended town halls, and called countless times to build a relationship with him, have him get to know the TPS recipients and Dreamers in his district so that he ultimately supported this bill. Other positive community out reach and pressure is effective in making positive steps in the right direction (see this article about Chamber of Commerce support for Dreamers and TPS). Continue readying to see more about how relationship-building helped influence Don Bacon’s vote and the outcome of this bill

From the Omaha World Herald: “They’re in no man’s land, and we should provide them some security,” Bacon said. “I’ve committed to these guys that I would not forget them.”

Building relationship with  Rep. Don Bacon

 Om May 7, the OTOC Immigration team and the TPS Committee secured a meeting with Rep. Bacon to renew his commitment to support legislation granting permanent status to TPS holders.  Rep. Bacon continued to encourage community education about TPS and reaffirmed his support for TPS. He committed to vote for a “clean” Dream and Promise Act, the only current legislation that would have a path to citizenship for TPS holders. He fulfilled this promise on June 4 by voting FOR H.R. 6!

Bacon also committed to working with OTOC and IPL to appear on local radio programs with a TPS holder to explain to their audience why Nebraska needs our TPS community. Bacon also committed to help TPS holders in Nebraska keep their drivers licenses through January 2019 (currently expires in September 2018)

Click here to read about visits to his DC office earlier this year, and here to see more info about our relationship with Rep. Don Bacon.

Who is My Neighbor- relationship building between groups

Read More . . .

Environmental Sustainability Efforts This Spring with City Council

April 24th, 2019

During this week’s City Council Meeting on June 4, they discussed both the Ban the Bag ordinance and the mayor’s Garbage Contract Proposal. City Councilman Festersen began by acknowledging the major sustainable strides in Omaha. Wohlners Neighborhood Grocery created measures to not use plastic bag and offers a 5% discount for reusable bags. City Councilman Rich Pahls, pointed out how it was interesting to see the younger people really making an effort from kindergarten to graduate level classes. He encouraged the high school Students for Sustainability to “meet with the business world” to organize with all of the players to have a more comprehensive approach. He argued that a one size does not fit all and that he wants everyone to find their own solutions. City Councilman Harding, also agreed that all stakeholders must work together instead of focusing only on one component. The Students for Sustainability, however, have been organizing together, even collecting over 10,000 signatures for support of this ban the bag. They meet every two weeks during school year and once a week during the summer. In conclusion, the override of the mayor’s veto was unsuccessful with one vote short from a majority: four to three. City Councilman Harding, however, revealed that he is currently working on a resolution for plastic waste to not just plastic bag. He hopes to have it out soon. City Councilman Jerram suggested that the students use those 10,000 signatures to fuel another campaign to petition this issue to be on the 2020 ballot. City Councilman Palermo concluded stating this issue is not going anywhere.

On the other hand, Mayor Jean Stothert testified with new additions to the garbage proposal, explaining that she is listening to the concerns of her constituents. Her compromise is a $22.7 million, 10-year contract with FCC Environmental, that has an added Saturday collection for all of yard waste, with six weeks in spring and six weeks in fall to allow unlimited yard waste pick up, and a sticker program year-round. Larger households could also request three carts, instead of two, after 90 days at no additional charge. City Councilman Harding simply did not think it would be reasonable to have Saturday pickups for yard waste. City Councilman Jerram regarded this Saturday collection as “a sad reflection of the compost system in Omaha” and that he must recognize his constituents concerns for a contract that recognizes how separating yard waste is an environmental benefit. On the other hand, Council member Rich Pahls wants to pursue a contract with West Central Sanitation, a Minnesota company that proposed a less-expensive proposal to Omaha. Pahls recounts this company as “something unique.” In conclusion, the City Council members denied the proposal 6-1, which means the Omaha Public Works Department must create a new proposal and present to the city council before the current bids expire at the end of July.

OWH Failed Veto Override

OWH Garbage Contract

How we got here:

Read More . . .

IPL & OTOC Leaders collaborate with the National TPS Alliance of Nebraska at First United Methodist Church-Omaha

April 10th, 2019

IPL & OTOC Leaders collaborated with The National TPS Alliance of Nebraska Saturday April 6th for a bilingual workshop at First United Methodist Church. The event hosted over 75 people who were inspired by live testimonies of real TPS holders. Temporary Protected Status is an immigration status given to those who can not return to their countries of origins due to arm conflicts, natural disasters, epidemics, or any other temporary special conditions.

Both English and Spanish speakers who attended the event learned about the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 which was presented to the House and the Dream Act and Secure Act in the Senate, which would provide long-overdue stability for Nebraska families and communities by offering a pathway to Permanent Residency and eventually Citizenship in the US for both DACA and TPS beneficiaries.

Read More . . .

City Council voted for Proactive Inspection Policy

April 4th, 2019

 

April 9 City Council Vote-City Council Passes Ordinance for Proactive Rental Inspections but Mayor Stothert Promises VETO

City Council voted 4-3 for a proactive rental inspection system that would start in 2020. They passed “Amendment C” proposed by Gray, Jerram, and Festeresen. This ordinance will require all properties to register, and begin a 10-year cycle of proactive inspections in 2020. Both Council President Ben Gray and Council Member Amy Melton thanked OTOC for your dedicated work on this issue. Thank you all who have shown up, called, shared posts, told your friends, stayed informed, and supported the listening, research, and action of OTOC on this years long journey to improving substandard housing in Omaha! But we’re not done yet…

Mayor Stothert is claiming she will veto the ordinance.

According to the Herald: “Stothert later said she preferred a proposal backed by the council’s three Republicans requiring city inspections of only properties with open or previous housing code violations.”

OWH Article: City passes and Mayor Stothert plans to veto her own ordinance

KETV Stroy: https://www.ketv.com/article/omaha-mayor-jean-stothert-says-she-will-veto-rental-property-registration-plan-approved-by-city-council/27092903

What the Mayor prefers

Mayor Stothert was referring a proposed ordinance  by Council member Harding. That ordinance required inspection only of about 1,100 properties where someone had filed a complaint, the city found a code violation and the owner was unwilling or unable to make repairs after an extended period of time.

Inspecting only these so called “problem properties” repeatedly is not proactive.   The Mayor’s favored approach:

  • Would not have prevented the Yale Park debacle–only 2 complaints had been filed about Yale Park during the previous  3 years because vulnerable tenants do not complain. One of those 2 complaints came because an HVAC system blew up badly burning a child and City staff made the complaint. But those same city inspectors could not look at other units  nearby for the same problems because there were no complaints about other units.
  • Will not identify the the savvy slum lord who repairs or covers up the code violations in one apartment, but can ignore the other 9 units in his building that have the same bad plumbing, leaking windows, pest infestations etc. The City will never inspect those units unless or until each of those other 9 tenants also complain.

It will take 5 votes to override Mayor Stothert’s veto, meaning it is possible that no ordinance will be adopted and Omaha’s renters will largely remain unprotected.

Contact Mayor Stothert and let her know she should not veto this ordinance: Mayor Stothart: hotline@cityofomaha.org or call 402-444-5555

April 2 City Council Meeting

The Omaha City Council opted to delay the scheduled vote on the amendments to the rental inspection ordinances for one week.

OTOC had requested an extension of the vote to give leaders more time to negotiate a potential compromise with the Apartment Association of Greater Omaha, that could be enacted by the City Council.

OTOC leaders are continuing to advocate for the inclusion of proactive inspections along with a mandatory registration in the final ordinance that is adopted.

Leaders continue to hold Yale Park as the litmus test for any proposed ordinance. If the any ordinance or its amendments would make the ordinance incapable of preventing another Yale Park, then leaders deem it insufficient.

Over the one week delay, OTOC leaders will utilize this time to continue to negotiate with the Apartment Association of Greater Omaha with the hopes of producing a meaningful compromise that is acceptable to both landlords and tenants.

Leaders also plan to continue to pressure council members to make sure that proactive inspections and a mandatory registration are included in the final ordinance. Leaders are asking that supporters aid in this push by contacting their council member and urging them to support proactive inspections.

Barring any other delays, the final vote is scheduled for the April 9th City Council meeting.

 

 

Author Richard Rothstein to speak with OTOC and Community Leaders

March 22nd, 2019

Monday March 25 & Tuesday March 26 with

Richard Rothstein

Author of New York Times Bestseller

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of how Our Government Segregated America 

Events:

Monday March 25–sponsored by Creighton University

7:30 pm  Speaking at Harper Center at Creighton University

602 N. 20th – Free Parking Garage on Cass St.

RSVP at https://excellence.creighton.edu/ColorOfLaw

 

Tues. March 26–hosted by OTOC and Institute for Public Leadership 

Housing Workshop, Family Housing Advisory Services, 2401 Lake St.

1:30 pm:  Meet and Greet with pastors, community organizations, and those interested in housing

2:00  pm: Rothstein and local housing experts present, followed by discussion

Workshop on Intersection of Education and Housing, Learning Community Center, 1612 N. 24th St.

4:00 p.m.  Discussion on how quality education and housing are closely related and what we can do to improve both in Omaha.

Click Here to RSVP for events on Tuesday

Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He is also a fellow of the Haas Institute at the University of California–Berkeley where he resides.

In his book, he “describes how federal, state, and local governments systematically imposed residential  segregation… The Color of Law forces us to face the  obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.” (from  book description)

“Through meticulous research and powerful human  stories, Rothstein reveals a history of racism hiding in  plain sight and compels us to confront the consequences of the intentional, decades-long governmental policies that created a segregated America.”   —Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

OTOC Testifies Before City Council in Favor of Proactive Inspections

March 13th, 2019

On Tuesday, OTOC leaders joined tenants, nonprofits and landlords to testify in support of proactive inspections in Omaha. In front of a packed house at City Hall, OTOC leaders Karen McElroy, Rosie Volkmer, Gloria Austerberry, Dennis Walsh, Susan Kuhlman and Paul Romero laid out a comprehensive narrative that covered the background information of the problem of substandard property in the city, the failure of the current complaint-based system and the extensive research in support of rental inspection programs.

OTOC’s testimony was supplemented by the lived experiences of tenants and case workers from local nonprofits, that displayed to members of the City Council the horrendous conditions that tenants have been forced to live under. This powerful combination of experience and data shed light on the problem as well as the effectiveness of a proactive solution. OTOC organized this coalition with community partners like Together, Habitat for Humanity, Family Housing Advisory Services, Restoring Dignity, Neighborhood Alliances and associations, landlords, tenants, and community advocates.

 

After nearly four hours of testimony on Tuesday, the City Council is likely to delay the vote on the proposed ordinances that was set for next week, to give the council more time to alter the ordinances as necessary. Thank you to everyone who testified and the many who came to the meeting to show your support for OTOC and Omaha’s renting families.

OTOC leaders urge supporters to continue to pressure their City Council members to support a system of landlord registration with proactive inspections so that we can ensure that all people have access to healthy homes in our city.

News coverage can be found on the Omaha World Herald, KMTV, KPTM, KETV and WOWT.

Read More . . .

OTOC Leaders Testify against Payday Lending expansion at State Legislature

March 13th, 2019

Rod Kuhlmann (left) of Holy Name Church and Kevin Graham of First United Methodist Church presented testimony on behalf of the OTOC Payday Lending Action Team to the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature on Mar. 12, 2019, at the State Capitol.

Kuhlmann testified against LB 379, which would expand payday lending in Nebraska by permitting lenders to make loans online as well as in person. Graham testified against LB 265, which would create a new class of delayed deposit loan services for loans with larger principal amounts and with longer terms.

Kuhlmann and Graham both presented OTOC’s position that payday lending requires reform, not expansion, in Nebraska. Neither LB 379 nor LB 265 address the core problems of payday lending:

  1. The State Department of Banking reports that payday lending borrowers in Nebraska paid an average Annual Percentage Rate of 404% on their loans in 2017; and
  2. The State Department of Banking reports that borrowers renewed their payday loans an average of 11 times in 2017, paying a fee of $53 each time, because they could not repay the entire loan amount in 2 weeks.

Read More . . .



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