June Issue Cafes: explore organizing and power generation

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!



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IPL helps leaders build relationships to aid passage of American Dream and Promise Act in House

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. IPL has worked with leaders from the TPS association of Nebraska and OTOC Immigration Action Team to build relationships with elected officials and help communities across Omaha get to know their immigrant neighbors. In 2019 alone, leaders met with Rep. Bacon, 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.

“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.”

Omaha World Herald

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!



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IPL After-Work Gathering

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, over 160 IPL supporters atttended the After Work Gathering at the beautiful Storz Mansion. And, 200 IPL supporters gave during Omaha Gives!

200 Donors gave

$31,710 through the OmahaGives site

$14,245 by check or OCF account as Challenge Fund

for a total of

$46,120

AND…

$1,000  First Place Participation Prize for Medium Organizations from 4 pm to Midnight from TD Ameritrade

and

$1000 Third Place Cheer Page Prize for Carol Zuegner’s Cheer Page! that had 75 donors raising $10,000! from Mammel Foundation

 For a Grand Total of

Raised!


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TPS Workshops: building partnerships and meeting allies

IPL hosted an event with OTOC Leaders and 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.

There were 2 workshops happening at the same time- one in Spanish for TPS recipients about how they could be a apart of the TPS Committee of Nebraska and work on advocacy efforts. The other session was for English speaking allies to learn about TPS and how to support our local immigrant families.



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Several Issue Cafes in February inform and motivate community leaders

Payday Lending Issue Cafe

35 leaders met at Urban Abbey on February 28 to hear from Ken Smith, lawyer with Nebraska Appleseed about the state of payday lending in Nebraska. With the passage of LB 194 in last year’s legislative session, a few small steps were made to close a loop hole that could allow payday lenders to register as “Credit Service Organizations,” give a once-a-year payment plan option, and require more reporting to the Nebraska Department of Banking. The first report came out in December 2019 (view it here). See our analysis here of what this report shows about the status of where payday lending happens, how many loans are made, what people have to pay, and the average percent rate of 404%.

Ken Smith also asked supporters to practice how to respond to common arguments for payday lenders:



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Housing Coalition continues making waves for substandard rentals

IPL has helped OTOC and several housing agencies and tenants organizations work together to research and promote proactive rental inspections for the health and safety of rental properties and renting families in Omaha. See the work being done as policy is shaped and we work for community voices to be heard in the decision making process

Upcoming Actions

Issue Cafe: Coalition Building:

Tuesday February 19 at 6:45 pm
Urban Abbey, 1026 Jackson St.

Join OTOC leaders and other housing experts to learn how we can reform our broken housing code enforcement system. Learn what solutions are being proposed at the Unicameral (LB85) and at the Omaha City Council. Our elected officials will make decisions over the next month that affect the health of families and vitality of neighborhoods for years to come. Find out more and how you can help shape those decisions

Press Coference: #WeDontSlum launch

Join us for the unveiling of the #WeDontSlum campaign and website. This website and hashtag are a place for tenants and neighbors to share photos of the substandard rental units they live in or nearby and to send the message that substandard rental housing cannot be ignored. Visit the website today :www.wedontslum.com

Op-Ed in Omaha World Herald

IPL trained leader Dennis Walsh and Restoring Dignity Executive Director Hannah Wyble published an op-ed in the paper outlining what an effective housing policy should have to prevent the furthering of substandard rental housing.

Read the article here: Midlands Voices: Omaha needs to provide effective, affordable reform of rental oversight

And in case you missed it, here’s the editorial cartoon from Sunday, Feb. 9 titled “There goes the neighborhood”:



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Learning and supporting TPS efforts

Friday February 8th, Missioning Prayer and Despedida (Send-Off)

This past Friday, over 100 leaders from IPL, OTOC, and the TPS Alliance of Nebraska gathered to hold a Prayer Service that celebrated both culture and faith for the 9 members of the Omaha community who are representing Nebraska at the TPS Summit in Washington DC from February 10—February 13. The Opening prayer and focus statement were given bilingually by Pastor Juan Carlos Veloso, along with Fr. Chris Saenz, who gave the Blessing to the travelers.

The group traveling to Washington DC was made up of 6 TPS holders, 2 seniors in high school who are the US citizen children of TPS holders, and a Creighton University student. The group flew to Washington DC on Saturday and is currently participating in advocacy, leadership training, and the March for TPS Justice on Tuesday, Feb 12.



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IPL research pushes City towards best practice

IPL helped organize testimony surrounding Tax Increment Financing for Omaha landlord, Dave Paladino. Paladino Development Groups has thousands of low-income units that rent to a wide range of tenants, including many refugees. In the unprecedented hearing, over ten opposing testimonies shared stories of Paladino’s treatment of tenants and business practices, lack of maintenance and upkeep, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. TIF cases tend to be automatically approved, but the city council, who listened for over an hour and a half to emotional, moving testimony, voted to postpone to vote for three weeks. They want to look into TIF approval laws, which currently do not allow decisions to be made based on the applicant’s other business practices. Click hear for complete Omaha World Herald coverage of the TIF hearing.

Need for enforcement

IPL trained leaders with OTOC’s Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Action Team testified neutrally (read Gloria Austerberry’s testimony here), saying that Paladino does have a bad reputation among tenants, but works well with housing agencies that have case workers to hold him accountable. He meets the standards that are enforced, but when there is no enforcement, he gets away with neglecting properties and using a business model that seems to exploit tenants (read Hannah Wyble of Restoring Dignity’s testimony at the hearing for examples), proving again that proactive inspections of units will keep properties up to code when landlords don’t do it themselves.
Several testifiers called for inspections on all of Paladino’s properties if he is to qualify for tax dollars on his new development project, and guarantees that rent will remain at market rate (read testimony by Jack Dunn from Policy Research Innovation and Rosalyn Volkmer).

IPL continues to research Omaha’s substandard rental housing and complaint-based code enforcement system, and looking at national best practices, especially a proactive inspection ordinance. Leaders continues to call the City of Omaha to adopt a rental registration AND inspection ordinance so that all rental properties are routinely inspected. The testimony at this hearing showed city council and city staff that Yale Park is not the only substandard property in Omaha. Council member Pete Festersen said in his remarks that the City Council Planning Committee, which has been meeting regularly since Yale Park last September is getting ready to release it’s recommendation on what the city can do to address substandard rental housing. It is clear the tides are turning in the city, and that there is growing attention to substandard rentals and city code enforcement. The question is, when the committee’s plan is released, will it prevent another Yale Park?

Issue cafes educate about refugees, mental health, and housing

Upcoming Events:

Mental Health Emergency Resources
Tuesday, Nov. 20th at 6:45 pm
Hear from Miles Glasgow of Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare about their emergency response programs to help provide mental health services during high stress situations. Information about Mental Health support and education programs will also be available.

Improving Rental Housing in Omaha
Tuesday, Nov. 27th at 6:45 pm
As Yale Park Apartments illustrated, substandard housing in Omaha is a plague on neighborhoods and families. OTOC leaders will discuss the continued state of substandard rental housing and measures our community can take. Since we are all stakeholders, let’s organize to ensure public health and safety.

Refugee Experience: the resettlement process, different immigration paths, and the refugee culture groups in Omaha

Cold temperatures did not deter forty comunity from showing up at the Urban Abbey  to learn more about the refugee experience from Alana Schriver, OPS Refugee Specialist. Despite the weather, the room was filled with old faces and new.

Ms. Schriver taught her listeners the difference between several terms:

Refugees

To be designated as a refugee, one must cross a national border to escape from war, violence, or persecution. Persecution is defined as a life or death situation.  Poverty is not a reason to apply for refugee status. Refugees are vetted in their country of residence and then by the country of destination- this takes years.

Asylum seekers –

Individuals seeking asylum from war, violence, or persecution.  Asylum  is not granted to families. Each individual, regardless of age,  must prove that he/she is being targeted. Those seeking asylum are required to accept asylum from the first country that offers it.  For those who reach the U.S., no legal representation is guaranteed to help the seekers through the vetting process.

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