Local Justice in Action: Income Equality and Water Service

by TXUUJM Board Chair, Mike Phillips

Unitarian Universalists across the state of Texas continue to make a difference. We recently reported on on our succesful efforts at the last session of the Texas legislature that resulted in securing $3,000,000 in ACE Funding for Long Term Job Skills Training programs important to several of our local justice efforts across the state.

This connects to an issue that TXUUJM congregations and our Advisory Committee representatives have identified as among our top three issues of concern for the next legislative session: the increasing income inequality in our nation and in our local communities.

TXUUJM works on statewide issues, but we know politics starts locally. I don’t know who first said that–probably someone from ancient Greece–but it’s still true today. Through my work in my congregation, my community, and as a leader with one of the oldest interfaith networks in the country, I know that the power of organized people working together toward justice is very important.

In San Antonio last week, our community and UU social justice efforts had another win, one that touches on our UU concerns for economic equality, as well as our concerns for the environment, as much of San Antonio’s new development is over our sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Working with my congregation and our local interfaith community organization, I led a successful effort toward fairness in city water and sewer infrastructure fees for new development. Several months ago, I testified before the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) Board. After my testimony, religious leaders, and leaders from local environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, urged me to write an op-ed article for the San Antonio Express-News.

Just last week, two days after my article was published, and with UUs and a larger interfaith community by my side, the San Antonio City Council overwhelmingly voted to uphold a long-held community precedent. The vote centered on whether low-income, inner-city residents should be forced to subsidize the actual cost of sewers and water infrastructure and supply on the outer fringes of the city.

This is the type of local story we need to lift up and focus on, in a somewhat regular column for our website and facebook page. We know you have local social justice stories that need to be lifted up. It is through these kinds of moral leadership stories, TXUUJM seeks to teach and inspire. We want to encourage others across the state to join us in local and statewide fights for justice. We need to share these victories or struggles among our congregations so that our social justice committees can grow into action. If you have a social justice story to share, we want to hear from you!

Here are links to my editorial and the news stories about this recent effort: