Vernon Oakes of Everything.Coop Shares 5 Reasons to Support Cooperatives During the Holiday Season

5 Reasons to Support Cooperatives
5 Reasons to Support Cooperatives

Host of the leading weekly national radio program for the U.S. cooperative community reasons for consumers to reevaluate where they spend and to support cooperatives during the holidays

Vernon Oakes, General Partner in Everything.Coop Communications and host of the leading weekly national radio program for the U.S. cooperative community shares five tips on why we should support cooperative during the holiday season and all year long. 

First, it is important to share what a cooperative is. A cooperative, often shortened to “co-op,” is a business that is owned and operated by and for the benefit of its members.  Cooperatives are all around us, there are over 64,000 cooperatives in the US and most are likely right in your neighborhood and brands you can purchase in your local stores. From consumer-owned rural utility co-ops that provide electrical power to financial co-ops to co-ops that operate food stores, hardware, and building supply businesses, provide education, daycare and health services, food brands among many other things, co-ops are all around us. 

Vernon Oakes
Vernon Oakes

Some coops you may be familiar with include companies such as ACE Hardware, Cabot Creamery Cooperative, REI, FTD Florists and your local credit unions.  When we support Cooperatives, we support its members and in turn support our community. This is important all year long and something to consider when we evaluate how we will spend our money during the holiday season and in the new year.

  1. Cooperatives Help the Economy   Cooperatives build stronger communities by keeping money, resources, and jobs local while increasing the communities’ economic power. Cooperatives havethe ability to create more jobs than a traditional business model, and they also ensure that wealth distributes more evenly. When you support a cooperative you are supporting economic growth in your community. 
  2. Cooperatives foster equity and social inclusion- Within the structure of cooperatives, there is a shared value of equity for all, with equal voting rights, this structure encourages contribution and shared responsibility among its members. Co-operatives are democratic organizations, focused on delivering their mission to their members rather than only focusing on the return to investors. When you purchase with a cooperative, you can be confident that the profits are going right to the members that have shared ownership.
  3. Cooperatives help build a sustainable community– Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities. Generally, cooperatives support inclusive and equitable membership for all people, irrespective of sex, age, race, ethnicity, and persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples and youth. This structure allows for accessible lifelong learning opportunities which in turn empowers communities with the knowledge and skills needed to participate fully in society.
  4. Business Sustainability – Cooperatives have the ability to be anchors in the community, cooperatives promote economic growth through stable local jobs, consistent services,  high industry standards and  increased community investment.
  5. Shared Values. All co-ops operate under a set of shared values that include self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Cooperatives help to build a stronger community and to sustain that strength long term Support your community by supporting a cooperative this holiday season. To learn more about Cooperatives listen to Everything.Coop on Apple Podcasts

Vernon Oakes hosts the leading weekly national radio program for the U.S. cooperative community. He is General Partner in Everything.Coop Communications, LLC, a media company that promotes cooperative business models by providing education and resources specifically for under resourced Americans and their communities and he is a member of the Cooperative Consulting Group, Columinate.

City of Dallas launches Housing Opportunity Fund to fuel diverse housing development and drive economic growth

Linda McMahon

DALLAS – Today, the Dallas City Council approved a public-private investment plan to ease the strain of escalating housing costs on local families and fuel economic development in underinvested communities.

The conditional $6 million economic development grant will seed the new Dallas Housing Opportunity Fund (DHOF). This grant supports the city’s commitment to finance developments that build and sustain diverse housing opportunities for low-and-moderate income households.

Linda McMahon
Linda McMahon

“To build for our future, Dallas must support programs and policies that provide and promote fair, affordable, and equitable housing,” said Mayor Eric Johnson. “By seeding the Dallas Housing Opportunity Fund, we can strengthen our neighborhoods and improve economic opportunities for all of our residents.”

The fund is a targeted response to Dallas’ urgent need for additional affordable housing units. This effort is meant to promote fair housing by fostering investments that dismantle long-standing patterns of segregated housing. The Dallas Housing Opportunity Fund is part of a growing trend of local housing funds that are taking on the nation’s affordable housing crisis by leveraging municipal funds to raise private capital and drive much-needed equitable development.

LISC Fund Management, LLC (LFM) —a subsidiary of the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury — will lead the fund in partnership with The Real Estate Council (TREC) Community Investors. TREC CI is a Dallas-based CDFI certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and community investment group. Both LISC and TREC CI are mission-driven organizations that will work with investors and various benefactors to raise capital, connect with developers to identify opportunities, and respond to financing gaps that make it difficult for promising diverse housing development efforts to move forward.

“The City of Dallas is excited to collaborate with TREC and LISC, two formidable organizations that have the passion and breadth to create meaningful solutions to build housing diversity capacity,” said Dr. Eric A. Johnson, City of Dallas Chief of Economic Development and Neighborhood Services. “We appreciate the Dallas City Council’s support for this effort. Today’s vote will have an immediate impact on what this fund is able to produce for tomorrow.”

Dallas’ robust real estate landscape saw $10.8 billion in multifamily housing investments in 2020 alone. That capital on its own is not helping to drive the required expansion for diverse housing options. It is estimated that 51% of low-income Dallas households are considered cost-burdened by housing—spending more on rent than they can afford and less on other goods and services. Soaring rents and home prices make it difficult for essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, retail clerks and health workers to find homes within their means near good jobs and schools.

“The City’s leadership in making affordable housing for its residents a priority will bring increased economic opportunity to the city as a whole,” said George Ashton, President of LFM. “Improving the mixture of housing in Dallas is ultimately good for employers, who may otherwise struggle to attract workers because of prohibitive housing costs, and good for families, who are searching for quality housing near good jobs and schools. Our partnership with TREC CI will provide local expertise for identifying the most serious needs, positively influencing the city for years to come.”

LISC selected TREC CI as its local partner because of TREC’s more than 30-year history of partnering with more than 250 nonprofits to serve the Dallas community, and for its continued focus on providing catalytic investments that transform the city’s most traditionally underserved neighborhoods. As a CDFI, TREC Community Investors has been making loans and investments for mixed income housing and economic development projects and provides significant technical assistance to developers.

“This momentous vote by the City of Dallas recognizes that the challenge of providing accessible housing requires a new approach through a public/private partnership with LISC,” said TREC Community Investors CEO, Linda McMahon. “As a social impact investment, this Fund will provide developers with options for capital to ensure the housing is affordable for the long term.” For more on the Dallas Housing Opportunity Fund, visit https://www.liscstrategicinvestments.org/dallas-housing-opportunity.

About Dallas Economic Development Affordable Housing Program

The purpose of the Dallas Economic Development Affordable Housing (EDAH) program is to build stronger neighborhoods and communities by equitably creating and maintaining affordable housing throughout the City of Dallas (City) through the provision of grants and/or loans for affordable housing projects and programs. The EDAH is an economic development program created pursuant to the economic development programs provisions of Chapter 380 of the Texas Local Government Code to promote state and local economic and community development and to stimulate business and commercial activity within Texas.

About LISC and LISC Fund Management

LISC is one of the country’s largest community development organizations, helping forge vibrant, resilient communities across America. We work with residents and partners to close systemic gaps in health, wealth and opportunity and advance racial equity so that people and local economies can thrive. Since our founding in 1979, LISC has invested $24 billion to create more than 436,320 affordable homes and apartments, and develop 74.4 million square feet of retail, community and educational space.  The investment pools sponsored by LISC are available only to eligible investors, are offered only pursuant to their official offering documents, and are managed by LISC Fund Management, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of LISC. LISC Fund Management is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). For more, visit www.lisc.org and www.liscstrategicinvestments.org.

About TREC Community Investors (TREC CI)

For more than 30 years, The Real Estate Council (TREC) has made catalytic investments with over 250 nonprofit organizations dedicated to transforming Dallas. Community Investors furthers that work by creating equitable development that revitalizes the region’s most underserved communities. Employing a place-based strategy that transforms a neighborhood block by block, Community Investors provides a combination of loans, equity-equivalent investments and expert TREC-member technical assistance to work in a collective partnership with neighborhood leaders and community members. Community Investors is a 501(c)(3) organization certified by the United States Department of the Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).

South Dallas nonprofit unveils plans for the reopening of Forest Theater

Forest Theater in Dallas
Forest Forward hopes that the theater will being economic growth to the area
Forest Theater in Dallas
Forest Theater in Dallas.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

By Sriya Reddy

Elizabeth Wattley passed by The Forest Theater daily when she went to school. It was a staple in the community and Wattley knew it was important.

“This building has always been part of my life,” Wattley said. “I’ve always driven by it and felt like something is here. Some type of energy.”

She knows the history and heard the stories of her father seeing the film Imitation of Life up in the balcony of the then segregated theater in 1959. Now, Wattley is the president and CEO of Forest Forward, leading the initiative to revitalize Forest Theater.

On Thursday, Forest Forward announced its plans to preserve the historic space and create a cultural hub in South Dallas. The team is planning on adding arts education elements like a motion room, podcasting space and recording booth. There will also be a cafe and the first rooftop bar in South Dallas.

“I look at this space as a place that someone can spend all day in,” Ashley Wilson, director of strategic partnerships, said.

Forest Forward in Dallas
Attendees during the reveal event of the plans for Forest Theater by Forest Forward in Dallas on Friday,(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Wilson said that she is looking forward to there being a safe space of entertainment in this community and that bringing arts education to South Dallas is important,

“This place is centered on the community and what their needs and desires are,” Wilson said. “We’ve taken the time to really listen to the community and really create better opportunities and equity.”

Although the pandemic may derail Forest Forward’s plans, the aspirational reopening date of the Forest Theater will be 2024, the 75th anniversary of its opening.

Forest Theater opened in 1949 and served a primarily Jewish population that lived in South Dallas. It began to serve Black people in the ’50s after white flight changed the demographics of the area and it became a cultural hub. However, as decades passed, the theater diminished and was not able to be brought back to life.

Forest Forward obtained the property in 2017 with the goal of restoring and reclaiming the space. Wattley said that the rejuvenated Forest Theater means bringing opportunity and economic growth to South Dallas.

“It is exciting to be able to be part of something that will serve the community in such an important way,” she said. “It is a real feeling of reclaiming, and it’s something that is open and accessible to everyone.

Alongside the theater itself, Forest Forward hopes to have a larger plan of neighborhood revitalization in the area, including mixed-income housing nearby. Wattley said that one of the keys to economic growth in the area is fostering greater population density.

Forest Forward is now aiming to raise $75.215 million, in reference to South Dallas’ 75215 zip code, for Forest Theater renovations. Donations can be given at https://www.forestforward.com/donation-form/.

THE LAST WORD: REP. CORI BUSH IS MY SHERO

Rep. Cori Bush

By Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Rep. Cori Bush
Rep. Cori Bush

Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO) was once homeless. She wrote movingly (https://time.com/6085841/co- ri-bush-homelessness-crisis/) about sleeping with her babies in her car, with no place to go, nowhere to wash except a McDonald’s restroom, nowhere to exhale. She was homeless and working, and among a group that has coined the term “unhoused” to convey the pain of living without a home, belongings stuffed into garbage bags, hot food an elusive possibility. Imagine that, and imagine that with infants, one just six months old, another not much older.

Bush has come a long way from her unhoused days, but she hasn’t forgotten them. That’s why she has spent several nights sleeping on the Capitol steps, joined by fellow members of Congress, Ayanna Pressley, AOC, and others. She is sleeping outside because nothing is going on inside. The eviction moratorium expired on July 31 without Congressional action, and as many as eleven million people may get eviction notices in the next few days unless Congress acts.

Typically, Congress does not convene in August. They are on vacation, or they are back in their districts holding constituent meetings. Truth be told, they are mostly on vacation, and Washington DC turns dead. Cori Bush says she could not imagine taking a holiday break while people are sleeping in the streets while Congress has taken no action. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the House leadership went home to enjoy their break.

Cori Bush and her colleagues are raising issues that have been ignored as we are “recovering” from the economic impact of COVID and its mutations. One in four Floridians and South Carolinians are behind on their rent. Black folks are four times more likely to owe rent than whites are. Elderly Americans are disproportionately vulnerable to evictions – they, too, are running behind on their rent. And Congressional leaders have gone home.

Congressional leadership is Democratic, which is a frustrating aspect of the Democratic Party approach to economic justice. Speaker Pelosi might say that she did not move to extend the moratorium because she did not think it would pass. But why not try and force people to put their cards on the table. Are you in favor of mass evictions, or are you prepared to support fellow citizens who run the risk of going unhoused because the eviction moratorium has run out? Members of Congress, regardless of party, have unhoused people in their districts. It would be interesting to put them on record about their willingness to help some people who have suffered because of COVID and its after-math.

Notably, economic growth in the second quarter of this year was a high 6.5 percent. That might suggest that relief is not needed for people at the bottom. Robust economic growth, though, has shown the uneven nature of economic recovery. Unemployment rates have dropped, but faster for whites than for Black and brown people. People are working, and wages have increased some, but the federal minimum wage is as low as it has been for the past decade, and there are no signs that it will rise soon. While cobbling together an infrastructure bill, Congress is still struggling to pass a budget bill that includes increasing the federal minimum wage. These are challenges that must be dealt with in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, however, a simple piece of legislation to extend the eviction moratorium until the end of the year could provide relief for millions.

Few members of Congress have had the experience that Congresswoman Cori Bush has. Certainly, some have experienced poverty, public assistance, and even public housing. But I’m not aware of another, besides Bush, who has had to sleep in her car with her babies. If others have had such experiences, they’ve not spoken of them because, in our individualistic economy, poverty is an embarrassment, a personal failure. But poverty is not personal; it’s political. Our predatory capitalistic system was designed to generate poverty and inequality. It was designed to create a housing shortage that pushes rents up and people out. It was intended to trigger gentrification that has transformed many “hoods” into hot spots. Predatory capitalism was not designed to allow people to thrive.

Cori Bush has gone from being unhoused to working in the House of Representatives. She has not forgotten the days she slept in her car. How can her colleagues forget the millions at risk, running home instead of taking care of the business they were elected to handle. She is a warrior for justice, a courageous champion. She is, indeed, my hero!

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA. She is also President of PUSH Excel, the education arm of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You may reach her at juliannemalveaux.com

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