Plan to Vote, Says the NAACP

By Linda Jann Lewis, Waco NAACP Political Engagement Chairwoman

With so much turmoil, misinformation, and downright dishonesty surrounding the 2020 electoral process, the Waco NAACP is encouraging voters to develop a plan to vote.  “The strategies that are being employed in 2020 are the same ones that have been deployed against African-American voters since the Jim Crow era,” declared Waco NAACP president Dr. Peaches Henry.  “Nevertheless,” Henry insisted, “African Americans shall do what we have always done in the face of attempts to suppress and deny our right to vote.  We shall vote—by any means necessary!”  That’s why the NAACP is urging African Americans to make a plan to vote.

First, get registered.  Pick up a voter registration card at the post office or at the Elections Office.  The last day to register to vote is Monday, October 5.  Call 254-757-5043 to check that you are registered.  Then plan to vote.

Plan A: Vote by Mail

  • The Elections Office will start sending mail ballots to voters September 18.
  • Mail-in ballots can be returned to the Elections Office at 214 N. Fourth St.
  • Call 254-757-5043 and someone will come to the curb.  Bring ID.

 If you are eligible to vote by mail which is the same thing as voting absentee, request a vote-by-mail/absentee ballot application immediately.  The United States Postal Service is already seeing slower and delayed mail delivery.  The way to combat such delays, says Waco NAACP Political Engagement chairwoman Linda Jann Lewis, is to request a vote-by-mail/absentee application for November’s election now and once it arrives complete and return it.  You may return it by mail or deliver it to the Elections Office.  Note:  If you change your mind and want to vote in person, you are free to do so.  You do not have to have the ballot with you.

Those who are eligible to request a vote-by-mail application and vote absentee include: voters who are 65 years of age or older by Election Day, voters who will be absent from the county during early voting and on Election Day, voters confined in jail but not convicted, and voters who are disabled.  Concerning voters who are disabled, Chapter 82 of the Election Code says if a voter has a sickness or a physical condition that is likely to do harm to her health if she votes in person, then she is entitled to vote absentee.

In May, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that having underlying conditions that make a person vulnerable to COVID-19 could be considered a factor as part of a voter’s medical situation. The court left it up to voters to determine if they meet the election code’s definition of disability.  The Texas Supreme Court also ruled that voters make their own individual decisions about whether they have a physical condition such as the COVID-19 underlying conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control.

The Supreme Court also held that election clerks have a ministerial duty to accept a voter’s request for an absentee ballot, and they have no discretion to question, challenge, or deny a voter’s request to vote by mail because of the disability that is the basis of their concern.   Speaking to the Waco Tribune, McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said no one will track how many voters claim a disability out of fear of coronavirus exposure.

Plan B:  Vote During the Early Voting Period

  • Early Voting Dates:  October 13-October 30, 2020
  • TO VOTE CURBSIDE CALL 254-757-5043.

If you prefer to vote in person, vote during the early voting period when lines will be shorter or nonexistent and social distancing will be easier.  You may vote in person even if you requested and received a vote-by-mail/absentee ballot.  Parents:  Make sure that your child who is away at college requests a vote-by-mail/absentee application.  And you should certainly vote in person if you have not received your vote-by-mail/absentee ballot.  During the early voting period, five vote centers will be available.  Voters may vote at any vote center in the county no matter where they live in the county.  Curbside voting is available if you are physically unable to enter the vote center without personal assistance or the likelihood of injuring your health.  If you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19, consider curbside voting.  To get curbside assistance send a companion in to the vote center to alert the election judge or call 254-757-5043.

To maintain social distancing protocols, the NAACP will lead two Souls to the Polls caravans on Sunday, October 18 and Sunday, October 25 at 2PM.  Caravans will start in church parking lots and voters will wait in their cars to keep crowding down.

Plan C:  Vote on Election Day

  • Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020 from 7AM-7PM.
  • If you are in line to vote by 7PM on Election Day, you must be allowed to vote.
  • TO VOTE CURBSIDE CALL 254-757-5043.

Vote in person on November 3, Election Day.  Identify three vote centers and put their addresses in your phone.  The Elections Office will not serve as a vote center on Election Day.  There will be 34 vote centers available on Election Day.  Some of them are Bellmead Civic Center, Carver Park Baptist Church, Dewey Community Center, Mart Community Center, McLennan Community College, Waco High Performing Arts Center, University High School, & Waco Multi-Purpose Community Center.  Voters may vote at these and any other vote centers.  Secure the appropriate voter identification (or alternative ID info) before Election Day.  Come prepared to stay in line until you cast your vote.  The wait could be hours.  By law, senior citizens and handicapped individuals go to the front of the line.  If you cannot stand in line for a lengthy time, consider voting curbside.  Bring water, snacks, hand-sanitizer, a hat, a lawn chair, and a phone charger.  Bring a slate card (a list with the candidates you want to vote for already printed).  These are already available.  Voters can no longer vote a straight party ticket, so having a slate card will decrease the time it will take to vote. 

If you have trouble getting your absentee ballot or have other election concerns, call us.

Please inform the NAACP if you receive any harassing or annoying calls seeking to inquire about any application that you make for an absentee ballot.  You should talk with the NAACP before you respond to any such inquiry that seems to go beyond verifying what is on the absentee ballot application.  And if you go to vote in person and feel that it was unsafe or that there was bias, hostility or other irregularity, the NAACP is asking that you call and inform them about immediately.  Do not wait till after the election is over.  The NAACP has lawyers ready to help you on Election Day.  Call Linda Jann Lewis at (254) 754-7001.

Individuals wishing to join the Waco NAACP, may do so by using PayPal or CashApp ($WacoNAACP) or mailing payment to P. O. Box 20511; Waco, TX 76702.


This article was originally published in the September 2020 issue of The Anchor NewsThe Anchor News is a free, monthly publication of Crawford Publishing.  The Anchor News is dedicated to serving the community and surrounding area, focusing on positive news and accomplishments of minorities.  For more information about The Anchor News including how to subscribe or where to pick up a copy, please visit The Anchor News website.

Planning and Precautions enable MCC sports to resume practice in preparation for competition

By Garret Sulak

Campus was dotted with color as students, faculty, and staff returned to McLennan Community College for the first day of fall classes on Monday, Aug. 24. In accordance with rules set to protect everyone on campus, various colors of masks were on display and social distancing guidelines provided some extra breathing room while sitting in class or walking on campus.

MCC’s campus showed signs of life for the first time since March when classes and services moved online. The return to MCC’s campus has provided at least a slight sense of normalcy during this pandemic. Classes are being held on campus with precautions and athletes are allowed to practice while also taking special precautions.

Head men’s golf coach and history professor Vince Clark is adjusting to the new guidelines as he holds in-person classes and prepares his golf team to go on the road and compete this fall. Clark explained the masks are a “necessary nuisance” during lecture, but they have not prevented him from projecting his voice to the class. However, he said masks do prevent him from reading his students’ body language.

“After classes moved online and I started performing to an empty lecture hall in the spring and summer, I realized how much I enjoy my students’ company,” Clark said. “I really missed them, so I am glad to have them back with me in the room. I also learned that before the pandemic I relied upon reading faces.  Now all I can see are eyes above masks. I reckon I need to learn to read eyes.”

As a coach, Clark is also tasked with keeping his athletes safe while practice continues in preparation for events this fall. He explained that his team wears masks when entering the Cottonwood Creek or Bear Ridge golf courses for practice. Then they maintain social distance out on the course or on the range. The team is also able to isolate as seven of the nine players live in a duplex. Clark and his golf squad are ready to compete this fall and he is confident they can do so safely.

“We are grateful to our campus leadership for trusting us to go on the road to compete,” Clark said. “We have all already promised each other that we will take every appropriate precaution while traveling. This fall any of us can come down with the virus anytime and anywhere, but we are convinced that we can increase our chances for staying healthy by being smart and following the various guidelines. We are like a family under the same roof, which also makes the logistics of dealing with COVID easier.”

Allowing athletes and coaches back on campus to practice and eventually compete required extensive planning by MCC athletic director Shawn Trochim. She explained she spent about 8-12 hours per day from May until the first day of classes formulating a plan that included input from other athletic staff, athletic trainers, other athletic directors in the conference and the emergency operations team.

As part of the plan to hold practices, athletes are screened each day prior to practice to ensure they do not have a fever and are showing no symptoms of the virus. The plan also includes measures to take if an athlete tests positive. In this case, athletes and teams can quarantine in their duplex. In addition, to the use of masks and social distancing, bottles were purchased for each athlete to eliminate the use of shared-use water coolers.

When all sports resume competition in the spring, Trochim believes one of the main drawbacks will be that athletes might not be able to go support the other teams on campus. However, she believes the pandemic has taught everyone how to better adjust to changing situations.

“The pandemic teaches us to be fluid and accommodating all of the time,” Trochim explained. “The leadership team is committed to athletics here at McLennan and as with everything this could change. I, as the leader of the athletic department, have to be prepared to make tough decisions.”

Just like the opening of campus, the return of sports signals a return to some sort of normalcy. With precautions in place, MCC is committed to returning to the court or field so athletes have the chance to compete.

“Competition is a big part of the games we play,” Clark said. “Competition is what our athletes, who are gifted with great talent, train to do. Life will feel more normal for athletes, coaches, families, and fans when we get back to competing in sports.” 


Garret Sulak is an athletics marketing graduate assistant at McLennan Community College. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, where he interned for two years with LSU athletic communications. He enjoys playing golf, fishing, hunting, and attending sport events. He is an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He is currently a graduate student at Baylor pursuing a master’s degree in sport management.​

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Advocating for those who experience food insecurity: Distinguishing the Political from the Partisan

By Craig Nash

When I have an opportunity to speak about my work in the areas of poverty and hunger, I often like to deadpan this observation in a way that facetiously presumes the ignorance of my listeners: “I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but political discourse in our country is especially heated these days.” Usually this prompts laughter. Sometimes I pull off the timing of the humor so well that people stare at me and wonder how I could be so dim to think that anyone doesn’t know that. Not once has anyone received the statement as a new fact that they’ve never given any consideration to.

We can debate whether the current intensity of political discourse is in unprecedented territory. I tend to think it is, until I remember there was a period in our history when we solved disputes with duels. What I don’t think is disputed, and that these heightened emotional times testify to, is that politics – fleshed out through public policy – matter. Decisions made by elected officials and civil servants affect our lives and the lives of our neighbors. This is why our heart rate begins to elevate when we sense an otherwise pleasant conversation is about to turn political.

But there is something unique about these times, and maybe naming it can be instructive and helpful. We have conflated political discourse with partisan discourse. The distinction can seem trivial, but it isn’t. Politics is about how a society chooses to be governed. Partisanship is about the political “teams” we have chosen along the way. The two are not the same. And yet in a system that favors only two viable political parties, it may have always been inevitable that we would tangle one up with the other. I believe the health of our democracy, and the survival of the most vulnerable among us, is dependent on us disentangling them.

There are policies on the federal, state, and local levels that help guide the food systems in our country and ensure that everyone has access to enough healthy nutrition to thrive. We have often had partisan differences of opinion regarding how (and whether) these policies should operate. But politically, there is a long history of putting partisanship aside after an election and navigating and negotiating ways forward, especially with regards to issues of hunger and nutrition. The Hunger Action Team, the advocacy arm of the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, is committed to educating and advocating for those in our community who experience food insecurity, but whose voices are often not heard. Doing so requires setting aside the easy work of partisanship and picking up the more difficult, yet effective, work of policy engagement.

This fall we will be hosting three training webinars for anyone wanting to join us in this work. On Friday, September 25th at noon we will hear from Debbie King, the Executive Director of Waco Meals on Wheels, about Texans Feeding Texans, which was established to supplement home delivery meal programs to seniors and disabled adults. Later in the fall we will learn about programs that benefit local farmers and expand the ability of low-income families to purchase fresh produce. Then, armed with this information, in 2021 we will begin engaging with policymakers who are responsible for these initiatives and will advocate for those in our community.

If you are interested in being a part of this group, please email Craig_Nash@baylor.edu.



Craig Nash is regional manager for child hunger outreach at Baylor’s Texas Hunger Initiative. He enjoys talking and writing about Waco, country music, and faith. He blogs at 17dutton.com.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

The 4th Annual Deep in the Heart Film Festival Goes Virtual and Goes Big and Creative for Two Consecutive Weekends!

By John Wildman

The Deep in the Heart Film Festival makes a virtual return to Waco, and Texas, and for some of their offerings – the rest of the country, for its 4th edition, to be held on consecutive weekends September 25-27 and October 2-4. The film festival has built a reputation as an entertaining “home for filmmakers” and established itself as a taste making film event for the city in a remarkably short time and you can look no further that the Opening Night screening of local filmmaker Chris Hansen’s festival-favorite SEVEN SHORT FILMS ABOUT (OUR) MARRIAGE for proof. Following that you can binge on the fest’s ambitious lineup of themed short film programs, featuring multiple first-time team ups with local Waco arts organizations, and more innovations within the virtual space as well as filmmaker hospitality from afar. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to catch something funny, dramatic, weird, enlightening, and surprising, as the film festival will be screening 123 films (7 features, 116 shorts and music videos) over the course of the two weekends.

Led by co-founders and directors Samuel Thomas and Louis Hunter, Deep in the Heart FF was forced to go to an all-virtual presentation due to the limitations and safety concerns set by COVID-19. However, rather than taking a step back due to the pandemic, they have continued the growth of the film festival, innovating, expanding their footprint in the city, and taking advantage of the virtual space to “introduce” those in other areas of Texas and the country to the charms and personality of Waco.

In addition to Hansen’s romantic drama, SEVEN SHORT FILMS ABOUT (OUR) MARRIAGE, Michael Erger’s PESCADOR, a serio-comic film which follows a recently divorced biochemistry professor’s efforts to obtain her pot smoking boyfriend’s “lazy sperm” during a fraught evening will make its world premiere. O. Corbin Saleken’s THE DUMMY FACTOR is an entertaining Canadian thriller about a 12-year-old who recruits his friends to help him solve the mystery of a couple missing children with a host of suspects in their town to choose from, and Jonathan Seaborn’s documentary DREAM WITH ME focuses on a “Dreamer” who took advantage of DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. When the Trump administration rescinded the program, her life is immediately thrown into a state of limbo. The screening of the film will mark Deep in the Heart FF’s first film presentation partnership with Waco Immigrants Alliance. 

Other films featuring first-time partnerships with Waco-based organizations include; Jordan Bunch’s LOVES GOD, LIKES GIRLS. Co-presented with Waco Pride Network along with a LGBTQIA+ shorts program entitled “Hearts and Minds,” the film tells the story of a gay woman growing up in a small town in West Texas in the 60-70s in a conservative local church. The Waco Cultural Arts Festival will partner with the film festival for the first time for two screenings; Aaron and Amanda Kopp’s animated film LIYANA, looks at the imaginations of five children in Swaziland as they create an original African tale about a girl on a dangerous quest. The film also features the executive producing debut by actor Thandie Newton. Jude Fokwang’s documentary SOMETHING NEW IN OLD TOWN looks the lives and activities of young people in Cameroon, who strive to change their community, notably as “searchers” of locally adapted solutions.

Those are the features, but you would be wise to check out a few of Deep in the Heart FF’s themed short film programs. It’s a specialty of this film festival and not something that you would ever find on Netflix or Amazon Prime. These cinematic “mix tapes” go far beyond basic “drama” or “comedy” programs, led by a horror and oddity-themed block of shorts entitled “Friday Night Frights,” which includes a mini-shorts combo from women directors entitled FATALE COLLECTIVE: BLEED, which launches the second weekend of programming on October 2. Other programs include the appropriately themed “2020 in a Nutshell,” a Texas film and filmmaker focused “5 Star, Lone Star,” a family-friendly program entitled, “Saturday Family Matinee,” and another disturbing collection of short film curiosities entitled, “wtf?!?” Seriously, you want to carve out time to watch these.

Adding to the film festival experience beyond the screenings and Q&As for film fans, the Deep in the Heart Film Festival will feature access to a virtual Red Carpet on Opening Night, script readings, filmmaker panels, and an interactive scavenger hunt.

 
The scavenger hunt will challenge audience members to pay attention and find “easter eggs” in the background of film scenes or recurring themes and items. Wacoans and Texans who find the items and targeted themes will be entered into a drawing for a Waco-based prize pack (including restaurant gift cards, Dr. Pepper Museum passes, and a Magnolia Market T-Shirt). For aspiring filmmakers, there will be two filmmaker panels, including Inclusivity and diversity in Screenwriting – “Write What You Don’t Know”. As opposed to the adage, “Write what you know,” this panel will discuss creating well rounded, authentic characters that do not share the same live experience as their authors. The second panel, Filmmaking and COVIDwill address how filmmakers go forward making their films working within a new pandemic reality. The panel will examine the protocols and best practices on set, and discuss how the filmmaking world has changed from story concepts all the way to playing the festival circuit. Whether you want to try to make a film or sit back and watch a bunch of them, Deep in the Heart Film Festival will be offering more than enough to keep you engrossed for a couple weekends. For passes, tickets and more information on the Deep in the Heart Film festival, please go to: https://www.deepintheheartff.com/.


John Wildman, Filmmaker, Film Journalist, and Film Festival veteran

Roof Repair Program for Grassroots Community Development

Press release – Grassroots Community Development is proud to announce a new phase of its highly successful roof repair program to help low income families with repairing their roofs.  In the rainy months we receive calls from families with terrible roof problems.  This phase of our program hopes to address some of that need.  Grassroots Community Development is finishing up the completion of 142 roof repairs for families and is starting a Phase V of these efforts.  The services provided by Grassroots Community Development Corporation are made possible in part through a grant from the City of Waco.  The program is free to low-income families that live in the City of Waco.  We opened up enrollment for the program August 15th with a deadline to accept applications of October 23rd.  We will begin evaluating homes in October/November, then we will be hiring roofing contractors to complete the roofing projects.

Applications are available at our office or via our Website:  https://grassrootswaco.org/roof-repair-program/ or we can email you an application. Here is the direct link to the application:

For more information about the Roof Repair Program or about Grassroots Community Development call Mike Stone 254-235-7358 Ext 206

The Invisible Struggle of Kids in Crisis

By Lucas Land

Any given day in McLennan County around 700 children are in foster care. Out of those, CASA has an advocate working with around 240 of them. CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” CASAs are volunteers assigned by the court to advocate for the best interest of the child or children in CPS cases.

Take a step back for a moment and remember what it was like to be a kid. What did you feel like in Middle School? What were your High School years like? Growing up can be difficult and awkward under the best circumstances. Now try to imagine being taken from your family after experiencing abuse or neglect. No matter the situation, this is traumatic. You are placed with relatives, a foster family, or a residential facility. Now add to that the time you have to spend in court, in meetings with lawyers, in interviews with CPS, medical visits, and so many other things that you probably never imagined having to do. Picture what it might be like going to school and trying to pretend like everything is fine, trying to get through a normal day weighed down by all that is happening in your life that often times no one knows about. You might not have anyone you can talk to or feel comfortable with. Trust is a scarce resource when your life is in upheaval.

These kids feel scared, alone, angry, nervous, and so many more emotions that come with the territory of dealing with family trauma and crisis. They need the things that all kids need, stability, supportive relationships, encouragement, and someone to listen. In these situations, these things are often in short supply. This is where CASA comes in.

Our volunteer advocates are empowered by the court and assigned to a case where they spend time getting to know the child or children involved. Their purpose is to gather information about the child/ children and the stakeholders in their life such as family of origin, foster placement, doctors, teachers, CPS workers, etc. All of this information is then compiled into a report for the court.

In order to do this well advocates have to build relationships with the child/children, their parents, and family in order to understand their needs. Part of this process includes just spending time with the child or children. Jose Muñiz describes his favorite part of being a CASA like this:

“Working with the kids and spending time with them is my favorite part of being a CASA. They speak to all of these authority figures and they don’t have time to be a kid. So, taking them out for ice cream or to the museum gives them time to just be a kid.”

CASA volunteers provide a consistent presence in a child’s life and work to ensure they are safe during their time in foster care. CASA volunteers also identify and address risks, work with supportive people in the child’s life, and ensure appropriate physical and mental health assessments are completed to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. They also make sure that educational assessments are completed and educational supports are in place. During a chaotic and difficult time in a family’s life while the child or children are in foster care these things can slip through the cracks and be forgotten. CASA advocates focus on the best interest of the child and help prevent that from happening throughout the process of their case.

Jose also shared this success from his first case, “My first case was with 9- and 6-year-old siblings. This was pre-COVID and I was able to spend time in-person with the kids. The 9-year-old was very active. One of the things we did that was fun was running a race together. We signed up for a Donut Dash. We ran a mile and then ate donuts. The success was them knowing that there was someone in their life that cared for them.”

There is a gap between those 700 children in foster care any given day and the volunteers we have who can be CASAs for them. Our goal is that every child who needs a CASA in McLennan County has one. In order to reach that goal, we need YOUR help. Please consider becoming a CASA volunteer and making a difference for children in our community who are going through a really difficult time. For more information you can send an email to recruiter@casaforeverychild.org, call (254) 304-7982, or visit our website, http://casaforeverychild.org.


Lucas Land is the Director of Communication and Development for CASA of McLennan County. He loves living in Waco and finding ways to connect, get to know, and give back to this community. Lucas lives in the Sanger Heights neighborhood with his spouse, three kids, and their dog, Jayber.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Civic Insights: Community Development Block Grants

(City council, school board, planning commission, county commissioners – these groups and several others represent us.  They do the day to day work of running our community. It is our responsibility to keep informed about their work so that we can help them represent us effectively.  “Civic Insights” by Jeffrey Vitarius is a regular feature of Act Locally Waco.  Its purpose is to help us understand decisions that shape our community so that we can participate effectively as informed, engaged residents of Waco. – ALW)   

By Jeffrey Vitarius

This week we are going to try to unpack the following sentence: “The City Council held a public hearing as part of a series of public hearings and eventually action regarding the 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funding.” Let’s jump right in.

What is Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Program funding?

In the broadest sense, these two programs are funding sources from the federal government to local governments, like the City of Waco, to accomplish certain federal priorities. It is theoretically a way for the federal government to pay for services and projects that advance federal goals without directly managing the programs themselves. 

The City’s Consolidated Plan (more on that later) provides a good summary of the goals of each of these programs. The CDBG program is aimed at developing urban communities with decent housing, suitable living environments and economic opportunities for low and moderate-income folks. The HOME program has a more focused mission and is aimed at developing affordable housing (both to rent and to own) for low and moderate-income folks. 

In Waco this funding has gone to:

  • Rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing (including items like roof repairs)
  • Code compliance inspections (making sure that housing is “in code” with the standards the city uses to assess livability)
  • Job training
  • Emergency Housing
  • Down Payment Assistance
  • Rental Assistance
  • Park Improvements (including at Wilbert Austin Sr. Park, Kendrick Park, Dewey Park, Oscar DuConge Park, South Waco Park, North Waco Park, and Bell’s Hill Park)

For the 2020-2021 fiscal year the Annual Action Plan is anticipating funding of $2,082,261. This is less than 0.5% of the City’s overall budget, but the programs funded in this way are critical to some of Waco’s most challenging problems. 

The Consolidated Plan notes that the greatest of these challenges is housing affordability. Generally speaking, housing is considered affordable if housing costs are less than 30% of income. In Waco, 39.1% of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing and 21.06% of households spending over 50% of their income on housing.

What is a Consolidated Plan?

The Consolidated Plan is a long-term (five years) look at how the City will use funding from the CDBG and HOME programs to pursue the goals of those programs. The plan breaks down how it was developed, what needs it identifies, how it anticipates meeting those needs, and what resources and partners will be needed in pursuing the programs it lays out. 

The development of a Consolidated Plan is a requirement for pursuing this kind of funding, as is the development of Annual Action Plans.

What is an Annual Action Plan?

An Annual Action Plan takes the five-year nature of the Consolidated Plan and looks at what will occur over the next year. This week, the public hearing was focused on the 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan which is the second such plan under the 2019-2023 Consolidated Plan. 

Why did the City Council hold a public hearing on the Annual Action Plan?

Given that the services and projects funded by the CDBG and HOME programs are meant to serve the needs of the public, the development of both Consolidated Plans and Annual Action Plans require a good deal of public input. The need for “citizen participation” is so great in these programs that generating this participation gets a plan of its own

As Raynesha Hundell, Interim Director of Community Services, presented to City Council this week, the City has pursued citizen input through a number of different routes. While preparing the annual action plan they met with neighborhood associations and gathered approximately one-hundred and sixty surveys on the matter.  They used this input to identify priorities for this year’s action plan. 

Now that an annual action plan has been drafted, the citizen participation plan requires that there be a thirty-day period where the public may review and comment on the Annual Action Plan. That thirty-day period began on the 10th of this month and will conclude on the 9th of October. The participation plan also requires that a public hearing occur during the thirty-day window for public input. The hearing this week was that hearing.

So, let’s go back to our initial sentence: “The City Council held a public hearing as part of a series of public hearings and eventually action regarding the 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funding.” I hope that is a little clearer now. As I feel like I keep saying, there is a lot more to unpack in this topic. The presentation that was made to council this week serves as a great introduction. 

What happened at City Council?

City Council was broadly supportive of the draft Annual Action Plan and its program-based approach to distributing funding. Additionally, Council Member Sabido asked follow-up questions regarding the map determining where CDBG and HOME funds could be spent (another interesting topic for a different day). 

What comes next?

  • To October 9th – Public Comment Period Continues
  • September 15th – Draft Annual Action Plan Public Hearing
  • October 6th – Draft Annual Action Plan Public Hearing
  • October 20th- Annual Action Plan will return to City Council for approval
  • October 23rd – Annual Action Plan will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that oversees the CDBG and HOME programs

Other Interesting (to me) Items From the Agenda

  • The planning items that  were reviewed by the Plan Commission back in August have now made it to the City Council for their review. 
  • Now that the budget has been passed, there are a number of resolutions concerning contracts the City will need as it pursues the priorities of that budget. These range from procurement of Microsoft 365 to repairing the elevator at the Zoo’s administration building. As City Manager Bradley Ford noted during the City Council Meeting this week, “This agenda is a great one, as well as the first one in October, to read in order to get an understanding of the breadth and depth of municipal operations.”
  • The Downtown PID Service and Assessment Plan we discussed two weeks ago has returned for final approval. 

Meeting Basics 

  • Work Session – 3:00 pm / Business Session – 6:00pm
  • To watch the recorded session click here (City of Waco Cable Channel, wccc.tv)
  • For the full agenda click here
  • For the meeting packet with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and now serves as that organization’s treasurer and Pride Planning Chair. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.