Communities Organized for Public Service, USA
Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) is an organisation of 26 parishes in the predominantly Hispanic, low-income West Side and South Side of San Antonio. Founded in 1974, it is the oldest of the Interfaith Area Foundation (IAF) organisations in Texas and, indeed, in the entire national network.
For more than a decade, COPS has brought literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new streets, drainage, sidewalks, libraries, parks, and streetlights to poor neighbourhoods. It has brought about the demolition of substandard housing and the rebuilding of new housing. It has begun to direct economic development funds toward poor inner-city neighbourhoods.
More than this rebuilding of the physical infrastructure of the city, however, COPS has rebuilt the culture of San Antonio's public life. COPS has created a public space which is fiercely non-partisan, and which allows for competition among a plurality of interests where issues are discussed and debated in the open. COPS is committed to neighbourhood and family values, democratic participation, leadership development, and public accountability of local and state officials.
The organisation nurtures leaders and future leaders who rise through the ranks developing their skills and teaching others what they have learned. COPS has taught how strength lies not in specific issues or personalities but in the process of empowerment and leadership development.
In this process, COPS continues to rebuild the city. Recent victories include these:
- COPS formulated a plan for a $10 million Housing Trust Fund in 1989 to finance affordable housing in inner-city neighbourhoods.
- COPS, in conjunction with the Metro Alliance, organised the San Antonio Education Partnership to guarantee job and scholarship opportunities to high school seniors from poor neighbourhoods.
- COPS get-out-the-vote efforts in May 1989 provided the margin of victory for a $46.5 million bond issue for library improvements and Neighbourhood Literacy Centers.
- COPS and the San Antonio Chief of Police created a community policing strategy, opening up three neighbourhood storefront police stations and developing a neighbourhood foot patrol program.
- COPS negotiated and supported passage of a $140 million bond issue to provide continued street and drainage improvements.
- COPS blocked a proposal to sell the municipally owned electric utility to private interests, which would have resulted in a significant increase in utility rates.
- COPS worked with the Metro Alliance to ensure City Council passage of a budget that protected $12 million of essential services from proposed cuts.
- COPS celebrated the completion of the Palo Alto Community College's South Side Campus in 1986, bringing higher education opportunities nearer to poor families.
Over its 16 years, COPS has brought over $750 million into its communities for new housing, drainage, streets, sidewalks, parks and libraries.