NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute today announced a $500,000 grant to groups in Texas to monitor stimulus spending, encourage public participation in state-level decisions, and advocate for an equitable distribution of recovery funds.
"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the largest federal spending package in history, and it demands close scrutiny," said Ann Beeson, executive director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute. "Strong oversight and advocacy at the state level is critical to ensure that the recovery brings opportunity to all Americans."
The foundation structured the grant to bring groups that focus on policy analysis together with community-based groups. That could change the way the progressive community engages public policy in Texas, according to Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, an interfaith network that is a partner in the alliance.
"We can't just rely on insider lobbying and policy analysis," Moorhead said. "Our efforts must be participatory in order to link the economic recovery to concrete opportunities for all Texans and their families."
The coalition also includes Texans Together, the Sierra Club, Texas Legal Services, La Fe Policy Research and Education Center, Public Citizen, the Center for Public Policy Priorities and Texans for Public Justice. The Texas Observer will participate as a resource for other media tracking the economic recovery.
The groups will develop a web site that includes spending data, benefit links, best practices and information generated by the groups and their allies. They plan to generate a twice-yearly "Accountability Report Card" that spotlights the performance of local and state agencies in transparency and spending as compared to other states. Community events, including one scheduled in Pasadena on November 17 and another in Houston on November 21, will ensure that moderate- and low-income neighbors are aware of jobs and other opportunities created by the stimulus.
Beeson said the grantmaking was designed with an eye toward restoring confidence in government.
"Transparency and equity are core values of an open society, and this is a pivotal moment for both in the United States," she said. "The success of the federal stimulus depends upon the ability and willingness of people to hold decision-makers accountable."
The coalition will receive support over two years from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, a sister organization of the Open Society Institute. Similar grants were made to groups in New York, California, Maryland, Wisconsin and Mississippi. The grants are part of a number of new initiatives the foundation has recently launched in the United States. The Open Society Institute's U.S. Programs recognizes that the challenges to open society are deeply linked, and supports efforts that bring people together across issues and communities to address them.