Southeast Austin’s District 2 and Northwest Austin’s District 6 officially received new City Council members in Vanessa Fuentes and Mackenzie Kelly, respectively, while incumbents Greg Casar in District 4, Leslie Pool in District 7 and Alison Alter in District 10 each took their oath of office for their second four-year City Council terms.
Leading up to the Jan. 6 swearing-in ceremony, conducted over video conference, many in Austin and across the country watched as Trump supporters stormed the nation’s congressional chambers in an effort to disrupt Congress’ official acceptance of the presidential election results. Following their oaths of office, the five City Council members addressed the events as they looked ahead to the work demanded of City Council in the year ahead.
“We can continue to be an Austin that is as divided today as it was nearly a century ago, or we can continue the tough work of addressing these inequalities demanded by our communities,” Fuentes said. “As I think about this moment that we’re in, as a nation, amid the chaos that we’ve witnessed today at the U.S. Capitol, as a state and as a community, I stand committed to the pursuit of justice until justice is realized for all.”
Kelly, the only newly elected City Council member to earn her seat by beating an incumbent, said she wants to represent her Northwest Austin district in a way that reaches across the aisle. Kelly’s victory in the December runoff election against incumbent Jimmy Flannigan puts her as the most conservative voice on a City Council dais that leans heavily to the left. Kelly said she is concerned about homelessness and public safety in the city.
“I look forward to represent the needs of our district in a way that is more collaborative and less divisive than our current climate politically,” Kelly said. “The disturbing violence that we saw at the Capitol today was unacceptable, and it should not be tolerated by anyone, and my thoughts are with those that were involved in that incident today.”
Casar highlighted the policy decisions City Council has made since his first election in 2014—from increasing minimum wage to decriminalizing homelessness and becoming a sanctuary city—saying that the city has done well to stand by its “principles” against “unprecedented actions from the federal and state government.”
“Recently, we’ve felt constant attacks on our democracy. Today’s violent storming of our nation’s Capitol is among the most disturbing and blatant of these attacks,” Casar said. “But our community and our city has stood strong these last few years in demanding more democracy, not less. Austin has been dedicated to opening the door wider for more people to have self-determination and dignity and prosperity.”
Pool said she was deeply honored to serve another term and would work to unify the community on the city’s most pressing issues.
“To restore equilibrium through consensus is our job one,” Pool said. “Reflecting on the images we all observed in our nation’s Capitol today, tonight we honor the sacred rituals of the peaceful transfer of power that safeguard our democracy.”
Alter called the world “complicated” and said the city faces “many crises at once,” but the City Council should work to use the “crises as catalysts” to solve Austin’s longstanding issues.
“We remember that those of us being sworn in are assuming or reaffirming our commitment to lead responsibly and lead by example,” Alter said. “But today's events remind us every day of the oath that we have taken to our city and our country. Nothing is normal or usual about this day.”
City Council will convene for its first regular meeting of 2021 on Jan. 27.