Metropolis Council Member Vanessa Fuentes stepped right into a relatively busy first time period in workplace – this yr, an unprecedented winter storm took Travis County unexpectedly and the pandemic continued to surge regardless of hopes for Covid-19’s retreat. However Fuentes, who now represents Southeast Austin’s District 2, took the problem head-on.
“No quantity of preparation can put together you as soon as you are taking workplace,” Fuentes mentioned. “However what I realized actually shortly is that I’ve an excellent crew … they perceive the wants of our neighborhood they usually lead with service in thoughts. I’ve all the time had the motto, you’re solely nearly as good as your crew.”
The main target of Fuentes’ first yr on Council was extensive, together with guaranteeing an equitable vaccine response, preventing for financial justice and enhancing childhood schooling. She mentioned daily she appears like she’s making a distinction.
“Being able to make an precise, tangible influence in somebody’s day-to-day life is what it’s all about,” Fuentes mentioned. “That’s what makes me so proud to have this honor to function a councilwoman.”
Her background in well being advocacy and neighborhood organizing has influenced the function she has taken on in Council. “We need to ensure that the native authorities is open, accessible and clear to all, and … maintain the system accountable if wanted.”
This philosophy got here into play with Fuentes’ pandemic response. The Del Valle space has struggled with the virus, so she labored onerous to make sure the town’s Covid-19 response was serving all neighborhood members equally.
Along with organizing pop-up vaccine clinics, her workplace established a static vaccine website for neighborhood members who won’t have web entry. When issues have been raised about disproportionate Covid-19 and vaccination charges, she joined her colleagues in issuing a resolution calling for an equitable and simply vaccine response.
“Definitely public well being is on the intersection of every part that we do,” Fuentes mentioned. “Not solely after we speak about well being disparities or catastrophe response, but in addition after we take a look at financial restoration. For me it’s all the time essential to have public well being and well being fairness on the forefront of our coverage positions as a result of they’re so interconnected.”
Nonetheless, her district’s Covid-19 vaccination price will not be fairly the place she would love it to be. Engaged on rising vaccination charges and selling booster pictures will stay a precedence coming into the brand new yr.
Fuentes has mobilized neighborhood well being staff in her district to assist obtain this purpose; she was capable of allocate cash to rent and practice new well being staff in addition to contract with present neighborhood organizations that have already got boots on the bottom. The blended help will go towards operating the well being clinics in addition to public schooling efforts. As soon as the pandemic subsides, the neighborhood well being staff can assist with different public well being points like persistent sickness, which afflicts communities of shade at greater charges, Fuentes mentioned. “That’s why it’s so essential to put this infrastructure.”
By way of the American Rescue Plan fund allocation course of, Metropolis Council allotted $11 million to little one care and early childhood schooling. As a part of that, Fuentes championed a $750,000 funding in Del Valle Unbiased College District. Now, the folks of Del Valle have access to free dual-language pre-Okay for 4-year-olds.
“The influence that that has had on households in South Austin is simply unbelievable. Girls have now been capable of return to the workforce as a result of they now have little one care choices for his or her households,” Fuentes mentioned. “However this was a long-standing disparity; when it comes to the college districts, Del Valle ISD had been (traditionally) underinvested in.”
Fuentes can also be pleased with a brand new coverage that enables any youth in Travis County to acquire a free Austin library card, which beforehand value $120 for residents exterior the town limits. The hassle makes entry to studying and studying accessible for kids of all revenue ranges.
When folks ask Fuentes how she likes her new job, she says sure, completely.
“Each single day is so completely different,” she mentioned. “I can go from one assembly speaking about easy methods to relocate alligators (who inhabited an area park pond), to speaking about public security, then having a constituent case. The subject material is simply fascinating. However on the coronary heart of it’s problem-solving. And that’s actually what we’re doing.”
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Posted In: City Council
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