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Vela sworn in as District 4 Council member

Tuesday, February 8, 2022 by Jo Clifton

José “Chito” Vela, who won the election to become the second City Council member for District 4 on Jan. 25, was sworn in Monday morning and took his seat on the dais. Vela joined Council before a large group of family and friends who gathered at City Hall for the occasion. Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter commented that the audience was the largest she had seen in Council chambers in the past two years.

Vela has attributed his victory to having pounded the pavement throughout his district with many boots on the ground. An immigration and criminal defense attorney, he has served on the city’s Planning Commission and as chair of the board of the Workers Defense Project.

The new Council member started by thanking his friends and family members for joining him at City Hall. “It’s so heartwarming and touching to see so many people here. I’m humbled, I’m grateful and I’m excited to serve the people of District 4 and of Austin and I’m ready to get to work. ”

Summing up his priorities for Ballotpedia, Vela has said, “Austin should be a safe home for the working class, not a playground for the rich. The City Council should always center the best interests of the underserved people in our community. This requires investing in public transit, affordable housing and public safety reform.” He has reiterated those priorities in a number of forums, adding that combating climate change is also important to him.

Among those endorsing Vela were Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Vanessa Fuentes, Pio Renteria, Natasha Harper-Madison and Greg Casar. Casar served his last day on the dais on Feb. 3, stepping down from the Council seat to run for Congress in the newly redrawn Texas 35th district. The Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled for March 1, with early voting starting Feb. 18.

Fuentes, who represents District 2 in Southeast Austin, said she was looking forward to working with Vela. “Our Eastern Crescent communities are bound together by values and by needs. It’s wonderful to have another progressive Council member on the dais and I’m excited about the work that we’ll do together.”

Council Member Paige Ellis welcomed Vela, saying, “We know this election happened out of cycle. The fact that you were willing and able to step up so quickly and willing to serve your community and the city of Austin shows that your heart really is a true servant leader and I wish you the best of luck.”

Adler also welcomed Vela, calling the day “an absolutely crucial moment in time that you join us. There is so much promise and potential in the community, and at the same time over the last couple years a great relief. We’ve seen the challenges that the community faces and you now inherit a seat of critical importance as we navigate both.” He joked that the program would not allow him to “tell citizen Greg Casar said he only has three minutes.”

Council members Renteria, Mackenzie Kelly, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool and Kathie Tovo also welcomed Vela and assured him that they and their staff members would be willing to help him and his staff settle in at City Hall.

Rev. Sylvester Chase of Wesley United Methodist Church administered the oath of office.

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