AUSTIN, Texas - Austin City Council District Two encompasses the south and southeast portions of Austin.
This is where Vanessa Fuentes plans on raising her family. “The reason I decided to run was because of the health divide we have here in Austin."
Fuentes decided to run right when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She said it only highlighted current health disparities. She worked for the American Heart Association which she feels can be useful for her goals to even out the health divide in District Two.
“We are a majority Latino community and we are disproportionately at risk for COVID. My first priority is ensuring District Two gets the resources and assistance needed,” said Fuentes.
Fox 7 asked the other candidates about their plans to address COVID-19. David Chincanchan feels it's about access to the best care.
“I’m running for council to make sure we have a voice in Southeast Austin. When the pandemic really hit our city, the few clinics and services we had in Southeast Austin, especially further southeast in Del Valle, those were shut down. We didn't have capacity to take care of folks there,” he said.
Chincanchan was raised in Austin. He says this district has always been neglected in many categories, and the pandemic exacerbated these issues.
“…Poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, that's become really big with the pandemic,” he said.
Casey Ramos is also an Austin native who made a living boxing professionally.
“We have one of the highest populations of pre-existing conditions like obesity, diabetes, people living at the poverty line, people who have to go to work, essential workers,” said Ramos.
He said the first thing he would do if elected is get information on COVID-19 out to constituents.
“They need to know the basic truth of how serious COVID is, how easily you can catch it and where you can get tested and get help,” said Ramos.
Alex Strenger has criticized the mayor and council for spreading fear. [NOTE: Since this story aired, Strenger has dropped out of the race.]
“We need to also be more honest about how we communicate about this virus. When you are pedaling misinformation, people are not going to trust you,” said Strenger.
What about police defunding? This summer, council made a decision to immediately cut more than $20 million from APD's budget, and to reimagine another $130 million.
“I agree. City council made a commitment to transform how the city of Austin does public safety and they've taken a step in that direction,” said Fuentes.
Chincanchan also cosigned that decision.
“I was really proud of council for recognizing the urgency of the moment and taking action. It is time to reform, more than reform, to reshape our institutions that provide public safety,” said Chincanchan.
But this issue was split down the middle among the four candidates.
“In a city of 1 million people, I’m not sure if that was the best decision. If they are not well funded, all they are going to be doing is policing. They are going to be super stretched thin, and they are not going to have anytime for community engagement,” said Ramos.
“They are cutting the wrong program. We are one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, why are you cutting three cadet classes, why are you shutting down training?” said Strenger.
But all candidates did agree that reform is needed. But what about things like affordability and every day issues like transportation? Ramos believes it's important to start with the basics.
“We want to go for all these grand bonds and all these grand ideas like a rail and building a connected and mobile city and a sustainable city that's for everybody, but how can we be that city if we can't even get our grass cut, if we can't even see our sidewalks?” said Ramos.
Strenger feels we need council members who speak up for the little guy.
“I’m an entrepreneur who drives a pedicab and I’m literally the working man our quote un quote city council claims to care about,” said Strenger.
“For many it's housing, it's transportation and its childcare. My concern is to make sure working families who have built this city, who keep it moving forward, who made it attractive to begin with, that they are able to remain, able to thrive and are not displaced,” said Chincanchan regarding some priorities if elected.
“There is so much at stake this election and we need change from the White House on down to city hall,” said Fuentes.
With mayor pro-tem Delia Garza leaving her seat for the county attorney spot, this is the only seat with no incumbent. Who will take her place? You decide.