5 Things You Should Know About City Councilors

By Published On: February 22, 2022Categories: Vlog, Immigration

With Chito Vela
”El Show Sin Fronteras”

What Does A City Councilor Do?

City Councillors are the board of directors of the city, they decide on taxes, expenses, payment, and manage the budget for transportation, police and fire department, ambulances, and they also manage the city papers, dictating and executing what is going to be done.

In other words, it’s like the company that runs the city, and the councilmember is one of the people responsible for running the city, which in this case is Austin.

Who Elects Councilors?

11 members serve on the aldermanic board, 1 is the Mayor, who is the member for whom all constituents living in the City of Austin who are citizens vote to elect their Mayor.

In the case of the Councilmen, there are 10 different districts, each district has more or less 100 million residents, and for example in district 4 which is the district where the new Councilman, Chito Vela, was elected, there are 34 thousand people registered in that district, and that is the number of people that can vote to elect their Councilman.

Unfortunately in this election, no more than about 3600 people turned out to vote, which would be approximately 10% of the city’s eligible voters.

It was a special election because it was held after Christmas, after the new year, and we are living in times where Covid is, and with all those problems we are facing today, those distractions, it is amazing that 10% of Austin’s resident population went to exercise their right to vote.

Different Types Of City Councilors

There are 10 City Councilors in total, and the difference more than anything else is that each one must represent his district in decision making, and for example, the district that Chito Vela started to represent, is about 60% Latino community.

It is one of the 3 districts in the city of Austin that have a majority percentage of the Latino immigrant community.

It is not the only difference between people, but for example, the Councilmembers who are located further west in Austin, represent a community where Americans represent the majority and have a much higher economic status.

Different areas have their different themes to carry out, due to the culture and the way the people who live there get along.

In District 4 the situation is different, because it is the poorest district in Austin, and it is the one with the most immigrants as well, it has an immigrant community of all kinds.

Meet Chito Vela

New District 4 Councilmember Chito Vela talks about how he came to this path of political service on behalf of the immigrant community in Austin.

I come from Laredo, Texas. Originally my family has quite a bit of root there, my dad served as a local official in the area, and I have always been involved in politics and was also an attorney in the Texas Congress which is located in Austin, worked there for about 4 years.

I’ve always studied politics and law because I’ve always had an interest in serving the people, in helping the people and that’s what got me into politics, that’s what got me into law, and that’s more than anything else what got me into public service, to decide to run for this position in Austin, a beautiful city that is full of many opportunities, but it needs to be a city that includes everyone, and when I mean everyone I don’t just mean giving a place to the wealthy, but that we also have to include the labor class.

You can live, you can have your children here in the city.

Currently, I see how they are pushing the community to go to Bastrop, to Brownlee, and other cities and I want them to continue to support the city because the wealth is also in the culture, we have entertainment, music, everything, and I don’t want Austin to be a city only for the rich, I want everyone to be able to participate here, they can live here if they want to.

Why Is It Important To Know About Local Elections?

At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law we had as a guest Bob Libal, who is a candidate for Travis County commissioner and is a similar but different position from City Councilman, with him we talked about the importance of voting in local elections because the vote has more power in a local election.

Chito Vela, who is the guest of this occasion, was elected for Councilman, and his role in this position will positively affect the immigrant community, we will have a way to communicate directly with him to talk about these issues.

To give an overview, the Councilmember districts and the Mayor are the people who make the decisions about policing in the city of Austin, and that is the agency that decides U Visa immigration cases for example.

At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, immigration attorney Kate and her colleague Krystal Gomez serve the community as part of the immigrant affairs committee, so their job each month is to bring together different types of issues to discuss related to the immigrant community in the city of Austin, and they go from there to offer advice to Councilmembers on how to invest money to support the immigrant community.

Part of our job is to talk to the police about how many U Visas they have denied in the last 3 months and why, and we can work together with the Councilman to change local rules and policies that affect the immigrant community, how the police may treat an immigrant after paying them or after an arrest, in jails, transportation, schools, many things are going to affect the immigrant community.

It is very important to know who has the strength and power to make decisions and how and what they can do to vote, also to talk to those people to share information from the immigrant community.

That is one way we can change the lives of many immigrant people here in the city of Austin.

We know that everyone wants immigration reform, Green Cards for the Dreamers, but these are federal laws or policies, and the Congress in Washington DC and the President of the United States have to pass these laws, but nowhere some things can change, that can greatly affect the lives of the immigrant community and that is why we invite candidates, people like Chito who are going to make decisions in their favor and it is something important to know.

Chito Vela’s Opinion

I believe that the relationship between the immigrant community and the city police is the most important issue for me as a Councilmember representing the immigrant community in Austin.

With the U Visa, we don’t need to get into the details, but recently there were changes to help immigrants who are seeking the U Visa with police assistance, there were changes to make this an easier process, and also with arrests, it’s the way immigration gets into an immigrant’s case.

How does a deportation case start? Most of the time it is because someone was arrested for a crime, many times it is a crime that deserves an arrest, drunk driving, or more serious felonies, but there are other cases of people driving without a license because they are waiting for their papers, and here in Austin the society wants to support the immigrant community, they have been able to change the decisions of the police, they no longer arrest people for driving without a license for example.

Normally, there are situations where they are still making arrests with other misdemeanors, such as public intoxication, currently they have opened a place where they take people in a drunken state and stay there for 4 hours to help them calm down and then let them go instead of formally arresting them.

In this way, we help the immigrant community, and these are decisions that the Councilman has made and I want to follow that path as well.

Why Do I Need To Know Who My Candidates Will Be?

Everyone is going to have a situation in their life, they’re trying to not sell their house, change something at the local school or change the certification system in the Austin police, and everyone who lives in the city is going to confront a situation where they’re going to have to want to talk to a person who has the right to change that frustrating situation.

The immigrant community has the same dreams as any other person, they also want a peaceful home, a clean and safe neighborhood, and for those who do not know, when for example there is an area where there are many accidents and it is a danger for your children when they go to school, you have to talk about it with the Councilman, when there is garbage or there are problems with utilities or drainage, that is also a matter for the city.

Even though unfortunately the immigrant community cannot vote because they are not U.S. citizens, they cannot participate as much in politics, politics still affects them, so you have to understand at least the basics, from what the system is, what representation laws I have, who are the people who are in those positions, that information is important even if they are not citizens, even if they cannot vote.

What Is Chito Vela’s Main Objective?

The first thing is apartment prices, home prices here in Austin, we have seen that they have gone up to a level that nobody expected to go up so much and in such a short period, and they are putting a lot of pressure on people, especially the working class.

We need more homes, more housing here in the city of all kinds, both public for people who are homeless, for the elderly, and also the more private ones, we need more apartments for all the young people and those who are here working or studying, that will be a priority as well.

The citizens of Austin sent a project to build a subway in North Lamar, up to the airport and through Riverside as well, that is a project that I was very supportive of and it is going to be billions of dollars that are going to be invested, and I want to keep an eye on that project to make sure that if it is done it is done as soon as possible because that is something that is going to help the community a lot.

It’s going to maintain transportation to employment centers, like downtown Austin at the airport and different places, where hopefully in 10 years or so, 8-9 years when it’s built and ready, it will help people all over the city, but in particular help, the working class that lives in North Lamar, because many need to go downtown to be able to get to their jobs

In case you have additional questions about your neighborhood, Councilman Chito, or your specific case, you can contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a short 10 minute evaluation of your case over the phone we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so as not to miss our weekly transmissions via FacebookYouTube & Twitch.

Frequently Asked Questions

The new Councilmember for District 4 on the Austin City Council.

First of all, apartment prices, home prices here in Austin, we’ve seen them go up to a level that nobody expected them to go up so much in such a short period of time, and they’re putting a lot of pressure on people, especially the working class.

About the Author: Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

I am the managing partner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, I received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. My project served the detained families seeking asylum. After my fellowship, I entered private immigration practice. My firm offers family-based immigration, such as greencards and naturalization, deportation defense, and humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. Everyone at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is bilingual, has a connection to our cause, and has demonstrated a history of activism for immigrants. To us, our work is not just a job. After the pandemic we began offering bankruptcy services in addition to immigration I realized how much lack of information there is in financial literacy resources in Spanish.

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