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Austin council members are sworn in virtually, denounce violence at U.S. Capitol
(City of Austin)

Austin's newly sworn in council members were joined by Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and Austin Municipal Court Presiding Judge Sherry Statman in a virtual swearing in ceremony on Wednesday.

In the aftermath of a tumultuous day that saw a violent mob of the president's supporters storm the U.S. Capitol, five Austin City Council members were sworn in for a new term, virtually, on Wednesday evening. They included new members Vanessa Fuentes, who will represent Southeast Austin's District 2, and Mackenzie Kelly, who will represent Northwest Austin's District 6.

"Reflecting on the images we all observed in our nation's Capitol today, tonight we honor these sacred rituals of peaceful transfer of power that safeguard our democracy," District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool said.


FIve of Council's 10 seats, excluding the mayor, were up for reelection in November. Incumbent Council Members Greg Casar, Pool and Alison Alter were reelected. Fuentes replaces Delia Garza, who was elected to serve as Travis County Attorney, and Kelly replaces Jimmy Flannigan, whom she beat in a runoff election on Dec. 15.

Each of the council members being sworn in disavowed the violence in Washington D.C., including Kelly, the sole Republican, who drew criticism after posing for photos with members of the right-wing extremist Proud Boys group in November.

"The disturbing violence that we saw at the Capitol today was unacceptable, and it should not be tolerated by anyone," Kelly said.

In addition to redoubling their commitment to American democracy, the council members also stressed their priority issues for the coming year: the local pandemic response, public safety and homelessness.

Fuentes said her immediate focus will be on ensuring that there is equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine in Austin and trust that it will work effectively.

Pool stressed that the city may soon face a hospital crisis as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge.

"We may face the very worst of the pandemic in the coming weeks," she said.

Kelly focused on the latter two issues.

"I am concerned about public safety. I am concerned about homelessness," she said. "And I will work to help make those problems be solved."

Casar highlighted the track record of the council, which he said has legislated according to its values even as state and federal policies have made that difficult, such as when it cut the police budget in August in response to mass protests.

He also thanked the people of Austin, as did many of his colleagues.

"It's not elected officials who make democracy work," he said. "It's you."

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