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.
We are in week 4 of @GregAbbott_TX vaccine distribution effort and our local safety net distributor, Austin Public… https://t.co/DEGSe4Iw6B— Vanessa Fuentes 💃🏽 (@Vanessa Fuentes 💃🏽)1609941270.0
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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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."