🗯️ Q&A: An Austin council member
Adal Rivas / Austin City Council - District 2
- 7 min read

🗯️ Q&A: An Austin council member

Plus, what the heck is Eeyore's Birthday anyway?


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☀️ Heya, Austin.

We've got an exclusive Q&A for you today with Council Member Vanessa Fuentes. Read what her biggest disappointment in Austin is right now — and what she's most proud of in the city.

Then, we’ve got some interesting facts about everyone’s favorite birthday party in Austin, and check out stories that you may have missed from this week.

Austin, affordability and child care with Council Member Vanessa Fuentes

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes sitting on the dais and Austin's City Council.
Adal Rivas / Austin City Council - District 2

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes was first elected to represent District 2 in southeast Austin in 2020 and took office the following year. She'll be on the ballot again this November.

We recently sat down with her to hear about what she sees as Austin's biggest struggles, what her top priorities in office are, and what excites her about the city right now.

Her responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You’re obviously extremely busy with multiple things, but what is the one project you’re working on that you’re most excited about?

Probably the most exciting thing that I'm working on, which also relates to one of the biggest challenges we have in our city, is child care. Ensuring that we have high quality, affordable, accessible child care options for our families has been top of mind for me and for City Council. We're working on an initiative with (Travis) County leaders that we hope to announce in the coming months. I can't share exactly what it is just yet, but know that it is a new way in which local governments can help address child care affordability and help make it more convenient for families.

How did child care become a policy priority for you? 

I don't have children yet, so for me, it was just understanding how hard it is for families to get by and hearing directly from my community. Some women were having to not go back to work because it was more expensive to work and have your child in day care than it was to stay at home. We have over 1,000 kids on our waitlist right now needing to get into child care centers that provide financial assistance. 

The other reason is when we talk about addressing affordability, the conversation is largely around housing. And, of course, we as a government will try to do everything we can to make housing more affordable. But housing is largely market-driven. And there's only so much that governments can do. But when we look at the largest household cost drivers, child care is one of the top three. And so to me, it made sense. If we want to address affordability, we have to address child care.

What disappoints you about Austin right now?

Definitely the affordability crisis that we're in. But, two, I think what has been heartbreaking coming out of the pandemic is people returning or coming back to a city that they don't recognize, or they feel like the city isn't for them anymore. I would hear from constituents about how hard it is to navigate our city if you're elderly and just how hard it is to age in Austin. 

Yes, we are a growing city, and we're experiencing all these wonderful, incredible things that come with being a city that is growing. Other cities are not as well resourced as we are. They're not able to do some of the innovative strategies or programming that we have available. So on one hand, I feel really, really lucky. But then on the other hand, I also know that this city is the tale of two cities. There is a deep divide in Austin. And while we are this wonderful, great city, there are all these inequities that are very deeply rooted within our communities.

What excites you about Austin right now?

Definitely Project Connect. Delivering on Project Connect is important. The second largest household cost is transportation. And I think it's exciting that in 2020, even amid the beginning part of the pandemic, Austinites voted to invest in light rail. I think that is really going to transform our city. 

The other thing that I'm super excited about is the airport expansion. That has been long delayed and certainly a long time coming. And that's in the district that I represent, so that's of note for me. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the neighborhoods within your district at the moment?

One of the things I’m most proud about is that District 2 has the largest share of Latino homeowners. We are a Latino district and about 20% immigrants. We certainly have affordable homes that are available for families. And on the outer edges of our district, we have these brand-new, massive housing developments that are currently being built: Easton Park (12,000 homes) and Goodnight Ranch (6,000 homes). It's just massive the growth that we're experiencing. 

So when I think about the challenges for our neighborhoods, it is just having the basic infrastructure to handle this growth. We've had so many substandard streets in our area. It's an area that had been largely neglected until Council moved to the 10-1 system about 10 years ago. We're just now seeing some really good progress being made in expanding and updating our infrastructure, but there's still such a need. So the growth is, of course, welcomed, but it's getting the things that have been longtime needed as part of it.

Cat DeLaura, Reporter

Temperature: 83 degrees | Sun: Being shy | What to Expect: Some strong storms

Unsettled weather will continue into the last day of the work week. Even though it might not rain at all, the dark clouds can make it seem like it will. If we do experience any storms, they could be quite strong with high wind gusts as the main concern.

Mary’s Tip: Let’s show our love for Mother Nature by joining a team of biologists and Austin park rangers that need the public’s help in documenting species for the 2024 iNaturalist City Nature Challenge at the Stephenson Nature Preserve tonight at 6:30 p.m.

It’s time to celebrate Eeyore. Here are 3 things to know about his annual birthday party.

Eeyore’s Birthday Party may be one of the most visible remnants of old, weird Austin still going strong today. While it will take place this year at the feet of the new Pease Park troll (which is definitely new-Austin-trying-to-be-weird coded), it’ll still have all the old drum circles, bare breasts and wafting scents to help you travel back in time. 

Whether you’ve never been to one of Eeyore’s Birthday parties or you’re an old regular, here are 3 things you might not know about the celebration. 

🏫 Once again, what starts at UT changes the world … or at least Austin. Eeyore’s Birthday was started by a small gathering of English students at the University of Texas at Austin looking to play hooky (so next time your my-cat-ate-my-homework excuse doesn’t work, maybe try the an-imaginary-sad-donkey-needs-a-birthday-party excuse instead). Read more about the history in Austin Monthly.

🫏 It originally took place at Eastwoods Park next to campus. It eventually outgrew that location and moved to Pease Park, but if you return to Eastwoods you can find a statue of Eeyore in the park looking sad (probably because everyone has left him out of his own birthday party). Plus, peep the original invite in this KUT story.

🛸 Did you know the tradition of Eeyore’s Birthday has made its way all the way to the grey parks of Seattle? Truly. An Austin transplant in the Seattle area brought the tradition to the Capitol Hill part of Seattle around 2010, according to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. May that be a reminder that if you ever do leave our fair city, you can carry Austin’s traditions with you.

Do you have a favorite memory from one of Eeyore's Birthdays? Hit reply, and tell us about it.

Cat DeLaura, Reporter

4 stories you shouldn't miss this week

🚗 We know the total number of Austin-area folks who will be laid off from Tesla as part of the company's global layoff round: 2,700.

🍽️ We're big fans of local restaurant expansions, baby. So three cheers for Justine's, a French restaurant on the Eastside across from Central Machine Works. It's opening another location at The Blanton Museum of Art at UT in the spring of 2025.

🥩 Check out Texas Monthly's deep dive into the magic sauce (literally and figuratively speaking) behind Interstellar BBQ, a stellar (tee hee) member of Austin's barbecue circuit.

🍎 Folks in town are devastated over the closing of Foxtrot, a chain of convenience store/markets that had four locations in Austin.

🌊 Water Works

Today's clue is for 1 Across: the company behind the iconic billboard on South Congress just south of the lake.

What'd you think of today's issue?

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.