If elected to serve on Ward Six of the Tucson City Council, Andres Portela pledges “To give voice and power to those who have been neglected by the status quo because this is our home!”
Furthermore, he envisions:
“With housing becoming increasingly unaffordable and neighborhoods being left out of important discussions; we can’t keep waiting on progressive changes from nonprogressive leadership. It’s time for all of us to act!”
Only 27, Mr. Portela has already served on various community and civic organizations including the City of Tucson, and as a Congressional Aide to Representative Ron Barber.
If elected to the Tucson City Council, he would work to expand affordable housing, increase economic opportunity, improve public transportation, and provide environmental justice.
Mr. Portela answered the following questions.
1) Please tell the readers two reasons you would like to serve on the Tucson City Council
“Authentic Representation: I am Afro-Latino. I have been homeless and sleeping in my car. I have been a tenant. I have been an unsure graduate entering the workforce. I am a homeowner. I have been a worker struggling to make ends meet and using the food bank. I have been a city employee. I acknowledge my identities because we must recognize how genuinely different the composition of our community is. To be successful in this position and create policies that will positively affect our neighborhoods, we must understand who we are. Each perspective within our community is valued, seen, and should be reflected in the policy brought before the mayor and council and held accountable by the community. Authenticity comes from understanding who we are as individuals and as a community.
Being the representative, I needed to see: My journey in service started when I was in diapers attending mayor and council meetings with my father and asking for more sidewalks. As Ward 6 Council Member, I will be the first AfroLatino. I will be a representative from the black community, which hasn’t had elected representation since before I was born. I will be a community organizer who became a Senior Policy Advisor for the City and left to represent our community in a new way. And as we think about the city we are creating, our community deserves representatives that reflect our shared values and the identities that allow us to find community. As I looked at “why” for running, I thought about the pragmatism we are used to and the lack of visionary spirit. As a kid growing up in Southern Arizona, you can’t help but see leaders like Janet Napolitano, Jim Kolby, Tom Volgy, and others and not think that’s the leadership I love and see, but I could do it like them and better.”
2) Please tell the readers two qualifications you have for serving on the Tucson City Council.
City Experience: After graduating from the University of Arizona, I struggled to find a position within our city that filled me with purpose. I was fortunate enough to be hired by Southwest Fair Housing Council under the leadership of Jay Young. Mr. Young provided me with the space to learn from the community, elevate the lived experience, and bridge neighborhoods and elected officials. This is where I believe I was able to learn how to create policies that address showing needs. This led to becoming an emerging leader in the national civil rights movement, but it also led another hero of mine to offer me a job with the City of Tucson. During my time with the City, I was able to work with a team of like-minded individuals who wanted to create community-driven change and make government more accessible. The city is where I had my first experience with municipal administrative policy; however, it took national fellowships to guide my hunger to learn about national movements and make them hyperlocal. Policies shouldn’t be made without the people who will feel it the most. As a bike ride and recycler, I have felt the effects of our new recycling program, which cuts costs but makes it impossible to recycle without a car. As a Policy Advisor, the tough but necessary work would have been to connect neighborhood leaders with city staff in Environmental Services and Transportation to find the best solution so we could address more extensive environmental needs and equity.
This is an example of how hard decisions require hard conversations. I grew up in a home where my mother was a liberal Democrat, and my father was a fiscally conservative Republican. In our home, we didn’t always agree about everything, but we agreed to have the tough conversations that would make our home better and introduce a new perspective. This is the way the future of Tucson is forged and how I will create policy. We value every perspective, create space to elevate that lived experience, and connect what happens at Mayor and Council to the streets we walk. I loved being a Senior Policy Advisor for the City. Still, I know this new position will create an opportunity to elevate the voices within our community and become more impactful.
Lived experience: When you’ve lived in Southern Arizona most of your life, you start to develop a shared community and culture. My earliest memories include soccer games throughout the city during the Fort Lowell Soccer Shootout, Easter barbecues in Reid Park, Sidewinder games at Tucson Electric Park, and Juneteenth. The rhythm of our city requires someone who understands its music. This job requires someone who has had experience working with the start-up space, the neighborhood activists, as well as the arts and cultural scene. I have found community in the art space with Black Renaissance, spoken at the TENWEST festival, and engaged with our business leaders both as a city employee and a community member who loves all things Tucson. We have all seen phases in priorities based on leadership; business leaders prioritize business, administrators who prioritize keeping business as usual, but when have we elected someone we can genuinely believe is one of our community? I’m the neighbor you’ll see enjoying the food and dancing at Tucson Meet Yourself, riding my bike through our streets, and the guy you can say “hey” to, and ill probably remember your name. This is my home.”
3) What are at least three issues you would like to work on if elected to the Tucson City Council?
Housing: Keeping Tucson Families in their homes is paramount to me and something I have the most experience in. I have been homeless, a tenant, a homeowner.
Opportunity: Creating a home in the heart of Tucson means understanding what resources are currently available and which ones aren’t.
Mobility Justice: Getting around Tucson can be cumbersome; however, we must prioritize safety within Ward 6 no matter the mode of transportation.
Environment Justice: People & planet first!
4) Is there anything not covered in the first three questions that you would like the readers to know? Please explain.
“As a Senior Policy Advisor, I spent time managing the funds coming through the city from the federal COVID relief. I saw needs were met immediately, but no one was taking a look at the long term. What does the future look like? As someone who has grown up in Southern Arizona, I know that the job I am applying for will require creativity, an understanding of racial justice, and a commitment to understanding what is truly next. Our community has seen the effects of the policy I have created, the office of equity, and the commission on equitable housing and development. It’s time to take on some bigger challenges like Public Health to get to poverty prevention and looking at existing zoning to deal with affordability. We have quite a bit to do and I can’t wait to get started.”
For more information on Andres Portela and his candidacy to serve as the Ward Six Representative in the Tucson City Council, please click on the below social media links.