Since August of last year, KUT has been looking at the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin in its Turning the Corner series. It’s a neighborhood trying to rise above the challenges of poverty – and one common theme that’s been repeated by residents is that they feel ignored.
Cynthia Valadez used to live in the Dove Springs neighborhood.
“That was the one area of Travis County and the City of Austin that failed to get the clinics, the offices, the grocery stores, the doctor’s offices," Valadez says. "Anything that’s health related didn’t go there. You couldn’t do anything in that community."
That sentiment was felt again in the immediate aftermath of last year’s Halloween floods. But some residents say they’re tired of feeling ignored. But Dove Springs residents are now banding together to make sure their voices are heard.
Construction is finally beginning on a new health center in Southeast Austin, straddling the Dove Springs and Montopolis neighborhoods. "It is a place where you will no longer have to be taking your children or infants crosstown, on the bus, maybe having one appointment on one side of town, another appointment on another side of town," says Susana Almanza with the Montopolis Neighborhood Association.
Advocates have been fighting to get a health center here for years. Health related problems have always been an issue in Dove Springs. Last year the community rallied to prevent a convenience store that would sell alcohol and junk food from opening in the neighborhood.
The City Council sided with Dove Springs and denied the zoning change. For many, that battle – and the new health center – mark a change in the neighborhood. Residents say they’re finally starting to get attention from city government.
Many Dove Springs residents are hoping to keep that momentum going when Austin changes its council elections to a district system in November. Edward Reyes is one of them.
Reyes says growing up in Dove Springs, you constantly fought against the stereotypes of how your life is supposed to play out,"that you were going to be a certain way because of your surroundings you were going to end up in jail or prison or dead," he says.
Now Reyes is the president of the Dove Springs neighborhood association He and two other neighbors – George Morales and Ricardo Zavala – stepped up immediately after the Halloween floods, making themselves a presence in the community and speaking alongside Police Chief Art Acevedo at press conferences.
While Reyes runs his own tree company, he's never been involved in politics. But with the change to geographic representation, he's now a potential candidate to represent Dove Springs in the fall.
At least two other candidates have indicated they’re considering a run for city council in District Two. November will mark the first time the city residents will elect a city council based on the new geographic districts.