Veronica Figueroa Velez officially announced her candidacy for District Alder 18 on the Madison Common Council on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
“I’ve been an advocate in this community for a very long time,” she said.
Figueroa is the executive director of UNIDOS, a Madison-based agency that works with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. She has also advocated for the immigrant community, mental health, education, and police reform.
“I am here to work hard and I am going to work hard for our community. I moved here 27 years ago and it was the best decision I made in my life,” Figueroa Velez said.
In 1994, she left her home and community in Puerto Rico to relocate to Madison. She resides on the North Side while raising two teenagers. Both attend Madison Metropolitan Schools. Figueroa believes the community should invest in the wellbeing of its youth, not just in terms of educational opportunities but also in health and in community involvement.
“We cannot continue to think of our children as our future. Our children are here right now. They are our present,” she said.
Figueroa said she values education and understands the importance of providing a safe environment where children and youth can learn, play, and thrive. This goes beyond supporting schools. She said the city should focus on sustaining affordable neighborhoods and housing options.
Figueroa advocates for safety, housing, and a firm commitment to equity. If elected, she said she’ll also leverage her experience in community engagement, violence prevention, and program development supporting marginalized families in Dane County through past experience at the Vera Court Neighborhood Center, The Family Resource Center, and Centro Hispano.
In the last six years, Figueroa has been invested in building a safer community while looking at police reform and cultivating natural resources within the community. This includes social services and financial empowerment.
“There’s a lot of policing on the North Side but that doesn’t really translate to a safer neighborhood,” she said.
Figueroa also brings her experience as an advocate against domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. As the leader of a community organization, she would like to see more people working together to tackle issues within the city.
“We’re all working in silos right now and at the end of the day, we are not serving the greater good because we are all working in silos,” she said.
Figueroa said community members need a lot of resources and intentional support to weather the pandemic. She also would like to see more people receive faster access to assistance and social services.
“I think none of us were ready for this pandemic and we did what we could. We were all working in crisis mode,” Figueroa said.
In light of the pandemic, she also believes the city should work to build a more equitable healthcare system. Figueroa said the system does not always take into account culture or the struggles of the undocumented community. She also thinks mental health should be prioritized.
“We have zero investment in our mental health so I would say that is the first thing we should look at,” Figueroa said.
If elected, she plans to make sure the Northside has a voice and seat at the table. Figueroa would like to demonstrate this through her campaign by encouraging people to reach out to her. As she campaigns, she would like to let residents know she is available to learn more about them.
“I am here. I am listening. I have an open-door policy. People can call, email and text me,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa faces incumbent Rebecca Kemble and fellow challenger Charles Myadze in the February 16 primary. The top two candidates will face off in the general election April 6.