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Ald. Santiago Aims to Return Community Voice to City Council

By Ted Cox | May 22, 2015 5:35am
 Ald. Milly Santiago says she wants to improve local schools despite dwindling resources at CPS.
Ald. Milly Santiago says she wants to improve local schools despite dwindling resources at CPS.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Like many of her 12 fellow freshman aldermen, Ald. Milly Santiago (31st) feels it was a commitment to listen to the voters that led to her victory and a seat in the City Council.

She extended that attitude to her new colleagues at her first City Council meeting this week.

"I'm excited," Santiago said. "I just want to get my feet wet and learn from everybody. I'm gonna be like a sponge learning from all the veterans here."

Yet make no mistake, what she learned on the campaign trail was to listen to the voters.

"In my campaign, the main issues were public safety, more gang activity, people feeling safe in their own homes and more economic development," Santiago said.

Yet she felt her commitment to education was another key issue separating her from Ray Suarez, the incumbent alderman she beat in a runoff. Santiago said she would "continue advocating for better schools, better quality of education" in local schools.

"I know that our resources are very limited" with the budget crunch faced by Chicago Public Schools, she added, but she expressed determination to find "more funding for the classrooms" in order to "bring the scores up and get all the schools" to the highest rating for CPS.

She's also looking into a proposal to raise money to renovate the athletic fields at Foreman High School.

"I’m going to schedule a meeting with them sometime next week,” Santiago said. “I really want to get hands-on and talk about it and learn more about it."

Suarez displayed a commitment to affordable housing as chairman of the City Council's Housing Committee, and he trumpeted a new development project at the old Marshall Field's warehouse at Diversey Avenue and Pulaski Road, a project set to include a new grocery store.

Yet Santiago said she actually turned those issues into her strengths.

"There are a lot of things that are still pending" on the warehouse plan, she said. "I think it's a good project. My issue was there was no community input.

"This whole thing is gonna be businesses," Santiago added. "So I think it's gonna be a good thing, but we want to make sure that there are job opportunities, especially for people in my ward, and that what's coming is gonna be something that benefits the entire city."

Santiago said she wanted to extend that throughout the 31st Ward.

"There are a lot of empty storefronts," Santiago said. "And I want to be able to somehow work with the neighborhood organizations and chambers of commerce to try to find ways to bring more businesses into my ward."

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