Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Milagros "Milly" Santiago

Milagros "Milly" Santiago

Candidate for City Council, 31st Ward

Milagros "Milly" Santiago

Candidate for City Council, 31st Ward

Portrait of Milagros "Milly" Santiago

Education: Bachelor's degree in Communications, Northeastern Illinois University.

Occupation: Communications Manager for state agencies under the Central Management Services.

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered


Candidates running for City Council, 31st Ward

Responses to the Chicago Tribune's questionnaire

Q: Last year, the Chicago Tribune's investigative series "Broken Bonds" reported that, since 2000, Chicago had issued long-term bonds to spend nearly $10 billion, much of it for short-term operating expenses. Hundreds of millions of dollars went to delay bond payments by refinancing old debts, a tactic known as "scoop and toss" that extends payments far into the future. Was this borrowing justified? Going forward, how should City Hall change its finances to pay down existing debts and provide services? Will you argue primarily for cuts in spending or for tax increases? Please be specific.

For too long we have played this game of "kicking the can down the road" when it comes to city finances. The use of "scoop and toss" should only be used in dire financial situations. We also need to stop procrastinating when it comes to making financial decisions. Waiting until the last minute to discuss a solution to the problem only guarantees that the solution you pick is going to be bad. The city's finances have been a mess for so long, the only way to fix them is to cut spending and increase taxes. When the city council is afforded little time to analyze proposed budgets, finding ways to eliminate wasteful spending is extremely difficult. If elected, I will work closely with the state assembly to pass the Fair Tax bill.

Q: Chicago will face a substantial increase in contributions to its police and fire pension funds in 2016. Chicago's unfunded pension liability amounts to about $7,000 for each resident of the city. How should the city solve its pension crisis? Please be specific about pension changes, spending cuts or revenue increases you would support.

I mentioned using the Fair Tax bill to help solve our financial issues on question one. This is one of the main reasons I support the Fair Tax bill, because making our police and firefighters pay the price for years of bad management of our city finances is morally wrong. But I believe we need to be having this discussion now rather than later.

Q: What changes should be made in the city's use of tax increment financing? Would you support expansion or extension of TIF districts in your ward? How should excess TIF funds be spent? Do you support the $55 million allotment of TIF funds to buy land for a Marriott Hotel and DePaul basketball arena? Please explain.

TIF funding is vitally important to the 31st ward and to the city. But we must insure that the TIF funding is spent properly, that is why I'm in support of having each of TIF individually addressed by the city council. Any excess should be used to toward economic development that will help to create long last jobs. I am against the building of the DePaul basketball arena, on the grounds that the city council has spent billions on projects like these, with little to no financial return.

Q: The Tribune Editorial Board recently offered "12 ways to heal a city" — the best ideas among more than 1,000 suggestions from readers on how to craft "A new Plan of Chicago." These proposals are available at Please tell us which ideas you would champion. We invite you to offer additional ideas for dealing with Chicago's challenges.

The problems of Chicago are many, whether its the economy, our failing school system, to our crime epidemic there is no "silver bullet" answer. Fixing schools to fix Chicago is one of the first steps we must take if we wish to see a more prosperous city. Coupled that with making it more attractive for smaller businesses to start up, and lowering tax levels so larger manufacturing companies can move back into the area. Combining all three (new skilled labor, tax incentives and attractive business opportunities) of these measures will help to make chicago more attractive and economically stronger. With new jobs being created that will broaden our tax base and increase revenue. The new tax revenue can be used to hire more police to patrol higher crime areas.

Q: Should the City Council keep or abolish the office of legislative inspector general? Should the city inspector general be given the authority to investigate aldermen and their staff members? Do you have other ideas to improve government ethics in Chicago? Please explain.

Absolutely, we should keep the office of legislative inspector general and they should be given authority to investigate all facets of the City Council. I believe the IG office should be funded and have the authority to investigate any Alderman. Just recently I saw a report come from the IG's office that there was political work being done on legislative time back 2011. As I walk the ward, many of the people I have talked to have heard of city employees circulating petitions for candidates during this election with the promise of overtime pay. We must hold all of our elected officials to a higher standard, and I look forward to hearing new ways we can do more on ethics reform. Chicago deserves better.

Q: The Chicago Public Schools system has seen significant improvements in freshmen on track and high school graduation rates. CPS has also closed dozens of schools, used fiscal 2016 revenue to balance its 2015 budget and faces a roughly $700 million pension payment in 2016. Please give us your assessment of the academic and financial performance of the city's public schools. What is the key to improving public education in the city? Should members of the Board of Education be elected by the public or continue to be appointed by the mayor? Do you support the longer school day and year? Should CPS expand or reduce the number of charter schools? How should CPS close its significant budget gap?

The latest successes of CPS cannot be ignored, but there is always room for improvement. I believe we can take some of the successes charter schools have achieved in the past decades and fuse them into the CPS classroom. We must make sure that students, teachers, parents and schools themselves are learning from one another. We need to focus on neighborhood schools, because a CPS school is the glue for every neighborhood. Here in the 31th Ward we have public schools, private schools and charter schools and all three are good but not great. I believe a dialog must be created between all three types of school to make sure the children of Chicago are getting the best education possible. The CPS fiscal crisis must be addressed head on before things get worse. I believe our schools would benefit greatly from the revenue generated by the Fair Tax bill. Using property taxes as a way to fund education may work in other parts of the state, but it is no longer a viable option here in Chicago. Having a board of education appointed by the mayor continues to ensure that the board will continue to sign off on TIF funds while not taking into account how the loss of those TIF funds will affect the schools. Having an elected school board offers more transparency.

Q: How would you attract more employers to your ward? How would you encourage employers to hire local residents? What have you done to promote economic development in your ward?

I would help create economic development in a number of ways here in the 31st ward. The first would be to remove the Suarez corruption tax that my opponent has used to enrich himself and drive out businesses from the ward. While out door knocking, I have heard that the small businesses here are zoned and ticketed into financial ruin, if they do not help with his campaign fundraising. It is believed he has raised 3.6 million dollars by using these kinds of strong arm tactics The second way I would attract businesses would be to remove blanket zoning which has made it harder for small businesses to expand here in the 31st ward. One of the first jobs an Alderman must do, is to removing obstacles for businesses. While out walking my Ward, I have heard from numerous business owners about all the obstacles he creates, which has drive many business out of the ward.

Q: Do you support or oppose the City Council vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019? Please explain.

I do support the minimum wage increase. I would even consider a more aggressive measure if offered, because it is the morally right thing to do. My parents worked tirelessly to provide for me and my siblings. For parents today to work 40 hours a week and still be unable to provide for their children is simply impossible.

Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.

I do support the building of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. This will be another great tourist and educational attraction that will help generate more tourism dollars, and help inspire future students. But I believe we should save at least some part of the lakeshore for future generations. I'm not opposed to looking at other locations for the Museum that will attract people to an area beside downtown.

Q: How can the city improve public safety? Please address the role and performance of the Chicago Police Department and the role of neighborhood residents in crime prevention. What have you done to improve public safety in your community?

True public safety can only work when both residents and police work together. Chicago's police force and residents have had a up and down relationship but it is still possible to mend those fences. We must break down the us versus them mentality,and replace it with we are all equal parts of this city. But we must also have parents stop teaching their children that the police are not friends of the community. Parents must teach their children to respect our police officers, and in many cases feel comfortable to inform the police when a crime is committed. As a reporter I covered a lot of stories dealing with crime in the community, and when reporting I would have to explain the process of how our justice system works to a community held back by cultural, and language barriers. In my 22 years of being in the media the toughest stories were when parents felt like they were left in the dark when a crime was committed against their children. Because they didn't know what to do or what rights are in those situations.

Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.

These cameras are both very unpopular but also promotes driving safety. But in recent years it seems the cameras are more about taxation than creating safe drivers. While we need to raise more revenue but not at the expense of public safety. I would like to see some data that actually shows that these cameras create safer drivers. These cameras are an unfair burden upon my working class residents, where a 100 dollar ticket can be quite harmful.

Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?

No. While it seems like a popular idea to downsize government, what we would be creating would be a higher budget for few politicians to continue to represent their districts. Doing so will only allow Ray Suarez to ignore more constituents while allowing Suarez to victimize more smaller businesses with his "corruption tax." One only has to drive through the 31st ward to see how Ray Suarez will only work to enrich himself. With only 20,000 registered voters Suarez has 3.6 million dollars in his campaign fund, to increase his combine his ward with other ward will only increase his campaign fund. It is elected officials that makes people feel like the government isn't working. This will be a short answer to removing ineffective politicians, but it also makes it harder for all minority groups are properly represented on the council.

Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?

Having walked in every neighborhood in the 31st ward, and knocked on hundreds of doors, the one single issues I have heard that resonates through the ward is public safety and fairness receiving service from the alderman's office. Residents feel that the alderman is not full time and is not engaged in creating partnerships that would reduce crime. Many residents have teenagers and they are beginning to question if their neighborhood is the right environment to raise them. Residents and small business are definitely not happy with the service they receive. We have documented small businesses that say they are required to buy a table at a fundraiser in order to get things done. This is unacceptable.

Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

Shortly after moving to Chicago, I decided to enlist into the Illinois Army Reserves. I served in a combat support unit, and I was later station at Fort Sheridan here in Illinois. After serving in the reserves I left the reserves with an honorable discharge. Milly would eventually be hired as a news reporter by Telemundo, where she soon gained popularity and respect as an aggressive reporter covering breaking news, politics, education, health, community issues and elections. She later worked as a news anchor for Univision. Milly is overjoyed with the number of residents that open theirs door and recognize her from TV.