School Committeewoman Marisol Santiago announced on Tuesday that she had made a U-turn and pulled Nomination Papers for City Council District 3, and has now qualified for the ballot to run for Council.
Santiago, who had previously pulled Papers for re-election to District 3 School Committee, said she changed course recently and pulled Council papers last Friday. She was able to turn them in on the last date to file, Tuesday, Aug. 3, and be qualified for the ballot, she said.
Were the others in the race, Incumbent Councillor Naomi Zabot and Challenger Norieliz DeJesus, able to qualify for the ballot, it would trigger the first Preliminary Election in District 3 in recent memory – a district that encompasses Mill Hill and the Spencer Avenue areas. The Board of Election Commissioners has until Aug. 17 to certify candidates that turned in Nomination Papers.
“During the pandemic, in the schools, we were able to do things where we were quite ahead of other cities,” she said. “That’s because there was a relationship and understanding of what our community is and what families need. When I think of City Council I want to make sure we have that same level of understanding that the community needs…I want to make sure District 3, my neighborhood representation at the Council, will be very active and really focus on conversations with families so we are ready when it’s time for big decisions.”
Santiago has long been active in organizing and political organizing, but was never a candidate until she got involved in the Superintendent Search Committee. As a parent of school-age children, she felt the City was at a critical juncture in choosing a new superintendent when former Supt. Mary Bourque retired. That process was very positive, she said, and when no one ran for School Committee from District 3 that year, she said she felt the need to stand up and see through even more of the process.
For the past two terms, she said she has enjoyed working on the School Committee issues, and the past two years have been extremely invigorating and full of hard decisions – particularly during the pandemic when Chelsea was hit so hard and the schools had very little guidance from the state about what to do and not to do.
Now, Santiago said she sees a similar critical juncture at the Council level as so much federal money begins to pour into the City from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan. Those resources, she said, could change the City and its families forever if used correctly.
“I need to know the representation on the City Council is very grounded and rooted in understanding what our families need in this moment,” she said. “I need to feel confident my neighborhood and District 3 will feel supported and be seen. I struggle with the decision, but I felt I had important things to say and half of my life is figuring out what to do in the short-term, what to do now, and then what we will end up doing long-term. With the federal funding, this is a very critical juncture…I think District 3 deserves to have a choice and that’s what democracy is all about. It will be up to the voters to make the decision of who the person should be.”
Santiago said as a School Committee member, she has a reputation for returning phone calls and picking up the phone. That won’t change, she said, as a district councillor. She said some other district issues she’s worried about include the flooding on Eastern Avenue, the East Boston/Chelsea Creek substation, and planning for the entire Creek and waterfront in District 3.
She said her candidacy will be about not only protesting, but having a proven ability to take the next step.
“I don’t feel we are being effective advocates when we just show up to rally with a bullhorn,” she said. “When that happens, I’m there for that…That’s direct action and families need that, but the next step we take is the more critical one. That’s something I do well and I have proven that.”
If, indeed, District 3 gets all three candidates certified for the ballot, that would trigger a Preliminary Election on Sept. 21.