Winning over the people of LA instantly with last summer’s AB 390 legislature, the elimination of jaywalking tickets for those who mistakenly or purposely wandered into the crosswalk during countdown followed promptly by the AB 19 legislature, the elimination of intuition fees for the first year students entering community college, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago undoubtedly became a hero to some and a saint to others. DTLA Weekly sat downtown with the Assemblyman this fall, and after listening noticed he did, indeed, show almost all of the 7 Saintly Traits within his accomplishments.
Saintly Trait #1 – exemplary model
Heading into his 3rd term, for State Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, 2017 has been a year full of accomplishments. When not accepting awards or presenting huge grants to non profits and other worthy causes, spending time with family, or authoring historic bills that have become laws, Miguel spent most of this year as he has most of his political career; campaigning for change, healthy neighborhoods, equal opportunities, and leading the way for a new era in education.
Blessings for all!
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It seemed each month brought upon solidifying arguments that stretched the limit of our capabilities as Miguel spent a large amount of time traveling from Downtown to Sacramento keeping Governor Jerry Brown busy signing new bills into law.
Saintly Trait # 2 Refusal in Material Gain
Miguel’s ability to stay submerged in humility is evident as he continues to secure billions in bond measures from the state and federal government. There will be no poisonous facilities or irresponsible gun laws with long-lasting detrimental effects in our communities on Miguel’s watch. He has no problem taking on conglomerates who pollute our neighborhoods or pushing back on concealed-carry reciprocities brought upon us by the alt-right.
Saintly Trait # 3 – the Intercessor
His office located on 4th and Broadway is decorated with family photos, file cabinets, a large mahogany desk with matching leather chair and cornered California and American Flags. His wall portraits accent a gallery of great Democratic leaders who came before him. JFK, MLK, Obama, and Miguel too, occupy the space all standing as exemplary models of leaders in politics.
Miguel Santiago the man is a complex mechanism. One who not only possesses an external hard drive with a boyish charm and keen sense of humor along with a signature smile, but also somehow a man equipped with an internal drive that in many ways allows him the dedication to author momentous legislation that can be perceived as no less than blessings for the state of California.
Saintly Trait # 4 – Possession of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.
Long before his life in politics, Miguel, the son of two Mexican immigrant parents growing up in Los Angeles, noticed inequities of life when it came to family members versus friends who lived in more affluent neighborhoods. At a young age, he set out to do what he could to level the playing field.
First, with a strong interest in civil rights and historical studies, Miguel’s early days of community college gave him a better understanding of how economics impacted peoples lives. This realization, that it was indeed lawmakers responsible for our standard of living, gave Miguel the feeling, the only way to change things would be to become a lawmaker himself, or at least lend his energy to the campaigns of the politicians who shared his views. But not before flirting with the idea of joining the parish.
“I fell into politics a bit by accident”.
Flirting with an alternate future in lessons of theology and divinity at LMU Seminary turned out not as enticing as studying history and law at UCLA and being able to work for the people on the grassroots level. Due to his unwavering passion on the campaign trail in support of others, however, it wasn’t long before colleagues began coaxing him to run himself which eventually led him to the appointment of President of the Los Angeles Community College Board in 2008.
Saintly Trait # 5 – Wonder Worker and Source of Benevolent power
Miguel, back then, a young dynamo, as president of the Board, would become the breath of life our community college system so desperately needed. With the vision of “expanding the hopes and dreams for our students”, in less than two years Miguel found himself building pipelines into higher education, discovering and redistributing mismanaged funds, changing the guard, and balancing the budget. Sure there was opposition, but there were also numerous miracles taking place when it came to the workforce, education, and training programs of our community colleges. Miracles.
“Someone’s charge to reform is someone else’s understanding that maybe their work isn’t up to par. Regardless, the responsibility you have as someone in public office is to deliver the goods.”
By the end of his tenure as board member, Miguel would be most influential in securing a 1.3 billion dollar bond that would erect dozens of new buildings, changing the face of technical programs at least 9 community colleges including L.A. Trade Tech, East Los Angeles College, and Los Angeles Community College. A time Miguel stated consisting of, “lots of ribbon cuttings, but more important – a lot of new buildings now offering a good education.”
In November of 2014, Miguel Santiago was sworn in as State Assemblymember for District 53; an area spanning from Boyle Heights to Handcock Park, and smack center, our very own Downtown Los Angeles. That moment Miguel found himself immersed in the challenges and enormous opportunities that preexisted in his new district.
Saintly Trait # 6 – Extraordinary Teacher
In the state legislature, housing and homelessness would be his next venture.
Joining fellow legislator Senator Mitchell, the two carried legislation “Housing First” consisting of housing first models throughout California. “The state has got to begin to reframe the way they approach the issue of homeless and cannot be addressed any other way but to provide the home first and then the wrap-around support services,” said Miguel.
In 2015 Miguel announced a $2 billion Homeless Fund Initiative with intentions among other things, to eliminate the bureaucratic red tape, make sure services are coordinated, and increase the number of homeless dollars, especially for seniors, children, and vets. With reflection and deep thought, and lessons learned from successful grassroots programs from his past, Miguel set a path towards elevating poverty thru charity work, teaching, education and institutional change, while working on policies to help people live another day and create the infrastructures they need to get out of poverty and change the core root of what causes poverty itself.
As complicated as all these matters must seem, Miguel simply stated, “You got to take a chip out of all the different angles of it.”
Juggling family life and a beautiful understanding wife, Miguel is most grateful and very fortunate to “have married someone who believes in the work that we do and who is very supportive. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude” For son Ethan 4, and daughter Brielle 1, Miguel is a super dad who avoids phone calls, reading, and politics during family time. Blessed with in-laws which he laughs are “So proud, and confused at me sometimes,” Miguel noted, “It takes a village to change a community. I’m surrounded by a very good team, supportive community working very, very hard, and two offices here in Downtown, the other in Sacramento…Two offices, one team…. One heck of a team that deserves a good portion of the credit for the work that’s been done.”
Saintly Trait # 7 – Being acknowledged as a Saint
The Catholic Church teaches that it does not “make” or “create” saints, but rather recognizes them. Proof of saintly attributes is in the pudding so to speak. If that is the case, in our book, Miguel Santiago is ready for his own mini statue on the dashboard of our future.
For more information please visit https://a53.asmdc.org/