Most Cornell students don’t think about Ithaca politics that much. Most students living in Collegetown might not even know they live in Ithaca Common Council’s 4th Ward, an electoral district that is about 85 percent students. But they should, because this November, they will have the opportunity to send an exceptional candidate to the Common Council, deeply committed to both the Ithaca and Cornell communities—Alejandro Santana.
When I was a student at Cornell, Santana and I worked together as Cornell Police
Auxiliaries—patrolling campus from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., walking students home through the Blue Light Escort Service, and making sure everyone was safe—for my four years on the Hill. I got to know him as a man of the highest integrity, judgment, and commitment to the community. Indeed, Santana owns a local construction company—he’s not a student or an aspiring campus police officer. He wasn’t a Police Auxiliary because he had to be or because he needed the money. He walked around campus until 3 a.m. every other week—often on weekdays when he had to work
the next day—because he wanted to give back to the community, because he cared that deeply.
Santana is running for the Common Council because he believes that the Council has
fallen out of touch with the needs and wishes of the actual people living in the city. He’s running to be your representative, not to promote an ideological agenda of his own. And he’s prioritizing four local issues that are fundamentally important to the lives of Cornell students and others—mental health, public safety, infrastructure, and homelessness. He wants to hear from you, get you involved, and work with you to find real solutions to these challenges as a community.
Alejandro Santana is a father, a business owner, and an immigrant. He grew up in
difficult circumstances in the Dominican Republic before earning a Presidential Scholarship to attend Tompkins-Cortland Community College, where he studied Hotel and Restaurant Management. He’s lived in Ithaca for 21 years, and worked for many years for a construction company before starting his own company—Santana Construction Co.—just a few years ago. He is a devoted father to four children in the Ithaca City Schools and involved in a variety of community activities including the Ithaca Dragon Boat Club and Tough Turtle Ithaca.
Let me tell a quick personal story about Santana, about who the person you would be electing is. When I was a junior living in Collegetown without a meal plan and a car, in the days before Anabel’s Grocery and before Uber came to town, it could be really hard to get groceries. One night when I was on patrol with Santana, I was almost out of food and I honestly did not know what I was going to do. After work that night—at 4 a.m.—Santana drove me to Wegmans (it at least used to be open 24/7), though he’d be getting up for work at 6 a.m. that morning. When I thanked him he just smiled and said “you gotta eat.” That’s who Alejandro Santana is. He’s the kind of person who understands these kinds of challenges, and will do whatever he can to help, whatever the cost to himself. That’s who you’d be electing if you vote for Santana in November.
The kind of person who will drive you to Wegmans at 4 a.m. because you don’t know how else you’d get there.
For a long time, Cornell students have looked primarily to Cornell, not the City of Ithaca, for solutions for many of the challenges that they face living in Collegetown. And this makes sense, because for a long time the Common Council has been disconnected from the real needs and wishes of the community. But Cornell students are citizens of Ithaca, and many of the challenges that Santana hopes to tackle—like infrastructure and homelessness—are best addressed by the City as a whole.
Registering to vote in Ithaca is not hard. And it’s worth it, because it will give you an opportunity to have a real voice in the community you live and study and work and eat and go out in every day. Ithaca is small—your vote really makes a difference here. In this case, that could be the difference between a Common Council that’s off pursuing its own agenda or one that is really trying to make your lives better, to hear from you, and to work with you on solutions to your challenges.
In short, it may not be that often that you have the opportunity to vote for someone in local politics like Alejandro Santana. There just aren’t that many people like Alejandro Santana.
But when you do, you ought to take it. So get involved (Santana can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org), register to vote in Ithaca, and come November, vote for Santana for Common Council.
Harvard Law School