His colleagues haven’t seen him in City Hall for months. His constituents can’t find him in the neighborhood. He doesn’t answer his phone.
People are beginning to wonder if it’s time to replace Fair Haven Alderman Gabriel Santiago.
Santiago (pictured), a freshman alderman who took office in January, has attended only six of 18 Board of Aldermen meetings and five of 17 committee meetings this year. Most of the meetings he did attend were in the first half of the year. His attendance has dropped off steeply in recent months.
He last attended a full board meeting on July 2. He officially sits on two aldermanic committees: human services and youth. He last attended a human services meeting on May 9. He last attended a youth meeting on May 2.
At bimonthly aldermanic meetings, it has become an expected occurrence for the attendance roll call of “Santiago?” to be met by silence from the alderman’s empty chair.
After repeated messages left on his cell phone and at his workplace seeking comment for this article since last week, Santiago (pictured) called back Tuesday afternoon—only to ask that he not be called again.
He said he couldn’t answer questions: “Right now is not a great time.”
That’s more than he has said to some constituents and fellow politicos who have tried to reach him.
“My understanding is that he has no desire to be an alderman anymore,” said Rafael Ramos, co-chair of the Democratic Committee in Santiago’s Ward 14, which covers eastern Fair Haven. “That’s from other folks in the community.”
Ramos said he doesn’t know why Santiago stopped showing up to meetings.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “Maybe he didn’t realize the commitment” involved in being an alderman.
“He doesn’t answer my phone either,” Ramos said. “I’ve been trying to talk to him for six months. I can’t get a hold of him.”
Ramos said neighbors in the ward aren’t happy with their AWOL alderman: “I think people are frustrated. It is frustrating because we have no representation right now.”
If Santiago steps down before June 30, the ward would have 45 days to hold a special election to name a replacement. If he steps down after June 30—that is, within six months of the end of his term—the mayor would appoint his successor.
“The fact that we may have a special election and in a hurry may not give us the best candidate,” Ramos said. He said he expects a special election after the regular election in next month.
Hill Aldermen Jorge Perez, the president of the board, said Santiago hasn’t told him that he plans to step down. “It is my understanding that there is some interest in that community for people to try to run.”
Santiago came into office in January as part of a wave of union-backed aldermen that swept into office on a promise of community-based responsiveness and grassroots government.
posted by: S Brown on October 23, 2012 3:18pm
More broken promises. Amazingly I can still get a response to an email to the person who last held this seat four years ago, but never once got a reply to any communication with Santiago, or Bauer before him, when they were sitting alders. And if Bauer is any guide, Santiago will have the audacity to run for a second term.
posted by: anonymous on October 23, 2012 3:43pm
Another reason why we need to reduce the number of Aldermen to 10 or fewer.
posted by: Threefifths on October 23, 2012 3:54pm
You see You see.I love this crooked two party system.Keep voting them in.
You got love this you tube.
The Lazy Politicians Song Luke Conard & Peter Hollens.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on October 23, 2012 3:57pm
Too many alders…. And it is a thankless job.
posted by: XT on October 23, 2012 4:00pm
What about the UNIONS that brought him into office? After supporting his campaign, do they not have the responsibility to make sure that their candidates are effective alderpeople? Maybe they need to vet their candidates better?
posted by: PH on October 23, 2012 5:45pm
Time to reduce the number of aldermen. 9 or 11 should work. And then institute a rule requiring attendance at half of all board meetings by the six month mark or there is an automatic special election for your seat.
posted by: Morgan Barth on October 23, 2012 6:24pm
I hope that the commission studying the City Charter uses this as one of many, many reasons to propose reducing the number of aldermen. Most cities, of all sizes, have a dozen or fewer members on their city councils. It’s hard to imagine someone going AWOL for this long if New Haven’s board were smaller and more accountable.
posted by: robn on October 23, 2012 7:43pm
There’s kindof an intellectual honesty to his going AWOL that promotes reduction of the number of aldermen.
That being said…can’t wait to see what kind of gerrymandering comes about in reaction to a reduced board.
posted by: Mike Slattery on October 23, 2012 8:21pm
Just wanted to lob in there that I hope all is well with him. Goodness knows what might be going on. I hope his constituents get satisfaction, but I’m not comfortable diagnosing him as lazy, etc. This case does expose some flaws in the system. There’s a lot of work with no real compensation, or family support. I’ll echo the sentiment that we should all look at these flaws systemically as Charter revision looms.
posted by: David S Baker on October 23, 2012 9:14pm
He is probably tired of being told how to vote. Being handed that many free political mailings always mean strings are attached; even when they have “not coordinated with any campaign or committee” stamped on the bottom.
Does Yale’s bargaining unit have a mayoral candidate picked out yet?
Awesome tag, NHI. Oregon Trail was a personal favorite.
posted by: Threefifths on October 23, 2012 9:23pm
I have solve this type of problem.All you have to do is buy a crooked politician and then you do not have to worry if he or she shows up.
posted by: robn on October 23, 2012 10:53pm
Do you think that Local 34’s voracious pursuit of power and self enrichment might also be part of the problem? Maybe Adam Marchand could answer that for us. Just wanted to lob that one in.
posted by: Newhavenadvocate on October 24, 2012 2:38am
It would be disastrous if Fair Haven lost a representative in the Board of Aldermen and I hope that no one would even slightly entertain that idea. It’s bad enough as it is fighting an uphill battle across racial, socioeconomic, linguistic and political barriers. Fair Haven needs representation. What’s in place to ensure that representation is adequately supported?
Which is to say that Santiago’s problem seems mostly the problem of being Fair Haven’s alderperson. It’s a neighborhood that could use a much larger piece of the pie and that job is hard (and thankless) enough as it is. For one person who actually wants to change things, it’s a lot.
posted by: anonymous on October 24, 2012 7:45am
Robn He’s not the only one of the CCNE-bought candidates who is NROA (non responsive on arrival).
posted by: Fairhaven#27 on October 24, 2012 9:01am
That is why I did not vote for him. He never did anything in Ward 14 since he was elected at least Stephanie did do good things in the neighborhood. Oh well time to replace him soon.
Run Again Ms. Bauer !
posted by: Long Time NH Resident on October 24, 2012 10:45am
Its very obvious he doesn’t want the position anymore. He should be responsible enough to just resign so he doesn’t hold his neighborhood hostage by doing nothing. How thoughtless of others.
My Alderperson has been MIA for months and doesn’t return emails or phone calls, but his predecessor does. Time for a serious change in the way things work in New Haven.
posted by: Noteworthy on October 25, 2012 9:20am
This is a serious issue. Santiago, hand-picked by Gwen Mills and the Unite Here crowd ran with the understanding he wanted the job, that he was willing to represent his ward and in return, the public took their a prized and valuable right - their vote - and put him in office. I don’t care what his excuses are for not coming to meetings, not returning phone calls and being AWOL - they are insufficient. He should resign immediately and if he doesn’t the UNITE crowd on the board including the the BOA President Jorge Perez should censure him for abandoning votes and taxpayers.
The real question is not just where is Santiago, but where is UNITE HERE, Gwen Mills and the executive board? Why are they leaving citizens hanging out to dry?
posted by: bcrosby on October 25, 2012 12:40pm
As a fellow young person involved in politics, I was very excited when Alderman Santiago decided to step up and decide to increase his leadership in his community. It’s really important to have young folks involved in politics; Santiago is either the youngest or second-youngest on the Board. It’s a real shame that he has not been able to be particularly present over the last few months; I hope he’s doing okay - I know things can come up in peoples’ lives. I am confident that he will make the decision that he needs to both for himself and to do right by the people he represents, whether that means recommitting to his position or letting someone else take his place.
posted by: ramonesfan on October 25, 2012 1:05pm
It took the CIA almost 10 years to track down Osama bin Laden, so this caper could last awhile. Maybe one of the detectives from the Carmen Sandiego could be of help?
posted by: Anders on October 25, 2012 7:05pm
This shows a 30 person BOA is best. Even if 10 went AWOL there would still be 20 left to keep it functioning democratically.
posted by: FrontStreet on October 25, 2012 8:26pm
As a ward 14 resident, I’m dismayed to hear my alderman has basically gone AWOL. If there is something serious going on in his life, as an elected official he owes it to his constituents and the city to make timely and respectful explanation and, if necessary, cede his office. Anything less is dereliction of duty.