Friday, December 17, 2010



After the circus that the hearings on Rahm Emanuel’s residency became, I am confident that hearing officer Joe Morris will make a reasoned and sound recommendation to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners regarding Mr. Emanuel’s residency. Back in the ‘90s, I knew Joe Morris reasonably well. We were both involved in the City Club of Chicago and on several occasions appeared together as panelists on a political talk show on WLS. Joe’s politics was somewhat similar to mine (clearly more so back then), his vocabulary was even more similar to mine, and we got along well. One thing that immediately struck me, and has struck everyone else, about Joe Morris is his fairness and reasonableness. So, like everyone, I expect Joe will come up with an eminently fair and reasonable recommendation, especially since he, as a conservative Republican, has no dog in the mayoral fight, so to speak, unless one is to assume that Joe either is a supporter of James Meeks because of his views on education and his conservative outlook on social issues or that Joe is an opponent of Emanuel out of the knee-jerk hatred of Emanuel that characterizes most of those in his party. The first is possible, the second notion is laughable to those who know Joe Morris, and, in any case, Joe’s integrity will override whatever ideological or political feelings he may have.

Yet something came out at these hearings that altered my outlook regarding Rahm Emanuel’s residency. I have said in the past (See, inter alia, my 12/7/10 post MAYBE HE DIDN’T “FINISH WITH THE FOOTBALL” and my 9/10/10 post PRESCIENT MR. PONTIFICATOR? NOT YET.) that one of the reasons that residency will be a problem for Mr. Emanuel is that, as a smart and careful guy, he has to have thought of this issue before leaving his real home, Washington, D.C., to plunge into the mayor’s race in his city of political convenience. But at the hearing, Kevin Forde, one of Emanuel’s phalanx of attorneys, said that Mr. Emanuel was shocked to learn there could be a controversy about his residence and

“The reason he is shocked is because he did understand the residency requirement.”

Mr. Emanuel was shocked that there would be a controversy about his residency because he did understand the residency requirement? Clearly, he didn’t understand the requirement if he thought his living in Washington for at least the last two years wouldn’t be a problem. And if he was so confident that he understood the requirement, perhaps he didn’t think about it all that much before making the plunge into the mayor’s race into his sort of home town.

I still don’t think any of this will matter, though. The powers that be seem to have decided that Mr. Emanuel’s not having been a resident in Chicago has no bearing on his being a resident. Somewhere along the way, probably at some level in the courts, this decision will be ratified and Mr. Emanuel will be allowed to run.

One could add to the last sentence “…as he should be.” I’m not the first to say this, but the residency rule doesn’t make much sense. Why shouldn’t non-residents be allowed to run? If non-residency bothers the voters that much, they can vote against a candidate who is a non-resident. I suspect that most non-residents would be the victims of such a de facto disqualification from holding local office. But it doesn’t make sense to keep them off the ballot entirely.

Still, the law’s the law and the law in Chicago says you have to be a resident of the city of Chicago to run for office on Chicago. Unless, apparently, you are Rahm Emanuel and you have slavish, completely in the tank for you fans in the media and friends among a certain family whose historic residency in Bridgeport has never been questioned.

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