Rahm Does Not Live Here Anymore
It is a long way from New Trier Township High School to Lakeview. Nevertheless, Rahm Emanuel chose to announce his mayoral candidacy at John C. Coonley Public School in North Center.
Emanuel likes to describe himself as a “native Chicagoan.”
In the broadest sense of the term, based upon the address of the maternity hospital where his mother gave birth, that may be a colorable version of the truth in much the same way that Winona Laura Horowitz can claim an affinity and bond for Winona, Minnesota since her hippie parents named her after the city on the Mississippi River. In actuality, Winona was born in a neighboring county, Olmstead County, Minnesota, and not in the city or county of Winona proper.
Like the actress, who changed her name to “Winona Ryder” for screen purposes, Emanuel’s identity has been similarly reinvented. His family changed their last name from Auerbach to Emanuel to honor the memory of a deceased relative, Emanuel Auerbach, who died in the fight to establish the independent state of Israel. Now, on the campaign trail, North Shore Rahm is almost ready to claim that he was raised in Bridgeport, worked in the Union Stockyards, and grew up watching the Chicago White Sox at Old Comiskey Park. Egads!
You have to give the man credit for trying as he repeated words crafted by David Axelrod and his public relations minded associates. While at Coonley, Emanuel was waxing nostalgic about life in Albany Park, where his physician father practiced medicine and an uncle worked as a police officer at the station on Pulaski Road. In geographic terms, Albany Park is a few short miles removed from the gentrified streets of North Center and tens of thousands of dollars removed in terms of declining local real estate values and the annual income of its impoverished residents. Emanuel proudly noted that he formerly represented Albany Park in the US House of Representatives.
The word pictures that Emanuel painted of his idyllic Chicago childhood were as fanciful as anything to be found in works of juvenile fiction. One would almost expect “Rahm of Sunnybrook Farm” to describe walking with his dad and uncle, barefoot, along the muddy banks of North Branch of the Chicago River with their fishing poles in hand while the theme from “The Andy Griffith Show” played in the background.
In reality, the Emanuel family relocated to suburbia quite quickly and long before Albany Park ceased to be a prosperous middle class Jewish enclave within the city of Chicago and gang activities became an issue at Roosevelt and Von Steuben High Schools. Emanuel attended public schools in Wilmette, Illinois and graduated from the affluent New Trier Township High School. He is, in truth, a dyed in the wool, white flight suburbanite. He only returned to Chicago because picking up the vacant congressional seat of his one time political ally, the now disgraced Rod Blagojevich, was simpler than waging a campaign in a competitive North Shore district where the moderate to liberal Republican Mark Kirk was the incumbent.
Can we believe Emanuel when he says that he wants to end “pay to play politics” and change the political culture of Chicago? How does he do that when he owes his career to playing the insider’s game? Emanuel obtained access by buying his way into the game. His political methods are reminiscent of the traction tycoon, Charles Tyson Yerkes, who arrived upon the scene from somewhere else and simply showered dollars upon corrupt members of the state legislature and the city council to acquire his street car franchises and valuable right of ways. A century after Yerkes, Emanuel fastened himself onto Richard M. Daley and then attached himself to William J. Clinton.
Emanuel continues to deny any knowledge of how Donald Tomczak and an army of city employees from the Water Department descended upon the 5th Congressional District to support his candidacy in a contested primary in 2002. Emanuel told John Kass of “The Chicago Tribune” that he would never condone using municipal employees to perform political work at the taxpayers’ expense. The 5th District contains over five hundred election precincts. Seriously, do you believe that Emanuel did not know any of the precinct workers campaigning on his behalf? These workers simply showed up and performed valuable work without any communications or coordination occurring between the campaign office and Tomczak’s crews?
Would Emanuel be willing to give those same incredible responses under oath?
The biggest obstacle that Emanuel does not wish to acknowledge is that the applicable law governing residential requirements for candidates seeking municipal offices mandates that these individuals reside in the relevant election district for one year prior to seeking office. Emanuel feels confident, however, that if his case is litigated that a complacent judge will strike down the odious law and permit him to run for mayor with no further questions being asked.
What does it matter if Illinois has had residency requirements for most officeholders in various forms since the 1870s? The numerous case precedents involving candidates and elected officials are meaningless to the ambitious Emanuel. Try telling that to the school teachers, police officers and firefighters who have to maintain their residences within the city limits as a condition of their employment!
Emanuel’s apologists insist that the statute provides an exemption which would allow him to retain his residency on account of his patriotic service as the White House Chief of Staff. Unfortunately, a closer reading of the law indicates that the particular exemption was clearly designed to cover persons absent from their place of residence while on active duty in the armed services. While various stories have been told about Emanuel’s heroic deeds and exploits, I am unaware of his ever having enlisted in any branch of the United States military.
One wonders why the penny wise and pound foolish Rahm did not simply maintain a pied-a-terre inside of the city for the past year and half? He could have easily afforded to do so. Emanuel has had a history of sticking his foot in it when it comes to housing matters. While in Congress, the thrifty Emanuel lived in a basement apartment in the home of Connecticut Democratic representative Rosa DeLauro. The problem was it was an illegal basement apartment in a single family home that violated District of Columbia zoning laws. When the story was publicized, Emanuel was ridiculed as a “cheapskate” in the media.
Upon resigning his position in Congress to assume the position of White House Chief of Staff, Emanuel purchased a home in the vicinity of the White House and leased his Chicago property. He relocated his entire family to the District area and enrolled his children in school there. According to newspaper reports, Rob Halpin, a real estate developer who is Emanuel’s tenant, flatly refused to vacate the former Emanuel residence prior to the expiration of his current lease to enable Emanuel to move back and maintain the creative fiction that he never changed his place of residence. Opponents of Emanuel have even discussed having Halpin run for mayor himself! If nothing else that would underscore the point that Rahm does not live on North Hermitage anymore. Emanuel eventually had to take up lodgings at a condominium apartment on the 700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue when he bailed out of the fast sinking Obama White House.
While Emanuel has labored mightily to depict himself as the preferred successor of Richard M. Daley, it is intriguing that the retiring mayor never confided his future plans to Emanuel in sufficient time to allow him to return to Chicago or to establish a new place of residence in advance of the 2011municipal elections. My own guess is that Daley was weighing his own decision concerning whether or not to seek another term and that he never consulted with Emanuel at all. When the mayor made his announcement, it was too late for Emanuel to return home for twelve months before the date of the February 22, 2011 election.
During his “listening tour,” which was undertaken upon his return to Chicago, Emanuel labored mightily to project an aura of inevitability and invincibility. His single greatest achievement to date has been to suck all of the oxygen out of La Salle Street in terms of campaign fundraising. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is supposed to have halted his exploratory mayoral candidacy once he learned that Emanuel had locked up financial commitments from so many potential contributors.
Emanuel has retained the services of a leading election lawyer, Michael Kasper, who also serves as counsel to the Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael J. Madigan. That fact in itself is quite revealing in that it demonstrates that Emanuel has been advised that he could face a serious challenge to his candidacy. Nevertheless, Emanuel has determined to fight on irrespective of the law.
Several other prominent election law practitioners, including Burton Odelson and James Nally, have opined that Emanuel cannot possible prevail in a challenge to his residency status unless the courts choose to abandon most if not all of the established case precedents on the subject. For what it is worth, Odelson and Kasper squared off in the State Supreme Court a few months ago and Odelson’s client, former State Senator Steve Rauschenberger, won the lawsuit and secured his place upon the ballot. Rauschenberger was narrowly defeated in the recent general election in which he made a strong effort to reclaim his former state senate seat.
This could be a battle royal that may possibly be decided before the Supreme Court of Illinois. That in and of itself is something of a rarity as the expedited schedule of electoral board proceedings and the judicial review of board decisions sometimes precludes the possibility of a decision being appealed from the 1st District Appellate Court in Chicago to the Supreme Court in Springfield. Usually, there is simply not enough time to litigate a case as far as the Illinois Supreme Court, but this case is likely to be an exception to that generalization.
If an objection is filed to Emanuel’s candidacy by the November 30, 2010 deadline, the newspapers are going to be filled with reports on residency requirements for weeks and months to come.
Daniel J. Kelley is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer