Home Is Where the Job Is?

December 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm (Uncategorized)

DC’s nouveau yuppies face an interesting legal predicament: where do they live?  If you were not born and raised in the District, are you a Washingtonian?  When do you become one?   And what if you prefer to live as an expat in your own country?

Rahm Emanuel and I have struggled with these questions.  Our licenses, voting ballots, and permanent bedrooms reside in a different state–where do we live?  In Emanuel’s case, the philosophical turned political to legal.  He is being sued for illegally running for mayor of Chicago.

Did Mr. Emanuel, who lived in Washington while he worked at the White House until October, maintain legal residency in Chicago, a city that requires candidates for mayor to be residents for at least a year before an election?

How does Emanuel prove that he is a true Chicagoan?  How does anyone in today’s globalized world prove where they are from, where they live, and where is home?

Mr. Emanuel has, in response to those objecting to his candidacy, provided all sorts of information to elections officials (and, as a result, the public): copies of his (Chicago) birth certificate, (Illinois) driver’s license, tax returns, voting record and a list of items — Ms. Rule’s wedding dress, clothes Mr. Emanuel’s infants wore home from the hospital, Mr. Emanuel’s grandfather’s overcoat, a piano, bed and golf clubs — that still sit in the Chicago house Mr. Emanuel rented out when he left for the White House…They say that Mr. Emanuel’s period as chief of staff was always intended to be temporary, and that he has long been a Chicagoan through and through — his car was always registered here, he owned a house here, and his legal residency never shifted.

Our President is a White Sox fan, our Vice President takes Amtrak back to Delaware every Election Day, and I bet our former White House Chief of Staff never changed his cell’s 312 area code.  Do we have the right to decide where home is even if we don’t shower there?  When does “intended to be temporary” job situation become a permanent address?  If I pay taxes in Washington, my monthly Pepco bill is mailed to a NW apartment, and I have a Smart Card, but my family albums, precious possessions, childhood diaries, and graduation tassels live elsewhere,  where is my home?

My friend, a very smart lawyer, recently gave me some free legal advice on the matter.  The law states we should officially change our residency when our living situation is no longer temporary.  There are all sorts of legal and ethical questions we expose ourselves to by not declaring the new status.    Legality, yes, but a smidge silly if I actively root against the new home team.

Let Emanuel run; let the people decide.  As long as he didn’t evade taxes or criminal charges–I’m fine with the Illinois voters deciding his Chicagoness.   If Illinois native Hillary Clinton can be a New Yorker and Bostonian Michael Bloomberg can be three-term NYC mayor with three different political parties, surely Emanuel has some Chicago street cred.

Our founding fathers established the United States so we could freely move and work between them.  Perhaps they knew back in the late 1700s that one day young, urban, professionals would follow their intellectual and professional dreams to strange, southernesque, city-towns, but their hearts would lie across the Delaware River where cheap Bolt buses would soldier on in the cold night toward brighter lights, bigger cities, and suburban home.

File:Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851.jpg

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