Sunday, August 14, 2022
Aug. 14, 2022

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Press Talk: I’m kinda with John Ley

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As the primary election results continue to drip in, the one standout issue — and it’s always been an issue with me — is the residency requirement. It did in John Ley. And I’m kinda with Ley here.

Ley got caught saying he was hanging his hat in the 18th Legislative District when he wasn’t really living there. So a judge ruled any votes he received would not be counted. Despite the judges ruling Ley did very well proving once again many voters are mind numbingly dense. But that’s a column for another day. In the end, Ley is out.

• • •

Now I’m not a big fan of Ley. He’s not right (I mean correct) on most issues. He hangs out with the wrong crowd. And I suspect if I handed him a bocce ball, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Hey bocce ball can tell you a lot about political candidates. Trust me!

But I began to wonder about residency requirements a long time ago. Now buckle up, there’s a lot to unpack here, so please pay attention!

First, let’s discuss where residency requirements came from. If you go back a ways, when we were still plowing fields with oxen and men colored their hair with coal dust, a few guys sat around and created all sorts of laws. And one of those laws was to live where you want to be elected. If farmer Joe wants to represent me, farmer Joe should know me and the issues that impact me. And Joe simply can’t know my issues if he lives a long way from my cornfield.

Truth is, this residency issue was really no issue at all back then. That’s because being an elected official back then was something you did as a public service, a good deed. It was rarely the only thing you did.

Residency laws made sense.

• • •

Today things have changed. Being an elected official is often big business, even in the smallest of offices. And money isn’t the only reason people want into politics nowadays. Power, recognition and simply being somebody is an aphrodisiac.

Are there some who are simply altruistic? Of course. But the mere fact that there are those unwilling to play by the residency rules tells us quite clearly there’s something strange going on in the neighborhood.

So what does this all lead to? Candidates playing fast and loose — even if technically OK — with the law.

Take Hillary Clinton.

As Billy Clinton was winding down his second presidential term, Hillary Clinton was getting restless. She was a resident of Illinois before she met her husband, then spent a little time in Arkansas when her husband was governor there, and of course spent some time in D.C. as the first lady.

She spotted a political opening in New York. A U.S. Senate seat was available and she wanted it. But wait. She had no connection to New York. The closest she came to being a New Yorker probably was wearing a Yankees baseball cap when she was kid. She was a lifelong Cubs fan —which by the way — should have excluded her from all political offices.

But the technical residency laws for the Senate seat were so lax, she qualified. And she won.

• • •

There are many local examples as well of people playing fast and lose with residency requirements. Many are still in office today. You know who you are. But they didn’t push the envelope like Ley did. If Ley had simply rented a house or an apartment at the going rate, spent some time there, got mail delivered there, baddabing baddaboom, no problem.

So Ley is no better or no worse then those who made a little more effort to make the charade look good.

And that’s why I say I’m kinda with Ley on this issue. We either enforce the residency laws — equally and fairly— or we get rid of them. Personally I think enforcing them would be difficult unless we made them stronger. For example, you could be required to live in a place for two years before you could run for office AND you would have to show proof with mail records, mortgage papers or apartment payments.

The more logical approach would be to get rid of the requirements. What, you say?

Honestly, I think it’s a fair idea. We ain’t back in the farmer Joe days. With social media, ease of travel and electronics, do I really think a politician has to live in an area to know an area? Despite her not having any real connection to New York, do I think Clinton knew the issues there? Of course.

If, hypothetically, a Clark County councilor moved to a district to get elected would that person know the issues? Almost certainly.

• • •

OK, so all I’m suggesting here is we think about laws to make sure they still make sense. If they don’t, get rid of them or make them stronger. And if they do, enforce them fairly and equally. Finally — and this might just be me — no politicians can be Cubs fans. And they all need to know how to play bocce ball.

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