Rahm Emanuel: Is He a Chicago Resident?

Whether or not Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel (left) was a Chicago resident while serving in Washington, D.C. as President Obama's White House chief of staff is at the heart of his testimony today before an election board hearing. If it is determined that the former four-term Democratic congressman was not a resident, he will be ineligible to continue his run for mayor. Municipal code says that a candidate must have resided in Chicago for at least a year prior to the election, which will be held in February 2011.

Of course Emanuel, who rented out his North side Chicago home (pictured below) to real estate developer Rob Halpin (who himself ultimately entered and dropped out of the mayoral race), says he never forfeited his residency when he moved into a D.C. rental. Objectors say he was not residing in the Windy City this past year.
Emanuel entered a lease agreement with Halpin's family to have them rent the 2,719 square-foot home in the Ravenswood neighborhood from June 2009 until August 30 2010, as AOL HousingWatch reported earlier. The lease was then renewed for $4,995 per month and expected to continue through June 30, 2011. When Emanuel threw his hat into the ring after Mayor Richard Daley
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announced September 1 that he would not seek re-election, Emanuel then sought to buy out the Halpin family from the lease, but Halpin's wife was not budging. Apparently she did not want to uproot their children from the school district.

That's something to which Emanuel's wife, Amy Rule, can relate. She and their two children remain in Washington until the end of the school year, although when her husban could not reclaim the refurbished 1896-built house they own, he rented a Chicago loft in October.

The most damning evidence against Emanuel's full-time residency contains his own signature. His 2009 tax return shows that he claimed only part-time residency in the city for that year, and he listed his mailing address on that return as his home in Woodley Park in Washington, D.C. Emanuel said the mistake was his accountant's, and it was corrected as soon as it was noticed. He amended the return Nov. 24 after the ballot challenge to his residency, reported local WLS-TV.

"The document speaks for itself," said election attorney Burt Odelson, who also noted at the hearing that Emanuel moved the majority of his belongings to D.C.

Odelson went so far as to use a display screen to show photos of rooms in the house as they appeared in the original rental listing. He asked Emanuel to confirm each room and whether the furniture that had been in that room was moved to Washington, D.C., reported the Chicago Sun-Times.

When showed a picture of a room with a stove, faucet and a kitchen table, and asked by Odelson, "That room is the kitchen?" Emanuel replied with a quip that "Jeopardy" fans would recognize: "Very good, Mr. Odelson, ... U.S. History for 200."

Emanuel said he kept no Chicago address from 1993 to 1997 while serving on President Bill Clinton's staff, but when he left service for that administration in late 1998, he then bought his home on Hermitage Avenue, which sits on about a quarter of an acre of land.

Many of the rooms otherwise appeared to be empty in a listing at urbanrealestate.com. Emanuel said he left things like light fixtures and drapes in the living areas, and stored valuables such as his wife's wedding dress in the basement, along with some books, china, diplomas and clothes their children wore home from the hospital as newborns, reported the Chicago Tribune. He also says he left one of his most cherished possessions at the house: a coat his grandfather bought for his father in the 1950s.

In a pre-trial brief filed by Emanuel's attorney, it says the 51-year-old continued to pay property taxes on the Hermitage Ave Chicago home, its water bills and homeowners' insurance. Emanuel also maintained his Chicago bank accounts and used the Hermitage address on his personal checks.

As for Halpin and his scheduled testimony, Emanuel's attorneys say he is not credible. When Halpin filled out an application to rent Emanuel's house, he allegedly gave the name of a business partner as his landlord, instead of his real landlord, who was suing him at the time, according to documents submitted for the hearing.

Halpin's last landlord, Zdemek Smid, sued Halpin after Halpin stopped paying rent on the Bucktown neighborhood home Halpin was renting from Smid. Halpin said he stopped paying rent because the heat and the jacuzzis in the home didn't work properly. Although Halpin listed the address of Smid's house in his rental application for Emanuel's home, he instead stated that his landlord was a John O'Malley, who is actually a partner in Halpin's company, Burnham Strategies, LLC, reported the Sun-Times.

Odelson also filed a YouTube video with the Board of Elections that appears to show Emanuel's house for sale. Emanuel's attorneys, in turn, filed an e-mail from Emanuel's wife to Prudential Preferred Properties noting the mistake by saying that the house was not to be offered for sale, but only as a rental.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, as Emanuel is the mayoral candidate most-widely known nationally. Would hate to think that Chicago politics would get boring with his departure. Nah.

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