Here is an advance of William J. Kelly’s closing statement being given today at the hearings challenging Rahm Emanuel’s residency status for the 2011 Chicago mayoral election:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
What you decide here today is very important. Not just to Rahm Emanuel and his plans and designs on City Hall. But to how the people of Chicago, people around the state, around the country, and around the world will view our city. Will they have further reason to believe that Chicago is a corrupt town, where regular people are held to a different standard than people who have influence or clout? Or will we send a message that Chicago really is ready for reform?
I think that it is extremely important that we send that right message now. If we don’t, the corruption that we have seen in the past will be nothing compared to the corruption that we will see in the future. And the voter apathy, discouragement, dissatisfaction, and yes, anger, that we have seen in the past will be also be nothing compared to what we will see in the future. Democracy and the rule of law is supposed to mean that all people are treated equally. And, if we do not hold the most influential people among us to the same laws, rules, regulations that the least of us are held to, then we might wake up one day to find we no longer live in (what we like to tell ourselves) is the greatest city in the world – and that people now need to look outside of the democratic or legal process to find justice. That would be unfortunate.
Luckily, as a lifelong resident of the City of Chicago, I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of Chicagoans are good. Know the difference between right and wrong. Believe the rules should apply equally to everybody. And they certainly want to see that our politicians are forced to comply with the laws, rules, and regulations that they must live with as well.
As a former candidate for public office myself, I know all too well how candidates in the past have been knocked off the ballot for minor infractions of these elections rules and regulations and I believe Rahm Emanuel’s failure to fulfill the residency requirement to be a mayoral candidate is beyond question. In fact, I believe that if he were anyone other than Rahm Emanuel that he would already been knocked off the ballot. It’s not Rahm Emanuel’s role in Washington that it is at issue. It’s the simple fact that he rented out his Chicago residence thus forfeiting his status as an official Chicago resident for the past year.
When the Halperins signed the lease to move in Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood property – they did not become co-residents of that property with Rahm Emanuel. When he re-signed his lease through June 2011, he once again showed he had no intention to come back to Chicago and be a resident for this mayoral election cycle. For me, this is really the only issue in this case.
So now, after the days of testimony, there is good news and bad news. For those who do not want Rahm Emanuel on the ballot, the good news is that he does not fulfill the residency requirement to be a mayoral candidate in this election cycle. He could have been a mayoral candidate in a previous election cycle or can be in a future election cycle – if he follows through on his intention to become a resident and actually move back to Chicago. Terrific.
However, for this election cycle, he does not meet the residency requirement.
My father, who played by the rules, reminded me my whole life that it doesn’t matter what you intend to do. It only matters what you do. There’s a famous phrase – the road to hell is paved with good intentions. One other thing that my father, who played by the rules, who was not himself an attorney – made very clear to me as a child – is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. During the course of this hearing, I had asked Mr. Emanuel this question: when did you find out that to be a candidate for mayor you had to fulfill a residency requirement?
His answer? He told me that he found out about the residency requirement when he read an article quoting Burt Odelson (in September). Well, by that time, it was already too late. He had not been a Chicago resident for a year prior to election day. And, again, ignorance of the law is no excuse. That’s the good news for people who do not want to see Rahm Emanuel on the ballot and those who believe that the rules should apply to everyone equally.
The bad news is that this is Chicago. And what Chicago is known for around the country and in the world is corruption. People will say that the election statute is clear and Emanuel does not fulfill the basic requirements. Rahm Emanuel’s campaign is saying that this isn’t fair. The media have been saying that this isn’t fair. But other candidates for mayor and alderman have been knocked off the ballot for similar or lesser infractions. Failure to gain sufficient signatures, failure to notarize properly, failure to number pages correctly. Failure to bind properly. And, yes, other candidates have also been thrown off the ballots for not fulfilling residency requirements. Emanuel has also challenged the petitions of his opponents and sought to throw his opponent off the ballot for circulating petitions too early. So now he is crying foul?
Even though this is Chicago, these laws should apply to everyone. They would apply to me. That would apply to you. That would certainly apply to me, let’s be honest. But they might not apply to someone who is connected. Someone like Rahm Emanuel.
While Rahm Emanuel’s case was being played out in this conference room with much fanfare, another candidate for mayor named Tom Hanson – ironically enough or maybe not so ironically enough – the only Republican candidate – was knocked off the ballot on Monday in a hearing room in this building and it took all of 20 minutes. Tom Hanson, who ran as a Republican for congress against Rahm Emanuel in a previous election cycle.
In a hearing that was not covered by a single member of the media. Tom Hanson was kicked off the ballot – without a single objector to his petitions – because he was told that the board could not find his Statement of Economic interest. He was thrown off despite the fact that when he turned his petitions, the employee of the board reviewed his petitions, assured him they were in order, and gave him a receipt attesting to that fact. Then he was notified at a later date that one piece of paperwork was missing. On Monday, Tom tried to tell the Board of Elections that he did in fact turn it in and they were the ones who lost the form. Their response? “Tough luck.”
If the answer to Rahm Emanuel at the end of this hearing is anything other than “Tough Luck” it will be clear that the Chicago Way is still in effect. That there is one standard for insiders and another standard for everyone else. And if that is the case, why even conduct this hearing? Why even hold the election? Why even perpetrate this hoax on the people of Chicago that rules and laws mean anything?
Because this has nothing to with what Rahm Emanuel intends to do in the future. Even a non-lawyer like me knows that. This has nothing to do with now many boxes are in storage here in Chicago. Or even what is in the boxes.
This has to do with whether or not the same laws are applied evenly across the board. My father, who was a Chicago employee and thus a legal resident, believed passionately that all people were equal and should be held to the same rules as everyone else. So, now after a week of questions, and objections sustained, the question I need to ask you is: do you believe the same?