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Residency rule long-ignored until elder Daley cracked down

One man alluded to it in a suicide note.

Another credits it for helping fulfill his dream of working as a professional magician.

A third said it gave Chicago’s urban wildlife more rights than its city workers.

“A squirrel can pick his own hole to live in but I can’t,” Michael Ruggiero told the Chicago Daily News in November 1976. Ruggiero was a Streets and Sanitation employee who had lived in Franklin Park for 22 years while working for the city.

Inconsistently enforced but consistently controversial, Chicago’s residency rule dates back to 1919, when Ald. J.H. Smith (14th) first introduced the idea to the City Council. By a vote of 63-1, Chicago employees were ordered to live in the city.

But the rule was largely ignored for 57 years until a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case ruled it was constitutional for Philadelphia to require its employees to live in the city. Two months after the court’s decision, Mayor Richard J. Daley announced Chicago would be cracking down on employees with suburban addresses. Move to the city by August 1 or lose your job, he said on May 4, 1976.

“If [Chicago] is good enough to work for, it’s good enough to live in,” Daley said, according to newspaper records.

Charles “Arch” Pounian, Chicago’s personnel director in 1976, remembers bracing for a backlash.

“I had a lot of contact with a lot of different problems,” he said of his 32-year career in Chicago city government. “This may not have been one of the more important things but it was certainly something more controversial.”

Home prices in the Edison Park, Norwood Park and Oriole Park neighborhoods increased 7 to 10 percent the week Daley announced the crackdown, a Realtor told the Sun-Times in 1976. The list price of some Beverly homes jumped $5,000 to $10,000, a second Realtor said.

By mid-August 1976, hundreds of city workers had moved to the city.

John Measner, a Chicago Fire Department division marshal with 29 years on the job, was one who didn’t move. In 1976, he said city officials spied on him at the Oak Lawn home he lived in for 14 years with his wife and two kids. He also owned a home in Chicago.

Measner retired rather than move his family from Oak Lawn, his son John Measner said. The younger John Measner, now 45, was an 11-year-old budding magician when his dad stopped working.

“I basically had my dad for 20 years after he retired,” he said. “I loved Daley Sr. for that.” The older Measner drove his son to magic shows, setting up equipment and cheering him on, the younger Measner said. The senior John Measner passed away in 1996, and his son is now a full-time professional magician.

Not every story was as hopeful. In 1979, a Chicago Fire Department lieutenant was found dead in his car, a hose connecting the exhaust pipe to the passenger seat. The man lived in Dolton and was one of nine firefighters involved in a court dispute over residency.

“Forgive me,” he wrote in a final note to his wife. “Maybe the pension board will give you a widow’s pension.”

The residency statute was challenged in court many times, but the city always prevailed. Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago followed with their own residency ordinances.

While Mayor Richard M. Daley has been as strong a proponent of residency as his father, there are currently no residency cases pending before the city’s human resources board, said Jennifer Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city’s law department. Residency cases dropped when David Hoffman was appointed Inspector General in 2005.

Hoffman “made a policy decision that he was going to focus less on residency cases and concentrate his department’s resources on what he considered more serious violations,” Hoyle said.

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