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Rahm Emanuel: Cops, other city workers should live in city

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Chicago’s 92-year-old residency rule for city workers will apparently live on long after Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel takes office.

After reconsidering the requirement at the request of police and fire unions, Emanuel concluded Tuesday that police officers, firefighters and teachers are neighborhood “anchors” Chicago cannot afford to live without.

“They are more than police and fire. They are anchors in a neighborhood. They’re the Little League coaches, the hockey coaches, the volunteers at the place of worship. They are anchors — not just in their block, but in their community. That’s an investment I’m not ready to turn my back on,” Emanuel said.

“I’ve heard what they have to say [about wanting to be free to live outside the city, but] I have to represent the whole city and its interests. ... My perspective is how important the individual members — and the group as a total — play in the city’s neighborhoods and anchoring the ... middle-class.”

Over the years, police and fire unions have alternately pushed to lift the residency rule and for a $3,000-a-year stipend to compensate their members and defray the cost of private school tuition.

Mark Donahue, retiring president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which endorsed Gery Chico for mayor, said he’s not surprised that Emanuel would choose to maintain the status quo.

“It’s a position that his predecessor has had for years. That position is not shared by many [FOP] members. All we’re looking for is an opportunity for discussion at the table. It’s not something that’s negotiable at this point,” Donahue said.

Tom Ryan, newly-elected president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, added, “It’s part of our contract that we have a residency requirement. That’s the law of the land right now, and we’re gonna abide by it.”

The ordinance requiring city employees to live in Chicago dates back to 1919, but has been inconsistently enforced over the years.

In the 1960’s, then-Mayor Richard J. Daley cracked down on residency violators, buoyed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding Philadelphia’s residency law.

At the time, City Hall was rife with rumors that the Chicago Fire Department was winking at residency violators under the direction of longtime Commissioner Robert Quinn, who may have been one himself. Quinn reportedly claimed to live with his mother in the city while maintaining another residence in Wisconsin.

During the mayoral campaign, Emanuel and Chico both responded to an FOP questionnaire by saying they were open to letting police officers live outside the city. Chico even argued that Chicago’s middle-class tax base could survive without it.

Mayor Daley responded by warning that, without a residency rule, Chicago could kiss its middle class goodbye.

Emanuel put the controversy to rest after meeting with his transition committee on government reinvention at budget issues at Google Chicago, 20 W. Kinzie.

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