Friday, May 26, 2006

Return to Sender

I knew there was a reason why I took Latin in college.

It's so I can give you a learned discourse on the battle of the Latin-root word residence versus the punchy, to-the-point Anglo-Saxon live.

Of course, it has to do with Sen. Rick Santorum and the House on Stevens Lane.

I can't help myself. I can't stop blogging about it. It's partly because the issue won't go away.

Santorum walked into this tar pit a week or so ago and hasn't come out yet.

The negative radio ad he ran, accusing the Casey campaign of stalking his house in Penn Hills, has created an uproar in Pittsburgh.

The latest chapter in this mini-series: a story by my colleague Carrie Budoff in today's Inquirer where Santorum defends his right to vote in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills and says that all questions about his residency are the work of his political opponents.

It includes a five-page letter from his attorneys to the Allegheny Law Department spelling out, in excruciating detail, the senator's case. You can read it here.

If you want to save the time, I can give you the bottom line: Santorum's lawyers say he is a resident of Penn Hills and they are right.

There is scads of case law on residency for voting purposes and I think they all support Santorum's claim.

In addition, there are state and federal laws that say, in so many words, that as long as a person serves in the federal government in some capacity, he remains a resident of his home state. Santorum is one example. A G.I. from Altoona stationed in Iraq is another example.

Residence comes from the Latin word residentia, meaning "to reside or abide."

So, in the eyes of the law, Santorum resides in Penn Hills.

But does he live there? The root of live is the Old German lifen, which means "to occupy a home."

Santorum and his family don't live in Penn Hills. They don't lifen there either.

They live 215 miles away in Leesburg, Va., where they own a nice $750,000-plus home. Santorum's attorneys assert they return to Penn Hills for various purposes, including dental care, which I find intriguing.

(I interrupt for some made-up dialogue:
"Honey, get dressed we have to go to the dentist."
"But,, Mom, do I have to? I'm tired and its a six-hour ride."
"But me no buts, Missy, get your coat on and get in that car.")

Different laws have different standards when it comes to residency.

The one that could have given Santorum the biggest headache is the law governing residence for the purpose of determining where your kids can go to public school.

It's not uncommon for people in a lousy district to rent an apartment in a nearby wonderful district so they can enroll their kids in that district's schools.

It's an issue in Philadelphia where parents in the city will do just that to get their kids enrolled in a suburban district. The suburban districts even have "residency police" to track down offenders.

In these cases, the courts have ruled that residency is where where you stay most of the time , where you put your head down on the pillow most nights.

It you have an empty apartment in Narberth, but spend all your time in a home in Philly, your kid cannot go to Narberth public schools.

You remember the flap over Santorum enrolling his kids in a cyber-school – and having the Penn Hills District paying most of the tuition?

Had that case advanced to the courts, a judge may have ruled against the Santorums on that residency issue.

As it was, the case brought by the Penn Hills district was dismissed by an Education Department hearing examiner on a technicality – a failure to file the objection in a timely manner.

One final note: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette weighs in on the issue today, with an editorial saying it had mailed a candidates questionnaire to Santorum at his Penn Hills address before the primary.

It was returned as undeliverable.


Blogger ACM said...

It was returned as undeliverable.


11:13 AM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

The Casey campaign needs to quickly send a letter to Santorum's PH address just to get it back with the USPS "undeliverable" stamp, then cut an ad with Elvis crooning the chorus of "Return to Sender" as background music.

Even better, hire an Elvis impersonator to go to every Santorum campaign appearance to sing the song!

Either would be hilarious and also serve to show Bob Casey isn't just another humorless politician.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous DC said...

Attending public schools in Narberth might prove difficult for anyone, as it is a borough within Lower Merion School District. The student would have to attend LMSD public schools.

(By the way, I know I'm nitpicking, but it's so much fun. Good column though.)

3:01 PM  
Blogger Jim in West Chester said...

When will these idiots learn that it's never the crime but the cover-up that pisses people off?

Yet another lying politician disecting words .... And this one is such a hypocrite ! Which chapter of his book covers stealing from school districts?

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can some good accountant explain how Ricky with a $150,000 income can possibly support six kids and a wife, a $750,000 house in VA, and a $100,000 house in Penn Hills, 2 cars, and have retirement savings of approximately $140,000, plus college for all those kiddies?

Let's assume Ricky's got a great deal on his mortgages:
A 5% Mortgage on the $750,000 house is about $3700/month and a 5% mortgage on the $100,000 is $644.
Property tax would be roughly .89/$100 in VA. Property tax in Penn Hills on his house is $418/year or $34.83/month

Two cars run easily $350/month for new ones.

Ricky isnt independently wealthy. So how's he affording all this?
Most 2 income progressionals who gross $150,000 cant afford this with much fewer kids. They live in pretty modest homes.
Where's the money coming from to support all this?

7:14 PM  
Anonymous he's no John Heinz said...

Anonymous - didn't you know his parents help him from time to time? ;)

and where do you get 2 cars for 350/month?

5:21 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

Those are good questions about his income, but to be fair, they did sell their first house in VA when they bought the new place in Leesburg so Santorum probably doesn't have a full 750k mortgage on it.

5:24 AM  

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