Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Where does Napoleon Harris live?

Napoleon Harris is an Illinois state senator representing a south suburban district consisting of many municipalities that have seen better days economically and socially.
HARRIS: Moving up too far?

Yet he’s also a one-time professional football player and a businessman (he owns a string of Beggars’ Pizza franchises) who has the kind of money that he can afford to live in places that aren’t quite so desolate.

SO WHERE EXACTLY does Harris live?

Officially, he gets identified as “State Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor” because of a home he owns in that upscale community. It is a majority African-American population community.

But it is a place where black people with money are able to shelter themselves from some of the realities of urban life that other black people have to deal with on a daily basis.

It would also seem that Harris’ children are enrolled in schools based off that Flossmoor address.

YET THERE HAS been speculation in recent months that the Chicago Tribune picked up on this week that Harris doesn’t really live there.

The catch is that Harris’ primary pizza franchise is based in Harvey, an African-American dominated community that may be as bad as things get. There is speculation that the senator is actually living in a townhouse located right near the strip mall that contains the restaurant AND his legislative district offices.

The Tribune reported that Harris’ driver’s license indicates the Flossmoor address, and that he also received a homestead tax exemption on that property.

But that property is located just outside of his legislative district, whereas the Harvey address is squarely within the district.

NOW I KNOW I have heard stories in recent months about this uncertainty and how Harris was reluctant to give a straight answer. I also know there are politically-motivated people who wanted to try to challenge Harris’ nominating petitions for this year’s election cycle to get him knocked off the ballot on grounds that he doesn’t really live in the district.
Back in days when nobody cared where he lived
Not that any of it succeeded.

Those people were never able to come up with the kind of money needed to file the court challenge required to do that. All of the candidates who filed nominating petitions to challenge Harris were so weak that they wound up dropping out of the race before they could be knocked off the ballot for insufficient support.

That is why Harris ran unopposed in the March primary, and doesn’t even have a token Republican challenger for the Nov. 4 general election cycle.

NO MATTER WHAT becomes of all this residential speculation, it would seem that Harris is returning to the Statehouse in Springfield for a four-year term.

The part of this that never made much sense to me was about why Harris would be secretive about a Harvey address. If anything, it would better his image in the lower-income district to claim to live in Harvey, rather than Flossmoor where someone might try to make it stick that he’s somehow out-of-touch with those he claims to represent.

For Harris is a native of Dixmoor; another nearby community with a dominant African-American population. Albeit one who has done well in life – probably better than anyone else he grew up with.

But he can’t afford to appear to be too wealthy, or else he risks getting taken down by the activist types – the kind of people who used to go around claiming that Barack Obama wasn’t “black enough” to be an African-American candidate for president.

I’M SURE A Harvey image fits better into who Harris would like to think he had become. This can be one of the complicating factors for a political person – having to account for where one lives.

For Harris once was a resident of southwest suburban Orland Park, where he has another of his Beggar’s Pizza franchises. He gave up that home many years ago for the Flossmoor address that allowed him a chance at running for office.

For it is very possible that if he had run for the Legislature from that district, the fact that he is a one-time NFL player might not have been sufficient to get the locals to overcome their racial attitudes and vote him into office.


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