Home stand: The city’s new solicitor meets the residency test

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Mayor Bill Peduto’s choice to head the city legal department has renewed the public debate over Pittsburgh’s residency requirement for its employees, a policy that was supported by this newspaper and overwhelmingly reaffirmed by voters in a November referendum.

If his nominee for solicitor, Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge, was moving to Pittsburgh from, say, Chicago, her decision to purchase a condominium in Shadyside would have answered any questions about her intention to become a permanent resident.

Ms. Sanchez-Ridge, however, didn’t move from far away. Her legal residence until November was in Upper St. Clair, a South Hills suburb that’s a mere 30-minute drive from her office in the City-County Building. The fact that her husband will continue living there while their daughter completes her final year of high school was a red flag. Plenty of people, including several members of city council and other Pittsburgh employees bound by the rule, were suspicious. Let’s face it, she would not have been the first city employee to establish what can only be called a sham residence.

But details provided by the mayor’s office suggested Ms. Sanchez-Ridge deserved the benefit of the doubt, which council provided by approving her nomination on Tuesday. She has proved to the administration’s satisfaction that she is living in the condo and has given the city written and verbal certification that she intends to make it her permanent home. She applied for a homestead exemption, which is available to an owner on only one property in Allegheny County at a time. In addition, Ms. Sanchez-Ridge has said her hope is for her husband to move to the city after their daughter goes to college.

If her family had moved with her immediately, there would have been no controversy, but not wanting to uproot a child in her final year of high school is reasonable and understandable. It also is understandable that city officials should keep an eye on the situation, because Ms. Sanchez-Ridge’s one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit with 1,358 square feet is so much smaller than her five-bedroom, three-bathroom, 3,541-square-foot suburban house.

No one has questioned her qualifications, which include performing white-collar, criminal defense work for a Downtown firm, working as a prosecutor in Florida and Washington, D.C., and serving as president of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

As for her residency, Ms. Sanchez-Ridge has done what is required. Now it’s up to the Peduto administration to make sure she continues to live by the rules.

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