Rules for police and politicians

Cops should live where they work, and politicians shouldn't run while sexting

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Oh for heaven's sake. If Anthony Weiner wants everyone to stop focusing on his creepy sexting, all he has to do is get out of politics and no one will care what he does.

It's not as if the guy has a record to defend, a legacy to complete or a vast right-wing conspiracy aligned against him, trying to pull off a coup d'etat. The only ones who'd miss him would be the late-night comedians.

And while we're showing him the exit, a similar path is open to the Pittsburgh police. If they want to live outside the city so badly, all they have to do is take another job that doesn't require residency. It's not quantum physics.

Yet in both cases -- which have nothing else in common so, please, no angry comments that I'm equating cops with exhibitionists -- the principals are balking at the obvious route to their desired end. They don't just want what they want, they want the public's support and approval in getting it.

The police residency issue has bubbled up again because city council has approved a voter referendum that, if passed, would enshrine the requirement in Pittsburgh's home rule charter. The action was pushed by council member Ricky Burgess, in response to an effort by the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police to have the requirement struck down in arbitration.

Never mind that any cops who want to move to the suburbs can do so tomorrow, simply by resigning. But no, they want to be paid with city tax money to patrol and defend the same Pittsburgh streets that they want nothing to do with in their off hours. How, exactly, will this inspire the public's trust or improve citizen-police relations?

It's true that we've had our share of problems in these areas even with police living inside the city limits, from the chief who was forced to resign and stands indicted for corruption and tax evasion, to the savage beating of Jordan Miles, an unarmed high school student, and the arrest of a respected teacher outside a meeting about, of all things, police relations with the black community (those charges later were dropped).

Obviously, residency is not a panacea. But it still matters, a lot, because we all vote with our feet to some degree. Where we live is where we're invested. It's where we care most about the schools, parks, shopping districts, neighbors. It's where the safety and quality of life matter most, where we see the problems every day and look for the solutions.

No city dweller would want a mayor or city council member who goes home every night to Bethel Park, nor would the law allow it. If any of them tried to change the residency rule because they like the suburbs better, they'd face a furious public saying the same thing the police are hearing now: You knew the rules when you applied for your position. If you want to go, nobody's stopping you. But the job stays here. Another qualified candidate will be glad to take it.

I appreciate that our police put their lives on the line, and as a union member I understand the FOP trying to get what its members want. But as a city resident whose taxes pay their salaries, I want police who are not just in the city, but of it. If that's too high a bar, then I wish them the best of luck in their next jobs.

As for Mr. Weiner, alias Carlos Danger (and the comedy gods thank him for BOTH of his names), maybe it wasn't such a great idea to run for mayor of New York City less than two years after the lewd-texting-with-strange-women scandal forced him out of Congress.

This time around, his campaign promised he was a changed man, ready to work for the public good. His wife, Huma Abedin, has been out on the hustings with him, vouching for his goodness.

Remarkably enough, he was leading in the polls until last week, when the other shoe dropped. Turns out Mr. Weiner had continued having raunchy chats on social media with a number of women AFTER he resigned his seat. How many other women, he can't say for sure. Six? Ten? Who's counting?

He knew those incriminating exchanges were still out there when he decided to run. His wife knew it, too, even as she sought the voters' support. How could someone so smart and accomplished have learned nothing from Elizabeth Edwards? Love, it seems, really is blind.

Almost overnight, the candidate's support plummeted in the polls and his personal approval rating dropped 20 percentage points. Voters who were willing to give him a second chance don't seem disposed to offer a third. As of this writing he was still in the race, claiming that his personal life should not be an issue -- as if he weren't the one who made it public to begin with.

If Ms. Abedin wants to keep forgiving her husband, that's her business. He's her spouse and the father of her young child. Nobody else can know what goes on in another marriage, nor do they need to -- heck, some people don't even know what goes on in their own. As long as Mr. Weiner keeps trying to get elected, though, his X-rated virtual life is going to be a punch line.

Clearly, this couple needs to get over the idea that Anthony Weiner belongs in public office. The days of politicians being allowed a private life are fast disappearing -- especially if they spread embarrassing messages all over the Internet -- and in his case they are long gone.

sallykalson

Sally Kalson is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (skalson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1610).


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