Thursday, August 28, 2003


(Painesville, OH) This story is occurring right in my neighborhood, but even stories from small town America sometimes get legs and this may be one of those. Michael Padula, 50, who lists his residence as a downtown city park, has filed a petition with the Lake County Elections Board to be certified as a candidate for the Painesville City Council Ward 2 seat in the upcoming November election. The incumbent Ward 2 Councilman, William J. Horvath, has asked the board to invalidate Padula's petition because he doesn't meet the minimum one-year residency requirement established by the city charter.

The elections board will hold a hearing on September 9th to determine if Padula meets the residency requirement and it could result in setting a state precedent. The Elections Board Director, Janet F. Clair, stated that:
"I talked with the secretary of state's office, and they said this has never happened before."
The thought of a "homeless" person running for political office probably never even dawned on anybody before.

My contention that this story may spark wide interest is based upon the speed in which it was reported locally. A couple months ago, a local story concerning the arrest of a woman for breast feeding her infant while driving was picked up by the media and ultimately produced wide sensational appeal, including an appearance on the Bill O'Reilly cable news program. That story took the better part of a week before it was reported whereas the "homeless candidate's eligibility challenged" has hit all the local media by storm in less than a day.

Even as I write, Cleveland radio personality Mike Trivisano of WTAM is leading off his afternoon three-hour program with the story and stating that "this is the kind of guy I could support." Trivisano also promised to donate $250 to Padula's election campaign.

My take is that if a person lives out of his vehicle (as has been contended), he could claim residency anywhere. One other thing is that Padula has claimed in writing to the Election Board that he resides in a location different from where he claimed in writing to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Newspaper stories are in The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The News Herald.

[Update at 1:55pm, 8/29/03] Reader Gordie offered the following comments related to a homeless person running for public office.
When I lived in Austin TX in the late 80s - early 90s, a homeless man, Max Nofziger, ran for city council for the southside of town where I lived. He won, and won re-election while I lived there (though his job allowed him to cease being homeless). He'd run for years as a novelty candidate, but finally won when folks were really upset with existing councilmen buying land east of Austin (in the Manor area) in anticipation of a new international airport which never came to be.
Based upon these comments, it's clear that a precedent (in Texas) has been set for a homeless person to run and get elected to public office. It's still unclear, however, as to how specific residency requirements would be met by a person without a defined residence.

[Update at 2230, 8/31/03] I went looking for Mr. Padula in the park and was informed by other folks that they see him around all the time but he wasn't there at the time. A Painesville city policeman stated that he knew him and had arrested Mr. Padula for public urination. He added that the case went to court before Judge Michael Cicconetti who dismissed the case because no one other than the policeman was there to see Mr. Padula urinate in public.

I looked hard to try to find evidence of his arrest with no luck. Maybe the policeman I talked to was mistaken. Curiously, his attitude towards Mr. Padula was unmistakably unapproving. I'd give it merit.

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