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Help D.C.'s Attorney General Find A Home

The clock is ticking: Now that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has nominated interim Attorney General Peter Nickles to get the city's top legal job permanently, Nickles, who famously loves his home in Virginia, has 180 days in which to move into the city he serves.

During a sun-drenched news conference on the steps of the Wilson Building today, Nickles, who maxed out on the legally permitted time he could spend in interim status, promised that "I intend to become a resident of the District of Columbia and pay taxes" in the city. The District's residency requirement gives Cabinet-level appointees 180 days to become tax-paying residents of the city; by staying in interim status, Nickles was able to postpone that apparently onerous requirement.

When I asked whether he has found housing, the lawyer, who has worked in the city for decades, quipped that "I'll check Craigslist." (Hey, can't you show some love for the hometown paper's classifieds? As Gerald Ford said, "I got my job through The Washington Post." Could work for you, too, Mr. Attorney General.)

"I've also looked at the prospect of investing in a condo," Nickles continued.

Loyal residents and readers may at this point wish to advise the attorney general on available apartments and houses. The District's real estate market is stronger than those in the suburbs these days, as more and more empty nesters and others who want to avoid a long commute choose to move into town. So Nickles could use a helping hand. Send your suggestions and real estate finds to Nickles at oag@dc.gov or post them here on Raw Fisher and together we can help a busy man find a place to live.

Nickles does seem to be dreaming about his new digs. When WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood pressed Nickles on the residency issue, the AG tried to disarm the reporter by inviting him over for a drink after he gets settled in. But when I asked whether Nickles plans to sell his Virginia house so that all of his tax dollars go to the D.C. treasury, he was finished joking around: "I have no idea at this point," he said.

The mayor jumped in on behalf of his friend and nominee: "Our nominees will meet the law of the District," Fenty said, adding that he has issued no waivers to the residency rule so far in his administration.

Four D.C. Council members stood by on a sweltering morning to show their support for Nickles. In public, they gushed about his energy, his "can-do" attitude, as Jim Graham (Ward 1) put it. But away from the cameras, they conceded that Nickles is a controversial figure. "He's a brilliant lawyer," Marion Barry (Ward 8) told me. "If there's any overreaching on his part, that is at the direction of the mayor. Peter's gotten involved in policy decisions because the mayor asked him to."

Barry says he's not worried about Nickles conforming to the residency law. "As long as they meet the requirements of the law--pay income tax in the District, register to vote here, spend more than 50 percent of their time in the District--that's fine. That's different from some of the firefighters who try to rent an apartment and not live there at all."

Council member Phil Mendelson (At Large), a frequent critic of Nickles' who did not attend the nomination ceremony and who is chairman of the committee that will hold Nickles' confirmation hearing, issued a statement far less enthusiastic than his colleagues'.

"I expect a robust discussion regarding many of the questions surrounding this nominee, including the well-known residency requirement for this position," Mendelson said. "It is mystifying, even though the Mayor clearly intended to make this choice months ago, the nominee still resides outside the District and has made no known effort to change that fact."

Fenty relies heavily on Nickles, who has been the most aggressive person to sit atop the city's legal office. "He has worked on every major issue that has come through the executive branch of government," the mayor said of his longtime friend and advisor.

Nickles promised "to give this my very best, which is pretty good," if he doesn't say so himself.

Nickles, who spent a fair chunk of his career suing the D.C. government on behalf of the homeless, mentally retarded and jail prisoners, is about as activist as lawyers get. That has meant more than his fair share of controversy, whether about imposing police checkpoints in areas with lots of gun violence, sending police officers door to door to collect guns, or combining the city's hundreds of surveillance cameras into a single network.

He may have civil libertarians up in arms, but he's also winning friends in important places. "When you think of all the urgent needs in this city," says Graham, "the mind reels. We need some strong action. I'm so used to an Office of the Attorney General that's better at identifying problems than finding solutions, so this is a refreshing change."

I'll try to keep an eye on what Nickles does in his job, but I do have my priorities: I've got to get out there and find this man a place to live.

By Marc Fisher |  June 27, 2008; 12:01 PM ET
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Comments

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He ought to move to a house in ANC Winstead's ward so that he can put that loon in check.

Posted by: M Street | June 27, 2008 1:18 PM

I urge Mr. Nickles to make his home in this area:

http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1239,Q,546556,mpdcNav_GID,1540,.asp

That is the MPD's Seventh District. The MPD is one of the 30 agencies supervised by the DC Attorney General, and 7D has lots to interest him. Just look:

http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1239,q,565246.asp

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 27, 2008 1:54 PM

"Hey, can't you show some love for the hometown paper's classifieds?"

Fisher, you are such a tool. Everyone knows that the WaPo's real estate classifieds SUCK.

"But when I asked whether Nickles plans to sell his Virginia house so that all of his tax dollars go to the D.C. treasury, he was finished joking around"

Are you an a**h**e or just stupid? The law requires residence. It doesn't prohibit having homes in other places. Should he cancel his out of town vacation and spend his vacation dollars here in DC too?

Posted by: JMG_DC | June 27, 2008 2:03 PM

I will never fully understand why DC is so hung up on where employees reside. None of the other jurisdictions seem to have residency rules. For example, the police chief of Alexandria lives (or at least did live) in Charles County MD. I do not recall hearing any complains about that. DC really needs to concentrate on bringing in quality leaders, not making them live here. (To me, Nickles seems like a jerk but Fenty seem to really want him. I really do not think he needs this job He probably feels he is doing Fenty a favor which is why he has not called Mayflower yet.).

Publicly upset about when or where Nickles will move makes the city seem provincial. (similar to Canadians) It also shows the city's inferiority complex to the suburbs. If DC is truly a cool place to live, then it should never have to force anyone to live here.

Posted by: DCJeff | June 27, 2008 2:24 PM

He should move to Trinidad so he can enjoy any future checkpoints.

Posted by: Dntwn | June 27, 2008 2:26 PM

"I will never fully understand why DC is so hung up on where employees reside. None of the other jurisdictions seem to have residency rules. For example, the police chief of Alexandria lives (or at least did live) in Charles County MD."

Many major cities have residency requirements. Makes sense to me. If you're going to help run a city, you should be part of it - fulltime. Kind of like how Metro board members should actually ride the Metro. Residents know their city better than 9-5ers do. Besides, at top levels it shows commitment on a symbolic level.

Posted by: NW-DC | June 27, 2008 3:00 PM

DCJeff and NWDC -- Unless I am mistaken, DC does not have a residency requirement for employees -- it had one, but the U.S. Congress invalidated it, under pressure from (surprise!) MD and VA delegations. It is Level One DC Cabinet Officers who are required to live in the District.

That said, some DC employees who really live in the suburbs maintain official DC addresses so they can actively participate in DC politics.

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 27, 2008 3:54 PM

DCJeff and Mike,

The District does have a residency requirement for Cabinet-level positions and certain other appointed positions. Other District employees are not required to live here. I know because I am a District employee who has been Excepted Service (residency required) and regular career service (not required but still live here). For Nickles and agency directors, it is a stated requirement of the job if you accept it, whether you like it or not. The city of Philadelphia has a residency requirement for ALL of its employees.

Posted by: Monique | June 27, 2008 4:36 PM

New York City also has residency requirements for its employees.

Posted by: Monique | June 27, 2008 4:36 PM

DC has a long history of leaders and rank and file workers living elsewhere, mostly in MD. This results in things like city workers being totally unfamiliar with basics of the city (I once had a DC worker insist that the Supreme Court building was not located in DC).

I strongly support such a program. In fact, I wish DC would take some of it's public housing money and instead build workforce housing for DC cops, firemen, teachers, etc.

Posted by: Hillman | June 27, 2008 4:53 PM

Monique: As the son of a NYPD officer, I beg to differ. NYC Police and Firemen were granted permission to live in nearby suburbs since the 1960s. Perhaps this has been rescinded, but I doubt it.

Policemen, Firemen, and teachers are often exempted from residency requirements in jurisdictions where such vital but low-paid employees cannot afford to live. The only alternatives would be -- horrors! -- pay them fairly or provide some sort of housing assistance (many universities do the latter for faculty members).

Mr. Nickles can certainly afford to live in DC.

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 27, 2008 5:53 PM

Yes Monique, you are right. There is no longer a DC residency requirement for most public employees. I believe it was Stan Paris from the VA 8th district who was instrumental in changing that law and I am sure it is still a sore spot for the city. It was however a somewhat silly law considering that DC is a rather small city.

Back when DCJeff was a kid (which was in the late 50s), the city seemed whole. In other words, one may have lived in the city, VA or MD suburbs, but most everyone felt they were from Washington DC. Somewhere along the line, this all changed. Now it is Northern Virginia versus Suburban MD and DC versus everybody. We make the NY-NJ-Conn. metro area look cohesive.

Now I love Marc and read him all the time but he does not help matters by making the occasional snide remake about the suburbs (Marc, please don't deny this). He is what they call in sports broadcasting a "homer". He lives in the city and loves it. But everyone needs to remember that if DC stood on its own (without the suburbs) it may not rival even Omaha in size. DC needs its suburbs to fuel their economy to make it a greater city than it already is. This area needs to do a better job of working together. Maybe DC could set some example by not making such a big deal about who lives where. It would be a start.

Posted by: DCJeff | June 27, 2008 6:53 PM

Yes NW-DC, many major cities do have residency requirements that work. The problem with DC is that, you take away the suburbs; you basically have the population of Buffalo. That may be OK except that DC has around 4 times the number of firefighters, teachers and police officers as Buffalo. Where will they all live? Plus the fact that it is very much cheaper to live in Buffalo. But ironically, Buffalo does not have a residency requirement for public employees (or at least I don't think they do, will have to check on that).

Anyhow thank you for commenting. DCJeff loves it when folks comment on his comments.

Posted by: DCJeff | June 27, 2008 7:18 PM

Agree with DC-Jeff that Peter Knuckles seems like a jerk. He controversially pulled first counsel off the handgun brief. He knew better. Heard an audio clip of him on Kojo, where he seemed to say that the facts are what I say they are. Not a recipe for success.

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | June 28, 2008 1:23 AM

Unlike school super Rhee who must make some very tough decisions, Nickless on the other hand just seems like a real pr*&^% (rhymes with dick). I think most city attorneys work very hard for very little money. Nickles seems to want to hassle them about dress codes and attendance and age. The mayor really seems to want this guy but my intuition is that he is a disaster in the making. Yes given his position he should probably reside in the district but I got this feeling that he will not be around for too long.

Anyhow, good night everyone.

DCJ.



Posted by: DCJeff | June 28, 2008 3:00 AM

There is no such thing in the DC Code as an "interim" appointment. Mr. Nickles seems to wring the techincalities out of everything. He supposedly has stated to members of the OIG who went on retreat to his VA home that he sees no reason to leave "this" referring to his Viginia home.
he is not the only member of the cabinet and executive positons blatently out of compliance

Posted by: jennifer | June 28, 2008 3:00 PM

There is no such thing in the DC Code as an "interim" appointment. Mr. Nickles seems to wring the techincalities out of everything. He supposedly has stated to members of the OIG who went on retreat to his VA home that he sees no reason to leave "this" referring to his Viginia home.
he is not the only member of the cabinet and executive positons blatently out of compliance

Posted by: jennifer | June 28, 2008 3:00 PM

Marc: You maybe a grade-A shortlist banner columnist for our hometown, but you'd have to reverse the "A" section with the "Metro" section for your paper to be anything like what I think a "hometown" paper should be.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2008 3:53 PM

Make him live in Ward 8 or Trinidad since he's such a proponent of the DC Gun Ban.

Posted by: Stick | June 30, 2008 9:12 AM

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