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A brief discussion on residency requirements

I have three things to say about this.

Nelvin Adriatico

It was one of the more unusual videos made for a Houston city council race.

Throughout much of his campaign for the District J seat, Nelvin Adriatico had been dogged by one question: Why do you claim to live in a daycare?

Google searches for Adriatico’s address yield a photo of the Shining Stars Academy, not a home or residence. Some detractors quickly assumed he was listing the business to skirt the requirement that he actually live in District J.

It is the two-bedroom apartment above the daycare that Adriatico listed on his form. Amid the constant chatter last month, he posted a tour of the apartment on Facebook Live.

“We can just get this out of the way because I’m sick and tired of responding and answering to this,” he said in the video. “You’re more than welcome to come and visit me at my home.”

The debate over Adriatico’s residency has been the most public of this year’s election cycle, but at least five other candidates are directly flouting the city’s residency rule or capitalizing on its loose interpretation. The rule requires candidates to live in the district they hope to represent for 12 months before election day.

At least four others have felony convictions that would seem to bar them from running under a state law that prohibits convicted felons from seeking office.

All ten will appear on the November ballot.

That is because the residency and felony requirements rarely are enforced.


The city’s residency requirement, while more clear-cut, seems to qualify any candidate who can claim he or she has ties to a property in the district and “intends” to live there, according to attorneys familiar with the rule.

“Every election, someone calls me to ask about this particular issue,” said Doug Ray, special assistant attorney for Harris County. “It’s very hard to establish that somebody doesn’t have residency if they have some physical tie to the address and state that that’s their intent.”

1. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If Dave Wilson was not in violation of residency laws when he “moved” from one of his warehouses to another to run for HCC Trustee in District 2, all the while claiming a homestead exemption on a house not in the HCC zone, then nobody is in violation of residency laws, and we should just accept that. I have wavered back and forth in how I feel about this – my current opinion is that I care more about whether or not someone lives in a particular taxing entity (city, county, school district, etc) than whether or not they live in a specific part of that entity – but I have basically given up on the idea that there is any enforcement for this.

2. Which is not to say that this isn’t or can’t be a campaign issue. By all means, bring up a candidate’s residence if it matters, and base your vote on it if you want. Just keep your expectations realistic about the effect this is likely to have.

3. Outside of Nelvin Adriatico, none of the candidates named in the story are genuine contenders for the seat they are seeking. It hardly seems worth the effort to work up a froth about most of this. That said, if it makes me a bad person to feel a deep sense of schadenfreude as I read Wayne Dolcefino’s lame excuses about his son, then I don’t want to be good.

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  1. voter_worker says:

    It seems unfair and arbitrary to have disqualified the candidate from the limited-purpose annexation after approving them. The City darn well knows which addresses are limited-purpose and which are not.

  2. Ross says:

    Seems to me that a homestead exemption ought to be prima facie evidence of residency.

  3. Jennifer says:

    So you can vote just not be a representative. That seems pretty crooked!

  4. Mainstream says:

    This used to drive me nuts. So many of our past and current city council members don’t really live in the City, or don’t really live in the district they seek to represent. I agree with Ross that homestead ought to be at least prima facie, and maybe conclusive evidence of residency. From time to time a candidate gets burned by the voters for moving into a district (Rob Mosbacher, Phil Sudan, probably Pete Sessions) but more often than not the voters overlook residency (Bobby Kennedy and Hillary Clinton both moving to New York to run for US senate.)

    It still matters to me, at least in the sense that I want a representative who understands the values and concerns of my community, and to the degree that the candidate does live in the area or has lived or worked in the area, that helps convince me that they would do a good job.

    But I have given up on dreaming that the Legislature will tighten residency rules. We have thousands of voters in Harris County still voting at their parent’s homes after years of living elsewhere, and hundreds of business owners using their office addresses rather than homes for convenience or because they care more about who represents their business than who represents their home.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    I agree with Ross about the homestead exemption. And Kuff is right as well, with his Dave Wilson example. If Wilson’s homestead exemption somewhere else wasn’t satisfactory to determine he didn’t live in the district he ran for, and nothing was done then, then let’s just admit none of this matters.

    I would be interested in candidates who use this kind of chicanery to be forced to sit in front of the relevant appraisal board that handles the homestead exemption to explain how all this actually works.

    I suspect that if appraisal boards start pulling homestead exemptions, that would change the current climate.