With apologies to Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again when I read that a labor leader had filed suit challenging Milton Street's candidacy, partly based on questions about his residency.
The allegation is that Street, who is a Democratic candidate for mayor, lives in New Jersey, not on the 2200 block of West Firth Street in North Philly. That is the address where he (and his son, Milton Jr.) are registered to vote. Until a week ago, the elder Street was registered as an independent, which is the other issue in the suit.
I had a vague memory that I had written about that residency issue before and a check of the clips confirmed it.
In 1999, I found Street living in a Cape Cod in Moorestown, N.J., owned by a female friend. I say found because I saw him exiting the house at 8:30 one morning. A check of records indicated he had lived there since 1997.
At the time, Street's residency was an issue after Julia Welker, who was running for the district City Council seat being vacated by John Street, lost the primary by a mere 141 votes to Darrell Clarke.
She alleged vote fraud and pointed to Milton Street as an example. Welker said she knew that Street did not live on the 2500 block of Nicholas Street because she did some legwork and found a tenant who had lived at the address for two years -- and said she had never seen Milton.
Welker offered a $100 prize to anyone who could track down Street's true address. After a lot of records checking, I found the Moorestown home and staked it out. That's when I saw Street emerge one morning in October. I waved, but he didn't wave back.
I published a column in The Inquirer on the incident, though I never did collect the $100 prize. I figured it was part of my job as a columnist.
When reporters caught up with Street in 1999, they asked him where he lived. His reply: "I live where I sleep. The law requires that you be domiciled, and where you sleep isn't necessarily where you are domiciled."
When pressed on the legal and moral aspects of the case, Street replied: "We aren't dealing with morals. We're dealing with the law. I don't have no morals."
Truer words were never spoken.
Sources tell me the address I tracked down in 1999 is the same address where Street lives today. So, not only does he live in New Jersey, he's going on 18 years of living in New Jersey.
At a news conference last week that Street called to kvetch about the lawsuit seeking to get him kicked off the ballot, reporters again asked him if he lived in Philly.
"It's just silly," Street replied. "Of course I live in Philly. I haven't taken leave of my senses. Why would I do all this and live somewhere else? It doesn't make any sense."
Unless, of course, you have no morals.
Just to underline the point, in 1984 when Street was running for re-election to the state Senate, he filed suit against his opponent, Roxanne Jones, claiming she did not live in the district. It was true. Jones lived with her boyfriend, whose house was seven blocks outside the lines.
What Street didn't point out was that he didn't live in his district either. At the time, I tracked down an elderly women who told me she had sold her house in Oak Lane to Milton Street and his then-wife. I staked out that house, too. It was occupied, but no one answered the door the day I knocked.
Street lost his seat to Jones in 1984. In 1986, he lost the house in Oak Lane. It was sold at sheriff's sale because he failed to pay taxes.
Street is not listed as the owner of the West Firth Street house. Public records indicate the owner is Malik Caldwell and that he owes the city $7,700 in back real estate taxes on the property dating back to 2006.