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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Should the City of Milwaukee be able to make residency a condition of employment for police and firefighters? (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Residency rule makes good sense


I am all for freedom of choice in just about everything.

I believe women should be free to make their own decisions about what to do with their own bodies. I believe we should all be free to vote without having to show identification cards and I believe that we should all be free to dance until dawn.

Because of those deeply held beliefs I find that I face trouble when trying to determine exactly how I feel about residency requirements for employment.

In the City of Milwaukee the mayor and the Common Council are bracing for yet another attempt to remove the residency requirement for some government employees.

The theory is that the requirement is primarily a Democrat-supported concept and Republicans don't like it. And since Republicans control the state legislature this might be a good time to try and get the law repealed.

This argument has been around for quite a few years and often it has been the subject of contract negotiations. For example, in a number of negotiating sessions with the school board, the teacher's union has put removal of the residency requirement on the table. So far, nobody has gotten enough support to get rid of it.

The legislation in Madison now would remove the requirement for police and firefighters but leave it in place for school district employees and other city workers. The question of whether there is enough support in the State Senate to pass it is still open.

Forget the politics of this for a moment and consider what is right. Should the City of Milwaukee be able to make residency a condition of employment for police and firefighters?

The bill was enacted back in the day when it was important for firemen and cops to be able to get to their headquarters quickly. With transportation we now have, that is no longer an issue.

What is an issue is that the cops and firefighters represent a big part of the middle class that is left in the City of Milwaukee. They are a very important strength of their communities and neighborhoods.

Everybody agrees that it's important that cops and firefighters live in the city. But should they be forced to live there? And would they flee if they could?

In answer to the first, I think it should be a condition of employment. I think the goal of having these men and women live in the community they serve is a worthy one. And nobody joins the force or department without knowing what the rules are. If you want to be a Milwaukee cop, you know you have to live in the city. And the rule doesn't apply just to some cops. It's every cop, and every firefighter.

As to whether there would be massive flight if the rule is repealed, I'm not too sure about that. I remember the dire predictions when Racine dropped its residency rule, but it had an almost negligible impact on the population of the city.

So, while I have this fervent belief in freedom, I don't think this is an issue about freedom. I think it just makes good sense.

Talkbacks

AndrewJ | Dec. 13, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. (report)

You don't think there would be a flight if the residency requirement is lifted? Seriously? Find any neighborhood where you're unsure if it's technically Wauwatosa or Milwaukee, and start knocking on doors. Your question will get answered in short order. Most public employees are living at the literal seams of the city, and given the opportunity to bust out, they'd head West like modern day version of Oregon Trail.

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TheyThink | Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:29 a.m. (report)

So Dave, since you feel forced residency for city employees is absolutely necessary, then I also assume you would support forced retirement residency for those same city employees since the taxpayers not only pay their salaries but also their health care and retirement pensions. Why should city employees suddenly be allowed to move out of the city even though city taxpayers are paying for their retirement?

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milvtecguy | Dec. 13, 2012 at 8:49 a.m. (report)

Dave, It is a rare occasion that you and I agree on an issue, but this is one of those times. Unfortunately for the City of Milwaukee people are not lining up to move in. The City is no Detroit, however with further erosion of the middle class it could be. We have a great city, but there are many neighborhoods that continue on a downward spiral. To let city workers live outside of the city would cause a mass exodus. It is no secret MPS is a failure, and the taxes are still high; added to other push pull factors it would be hard to keep people in Milwaukee. City workers knew the deal when they took the job. They are paid well, receive a good benefits package, and there are areas of the city that are great to live in. People may make the argument that if they move, they have to sell their homes to someone. No they don't, they can simply rent them if they want. There is nothing wrong with renters, but ownership creates stability and pride in neighborhoods. The residency rule needs to stay in effect, it is a city matter, and none of the State's business.

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oceanside | Dec. 13, 2012 at 8:31 a.m. (report)

Happy are a proponent of individual Freedom So you support: Freedom to defend my family by any means without governent intrusion. Freedom to chose the schools my children go to. Freedom to chose who I sell my home to. Freedom for the unborn child. Freedom to work without having to join a union. Freedom to serve or not anyone in my business. If I don't need ID to vote then I don't need to have a driver's licens, library card, school card, etc. Insane!

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