After taking a few hours off -- presumably to focus on their NCAA tournament brackets -- our elected leaders, electronic media and advertising-supported pundits have resumed their partisan pugilism.
With the budget apparently repaired, they've begun talking about whether or not it's cool for Milwaukee to require its police and firemen to live within the city limits.
The residency requirement -- kind of like collective bargaining for public employees -- has existed for years before becoming a major problem in the last few months.
Apparently, some of the same folks who don't want teachers and custodians and dispatchers to have a say in their working conditions are now working to make sure that cops and firefighters can live wherever they like (as long as it's within a specified five-county area).¬†
Mayor Tom Barrett and a bunch of aldermen are afraid that lifting the residency requirement for 3,000 police officers and firefighters will prompt a bunch of them to flee the city, lowering the tax base and leading to further reduction in services and safety -- not to mention longer response times in emergencies. They point to cities like Detroit and Camden, N.J., as places harmed by similar decisions.
The opposition says that these heroes should be able to pay property taxes on the Wauwatosa side of 60th Street or -- gasp -- in Brown Deer, Hartland or Menomonee Falls.
If I've learned anything from watching the political tennis match play out over the past few weeks, it's this: money talks.
That leads me to humbly suggest a solution to this thorny and multifaceted issue:
1. Let the cops and firefighters (and eventually the teachers) live wherever they choose.
2. If they choose to live in the City of Milwaukee, give them a little something extra in their paycheck or portfolio. It wouldn't have to be much. It could be $50 per paycheck; maybe $100. Or, it could be a slight reduction in their annual property tax bill. It could even be as simple as an extra day off ever…Read more...