Should city workers be required to live in South Milwaukee? That’s what the City Council will consider at its meeting on July 17.
The Human Resources Committee — and several other aldermen in attendance, including me — vigorously debated the subject Tuesday, voting to bring the issue before the full council next week.
Here is where I stand: I am against strict residency. In other words, I favor changing city ordinances and the Civil Service Manual to remove the requirement that all city civil service employees hired after July 1 live in South Milwaukee (or move there within a year).
Would I prefer that our employees live in South Milwaukee? Of course, and my position is by no means meant to diminish the skills of current South Milwaukee residents. Far from it.
I look at it this way: Placing artificial restrictions like this on workers only serves to limit the labor pool and all but guarantees that at least some quality people will not apply for jobs in our fair city.
Strong local roots. Kids established in school. A historically bad real housing market. Complicated family situations. Those are just a few of the reasons people are hesitant to pick up and move for their jobs – and why some wouldn’t even consider applying with an employer that requires you to live where you work.
And with Act 10 and the demise of public unions, and union benefits being reduced, we are increasingly competing head to head with the private sector for employees – private employers that do not require their employees to live where they work. Neither should we.
Instead, there is a reasonable standard I hope we consider (and pass Tuesday).
It would require that civil service employees live within these boundaries: Highway 20 from Racine west to Highway S; north on S to Highway K; west on K to Highway 164, north on 164 to the Waukesha-Racine County border, east to Highway V (Town Line Road) extended, north on Highway V extended to Silver Spring Road (Highway VV), and east on Silver Spring Road to Whitefish Bay.
Existing non-represented and fire union employees already adhere to these restrictions, while our police officers have no residency requirements (per their negotiated contract).
Now, there should be exceptions to any residency rule. Some jobs should require that workers live even closer to South Milwaukee, or in the city itself … and those job descriptions should clearly lay out those requirements, so current and new employees know exactly what’s expected of them.
A blanket, and restrictive, requirement, however, is a step too far. As an alderman, a big part of my job is to make South Milwaukee a city in which people want to live – not where they’re forced to.
Of course, I’d like to know what you think about this. Post your comments below!