cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The hue and cry over Governor Walker’s proposed budget that would remove residency requirements statewide is about what one would expect. Those whose oxen are getting gored are very critical. Those who would benefit are mostly silent indicating they are quite happy to see this being poised to face a vote.
I have never been the subject of a residency requirement except while in the Army. I have always worked in the private sector and never encountered any requirements other than those I created for myself in respect to where I wanted to live and how far I was willing to commute to my workplace.
I think I understand both sides of this issue, but I tend to favor the side of those who would subsequently be able to choose to live where they wished without regard to employment. Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee is vehemently opposed to this freedom of choice for his city’s employees. He believes that Milwaukee will see a major exodus from its neighborhoods as police and fire fighters streak to Washington County or Waukesha County or Racine County to get away from Milwaukee. He laments the fact that there have been many foreclosures in his city and believes that pain must be shared by all, apparently. And, of course, unfortunately, he labels this as a “payback” provision of the budget that is there to thank the local unions that supported Walker in the gubernatorial race that Barrett lost most recently.
Employee flight might be a realistic picture long-term but it isn’t going to occur in a year or two or even five. People living in Milwaukee because they have no choice will relocate if and when they can afford to do so. Those who own their own homes will need to sell those in most cases before they can realistically think about leaving the city.
It seems that Mayor Barrett is hoping he can eliminate this language from the Budget bill and thus force his employees to stay in a city they might not desire to live in long-term. Maybe the Milwaukee Public School system is part of that decision-making process since there are better school systems available in virtually every bordering community. Maybe the MPS system could benefit if the residency rule were to be relaxed, if not eliminated completely, as it tries to hire hundreds of replacement teachers over the next six months.
There are various ‘oasis’ neighborhoods in Milwaukee where one finds a heavy population of city and school employees. These are the spots where police officers and fire fighters and teachers have clustered together. They tend to be safe neighborhoods. They tend to be more affluent neighborhoods than many neighborhoods in the city.
Looming in the background is the City’s refusal to negotiate this issue when labor agreements were being revised for renewal. The negotiators claim that they were told to “take it to the state” if they wanted a change in residency rules. It seems they might have heeded that advice.
In the final analysis, is it fair for an employer to dictate where you will live so long as you are available for emergencies within a set amount of time if you are a police officer or firefighter? If the community in which one is employed is not suitable or affordable for the employee, shouldn’t the employee be able to live outside those boundaries? Does the community not disadvantage itself with these requirements, especially when it is not as desirable a community as others might be?