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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Readers Blog

Residence Requirement

Governor Scott Walker has proposed that Wisconsin bar  cities, villages and school districts from requiring employees to live in their communities.  Is that a good idea?

Cities, like Milwaukee,  impose this  requirement  primarily to spur  demand for city  housing, which raises rents and property values.  This is good for homeowners and landlords, and for the city treasury, but not so good for tenants and prospective buyers.  There is no doubt that eliminating the requirement would lead to an exodus of municipal employees  from the City of Milwaukee to the suburbs, although the School Choice Program reduces the need to move out in search of better schools.  

Aside from shoring-up housing prices, the residence requirement also  ensures that city employees personally experience the level of public services that they provide.  For example,  a sanitation worker is less likely to support a strike if his own garbage will not be picked up. Since  Milwaukee is about 40% black and 10% Hispanic,  the residence requirement  provides an ethnically diverse work force without obnoxious quotas.  Moreover, whites who are comfortable living in a multi-racial community are more likely to treat minorities fairly than those who are not, so the residence requirement has the additional  benefit of keeping hard-core racists out of  sensitive city  jobs, such as police officer and  teacher. 

On the other hand, the requirement also reduces the pool of applicants for  jobs requiring certain skills  and credentials, such as teaching high school physics or math.  Barring committed  suburbanites from these jobs  forces the city to accept second and third-rate applicants, which is contrary to the interests of  city residents.

My preference is to let the local authorities decide what is best for their communities  on this, as well as other, issues.  At one time Republicans  favored  local control whenever possible, but  under their current leadership they now push for  statewide  rules, perhaps because that is where they now hold power.

 Gerald  S  Glazer 

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