Milwaukee Common Council
Press Release

Taking “Home” out of Home Rule

Joint Statement from All Members of the Common Council

By - Jun 24th, 2016 04:03 pm

Yesterday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court announcement regarding the ruling lifting of the City of Milwaukee’s 78-year-old residency requirement for city employees was deeply disappointing. As the Mayor said yesterday, the decision delivers a huge blow to home rule, in place for local governments in Wisconsin for more than 100 years, and in the case of the residency requirement in Milwaukee, for nearly 80 years.

We know that Milwaukee is a bustling, vibrant and wonderful major league city, a city we are deeply proud of, and one with a variety of different neighborhoods and levels of living options. In our view it’s a long-accepted condition of employment and not at all a violation of anyone’s freedom of choice to require city employees to live in our wonderful city.

Not only has the Wisconsin Supreme Court overlooked more than 75 years of legal standing (residency requirement), the decision undermines our efforts to create safe and stable neighborhoods with middle class families and family-supporting jobs.

It’s interesting to note that one of the justifications for lifting the residency requirement was to attract better quality applicants for city jobs. There’s absolutely no evidence that we haven’t been attracting quality applicants for city jobs, as we consistently have waiting lists for every public safety job and nearly every civil service job in the City of Milwaukee. From 2008-2010, the city received 17,563 job applications for general city positions, and 86% of applicants were already Milwaukee residents. In our most recent recruitments, the city received 5,711 applications for the position of firefighter and 3,569 applications for the position of police officer. Our residency requirement has not impeded our ability to retain quality city employees.

The Legislature, the Governor, and the Supreme Court justices should realize the challenge of running a city where 29% of residents live below the poverty line, and where city employees are an important component of the existing middle class.

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3 thoughts on “Taking “Home” out of Home Rule”

  1. Donald George MacDonald says:

    Personal freedoms make more sense than just good money sense.

  2. Virginia Small says:

    Thanks for making this statement. Being a public servant comes with various benefits and responsibilities. Being able to serve in a municipal job is not a right per se.

    Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled Legislature and Supreme Court just keeps finding more ways to “stick it to Milwaukee,” the state’s prime economic generator.

  3. Mama says:

    The idea of this being a “personal freedom” issue is a red herring. No job comes with complete personal freedom. Some jobs require you to wear a uniform. Some require you to cover up tattoos or remove piercings. Some monitor and discipline you for things they’ve seen you post on social media or for things you do on your personal time that may reflect badly on the employer.

    Requiring employees to live in a certain jurisdiction is no different. When you depend on an employer for your living, your employer gets to dictate much of the terms. I have been a public servant for 16 years. I accepted the job knowing residency was required. As the editorial points out, there are wait lists for City jobs…clearly Milwaukee doesn’t depend on suburban residents to fill their posts.

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