Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Governor Ignores South Side on Residency Requirement

Walker signs law, never responds to letters from South Side politicians and organizations.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Jul 11th, 2013 10:25 am
While police officers and emergency personnel no longer have to live in the city, they must live within 15 miles of the city limits. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

While police officers and emergency personnel no longer have to live in the city, they must live within 15 miles of the city limits. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

Prior to signing the state budget into law, Gov. Scott Walker received an urgent plea on behalf of members and supporters of the Southside Organizing Committee (SOC), to veto the amendment ending the city of Milwaukee’s employee residency requirements.

That plea went unacknowledged, according to Steve Fendt, executive director of the SOC. The law went into effect on July 2.

The letter was co-signed by community leaders and each elected official representing Milwaukee’s near South Side, including Alderman Bob Donovan, County Supervisor Peggy West and State Senator Tim Carpenter, among others.

“Please reconsider your placement of the municipal residency policy in the biennial budget,” read part of the memo sent to Walker.

Several requests for comment from Walker’s office regarding the letter brought no response.

In May, the legislature approved the measure ending the longtime mandatory residency requirement for City of Milwaukee workers, though police, firefighters and emergency responders will still be required to live within 15 miles of the city.

The city’s Common Council responded by adopting a resolution to reinstate the residency rule.  The council also directed the city attorney to fight the state provision in court.

The SOC’s letter to Walker pointed out that the majority of South Side residents had supported him in recent elections.

“In your election to Milwaukee County Executive in 2002, and then your re-election in 2004 and 2008, you won the South Side vote each time. We think it’s because you put the taxpayers first, and you sought better county services at a more affordable price: things we value highly as residents and elected [officials] on the Near South Side.”

Fendt said Walker is now ignoring those constituents.

“Elected representatives were in unanimous agreement that this (measure) should be taken out of the budget and to ignore them with no acknowledgement at all is a pretty loud statement,” Fendt said.

The letter also stated that city employees who don’t live where they work would be removed financially and socially from the communities they serve.

But Milwaukee Police Association (MPA) President Mike Crivello said that the SOC and others are looking at the issue the wrong way.

“Policing is not just a job or a vocation, it’s a calling; people become police officers because they like helping people,” Crivello explained. He said he and other officers care deeply about the communities they serve, and that never once has where he lived been an issue.

Crivello added that he works in the central city, but has lived for years on the far east or far south sides of Milwaukee.

The MPA has vowed to fight in court any city action to maintain the requirement. As of now, the SOC has no plans to file a lawsuit, according to Fendt.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

5 thoughts on “Governor Ignores South Side on Residency Requirement”

  1. GoodGirl says:

    1. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his six-figure earning staff, and the pensioned bureaucrats running at City Hall are behind this “plea,” and they have begged and cried to every advocacy group and democratic leaning organization possible to create a false appearance of public outrage over this. Their futile attempt to create panic shows that Milwaukee may be worse than it seems. Milwaukee apparently does not have a “Plan B.” Is residency the only policy option they have to make the city livable? Maybe they focused too much on downtown after all.

    2. If the Governor responded, Tom Barrett would just use his words against him. Barrett would call a press conference and assume his usual stone throwing at the man. Tom has zero influence outside of his own administration, and that can only hurt Milwaukee’s chances at achieving regional cooperation. If these groups were smart, they would distance themselves from the unpleasant and unlikable Mayor of Milwaukee, and lobby the state leaders on their own in private.

    3. A March 2013 poll by Marquette University shows that the general public opposes residency requirements 53-42. Milwaukee residents polled split 50-50 on whether they wanted to force residency, even after listening to all of Tom Barrett’s unsubstantiated threats that “Milwaukee will turn into Detroit” (nice compliment to the urban democrat allies out there), or “This is political payback to the public safety unions” (although it covers all government employees), or “This is unconstitutional attack on local control” (although it covers all cities in Wisconsin).

    4. Tom Barrett and the Common Council has taken absolutely no action to toughen up the laws or regulations that would help keep Milwaukee desirable. In the heart of Milwaukee, away from the east side, or the white bread pockets of city workers, the city has already “become Detroit.” This type of low-quality of life neighborhood atmosphere is spreading even with a forced-residency requirement. They use excuses like the housing crash, recession, the governor, or any red herring they can use to not accept policy failures which obviously predated the great recession and have continued through it. One failure to the “rest of the city” has been a data-obsessed police chief who does not consider neighborhood policing important, and only focuses staff on areas of violent crimes. This creates an atmosphere in many areas that the police aren’t around, they aren’t patrolling here, and that you can behave and do what you please there.

  2. Mike says:

    A few thoughts:

    1. Is the Governor supposed to personally respond to each letter he gets?

    2. If Officer Crivello is right, Milwaukee needn’t worry as no police officers would ever leave the City

    3. As a Wauwatosa resident should I be outraged that Tom Barrett’s wife is earning her living off the Wauwatosa taxpayer whilst living in Milwaukee?

  3. Andy says:

    I’ve always been a supporter of Walkers. As county exec, then governor, and then during the ACT10 push. However, how can I not see this as anything other then paying back the police and firefighters unions for their support, or at least lack of opposition, to ACT10? More then that, I’m growing more and more concerned with Walkers apparent prioritization of special interests above those of the voters.

    For those of you who support the ending of residency rules, what factual and applicable benefits do you see from this law? There is no shortage of applications for teachers, firefighters, or police.

    However, there are real consequences to removing the residency rules. You don’t need a mass exodus from the city to cause major problems. We are talking realestate here. You only need more sellers than buyers in order to ruin property values. And you only need a certain percentage of homes on a street to make buyers wonder what’s wrong with an area.

    Lets face it, there are drawbacks to living in the city… poor school system and high taxes among them. Because of this, yes there are pockets of the city that are only nice because of the residency rules. Until we can fix those issues, the residency rules should have been left in place. Many people in the suburbs fail to realize that the strength of the suburbs metro area as a whole depends largely on the strength of the city of Milwaukee.

  4. David Ciepluch says:

    Ignore = Ignorance

    I have no interest in public employees that verbally trash everything in Milwaukee but are willing to accept the highest wages the city has to offer that are double the average citizen income, then move to the suburbs and act as lords over Milwaukee citizens. I am a 5th generation Milwaukee resident as well as my wife. This was not the time and correct political method to deal with the residency issue in a contracting economy and decreased home values of $50,000 or more. It deeply harms the morale and financial health of all that remain and have made it their home and way of life.

  5. Mike says:


    So are you troubled by Tom Barrett’s wife taking a salary from the Wauwatosa taxpayer?


    I don’t think the lifting of residency will have as big of an impact as anyone think. Cities won’t all of the sudden get superior employees and I don’t see the City of Milwaukee emptying. Why?

    Real estate operates on supply and demand. The homes in the cops/firefighter/teacher sections of Milwaukee are artificially high because there is a demand for them. So if all these people leave they will see a big hit to their home’s value.

    The houses in the Suburbs are already artificially high in price and if a huge new market of buyers enters the market those prices will only go higher. So the real question is, will the average city employee be able to afford to move? Perhaps, but I think it is not that easy to do.

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