8-17-11: Baltimore Elections 2011 — The Place Where You Live
On Wednesdays and Fridays here on Maryland Morning we’re examining an issue relevant to the Baltimore city elections. This morning, we’re looking at residency requirements and incentives for city workers.
Chicago, Boston, and Milwaukee are among the cities that require municipal employees to live in the cities they work for. Detroit takes a different approach — offering reduced-price housing to some city workers as incentives to move there.
We asked each of the eight candidates running for mayor, including the incumbent, this question: do you think Baltimore city employees should be required–or receive an incentive– to live within city limits?
Jody Landers wrote to us:
As Mayor, I will require all cabinet level officials and other high level employees serving by appointment of the Mayor to be City residents as a condition of employment. However, I think it is a mistake to mandate that all City employees meet a residency requirement. I believe that people ought to be free to live where they choose to live. I do not favor having employers dictate where employees have to live. I am very much in favor of employers, including the City, providing incentives to attract employees to live in the City.
The challenge for the City is to create an environment whereby employees and potential residents choose to live and remain in the City. Creating this environment, will require that we reduce crime, improve schools, reduce the property tax rate and keep neighborhoods clean and safe. The City’s goal should be to hire the most capable, qualified and dedicated employees.
I am a past-president, board member and long-time supporter of the Live Baltimore Home Center, which is focused on marketing the City and providing incentives to attract homebuyers to the City. I would work with Live Baltimore and all of the major employers in the City to expand and promote effective incentive programs to convert existing renters to homebuyers and to attract new residents to the City. The City has a lot of great neighborhoods, very affordable housing and world class cultural and entertainment attractions. As Mayor, I will take a lead role in promoting the City and selling these amenities to prospective residents and businesses. In my judgement residency mandates send the wrong message, and I am concerned that it could lead surrounding subdivisions to adopt similar restrictions, which would work against City residents in getting jobs.
We didn’t receive a response from the current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, but we know that in June, she issued an executive order intended to encourage companies that contract with the city to hire locally. She also is offering city workers money to put towards a down payment for a vacant home in Baltimore.
Otis Rolley’s campaign wrote to us:
Otis believes that it is critical that the people who serve our citizens should live among them — which is why, when he is Mayor, all new employees, and promoted employees will have to be City residents. Not only does it make for stronger neighborhoods, it will improve the level and quality of services delivered to everyone who lives, works or visits Baltimore.
Before Rolley – or any mayor–could do that, they’d have to get a state law repealed. In 1995, the General Assembly banned local governments from creating a residency requirement for any city employees–except department heads. We asked the Rolley campaign how they’d handle that, and they responded: “We would seek to change the law.”
Sheilah discusses the issue with Bob Burchell, a Professor at the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, and with Mel Freeman, Executive Director of the Baltimore-based Citizens Planning and Housing Association.