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November 5, 2013

Study says 60% of Milwaukee city workers would leave if residency rule ends

Filed under: Residency — millerlf @ 3:55 pm

By Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel 11/5/13

In an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit over the city’s residency rule, Mayor Tom Barrett says a new study indicates 60% of the city’s more than 7,000 employees would move outside the city over an 11-year period if the law is repealed.

Barrett cited a recently completed study by SB Friedman Development Advisors of Chicago, which concludes that if the city lost its right to enforce a residency rule, an estimated 375 employees a year will move from city to suburb.

Barrett asked the city’s budget office to commission the study, which cost $68,900. Friedman is a Chicago-based real estate and development advisory firm.

“The Friedman report projects a total of 3,940 employee households to the suburbs over an 11-year period resulting in a reduction in the tax base of $622 million and reduced consumer expenditure within the city of $57 million,” Barrett said.

Barrett’s statement was filed Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court as part of a motion by city lawyers seeking summary judgment in the case. The lawyers want Circuit Judge Paul Van Grunsven to leave intact the city’s 75-year-old residency rule because it is a lawful exercise of the city’s home-rule authority. Van Grunsven has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 27.

In June, Gov. Scott Walker signed into a law a measure, sought for years by the city’s police and fire unions, that ended residency rules for all local units of government.

In July, the Milwaukee Police Association filed suit, saying the city’s failure to comply with the new law had deprived officers of “exercising their liberty interest in being free from residency restrictions as a condition of employment.”

The Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 215 also has joined the suit.

In a separate filing, Jon Cermele, an MPA attorney, said the city’s failure to abide by the new state law had deprived MPA members of their freedom to move out of the city. And he argued that city has no authority to thumb its nose at state law.

Citing the Friedman study, Barrett said city workers have higher incomes, higher housing values and higher homeownership rates than other city residents. As a result, they are a stabilizing force in city neighborhoods, he said.

“The lower incomes, housing values and homeownership rates of all city residents suggest to me that the city employees who migrate out of the city will not be replaced with residents who have the same or better economic advantages,” Barrett said.

Barrett also noted that, between July and Oct. 30, 53 city employees had already filed change-of-address forms stating they had moved beyond the city limits. In addition, he said, 25 newly hired employees do not live in the city, and 15 new employees who were hired before July 2 had applied for and received six-month exemptions from the residency requirement.

“If none of these employees moves into the city, the city will have lost a total of 93 employees who otherwise would be required to move into the city,” Barrett said.

The city has agreed not to enforce the residency rule while the lawsuit is contested.

The Friedman study looked at other cities in which residency rules were repealed. In Baltimore, 60% of city employees live outside the city limits. In Minneapolis, 70% of that city’s employees live outside the city limits.

The study also notes that “few barriers exist that would prevent city employees from moving beyond city limits as housing in the majority of communities in the metropolitan area is both affordable, readily available and within a 15-mile radius of city limits.”

The study adds: “This outflow of city employees who have significantly higher incomes, higher home-ownership rates and higher-value homes than the average city resident is likely to result in negative impacts on the city’s housing and retail markets and the overall property tax base of the city. The housing market impact will likely be manifested primarily through a decrease in new housing construction. The retail market impact will likely be experienced through reduced retail sales within the city, which in turn will influence the amount of rent that retail businesses are able to pay.”

That, in turn, will affect the assessments of residential and retail property, reducing the property tax base and increasing the burden on the remaining taxpayers in the city, according to the Friedman study.


December 16, 2012

Governor Scott Walker says he plans to “help” MPS by ending residency so that MPS teachers can teach in Milwaukee but send their kids to suburban schools.

Filed under: Residency — millerlf @ 8:50 am

From the 12/16 MJS article “Walker Outlines Education Priorities for Next Year”

He (Walker) said he felt strongly that residency could stand in the way of Milwaukee Public Schools recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers, many of whom leave the district because they are dissatisfied with the neighborhood school where their own children would have to attend, he said.

“If you have someone who’s a great teacher starting out at MPS – and this is not stereotyped, this is often the case – has kids, the kids get school age and they decide they’re going to move to Brown Deer, Wauwatosa or somewhere else; it’s just unfortunate that for that teacher you don’t have an option to try to keep him or her within the Milwaukee Public Schools system. It’s not that they’re saying they don’t want to be there, it’s that it’s based on not just their career but their family.”

Walker said another way to retain MPS teachers would be to give them more options for educating their own children, whether with better public schools or expanded charter and voucher schools.

James Causey Gets It Right On Residency

Filed under: Residency — millerlf @ 8:47 am

Repeal would weaken city when middle-class residents move

James Causey MJS 12/15/12

Ending Milwaukee’s residency law may not turn the city into Wisconsin’s Detroit, but it won’t help a city that is already ranked as one of the poorest and most segregated in the nation.

The middle class provides the backbone that keeps cities such as ours strong. But some Republicans don’t see that. And since they will control both houses of the Legislature come January, Milwaukee officials are convinced lawmakers will take another stab at ending the city’s residency law.

If the residency law is repealed, there is no doubt that workers will leave the city for the suburbs. And that would be a shame. There is much to recommend living in the city that you work in. When a city loses such connections with its teachers, police officers or firefighters, it’s hard to re-establish them.

If you think Milwaukee Police Department relations are strained with citizens now, imagine the detachment of officers who are no longer vested in such an intimate way with the city they serve.

The residency law forces people to be good citizens. If you are required to live in Milwaukee, then you naturally have an interest in seeing the city succeed. You are also more likely to speak out about problems because they affect you.

I know Milwaukee has its problems. Poverty is too high; too many children are underperforming in school; and the city’s hyper segregation has contributed to often terrible race relations.

But lifting the residency law makes dealing with those problems even harder. It leaves those who stay to try to figure it out.

The residency law here has been on the books since 1938. When prospective employees apply for city jobs, they know that one of the requirements is that they have to live within the city limits.

I’m not trying to dictate where people can live. Live where you want. But leave the jobs for people who want to be here. If you still want to be an officer and live in Brown Deer, then become a Brown Deer Police officer. If you want to be a teacher in Milwaukee but live in Brookfield, teach in Brookfield.

And if you believe residency requirements are unfair, consider that even in the private sector, companies often move people around or ask that some employees be close to the office, and the U.S. military routinely stations servicemen and women according to military need.

Mayor Tom Barrett believes passionately that repealing the law would have a devastating effect on property values. If the requirement is lifted, Barrett estimates that half of city employees would migrate out of the city over a 10-year period. When the idea was posed before, he said the mayor of West Allis told him that he would love it if Milwaukee officers could move to West Allis to increase his city’s property values.

The last thing any mayor wants is for the property tax base of his city to flee. That’s why Barrett is fighting so hard – and he should be. The city’s life blood is threatened.

Any Republican willing to fight with local officials over this issue only needs to look at cities that have repealed residency to see how they have fared.

Those cities have seen sharp population declines. Toledo, Ohio, repealed its law in 2009, and now 24% of city workers live outside the city; Minneapolis repealed in 1999, 70% live outside the city; Baltimore repealed in 1995, 60% live outside the city; and Detroit repealed in 1999, 45% live outside the city.

Gov. Scott Walker said he has supported changing the residency rules for teachers in the past because he said it would be a way to help MPS hang on to good teachers and recruit from outside of Milwaukee.

Last week, he said if a really strong MPS teacher works in the district for a few years and wants to start a family in the suburbs, then she should not lose her teaching job because of it.

Third-generation Detroit pawnbroker Les Gold, of the TV reality show “Hardcore Pawn” said many factors contributed to Detroit’s decline but he said changing the residency law didn’t help.

Gold, 62, said the riots in the 1960s and the decline in the auto and manufacturing industries crippled his city and caused half the population to leave.

While Gold didn’t know much about Milwaukee, he said the one thing that keeps the middle class from moving is a strong school system.

“If your school system is strong, people with kids will stay. If it isn’t, then they will leave,” Gold said.

Fixing the problems in Milwaukee will not be easy but it will be even harder if a portion of the middle class leaves. The residency law is that important to our future. And it’s not asking that much of city workers. Keep it.

James E. C

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