Good morning Madam Chairman and fellow committee members. Thank you for your time and thank you for allowing Assembly Bill 65 to be heard today.
Fundamentally, all people who live in Wisconsin should have the explicit right to live where they so choose and to have this hindered by local government is an infringement of those rights. There should not be a high power that should govern where a police officer or fire fighter chooses to live if that employee is able to carry out their duties and report to work on a timely manor.
The current ordinance has been in place since 1938, but goes back years before. In the 1960’s only a handful of cities, including Milwaukee, retained residency requirements. After years of battle and discussion, the residency requirement must come to an end. These fine employees have not been granted their wish to live where they deem necessary for their families. The time is now to stand up for these employees and give them their right to raise their families at an address they see fit.
You will hear from opposition that a mass exodus out of Milwaukee will occur if this legislation passes. This is a false claim to preserve a mandate that has been in place for decades. When employees are given a choice to live where they choose, they typically remain in the same jurisdiction. Residency requirements were amended in various cities such as Nashville, Boston, and Dayton; all of which experienced only marginal changes in population. I feel Milwaukee will face similar outcomes if this legislation passes for multiple reasons.
- These Public Employees are committed to work in Milwaukee. Police Officers and fire fighters take pride in the city they work in and simply because they are given the option of moving out, does not mean they will. These citizens love their job and enjoy the city they work in. This is not a mandate forcing them to move out of a city, but rather just an option that was not given to them in past.
- Also, it is not economically feasibly for these employees to move out immediately as suggested. If given the option of moving out of Milwaukee, many will find it is hard to sell their homes in a market that is unfavorable right now. It is hard for me to believe that these employees will sell their homes for a price that does not meet their economic needs. Citizens across the state have found it difficult to find a suitable home buyer and Milwaukee is no different.
You will also hear arguments from the opposition that these employees are made aware of the residency requirement prior to being employed in Milwaukee.
Though this is true, there are many circumstances where one would be compelled to move out of the city. When these officers are hired, usually in their 20’s, the residency requirement does not affect them as greatly as it could years down the road, especially when they are trying to raise a family in a school district that is failing. If these men and women want to move out of Milwaukee to give their children a better chance of a good education, they should not be punished for it.
I strongly believe, the argument of local control starts and ends at the home of the employee and not the municipality in which a citizen works.
The reason I choose to support this legislation for Firefighters and Police Officers is simply because they asked me. In January I attended a Milwaukee Fire Installation of Officers and was approached by a number of these employees whose main concern was residency. These public employees wanted to ensure that their employment with the Milwaukee Fire Department would not be expelled if they decided to move to a city like New Berlin or a village like Hales Corners.
For the past six weeks I have heard nothing but rhetoric regarding workers rights and in my eyes, protecting workers and their choice to live outside of Milwaukee is a just cause. Judging someone on where they live and raise a family should never come before their assessment on the job. The taxpayers of Wisconsin and Milwaukee pay taxes to receive quality services and protections; it is completely irrelevant where the person performing these services chooses to live.
In closing, I will continue to support any legislation that repeals residency requirements for any government employees across the state, with the exception of elected officials. This 70 year old mandate needs to come to an end and local officials must no longer be reluctant to act upon the wishes of their employees. This is the United States of America and all citizens should be able to choose where they work and choose where they live.
Thank you for your time.