October 7, 2009 6:18 PM
The Council had an interesting debate the other night about residency. The bottom line question was should people who work for the city be required to live here?
It used to be a requirement that every city employee needed to live in the city. But over the last couple of decades all of our unionized workers were released from that requirement and only the 350 or so unrepresented employees needed to be city residents. When I came into office in 2003 I liberalized even those requirements considerably, but these workers still had a small financial disincentive to want to live outside of Madison. The debate was over a proposal to eliminate that last small remnant of the old residency rules.
On the one hand, I can understand why some Council members and others feel so strongly about residency. If you worked for Coke you probably wouldn't wear a Pepsi cap to work. If you worked for Ford you probably wouldn't want to drive a Honda into the company parking lot.
But, in the end, I think we should let the residency rule go. What's important to me is that our employees come to work with a positive attitude and to extent that the residency requirement breeds some resentment it doesn't help. I also think that people can be proud to work for the city and can provide excellent service to our residents without actually living here themselves. What's important is that we have the highest morale and the best customer service possible from our employees.
Finally, it's just not necessary for Madison to force people to live in our city. We're a highly successful and desirable place to live. We have a steady growth rate of about 20,000 people over a decade. I'd love for city employees to make their homes here, but I see no reason to force them into it.