A debate has erupted over at the Burgh Report over whether Mark DeSantis' pledge to end the city's residency requirement for employees is a good idea. In response to someone who claimed the city school district has declined as a result of the end of its teachers' residency requirement, I posted this response:
First of all, no suburban district has a residency requirement. So the idea that teachers have to live in the communities in which they teach in order to be successful is ridiculous. Thanks to grandfathering and the exemptions that were handed out as part of the CBA, plenty of Pittsburgh teachers and administrators lived outside the city even before the residency requirement was lifted. And the reason it was lifted was because Philadelphia had problems recruiting teachers due to its residency requirement, and by state code only Pittsburgh and Philly had such rules.
I suppose the best reason to not require employees to live in the city is that it automatically increases the pool of potential employees. That may not matter much to the police -- I have no idea if recruitment is an issue, especially in light of the budget cuts. Perhaps police who live in the city do garner more respect from the citizens they ostensibly protect. But as the admiral noted, there are vast differences among Pittsburgh neighborhoods, and living in one of them may not give you an appreciation of the others. (I, for instance, live closer, in geography, to Dormont than to East Liberty.)
I don't like the idea of a change in policy being made strictly for an endorsement. But arguably the morale of an employee is better if they can live where they choose, and that's nothing to sneeze at. Yes, there is a cost, and I've certainly criticized past efforts to keep unions happy at the expense of taxpayers. Yet somehow I doubt we're going to see hundreds of for sale signs go up in the city as a result of this. I suspect there are plenty of police who like living in the city, or for other reasons aren't inclined to move.
And if we do see a mass exodus, then my friends we have problems. Because what does it say about our city if we have to force people to live here? (link)