Is this the carrot or the stick?

The Milwaukee City Council voted to block a 1.5% raise  from City employees who choose to exercise their right to live outside the City of Milwaukee.

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (emphasis added):

By an overwhelming vote, the Milwaukee Common Council approved a new ordinance on Tuesday that, in effect, renders many city employee ineligible for a pay boost if they move outside of the City of Milwaukee.


The ordinance does not affect elected officials or employees represented by the Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Association, the Milwaukee Police Association or the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association Local 215.


In the most recent city payroll, there were 4,106 general city workers, a number that doesn’t include police and fire employees.


Ald. Bob Donovan was not present when the vote was taken. He later reappeared at the meeting and asked that his vote be recorded as a “no” vote. That request was recognized and the final vote was 14-1.


Mayor Tom Barrett said he would sign the measure. He said that his staff discussed the idea internally before consulting with members of the Common Council and labor unions.

This ordinance was born out of the recent state law signed by Governor Walker that did away with residency requirements.  The City of Milwaukee, along with other municipalities, required all employes to live within city limits.  The logic behind the requirement was that it kept the employees living in the communities in which they worked, and contributed to the tax base of the local government.

Barrett’s opposition to the law doing away with such requirements is rooted in his unjustifiable fear that City employees will flee in droves, driving down property values and ruining the city.  Ooooookkkkkaaaaayyyyyy.

It’s illogical.  Buying and selling a house is not something that’s done at the snap of a finger.  Will some employees move out of Milwaukee?  Perhaps, but not tomorrow and not in the mass exodus Barrett is fearing.  But there’s something else, something very disappointing and — frankly — un-mayoral in Barrett’s attitude.

Barrett is basically saying that he doesn’t believe in the City of Milwaukee.  He’s saying that the City is such an undesirable place to live that — if we didn’t force City employees to reside there — only the dregs of society would inhabit Milwaukee.

What a ringing endorsement from the man who’s job function is to promote, love, and praise the city he governs.

The solution, of course, to Barrett’s fears is to make Milwaukee a desirable place to live.  We have tremendous cultural activities, a glorious lakefront, access to some of the most beautiful topography in the nation within reasonable driving distance, a deep history.  What we need is a lower, fairer tax base and a government that welcomes and supports businesses (*cough* Palermo’s Pizza *cough*) and makes it easy to work and live here (through fewer city codes, business permit hoops to jump through, etc.).  

If Mayor Barrett made Milwaukee a place people wanted to live, instead of a place where he had to force people to live, maybe he wouldn’t be so concerned about the law lifting the residency requirements.  That Barrett seems downright panicked should say something to his constituents and the people of Milwaukee.  Since Milwaukee is one of the biggest cities in the state and gets a lot of aid from the state, it should also make all of Wisconsin a little…concerned.

Another way that Barrett could encourage employees to stay is through incentives.  By offering City employees who reside in city limits a reason to stay — the 1.5% raise is a good example — they encourage employees to reconsider a move to the suburbs.  This I have no problem with.  When an employer wants to compete for good employees, the employer should offer incentives to attract and retain good employees.

But even that’s something he and the Common Council manage to screw up.  Go back and read the highlighted portion of The Journal Sentinel article quoted above.  The newly passed ordinance exempts elected officialsamong a few other groups.  So it’s going to be perfectly legal for Tom Barrett or any member of the Common Council to move out of the City and still get their raises…but not the average worker.  

Does Barrett (and the Common Council) not see how petty and vindictive — and hypocritical — this is?  Do they not see that, by exempting themselves, they confirm Barrett’s own expressed fears about those who support the tax base fleeing (because, let’s be honest, the Mayor and the members of the Common Council make way more than a majority of the City employees they’ve just whipped with this stick).  They’ve also clearly defined that they are above this law, but the rest of the City’s employees are being held hostage in Milwaukee…some might argue in violation of state law.

This is the same thing progressive liberals like Barrett do all the time.  They actively work against school choice…then send their kids to private schools.  They demand residency rules…then exempt themselves while taking the raise they’re denying other employees.  They work to take away our guns, but keep their armed security guards. 

I fully expect this will lead to another lawsuit, on top of any suits the City may face in violating state law by continuing the residency rule.  But, of course, the money for such suits doesn’t come from the pockets of Barrett or the Common Council…it comes from the pockets of the taxpayers of Milwaukee.  The ones they’re so desperate to have stay in the city.

If that’s not the definition of poor governance, I don’t know what is.



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