The South Bend Common Council will consider imposing residency requirements on city workers.
The idea of forcing people who work for the city to live in the city is nothing new. In fact, South Bend had such a rule on the books for about 10 years, before the measure was repealed in 1986.
Any out-of-towner who already works for the city could not legally be let go, but if passed, the new residency rule would apply to new hires starting March 1st of 2014.
Those new hires wouldn’t have to live in the city to apply for a job—would have to move to the city within six months of being hired.
“Why would I be paying you with city tax dollars from South Bend for you to live in Mishawaka, Granger, or even Niles or Buchanan, why would I do that?” said Councilman Henry Davis, Jr., (D) South Bend’s Second District.
For Davis, it’s not only the principal of the matter; it’s the economics as well. “The problem is that we have been very so good at employing people outside the city and the folks that are in the city, given the 10 percent unemployment rate, those folks never get a chance to get a job.”
But the courts have already ruled that residency requirements like those proposed for South Bend cannot be imposed on roughly half the city’s workforce; because they can’t be imposed on police or firefighters.
“Well, you’re talking about 1,100 employees here in the City of South Bend so, I mean, you’re going to look at it, you’re talking about more like 600 now or maybe 500 something around there that will be mandated,” said Councilman Davis. “The message being sent, we want to take pride in the city that we live in. That we serve, we want to make sure that folks are invested here fully and we want to make sure that everybody has two hands in, and also two feet to make sure the city begins to grow.”
The proposal drew mixed reactions from people coming out of the downtown branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library.
“If you have a good job, if you're doing a good job, why should it be their business what you do after work; where you go, live at, you know. I think people should live where they want to live,” said Julius Mercado of South Bend.
“I think it’s kind of wrong for the employer to make that, force it on them,” said Derreck Young, a former South Bend resident.
The debate will likely heat up as the proposal comes up for a public hearing at the council’s December 9th meeting.
“Yeah I think they should live within the city, otherwise how are they going to know what our problems are and what we need in the city you know if they aren't here living and experiencing what's going on here?” said Elle Goerke.
Residency requirements for police and firefighters are now spelled out in state law. They can basically live in the county where their department is based, or in a contiguous county.