Legislation which would end the residency requirement for police and fire fighters in the city of Milwaukee was the subject of a public hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday. The bill’s Assembly author, Waukesha Assembly Republican Bill Kramer, said the proposed legislation is a question of individual rights. “Our vocation should not be a mandate on our location,” said Kramer. “We should be free to live where we please, if we are able to still perform at the expected levels and beyond, regardless of our address.”
But Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett noted that the residency requirement has been in place since 1938, and that city residents like it. “We’ve maintained local control for 70 years,” said Barrett. “I honestly don’t know what fundamentally has changed in 2011, that would require this legislature to take away our local control. I view this as an outright assault on the city of Milwaukee’s local control.”
The end of the residency requirement for Milwaukee police and fire fighters could lead to a drop in property values. “There is a concern that because this residency requirement has been around a long time, that if it’s ever lifted, it will result in a significant exodus from the city and a significant drop in home values,” noted State Senator Glenn Grothman, a West Bend Republican. And Barrett noted the average value of a home owned by a police officer or fire fighter is some $43,000 above the citywide average. “So for those police and fire who are planning on moving, you better move fast, because what you are doing, is you are driving down the property values of your neighbors,” the mayor said.
Barrett also questioned the bill’s (SB 30) narrow focus on his city, noting similar residency requirements exist for Milwaukee County, and for state employees.