Is an ordinance requiring all city employees to be city residents about fairness or fascism? Ward 2 Councilwoman Anne Marie Kazmierczak, who has made a referral to City Council that would require city employees to live inside city limits, thinks it’s about fairness.
“A lot of people are making decisions that affect city residents, what with sewer and other areas,” says Kazmierczak. “And the people making the decisions don’t always live in the city, so they are imposing taxes or sewers on people, and [they] are not affected by the decisions they are making. How fair is it for someone to say you need to be on sewer, but I live out in Frenchtown, so ha, ha, I don’t have to.”
Whether city employees actually take this cavalier attitude is a matter of debate, but the legality of Kazmierczak’s referral is not.
“If I’m approached by someone,” says city attorney Jim Nugent. “I’ve got to tell them, ‘hey, this appears to be legal.’”
Nugent, who investigates the legality of suggested ordinances, says no one has yet requested an opinion on Kazmierczak’s referral, but he is already familiar with a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue. In McCarthy v. Philadelphia Civic Service Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that a residency requirement doesn’t infringe on any fundamental rights protected by the Constitution. What the ruling doesn’t say is whether such legislation is a good idea. The city administration thinks it isn’t.
“I don’t think that we’re a community that’s large enough that we can just draw from within the city limits for certain kinds of expertise,” says Missoula chief administrator Janet Stevens. “And another issue is the cost of housing. Even though we pay a living wage…housing in Missoula proper may not fit with the salaries of the employees.”
The city’s human resource department has no way of knowing how many of the city’s 368 current employees live outside city limits, and Kazmierczak says she doesn’t yet know how current city employees would be dealt with if her idea is adopted. The idea is only in its infancy, she says.
“It’s just to get the conversation going,” she says. “It’s just to get people to start thinking about the consequences of their actions.”