The Politics of Residency Requirements
Mar 21, 2013 | 2702 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Almost all major cities go through periods where they re-examine what – if any – residency requirements should exist for government employees. New York City and New York State have taken pragmatic approaches to this issue in recent years, allowing tenured city employees to live just outside the city (in Nassau and Westchester counties, for example).

If we’re looking at public policy through the policy maker’s lens, it makes sense to have people live in the same city where they earn a living. Big-city mayors like to argue that the people who work for the city are also vital parts of the community – they make good citizens.

Detroit is grappling with this very issue. They want their police officers to remain as city residents because they are good citizens, and Detroit wants as many of those as it can get.

This was not an issue until cities started to decline. Once middle-class families headed for the suburbs, the idea that city employees may want to live elsewhere emerged. Today, cities are rebounding and this has caused the issue to continually bubble up. New York is electing a new mayor in November, and this may become an issue.

Cleveland recently passed a requirement that all public employees live within the state of Ohio. That seems within reason. But New York City employees have a different problem than public employees in Cleveland and Detroit.

Rents in New York City are very high, and salaries in the city are not. Allowing employees to live in adjacent counties is the right way to go. A city employee who works in lower Manhattan should be allowed to live in Jersey City – which is closer than many neighborhoods within the five boroughs, and it is still affordable.

Eventually this becomes a tax issue, as politicians want to tax the money that they pay in salaries. But New York City employees still put a lot of money into the city economy every day, and living on the perimeter of the city is still beneficial.

Strict residency requirements can put a lot of pressure on families. Let’s say a woman teaches in the Nassau County school system and her husband is a New York City police officer (or vice versa). If both Nassau County and New York City decide to enforce strict residency requirements, one of them has to give up a job.

They have enough difficulty buying a home, paying taxes, and finding good schools without worrying about a residency requirement. Some form of a requirement is a good idea, but strict residency requirements are not family friendly.

Debating Ideals in Mineola

On Wednesday, March 20, two local Republicans will be debating the future of the Republican Party. Although Queens, and the rest of New York City, has seen the party shrink, the conversation about ideals is still important.

Dennis Saffran, who ran against Tony Avella for the City Council in 2000, will debate Councilman Dan Halloran at The Davenport Press restaurant. The event is hosted by the conservative Long Island chapter of the Federalist Society.

What makes this worth attending is that both Halloran and Saffran are intelligent debaters when it comes to political ideology. Saffran will most likely be arguing that the party should be more active on the social front and more hands-on legislatively.

Halloran is a libertarian, so figure to hear a lot about the intention of the Founding Fathers, which is music to the ears of “less government” advocates.

This debate comes during a week when a judge will weigh in on the New York City Stop and Frisk policy. This could be an excellent issue for these two men to discuss. Regardless of your politics, it is worth attending a real debate like this, where there is no political job at stake - just two guys with a concern for democracy.

I will not handicap a debate, but I would expect Halloran to stick to his Ron Paul-style of principles, which are strong debate weapons. Saffran has the more difficult task. He has to avoid being too smart for the room, which can be a problem for some of the Giuliani/Manhattan Institute-type Republicans.

These are the conversations that people on both sides need to have when it comes to modern government. It will run you $15 if you’re not a member of the Federalist Society, and it gets underway at 7 p.m.

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