Non-unionized municipal employees for the city of Springfield,Massachusetts who do not live in the city could soon face an ultimatum-- move to the city or lose their jobs.
Springfield City Council President James Ferrera, backed up by at least six of his colleagues on the 13- member council, is proposing to use the city budget as leverage in the latest attempt to put a new residency ordinance on the books.
A city ordinance that requires municipal employees to reside in Springfield has largely been ignored since at least 1995 as a result of lax oversight and numerous mayoral waivers. Complicating matters is that teachers, police officers and firefighters are exempt from residency rules either as a result of state law or union contracts.
City councilors have been trying for the last three- and-a-half years to produce a new residency ordinance that would restrict the mayor’s ability to grant waivers and would mandate enforcement of the residency rule. Councilors rejected the latest proposed residency ordinance because it would not invalidate waivers already granted.
Ferrera’s plan is to cut the salaries from the proposed city budget for employees who don’t move into the city. At a news conference, Ferrera produced a list of 32 city employees who had been granted waivers from the residency law. The combined salaries total almost $2 million.
The city council is beginning to debate the mayor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.
John Lysak, one of six city councilors who joined Ferrera at the news conference, said he receives a lot of complaints from his constituents about the residency issue.
Rev. Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP said the practice of granting waivers to the residency rule has shut the door to city employment for qualified blacks and Hispanics
City councilor Michael Fenton, who as chair of an ad-hoc committee has been wrestling with the residency issue for three years, is critical of the council president’s plan.
Fenton is advocating for a residency ordinance that would severely restrict the mayor’s ability to grant waivers to the residency rule and to offer incentives for non-resident employees to move to the city.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno issued a statement that said his administration’s goal is to attract top level talent. Everything being equal, the statement goes on, Springfield residents are always given first preference.