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Milwaukee to Enforce Residency Rule, Despite New State Budget

The Common Council has voted to continue requiring city workers to live in Milwaukee.

The vote on Tuesday was 13 to 2. Alderman Michael Murphy spoke before the Common Council took action.

“Is it too much to ask that those individuals who choose to apply for a job with the city of Milwaukee – who choose as a freedom of choice to be employed by the taxpayers of this city -- that they be required to live in the city that pays their salaries?”

Murphy calls the state move to wipe out residency rules big government meddling. He claims the state constitution prohibits the state from interfering in such local affairs. So, the Common Council also voted Tuesday to sue the state for attempting to lift residency requirements. Council President Willie Hines argues they’re needed to strengthen neighborhoods and maintain property values.

“I feel very confident of the council’s position. It is our primary objective and duty to protect the interests of our taxpayers, to continue to protect the interests of the city of Milwaukee.”

Bob Donovan was one of two aldermen in the minority. He points out that city officials lobbied state leaders to let residency stand, yet failed. Now, he says it’s time to give up the fight.

“As far as I’m concerned, we ought to just suck it up. We lost. You know, suck it up and move on.”

Donovan says the city’s actions Tuesday put workers in limbo – they don’t know whether they must continue living in Milwaukee. In addition, he foresees a lawsuit against the state being a waste of taxpayer dollars, especially if the city loses. Donovan adds that the state could sue the city for ignoring the new law.

“I think we ought to do the best we can in making Milwaukee the kind of city that an employee or anyone would be a damn fool to want to move out of.”

Mayor Tom Barrett signed the resolutions shortly after the council approved them Tuesday. He says he does not know how long it will take the city to bring suit against the state.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.