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Lifting city residency requirement, Derek Williams case evoke lively discussion at Pastors United meeting

April 15, 2013
The Pastors United meeting

The Pastors United meeting at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church last Thursday attracted more than 30 individual, including pastors, laymen and business owners. The group is in the organizing stages and very soon will write a comprehensive plan dealing with critical issues plaguing Milwaukee’s African American community.

By Raina J. Johnson

Special to the Milwaukee Times

In Milwaukee recently there’s been a strong backlash when it comes to authority figures that are sworn to protect and serve, and the role government should have in our community; specifically speaking about the Derek Williams case and Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to lift the current residency requirement rule that says some city workers need to live in the cities that they serve in.

Pastors United is a group that was recently formed to develop a strategic plan to help solve some of these concerns that pastors, churches and laypersons have in Milwaukee. At an impassioned meeting last week, individuals present were given the opportunity to voice their concerns. This spirited conversation came just days before Mayor Barrett and the Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters held a press conference at City Hall to discuss their concerns about the Governor’s proposal.

At the Pastors United meeting, there was an intense and robust conversation regarding the aforementioned concerns, involving authority and the role of government in our community. Many people, both laypersons and ministry leaders in attendance had an opinion regarding both topics.

“Residency is a condition of employment and an issue of local control – not a budgetary item and to leave it in the budget would be an injustice to the city, we strive to one day see a workforce that mirrors the residents we serve,” Everett Cocroft said.

Common Council President Hines said that the residency requirement has not been harmful or detrimental to the city. “It’s simply a condition of employment; we find it very offensive that the state would put this in the budget.” He went on to discuss that lifting the requirement would have an economic impact on the city, but Alderman Michael Murphy, who is also the chair of the finance and personnel committees, spoke in much more detail about the economic impact to Milwaukee.

“Let’s be very clear; the Governor’s intended goal is creating 250,000 jobs to help this state grow. This policy doesn’t create one single job; in fact it does the adverse. City of Milwaukee, unfortunately due to the foreclosure crisis, has lost $5-billion in value over the last four years, that’s 70 percent of our assessed value of our city. This foreclosure crisis has crippled us in many ways, enacting this legislation when the city is down – kicking us when we’re down –is simply unfair and unjust,” Alderman Murphy said.

This argument isn’t just about the numbers and the financial burden that the city of Milwaukee will carry. Alderman Murphy stressed the “social good of having for example a police officer or fire fighter living in your neighborhood, everyone of us in this city knows the importance of once in a while knowing the fire fighter or police officer down the block you can rely on. They are there for us, and they have been there for us and that’s an important economic impact but also the quality of life impact.”

Some also say that there hasn’t been a good honest debate about this issue and that it’s really an issue of public safety as well and a political maneuver that Governor Walker is using by sneaking this into the state budget. At the news conference city leaders encouraged residents to call their representatives and other city leaders regarding this topic.