The Springfield city council members agreed last night to have voters weigh in on the issue of city workers’ residency. Having a Springfield address used to be a requirement for city employees. That changed over a decade ago when it was decided the rule should only apply to department heads and elected officials. But the issue is once again being debated by the city council. Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin is a proponent of mandating that Springfield employees live within city limits, and he wants voters to have a say:
McMENAMIN:“If the sentiment is strong from the voters then that may cause a couple of alderman on the fence to go, ‘Yes, let’s have a residency requirement.’”
But Ward 10 Alderman Tim Griffin says he doesn’t want voters to have a knee-jerk reaction and vote for the requirement, which he thinks is a bad idea because it would limit the city’s hiring pool:
GRIFFIN: “I want to be able to get as many people to apply for these jobs as we can … and I want to be able to pick the best of that class as who we’re going to hire to provide these services.”
Mayor Mike Houston, who once supported a residency requirement has changed his tune. Now he says it would lead to union negotiations that would be too costly for the city. Houston says an advisory referendum would be pointless and won’t effect how aldermen vote.
HOUSTON: “If you’re going to put a referendum on a ballot, it should be binding. And an advisory referendum is exactly that, an advisory item that people don’t have to follow and I think in many cases people will not follow.”
Houston could veto the city council’s decision to present the residency requirement to voters.