Green Bay should scrap residency requirement rule

10:01 PM, Jan. 25, 2013  |  Comments
Tom Molitor (B. A. Rupert)
Tom Molitor (B. A. Rupert)
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Tom Molitor wants to be police chief of Green Bay. Members of the Police & Fire Commission want him, too. The only thing standing between him and the job is a residency rule.

Molitor was selected by the commission to replace Jim Arts, who left the post last summer. Since then, Molitor has been serving as the interim police chief.

He seems a good choice given his background and experience within the Green Bay Police Department.

However, Molitor lives in Abrams, an Oconto County community 20 minutes north of Green Bay. City of Green Bay employees who are department heads must live within the city limits. A residency requirement for other city employees was dropped in September, but it remains in place for this small group.

The city can grant him an exemption or require him to follow the rule and move to the city within 12 months of being hired. The Personnel Committee voted against the exception on Tuesday. The mayor, who until now has been a firm opponent of getting rid of the residency rule, said he favors this waiver.

Molitor has said he will not move. The request for an exemption now moves to the City Council on Feb. 5.

It's time for the city to get rid of its residency requirement for everyone.

We say this because we believe the residency rule is antiquated and because the city has already dropped the requirement for the majority of its employees. It doesn't seem fair to require department heads to live in Green Bay but not the people they supervise.

Proponents of the rule cite many reasons: City employees can get to the jobs quickly during emergencies, they contribute to the tax base, reduce the city's unemployment, consume city services thereby monitoring the quality of those services, instill pride and loyalty in the community, reduce absenteeism.

But in today's society, people want the freedom to live where they want. Tethering them to a municipality isn't the answer. Employees can get to work more quickly than 10, 20, 30 years ago because of improvements in our roads. They can be in constant communication during their commute and even handle some issues from home because of advances in communications and computers.

We should hire people based on how well they do their jobs, not where they live. To attract and retain high-quality employees the city must adjust with the times and let its worker find their home, where they can unwind and recharge their batteries, even if it's outside the city limits.

We believe the City Council should take up this issue and look at scrapping the residency requirement for department heads. It has already done this for rank-and-file workers; it's unfair to require it of others.

Meanwhile, we believe the city should grant Molitor the exemption because, let's face it, he has proven he can handle the commute. Molitor retired in 2011. He has been living in Abrams since 2005. He was able to live there and work for the police department under a contract negotiated by the police officers union. So for about six years, he commuted from Abrams to Green Bay.

Also, Molitor has fulfilled the police chief duties since July, when he was appointed interim chief, while living in Abrams without any problems that we've heard of.

Overall, though, it's time to scrap the requirement. It's unfair to have a rule that is ignored when convenient yet enforced on others. One of the criticisms of today's society - with its instantaneous access to the workplace and the ability to call you at anytime, anywhere - is that you can't get away from work. At least allow employees to call home where they want to.

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