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Big question on residency issue

The discussion had last week by the Warren City Council regarding residency requirement changes for city employees is a discussion had on a regular basis around City Council tables around the region.

Discussions typically have two sides — get the best candidates and let them live wherever they want, or require employees to live where they work and help support the tax base that pays their salaries. Such discussions never go very far, in part because both positions fail to ask or answer a vital question: What would it take to get qualified employees to move into the city?

Give credit to Warren Councilman Christian Zavinski, then, for making that point last week during discussions over loosening Warren’s residency requirement for Public Works and non-union director positions. Zavinski said loosening the requirement doesn’t mean staff shouldn’t be encouraged to live within the city.

The real discussion, then, should focus on why Warren residents don’t want to take jobs with the Warren city government and why those who live outside the city don’t want to move into the city. If the issue is ownership of an existing house and the possible financial hardship involved in a real estate transfer, perhaps the city could consider homebuying assistance to help employees move into the city.

That is, of course, just one example, but it is indicative of a larger discussion that has to happen if employee residency is really important to council members.

Why don’t they want to live in Warren? Until you answer that question, the loosening of the city’s residency requirements will continue to be a regular discussion.

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