New Bedford City Council Overrides Mitchell’s Residency Veto
NEW BEDFORD — The city council on Thursday overrode Mayor Jon Mitchell's veto of an ordinance that will reduce the salaries of some city employees who do not live in New Bedford.
The council's 10-1 vote to override the veto translates to a 10 percent pay cut for city employees who do not live in New Bedford and have not amassed more than 10 years of total employment for the city.
City employees with existing waivers from the residency requirement will be "grandfathered" under the ordinance. Councilor-at-Large Debora Coelho was the lone vote against the veto override.
In a prepared statement today, Mitchell said the ordinance will both weaken the city’s residency requirement and make it more difficult to recruit qualified candidates for “highly-specialized” positions.
“In vetoing the measure, I offered to work with the Council to find a compromise that mitigated the problems it was found to create,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, in overriding my veto, the Council ignored this overture and instead doubled down on a policy that no other city in America has adopted.”
In a letter he sent to the city council last November, Mitchell explained his veto by arguing that the council's "sweeping" ordinance would "undermine the important policy goals" of the residency requirement and make it more difficult for the city to attract talent.
"A mandatory reduction in compensation from what is already an uncompetitive salary scale is hardly an enticement for applicants who have other professional options – as all highly qualified professionals do," Mitchell wrote in his Nov. 24 letter.
Since 1977, the city has required that employees live in New Bedford, but it has granted waivers in cases where it would be unduly burdensome for an applicant to relocate in the city.
The residency waiver has long been a subject of debate in the city council, with some councilors describing the process as unfair and skewed in favor of higher-level employees. On Nov. 12, the council voted 10-1 to pass the residency requirement ordinance. Coelho was the lone vote against the measure.
According to Mitchell, less than five percent of the city's more than 1,000 employees have residency waivers.
“Nevertheless, for many years, certain councilors contended that the Council is asked to approve too many residency waivers, a lament that at times has been echoed by some residents,” Mitchell wrote in his letter. The mayor blamed the city council for the "problem" since it approves waivers for only one year at a time.