There has been a residency requirement for some New Bedford city employees for decades. It hasn't been perfect and it has been controversial at times.

There is an emotional and logical appeal to the idea of having city and town employees living in the community they work in. There is also a logical argument that the taxpayers should have the best available employees working for them regardless of where those employees sleep at night.

The New Bedford City Council has been voting on waivers for individual employees since the legislative body put the ordinance in place. Most of the waivers, put in front of the council by the mayor, are passed without discussion. Occasionally, those individual waivers are controversial. The individual members of the council have tremendous power when they have a waiver placed in front of them, even if they don't exercise that power.

Recently, the council members began working to update the residency requirement. The councilors set out to make the ordinance and the process of waivers more transparent and fair for the taxpayers and the employees.

Should Mayor Jon Mitchell not veto the new ordinance, there will be a 10 percent salary deduction for any employee who chooses to live outside of the city in the first 10 years they are employed as government workers. This won't apply to school teachers, who have been exempt by Massachusetts state law for decades.

If this ordinance has its intended consequence, the City of New Bedford will have most of its employees living in the city. It may also create a larger voting block of city employees to sway city elections in the direction of their interests.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app