New Bedford is in the process of re-evaluating a 40-year rule that requires many city employees to reside in the city unless they get a waiver.

By law, the mayor is required to hire, in most cases, employees who live in the city. If a candidate for a job isn't from the city, they can be granted a waiver for a one-year period. The time limit on the waiver is so, at least in theory, the new employee will relocate and become a resident of New Bedford.

The politics around the residency rule have simmered for years. The process was designed to be political and to generate public attention. The mayor must submit the waiver request for each individual employee to the city council, and the full council must take a public vote on the individual waivers. Most personal matters of city employees are done in private, but the waiver process is done in public so the residents of the city can see exactly what is transpiring.

New Bedford isn't the only city in Massachusetts that has a local residency requirement for municipal employment. Brockton has a similar city council waiver process.

Recently, City Council President Linda Morad proposed abolishing the residency rule and the matter now sits in committee. She doesn't approve of the way Mayor Mitchell has used the waiver process.

Lisa White recently ran, for the first time, for an at-large seat on the New Bedford City Council against the five incumbents and came up short. White is now spearheading a petition drive to save the residency requirement. She ran on a platform of encouraging homeownership for people in the city and this issue dovetails nicely with that message.

According to the Standard-Times, Lisa White has combed through the minutes of the city council meetings and discovered 27 residency waivers granted in 2019.

It is nice to see a former candidate for office staying involved with local civic affairs and doing so in a professional and process-focused manner.

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.

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