Opinion

Bury residency once and for all

It’s time to dig a grave for the city of Lynn’s employee residency law and deep-six the absurd and counterproductive live-where-you-work requirement.

Enshrined in the 1978 version of the City Charter, the residency law requires anyone hired to a permanent full-time city job to establish Lynn residency within six months or lose the job.

Why does Lynn need a residency requirement for city workers? How do the city and the people who live in it possibly benefit from a law that smacks of xenophobic cronyism?

The last 41 years have seen residency debated, denounced and enforced through a Residency Commission review process that has the feel of the Inquisition with anonymous municipal tipsters ratting out supposed residency violators, who are hauled into a City Hall hearing room and ordered to produce bills and other proofs of Lynn residency.

The latest residency target is city Public Works Commissioner Andrew Hall, who sold his Lynn home and moved to Marblehead. Hall confirmed that he is no longer a Lynn resident (Item, March 5), adding he is having some family issues and plans on moving back to the city soon.

That explanation is not good enough for City Council President Darren Cyr, who has sent the council an ordinance proposal, slated for review at the council’s March 12 meeting, stripping employment benefits from any department head who violates residency.

Never mind the fact that Hall has stated on the record he plans to move back to Lynn. He is simply the latest target of the residency police and one of several dozen employees, according to the city’s attorney, who find themselves the targets of a residency investigation.

Never mind the fact that a 2010 court ruling allows police and firefighters to move out of the city after a decade and never mind the fact the city’s chief financial officer, the school superintendent, and teachers are exempt from residency.

In other words, hundreds of city workers who, in some cases, have collected a city paycheck for decades, are exempt from residency along with employees hired to perform two of the city’s most important jobs.

Keeping residency on the books — more so enforcing it — limits the city when it comes to attracting and hiring the most competent candidates required to perform city jobs.

Residency flies in the face of how the modern world works when it comes to hiring. In a fast-moving employment arena where talented people have options and employers are competing for candidates, an albatross like a residency requirement leaves employers floundering, wondering why they can’t attract or keep top talent.

Cyr defended his ordinance (Item, March 5) by stating: “If you’re not enforcing the rules with department heads, then why would anyone else want to follow the rules?”

We think there is a much smarter question he should be asking: Why enforce the rule at all? Throw it out and abandon it as a worthless vestige of hiring practices and municipal policy that have gone the way of the ledger books and the antiquated switchboard telephone system that are stored in City Hall’s bowels.

Here’s a thought: Rather than require anyone to live in Lynn, city officials should instead work to make it a place where they’d want to live.

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