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Cities can punish ‘foreign workers’

Published: Sun, June 21, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

Now that the Republican dominated Ohio Supreme Court has told public employees they are free to live wherever they want, cities in Ohio that have residency laws — the ruling was aimed at the state’s urban areas — are bracing for an exodus. But a close reading of the 5-2 opinion — the two were Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger — reveals there is nothing to stop mayors and city councils from rewarding those public employees who choose to reside in the political subdivisions that pay their salaries.

In other words, if Youngstown or Warren wanted to dissuade employees from moving to the suburbs, they could come up with ways to thank the ones who stay.

Take parking, for example. Both cities have parking for employees. Mayor Jay Williams in Youngstown and Mayor Michael O’Brien in Warren could issue executive orders that say: The prime parking spaces in the city-owned lots will be reserved for those employees who have remained loyal to the city.

Indeed, they could go a step further and establish parking spaces far enough away from the work place so the “foreign workers” would break a sweat in the summer walking from their cars, or freeze their behinds off in the winter.

There’s more that can be done. Certain employees are assigned city-owned vehicles. The newest and best ones should be given to the “domestic workers.” The clunkers should go to the out-of-towners.

Clear message

The obvious reason for this is to deliver a clear message to city employees: If you earn your living from the public payroll, you have an obligation and responsibility to the public to live in the community.

There’s a secondary reason for making the outsiders drive the crappy vehicles: They have to take them into the suburbs and pull up in their driveways — spewing black smoke while the neighbors snicker.

Indeed, the mayors could require the “foreign workers” to start their shifts really early in the morning and to be on call 24/7.

In upholding a state law that was passed in 2006 by the Republican controlled General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. Bob Taft, the Supreme Court simply said residency laws are unconstitutional. The justices did not spell out work rules or how employees are to be treated.

Thus, cities have the right to offer incentives to their workers to reside where they work.

In Youngstown, out of a total of 850 employees, 250 are non-residents. In Warren, of the 423 employees, 104 live outside the city.

Why does this matter?

Consider what is occurring in Youngs-town:

The median household income for city workers is $63,000. To repeat: SIXTY-THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR.

By comparison, the median household income for Youngstown residents as a whole is $28,700. To repeat: TWENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS A YEAR.

So, if highly paid city workers — it would be interesting for the public to know how many of the 850 have post-graduate degrees, let alone bachelor’s degrees — decide to slap away the hand that feeds them (quite well, it turns out) what would happen to Youngstown?

It doesn’t take a demographer with a PhD to know that the exodus would cause city housing values to plummet.

In addition, having police officers and firefighters living in the suburbs would send a clear signal that Youngstown isn’t a city that’s safe.

Population loss

The reality is that Youngstown and Warren are losing population in greater numbers than other communities in the Mahoning Valley. There aren’t high- income suburbanites rushing to move into the cities.

It is also true that a growing percentage of the residents are on fixed income — Social Security or welfare.

Thus, if public employees are willing to suck the lifeblood out of the urban areas and leave in large numbers, the economic implosion in the cities will be felt far and wide.

In retrospect, there could be a silver lining in the collapse of the cities: A whole bunch of public employees would lose their jobs.

And, it would make perfect sense for the mayors to find a way to get rid of the “foreign workers” first. After all, loyalty begets loyalty.


1Silence_Dogood(1662 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Great idea BERT and while we are at it lets violate one more of thier civil rights,lets make it a policy that if you do not belong to the Mayors Church you will have to pay twice as much on your City Taxes.
But lets not stop there we can also have separate water fountains,separate seating at the movies,force them to shop in separate stores,and I sure as heck don't want to have to sit next to them when I go out to eat at a restaurant

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

First of all all what motivates the people to move out of the city? Crime? High income tax? In the past people flocked to the city and it was desireable to live here.


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3NoBS(2684 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Silence Dogood is right - once again, deSouza's extreme dislike of public employees is apparent.

First of all, there's been an incredible ignoring of the fact that the Great Exodus that was feared in areas which did not choose to spend taxpayer money on a fool's errand like insisting that local laws supercede state residency laws NEVER HAPPENED!! A mere handful of employees moved. I mean literally a dozen or so, out of a few hundred.

If Youngstown officials are afraid that, despite this overwhelming trend, their employees will flee the city in great numbers, then they should ask themselves why. Do they believe the living conditions in the city are so deplorable that nobody wants to live there?? (note to the knee-jerkers out there - I did NOT say living conditions are deplorable, I just asked if the city leaders THINK they are.)

But let's address one of deSouza's suggestions for cash-strapped Youngstown and its employees. He thinks its a good idea to give the unreliable klunkers to the suburban employees, in order to punish them by making them park their junkers in their pristine suburban driveways. Good idea - let's show as many people as possible just exactly how little pride the city officials have in their city. "That city must be as messed up as we've always heard," people will say, "Look at the junk they make their employees drive!" And if the vehicles are in a state of questionable dependability, does it make sense to drive them further than is necessary? Or is that just asking for even more expenses by way of repair bills and towing fees? The mileage driven while on duty would be the same either way, so that's a wash. But a 2-mile drive versus a 20-mile drive twice a day will put lots of extra miles on the car, increasing the maintenance costs and increasing the chance that something will break, causing extra repair bills.

Good thinking, there, Bert.

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4Rokscout(310 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Youngstown isn't a safe city to live in. Why would we be worried about someone perceiving what is true? Housing values plummeting? To what? Negative numbers. Blame the few people that are trying to clean up the place....great idea.

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5UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Living in Youngstown is like living in hell. Always afraid for the safety of your life, property, and family.

Free at last to live where they want, it would be WRONG to punish anyone who moves out of the city to the burbs who works for the city. Try it and let the lawsuits begin again.

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