Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Getting Down to Business

Boy, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, but not nearly enough writing! That doesn’t mean the thoughts or ideas have not been racing through my mind, so I’m going to make a commitment to myself to stay on task and at least post something every day. No matter how short I’m going to post!

The Color of Residency Laws

The Ohio Senate recently adopted a bill which prohibits municipalities, like Cleveland, from requiring their employees to reside within the city boundaries. This action has been met with opposition from Mayor Frank Jackson and many of the 21 Council members that represent the city. Mayor Jackson believes the Senate action to be unconstitutional because Ohio is a “Home Rule” state, which is supposed to mean that cities which operate under home rule are exempt from these statewide sanctions.

Others look at this as a slap in the face of Cleveland voters who overwhelmingly voted for a residency requirement more than 20 years ago. At the forefront of this debate are the City of Cleveland safety forces, particularly firefighters who have been fighting to have the requirement removed for a number of years.

My dander was raised when a press conference was held on the steps of Cleveland City Hall by the firefighters and I did not see a minority in the bunch. Not an African American, Hispanic, Asian American, just white men and women who it appears are turning their backs on the residents who pay their salaries.

They will argue that the City has turned its back on them because the school system is in deplorable shape and allegedly services are mediocre. I will not fight them on the issue of the schools, but this is a problem that has existed for more than 20 years and they were well aware of the conditions when they signed on for the job. As far as services, it has been documented that the firefighters and police officers for the most part live in the same neighborhoods. These happen to be the safest and have some of the nicest homes, because they can afford the nicest homes.

I believe that the underlying problem here is race and class. The city is becoming darker and darker every year as “white flight” has escalated leaving behind a struggling population.

I work for the City of Cleveland and had to make the choice to move into the city five years ago. It wasn’t a hard choice. I wanted my job so I found a nice house on a nice street in a neighborhood teeming with police and fire fighters.

It is my hope that the men and women in the safety forces will begin to work in the neighborhoods and with the school system to try and improve the situation for themselves and for those who do not have the ability to run.

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