EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 1, 2014

Editorial: Lawrence council doggedly pursues a bad idea

The Lawrence City Council seems bound and determined to make it more difficult to lift the slumping city up by its bootstraps.

Having abandoned a prior experiment with a residency requirement for municipal employment and having fallen short in a revival attempt in May, the council is now preparing to reconsider -- assuming enough councilors show up on the appointed night.

We’ve said this before but we’ll keep saying it because it is the truth: Reviving a residency requirement in Lawrence is a bad idea. Lawrence desperately needs the best, most qualified people doing the important jobs in the city. One finds the most qualified people by reading their resumes and work histories, not their ZIP codes. Telling a job applicant that he or she will be required to sell their current homes and relocate their families to Lawrence is a very effective way of reducing the pool of qualified applicants.

The residency proposal would require all city workers, except teachers, hired after July 1 to move to Lawrence within six months of beginning employment.

The measure failed to pass on a 5-3 vote on May 6. Establishing a residency requirement requires six votes on the council as it would alter the city’s charter. Councilor Sandy Almonte, a residency supporter, was absent from that meeting. Under the charter, the proposal couldn’t be brought up again for a year unless the City Council votes to waive the rules.

Now, the council is preparing to do just that. A plan to hold a vote last week to reconsider was delayed until next week after two councilors were absent.

Perhaps instead of residency for city workers, the council should take up an attendance requirement for councilors.

Residency was the law in Lawrence up until 2002. It did the city no favors then. Why would councilors expect a different result now?

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