Councillor Leo Robinson has long been advocating for the implementation of a public safety residency requirement, and at the last regular Council meeting, Nov. 10, he took a different tack – focusing on economic development.
Robinson introduced the measure by revealing that he found some $10 million a year in public safety salaries are leaving Chelsea for other cities and towns.
“The virtues of hiring local residents for local jobs are obvious,” he said. “More employment in the community represents more spending, more tax revenues and less crime. Employment policies should be equally concerned with retaining high-skill, high-wage workers within our community.”
All of it was for not, though, as the renewed effort was defeated 4-6, with Councillor Calvin Brown absent.
Robinson said he found that in the Fire Department, of the 92 positions, 72 are people who do not live in Chelsea. He said the base salary is $72,746, which represents $5.2 million out of the total Fire Department salary budget.
Thus, he reasoned that $5.2 million is leaving Chelsea via firefighters who do not live in the City.
For the police, he said of the 102 positions, 68 officers live outside of Chelsea. With a base salary at $76,468, that represents $5.1 million out of a $7.6 million Police Department Salary Budget. So, in that case, he said $5.1 million is leaving the city.
All told, he said the figures come up to $10.3 million per year in police and fire salaries that are spent elsewhere.
“That’s a lot of money leaving our city,” he said. “That is money that could be used to buy a house in Chelsea. That’s money that could be used to support local businesses in Chelsea. The possibilities are endless, but some other community is getting that benefit and not us.”
However, his position was in the minority of the Council.
Council President Matt Frank said his position on the issue is steadfast, and he was opposed to it being brought up again after having been defeated this past March by a similar vote.
“I still believe that we need to move on to other issues and that, at some point, you have to realize that it is not the will of the Council,” he said.
Councillor Clifford Cunningham said he could not support it and that Robinson’s tactic of forcing a vote revealed plenty about the proposal.
“I found Councilor Robinson’s attempt to end debate on the proposal and move for an immediate roll call vote very enlightening; it demonstrated to me that those in favor knew their arguments do not hold up to scrutiny and have no basis in fact,” he said. “Mandating residency will not improve public safety nor build a thriving middle class in Chelsea. I respect the opinion of those who support it; however, we’ve had this discussion twice and it’s been defeated twice. I believe it’s time to move on.”
Councillor Joe Perlatonda agreed with Robinson, saying he believed that the economic argument was powerful.
“I think it would be a good thing because as Councillor Robinson indicated, all the salary money would stay here instead of going elsewhere,” he said.
The matter will likely not be brought up again, Robinson said, but he felt that there were good reasons to bring it back up.