City Council looking into a residency clause for City Manager

There is a palpable move going on at city hall among the city council to make residency a requirement for the city manager’s position.

This has become obvious during the discussions – both public and private – between councilors about the efficacy of choosing names from a hat to determine who will serve on the Charter Review Committee.

It is apparent this movement toward a different bit of public policy here is not intended to disparage the present city manager, whom some on the council regard as an elitist and who others wish to keep as far from the Charter Review process as possible.

The city council appears to be sending the message that there is a new day upon us, that the city council wants to have a greater say, and that through the Charter Review Committee that this will be accomplished.

Perhaps the city council should be thinking of a residency clause requiring all those who are working full-time for the city to be living here.

There is such a residency law in force in Lynn, where a great deal of time is spent month to month making certain that only Lynn residents have Lynn jobs.

A former longtime Chelsea school committeeman Chubby Tiro, now living quietly in retirement, quite often shouted out that very mantra at every school committee hearing: “Chelsea jobs for Chelsea people.”

This was a time when only Chelsea people held Chelsea jobs, although the superintendent of schools didn’t live here. The vast majority of the teachers didn’t live here and the vast majority of firefighters, police officers and city hall administrators lived elsewhere as well.

Nothing much has changed over the years – except for receivership, and the city’s social, moral and economic bankruptcy.

It has taken about 20 years, but Chelsea has come back – and in the process – a lot has changed.

However, it remains a fact of life that the city’s workforce is largely an out of town group these days.

Could a residency requirement work for public employees?

More importantly, why should the requirement for the city manager to live here as is being discussed right now by the city council be the only city employee required to do so?

It is inarguable that through hard work, intelligence, perseverance and ingenuity, Ash has created in large part the modern Chelsea miracle without living here.

He spends more time here than he does with his family at home, and has done so for almost a decade. He also grew-up here and went to high school here and returned here after college and on and on.

Compare this to those who are calling for residency to be a requirement and for names to be chosen out of a hat as the criteria for making changes in the city’s most important living legal document. Their voices are interchangeable as are their positions on both issues.

The city manager living here is the way it ought to be in a perfect world.

But it isn’t a perfect world.

It isn’t a perfect world three miles from here in Winthrop, where that town’s city manager is doing a good job without living among the people of Winthrop.

Long ago, Winthrop residents demands for the town manager to live in town were overruled by the greater cause, that is, for Winthrop people to choose the very best qualified to lead and to rule even if they didn’t live in Winthrop or come from the town.

I believe the same goes here for every position in the city government.

What a shame those wanting to pick Charter Review members out of a hat can’t be persuaded to do the same for the city manager’s position.

If all they want is Chelsea residency as the measure of qualification, that is what they will get.

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