Thursday, January 13, 2011

Do you have to live where you want to get hired?

Most Burlington employees don't live near their work. Around 90% of all 170 uniformed police and fire department officers live outside the city they serve. Two-thirds of Burlington’s 390-member public school teaching staff also commutes from homes in the suburbs, says District Superintendent Jeanne Collins. 
City's like Boston and Chicago both require city residency as a condition of employment in their police departments. Rutland used to have a similar provision, but it was repealed several years ago in favor of a requirement that full-time police department employees live within a 30-minute drive of the city. Brattleboro mandates that its police officers live in one of several specified towns. (Check Kevin J. Kelley's article on Seven Days website)
Despite the fact that more cities are now requiring a good portion of their official employees to live within 30min commuting time of the area they serve in will shorten commutes over all, it might cause problems in terms of the hiring process. People from rural areas of Vermont would not be hired for a position that someone who lives within city boundaries would be able to get. 
Although these developments among other reasons occurred to prevent congested downtown-bound roads because of morning commuters this issue also should raise awareness about potential discrimination against job-seekers from out of town. Hence, to require potential future city employees to live within 30 minutes of their job is a start to tackle traffic congestions during rush hours. But our focus should be laid upon how commuters get to work in the morning and home at night. An improved transit infrastructure (trains, select bus service...) would get people out of the car, car pooling is an option for some, improved bicycle lane networks could bring more people to safe on gas and get additional exercise by riding to work. This is where this discussion need to be taken next.
As long as not all jobs will require that job seekers live where they want to get hired (since it is in deed desirable for city employees like police and fire department officers to live within the area they serve) these two strategies should get along very well.

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