By Jim Merkel
A South Side alderwoman says it’s time to end the requirement that city employees live inside St. Louis.
Fourteenth Ward Alderwoman Carol Howard introduced legislation on May 3 calling for an election to change the City Charter to lift that condition of employment for all but agency and department directors.
The city charter now says that all full-time city workers and officers must live in the city within 120 days of when they were hired. Full-time civil service workers must live within the city within 120 days after the end of a working trial period.
“It gives us a larger pool of applicants to select from. We have a hard time hiring just regular workers,” Howard said.
“You’ve got people who may have bought a home that’s a little bit cheaper (outside) of the city. For them to uproot for new employment is very expensive when we don’t allow them any allowance to change their residence,” Howard said. “It’ll just allow the city a better pool of applicants to pick from and will expand our horizons.
Howard’s amendment changes the wording to say that only city agency and department directors appointed by the mayor must live in the city within 120 days after they’re hired or appointed.
Now, city police who were hired before St. Louis took over the management of the police department can move out after they’ve been with the department for seven years. But those hired after the city took over don’t have that option, Howard said. Firefighters were allowed to move out as long as the St. Louis Public Schools were unaccredited. Now that the city schools are accredited again, they don’t have that option, Howard said.
“I don’t see a grand exodus from the city because most people who live in the city do so because they love the city,” Howard said.
Nobody right now is policing the situation, Howard said. “We’re kind of taking a gamble on who’s going to enforce it, and is it enforced capriciously?” she said.
Board President Lewis Reed said he has yet read through the bill and hasn’t had a chance to talk to Howard about it.
As long as the content isn’t misleading and is appropriate, Reed said he doesn’t have a problem putting such a measure before the public.
“Generally speaking, I would probably support sending it out to the voters. Any time we can get a good sense of what the voters want to do, we should move on that,” Reed said.
Howard didn’t say when the measure might go on the ballot. It might be good for it to be voted on when other ballot proposals the board is considering go on the ballot.
Another bill, introduced by 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, calls for a vote by city residents on a charter amendment to keep the number of wards and aldermen at 28. In an earlier election, city residents voted to cut the number of ward and aldermen to 14 on Jan. 1, 2022.
Collins-Muhammad said people want a revote.