If You Work For County You Must Live Here Commission Says
By Suzy Valentine
Those who work for Miami-Dade County should live in Miami-Dade County, commissioners have asserted.
County commissioners’ 8-5 vote Nov. 3 to retain the policy despite growing calls for regionalism came after they discussed a proposal their Internal Management and Fiscal Responsibility Committee had considered Oct. 14 to repeal the requirement in some circumstances.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan objected to a proposal that the residency rule should apply only to lower-level personnel while handing County Manager George Burgess the power to waive it for senior positions.
"When we voted to relieve the residency requirement, we made the whole residency ordinance impotent," Ms. Jordan said. "What we did was say to people who get paid higher salaries that we will go ahead and give you a waiver but people who are working as social workers, social worker aides don’t have that luxury of having that waiver. Once we made the decision to waive it for higher classifications, we compromised the residency ordinance."
Given the growing trend toward regionalism in South Florida, Ms. Jordan said she would have preferred a blanket repeal to the modified version.
"It is only fair for everyone if we eliminate it because we have employees who live in Broward and Monroe. We have people who live here and work in Broward and Monroe, and we’re cross-pollinating," she said. "I think regionalism for these three counties is something that we have to consider given we have compromised it by waiving it for those classifications."
Katy Sorenson, a co-sponsor with Natacha Seijas and Sally Heyman, argued that it was shortsighted for Miami-Dade to exercise a residency requirement when neighbors Broward and Monroe do not and while commuters don’t respect boundaries.
"As of the 2000 census, 60,900 people lived in Miami-Dade and worked in Broward," Ms. Sorenson said. "So if we’re worried about tax dollars, we’re getting the tax dollars from these people, and they aren’t working here. Reciprocity goes both ways."
But Bruno Barreiro, Carlos Gimenez and Dennis Moss were unequivocal that all Miami-Dade workers must live in the county, citing what they see as a pride and empathy for community outsiders wouldn’t bring.
"I strongly believe that if you want to work in Miami-Dade County, you have to live in Miami-Dade County," Mr. Barreiro said. "If you want to work in a city, you have to live in that city. I saw it firsthand through the City of Miami. When workers weren’t required to live in the city, they didn’t take care of their neighborhoods. Once they were required to live in the city to take care of the city, the response was incredible. I strongly believe in that."
"So would that apply to Fisher Island as well?" asked Ms. Sorenson, a reference to a municipal-status feasibility study under way for a community in Mr. Barreiro’s district recognized in the 2000 census as the nation’s wealthiest.
Sponsors are to revise the proposal so it favors Miami-Dade residents for senior roles but allows the county to look further afield if a position remains vacant after successive advertisements.