I just realized I had maintenance mode enabled on my blog for the past couple months. Whoops! Well, I haven’t had time to write anyway but I didn’t intend to fall off the face of the earth. As usual, I’ve been busy with school. I’m taking a full class load at Oregon State this quarter and I figured I’d be stretched then and stressed out of my head, and I was right! It’s been crazy. I’ll be busy this summer again too but I’ll only be taking three classes instead of five, so hopefully I’ll be able to come up for air more often. I’ll be graduating this time next year and, boy, I can’t wait! It’s been such a long, challenging journey. If I knew it was going to be such a sacrifice, I’m not sure I would have gone back to college.
Anyway, there’s been some things going on in Decatur that I haven’t addressed. There’s still a lot more things I’d like to write about over the summer, and I should be able to get to them.
The city council has brought up the issue of residency requirements for city employees. In fact, I believe they went ahead and either passed or are going to pass requirements for new non-union employees to live in the city. When contract talks come up, I’m sure it will be discussed with city employees represented by unions, and I bet that will go over well!
First of all, the numbers are quite dismal of city workers living in Decatur. I believe the number is right around 50 percent. What does that say about Decatur? Well, it’s not really a unique situation for a city the size of Decatur, surrounded by several bedroom communities, offering newer homes and schools with better ratings. However, I think Decatur can be competitive with the right kind of strategy.
Over a year ago, I suggested the city plan new ideas for our older neighborhoods. It included capitalizing on renewable energy and sustainable housing. So, I was happy to learn that the city is investing in some new homes near Oakwood that will act as models for what could be for that area. I think it’s a great idea and hopefully home buyers will show some serious interest, and persuade private home builders to get in on the act. Across the country, in many cities, there is a return to city living. Yes, people want nice homes with modern floorplans but they also want to be able walk to entertainment, safe parks, natural areas, schools, restaurants, etc. In other words, they want to feel like they are a part of a community, can contribute to their community, and be good stewards of the earth, all at the same time. Urban sprawl is akin to using asbestos in our homes. We know both are dumb ideas.
So, do I think there should be a residency requirement for city workers? Yes, and I’ll explain why. The most important reason to me is that you care most about the city you live in. A city worker, who lives elsewhere isn’t going to have the same concern or passion for Decatur as I do. They don’t have they same level of commitment.
Sure, they can care about the city but it’s a bit like dating versus being married. If you’re dating someone, you’ll care when their dog gets sick. You’ll probably show genuine compassion and hope the dog pulls through. But if you’re married to that person and it’s now your dog too, and you’re helping pay the vet bills and cleaning up the puke at 3 am, then you’ve entered a whole other level of commitment and caring. The two situations are totally different because the point of view is totally different.
It’s like when I lived at home and my parents paid all the bills, cooked my food, and made sure everything was safe and sound. I reaped the benefits of that situation. It was great! I didn’t know how great until I moved out and had to pay my own bills, wash dishes I had dirtied, and walked around the house with a baseball bat at night when I thought I heard someone outside my window. Getting paid by city tax dollars and living it up somewhere else is a bit like visiting your parents house, eating their food, messing up their kitchen, and then going back home to watch Netflix.
So, yes I believe city workers should live in Decatur, especially anyone in a management role. I think there should be special exceptions, and those can be ironed out, but I think if you’re going to serve a city, you should be part of that city. As a public servant you are more than an employee.
The only city workers I would have an absolute requirement to live in Decatur are those in management positions. I’d rather use financial incentives for other workers than strict requirements.
In a country where politicians make our skin crawl, we can at least demand better of ourselves. It should be an honor to serve the public, not a chore. It should be an honor to live in the city you represent, not a punishment. But yes, the city has work to do to make the city a more attractive place to live. I understand that but city workers can be part of that solution.