For the past several years, a small group of councillors has tried to push the City to begin hiring only Chelsea residents, and it’s met mixed reviews on the Council, but now veteran City Councillor Leo Robinson believes the time is right for a closer look at instituting a residency ordinance in the City.
Robinson introduced his Council Order Monday night and explained the details. He said he is looking to put a residency ordinance in place for new police hires going forward. They would have to live in the City for one year prior to being hired, and then remain residents of the City for five years after being hired. Officers already on the force and not living in Chelsea would be grandfathered, he said, so no one would have to move back.
He also said he would like to require officers to prove their residency with a driver’s license and utility bill, as is commonly done when enrolling in the schools.
“I think the timing is right for this and I asked to explore the issue because there are all the other surrounding areas that looked into it – some require residency and some prefer residency,” he said. “We’re looking at new developments and we can’t keep letting the best wage earners leave the community. We’ll never be able to build a middle class here without them. I think my colleagues would support that idea. I think it’s appropriate that we look at this with an open mind.”
In his research, he said he found out that there are 72 qualified Chelsea residents on the Civil Service police hiring list. Also, he found out that other communities like Boston require new hires to live in that City for 10 years. Everett requires seven years residency after being hired.
“We’re only proposing five years,” Robinson said. “You already have to live here one year to be considered a resident. If they’re already living here, there shouldn’t be any issue with them staying here for five more years and not getting hired and then easing out of the community. The schools are better now and anyone who doesn’t want to send their kids to our public schools has the option of private schools. If you took a poll, I would bet most people would like to have a police officer living on their street. I only want to help the community become more stable.”
So far, Robinson has found a growing level of support on the Council in addition to others that have already sounded off on residency – including Councillors Giovanni Recupero and Joe Perlatonda.
“I’m all for the residency ordinance,” Perlatonda said. “Why shouldn’t they live here? No one forces anyone to take the jobs in Chelsea. Look at Gene O’Flaherty. He took a job in Boston and now has to move there within six months. No one held a gun to his head to take that job, and moving to Boston was part of it. The same with our residency ordinance plan, if you don’t want the job and to move here, no one is forcing anyone to take the job.”
Council President Matt Frank is not so hot on the idea of residency, but said he is willing to let the Council explore the idea. On Monday, he moved the matter to a Committee on Conference, which means it will get a full airing before the Council. He said he plans to schedule that meeting within the next couple of months.
“I still believe mandating employees to live in a certain area doesn’t solve any problems,” he said. “We have quite a lot of police officers that still live in Chelsea without any such requirement. I have five friends that I grew up with who are on the police force and they have chosen to live here. They love the community; otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Police do make more money now, but they’re still getting shot at and put in dangerous situations. Also, if you’re looking to buy a single-family home with a backyard, there aren’t that many here. You might have to look in a different community for that.”