Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Iron Ring of Milwaukee

As I have mentioned in the past, I grew up in a union household. In fact, it was a government employee union household. My stepdad is a retired firefighter and I still think of home when I see the symbol of the International Association of Firefighters. It was on the window of the family car.

Dad stressed a few things. We should root for the Packers, support Democrats and hate residency requirements. Two out of three stuck (and Dad lost his affinity for Democrats so I can hardly be read out of the will). Ironically, we were made to live in Greenfield, not Milwaukee.

The family struggle with residency continues. My daughter-in-law is an MPS teacher and so she and my son had to buy a home in Milwaukee. My sister is an administrator and has had to do the same thing. It's hard for me to approach the issue without a lot of baggage.

The argument that one must live in a city to understand the problem of its residents is specious. Few of the police and teachers here in Mequon live in the city and they seem to do a fine job. Within Milwaukee, city and MPS employees tend to live in public employee "ghettos" which most decidedly do not share the problems of the city at large. These neighborhoods tend to be low crime (a cop is to be found in every other house)and the children either attend private schools or are placed by their teacher parent in one of the relatively few MPS schools that do not share the problems that exist system wide, such as German Immersion (wo mein Enkelsohn Aiden ist im erste Grad.)

But the argument that, without residency, the city would lose a lot of middle class residents is not as easy to dismiss. It might. Part of the problem is MPS although - at least before high school - teachers, at least, seem able to get their kids into one of a few good schools. The other is taxes. Both of these issues have contributed to a significant exodus of the middle class already. Residency is an effort to stem the tide.

But it's not a very good one. You cannot maintain a thriving middle class by taxing the middle class to pay middle class wages. There must be some source of revenue other than what the government extracts from its citizens and pays back to them. Leah Vukmir is right. The problem with collapsing cities like Detroit is not that the middle class has left. It's what made them leave.

7 comments:

jp said...

Comparing problems of Milwaukee public employee"ghettos" and Mequon residents is questionable.

The Obama solution: tax “fat cats” to pay middle class wages.

douglas said...

My question is this, why shouldn't those who draw a paycheck from taxes be required to live in the tax district they draw from? In other words, city employees live in the cities, township employees live in the townships, county employees in the counties and state employees live in the state. If you are a policeman in Milwaukee, why wouldn't you want to live in the city you are sworn to protect?

George Mitchell said...

Good post.

To defend residency rules, proponents must justify why people should be forced to live where they don't want to live.

The result is the kind of "argument" offered by Douglas.

Joe Klein said...

Because you need to do x as a condition of employment, only means you need to do x if you choose to work at that place.
Both the state and the suburbs have a history of screwing The City of Milwaukee. The "liberty" double-talk is just cover for another round of it.

Dad29 said...

The City of Milwaukee co-conspired with Lucey and Reynolds to tax suburbs for the City's problem: old, combined, sewers.

And they did it the old-fashioned way, not only ramming it through a supine Legislature, but in addition, imposed taxes without representation.

Later, the City conspired with Tommy Thompson to tax suburbs for Selig's playground--thus increasing the value of the team so that Bud and his very influential silent partners could sell the Brewers at a nice price.

The City of Milwaukee's recent history is simple: suck the blood out of non-city residents and claim that "we deserve it because we have...ahhh.....more taverns!!"

So, as it turns out, the City's own residents are now demanding even more--except this time it will smack (largely) the City's own residents who own small businesses.

Joe, be sure to turn off the lights when you leave.

George said...

Joe says Milwaukee gets screwed by the suburbs, but that's demonstrably not true. The big gorilla is MPS and

---MPS gets a higher percentage of its money from the state or federal government than average. For 2005-'06, the state/federal total for MPS was 78.5%, 17 percentage points above the median for the other districts.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/39499812.html

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