Where should city employees live? Topic debated again

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As it stands now, new Jacksonville city employees must live in Duval County. But new legislation is being proposed to do away with that rule.

The current ordinance went into effect about two years ago, but not everyone recently hired by the city had to comply.

The latest statistics show 83 percent of city employees are Duval County residents, while 17 percent live in surrounding counties.

Since the law, which also affects police and fire employees, changed, the City Council has made exceptions, giving city lawyers and some appointed positions the right to live in other counties.

City Council member John Crescimbeni says why not just get rid of the entire rule instead of favoring some groups.

"Since then, the council has voted to waive it, and I don't think you can have it both ways," he said. "If you are going to have a residency requirement -- again, I'm opposed to it -- then we should have a residency requirement. If you are not going to have one, then let's not have one. You can't have one on the books then waive it every time you want to bring a certain employee in for hire."

Councilman Reggie Brown doesn't think that's what taxpayers really want. So now he wants to hear from Jacksonville residents and is proposing a straw ballot for next year's elections to have voters decide.

"Let's put it to the voters, and I believe if you put it to the voters, they will speak, and they pay the taxes," Brown said. "I believe that they will agree with me, if you are going to receive taxpayer dollars, that you need to live in Jacksonville."

Crescimbeni doesn't have a problem with that. But he is also suggesting legislation that would give people who live in Jacksonville an advantage when applying for a city job.

"It does not prohibit you from hiring someone outside the county. It just gives a slight edge to a resident," he said.

The council is reviewing the legislation, and there could be some type of action taken in the next month.

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