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Council Votes on Controversial Residency Requirement

City Employees Hired After Next Year at Salaries Greater Than $50,000 Would Have to Live in or Move to Cambridge

By Sarah E. Scrogin

The Cambridge City Council last night narrowly approved a controversial ordinance mandating residency for employees who earn more than $50,000.

The council approved the ordinance with a vote of five to four.

Councillors Sullivan, Jonathan S. Myers, Sheila T. Russell, Timothy J. Toomey and Anthony D. Galluccio supported the ordinance. All others voted against.

Last night's vote is not binding, as council members may vote again in a reconsideration. Myers, who worked with Toomey to rewrite the original ordinance, said last night the requirement is "about the employment and training of the city's residents."

Myers said the residency requirement is unlike the controversial residency requirement enacted by the city of Boston last year because it does not apply retroactively to workers but rather is intended to apply only to employees hired after January 1, 1996.

But Councillor Katherine Triantafillou, who had opposed the ordinance, condemned the amended version approved last night.

Saying the residency requirement was "anti-woman, anti-union, anti-veteran and fiscally irresponsible," Triantafillou said the regulation would discourage the city from hiring minority and better qualified candidates when a city resident was applying for the position.

Myers and Toomey defended the ordinance, saying language such as "when other employment factors are equal" was designed to ensure that the city continue to hire the best candidate for the job.

Myers downplayed the significance of the ordinance, saying residence will only be mandatory for the approximately 10 percent of city employees who earn more than $50,000.

But Triantafillou attacked the "Cambridge First" clause, which stipulates that applicants positions less than $50,000 will be given an "absolute priority" in the hiring process if other factors are equal.

She criticized the ordinance, saying it would be particularly hard on working wives and working mothers.

"Less than $50,000 penalizes the two-wage-earning family," she said. "Women don't have the kind of job leverage that men do."

Councillor Kathleen L. Born also said the council should consider the impact of the resolution on working, family women.

"It severely doesn't recognize the complexity of families that are struggling to raise a family on two incomes," she said, adding that many families find it necessary to live in a central location so that both spouses can commute.

Born also criticized the ordinance on legal grounds, citing a memo issued yesterday by City Solicitor Russell B. Higley which raised a number of legal questions about the ordinance.

"I still hold to the basic premise that trying to legislate where people sleep is fraught with complication," Born said. "This is an infringement on personal rights."

But Toomey defended the legality of the ordinance.

"I challenge anyone to challenge the constitutionality of this," he said. "If anyone wants to prove me wrong, I invite them."

Toomey characterized the report from the city solicitor as "more delaying tactics."

"I know the administration is not in favor of this," he said.

Both Higley and Assistant City Solicitor Donald A. Drisdell are non-residents.

Triantafillou said that according to data from the city manager's office, approximately 50 percent of those on city payroll are residents. In addition, Triantafillous said approximately the same number of those in management positions are residents.

"That's a pretty good rate," she said.

Police Commissioner

Critics of the residency requirement have charged that the ordinance is being brought up again to coincide with the beginning of the search to replace retiring Police Commissioner Perry L. Anderson Jr.

The city manager's office announced last week that it had received more than 100 applications from across the nation for the position. Toomey and Myers insisted last night that the timing of the proposal had nothing to do with that search.

Myers called the ordinance an idea that had "languished."

And Toomey said he had "no agenda" but simply wanted to improve the job chances of those who live in Cambridge.

Still, Toomey said he expects the new commissioner to abide by the new ordinance and to live in or become a resident of the city.

"That position pays over $100,000," he said.

"And that person can damn well afford to live in the city."

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