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Nutter’s Call To Hire Outside Philadelphia is Right

Nutter’s Call To Hire Outside Philadelphia is Right (as in The Philadelphia Bulletin)

In the wake of City Council’s defeat of a proposal to waive Philadelphia’s residency requirement for those seeking to work for the city, here’s a new marketing campaign for the city:

“Welcome to Philadelphia, a city both old and new. Old Philadelphia, the birthplace of our nation and epitome of all things American, is represented by timeless symbols of freedom— such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Back then, Philadelphians understood the value of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. They realized that if the American experiment was to succeed, it would be because of the people’s unwavering belief in pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

In contrast, today’s Philadelphia offers an insightful look into how far the city has progressed. Despite the misguided notions of the Founding Fathers, modern day Philadelphia is thriving, setting new records every year. In 2007 alone, it boasted the highest rates of murder, violence and poverty in the nation! While Philadelphia has more colleges and universities than any other city in the country, not only do we lose talent to other locations and climes, we also refuse to bring in outsiders, even if they’re the best and brightest. We have kept Philadelphia ahead of the curve by maintaining a residency requirement for those seeking city jobs, so that our citizens, regardless of ability and desire, have first dibs on opportunities.

So come visit Philadelphia— we just don’t want you to work here.”

Is it any wonder why people despise politicians and have no faith in government? City Council’s latest betrayal of the people is one more nail in the coffin of public trust.

Mayor Michael Nutter has been attempting to follow through on his campaign promise to revive the city’s economy and make Philadelphia a more desirable place to live and work. One of the key components of his plan is to ease the residency requirement for those working in the city. While he was able to obtain a waiver for police department recruits (they have to move into the city after six months on the job), City Council just killed legislation that would have opened up the the 24,000 civil-service jobs to everybody—not just those living in the city.

The status quo wins, but the people lose. What else is new?

So the old system remains, which simply boggles the mind. Follow this one: Anyone who wants to work for Philadelphia, but lives outside the city, is required to move into the city for one full year— before they can even apply for a city job.

Who in their right mind does that? Nobody. So we are left filling posts with people who are not the most qualified. The best and the brightest take their talents elsewhere.

Speaking of people not on the “bright” list, special recognition goes to Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. In her spirited opposition to making Philadelphians compete with outsiders for city jobs, she stated that “We should not speak with forked tongues….our people have a right to every job that we have.”

When reminded that she actually voted for the same legislation in 2001 that she now opposes, her brilliant response: “I didn’t even realize I voted for it then.” How’s that for rekindling your faith in City Council?

And how about her colleague, Councilman Wilson Goode, who not only voted for the legislation in 2001 but was a co-sponsor, who snapped at a reporter with the gall to ask him about his about-face on the issue: “That’s a ridiculous question. Why would I discuss something that happened seven years ago?”

Isn’t that brilliant? Maybe he and Jannie can host a talk show together.

What these Councilmen fail to grasp is that no one has a “right” to any job just because one happens to live within the boundaries of a city. There should be no special treatment, no preferences. America’s foundation is the free market, and it would behoove the City of Philadelphia to give that a try. It can’t be any worse than the ineffective “business as usual” system now in place.

If Philadelphians can’t compete, too bad. Improve or get buried. By putting up walls and stifling competition, City Council is sending the worst message possible.

Philadelphia has been held back for far too long, its position on the center stage constantly usurped by smarter cities. This must end.

Will Mayor Nutter use his office as a bully pulpit to take his case directly to the people?

We can only hope.

Chris Freind can be contacted at CF@TheBulletin.us

February 29, 2008 at 4:58 am
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