Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tygard wants residency rule for new Metro employees. Why he is wrong.

The Tennessean, May. 17, 2012
A Metro councilman said he plans to introduce legislation requiring anyone hired by Metro government after a certain date to live inside Nashville and Davidson County.
Councilman Charlie Tygard said the idea, which has been debated before, is relevant again as Mayor Karl Dean and the council discuss a 53-cent property tax increase that would result in 4 percent pay increases for most city workers.

“If you’re asking for raises and you want support, we want you to be a resident of this county,” he said Wednesday.Tygard wants residency rule for new Metro employees | The Tennessean |
 No, No, No! Bad idea. At first glance it seems reasonable.  If you are going to work for Metro, then you should live here. 

However, in principle it is wrong if you believe in free trade and oppose protectionism. If products and capital can flow across National and State and County lines, then why not labor? I am not going to elaborate on theory however.

From a very pragmatic basis it is wrong. We should get the best employees not matter where they live. Nashville pays the second highest teacher starting salary of any district in Tennessee. We benefit when new teachers can get our higher starting salary from Metro but benefit from a neighboring county's lower cost of living. In a sense, these counties with a lower cost of living are subsidizing our teachers. Why shoot ourselves in the foot by restricting our starting teacher pool to those who are willing to pay the Nashville higher cost of living?

The real reason this this is wrong however is political. Unfortunately, with a mobile population and people without roots in the County, their are a lot of people who care deeply about national politics and care little about local politics.  A lot of people who would never miss a Presidential election could care less about voting in a local election.  Among those who do vote, many just vote based on name recognition and don't really know much about who they are voting for.

Metro employees do vote and they vote for their self interest. When I served in the Council in the 80's employees had to live in the county. I represented a district with lots of firemen whose fathers and in some cases their grandfathers had been firemen.  Firemen voted. All of them and their extended families voted. That is a lot of influence. In fact, most Metro employee's were registered to vote and voted heavily.  Teachers also, always voted. That is a voting block that almost always favors a tax increase and in partisan elections almost always vote Democrat. If half the firemen and half the teachers live out of county that is a voting block that is much weakened. I would prefer none of the city's employees lived in the County. Weaken that voting block favoring a tax increase all we can.

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