Committee takes up residency rule requirement in Milwaukee

CREATED Apr 4, 2013 - UPDATED: Apr 4, 2013

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  • Watch the video to what Mayor Barrett, teachers and firefighters have to say about the rules.

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  • Watch the video to see Mayor Barrett speak to the committee.

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Scroll through the slideshow to see photos of the hearing, as well as three different videos of testimony from Mayor Barrett, police, firefighters and teachers.

MILWAUKEE - The fight over the residency rule in the city of Milwaukee is taking center stage. The discussion has caused a heated debate about whether Milwaukee city employees should be forced to live in the city.

All day Thursday, voters and politicians have been taking their complaints and requests of all kinds to the state's joint finance committee. These issues include things like senior care, transit funding, and smoking prevention.

One issue making waves in Milwaukee is the residency requirement. Police and politicians are fired up about a proposal to let city workers choose where they live.

"I'm here to talk to you about one thing. Freedom," said Glenn Podlesnik.

Podlesnik is a 21-year veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department. With a group other officers watching, he pleaded with politicians to stay the course.

"This rule is not set in stone,” he said. “There are families behind these. My children are important to me."

At issue is one sentence in the governor's proposed budget, lifting a rule to require city and village employees to live where they work. It's a dilemma for officers, like Seann Cleveland, who want to raise their kids in other districts.

"We want nothing but the highest level of education for our kids, and I don't think we're ever going to get that with MPS," Officer Cleveland said.

Aldermen proposed a fee for workers who opt out, and others asked state politicians to focus their attention elsewhere, worried changes would cripple Milwaukee's finances.

"Give us the true tools to make a difference, and at the same time, don't gut us by taking out residency," Ald. Mike Murphy said.

Workers argue they'll do their jobs, and will still contribute to the local economy. They say they just want to be able to raise a family on their terms.

"They should not have the right to tell me where I have to live just because I provide them a service," Podlesnik said.

Teachers and firefighters also have a say in the debate, and spoke out at the hearings, along with Mayor Tom Barrett.