Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Absentee landlords

I'm glad to see a modest proposal to ensure that the very people that help craft and manage Metro policies are going to have to live under them. Councilman Charlie Tygard is introducing legislation to the Metro Council that would require

Mayor’s Office employees and employees of the Metro Council office to live within Davidson County if they earn $100,000 or more annually (City Paper)
Falling outside this legislation but of serious concern:
The statistics showed that by far the city’s public safety departments employ the highest number of workers who live outside Nashville: 432 police employees live outside the county, receiving about $21.3 million in annual salary dollars, and 526 fire workers live outside the county, earning approximately $28.4 million in annual salaries, according to the statistics.

In addition, six Metro department heads do not live in Davidson County, as well as six employees of the 39-member Mayor’s Office. In total, roughly 27 percent of Metro employees live out-of-county, receiving about $124 million of $413 million in total salary dollars Metro pays annually.
Allowing employees to live elsewhere has created a form of absentee landlordism. Imagine what having 432 extra police officers living in our neighborhoods could do to our crime rates. Imagine the improved response time when 526 emergency workers are closer to us in the event of a natural disaster. Many of them have had to make the difficult decision of choosing to live in the city they care for and providing the best education possible for their children--a very hard choice indeed.

Missing from this list of employee groups is teachers and support staff not living in Davidson County. Other than property tax rates nothing impacts our city like the schools and when 28.6% of our teachers are not putting their own children in the system they help craft and many not even living in the city we have a serious problem. A few people fussed at me in my school board race regarding my own children not being in the system--why the silence and even support for these folks?

When these people leave the county they are not part of the natural pressure that would be created to force change in our schools and government. These people know the systems intimately and they're choosing to leave. We've got to wonder why.

On a related note Ben Cunningham's Tennessee Tax Revolt group has had their signatures certified and their initiative to allow voters a direct voice on property tax increase will be on November's ballot.

Don Driscoll, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 205 that represents Metro employees and who opposes the measure, said he could not say whether the union would take any legal action if the measure passes. Both Metro and the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office have expressed doubts about the concept’s constitutionality.

Still, Driscoll was biting in his attacking of the idea, saying he believes it could damage the city’s education and health care systems. (City Paper)

Perhaps if more of these employees actually lived and paid property taxes in the city Mr. Driscoll's concern for his union members could be mitigated. Regardless, I believe our city would be better off with both CM Tygard's and Mr. Cunningham's proposals.


Anonymous said...

Metro employees aren't indentured servants- they should be free to live where they choose. We should want the best employees possible, period. Let the real estate market take care of itself in the free market; let's not use government red tape to bolster it. I'm surprised at the people calling for big government in this way.

Anonymous said...

Metro employees also deserve to live in the best homes and neighborhoods their money can buy--even if that means living in another county where $150,000 buys you more than a rundown ranch home in a so-so neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Hello Pot, this is the kettle, you're black!

Saying that out of county employees are absentee landlords and have no business or committment to Nashville is similar to saying,

"I home school my kids, but I want to run the public schools."

Try for consistency if you're going to hold yourself out as a pundit.

Don't tell my kids how to swim unless you're willing to throw yours into the pool.

Kay Brooks said...

I'll explain one more time. As long as it takes my money and my vote to run the school system I have the right to participate in the process as fully as the law allows. If you disagree with the law--work on changing it.

As long as the children of the public school system will run the world I have to live in--I'll continue to work toward getting them a consistently good and safe education.

County employees who take tax money to other counties shouldn't be surprised that I, and others, would object to that money leaving our community in such great quantities. Money that could be used to improve our county and our schools. Services that would more likely be forced to change if they were here having to live with it all too.

Anonymous said...

As long as the children of the public school system will run the world I have to live in

Yes, good point- why we all have a vested interest in public schools- and why we all pay taxes to support "the world we live in"- not just "tuition" if our own kids attend. And yes, we absolutely have to watch how they spend it.

I'll continue to work toward getting them a consistently good and safe education.

Good- but please let us choose from the best teachers available- not just the ones willing to live in our county. Perhaps it should be an ideal to have all metro employees living in county- but not something that is forced.

Kay Brooks said...

I'd love to choose from the best teachers available. However, we currently have a pay system that prevents us from hiring 'the best' without paying a premium for the mediocre also.

Anonymous said...

An awkward transition, but I'll bite- while the pay system might keep some from even entering the profession- a national issue- the pay scale isn't keeping teachers from Metro and district 5 schools. The conditions- class size and discipline problems- are the real deterrent. Rather than saying "I know there are problems, but here's some extra money if you come here and get test scores up," students would be better served by actually ameliorating the conditions.

Anonymous said...

While we are at it, could we please also choose a Mayor from the best possible people and not just those willing to live in the county???? The current crop of candidates leaves a lot to be desired. I know we could get some better ones from Williamson County