|Updated: 4/18/2012 1:00 am
||Published: 4/17/2012 10:47 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Tuesday night, the Little Rock Board of Directors rejected a residency requirement proposed by Director Erma Hendrix for all new city employees.
Now, the city will try to come up with incentives to get those who work in Little Rock to live in Little Rock.
Community members got thirty minutes Tuesday night to debate- 15 minutes per side. At one point, the debate got very heated and Mayor Mark Stodola threw one speaker out.
"Let me, let me, let me speak," said Noelle Washington, who was speaking in favor of the residency requirement.
Stodola asked security to escort Washington out of the residency requirement debate, but cooler heads quickly prevailed. Those supporting the proposal told the Little Rock Board of Directors that they felt the City keeps outsourcing to neighboring communities losing valuable tax dollars.
“They take the police vehicles home and drive outside to Saline County at taxpayers' expanse for the gas," said one supporter.
"We're all in this together. The City of Little Rock is the City of Little Rock. And, I like knowing that Bruce Moore is my neighbor. And, I like knowing that there are police officers and fire fighters living in my neighborhood," said another supporter.
Those against the ordinance felt limiting City of Little Rock jobs to those who live there would limit the talent pool.
"Make this place a place where we want to live. Make this place where people want to move back to the city. Don't force us to move back in. You're going to have unhappy people. You're going to have people that refuse to even consider it," said a past president of the Little Rock firefighters’ union.
The proposal by Erma Hendrix would have only applied to new city employees. Current employees would not have had to move to be in compliance with the residency requirement if it had passed.
"If we choose to greatly diminish our pool of applicants, we narrow the city's ability to provide its quality services," said another man who was against the proposal.
After failing to get a single vote of support, even from Hendrix who wanted to rescind the ordinance after the debate, city directors decided to continue looking at incentives to get future employees to want to move to Little Rock. Earlier in the evening, a motion by Director Ken Richardson to amend the ordinance to add a ninety day grace period after an employee’s probationary period was up failed.
But, the city manager explained that after a similar residency proposal by Hendrix last June failed, he started looking at possible incentives to give to employees who move to Little Rock. For the past several years, all things being equal, department heads are supposed to hire residents over non-residents. That is only if the applicants are equally matched otherwise.
“I'm looking at a take home car program for the police department," said City Manager Bruce Moore Tuesday night.
The City of Little Rock had a residency requirement in 1994, but repealed it after a year when the city could not find enough qualified candidates to fill its positions.
The new Little Rock sales tax increase will fund the hiring of more than one-hundred new Little Rock employees. Many of those new employees will fill new positions in the police and fire departments.